The Gypsy-rose Tea Museum

In the weekend we visited the Gypsy-rose Tea Museum in Taradale. As a tea lover, I was enthralled by the huge range of tea memorabilia, from antique Victorian hot water urns, to models of tea clippers, vintage tea mugs, and knitted tea cosies. There was such a lot to look at and the curator provided interesting snippets of information about many of the items as we looked around. If you live in the area, or are planning a trip to Hawke’s Bay, I definitely recommend a visit to the tea museum.

I hope you enjoy the photos.

Victorian teapots 1880-1900

Miniature teapot

English pewter samovar 1875

English hot water urn 1810

Victorian tea caddy 1890

Vintage tea caddies

Later, at home, I got out my vintage copy of Foulsham’s Tea-cup Fortune Telling, made a pot of tea, enjoyed a cuppa, then read my fortune. My tea leaves formed a whimsical little cat in the bottom of the cup. The book states that the cat usually shows treachery or deception, but if the cat is distinguished in a resting position, near the handle and at the top of the cup, it shows domestic comfort. I think I will go for the last one, as my cat looked very joyful and content, and I definitely feel in a state of domestic comfort.

Favourite Books of June

My favourite books this month include two non-fiction books and another young adult apocalypse novel.

Laura Ingalls Wilder
Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography
Edited by Pamela Smith Hill

As a child I loved watching the TV series, Little House on the Prairie, and I enjoyed reading the Little House series of books. This new book, edited by Pamela Smith Hill, includes Laura Ingalls Wilder’s never-before-published autobiography, Pioneer Girl, which she completed in 1930 at the age of 63. Her story, with much help from her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, was later rewritten as the Little House series of books for children.

This is a beautiful, large format, hardcover book that contains not only the manuscript for Pioneer Girl, but lots of information and insights into Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life. It also includes many maps, photographs and records from the period, and is a book that I’m sure all Laura Ingalls Wilder fans will love.

The Pioneer Girl Project blog, which I began following in the months leading up to the publication of the book, has lots of extra photographs, interviews and interesting information about Laura Ingalls Wilder, her family and friends, and the communities in which they lived.

The Secret Language of Flowers by Samantha Gray

I know there are many books on the language of flowers, but this one is a particularly lovely one with beautiful illustrations. It discusses the hidden meanings of over 50 flowers and includes a lot of interesting flower folklore and myth. A small, hardcover book, it is perfect for browsing through on a rainy day, or reading while sitting in the garden, drinking tea, surrounded by flowers.

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

What would you do if you knew the world was going to end in two months? An asteroid is hurtling towards Earth and there is a sixty-six percent chance that it will collide with the planet and destroy life as we know it. This is the story of four teenagers and the choices they make with the knowledge that they may have only two months left to live. The chapters alternate between the characters – the athlete, the outcast, the slacker, and the overachiever – who each have very different personalities, backgrounds, dreams and ambitions. Through the impending disaster, their lives intertwine in ways they could never have imagined. This is one of those books that I couldn’t put down, anxious to see how it would end and whether or not our planet would survive.

Tommy Wallach is a singer-songwriter as well as an author, and he has written and recorded an album to go along with the book. It is available on iTunes, and you can listen to one of the songs on his website tommywallach.com.

Kindle Book Deal

Where the Moths Dance

Amazon are running a Kindle Countdown Deal for my YA novel, Where the Moths Dance, from June 10th to June 17th. For one week only, Amazon.com customers in the US can buy the ebook for $1.99 (usually $4.99), so if you haven’t already read it, hop on over to Amazon.com and pick up a copy.

Sixteen-year-old Jessie Hale lives in the caretaker’s cottage at the bottom of Gum Tree Hill Cemetery. She feels more comfortable surrounded by the dead than the living, and the graveyard is her sanctuary, a place to escape from her troubled home life and from her mother’s despicable boyfriend, Conrad.

Elliott Rossi has found a way to come back from the dead. He needs to warn Jessie about a demon who can also access the living world and has his new prey firmly in his grasp.

When Jessie learns who has become the demon’s latest victim, she must enlist the help of her friends to battle the evil that has invaded her sanctuary, turning her life upside down and threatening to destroy everything she cares about.

Then there is the small matter of falling in love with a dead boy.

Favourite Books of May

Favourite Books of May

Three books I have enjoyed reading this month include a magical story from one of my favourite authors, a companion book to another of my favourite books, and a post-apocalyptic novel.

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

Nightbird

Alice Hoffman is one of my favourite authors and I have been gradually working my way through her extensive backlist. I love the magical realism genre, which Alice Hoffman writes so well for both adults and children. Nightbird is her latest novel for middle grade readers. I love the cover!

Twelve-year-old Twig lives in a small town, with a mysterious brother, and a mother who bakes irresistible apple pies. Twig’s family are reclusive, distancing themselves from the rest of the town to protect a family secret. Twig dreams of one day having a friend and when a new family moves in next door, her dream becomes reality as she befriends Julia and her sister, Agate. When rumours abound throughout the town of a winged beast, accused of theft and vandalism, Twig and her new friends set out to solve the mystery surrounding the myth before the townsfolk hunt the beast down. But first they need to break the witch’s curse that keeps Twig’s brother a prisoner in his own home.

Nightbird is a story filled with magic, mystery, a touch of romance, and those delicious pink apple pies. There is even a recipe at the end of the book so you can make your own. I have tried it and it is very good!

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy

One of my favourite books I read last year was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, which is an endearing and entertaining story about a  man who recieves a letter from Queenie Hennessy, an old friend whom he hasn’t seen for many years, explaining that she is dying of cancer. On a whim, he sets out on a pilgrimage to walk the length of England to reach her before she dies.

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy is told from Queenie’s point of view. As she lies in the hospice, waiting for Harold Fry to arrive, she decides to write a second letter revealing her true feelings for him and telling the truth about the events that led up to her sudden departure from his life all those years ago. As Queenie tries to hold on until Harold arrives, she forms some unlikely friendships as the staff and patients in the hospice follow Harold’s progress through postcards he sends along the way.

In this book we learn a lot more about Harold’s past, and the mystery surrounding his son. As Rachel Joyce says, this is not a sequel to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, nor a prequel, but a companion.

It is a story of unfulfilled love, atoning for one’s past, and making peace with the present, and although it is set in a hospice, it is not at all depressing.

The Sky so Heavy by Claire Zorn

The Sky so Heavy

The Sky so Heavy is a post-apocalyptic novel set in Australia. After nuclear missiles are detonated on the other side of the world, entire cities are wiped out and a nuclear winter descends upon the earth. With their father missing, and their mother in the city, seventeen-year-old Fin and his younger brother Max are left at home to fend for themselves. With no power, bitterly cold temperatures, and dwindling food supplies, their lives become a daily struggle to survive. When their neighbours start getting sick from radiation poisoning and society collapses around them, with no relief in sight, they decide to leave their home in the suburbs and head for the city in search of their mother. Along with two friends, they make the perilous journey, unaware of what they will find when they get there.

I found this story very plausible, thought-provoking, and unnerving. It made me wonder how I would survive after a nuclear war, or if I would even want to when every day becomes a battle for survival. The story is a real page-turner, but it is not only a story of survival, but a story about the unbreakable bonds of family, and the importance of friendship.

Vintage Easter Cards

Vintage Easter Cards

I thought I would share with you a few Easter cards from my vintage card collection. The Italian card at the bottom was posted in 1943 from a father stationed in Italy during the Second World War to his young daughter in New Zealand. The others aren’t dated so I’m not sure exactly how old they are. If you click on the image, you can see a larger picture and read the greeting.

vintage Easter card

vintage Easter card

vintage Easter card

vintage Easter card

vintage Easter card

vintage Easter card

A Love of Herbs

A Love of Herbs

My love for herbs began many years ago when I became interested in natural remedies and decided to do a correspondence course in herbal studies. The course involved the study of a wide range of herbs, their healing properties, and how to make herbal medicines and treatments. While studying the course, I got a job at Weleda NZ Ltd., a manufacturer of natural and herbal medicines and body care products. I worked in the despatch department, picking and packing orders and invoicing, and occasionally helped out in other departments, including a brief stint in the manufacturing department where I had hands-on experience in the making of the herbal medicines. It was a lovely place to work, surrounded by biodynamic gardens of healing herbs.

Weleda homestead

Weleda homestead

After working at Weleda for six years, I left to pursue my dream of a writing career, but my love of herbs continued in my garden at home. I grow herbs to use in cooking, herbs for healing, and some just for their beauty, and for the folklore and magic associated with them.

Whenever I feel a sore throat coming on, I make an infusion of sage and thyme and gargle with it several times a day.

Thyme

Thyme

The sage is lovely in stuffing balls at Christmas time.

Sage

Sage

To help relieve congested sinuses from a cold, I put a few sprigs of rosemary in a bowl of boiled water, cover my head with a towel, then lean over the bowl and breathe in the aromatic steam. I use rosemary a lot in cooking – rosemary shortbread, rosemary focaccia bread, rosemary roast potatoes, or a few sprigs thrown on the barbecue.

Rosemary

Rosemary

I add a few fresh leaves of stevia, the sugar herb, to fruit when stewing, to replace sugar. This year I’m going to dry the leaves and grind them into a powder to use in baking.

Stevia

Stevia

Borage is a good companion plant for my strawberries, and it helps to attract the bees.

Borage

Borage

Lavender is also a great bee plant. I use it in herbal crafts, and often pick a few sprigs to keep in a vase on the kitchen bench.

Lavender

Lavender

I keep a pot of Aloe Vera on hand in case of burns.

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera

Foxgloves just because they are one of my favourite flowers, and I love the folklore that surrounds them.

Foxgloves

Foxgloves

The leaves of lemon balm have the most beautiful lemony scent and possess many healing properties.

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm

I use garlic chives a lot in cooking, and their flowers are so pretty.

Garlic Chives

Garlic Chives

I use basil, parsley and mint a lot in cooking, too. The smell of minted potatoes always reminds me of holidays with my grandparents. It’s nice to be able to go outside and pick herbs fresh from the garden whenever you want to add them to a dish.

Mint

Mint

Anise Hyssop is another great bee plant. It is also very pretty and I love the aniseed fragrance of the leaves.

Anise Hyssop

Anise Hyssop

Feverfew and calendulas self-seed throughout our garden.

Feverfew

Feverfew

Calendula

Calendula

I used to love the mass plantings of echinaceas in the summers when I worked at Weleda. They are used in their medicines to support the immune system and to treat infections.
This year I grew my own echinaceas.

Echinacea

Echinacea

Echinaceas

Echinaceas

I am also growing bay, arnica, angelica, and comfrey, but they are only small at the moment.

Garden Journal – The End of Summer

The last month of summer, here in Napier, New Zealand, brought lots of sunshine and hot temperatures, but little rain. Flowers bloomed in the garden, while in the vegetable beds, beans, zucchinis, beetroot, chard, and salad greens were plentiful. Our blueberry bush provided a steady supply of berries throughout the month. The tomato plants gave us enough for salads and sandwiches, but not enough for preserving. We had loads of basil in the garden that we wanted to use, so while tomatoes were cheap to buy, we bought some for making pasta sauce and we now have several jars in the pantry and the freezer to see us through the next few months.

garden journal

garden journal