Setting the year ablaze

For the last few years, I’ve chosen a word for the year – something to mull over, to set intention, to facilitate ongoing inner growth…

For a few years there, the word was ‘No’, as in learning to say no, to be assertive, to DISCERN what was and wasn’t important to me…

Last year’s word was SHAMELESS, read about it HERE and HERE. See my SHAMELESS Pinterest board HERE. It was somewhat successful, although I did slide down into several shame spirals over various things – I think shame is in my DNA, maybe it is for all women, given the culture we live in.

Since the solstice, I have been mulling over a word for this year…all words of a gentle, nurturing nature were not doing it for me…I wanted something with an edge, with big metaphoric possibilities, with high-energy. Energy is what I hope for for this year. I’ve had a few ‘damp’ years, fallow years, resting years, compost years – and I accept them as part of a life passage, part of an organic process.

‘There are years that ask questions and years that answer them.’

-Zora Neale Hurston

Some credit to this year’s word must go to my friend EMMA – as part of my Christmas present she gave me a box of fancy matches which have the saying ‘The inner fire is the most important thing’ on the box, as I unwrapped it she said: ‘Well, you are a pyromaniac.’

It’s true. I love a good bonfire and often have a big burn in the backyard. I love candles, and incense. I use matches rather than a lighter because I get a small thrill from striking a match.

In yoga-teaching, we talk about ‘igniting the inner-fire’ – meaning both physically, as the core warms up, an internal heaters starts to fire, deepening the breath and warming the body…and metaphorically – the inner-fire being our drive, energy, prana, shakti!

So my word for the year is FIRE.

See my Fire Pinterest board HERE.

Like The Pixies I’m DIGGING FOR FIRE.  Hoping that this is a year that answers questions, and hoping to light a match to all my desires… watch them turn into the biggest bonfire on the most beautiful beach under the fullest moon.


Backyard hobo bonfire in a rubbish tin.


Plant fire – calendula in my vege garden…


Winter solstice celebration from some years back…


Fire sky, Queenstown 


Growing my fire and eating my fire… 



Backyard fire at a friend’s place…

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn…”

-Jack Kerouac


gosh, thanks!

A couple of posts ago I was having a bit of a frazzled time of it and I asked (very unsubtly and in a way lacking in grace) for some nice snail mail….half-joking, not thinking much of the spontaneous appeal as it went from my typing fingers to the internet ether…

…and I got some! Some fabulous letters, cards and ‘zines and stickers and patches and general heartfelt beauty.

Thank you so much, generous and kind people. You made me feel visible, supported….loved!

This, on the side of Tomato Cafe where the weekly specials usually go. Perhaps it IS this week’s special? : 


old roses

Black Doris did really well on Friday. She made me a little bit of cash and garnered many compliments on her fine appearance. Fun was had.


I’m having one of those times of life where the dial goes from ‘happily busy’ into ‘OVERWHELM‘ *cue obnoxious siren noise, flashing lights, general chaos* …

When the dial is up this high, I find it hard to move purposefully forward and expend too much times metaphorically running around in circles like a simile chicken.  (Poetry nerd jokes.)


Here’s what I will do:

a) drink tea

b) make a comprehensive to-do list

c) accept the bottom 10 things on the list may not get done any time soon. C’est la vie.

d) forgive myself for the dirty oven, the weedy garden, the imperfect parenting…

e) talk myself down from quitting my volunteer work (again); talk myself down from giving up trying to be a writer (again); talk myself down from running away to Iceland carrying only a little brown suitcase (again) …

f) drink some more tea. The sound of the kettle helps me relax. Breathe, tea coming. 

g) leave an unsubtle hint on my blog that I would like some nice snail mail, please, as all the bills and letter from the IRD are not helping the sense that life is all grown-up obligations and worldly worries…

h) do more yoga. I always let my yoga slip when I need it most. AND I’M A YOGA TEACHER. Gah. Get thee to the mat, woman.

i) find the jar of French bon-bons which I bought in Greytown at the start of May. Suck on a sour apple bon-bon whilst sitting on the back step and watching the chickens grab a bit of winter sun.

j) do the next thing on the list. then the next thing. then the next thing. Try just to do the next thing, rather than the thing I WANT to do. Accept ‘good enough’. Accept ‘hanging in there’. Accept.

oldrose_2 oldrose_1

k) Take pointless photographs of old roses, just because.

Hope you are doing okay, too, whether you are living the dream or just treading water. X X X





‘Tastes like a bonfire of recalled Barbie Dolls’: a family Japanese KitKat tasting…

My friend Emma recently went to Japan and she gave me a big bag of Japanese snack-sized KitKats she bought back. KitKats come in manifold flavours in Japan. Emma said there were whole shops which just sold KitKats!


Over a game of Carcassonne, Fraser (42), Willoughby (13) and I (41) had a KitKat tasting. (Magnus was in bed, so he missed out. It sucks being nine.)

I took comprehensive tasting notes. Fraser’s favourite was Wasabi, mine was the Brown Rice Tea, whereas Willoughby, he liked the ‘cheesy’ ones.** The least favourite flavour with no competition was Red Bean Paste.

Here are some of our tasting notes. I’ve also noted the colour of the KitKat. (If I have any of the flavours or names wrong, I apologise, but I can’t read Japanese so was guessing/trying to remember what Emma had told me/using the pictures as guidance.)

((I have no idea how interesting this is.))

** I suspect the cheesy ones taste a bit like breast milk. Sorry. TMI?

EDAMAME, light green in hue

H: Smells like chocolate farts; grassy note to the flavour.

F: White chocolate mousse smell; flavour tastes like staleness.

W: It smells and tastes like white chocolate, only less yummy.


H: Smells like Parmesan cheese! Tastes like fatty, cheesy white chocolate.

F: Smells like shoes. Tastes like a cheesy lemon-crisp biscuit. Feral, but nice.

W: Delicious! A cheesy-perfumed chocolate bar.

GRAPEwhite   (Errata – Emma has since informed me this is RUM AND RAISIN) 

H: Smells like Sultana Bran. Has a bubble-gum flavour which is off-putting.

F: Smells like cheap supermarket soap. Lolly-ish flavour. Extremely sweet.

W: Ooh, fruity-fruity! Smells like Grape Hubba Bubba but tastes like fruity Tic-Tacs.


(Disconcertingly the picture on the front looks very much like mince on toast.)

H: (sniffs) Oh God! Smells like an ash-tray! Tastes like dirt with a plasticky after-taste.

F: Tastes like last year’s Easter Egg which you hid under the flax bush and then found a year later and then ate. No, it’s worse than that. Tastes like a bonfire of recalled Barbie Dolls. Aged, smokey chocolate, in other words. Has a sour finish.

(The taster drank a large glass of water after this sample).

W: Euw, dirty Easter Egg chocolate. The worst. Negative 5000 out of 10.

RICE TEA, brown

H: Distinctive rice tea/Mirin smell. Strong rice tea flavour with a savoury after-note. I like it a lot!

F: Smells of seaweed. A sour Oolong flavour. Notes of iodine and heather.

W: Smells like that seaweed that is on sushi. Fresh, clean flavour. I like it! I have never drunk tea so to me it tastes like seaweed. I’ve never had sushi either. Why have I never had sushi? Can I try sushi? Like, soon? Like tomorrow night for dinner? *

(* Taster has not eaten sushi because since the age of about two he has consistently reacted with horror when offered sushi, despite many attempts by his parents to get him to try sushi. His sudden interest in eating sushi is both baffling and frankly, irritating.)

UJI MATCHA,  a unique khaki colour

H: Smells and tastes of tea, but not as strongly as the last one. Very sour and fatty aftertaste.

F: Looks like Brut Faberge soap. Not much going on in the flavour department, a slightly astringent aftertaste.

W: Smells like white chocolate. Tastes like white chocolate. Just eat white chocolate for god’s sakes! At least proper white chocolate isn’t GREEN!


H: Vanilla-ish in smell and flavour. Nice.

F: A spicy note to the smell, yes, wafts of stale old cinnamon.

W: White chocolate with a hint of random.


H: Oh dear, it’s like a strawberry cheddar-cheese smell. Not a good combination. Tastes like synthetic strawberry with cheese.

F: Oh god, remember that time we were driving home from Taupo and we stopped at the petrol station and the children chose drinks and Magnus chose strawberry Up’n’Go and then an hour later, we were just out of Hunterville, remember? He threw up all over the back seat? That’s what this reminds me of, strawberry milk refluxed. Euw.

W: What are you on about? This smells delicious! Smells like fresh cream cheese, but tastes like strawberry. Hmmm, this is my favourite.

WASABI, pale green

H: Oo, it does SMELL like Wasabi! How unusual. Sweet wasabi. Weirdly it warms the nose like normal wasabi does, but there is no heat in the flavour. That is freaky. In a good way. I think.

F: Unusual, unexpected smell and flavour, but very nice! Has a compelling sweet/savoury character.  Refreshing and palate-cleansing. The perfect flavour to end on. I like this one the best by far.

W: What’s wasabi? Why is my nose all cold and weird? What the hell is this flavour? Is this what sushi tastes like?? Euw! Just, …no.


So, there you go. I should add that Emma had previously given me a box of cinnamon Kitkats and they were delicious.

Thanks, Emma, for letting us share in your travel adventures through our noses and taste-buds.

If anyone else wants to send us random foods to sample, feel free. We will happily give it our very very close attention.








buttons and other wonderful junk


Vintage treasures recently acquired…

Where did the week go? Lordy!

I have been busy doing things which are integral yet boring to blog about: working, writing, parenting etc.

A more fun thing I have been doing is sorting my vintage button collection into little colour coordinated selections for an upcoming fair I’m taking part in…(more about that later…)


I love buttons! They are like little lollies you can’t eat. I have a heap of great vintage ones from buying old-lady button tins at op-shops and garage sales.

I love buttons so much the working title for The Comforter was ‘wood. button. bone’ …


Work has started on THIS collaborative art/poetry project that I’m part of and I am very excited. I think it is going to be great.

I love all things to do with the Womens’ Land Army/Land Girls so was happy to discover THIS TV series, which I’m going to start watching this week.

I reviewed Alice Miller’s ‘The Limits’ for Booksellers HERE.

I have been cooking. I am always cooking, but sometimes it’s nice to reminds yourself of all the cooking you do to help account for all the time that has passed & the wondering where it goes – recently I have made: rhubarb-blackcurrant crumble, hokey-pokey biscuits, honey oat biscuits, quince cakes, soups of various hue, giant piles of coleslaw….and dinner dinner dinner dinner every night dinner…

This weekend is the Red Cross Book Sale! I take so long at this sale, I have to go alone…because the times I’ve gone with friends I drove them mad with my sllllooooowwwwww-looking. I get ridiculously excited about the Red Cross Book sale – but every year I go, I find excellent poetry books, wonderful vintage childrens’ books and a pile of random treasures of the variety ‘I did not know I wanted this until I saw it but now I have seen it it is the perfect thing to plug that previously unknown hole in my life’….or something…

I am writing this very hastily because it’s nearly school pick-up time…. I hope you are feeling busy in a happy way and full of good projects, nice people and autumnal good food! x x x x x

the wayfarer mind

Do you ever get exhausted from your own wayfarer mind? The places your mind goes, the depths of emotion, the distracting fantasies, the picking over of memories, the rampant imaginings?

I do love my own company, but wow, busy old brain! It’s a riot and a rampage in there…

The other day I was gardening and idly musing on a young friend who recently married. I wondered if she might have children one day, then I thought how lovely it would be if she did, and how I could help her with the (non-existent) baby and then I thought ‘ooh, but she might find me overbearing with my wanting to help and my advice. She might have to ask me to ease off a bit in my interest in her (non-existent!!!) baby’. Then my conscious/observer mind NOTICED this bizarre…what was it? not quite a fantasy…because it ended badly…brain tangent, I guess…and I literally LOL’ed at myself. (Laughed out loud.) What a dick! Minds are so sticky! So bizarre! How did I get from a pleasant musing about a the happy situation of a friend (real) to a fraught interpersonal drama (imagined) within seconds?

Such is the nature of the wayfarer mind …

Thank goodness for meditation and yoga is all I can say about that.

Anyway, in the manner of the wayfarer mind here are some entirely random things which have passed through my thoughts/life lately…

I made the ‘Cheat’s KimChi’ from Wild&Good – it’s yummy, a great thing to have in the fridge to go into sandwiches or on top of salads. Seems to last quite a while, too.


I found another lovely mattress textile on my recent Foxton weekend – isn’t this one stately? Refined?



My friend Emma recently spent a month in Japan and talked a bit to me about how handmade signs and displays are celebrated there, whereas here in NZ (especially in the ‘Indie’-craft scene) there seems to be a move to try to make things look more ‘profressional’. I got involved in the Indie-craft scene early  (in it’s current iteration, I mean…because let’s face it…where ever there are domestic women – there are handmades and crafts happening! throughout history) but anyway, around 2004…and I have to agree with Emma. What started out as quite punk-inspired, lo-fi and witty! There was so much wit and humour about the handmades in the early years – has become more ‘straight’, saccharine, mainstream, ‘professional’ (whatever that means) which is a shame, I think. This is a generalisation, of course, and there are many exceptions – but the Indie Craft scene really lost it’s allure for me when it got less about politics and wit and more about the pretty-pretty, about looking ‘designed’.

I love lo-fi! handmade! rough and ready! repurposed! banged up! unskilled! quick and keen!

Like Emma, I like hand-drawn signs and hand-made displays.

It’s far better to do something badly yourself than to watch someone else do it well.’

-George Bernard Shaw

Here are some wonky, gleefully amateurish signs I made for a group that I volunteer with, Environment Network Manawatu, for a stall we had at a cultural festival:

enmsigns_2 enmsigns_1

I’d like to make more signs. Signs that tell people to do happy/silly things. Signs in unexpected places…

I’d also love to see this documentary which artist Faythe Levine made about the dying art of handpainted signwriting in the USA. 

It’s a dying art because of the invention of the vinyl cutter. Again, people wanting cheap, ‘professional’ signs is killing off the trade of signwriting.

Lah-lah-luddites unite! Why is so much ‘progress’ anti-human, non-humane and ultimately, daft?  Handwritten signs are so much more soulful and interesting than plastic letters cut by a robot (er, machine.)

Emma not only spent time admiring the handmade signs of major Japanese cities, but she also shopped….and she bought me (among other awesome things) my own washi-tape tower. The Liberty-like floral stuff at the bottom is fabric tape…it is sooo pretty I can hardly stand to use it, but I have been…


Anyway, in other news, in what might be the last thing I ever knit because a) at last count I have knit myself almost 30 scarves over the last decade – which is a lot for a woman with only one neck, and b) my OOS is so bad in my right wrist that knitting really hurts it more so I shouldn’t do it….I made a friend of mine who is having a baby (as opposed to the friend mentioned above who is NOT having a baby, ha ha!) two gnome hats – one for her and one for her baby so they can MATCH and stride around Wellington this winter looking pixie-like, amusing and warm….but I had a little try-on of the adult-sized hat before I sent it southwards…(I invented this pattern, so don’t ask me about it – it was anarcho-knitting…I did what felt about right and I have little idea of what that was now….)


People should wear fun clothes more. Life is short. Live it up, people!

The other day, I saw this woman (who looked to be in her 40s) wearing this ‘tutu’ which was actually just a bit of elastic with some tulle strung onto it…a streak of electric blue in combat boots. Hell yes, girl!



Finally, in case you were getting worried this tangential mess was never coming to an end – today I listened to an episode of Desert Island Discs where the guest was Mairi Hedderwick….artist and author of the Katy Morag books, which I LOVE!

Anyone who has had children in recent years might know the Katy Morag books, they are fantastic fun – the travails of a young girl who lives on a remote Scottish island. I used to LOVE reading them to my boys because the family were so REAL and messy and riotous…the mess in the books often reflected my own domestic mess with small kids, and the island grandmother was wonderfully pragmatic and capable…just as able to bake scones for tea as to pull her sheep from a bog…anyway, the episode is a good listen for a rainy autumn day – Mairi talks about her own experiences living in the Scottish Isles and much besides.

She also talked about how her depiction of Katy Morag’s mother breastfeeding led to some book shops and libraries refusing to stock her books. How daft is that? When I WAS a breastfeeding mother, it was so comforting to see depictions of breastfeeding in the books I was reading my kids. (Also depictions of tired, frazzled mothers – that was also heartening, too.)

(Art by Mairi Hedderwick)

katiemorag_2 katiemorag

Those pictures are terribly threatening, aren’t they? (*sarcasm*)

Here’s to the handmade, here’s to island life (yes, that includes us, New Zealanders – our country is TINY!), here’s to quickly knocked up tutus, and silly hats and cheat’s KimChi and vintage textiles and all that traveling teaches us. and here’s to the wayfaring mind… 












To the lovely women who took the time to respond last week – thank you so much for your encouraging, funny, wise and supportive comments on my last angsty-emotional-Tourettes post.

It helped.

A lot.

More than I can express.

Thank you.