The Simple Things That Make You Smile

Despite my best intentions I’ve been absent from blog land for a number of weeks. I got busy, I’ve been back in teacher land, bouncing between classes. Spending my days with little people, medium sized people and young adults who almost look me in the eye. Loving every moment of it. The down side is that I have now contracted bubonic plague, well almost.

I’ve just turned sixty. Pretty special really, apart from the wrinkles and a few minor ailments, being sixty doesn’t worry me. Leading up to my birthday the usual questions were asked. “What do you want?” The lovely man wanted to buy me the world.

The answer was, not a lot! Just the things that make me smile. I’ve become a minimalist, sort of. We’re ignoring my wardrobe of course.

Where was I? Yes, what makes me smile? That heart-warming smile that costs nothing. A smile that makes you feel all fuzzy and warm inside. Funnily enough, it’s the simple things.


An annoying dog who wants to play


An exquisite flower in my garden


A funky teacosy


A pot of pansies


My cupcake pincushion

A picnic at the beach, an unexpected hug, a compliment, a smile across a crowded room, creating something wonderful, teaching a new skill, laughing with someone, time with friends, Sunday dinners with family, spending time with my stroppy caring man. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera………….

Oh, I feel a teaching resource coming on. So here we, The Simple Things That Make Us Smile Juicy Writing resource.

Simple things exemplar 

Template simple things

I used this in a classroom two days ago. When I announced that we were going to do Juicy Writing I was greeted with cheers. I kid you not! See my earlier posts if you don’t know what I’m burbling on about. We had a wonderful time, lots of new language and the artistic class members were in heaven. I used the doodles drawn by Liz Pichon in the Tom Gates series as inspiration. A resounding success.

The best things in life are free: take the time to notice them, the simple things. The things that make us smile!

Ka kite ano.









Posted in Art, Creative writing, Juicy Writing, mosaics, Teaching Writing, Writing ideas, writing resources, writng resources for teachers | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ellsworth Coat by Christine Haynes

I dream about sewing, rather a pleasant way to float through the night. It sure beats the type of dreams I had when I was teaching full time.

I’m now comfortable with dressing to please me and not others. Colour is important, be true to yourself, take risks, life is too short. Sewing is an exercise in determination, never giving up. I’m as stubborn as hell, you do stuff things up, sort it out, it’s character building.

Where would I be without my trusty Bernina (just been serviced), my antique over locker and my ‘in your face’ shocking pink cutting table. Whoops I almost forgot Elaina.

One of the great joys in my life at present, apart from all the important stuff, family and food, is downloadable pdf sewing patterns. For years I was an avid collector of Vogue patterns. Simplicity, and Butterick patterns didn’t suit my body shape. Boy, did I have a collection to be proud of. Moving house changed all that. Furiously decluttering, I got ruthless, telling myself I would keep the classics and sell the rest. Which I dutifully did. Yep, I discarded way too many. Discovering downloadable patterns saved my bacon.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still a pdf virgin. My acquisitions so far have produced very successful results. I cautiously sift through reviews on patterns before purchasing. Which leads, to the reason for this post.

The Ellsworth Coat by Christine Haynes. After much consideration, I purchased this pattern. What follows is an unbiased review.

I was thrilled with this pattern. I was going to print the pattern at our local printer shop, that is, until I discovered it was going to cost a fortune. The instructions were very clear, I made a mock up to check my size, went shopping at Centrepoint Fabrics and purchased a gorgeous rusty orange wool.

The technology teacher in me revelled in the whole process.


The construction process was seamless, the only hiccup was when I couldn’t for the life of me figure out Step 38-41. I was bamboozled. To cut a long story short I found this lovely video on YouTube and solved my problem.





I’m over the moon with my Ellsworth coat, it’s divine.

My Laurel Shift dress from Colette goes with it beautifully. A little snippet of fabric I picked up on special at The Fabric Store.


Happy sewing.


Posted in Christine Haynes Ellsworth Coat, Craft project, Home, Laurel by Colette Patterns, Review, Sewing, Technology Design Process | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The things we can’t control

I’ve been fluffing about for the last few weeks not knowing how to start this. Not wanting to sound teachery, I’ve decided to bite the bullet and go for it. For anyone that knows me, that can be problematic too. So here we go.

I’m a pretty wired sort of gal. A constant fidgeter, worrying about the stupidest things, the list is long. With the passing of time I like to think that I have become better at managing my idiosyncrasies.

Walking helps, beach walks are a favourite especially after a storm, or even better if I can convince the man during a storm. Checking out the flotsam and jetsam that’s washed up on the beach is a must. Fortunately I spend a lot of time close to the sea, watching the sea, smelling the sea, listening to the sea. Feeling it’s ever changing moods.




From our elevated position I’m able to gaze out to sea and observe the ebb and flow of the seasons. The sea demands respect.


Coupled with that, for those of you who haven’t noticed, I live in New Zealand, the Shaky Isles, earthquake central! Our lovely wee snippet of paradise has been shaken, shoved, rattled and rolled on numerous occasions recently, with devastating consequences.

Our largest city, Auckland sits on top of an active volcanic field, exciting stuff. Our volcanoes in the central North Island regularly belch and burp. I vividly recall Mt Ngauruhoe frothing forth. I missed my grandmother’s funeral because of a volcanic eruption, Mt Ruapehu angry this time.

Two cyclones have graced us with their presence in the last few weeks leaving their calling card.


As my sixtieth birthday rapidly approaches I have developed a new found respect for nature. Especially the things we can’t control, the things that have the potential to be catastrophic. Yes storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and the resultant chaos that can occur.

A tsunami siren mounted on a post below us is a constant reminder of another potential hazard, a not so subtle cue to flee to higher ground.

As a result of all this paranoia anyone would think that I’m sitting here in front of my computer wearing my life jacket so I don’t drown. A safety helmet strapped to my head to protect me from volcanic bombs. My snorkel and mask hanging from my neck, with flippers on my feet in case of a tsunami. And of course, a raincoat and umbrella thrown on an adjacent chair in case of storms. Most importantly emergency rations sit patiently in my cupboards in case of an earthquake.

Actually some of this is true. Just a thought!

Where was I, taking time to smell the roses. Here’s to the good things in life, love, fine food and family.

On a more serious note, this post was inspired by my scribblings.





If I was in the classroom I would use this resource. Feel free to do the same.

Ka kite ano.


Posted in Free resources, Home, Resources natural disasters | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

In praise of the Spaghetti Pizza

Just an aside?

My blog seems to have taken on a new life. After rereading my home page I have noted that I did reserve the right to modify my practice at will. And I have. These pages have given me a chance to share my creative pursuits and the ebb and flow of my life. I’ve deviated from my original intent. Having the gift of time has allowed me to reflect on what I really want from this little blog of mine. There doesn’t seem to be a huge appetite for the type of teaching resources I enjoy creating. Nevertheless, I will continue to add creative writing ideas as they pop into my head. I’m on a journey, with no set destination, what could be more exciting!

I’m currently drawing pictures for my Forces of Nature post. Quite appropriate really, given that torrential rain is falling outside. Cyclone Cook is gracing us with ‘his’ presence. I love to write, I’m opinionated, and my fluffy aging head is full of fanciful notions just busting to get out. What is it they say? Use it or lose it. So write I must.


For those of you who take life a little too seriously please bear in mind, that this is an opinion piece.

Where was I? Spaghetti Pizza!

I couldn’t believe the mock fest that followed Bill English sharing his spaghetti pizzas on Facebook. For those of you who don’t know, Bill English is New Zealand’s Prime Minister. The media were frothing at the mouth, unnecessarily I feel. Why couldn’t they see it for what it was? A father cooking his family a simple, inexpensive evening meal.

Let me just say that many that past criticism probably can’t even cook a simple meal. When did everyone become food snobs?

The backbone of every healthy family’s diet is good simple food. The food our grandparents and parents cooked. Recipes were handed down. In years gone by families sat down every night to a home cooked meal. Takeaways weren’t an option, if you were lucky there was a local chippy shop down the road. Most of us couldn’t afford to go there. Money was tight.

I learnt to cook by watching my mother; we were encouraged to get involved from a very early age. I can still vividly remember many run ins with exceptionally sharp knives.

One of my fondest memories was Home Science classes, cooking and sewing, at intermediate in the late 1960’s, I was in heaven. That was in the days when they taught you to cook. Every student was given a copy of Food for Families. To protect the book we were instructed to cover it with plastic from an old plastic bag. I’ve treasured that book. Almost half a century later, it still has pride of place on my bookcase. We learnt to cook Pizza Pie using spaghetti instead of tomatoes. In the good old days most families grew tomatoes and bottled excess produce. Canned tomatoes were difficult to buy. Spaghetti was a cheaper option, everyone had cans of spaghetti in the cupboard.

Food for Families

Spaghetti Pizza was the backbone of my repartee as a teenage cook. At seventeen I cooked it for the man; I can still recall the delight on his face when he discovered I could cook. He still loves my food forty-three years later.

As a relief teacher I’ve been fortunate enough to teach Cooking. The most successful lessons were when I went back to basics. Yes, they learnt how to make Spaghetti Pizza; every delicious crumb was gobbled up. A simple scone base, that crisps up perfectly and simple ingredients. Add a salad and you have a balanced meal. Take that!

Fast forward to today, we are constantly bombarded with stories in the main stream media bemoaning society’s problems with obesity. Time poor, many families eat preprepared or take away meals. A precious skill that we all took for granted, the ability to cook, with confidence, is slowly slipping from our grasp.

Just to prove my point I made one last night.



So for those doubting Thomas’s out there, the recipe is here, give it a go. Don’t forget to replace the tomato with spaghetti. Put just the right amount on the crust first, and then layer on the remaining ingredients. Cook to perfection and enjoy.

Pizza Pie recipe

Oh and that young girl, me, who still makes spaghetti pizza occasionally turned into a stupendous cook.

Ka kite ano.

Posted in Bill English, Reflection, Spaghetti Pizza | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Introducing Elaina

As promised this blog is about my sewing escapades. After downsizing recently, I have embarked on a life of minimalism. I hear those who know me well, tittering into their handkerchiefs’.

For your information, when you have spent years gathering treasures, a china cabinet or two, art for Africa, a television in every room, mountains of magazines, bulging bookcases, hundreds of dressmaking patterns and so on and so forth. Moving into a much smaller dwelling is a drama. Stuff was sold, thrown out or given away. By the time I came to my expansive wardrobe my enthusiasm was at an all-time low and I moved the lot!

Three years later and my wardrobe still bulges. My recent sewing foray has highlighted the need to cull. A clean out is on the list.

Back to Elaina. I have always wanted a mannequin, a little helper. Late last year, a dear friend offered me the use of her mannequin. Wow, what a revelation. Fortunately the dress form, once adjusted, is very close to my shape. Over the last half century, I love saying that, I have sewn countless dresses, shirts, coats, skirts and trousers. How I’ve struggled over the years with hems on dresses, lining coats and getting that dam collar to sit perfectly. Along comes Elaina!

So here we go. Elaina, wearing Sorbetto from Colette Patterns — Sewing Patterns That Teach. A free digital download, my first pdf pattern. As you can see from the following photos I am thrilled with the results. Colette Patterns come with comprehensive tutorials and wonderful handy tips on how to add detail to your creations.


This was my mock up destined for the bin, I decided to finish it.



Elaina wearing Laurel from Colette Patterns. A very comfortable shift dress, made from a piece of fabric I picked up at a local hospice shop. With no zip I managed to get away with a little bow closure at the back. Bias tape is frequently used on Colette garments; previously I would have purchased the tape. After reading one of their helpful tutorials I now make my own tape, saving lots of money. Leftover bias tape is very handy, I’ve used it to make bows.




Before I go any further let me just say I am not a professional seamstress, just a girl who learnt to sew through necessity and never stopped, except when I was way too busy. Anyway back to the story. Having run out of fabric I visited Centrepoint Fabrics Ltd and yippee they were having a sale. Wool blend fabric for a winter jacket and stretch velvet for my favourite Vogue pants. Mindful of the fact that I am not earning I stuck to my budget and proceeded to leave the shop, that was until I spotted fur fabric at $10.00 per metre. Needless to say I chose the most outlandish print, buying enough for a winter coat. Bring on the snow!

To cut a long story short, even though the weather here is still warm, with exceptionally high humidity, I made the fur coat. Fluff flew everywhere; breathing through my nose I survived the process.



Lining the coat was more problematic. Trying to be clever I machine sewed the lining in, big mistake. The coat developed this unappealing curl across the front. The lining was unpicked, recut and hand sewn in, I couldn’t have done it without Elaina.


Still need to sew on fur hooks, no rush, the weather is stormy and very humid.


A blouse made from a piece of vintage fabric I picked up at the annual Alexandra Park Vintage Textile Fair.


If you have been following my blog you’ll realise I’m obsessed with cushions, my latest fad blanket cushions. Here are three more I’ve just completed.


They are a little ray of sunshine on a very dark and gloomy day. It’s stormy outside, Cyclone Debbie is wreaking havoc. Fortunately she left all her puff behind in Australia.

A bit off the topic. I’m rather proud of this cheap and cheerful solution to a landscaping problem. A messy corner of the garden has been transformed. Two old ceramic pots painted blue, turned upside down and white paint dribbled over the sides. Voila!


After a brief respite from the torrential rain , black threatening clouds are rolling in from the south west. The man is excited by the forked lightning he’s just seen and Toffee’s restless because she wants to play hide and seek. Enough of this light hearted stuff, I’d better go and take up the man’s jeans.

Ka kite ano.

Posted in Blanket cushions, Craft project, Home, Sewing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Everyone has a dog story?

I’ve been mulling over the dog theme for some time. Every child has a dog story. Some will be positive and others negative, verging on the frightening. As you’ve probably noticed the man and I have a dog.


Toffee has infiltrated every aspect of our lives, she sleeps on the bed, almost controls our every waking moment, it’s like having a toddler in the house. In the nicest possible way of course.

A dog on the bed is not the ideal scenario and no she is not meant to be there. She dutifully lies on her bed at night, angelic as ever, pretending to be asleep. When the dulcet tones of my husband’s snores reverberate around the room she tip toes over to our bed, and carefully tucks herself into the crook of my legs.

Other happenings have further prompted this post. Murray Ball, the creator of Footrot Flats, passed away this week. Footrot Flats was iconic. From the mid-seventies to the early nineties, the Footrot Flats comic strips were one of the first things we all read in our daily newspapers. Yes, that was in the days when newspapers were worth buying and reading. Oh and of course the movie and that Dave Dobbyn song that never goes away.


Finally, a few days ago one of our very young neighbours, under five, asked the husband, what the ‘thing’ was on Toffee’s lead. The plastic bag dispenser. The husband attempted to explain what it was used for, to no avail. I have spent the last few days smiling every time I think about her reply. She said, “So it’s to wipe her bum!”

Hence I have decided that we need a dog themed piece of Juicy Writing. A challenge or three for me. I’m going to attempt to draw some caricatures! Give you exemplars that can be used from Year one to eight and templates for publication at those levels, that can be downloaded.

So here we go. The exemplars I’ve written are a bit hit and miss. When you pitch an exemplar at an audience or should I say class, for it to have the required effect you must know your class well. I don’t know how many times, especially earlier in the teaching year where I’ve had a “Well that was a waste of time moment”. Good luck, any feedback would be gratefully appreciated. I’m still learning how to get it right.

Dog stories exemplars

We all have a recipe for teaching writing. In an attempt to avoid lack of engagement or to be honest, help the pencil chewing brigade, this is my formula. I’ll make it brief.

  1. Share purpose
  2. Share exemplar
  3. Discuss theme, children share ideas
  4. Collecting ideas, write class exemplar somewhere, I simply love taking over a whiteboard.
  5. Collect words, write a class created word list on the whiteboard?
  6. Clear up any grey murky areas,  make sure the ones who never listen, understand.
  7. Independent work
  8. Conference with each student, yes it is possible to do this without self destructing!
  9. Everyone publishes, no exceptions

Now for the good stuff, templates for publication. Version 2 for younger students, version 1 for more enthusiastic writers, it’s up to you. Play around with it to suit your needs.

Dog stories v1 angry

Dog stories v1 happy

Dog stories v1 thoughtful

Dog stories v2 angry

Dog stories v2 happy

Dog stories v2 thoughtful

Ka kite ano. Happy teaching.












Posted in Creative writing, Free resources, Teaching Writing, Writing ideas, writng resources for teachers | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Here there and everywhere, but ….nowhere near a classroom.

What does an unemployed teacher do? Actually I probably shouldn’t say unemployed, it sounds as if no one wants me, that’s not true. I chose to be here.

On the positive side I’m very relaxed, sleep exceptionally well and have time to spend with my other half. I am able to dabble in all manner of creative pursuits. More about that in my next post. Most importantly I have had the gift of time. Please don’t hate me for saying this I’ve been able to clean my house properly, none of this a lick around the edges stuff.

The teacher in me is twitching, as much as I don’t for a single moment miss the stress of being in the classroom, I do miss the mischievous antics that characterise teachers days. Oh well, one door closes and another one opens.

The husband and I have decided we need to improve our photographic skills. A little healthy competition always helps. Yes, a competition to see who can take the best pictures. Needless to say the husband usually wins. I’m as blind as a bat without my glasses, if I haven’t lost one of my many pairs, they’re filthy and my vision is usually blurred by the muck of ages.

Getting back to the unemployed teacher bit. What does one do? Run away, or more correctly fly away to Tasmania and go on a road trip. And of course, take photos.

A little tip if you should feel so inclined to visit this part of the world. In Tasmania you pay a park entry fee every time you enter a National Park. And believe me there are a lot, nineteen in fact! It’s something we need to do in New Zealand. Knowing what I know now, we should have purchased a two month pass at $60.00 at our first park. At $24.00 per vehicle each time it starts to add up. As the husband and I entered our third park I whipped out our previous receipts, smiled sweetly and asked very politely if we could convert to a two month pass. Fortunately we were able to do this and save money.

Evening walks


His of course

These boots are made for walking that’s just what you do, when you don’t want to run over a wallaby or a wombat. Possums don’t count if you come from New Zealand. The informative lady at the car rental company had warned us that the chance of hitting wild life here was fairly high if you drove between dusk and dawn.

Every evening we parked our trusty Calais and walked and walked. Uphill, down dale, meandered around sleepy harbours, walked hand in hand along river banks. Isn’t that cute. Got lost, finding restaurants recommended on Trip Advisor, occasionally! Or they were closed. Thank goodness for our trusty tourist sandals, not a blister in sight.


Mona, was not on our list of ‘to dos’ in Hobart. After having it recommended twice by fellow guests within twenty minutes, we thought why not. The Museum of Old and New Art is privately owned by David Walsh, a very colourful man. The entrance sets the scene. Down a path to a tennis court, there for show, not a racket in sight. To the left, God’s car park and one for God’s Mistress. A trampoline for adults to play on, a dramatic rusty sculpture of a concrete mixer. The museum is subterranean, set into the cliff face on the banks of the Derwent River. Everyone receives an audio device to inform, nothing is labelled. Hold on tight you’re in for a roller-coaster ride. It’s naughty, nice and confronting. We loved it.


His of course!






Lookout shot of The Neck, Bruny Island. Breath-taking views of the South Bruny National Park, coupled with a vast empty beach at our feet, dotted with penguin burrows.



Cape Bruny Lighthouse in the distance, built using convict labour from local rock in 1836.




Way down south, Cape Bruny Lighthouse, getting up close and personal.



Up north, Mersey Bluff Lighthouse, Devonport which lies on the banks of the Mersey River. The Spirit of Tasmania, a vehicular ferry makes daily trips from here to Melbourne.



Out west, Cape Sorell Lighthouse, just outside Macquaire Harbour, in the roaring 40’s.



Entrance Island Lighthouse, situated at Hellsgate the narrow entrance to Macquarie Harbour.

Convict Settlements



Port Arthur penal station established 1830. The large building in the centre is the penitentiary, built in 1843 as a flour mill and granary. In 1857 it was converted into a penitentiary, housing 480 convicts.



The Port Arthur church built by convicts in 1837. Seating up to a thousand, religion was used here as a form of control. With men from many different denominations. it was decided not to consecrate the church. Call me strange; this was a very peaceful place to be. It wrapped its arms around you.

As we wandered around the Port Arthur site I couldn’t help but wonder where we would have hidden had we been here on that fateful day, April 28th, 1996. Martin Bryant killed 35 people and injured 23 here on that day. The frightening thing is there are very few places to hide.



Sarah Island, Convict Penal settlement 1822-1833. A nasty little island at the Southern end of Macquarie harbour. The remains of the penitentiary, where ninety men slept. In the weekends when men returned from work camps they crammed in even more. I must read ‘For the Term of His Natural Life’ by Marcus Clarke, all about this hell whole.

National Parks



A flying visit to Cradle Mountain on our way to Devonport. A picture postcard day.



Lake St Clair, sunny days bring out the snakes. I ended a blithering mess just after this shot when I nearly stood on one.

Loved this bridge



Richmond Bridge, the oldest bridge in Australia and yes it was built using convict labour, opening in April 1825. Didn’t they do well?

Launceston Rooftops



One for the girls!



When we travel I always keep a detailed diary, something to read when we are in our rocking chairs. It was a pleasant change travelling in an English speaking country. Funnily enough I found that I didn’t have as much to write about. There is nothing like the new, the different, it’s very confronting and it gives me oodles to rabbit on about.

Posted in Art, Home, Reflection, Tasmania | Tagged , | Leave a comment