Thursday, 30 August 2012


Ever since we first visited our local Japanese restaurant - Samurai Bowl - and had our first taste of katsu curry, Mr Bear and I have been obsessing over the food from the land of the Cherry Blossom. So much so, I've spent hours scouring the internet for authentic recipes (the kind of authentic that just about extends to what a supermarket in NZ has on its shelves!)

Tonight is another of those nights when, after a not so charming day at work, I can't quite muster the right amount of enthusiasm to create a dish of my own, so it's off to Sam's Bowl we go!

In honour of our eminent outting, I thought I'd share with you one of my recent adventures in cooking Japanese inspired cuisine: Sukiyaki. It's a dish that involves cooking each ingredient separately and building up a plate bit by bit. It's all simmered in a broth consisting of dashi (a kind of Japanese style stock), soy sauce, mirin and brown sugar.

Here is said Dashi. Not the traditional ground shitake mushrooms, anchovies ect, but the fish version (it's hard to get the right one when the packet is written in Japanese...just noticed the little fish on the front...oops!)

And the assembled ingredients: very thinly sliced beef, cabbage, mushrooms, brown onion, spring onion and bamboo shoots.

So, let's begin! The first stage is to brown the beef. I took it out of the pan (using a splotted spoon to save the juices) just before it was completely brown as you need to put it back into the broth in the final stage to be heated through.

Next, cook your 'aromatic veggies', i.e your onion, in your simmering mixture of 1/2 cup dashi, 1/4 cup mirin, 3 tablespoons soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.

The best way to see when they're done is to just keep tasting them. I like mine with a little bite to it (I don't know whether you can refer to onions as 'al dente' ??) but you could cook them until completely soft if you liked.

Once you've cooked some jasmine rice, place it in a ramekin and turn into onto your plate to create a perfect dome of fluffy white rice...tada!

Take onions out with your slotted spoon and place next to rice.

Then cook your bamboo shoots in the same way and assemble.

Now cook your mushrooms... 

 And your cabbage....

Finally, tip the beef back into the broth and heat for less than a minute before piling onto the plate next to your veggies and pouring over the rest of the sauce.

Sorry for the blurry picture, we were so impatient to start eating!

There you have it! I hope I have made these instructions easy enough to follow (you can't really go wrong with this dish once you've got the broth and the beef sorted), but if you have any questions, feel free to comment below.

Happy weekend!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012


While breakfasting before work on Sunday morning, I spied a sight in the cherry blossom tree opposite us of something that had previously given me a bit of a fright one afternoon when taking our washing to the laundry room. I had been returning to the flat, my arms laden with clean towels, when I heard a deep 'coo' above my head, distinctive of our own native wood pidgeon back home. However, I received a shock when looking up into the branches above me to behold a huge looming silhouette of something much MUCH larger than what I'd expected. I'd never seen such a big bird nest in a small, dainty tree.

Crunching on my cornflakes the other morning, I had a much better view of this enormous feathered friend. After a quick flick through the pages of the native NZ flora and fauna book that was a gift from my big brother, I found the Kereru, a native New Zealand Wood Pidgeon. Much larger and more colourful than our own, the Kereru nests in smaller trees and 'builds flimsy platforms about 15m from the ground'. That explains the odd sight! It's nice knowing what they are now and I think we will get many moments of amusement from watching them flap about as they try not to fall out of the tree! 

Here's a clearer picture of the old bird:

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Stocked Up

Button making kit
The wares assembled
Hand-dyed fabric
Alphabet stamps

On Saturday afternoon, I attended my first ever 'Crafty Christchurch', a huge craft supplies market held in an inflatable dome in Hagley Park. It was so nice being able to walk there (it's literally five minutes from our flat) and I met a fellow crafty friend to go in search of pretty fabrics and clever gadgets.

My first purchase was a set of Alphabet stamps from Aroha Vintage. I've had my eye on these for a while and the lovely lady manning the stall that day assured me they could be used on fabric as I would like to make some hand-printed labels for the clothes I make...just as soon as I can come up with a name for my brand!

I then came to a stall hosting fabrics from the very talented team at Distressed Threads. Their fabrics go through many processes, including rusting, roasting, screenprinting and stamping, before they reach their finished state. I was told some fabrics had even been dyed with shaving foam!

My other buys included a mini button making kit from The Make Cafe - which I am sooo so excited about! Kirsty from Sew Pretty is planning to open Make towards the end of this year, a cafe in which you can not only enjoy a cup of coffee and a pastry, but they will also be holding crafty workshops and classes and have a full craft supply emporium!

And finally, a fat quarter of birdy fabric from Berry Patch Cottage which I am planning on using to make myself a new sewing purse (I still have the plastic 'your first sewing kit' my Mum bought me for my textiles class at school!)

One of my favourite parts of the market was the quilter's exhibition held in the centre of the dome. Some pieces had incorporated heat-transferred photos, which was a really interesting effect when combined with decorative stitching and other embellishments. Certainly food for thought.

An Early Spring

 A picture story of our adventures in the gardens at the start of Spring:

A warmer weather outfit
New Zealand Shell Duck
Things are budding!

A good old Eccle's Cake

Rose Garden full of thorns

Monster face in a neighbouring block of flats

Spring is here.

See all of our pictures from over the weekend here.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Macho Macho Man

Manly Men by Lauren Carney

I have admired the work of Lauren Carney for a long time. She is an amazing illustrator with a fantastic imagination. I love her whimsical designs, especially this one. You get a real sense of her humour in her pieces. They are so quirky and well thought out.

I came across these 'Manly Men Clothesline Paper Cut-Outs' on her Etsy page and was instantly reminded of the muscle man Mr Bear once drew around my belly-button (quite possibly when there wasn't much on telly!) It still brings tears of laughter to my eyes now and reminds me of all the silly things we've done together in our (almost) 5 years. Love you, you silly bugger!

Tyron's Alive!

So, last night was 'A Night at the Races', with a four course dinner and a competition for the best and worst hat! I'm very happy to say that the 'best hat' prize went to a fellow contestant who had also made his hat! A replica of the dome from Christchurch's Basilica, paper machied on top of a hard hat: genius!

For the last race, we put some money in as a table and I was nominated to choose the winning horse. I went for the one with the best name (obviously!) - Tyron's Alive, not realising that she was actually the favourite with all the odds in her favour! We won, with a grand total of $10 each! The victory was made even sweeter by the fact the horse Mr Bear had plumped for in the previous race had come last by about 40m! Muhaha :)

Sunday, 19 August 2012


Kanteleen Kutsu Fabric by Marimekko

Today has been the most productive and 'making head-way' kind of day I've ever had, sat on my bottom drinking copious amounts of tea; EVER. I've been focusing all my ideas and sketchy little drawings into a semi-cohesive action plan and a thought process which, I hope, can be followed by someone else in order to convey my ideas.

I am formulating four collections of women's and menswear that will expand and adapt as I grow my skills. Some are completely new, unique designs. In others, inspiration is drawn from shapes and patterns from eras past, updated through the use of contemporary fabrics and detailing. I am also working on a collection that mainly consists of upcycling; bringing old, unloved items back to life and reinventing them in a new way.

To aid me in my work, I have spent the day creating inspiration boards. Although these are for my own personal use and in no way fancy looking, I have also compiled a couple of new boards on Pinterest as a way to share with you some of the things that have me all a flutter.

You can find my style inspiration board here, and my fabric design inspiration board here.

Amazing things are about to happen. I hope.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Helsinki Wall Hanging

A few weeks ago, we had a 20% off sale on all Marimekko fabrics to celebrate a trip to the MK factory in Finland made by the founder of Bolt of Cloth, Suzannah Tonascia. I jumped at the chance to buy some of my favourite MK prints at such a good price and purchased a metre of the iconic Helsinki print to make into an eye-catching piece of wall art to liven up our new living room.

I initially planned to mount the fabric on a canvas, but as this is something I want to take with me when we leave New Zealand as a mark of my time here, I didn't want to ruin the material with holes left by staples. So I decided to make it into a wall-hanging instead, so the poles can easily be removed and replaced. It was also a much cheaper option as the finished piece measures nearly 1m x 1.4m! Today, I purchased a couple of curtain poles (costing $8.98) and some light blue rope trim (costing $4.50), sewed side-seams and made a tube top and bottom for the poles to be threaded into.

I'm very happy with the result as I think it is a great way to display this detailed piece without hiding any of the pattern. Every time I look at it, I can hear seagulls squaking distantly and the boom of ships calling to the shore. I would love to visit Helsinki one day. I'm sure it would get my inspiration-buds tingling!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

A Lot of Hot Water

We have just returned after a relaxing weekend away to torrentially rainy Christchurch and the weak winter sunshine and blue skies of only a day ago seem long past. Why is it that you can spend such a long time dreaming and scheming about when/where you'd like to go on holiday and then when you get there, it's over in a flash and by the end, it seems like years have past since that sunny afternoon when you felt all your worries were a million miles away? Yes, you're right. I am suffering from the end of holiday blues. Unaided by the fact our weekend was cut short by torrents of rain that haven't stopped for the last 24 hours.

But, in dictacting our adventures to you here on this page, I will re-live them again and turn my eyes away from grey skies for a moment or two.

After I shut up shop on Friday, we drove 1 hour 45 minutes North of the city to a place called Hanmer, famous for its natural hot springs and mountain vistas. Unfortunately, we drove after nightfall and could only sense how magnificent the views would have been in daylight from the huge black silhouettes of mountains either side of us.

We arrived to find ourselves booked into a four-star resort, in a Garden Villa towards the edge of the Hotel grounds. After settling in for the night with a large gourmet pizza, some junky TV and a manuka infused bath (or what I now like to refer to as a 'recipe for drowning' when combined with a mug of Camomile tea and extreme tiredness), we awoke feeling refreshed the next day. We got quite a shock upon opening our curtains to reveal a stunning view over little wooden houses nestled in the shadow of a looming snow-capped mountain, their chimneys smoking, mingling with the early morning mist. We felt immediately transported back to Bern in Switzerland and wondered whether it was possible that we had travelled some distance in our sleep!

After a quick wander down to the town centre to scout around for some brunch, we confirmed that we were still in Hanmer and not infact surrounded by the Swiss (shame). As usual when eating out in NZ, you're very rarely disappointed when it comes to the presentation of your food. My Eggs Benedict was proof of this, as you can see!

Following our feed, we crossed the road from the deli to the springs resort for a couple of hours of slowly dissolving ourselves in very hot water. The thermal pools range in temperature from a supposedly cool 36 degrees to a scorching 43. We paced ourselves; starting with the 'cool' rock pools and gradually building up to the hottest smelly sulphur pools. After lots of enduring Mr Bear complaining he was bored and didn't understand what you were supposed to do in a hot spring (the concept of relaxation is a bit difficult for him, I have discovered) and a fair amount of dehydration, we decided to seek out a miniature golf course (golf is very popular in the area but mini golf is fun). A round of putting at 'A-Maze-N-Golf' later and we were back in the town looking for food again. 

Sunday morning had supposedly been set aside for a casual winter walk and a lot of photo taking, but since the rain started at around 1am that morning, and wasn't showing any signs of letting up, we realised there was nothing for it and we would just have to drive back home. Disappointing, but not a decision we regret as we were able to spend the afternoon relaxing at home and not getting soggy and lost on an alpine track surrounded by mist. Win.

To see all our photos from the trip (don't worry, there aren't many!) have a look here.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Tweak Tweak


I admit at times, I am somewhat of a perfectionist. I apply that term quite loosely though; referring not to any measure of precision or accuracy, but rather to my tendancy to be hard to please. Whenever I finish a piece, there is always a niggling feeling in the back of my mind that something's not quite right. It looks unfinished. There's a missing element.

When I posted pictures of my latest creation, the bird's nest headband, I felt this very same feeling. "Too much green", said the niggling pest, "Not enough texture". 

So I decided to re-visit it today and try and make some improvements. I added leaves and yellow roses around the base of the nest, to increase the tree-top appearance. I'm much happier with it now....the niggling feeling has definitely decreased.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012


As part of the social club at Martin's work, we are attending the races on 24th August, where we will enjoy a four course meal and take part in a 'best headwear' competition. This is my entry. Still needs a few finishing touches I think...maybe a couple of leaves around the nest. There will be some serious back-combing involved as I want my hair to have that 'nesty' appearance too. What do you think?

Wonder Wardrobe

The dress on the left in this fabric....
Turtle Bay in Indigo, with purple contrast sleeves, collar and belt.

This skirt in....
Deer in Glasses in Black by Echino.

This style shift dress in...
Zebra Stripe from the new Echino collection

It usually takes me a fair while to drift into the realm of sleep once my heads touches the pillow. During this state of limbo, my mind wanders to what I like to call my 'wonder wardrobe'. In this collection would be a myriad of dresses, skirts and blouses that I have made for myself from some of the beautiful fabrics we sell at Bolt of Cloth

I have bought fabric from work to make the two shirts for my brother and Mr Bear but have yet to make myself something wearable from our fabrics.

These are the projects I've been dreaming about over the last couple of weeks. Hopefully, I'll be able to show you the finished products in the near future...once I get through my back-log of unfinished pieces and break my budget restrictions!