Tag Archives: summer

Christmas & New Year’s Recap… two months late


Dearest Sultana,

I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long, it’s been about 4 months!!! and I have thought of this blog often during that time and yet couldn’t muster the energy, inspiration, courage to come back to my blog. But a few nights ago I put today into my diary as the day I would return, even if it’s just for a quick “hello, I’m still here!”

What have I been doing? Well there was Christmas, the kids went to visit Santa at his Bach (that’s a kiwi holiday home by the beach) and Santa was in his shorts and t-shirt, it was lots of fun for the kids, we put up the tree, opened presents and spend time with Grandma, Grandpa and the girls’ two aunts. Read the rest of this entry

In the Garden – a learning experience


Dearest Sultana,

Until two years ago we didn’t have a permanent home and the homes we stayed in didn’t inspire a lot of gardening. And to be honest, it wasn’t something I had a lot of interest in.

When we moved into our current home, just over two years ago, suddenly a gardening light bulb went on in my head. I was drawn to gardening magazines, my new favourite hang out became the garden shop, I wanted to grow vegetables myself, to inspire my girls to eat their veggies. I pored over seed catalogues and got my hands on the most beautiful and informative garden growing books my library could offer. I was inspired.

I learned about companion plants, what organic fertilisers to use, what natural insect repellent was naturally available.

I really got down to business too. We bought some mandarin and feijoa trees and planted these. I managed to convince my husband to build me a little veggie patch. I planted my veggies in my patch (from seed) there were beans, tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, chicory. I was so hopeful.

Then the leaves began to grow and I was very pleased. Then I began to notice little holes on my tender cabbage leaves. I couldn’t really see what was causing those. Must be some creepy crawlies but I couldn’t see any. Did I mention that I am terrified of creepy crawlies. Totally terrified, they really really creep me out.

A few days later I could clearly see what was causing these holes. By this stage those green caterpillars have gotten as fat and long as my index finger. I was so grossed out. Try as I did, I could not bear to touch them to remove them, not even with my gardening gloves on. I used scissors in the end. But this has really put a tarnish on all my rosy dreams of organic living.

My tomatoes were still growing OK, beans too, chillies were beginning to blossom. There was hope yet. Unfortunately it was a very wet summer that year, and the tomatoes got too much water, the beans, just as they were beginning to yield some lovely green beans started to develop some fungi on their leaves. The chilli blossoms rotted thanks to the rain. The only thing that seemed to be doing OK was the chicory. Too bitter for the caterpillars and they managed to grow before it became too wet. It was a rather disappointing start to my gardening adventure.

The following year I decided that I didn’t care too much about veggies, not if I have to share them with humongous caterpillars. I did put in some tomatoes, a bit earlier this time and when the caterpillars appeared, I managed to squash them (with gardening gloves on) and took some satisfaction in that. Unfortunately this time, it was a very dry summer… But we did get some tomatoes, though not as much as hoped. We also got some short and almost round cucumbers, so refreshing in summer. We even got some beans and snow peas, pity I only grew a plant each and there was never enough for a proper stir fry.

Crunchy green beans and snow peas

Round cucumber and yellow tomatoes

Fresh garlic

Fresh garlic

I grew lots of flowers this time, pretty annuals for my girls. They picked them and threw them into their paddle pool where they took flower baths. They took their bath in that paddle pool almost every day that hot summer and after that they’d help me water the garden with the water from their pool.

IMAG2243 geranium

Now it’s time to start planning for this summer’s planting. I think I’ll go mostly with seedlings this time and only grow my beans from seed. I’ve got some bamboo poles and I’m planning to make a wigwam structure for them and I think it’s best to start them off from seed. I have found that beans are not hard to grow, but hard to keep alive, because I’ve had fungus attack them on my two attempts.

I want to grow lots of basil. I’ll put them together with my tomatoes and hopefully that will help them both grow better. My basil is quite a small leave variety but so fragrant (Basil Vino Verde) and this way it won’t take away the sun from the tomatoes.

I’m hoping that my chillies will grow better this year. I’m going to get some seeds from Mum. She grew beautiful chillies last year. Mum grow lovely, luscious vegetables, I think the secret is in her homemade compost. In my attempt to duplicate her success, I talked myself into starting a compost bin. Not for the faint hearted, and I’m definitely faint of heart when it comes to dealing with creepy crawlies. I’ll tell you more about my ongoing composting adventure in a future post.

There will be lots more colourful flowers. The girls love these, it makes them feel like fairies playing in the garden and it’s so beautiful when setting up our Christmas lunch in the garden.

A summer arrangement

A summer arrangement

Oh I am so looking forward to summer. There is nothing as glorious as a NZ summer. Long lazy days with lots of sunshine, ice lemon tea, ice popsicles, watching the girls run around in their togs in the garden, jumping in and out of their paddle pool.


Daster – an Indonesian Daydress


Dearest Sultana,

In Indonesia it is  common for ladies to wear an all purpose house dress called a “daster”.

It is quite dusty in Indonesia so when we get home after spending some time outside the house it is normal to remove our shoes, usually give our feet a quick wash which has the dual effect of cleaning and cooling the feet. Changing out of our dusty clothes into some clean house clothes is the next step. These can be anything comfortable but for ladies and young girls it is common to change into a daster which can also double as nightwear. We often also take a shower after spending some time outside the house. Most people take two showers a day and they are also both cleansing and cooling. It does get awfully hot in that part of the world and the heat is relentless. It is hot all day and all night every night of the year, really in Indonesia there are only two seasons, hot season and very hot season.

When I was young and still living in Indonesia, we rarely used an air conditioner. When I think back now I wonder how we managed it. Although I’ve only been back one since we moved to NZ, I think that it has definitely gotten hotter since my days there.

When my mother in law (I call her mum) came to visit a month ago, it was the middle of winter in NZ. This didn’t stop her from getting inspired to sew some lovely dasters for my two munchkins. My MIL was a seamstress back in the day, she used to be very busy and highly sought after because she was one of the few who sewed in her village (by NZ standards, her village was a proper little city).

So when she asked me if I had any special requests for her to make, I told her that I can buy most things at the shops, but they don’t sell dasters in NZ. She sat down to make some paper patterns and told me how much fabric she needed. I went out to get some, mostly fabrics on sale, soft and light cottons that will be cooling in summer. I also bought some flannel for winter dasters.

Here are the results:

Horses on pink back ground

Horses on pink back ground

She used every last scrap of the horse fabric and managed to get out another little one for June.

Bold red flowers on fresh white background

Bold red flowers on fresh white background

This bold flowery fabric was a real steal, $3/m at 180cm width. I bought 1.5m and mum managed to get out two beautiful dasters for the girls. They look like proper summer dresses! And the fabric is lovely and cool to the touch.

This one was made from left over fabric from other projects.

This one was made from left over fabric from other projects. I love the pockets.

Daster usually has the zip or opening on the front of the dress, so it’s easy to get in and out of. It is only meant to be worn at home, but I think these are so lovely I can get away with June wearing them while she accompanies me when I run short errands near our home.

I think we are all set and ready for summer now.

She also made some winter dasters out of cost flannel and worn pretty much everyday. They get worn again right after they come out of the wash. I think it would have been good if we had another set but winter is almost over… I feel it’s too late for me to attempt another pair.

Mum did leave me basic paper patterns for both girls, maybe I’ll attempt a summer dress. She made it look so easy and gave me some good tips.

I am very grateful to have such a lovely and talented mother in law. She has had a very colourful life with plenty of ups and downs. But she’s an optimist, a survivor and she has such a generous heart. I really admire her spirit.