Monday, 30 December 2013

A Quiet Christmas

A somewhat belated message for the dwindling festive season, but understandably due to the time restraints created by the consumption of excessive amounts of cheese, mulled cider, mock turkey and pickled onions.....and the accompanying sense of shame that comes with over-indulging right up until New Year. To put it plainly - I haven't written over the Christmas period because I have rarely been sober or without food in my hand. That's what it's all about right?? It's all good as long as I detox in Jan ;-)

Well, I hope you all had a wonderful time full of merriment and (most importantly) booze! My festivities began by sending a bunch of presents home to rellies and loved ones and picked up in the last week of November when I decided to make some stocking advent bunting. 

Next came a tacky silver Christmas tree and some cheap decorations and that was pretty much it for the rest of December. It's hard to get in the spirit when it's 25 degrees outside and the thought of mulling anything makes you break into a sweat. 

The last Friday before the big day, we had our Christmas Party at work. Creating things being the name of the game every day at The Make Cafe, we celebrated by learning to make teacup candles and bezel jewellery whilst scoffing amazing homemade deserts, supping champagne and opening Secret Santa presents.

And then came Christmas Eve and the real homesickness hit. The morning was spent sobbing into the arms of my work family - thanks ladies, you're the best - and trying to work out the best way to let the world know that Christmas was cancelled. In the evening, my friend and co-worker Jade invited myself and Martin 'Ebenezer' Carr to Carols by Candlelight in Latimer Square.

A round of 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer' and 'Jingle Bells' later, I started to feel a bit more in the mood for doing anything other than sleeping through Christmas Day.

After a morning of gift wrap ripping, joyful whooping and present testing, Martin and I took a drive to Cass Bay near Lyttelton for some quiet reflection before heading over to join friends for a BBQ.

Overall, we had a lovely day with some gorgeous people but it is always hard to be so far from home at this time of year. We have made a pact that from 2014 onwards, wherever we are in the world each Christmas, we will always make it back home to see our family and much missed friends. Promise!

 To see all our pics of Christmas merriment, have a look at our Flickr album.


Tuesday, 17 December 2013


It's been two months since I last wrote. A lot can happen in short spaces of time, and this short space of time is no exception.

A month ago, we said goodbye to Martin's parents at Christchurch airport after an amazing three weeks of travelling, introducing them to our friends and eating LOTS of good food. A year on from the same experience with my brother, I am left on the wrong side of the departure gate feeling a very familiar set of unwelcome emotions. 

Should I be going home too? Did we make the most of the short time we had together? Did they enjoy themselves? WILL THEY COME BACK???

The hardest part about having visitors after nearly two years of getting used to being by ourselves is coming back to an empty house. The quiet was unbearable. I suddenly realised how our parents and family members must have felt upon returning home after saying goodbye to us at Manchester airport all that time ago. On the other side of the departure gate towards New Zealand, I too was inconsolable, but it is definitely harder being the one left behind.

So you try and fill that hole with being busy, not stopping to reflect or dwell and generally carrying on with your life as if nothing has changed. After two weeks of this, however, it becomes impossible to ignore how you are feeling and you decide to face your doubts.

This Saturday, Martin and I made ourselves slow down. We took a walk through our old neighbourhood - which has become a haven for (legal) street art - had brunch somewhere we've never been before and made peace with ourselves. 

We are presently standing at a fork in the road. In January, we will have lived in New Zealand for two years and will therefore be eligible for residency. However, we don't know how much longer we want to be here. Do we: a) not apply and wait until our work visas expire in June and be faced with the prospect of returning to a country in a not too dissimilar economic state than it was when we left, or b) apply for residency on the basis we know we want to be here until at least this time next year and just see what happens? 

When we made the decision to move to the other side of the world, we did so on the proviso that we didn't want to regret the things we didn't do in life. We gave it a go and, thankfully, it worked. In my head, I know NZ is the right choice: a more healthy pace of life, better job prospects, more comfortable living arrangements...the list goes on. But (and this is a big 'but'), my heart essentially is wherever my Ma & Pa are. Corny, but that's what it boils down to!

Currently, we are very excitedly planning a trip home in April/May next year, hopefully via Canada, Italy, Germany and Thailand. We hope this will satisfy our wandering hearts a little and be a great opportunity to make the most of spending time with much missed friends and family. When it gets tough here, I cherish the thought of how happy I will be to see my cat again (and try not to think about the angry face of the kiwi customs officer when they discover him in my hand luggage). 

Meanwhile, when we want to feel close to home, there is a park down the road called Mona Vale in which you can find a very English looking lily-pond, fountain and an accompanying sense of tranquillity. At least until the birds start mistaking your ukulele playing for a call to arms, anyway.

To see all our photos from Sharon and Tony's trip, click here.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Garden Transformation

We've lived in our current abode for six months now and I'd like to think we've made it pretty homely. This is the first place we've lived where I have felt like we could settle a little bit and feel a bit more firmly rooted in NZ. We have a great space for entertaining and have really enjoyed having friends over for drinks, dinner and catch-ups during the quieter winter months.

Now the weather is starting to warm up, my thoughts have been turning to how we can make the most of our two courtyard gardens. Martin's folks are coming over from the UK in a couple of weeks and we have decided to have our belated house-warming while they're here! A couple of our friends are amazing at BBQing (being Brazilian and all!) and have kindly agreed to help us with the catering. So something had to be done to make our outdoor entertaining space impressive too!

I'm a big fan of recycling and upcycling and one of my favourite trends at the moment is giving pallets a new, alternative lease of life. So, after a good while trawling on Pinterest to gather some pinspiration (ha - see what I did there?) Marts and I took to the drawing board.

After spying a stack of pallets outside a garden centre near where I work, the owner generously agreed to let us take a few. Martin set to work with a crow-bar, hammer and a pack of nails to make a coffee table with inset succulent/cacti planter and a two-seater bench.

In a couple of hours, we were sat with our books and a cuppa enjoying the Sunday afternoon sunshine. Magic!


Saturday, 12 October 2013

Finally Finished - Cardboard Cathedral!

The biggest (and most challenging) project in Martin's surveying career is finally finished! A tremendous effort spanning 12 months, 98 cardboard tubes, 100+ construction workers and many, many 'I've had a horrible day at work, please make me a brew' cups of Yorkshire tea.

The building - designed by globally renowned Japanese architect Shigeru Ban - was originally intended as a temporary structure to replace the original neo-Gothic Anglican Cathedral until it is rebuilt following the destruction caused by the 2011 earthquake. It now has a forecasted life-span of 50 or more years, to stand as one of New Zealand's most iconic structures.

The building seats up to 700 people, with 300 chairs custom-designed by Ban to resonate with the unique materials of the high-ceilinged nave. Nearly every object found within the 800m2 structure is made in likeness of the cardboard tubes: from the 6m tall cross to the donations boxes and prayer room doors.

The magnificent stained-glass window was inspired by the original Cathedral's famous Rose Window. Dubbed the 'Trinity Window', the design was created by one of Ban's team of architects - Yoshie Narimatsu - and incorporates images from the original window. While only shattered fragments remain of the rose window, the Trinity Window was designed to create the impression of these broken pieces restored to their former beauty.

This is by far my favourite element of the design, as the light that floods the cathedral during a sunny day casts breath-takingly lovely pools of multi-coloured light on the concrete floor, emulating the feeling of peace you get upon walking into a such huge space that lends itself to quiet contemplation.

A few weeks after the completion date in August, we were invited to attend a 'Hard Hat Workers' service and BBQ at the Transitional Cathedral (to give the building its official title!), during which the Church gave thanks to everyone involved in the project and all the months of planning and problem-solving. It was so nice to see Marts receiving acknowledgement of all his hard work and left me a very proud lady-friend!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

On Island Time

Life has been moving at a million miles an hour over the last month or so. I've barely had time to myself much the last few weeks, so haven't really had any chance to sit down and write here. Listen to me, always making excuses!

Mr Bear and I managed to grab a week to ourselves and jet off to the Pacific paradise of Rarotonga a couple of weeks ago (the biggest of the 15 Cook Islands, 3 hours flight from Auckland).

We spent a day exploring Auckland before our evening flight out to the island, where we enjoyed a  week of lounging in the sun reading our books, zooming around the island on a scooter, snorkelling in the crystal clear waters of the surrounding lagoon, learning how to husk coconuts, crab racing, eating all manners of tropical fish and drinking many MANY pina coladas!

It felt like a dream. One afternoon I found myself floating on my back in the dazzling blue waters of the lagoon, watching a gentle breeze rustle the leaves of the 25ft tall coconut trees on the white sandy shore, listening for the sound of a conch shell being blown to summon us to our Polynesian BBQ feast. I thought I'd died and arrived in heaven!

 I'll let the pictures on our Flickr account tell the full story. And, no, they haven't been photoshopped!

Landing back in Christchurch on a rainy, miserable day with a temperature of 10 degrees, we felt as if our week in the sun had been only a dream....except we had the tan to prove it!

We both went back to work feeling refreshed and ready to face our individual challenges, including Martin finishing up work on the Cardboard Cathedral (more to come on that this week)!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

A Little Gallery

A couple of weeks ago, one of my favourite illustrators had a sale through their Etsy shop. 'Yey' I say. 'Oh, not you again!', says my bank account. Upon adding items to my checkout (sorry bank account), I realised this would be only my second purchase of goods through Etsy.
'Surely not', I hear you say. Sad but true, dear readers. 

Unfortunately, it appears I have become a 'virtual window shopper', which is quite a crime considering I am such an advocate of supporting small handmade craft businesses (being a budding one myself!) Don't worry, I slapped my own wrists and will endeavour to change my ways....again: apologies Bank of Bamboo.

It is also a minor miracle, or should I say travesty, that I have never purchased a piece of Lauren Carney's artwork before. I have been an admirer of Dizzy Little Dotty for a few years now, but have only recently got my hands on a physical copy of her quirky, mystical drawings.

I bought myself a set of these super-cute clothes line paper cut-outs to hang in my studio for inspiration. They are wonderfully motivating during bouts of creative block!

And I snatched up this beautiful digital print (left) of a piece that made me feel like I'd had it specially commissioned for Martin and I: entitled 'I didn't mean to hurt you'. I felt like laughing and crying simultaneously when I saw it. We quite often play fight (channelling our inner child has always been a big part of our connection!) and I - embarrassingly - often have a tendency of getting carried away. What do they say - you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs?? ....not entirely sure that particular phrase is relevant here but ANYWAY what I'm trying to say is it is something that is so quintessentially us, it feels quite special when an artist can capture that in their work. I think it also looks a little like us!

A lot of Lauren's work has a very human element to it, along with the obvious surreal and supernatural themes. She is a magician with a stylus pen when it comes to putting on paper those little imperfections and quirks that make us who we are - showing the human races' multi-faceted nature in a multitude of pen strokes. Thanks Lauren!

She is also an awesome gift-wrapper and even threw in a couple of extras, which was a lovely surprise!

Our gallery wall is coming along nicely, don't you think?

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Coin Purse Love

So, a few weeks ago Sara from The Hope Tree had a sale of her beautiful coin purses on Facebook. I am a bit of a sucker for these kind of things but usually forget when the sale starts or someone comments 'SOLD!' before I've even had chance to put fingers to keypad. 

But this time around, I was determined. I set my heart on this pretty 14cm brass framed purse, made with Echino linen (purchased from my work place, The Make Cafe, might I add)! So, when 7pm came around, I was ready! Isn't it just stunning?? Sara always manages to match the fabric and frame perfectly and uses a well contrasted lining fabric too. Another lovely addition to my handmade wardrobe, I think :)

Inspired by Sara's wonderful craft-woman-ship (yes, that is my new phrase!), I decided to have a go at making a coin purse for my friend Gabby's 21st birthday back in May. Here is what I came up with....

I drew up the pattern myself and since this is the first time I've sewn it up, I shall probably make a few changes next time around. I'd like the corners to be slightly more rounded! But not bad for a first attempt and Gabs loved it so everyone's happy :)

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

The Giant's House

Way back in May, Martin and I enjoyed a long weekend in Akaroa, the French inspired harbour town in the nearby Banks Peninsula. Although we made a rookie error of leaving our digital camera at home, I managed to take a few snaps using my phone to record our time there.

It was actually quite nice to have left the camera behind, as it meant we were able to relax properly and not experience everything through a view-finder, which made a nice change.

But for me, it was very important to take some photos of one place we visited during our time there. 

The Giant's House is a bed and breakfast with a difference. Mosaic artist Josie Martin has transformed her home, business and gardens into a living work of art. Paintings and sculptures are scattered all around the grounds and everywhere you look is abundant with colour and reflected light.

It was quite an emotional visit for me as my Mum, an artist herself, is very interested in mosaics and had come across The Giant's House online, urging me to visit the next time we were in Akaroa. Walking around the beautifully landscaped gardens, I knew my Mum would be in her element and I felt a pain growing in my chest with each step I took as I longed to share this experience with her. 

So I made a video whilst I walked.....

I hope one day we'll be able to go for a stroll there together, Ma :)
To see all our photos from the house, have a look at our Flickr account.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Anything but Hibernating

It may be winter but Christchurch is anything but hibernating folks! This city is experiencing Spring all year round. Maybe not in terms of weather - although the last week has been beautiful - but certainly in terms of budding businesses planting seeds and bringing new life and colour to the rubbled landscape.

By now, we're used to things quietening down during the winter months and having to find ways to keep ourselves entertained. But, if you know where to look, there's still plenty going on in and around town.

On Friday night we headed over to Lyttelton to watch the fireworks as part of a Street Party for their festival of light. The streets were lined with food stalls and thronged with people in fancy dress, big cuddly blankets and an array of interesting head wear! Our ears with serenaded by the haunting voice and stomping tunes of Devlish Mary and The Holy Rollers. We had a little jig (more to keep warm than anything!) and grabbed a cup of warm mulled apple to defrost our insides.

Saturday morning was craft market day, as we headed over to CPIT for The Craft Collective's 'Dead of Winter Market'. I snatched up an awesome panda illustrated plate by Shit's About To Get Dainty to add to our art work wall, a couple of sweet silver stacking rings from Random Little Things and a bobbin-tastic head scarf from Little Heart. My shopping success was topped off by a cup of Minestrone soup and a couple of tunes from a talented young busker.

In the afternoon, we headed over the Port Hills to Governor's Bay to sample some cocoa goodness from She Chocolat, resolving to return soon to attend one of their chocolate creating courses!

As some Christchurch dwellers will know, The Tannery shopping emporium has recently under-gone serious renovations and re-opened its doors to the public again. Though still a work in progress with a lot of empty retail space waiting to be occupied, The Tannery is now home to an eclectic mix of gift shops, homewares, a surf shop, silversmithing workroom, tattoo studio, second-hand book shop, vintage clothing and a very classy wine bar. I can't wait to see it full  of shops and hope to take a class in silversmithing soon!