Tag Archives: lavender

Will it all come out in the wash? or Why I need a Sarah’s House Make-Over

It’s Monday, 7 October, 1907, and, in the small town of Ashburton, New Zealand, my great-aunt, writes in her diary that the “Washing and ironing” are done. It is the first sentence of her diary entry. She is twenty, and lives at home, and seems to be Mother’s main helper. Monday is usually washing/laundry day.

Fast forward, Monday, 7 October, 2013, and her great-niece, is writing in her blog that the washing and ironing are not yet done. The washing is on its spin cycle, so it will be ready soon. The ironing won’t be done, unless there’s a national ironing emergency, for ironing is the one domestic duty she resists with a passion. In her modern house, because she has a washing machine, washing/laundry day can be any day, or any hour, and usually is. She is not Mother’s helper and she’s no longer 20.

But, despite the differences in time, place and age, what fascinates me (and, quite truthfully,  often depresses me) is that I am, like dozens of my female forebears,  primarily engaged in ‘domestic duties’. I, in common with  many women, come from a long line of apparently inescapable domesticity.  I have had a wonderful  education and a small, but certainly less than  brilliant, career  , yet,  for all that, here I remain, mistress of domestic duties.

Most of the time, I am very happy being my own boss, in my own home, because I have a good home and a comfortable life. But, sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder what might have been, and I feel sad. Which is silly, since  what might have been, never was!  But, more than missed, mythical opportunities, what really makes me sad and mad and angry, if I think too much about it, is that I devalue my domestic life because, for years and years, and, even to this very day, we are subtly told that our domestic roles/duties are ‘small change’ value, especially  to the economy. They are not  ‘real work’; they don’t ‘count’; they don’t ‘produce’; they don’t contribute to the tax base of the nation.  Our Minister of Social Development and Employment, Paula Bennett, never tires of telling us that being in the work force is where we, women, will find our full potential and our rightful place.

And she could be right, but I am a bit ‘old school’ and believe that the diminishment of domesticity comes  from societies that refuse to take in to account the enormous worth of unpaid female labour in the home and in caregiving roles. Our own  Marilyn Waring wrote The Book  (If Women Counted) on this subject. (Sadly, still to be read by me 😦 ) However, despite progress on how Governments/Countries account for women’s worth in national accounts, the public perception of women’s domestic contribution to the economy, as negligible, remains.

Now, just as my washing has been swirling in the machine, so have the ideas in my brain. And I think I have found a solution that will propel domestic activity to pride of place in our nations. The solution is simple; our living spaces, particularly our laundries, must be redesigned. We must bring the laundries out from the sheds, and basements and garages, and dark, back rooms, and hide-away closets, the bathrooms and the tiniest spaces. We must bring them in to the light and make them a feature room of our homes;  a place of warmth and love , the place that everyone wants to be, and to gather. Move over open-plan kitchen, TV/media room, home library/office, tool shed… welcome to The Laundry, the home of lavender and loveliness, sunlight and enlightenment. Let’s give the laundries a  Sarah’s House make-over  treatment.  Let’s make The Laundry the number one selling point in Real Estate; no more indoor/outdoor flow or street appeal when marketing a property; let’s advertise the beauty and wonder of the laundry room. And, if we can’t go quite that far, at the very least, let’s give them equality of space in our residence.2008-0707_12.pnghttp://www.sarahrichardsondesign.com/portfolio/sarahs-house-2/laundry-room

Whilst we wait for that to happen, my washing needs to be hung. Come with me to my back room laundry. It’s always good to have a helping hand. Together we can see  what, if anything, has come out in the  wash.

Welcome to my laundry; the main space

Laundry; the main space

Laundry; the main space

and all angles

and  all details

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Links for the heavy-duty wash;



© silkannthreades


The Glory of a Box continues

The story begins here in my previous post (https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/2340/)

Part Two

The Glory of A Box continues….

Glory Box

Glory Box

Then there’s the clock. It used to be on the mantelpiece in Nana’s bedroom. Dad and my uncle both remember it. They played with it as children. It didn’t go then. It doesn’t go now. Why is it in Mum’s glory box? No one is sure. But it’s there, brown and slightly irregular in shape,



along with a wooden tray, and Stanley Smith’s barometer



and the book of invoices from our Pop’s Mart. The book records the tastes and payment habits of most of the rural community of Methven (circa 1938), as well as my sister’s doodles and passion for Ray Columbus and the art of running away (circa 1971).



Mum’s scrapbook is in the box too. It’s a work of art from her student days at kindergarten training college.

And I find the gloves. Still sunshine-yellow, mixed up with a touch of custard. They still fit me. But the moths have had their fill and the gloves tear as I try them on. Perhaps they can be salvaged. I put them in the maybe pile.

We decide the box can be saved. It’s a very plain box; a plywood box. It wasn’t expensive at the time of purchase.  It’s not worth much now. But Mr Frizzell at the corner furniture store says it’s rimu plywood and it can be made to look nice again. He can restore Dad’s picture too. Dad says, “Can he be rejuvenated too?”

Mr Mallard, across town, cleans the barometer and fixes the clock. The barometer, once on a wall in Methven, once on a wall at Sumner, now hangs on my wall. The clock sits on the chest of drawers beside my bed. It ticks busily. It reminds me of Nana, small and busy and slightly bent, and I wonder when she last heard its busy little tick, and why she kept a clock that didn’t tick.

The box is placed at the foot of my bed. It’s not warm like honey anymore. It is oiled and has a rich, earthy sheen that matches my writing desk. The top is still a little warped but it is a glory box again. Inside there are clothes and lavender and unlabeled photos. Fanny and Rajar are there, but Teddy is not. He has gone to Sydney to be with my brother,  current custodian of Ted’s silver pocket watch. Lily, who may be Sissy or Mary, is there. And the gloves.

Back in the Box

Back in the Box

Box notes for 2013:

The box no longer lives in my bedroom. It enjoys a better life in the living room. The clock is temporarily secure in a bedroom drawer. The barometer remains on the wall where it  miraculously remained secure despite the huge earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.

For information on Ray Columbus, the New Zealand pop idol of my sister’s very young years, go to http://www.raycolumbus.com/

And, in recognition of the never-ending inspiration that comes from the Glory Box, please, please do visit my find of the day. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6fpN2g3pwY  This is a wonderful programme and interview with Paul Engle, the founder of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.  Until my research today, I had no idea of the connection between the theme of my mother’s scrapbook and this great American poet and his philosophy of helping hands.  Listen and enjoy, as he reads some of his poems.

© silkannthreades

Mothers, near and far…

To Mothers, near and far,
May you be loved and blessed, remembered and embraced,
And comforted, always.Mother's Day OfferingIn my posy ring, for you, I have placed lavender, heuchera, Mexican orange blossom and feijoa leaves, all freshly picked from my garden on this chilly autumn morning. The fruit baskets contain Taylor’s Gold Pears and Satsuma Mandarins ( not from my garden 🙂 )Posy Ring

Stitching Memories

In my much younger days, I was very interested in sewing and needlework. My mother, who believed she was not skilled with needle and thread, arranged for me to have sewing lessons with some of her more skilled friends. As a result, by the age of about ten or eleven, I became quite the little seamstress, cheerily making clothes for myself, my little sister and my mother.  My enthusiasm for sewing was at its peak in those years and, although I continued to sew in to adulthood, it was never with the same exuberance and excitement. Finally, at the ripe old age of 26, I stopped sewing.

I may have stopped sewing, ( anything more than a button on a shirt, that is ), but I remained in love with the idea of sewing; the wondrous process of turning one form of cloth into another shape and size ; the different stitches and seams, the cuts and darts and frills and facings. Not to mention the lovely ribbons and laces and trimmings, and the beautiful hand-made button holes with equally beautiful buttons, usually recycled from that ultimate household treasure trove; the button jar.

When we lived in New Delhi, I was privileged to be part of a group of women who employed a tailor, named Mr Singh. Not just any tailor. As far as I was concerned, he was the most skilled tailor ….EVER. As per our group agreement, each of us booked Mr Singh’s sewing service for a couple of weeks at a time, and, at the appointed hour, he would arrive on his bicycle, with lunch container secure on the handle bar, and his hand-operated sewing machine carefully strapped to the carrier. Then, quietly and efficiently, he would settle in his chosen corner…..and sew and sew;  everything and anything  I asked for. Everything and AnythingFor me it was magic; for him, I suppose, it was merely another day at the office.

Here is a little piece I wrote about Mr Singh in February 2003.

“Mr Singh. Bearded, turbaned, thin as a pin. There he sits, cross-legged, at his sewing machine, in the dim, back room. A silent figure, stitching his magic; making my dreams. I can see him still in the dim back room of my mind.

Why do I see him now? Because today, his stitches, and my dreams, are displayed brightly on the washing line. The duvet cover we created together, from dress scraps and my grandmother’s sheets, is blowing in the Christchurch breeze; glistening white in the glare of  a Christchurch sun. I look at the vibrant colours on white Colour on Whiteand remember the muted tones of Mr Singh; blue and grey,  grey on white, grey on grey, almost a shadow in the shaded back room. Muted Ah, yes, quiet, gentle Mr Singh; a master of many stitches.  I miss his serenity, his dignity, his creativity.”

The photos in this post are all of the duvet cover. I took them this morning in our bright autumnal sunshine. The colours are no longer bright; they have softened with age. Twenty three years have gone by since Mr Singh pieced all the different fabrics together.Marking Time

Sheet notes: the white cotton sheets used for the duvet are at least 50 years old now, and the coloured scraps range in age from  25 to 35 years old. The buttons on the cover would be close to  30 years old . I think they  were salvaged from a dress of mine, made in Zimbabwe!  The duvet cover spends most of its present life in the linen cupboard, snuggled in lavender, in refined retirement. It is no longer subjected to harsh wear and tear and the rigours of washing machine and sunlight.

© silkannthreades

The Lavender Lady

Near the airport, on the side of one of the busiest roads in Christchurch, is an oasis of calm and loveliness. It is the Avice Hill Reserve, so called because the area was bequeathed to the city by Avice Hill, the Lavender Lady. It is also  home to the Avice Hill Crafts Centre, the Canterbury Potters Association and the Canterbury Herb Society.  We visited today and had the entire Reserve to ourselves; except for the birds.

The birds, many and varied, were concentrated in the plum trees. One of trees was over laden with small, yellow, sweet and ultra delicious, plums. Some went in my mouth and some in to my pocket, and they were so good I need to collect some more.

Are they Mirabelle plums?Plums a plenty

Free fall plums and mind where you tread!Over flow

The herb garden was full and flourishingTo the Herb Garden

and here, for a moment, you could catch up with timeThe Herb Garden

for it was very still.On Time

Once rested, there were treasures to find like this pot in the herb garden (oh dear!),Pot amongst the Herbs

and trees to loveTrees of the Reserve


and benches to rest upon ( in comfort?)Bench

and then information to read. Notice, I am on a wayward path again because the information board is at the entrance to the Reserve and I am reading it on my way out!

This is Avice Hill. She was born in 1906 and died in 2001.

Avice Hill

Here is part of her story.The Story of Avice

She worked as an entomologist in the 1930s and 40s. She was one of only a few female science graduates at that time.

More of the story

She bequeathed the land to Christchurch City in 1989 to provide an art and crafts facility, a potters’ room and a herb garden and to protect the mature trees on the property.

Lavender was Avice Hill’s great love and the Lavandula angustifolia “Avice Hill” was named after her. It is, apparently, a very fine lavender. Strangely, there was very little lavender to be seen in the Reserve and none was labelled,as far as I could tell. Perhaps, one is just supposed to know one’s lavender.  Whatever is the case, I am thankful to Avice Hill for her gift to our city.Lavender for Avice

© silkannthreades

A little lady lost in lavender © silkannthreades

I haven’t devoted much time to my great-grandmother in recent months. I went by to see her today and decided she was taking good care of herself. There are a few weeds scattered about but the lavender, alone amongst all the plants we have placed on her burial plot, is thriving.  I think shemust love it ,and the bees that come to enjoy it.

The lavender bush is so large now that my great-grandmother is almost lost to view; from the roadside, at least.Lost in Lavender

Another visitor buzzes by to enjoy the lavender;Buzzy VisitorThrough the lavender looking glass….farThrough the lavender looking glass and nearA closer look and then back the way we came. Looking Back I brought  two stalks of lavender home with me. Hopefully, if I don’t lose them, they will remind me to return in a few weeks to see if the lavender is ready to harvest.Lovely lavender Thanks for the sweet reminders, Great Grandmother.Sweet reminders

© silkannthreades

The extraordinary in the ordinary

Yesterday, we had much-needed rain. The spider web beside the driveway fence caught some of the rain drops. It looked extraordinarily beautiful, especially against the ordinary wooden panels.

The web was gossamer fine.  It sat lightly and delicately in its surroundings. In its angular circularity it echoed the wood knots in the background.  It was perfectly balanced in its setting and a perfect balance of form and function. The lightest of touches

With nature’s intricate shapes still on my mind this morning, I gathered some  lavender, oregano, rosemary and Snowcap parahebe and placed them in a pottery vase from far away Lesotho. I was delighted to see how the flowers naturally imitated the form of the flowers on the vase. Or thus it seemed to me!  I saw a glimpse of the extraordinary in the ordinariness of my workaday kitchen world. A glimpse of the extraorinary

Is this by chance about Christmas? The extraordinary in the ordinary.

Blessings and the Garden

Today the rain is torrential. I have been watching the rain send the roses and  broadbeans sideways. And grimacing at the sight.  The other day the sun was literally cooking all the seedlings. In the space of a few days we have gone from one extreme to another.  It’s a tough life being a garden.

In the midst of the downpour, the postman brought the mail to my door; something that he doesn’t normally need to do. But, today, he had a large packet for me that would have stuck out of my mailbox and become a sodden mess in a matter of moments.

So that was a blessing; the first one. Both the mail and I were spared a drenching.

The packet contained a  lovely calendar made by the Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner school in Sydney. And that was my second blessing for the day. A beautiful calendar for 2013.Here's to another year!

And here is the third blessing ….on the end page of the calendar there is a delightful verse , “Blessings on the Garden”. I thought it was exactly the tonic that the garden and I needed on this wild weather day. It is a reminder of the rhythms and seasons of the natural world. I quote:

We thank the water, earth and air

And all the helping powers they bear

We thank the people loving and good

That grow and cook our daily food

And last of all we thank the Sun

The light and life of everyone.

We will welcome the sun when it comes by again.

Garden in my Pocket

Most likely, the saying “A book is like a garden carried in the pocket” is well known to many. But I heard it for the first time this morning and fell in love with it immediately. The Garden in my Pocket at the moment is a magazine rather than a book. I am reading Oxford Today, (Michaelmas Term 2012) – Volume 25 No 1. The front cover features an elegant portrait of the remarkable Aung San Suu Kyi.  The caption reads, “Resilient in the Face of Adversity”. I like that; resilient in the face of adversity. And always with a flower or two in her hair.  That, perhaps, more than anything, during all her years of struggle, impressed her resilience and strength upon me. Imagine, being in the worst of circumstances and still remembering to put a flower in your hair and look serene. ♥

Other little seedlings now planted in my pocket garden thanks to  the magazine:

I discovered Cornelia Sorabji, India’s first female barrister, (Somerville 1895) and one of many  famous Indian Oxonians;

And I learned about  Zuleika Dobson

and that the Oxford University Press provided the type for the text of the first Bhutanese passports. Apparently the OUP had a beautiful and elegant handset Tibetan type that was perfect  for the job. The magazine article describes it like “aubretia tumbling over a Cotswald wall”.  A type like tumbling aubretia; glorious description and what a beautiful type to have in a passport.

Small question? Does aubretia (or more correctly ’Aubrieta’) grow in Bhutan?  Possibly?

Another question; have you ever wondered what it might be like to have a real garden in your pocket? Try putting a sprig of rosemary, or lavender, or a rose, or all three in your pocket. For the sake of the washer-person in your life, don’t include any mud, caterpillars, slugs or aphids.

Jellie Park from a Car Park

Kei te makariri. In other words it is cold, even though the sun shines today. We visited Jellie Park this afternoon just to rest our eyes on the view. Apart from whizzing out to snap a few photos, we stayed ensconced in our warm car.

These are the sights we saw.

This was the view in front of us.

This was the view to the left.

This is a close up of the lavender. Not very clear, unfortunately, but you can still get an idea of the rich purpleness. There was a bumblebee present too but it bumbled away from my menacing camera lens.

This was the view to the right of us.

And this is a closer photo of the mass of pink flowers that you can see above

Sadly, we didn’t see swallows today.