Category Archives: Times with friends

High Tea at Whitbys

Today was round three in a new tradition of High Tea with a group of lovely ladies I work with. We seem to have fallen into a pattern of alternating High Tea at a restaurant/cafe and at someone’s house. (Last month it was at Naomi’s house.)

This time, we headed up to Whitby’s, the restaurant on level 17 of the James Cook hotel in central Wellington, and indulged in High Tea with bubbles. (Or in the case of myself and Naomi, who’s also pregnant, High Tea with orange juice.)

It was lovely – we hung out for a couple of hours, ate far too many tasty treats, and probably annoyed the rest of the restaurant by talking very loudly and screaming with laughter continuously. Hah.

Since we seem to be doing High Tea a bit, I’m thinking I’ll do a quick review of each cafe/restaurant we go to, just in case anyone is in Wellington and considering going out for high tea as well.

So, here we go…..

Cost: $25 per person, or $29 per person with a glass of bubbles or orange juice

Decor: a bit lacking, to be honest. No tablecloths, and it just doesn’t seem to be a proper high tea without a nice tablecloth, in my opinion. Nothing particularly exciting or interesting about how the tables were set up – it was just a table, that happened to have tasty food on it. *shrug*

Service: quite good, once you figure out where to go to let them know you’ve arrived. Friendly and cheerful. There were bottles of water on the table when we arrived, but they never checked if we needed them refilled while we were there.

Tea selection: Dilmah luxury teas. I had the Rose with French Vanilla, which smelt divine and was rather tasty. Rather than arriving in a pot though, the tea all arrived in cups with individual tea infusers in them. Which meant it was a bit too strong by the time it got to us. They did provide pots of hot water for a second cup of tea, though, which was nice.

Food: tasty, good variety, and lots of it. (I couldn’t quite finish, and had to leave a coconut biscuit behind. Very sad, haha.) We’d forgotten to warn them that two of us were pregnant (with all the associated dietary restrictions) but they happily and quickly sorted that out and made us special (and very tasty!) tomato-and-avocado sandwiches rather than the smoked-salmon or beef ones the other girls got. The chocolate-dipped strawberries were very lovely to finish with. The sultana scones and the cream puffs also got a special mention from the girls.

Would I go there again? Probably not – it’s nice, but nothing too special. While the food was lovely, I look for a bit more atmosphere when I go for high tea – give me somewhere girly and pretty instead! (So saying though, if you’re going out for high tea with a mixed gender group, Whitby’s probably isn’t a bad choice. No where near as girly as Hippopotamus or Martha’s Pantry.)

Total score: I’m going to give them a 6/10. The food was good, and the price was standard compared to other places around town, but it didn’t really feel overly special. Nice, but not spectacular. More the sort of place you go to with your grandmother, rather than somewhere to get dressed up and hang out for a girls afternoon.

A British-inspired ladies afternoon tea

A group of the girls I work with and I have started having regular ladies afternoon teas. We’ve had two so far – the first at a lovely restaurant in town, where we had high tea. Sadly, my camera died at the first photo, so I don’t have any pretty pics to share from that, which is a real shame as Hippopotamus (where we had high tea) is lovely – random chairs covered in pink and blue fabrics, pretty mis-matched china, and the most gorgeous tiered plates of high tea treats!

Anyway, after the fun we had having high tea at Hippopotamus, we decided we’d do this regularly, and promptly scheduled the next one as an afternoon tea at one of the girls houses. For added fun, we thought we’d go with a little bit of a British theme for it. (Not that we followed the theme very closely at all, but hey, the thought was there!)

And now, just because I’m hungry and waiting for dinner to cook, I thought I’d attempt to make you all a bit hungry as well and share what we had for afternoon tea the other weekend…..


The lovely Laurna with the spread. (Considering there were only four of us, we may have gone slightly over-board with the making of tasty treats….)


Smoked salmon, cream cheese and caper mini blinis, made by Jane.


Cucumber sandwiches by Jane, cheese and picked onion toothpicks by Laurna, and cheese puffs by me.


Lemon scones with whipped cream and lemon curd by Naomi; cute little cherry cakes by Laurna, cupcakes with blue strawberry icing and rice bubble and coconut balls by me.


Bakewell slice and gluten-free biscuits by Naomi, and just for a touch of Britain, a tea cozy and napkins.

We had such a lovely afternoon, eating lots of treats, drinking lots of various types of tea, and chatting away. Girly afternoon teas are the best! :-)

A little meet-up

Last year I stumbled across the wonderful world of Girls Who Sew And Blog. (I think it’s wonderful enough that it deserves capitalisation, don’t you?) I found (and followed) a whole lot of blogs, joined in the Sew Weekly Sewing Circle community, learnt a heck of a lot, got re-inspired with my own sewing, and made a bunch of new friends. It was a bit of a life-changing discovery for me, when I think about it…..

One of the girls I got to be friends with through the Sew Weekly Sewing Circle is the lovely Trish, who blogs over at Quiet Vintage Sewing. Trish is a former Kiwi, now living in Aussie, and loves vintage styles. If you haven’t found her blog yet, you should go and have a look – she makes some gorgeous creations, and every so often treats us to some photos of her house and/or vintage treasures.

I was pretty excited late last year when I got an email from Trish – she was coming over to New Zealand over Christmas, and wondered if I’d like to meet up. Of course I would!! My first ever blogger meet-up, how exciting is that?!?

We caught up one early evening in mid January (yes, I’m a bit late with posting this) over tea, then went for a wander along the Wellington waterfront. It was one of the few real days of summer we’ve had in Wellington this year, with gorgeous blue skies and lovely sunshine, so we made the most of it and indulged in some gelato. Yum!

Completely unintentionally, we both wore pink, and red shoes. (Self-made pink outfits, naturally.) Isn’t Trish’s dress gorgeous? I love the asymmetric neckline and the different directions of the stripes.



Thanks for a lovely evening Trish, it was so lovely to meet you! :-)

Pink and Yellow tea party

One of my goals this year is to spend more time with friends. I’ve also had a few recipe books that I’ve been collecting (such as The Vintage Tea Party Book, Ladies A Plate and High Tea at the Victoria Room) that I’ve been looking for an excuse to try a few recipes from.

Ergo, I’m going to throw a few tea parties for some of my lovely friends this year! Tea parties – tasty food, pretty china cups, lovely girls to hang out with, and an excuse to dress up a bit. Perfect, no?

Just for the fun of it, I’m aiming to have one every 4-6 weeks, and each one will have a different colour theme.

I threw the first of what will (hopefully) be a series of tea parties this afternoon, with a pink and yellow theme.






Theme: Pink & Yellow

Menu:

  • Hot baked grapefruit from The Vintage Tea Party Book
  • Cheese puffs from Ladies A Plate
  • Pikelets from Ladies A Plate, with rubarb and red berry jam or with homemade grapefruit marmalade
  • Rose petal and honey sandwiches from The Vintage Tea Party Book
  • Deluxe lemon slice from High Tea At The Victoria Room
  • Sugared cherries and grapes from The Vintage Tea Party Book
  • Cranberry juice with lemonade
  • Pineapple juice with lemonade
  • Orange tea

Guests:

  • Sharla
  • Natalie
  • Nicola
  • Heather

My Outfit:

  • the January Dress
  • Pink cardigan from a clothes swap party
  • Yellow Adidas sneakers (the only pink or yellow shoes I own!)

Southern Plaid top

The Theme
This week’s Sew Weekly theme was “Mad For Plaid.” In the words of Mena:

“Whether you call it “plaid” or “tartan,” this week we’re heading into Fall and back to school with the fabric that originated in the British Isles back in 400 to 100 BC. And, from the learn-something-every-day category, did you know that there are official tartans for the US States?”

The Facts

  • Fabric: about half a metre of plaid knit fabric. I’m unsure of the fabric’s make-up – it’s quite thick and soft and stretchy, perhaps some acrylic/synthetic blend? Cost me the grand total of 20c from Fabric-a-brac a couple of months ago
  • Pattern: one I drafted myself about a decade ago
  • Year: 2011
  • Notions: none
  • Time to complete: 40 minutes from getting the pattern out of the drawer to pulling on the completed top. Woot!
  • First worn: walking the Newtown-Island Bay section of the Southern Walkway today
  • Wear again? Yes, definitely!
  • Total cost: 20c (how’s that for a bargain?!
  • Why ‘Southern Plaid’ top? no exciting reason – it’s plaid, and it first got worn on the Southern Walkway. I wasn’t feeling overly creative with naming it today!

The Story
Originally, I started off making a 1950’s dress in a green-and-white gingham/plaid type print. But I lost interest in it before I even finished cutting it out – it’s too summery and I wouldn’t have been able to wear it for another couple of months, so I’ve put that on hold. I wanted something I could wear now!

That’s when I remembered this remnant of plaid knit fabric I picked up a couple of months ago. Conveniently, there was just enough for a short-sleeved top. I considered making it into a short-sleeved cardigan, as I’m lacking in me-made cardigans that I can wear for Self-Stitched September, but since I’m lacking in me-made tops as well, and a top would go better with what I have planned for next week’s Sew Weekly challenge, it became a top. One loose enough to go over the top of fitted shirts, yet still fitted enough to be tucked into high-waisted skirts. And it’s soft and snuggly and warm to wear as well. :-)

I considered using a vintage pattern for a knit fabric top, but the reality is that when I make knit fabric tops, I fall back onto a pattern I drafted years ago. Which is what I did again today. I know the pattern so well, I’ve got no idea how many times I would have used it over the past decade but it’ll be a lot!

I finally got around to buying a rotary cutter and cutting mat a couple of weeks ago, after hearing so many of the online sewing ladies talking about them. And all I can say is, I loves them!!! I probably knocked about 10-15 mins off the total time to make this top by using the rotary cutter, a button jar and a candle as pattern weights, and only using pins to fold the fabric along the right line when cutting and again to match the centre of the sleeves to the shoulder seam. The rest I did without pins. Yes, even the turning under of the edges to top stitch them. Thank you lovely sewing community – without you, I never would have thought of these time-saving tricks! You rock.

The Photos
Spring is here (yay!), and today was a gorgeous day – bright blue sky, only a small breeze (for those of you who don’t know Wellington, the strength of the wind features a lot in our assessment of the weather each day). Perfect day for walking, in fact. So Steve and I set off to do the section of the Southern Walkway between Newtown and Island Bay. (We did the Newtown to Oriental Bay section last week. Turns out we live about 1/3rd of the way along the Southern Walkway.) Steve took his camera, and we got a few photos along the way. The two above were taken near the start of the walkway on the ridgeline overlooking Newtown.

Disclaimer: if you’re not interested in hearing about a walk between Newtown and Island Bay, you probably want to stop reading now. I won’t mind, honest.

The Walk
The walk was gorgeous – lots of wandering through bush, listening to native birds (heaps of Tui everywhere today!), seeing glimpses over the southern parts of Wellington. Lots of fun. :-) Steve got a few photos on the way, so here are a couple of things we saw on our walk….

We started the walk not far from our house, and headed up to the ridgeline. You could nearly see our house from there – it was hidden from sight by the little apartment block a couple of doors down from us, but you can see where it is in the picture below.

A bit further along, we started seeing glimpses of Kilbirnie and Evans Bay over the other side of the ridge.

Unexpectedly, at one point we burst out of bush to come across a gorgeous old garden – lots of pathways and arches and walls and massive old rhododendrons. I had no idea it was there, but it was the gardens built by the late Truby King. His mausoleum was there as well. It was a gorgeous area – shabby in places, it looked like it had been neglected for quite a long time but it’s now being restored. Truby King is someone who has always interested me – he was a pioneer for women’s and children’s health in New Zealand. We got a few photos here, the gardens were so pretty. First up, the plaque commemorating a hundred years of the Royal NZ Plunket Society.

There were lots of cute little paths, with archways, planter spaces, steps and seats in old bricks dotted amongst them. And in my opinion, the cracks in some of them only added to their appeal.



Further on, we got views over towards Lyall Bay, Moa Point and the airport, with the southern coastline in the background. We could see three lighthouses from there. I like lighthouses. :-) There are two in the photo below, little white dots on the cliff in the distance.

Just before we started heading down from the ridgeline back towards the coast, we got views over Haughton Bay. Crazy massive waves hitting against the shores.

We came down to Haughton Bay and stood for a while admiring the waves (they were rather impressive) before we headed off on the last leg to Island Bay and then caught the bus home (admittedly, we could easily have walked home from Island Bay, but it took us 2.5 hours to do this leg of the Southern Walkway, so we got chocolate and took the bus instead. :-) ).

More Napier road trip pics

We took a lot of photos on our road trip to Napier last weekend. Too many to put in the blog post I wrote about it. Turns out I still have more I want to share, so, for your viewing pleasure, here are some more of ‘em….

The statue of Pania of the Reef. This statue is rather famous within New Zealand, and there’s a lovely (and sad) legend associated with it and how Pania turned into the reef in the ocean near Napier.


Palm trees on one side of Marine Parade, Norfolk pines on the other. Steve liked the palms best. I’m a Norfolk pine type of girl, myself. But I particularly liked the juxtaposition of the two.


Sadly it’s a bit hard to see in the photo, but this was one of a few buildings that incorporated Maori designs in their Art Deco stylings. The darker coloured strips under the ‘Napier Antiques’ sign were Maori motifs. Gotta love local twists on international styles!


Art Deco cathedral.


Near the soundshell and overlooking the sea on one side and down the main shopping street on the other. Lovely bright green benches to relax on.


Looking through the pillars near the above benches, out over the square towards town and the little clock tower.


‘The Last Wave’ statue. The lovely lady in this statue lived in Napier around the time of the earthquake and won a beauty contest (or something like that?) held not long after the earthquake to bring a bit of cheer back into the city. And here she stands, in all her lovely 1930’s glory.


Cute little mosaics like these were all through the centre of town, each one of them different.


A pretty fountain we rested by for a while, near the cathedral.



On our way home from Napier, we drove up Te Mata Peak near Havelock North. Amazing views from the top! (And a rather scary drive back down – very narrow one-lane two-way road along the side of a very steep hill and lots of blind corners. Eek!)


We passed a lot of cute Art Deco houses and small buildings on the way home to Wellington. They were always there, but after spending a day walking around Napier looking intently at all the Art Deco loveliness there, I was noticing all the other Art Deco buildings a lot more than usual! Couldn’t resist getting a photo of this little beauty – it stood out with it’s colour scheme, a bit different from the far more common white-with-green-trim houses.

And I’ll stop with the photos there, that’s probably about enough from that one trip, don’t you think? :-)

Napier weekend

Last weekend, Steve and I took a day off work and headed up to Napier for a long weekend.

We drove there from Wellington, and went up the Kapiti Coast, which meant we got to drive through the stunning Manawatu Gorge. We didn’t get a chance to stop for photos (there was a big truck behind us and Steve was worried about getting stuck behind it the whole way through the gorge), so I had to content myself with photos from out of the car window, like the one above. I love the Manawatu Gorge – so pretty and green and rugged, it always makes me smile. And the wind turbines on the top just add to all of that, somehow.

We passed some army vehicles on the way as well, which was a bit random. I always forget that the army base is nearby….

Napier is gorgeous. I’d never really been there before, and I must say, I loved it there! Above is a view looking out over the CBD from Bluff Hill, right in the middle of Napier.

Napier was hit by a large (magnitude 7.8) earthquake in 1931. Which broke the water mains, and started fires in the centre of the town. Because there was no water, they couldn’t put out the fires, and a lot of the town was destroyed, either by the earthquake or the subsequent fires. They rebuilt it as fast as they could, which was helped by it being during the depression and lots of builders needing work. And since it was the early 1930’s, the new buildings were Art Deco! Outside of Bath in England, Napier apparently has one of the most well-planned, cohesive central city areas.

It’s not a large city, so the buildings are generally quite small. Which adds to the vintage cuteness, I reckon. There’s all sorts of Art Deco styles – Spanish Mission, Striped Classical, and so on. I didn’t know all that much about Art Deco before we went there (aside from being able to recognise it) and after doing the self-guided Art Deco tour around the town, I can now recognise lots of the styles. Yay! Nothing quite like learning while you’re away on holiday, eh? ;-)

This was the entrance to a little park up the side of Bluff Hill. The earlier photo looking out over Napier was taken from the top of this park. The park was lovely – lots of little paths winding up the hill among old trees. Clearly it had been there for quite a long time – there were remnants of old brick paths fenced off and covered in moss.

After the earthquake, when they were rebuilding the city they did something that was very unusual for the time and buried all the power and phone lines underground. Apparently this wasn’t common until around the 1970’s. They also put the street lighting up differently – instead of having poles, they cantilevered the lights out from the sides of buildings. As a result of both of these things, there were no handy poles to put street signs up on, so they embedded them in the footpath. There are just three places in the central city where these original signs remain, although they’re recreating them on other street corners.

When they were rebuilding the city, cars were really starting to gain popularity, so they built the city with cars in mind. The roads are nice and wide, and a lot of the buildings have these shaved-off corners when they’re on street corners – this was designed to give drivers more visibility. The building above used to be owned by a former German – he designed the decorations to show New Zealand and Germany being united by the waves. I love how these touches are still on so many buildings around the town – it’s a place that keeps it’s history close to it’s heart.

We stopped for mid-afternoon tea and cake in this gorgeous little cafe. The cakes were so clearly handmade – they all had that slightly rough-around-the-edges look to them, with lopsided icing and all. There were lots of lovely art deco touches in the interior as well, but I felt a bit odd taking photos inside a cafe, so you’ll just have to imagine the edgings around the lights, the stepped doorway arches and the angular stained-glass window that was inside. :-)

Steve switched to black-and-white on his camera for a while – imagine this fountain with a brilliant blue painted pool, and soft blue and yellow colours on the fountain itself. And then imagine it lighting up in brilliant orange and green at night, while the huge Norfolk Pine trees nearby have coloured lights strung in their branches. And the sound of the ocean right next to it. Magical.

And the last photo for this post – the National Tobacco Company warehouse. Apparently this is one of the most well-known buildings in New Zealand (which I wasn’t aware of beforehand, so I’m not too convinced by that claim. Or maybe I just don’t know enough well-known buildings). It’s stunning – lots of lovely plants, stained glass windows, and gorgeous colours. Definitely the prettiest warehouse I’ve ever seen!

Napier has an art deco weekend every February – I’m hoping to go along to it next year, to get dressed up vintage and promenade down Marine Parade listening to the jazz bands. Bliss!

Kittens and sewing, they don’t mix so well

A week ago, Steve and I adopted a new kitten from the SPCA. A gorgeous little three-month-old girl, with black and grey-brown tiger stripes, huge brown eyes and big pointy ears. We’ve called her Roxy. I’m thinking of her as our Art Deco cat. This is a concept that I have completely failed to explain to Steve.

Naturally, Roxy is adorable. She’s a kitten – is there any way kittens can’t be adorable? I mean, look at those eyes!

However, also like all cats I have ever come across, Roxy is not so good to have around while sewing. This evening, Steve was being all DIY-Man and fixing the door between the kitchen and the dining room, so Roxy got trapped in my room with me so as not to get in the way of power tools. Foolishly, I attempted to sew with her in my room. (Admittedly I had already attempted doing laptop stuff (kittens just can’t keep away from keyboards) and tidying stuff (everything you pick up becomes a toy to be chased) so I figured I may as well attempt the sewing stuff.) Turns out this didn’t work so well for the following reasons:

  • Kittens like to sit on laps when you’re sitting down. They use their claws to get there. Then they get bored quickly, jump down, and 2 minutes later repeat the semi-painful getting-up-again process. My thighs are now covered in little pin pricks, despite putting a folded-up hoodie over my legs to protect them after a while.
  • Kittens are curious. Anything and everything is interesting. Such as scissors, pins, pin cushions, and sewing machines. This results in having to take great care when doing anything, in case they suddenly decide to sniff a pin at exactly the wrong moment.
  • Everything is a toy. If it moves, it needs to be chased and clawed at. Funnily enough, when you’re sewing fabric, that fabric moves. As does any thread hanging off the fabric. I’m very glad that the fabric I’m using for this week’s Sew Weekly challenge is pretty robust – anything even vaguely delicate would have been destroyed. (But then, if I was sewing with anything delicate, I wouldn’t have attempted to do so with a kitten in the room!)
  • And lets not even get in to how much fun cats find paper patterns, especially when those paper patterns are pinned to fabric. I didn’t have a problem with this tonight though – I learnt many years ago that if working with paper patterns, lock and any all cats, regardless of their age, out of the room until the pattern has been put away again. Even older cats who are usually content to just sit and watch can go a little bit mad when there are patterns pinned to fabric. Hmmm.
  • Here’s what I had to contend with tonight. Luckily she’s so cute.





Off we go to Beijing!

Steve and I are about to go jump on a plane and go to Beijing for a holiday. Yay! So, no posts from me until we get back on Monday 25 April.

Sadly this also means I’m going to be a bit late with this next week’s Sew Weekly challenge – I know what I’m doing and I’ve got the fabric all cut out – it’s going to be awesome! (If it works, that is. The pattern is a ‘true’ vintage one – virtually no markings, very few instructions, and it doesn’t indicate ANYWHERE whether there is any seam allowance or not. Hmmm. I’m hoping it’s the usual 1.5 cm, or else I’m in trouble….)

So yes, stay tuned for next week for more updates! :-)

Star trekkin’, across the universe…..

Went to see the new Star Trek movie last night with some friends from work. And, surprisingly enough, I enjoyed it. I really, truly enjoyed it! Enough to be tempted to go and see it again, even. (Which I won’t, coz I know I won’t get around to it, but it *is* rather tempting, I must say.)

I suspect a large part of this enjoyment may have come from the fact that I now have a bit of a crush on the Spock character in it. Go figure. I mean, a crush on Spock? Really?!? How on earth is *that* meant to happen??

Hmmmm.

Clearly, the combination of the logic, bottled-up emotion, dry humour, and pointy ears got to me.

Hah.

Maybe I should go see it again, after all……