tiny worlds of the Adam/McIntyre household

When I went south to see Neko Case recently, there were tiny worlds within the tiny world that is the small Wellington villa of my friends, Pip and Brent.

Brent and his daughter had made some miniature lands by planting some real grass in pots and populating these micro-farms with plastic animals.

The organic meets the inorganic:


The perfect vegan farm:


Giant pig or tiny barn?


And Pip bought this small, ethereal and spooky populated terrarium for Brent’s 40th birthday:

Is she longing to escape or happy to be sealed safely in?



The Rope Walk is launched!

Before I blather on about the launch of this fine, artisanally-produced book THIS IS WHERE YOU CAN ORDER ONE. GO ON. SUPPORT NZ POETRY AND INDIE-PUBLISHING. 

On the weekend, I attended my darling friend Maria McMillan’s (I wrote a bit about Maria HERE) book launch at the Aro Community Hall. This is her first book and it’s with Seraph Press. It was a wonderfully warm-hearted event. The large turn-out and delightful people who attended were testament to Maria’s standing in the community.

This is my favourite photo of the event, because it wouldn’t have been a Maria event without a lot of tea & Maria’s favourite colour is blue – the lovely Crown Lynn colour glaze cups belong to the hall – a lucky coincidence! I associate Maria with tea and then another round of tea and then maybe some more tea but perhaps some toast this time, too….more butter please! I think I would like a giant ‘community-hall’ teapot for one-fill afternoon teas with all my mates. (Having said that – I’d probably have to boil the kettle five times to fill one. This is a teapot designed to go with a Zip boiler. Anyway, I digress….)


(by the way….two cups of tea were drunk in the writing of this blog post.)

Maria’s partner Joe Buchanan designed and letter-pressed the cover of the book, including the drawing of the ship on the cover. It is indeed a beautiful artifact with great attention played to paper, card, pressing, stitching. Book as objects d’art. But it is not all style over substance….the poems, an invented family history across multiple generations, starting with the first settlers are rich, detailed and poignant. For a chapbook, this collection is dense and satisfying. It has the heft of a full collection in a chapbook size.


Here writer Pip Adam (right) pulls her characteristic making-a-joke face and Maria displays her new shaved undercut…


(At the launch, a man called Ian (who I am told used to work at Aro Street Video) came up to me and (gently) accosted me for writing this blog only for my friends and not including enough context and links. If you are reading this, Ian, thanks for the feedback and I have resolved to take more care with both from here on in! Leave a comment if I’ve failed to do so in this post.)

Given our long writing history together, I felt all puffed up with pride during the launch…getting misty-of-eye during Maria’s speech, and feeling outright joy to see her signing books at the sale-table. This is the moment every writer longs for! (I remember how wonderful and weird it felt for me at my launch.)


There were flowers everywhere – gifts from her friends. These ones on the piano were just a few of the gorgeous bouquets everywhere. Here is Maria giving her speech.


Here is Maria with Kirsten McDougall who launched the book and gave a thoughtful and celebratory speech.


Here is Maria talking while Seraph Press Editor Helen Rickerby looks on…I liked this shot because you can see HR’s trademark stripey tights:


Here is Helen Rickerby again with writer Helen Heath who is doing a bit of unsubtle product placement:


Congratulations, Maria and Helen, on a wonderful book and a delightful launch. x

(Maria blogs HERE. )

Finally, writer Janis Freegard bidding me (and now you!) farewell in her fantastic panda-with-paws hat/mitten ensemble. Janis always has the best accessories!


Review of ‘A Forager’s Treasury’ by Johanna Knox



A Forager’s Treasury

By Johanna Knox

Allen & Unwin, $36.95

I’m late in writing this review – I’ve had the book for some weeks now and I was supposed to post a review last week, but it’s taken me a long time to gather my thoughts about it because, quite simply, I’m completely overwhelmed by how much I love this book and I couldn’t write the review sooner because it would have just been GUSH GUSH RAVE RAVE MAD WOMAN SPLUTTERINGS…

I can’t promise much better today, but I will try! This book is a must for anyone interested in foraging (obviously), but also herbal healing, Rongoa, bushcraft, nutrition, ecological principles of sustainability and conservation, folk wisdom and so much more! The book is rich in it’s content, it’s so much more than a mere guidebook, the author is a terrific writer and her sparkling prose and dry wit infuse the text with life. She is funny, self-effacing, humble and also extremely intelligent – it’s a beguiling combination.

The book is thoroughly researched and wonderfully New Zealand-specific (although there is plenty in here for overseas readers, also!) The writer brings her own direct experiences (and experiments!) into the text, which makes giving foraging a go seem so much more appealing. She is honest about her failures, her predilections and her biases, too. The book is not impartial and is all the richer for it! All through the text are small boxes of ‘extra for experts’ style gems of historical information and interesting stories relating to the text.

As well as all the botanical and culinary details necessary for foraging, Johanna goes beyond the basics to provide a feast of recipe ideas, she covers cooking, tisanes, syrups,  oils, freezing, pickling and so much more. The most special thing about the book for me, though, is that Johanna’s enthusiasm for plants and foraging makes it seem exciting, vital and fun. I have no doubt that the book will turn many foraging-newbies in to keen plant spotters and pickers. I also love the way Johanna captures the romantic aspect of foraging, the sheer joy of knowing a wild plant’s name and what it’s good for – the final section of the book ‘Wild Ways’ celebrates the foraging ‘lifestyle’ with ideas for bodycare, medicine, picnics and a look at the language of flowers. In case you are worried the recipes will all be for green weedy salads, fear not – there are recipes for all kinds of desserts, cakes, rich sauces – the gourmand will be satisfied as much as the health nut.


My favourite recipe (again, appealing to the romantic part of me) is for ‘Lady Lindsay’s Feral Tea Sandwiches’ (I love the word ‘feral’ – it makes me want to dance around a blazing bonfire on a winter’s night!). I have copied Johanna’s description of these sandwiches for your entertainment:

Tea sandwiches are dainty…..I named this collection of ideas for Joan, Lady Lindsay who is best known for her haunting novel ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ …an evocative and primal exploration of Antipodean settler unease and awe for the land. With her highly privileged background, creative eccentricity and fascination for the land’s dangers and mysteries, I think Joan Lindsay would have liked these sandwiches. I fancy they are like her, with their refined exteriors and wild insides.” 

There follows a long recipe full of endless possibilities for a truly wild picnic!


My only criticism of the book is the lack of an index, which makes looking up plants tricky if you aren’t sure of their parent plant family….but I anticipate somewhere in the next dozen reprints of this book, sure to become a bible of plant lore in New Zealand, the publishers will eventually put an index in.

I have already bought copies of this book for my father (keen bushman who likes to extend his bush-craft skills) and friends who love to garden and forage. It makes a wonderful gift for the green-minded, but first, buy a copy for yourself – even if you are new to foraging you are sure to catch the bug, and you will be amazed at what you can ‘forage’ even in your own backyard! (The chickweed and dandelion in the photographs came from my backyard, I chopped both finely and added to a pasta sauce.)

Thank you, Johanna for your gift of this very special book.

Don’t forget there is a website which accompanies the book HERE. I will share a foraging recipe which Johanna sent me with you sometime soon (I just need to cook it first so I can report on it’s flavour!)



gardening and visiting artist-ing

Here’s a recent ‘shop the garden’ haul – most days ‘shop the garden’ is not all that photogenic – silverbeet, spring onions, herbs…but this was a prettier day…


I dropped some nasturtium seed around in late January and it’s really going for it now. It will die back when the first frosts come. Nasturtiums are my favourite plant.


My two readings with Maria McMillan are all done now. Thank you so much if you came to listen. It was a lovely experience working with a close friend to create a (hopefully entertaining) reading.

My Massey visiting-artist residency officially begins on Monday, although after this afternoon I would have already met five obligations as visiting artist! I got my temporary library card on Wednesday, which is the thing I am most excited about. The City Library just doesn’t cut it for the kind of esoteric and nerdy reading I like to do. I can’t wait to get in there and borrow a heap of stuff.

Next week is also the second week of the school holidays, so probably the only ‘visiting artist’ thing I will be doing is looking up book titles on the university library catalogue….but after that – yay! I can get stuck in.

This is the first time I have ever received substantial funding/a residency so I don’t really know what I’m doing…..except that I guess the point of it is I get sanctioned time to write, and I know how to do that….so I guess I will just do that. I have had moments of freaking out thinking I have to produce a book in the three months of the residency, then I remember I don’t. Whew. (However I hope I will get a substantial chunk of work done, of course!)

Right now I am reading (among a dozen other things) Jeanette Winterson’s ‘Why be happy when you could be normal?’ – it’s very good….I keep stopping to scrawl quotations down in my journal. Read it if you like gritty, courageous, sparse, beautifully-crafted memoir.

Links are boss

Creepy bunny says…



…but I would be lying if I were to say I felt the same. You see, we are into week 6 of the school holidays so, apart from one week of paid work, every day has been the weekend for a long time now. I am a bit jaded at this point, running out of fun things to occupy the children with and going slightly mad for lack of sustained thinking time. Kids, whilst terrific, are all about interruptions.

Anyhow, not long to go now until we are back into routines, and then probably I will complain about that, too, because my middle name is contrary. (Actually, it’s Margaret.)

Here’s some links for your perusal, stuff I’ve spotted on my internet rambles lately:

CONSTRVCT is an online shop where you can have a dress made from photographs (!) and made to measure. If I were richer I would get a couple of photo-dresses made for sure….just think – your favourite building, person, record cover, whatever….made in a a frock. So much cooler than just another t-shirt. Nice.

I really enjoyed this hour-long interview with NYC artist FLASH ROSENBERG on The Good Life Project. Rosenberg describes herself as ‘an attention-span for hire, a possibilitist’ and talks about her sideways approach to art. Whilst at times the whimsy-o-metre went up into the red zone, I got a lot from her ideas about inventing and maintaining a career as a creative person.

I’ve been mad-pinning on my ‘SARTORIAL INSPIRATION‘ board, thinking ahead to winter and getting excited about clothes again after a bit of a blah period. Summer is fun, but winter is better for style. I love boots! & layers! & wool!

Always happy to discover more Joe Strummer stuff on the internet, I found a new documentary which was made to celebrate what would have been his 60th birthday – you can watch it free on Vimeo HERE – ‘VIVA JOE STRUMMER’.

MY NEW ROOTS is a lovely wholefoods cooking blog. It gets a little bit more hipster than thou at times, but has great recipes and beautiful photography.

I’m loving cooking with Mexican MASA FLOUR – it makes the best tortillas and empanadas. For a while I could only find it from TIA PABLO (New World stocks it) in 800g bags, but on a recent trip to Wellington found that Moore Wilson sells MASECA MASA HARINA in two kilo bags – wahoo! This stuff is the schizzle. Soooo much tastier than plain flour. You just add a bit of water, make balls, squash them thin and fry them in a dry pan. Easy-as.

My clever friend Emma has launched a new online shop EMMA MAKES. Not only does she sell her terrific crafts there, but she’s branching out into homewares and packaging, too. She blogs HERE.

Speaking of launches, NZ-based designers BLISS IN A TEACUP have just launched their new SHOP, also. I love wooden jewellery and am enamoured with THIS NECKLACE and THESE STACKABLE RINGS, except, of course, I want the whole stack for the full gilt-edged effect.

I went to see THE IMPOSSIBLE last night. My goodness, harrowing! but fascinating, too. I went through half a packet of tissues and had nightmares and yet I’m still going to recommend it. Both Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor are formidable in it. (NB- not a popcorn and jaffas movie.)

Genius conceptual art from PRINCE RAMA,   THE NOW AGE is really helping me with my new writing project.

My favourite cartoonist/artist ADRIAN TOMINE HAS A NEW BOOK out, all about New York. Adrian Tomine + New York = happy Helen. I can’t wait to read it!

WAKE UP is my favourite pop song of the summer. The video is lovely, too.

Get out of bed! Stop wasting time! Mmmmmm-hmmmmmmmm! 

Have a grand weekend, people! May love come your way and sun shine on your face. x


the mattress project continues

Here’s the latest mattress photo – Highbury House op-shop. 1980s (?) thick linen.

This may be the most esoteric project I’ve ever had – but I’m fully addicted now.

Emily from Millicent Crow recently added some gorgeous 1950s examples to the group pool – check them out HERE and Emily’s lovely blog is HERE

Emily used her mattress photographs as backgrounds for a beautiful set of cards containing her drawings. You can see them in her etsy shop HERE.

Do come and join in the fun on flickr if you are a textile nut, too.


Writing news this week: I was the Tuesday Poet on BOOKSELLERS BLOG HERE this week.

I wrote some short book reviews for SCOOP REVIEW OF BOOKS: Marianne Elliott’s ‘Zen Under Fire’ HERE. Ron Rash’s ‘The Cove’ HERE, and James Renner ‘The Man From Primrose Lane’ HERE.


geometric art

I’m a huge fan of RAMARI TEXTILES – the label name of a maker from Carterton, Leanne Taylor. Everything she makes is extremely well-made and has such integrity. (She’s also from my home town of Waitara, which puts her even higher in my affections. Small town loyalty, ahoy!)

Anyway, last week I had a big tidy up and discovered tucked away in a paper bag some Ramari artworks I’d forgotten I’d even bought! These are small ceramic discs that Leanne made, glazed, fired and then embroidered. I love the colours and the patterned stitching on them. Each is about 12 centimetres across.

I hung them up in my dining room near the window and have gotten a kick out of looking at them all week. To me they kind of look like maths or science drawings, rendered in stitch. Viva la affordable art!