We continue our adventure via a plan which was not the one we started with.Read More
In which our intrepid adventurers gets engaged, and has a unique encounter with the local wildlife.Read More
Welcome to the third and final chapter of Containment Issues! As promised- although I don't know why you'd be specifically interested in such a thing- there are no beaches to be seen in this post. There is, however, a variety of other cool stuff to make up for it, so I don't feel too terrible about the beach deprivation. We took a break in the middle of the day- when the sun was at its most intense, to take a short drive away from the beach for a bit of a hike. It was welcome respite from the sun, as well as an opportunity for some great pictures!
Sheep of course wanted in on the action, and insisted on taking some photos before we got too far. He's decided to opt out of the usual selfie instead for a game of hide-and-sheep. I do love a good game of hide-and-sheep, though, so I was willing to partake.
Sheep learned that much of this area was a forest of giant Kauri trees- as soon as the Europeans settled in New Zealand, they discovered that big trees make awfully nice big boats, so most of these ancient Kauris are gone, and what few are left are endangered. Regrowth attempts are being made, but these fellas are slow growers. They can do in 50 years what a white pine tree does in 10. There are plenty of remnants of the huge timber business that marks the beginning of European residence in New Zealand- Piha sits near an old mill, and the wilderness is littered with pieces of Kauri like this one that were too large to be moved.
As we walked further into the forest, I soon suspected that I had secretly been teleported to the Amazon and was currently wandering around somewhere in South America. Beam me back to New Zealand, Scotty!
It was a beautiful day outside- low humidity and an ocean breeze, and a temperature in the mid-eighties made for perfect exploring weather. (I'm back in the States now, I get to use Fahrenheit again!). Basically, it was a pretty common December afternoon. As this was my first time on a walk in the woods ("the bush" if you're keen on picking up any isms) I was paying close attention to the differences in plant life. This, for example, is a Spleenwort:
Early Europeans, in their infinite wisdom, were of the opinion that if a person consumed the above-mentioned Spleenwort, they would be- you guessed it! Cured of any spleen-related afflictions. Now, they'd be hard pressed to tell you exactly what those afflictions were, because nobody really knew what a spleen was at that point, but I guess they thought it was worth a try. Eating strange spotty plants in the forest never killed anyone, anyway...right?
As it turns out, the only thing Spleenwort does is taste gross. No effects on spleens, positive or otherwise.
Here's a more common sight- a palm I saw frequently around New Zealand for the rest of my time there:
This is the Nikau Palm: the only palm species native to New Zealand. Besides my initial awe at palm trees in general, this one has a more specifically cool aspect: While most trees have growth rings for every year, Nikau palms have growth bands- every year, a new set of palm fronds grows and falls off, leaving a new 2 or 3 inches of trunk growth. You can see this starting to happen at the top of my photo. The process, therefore, of dating a forest which contains Nikau Palms becomes much easier and less harmful to the trees-since all you have to do is count the bands on a few Nikau palms. No trees were killed while determining the age of this forest.
At this point, it is possible that I was complaining slightly (only slightly!) about the amount of hill-climbing that had been occurring, but- and let me tell you, this became a recurring theme on this trip- the view ahead more than made up for it.
And then, impossibly, the view got even better:
Meet the Kitekite falls (which is pronounced kitty-kitty. In my opinion this makes the whole experience much better, but that's just me.) This was my very first ever southern hemisphere waterfall! It's actually three waterfalls in a tier, with swimming holes at the top, one tier down, and at the bottom. And no, it does not swirl in the opposite direction.
The first view is actually just a lookout and is still a fair distance away- after 15 or so more minutes of hilly walking, we reached the base of the falls. (Note: if you are reading this as a potential traveller to New Zealand, first- yay! Do the thing! and second- I recommend good walking shoes that won't skid. You'll be fine until you get to the falls but the rocks there are slick when wet, and part of the path goes underwater. Expect to get your feet soggy unless you take your shoes off.)
Let me just... okay. I know about waterfalls. I learned about tides and starfish in school and it was still weird to see them in real life, but I had seen waterfalls before. Big ones, too. Niagra falls. But really, there are so many waterfalls in New Zealand, and every single one of them is beautiful, big, and fabulous and they all tell such stories! I will never get tired of waterfalls, especially New Zealand waterfalls. I ended up seeing so many waterfalls here, in fact, that the rest of them are going to get their very own blog post- that's how many there were. Each one is so very different and unique from all the others.
Sheep, not to be left out of the picture taking fun, also decided to take a waterfall selfie- his first of many. He was the luckiest anyways, he got to be carried up. I had to walk.
I stuck my toes in the water, but we didn't go swimming. After a few more pictures, and some general staring-with-my-jaw-figuratively-on-the-ground, we headed back. Chronologically, the Meeting Of The Starfish happened next- but you already know about that.
I know, after the Beautiful Thing that was meeting all the Piha sea life, this seems short by comparison, but this was such a different feeling, wedged neatly in between the black sand and the starfish. See, we don't have beaches in St. Louis. At all. Like I said, I could count my beach-related experiences on three fingers before New Zealand. But we do have forests- I've spent a lot of time surrounded by trees, I've seen waterfalls, watched little steams flow lazily under my feet. This was my first experience with New Zealand as the same, but different- my first taste of the New Zealand bush, and all its native plants and animals. It was as if I was coming back to something I knew very well, but that something had shifted one step left in my absence. A parallel universe, almost. I was in a familiar forest, but I was surrounded by unfamiliar plants, and the sounds of unfamiliar birds. Here, it was like I was looking around at something I thought I knew for the first time. There are so many forests all over the world, and they're all the same but different. Some have palms, some have pines- some have young Kauri regrowth just starting to peek up amongst the canopy, trying to grow an empire that was lost to loggers decades ago.
I would like to visit more forests, and every time I do I'll be in search of this same feeling- the feeling that everything I thought I knew about a thing just took one step sideways, and that I've learned to expand my horizons just a little bit more.
Preface: I may have kinda sorta stopped blogging because I was too busy having crazy wild fun in New Zealand... I'm back in St. Louis now- so prepare yourselves for some hardcore retroactive adventure blogging! Here's the thing. I went on this adventure- and the whole thing lasted, in its entirety, for approximately 8 hours. As far as adventures go, that's just a blink of a moment in time...especially since two of the hours in question were spent driving to and from the destination. Especially since this whole 3 month New Zealand trip is an adventure. Especially since all life is an adventure.
But get this. I'm going to have to split that 8 hours up into three blog posts, because otherwise the level of grand miraculousness that occurred on this adventure will not adequately be described and that, my friends, would be a travesty.
You see, before The Void took me to New Zealand, the number of times I had personally interacted with oceans could be counted on three fingers. After just a few weeks, I'd encountered my fair share of beaches and oceans, and up until this day I felt like I had a pretty good handle on the whole situation.
But then this happened:
New Zealand separates the Pacific ocean (east) from the Tasman sea (west)- and further along west is Australia. It's not one of those "I can see Russia from my house" type scenarios though- it's a bit further away than that. Piha was my first experience with the Tasman sea, all the other beaches I'd been to so far were on the Pacific side.
Sheep insisted his picture be taken before we moved on:
As a side note, shortly after this trip Sheep created his very own Tumblr and he's pretty popular. Like, way more popular than me...
I took 491 photos of this adventure (part of the reason it's getting split up into three posts)- and you'll see why. How can you not when everything's just so pretty?
One of the first things I noticed when we got out of the car was the sand- It's called a black sand beach, but really it's a combination of normal colored sand and iron from volcanic rocks, which darkens and gives everything beautiful, shimmery effect. The beach literally sparkles, and it's fabulous.
The iron deposits are washed up by the waves, and sit on top of the sand. Next time, I'm bringing a magnet and science is going to go down.
The second thing you should probably know about Piha is that it's one of the most dangerous beaches in New Zealand. It's one of few surf beaches I've been to, and the currents here are so dangerous that it has it's own TV show: "Piha Rescue". - However, the waves are pretty excellent.
The trip was mostly exploratory, though. I still can't surf (patience, grasshopper. Next time), and the water's a bit chilly anyways- but it's gorgeous even if you choose to stick to dry ground. There are three sections of the beach, and it's safe to say that the most interesting bits are only accessible at low tide. By a very lucky coincidence, our visit was well-timed.
Not only did we get there just as the tide was going out, it went out much further than usual while we were there. According to Google and my middle school science teacher, this is called a "Spring Tide" and occurs during new and full moons. The more you know.
As we were looking around (read: as I was taking pictures of the ground...) Jon told me about a second beach that is only accessible at low tide (it's a fairly common dilemma with the beaches here), and although the tide was going out, it wasn't low enough yet. While we waited for the water level to go down, we wandered over towards another interesting landmark.
Lion Rock! it looks more or less like a lion depending on where you stand, but the general idea is there. When the Māori lived here, they used Lion Rock as a lookout and defensive position, and were quite successful at defending their land from invaders for a very long time.
It's a short, steep climb up to the lookout, and definitely worth it for the views. If you look closely, you can even see a few tiny surfers amongst the waves! Straight ahead you can see the extension of beach that I talked about earlier- we'll get to that in a minute.
There's a little grassy patch on top of the lion's head for your sunbathing pleasure, and it also happens to afford a pretty fantastic view of the beach and village below. From the top, I learned a thing or two about what, exactly, makes Piha so dangerous. There's just the boisterously breaking waves crashing up onto the beach if you look to the south, but looking over the north beach is a different story entirely. There, amongst the breakers, you can see the twisting patterns the rip tides create in the surf, and the places where the pull is so strong that it drags sand up from the ocean floor. This definitely isn't a swimming beach- and when people don't heed that warning, it makes for some very dramatic television.
For a bit of a reference, here's a view of the climb back down Lion Rock. It's a steep and well worn path, but not an issue even if you're not very sure-footed. One thing I discovered pretty quickly is that aside from my low level of general physical fitness, I specifically have a pretty awful sense of balance. Even though I felt like I was going to fall for most of the walk, I still managed to do it without so much as a skinned knee.
After climbing down from Lion Rock and a quick snack break, the tide was low enough for some secret-beach explorations. We climbed over the barnacle-encrusted rocks and stopped to investigate many a tide pool ecosystem, and I took some pictures to document my efforts at keeping my bright pink dye job from fading in the sunlight. New Zealand's UV rays are, after all, 40% more intense than the ones in the US.
After a bit of climbing, and some hilarious moments concerning my inability to balance myself upright with anything less than three points of contact -(I see you there. You think I'm kidding. I'm not.)- this is what we saw:
This whole 'Grand Adventure in Three Parts' occurred on a Monday, which is not-generally speaking- a very popular day for beachgoers, so the whole place was virtually empty. Even fewer people ventured around to this little corner, so my job as ~Official Photographic Evidence Gatherer~ was pretty easy. You'd have to actively try to take boring, ugly pictures of this place.
If you walk all the way down so far that you run out of sand, this is what you see. The beach gives way to nothingness, separated from the ocean only by a rocky outcropping against which the waves crash violently (in sets of seven, I learned). Behind this is an area where, I was informed, seals and penguins might bring their young to keep them safe while fishing. Alas, it was neither seal nor penguin season, so we didn't spot any mammals this trip (other sea life on the other hand... well, stay tuned for part 2!)
Three pictures ago, you may have noticed a rock to the right of the beach. Here's another view:
This little channel goes, obviously, all the way through the rock. Apparently people (more adventurous than myself) even swim through it! Nature is the coolest thing ever.
We decided to spend the hottest part of the day in the shade by taking a short hike up into the hills to see a waterfall; but that's part three of this little adventure. After that, and lunch under a flowering Pohutukawa tree, we tried our luck at the north end of the beach.
This end had a whole bunch of truly fabulous tide pools and sea life that we are not talking about until next week because there is too much and it is overwhelming and even as it is I may still explode...
There was also this very cool cave.
Below, we can see a very nice specimen of mermaid hair, which as we all learned in school, grows on the rocks until it is long enough that it can be harvested and worn by the mermaids.
The mermaids, because of this, have bright green hair which blends nicely with the green-blue of their oceanic habitats as well as the various jewel tones of their tails. Of course, some of the more rebellious mermaids have been known to dye their hair 'weird' colors like blonde and brunette, and some of them don't even tell their parents they're doing it first. Some people will attempt to convince you that this is not mermaid hair at all and is instead seaweed, but those people are wrong.
As the sun went down and the tide started to roll back in, (neither the first, nor the last time we almost got caught by the tide on this trip) we headed back to the car, I took pictures of the colors changing as the daylight faded, and we evaluated the condition of our sunburns and tan lines.
Did you make it? Are you with me here at the end of this post? Did you scroll through the pictures thinking to yourself: "My, they just keep going- when will it end?" - well here it is. I've made it through one third of this single-day adventure. Probably less than a third, if you consider the number of photos I have for next week's post. This is what happens when you release someone with a formal education in photography on a beach for (basically) the first time in her life and tell her to go crazy. I can, having already returned from this trip to New Zealand ('tis only the first of many!), look back on this adventure in comparison to everything else that happened and say with pretty secure certainty that it was still one of the best parts of the trip. There are so many things you don't think about when you don't experience them firsthand. Sure, you learn in elementary school that the ocean's tide goes in and out- that there are seven quintillion, five hundred quadrillion grains of sand in the world, that crashing waves carve patterns in rocks, and that a variety of sea life living in these nifty little things called 'tide pools'- but until you see it? I don't think you fully understand it until you're standing in the middle of it, and it's jumping up to nibble at your unsuspecting toes.
We're freshly back from a weekend trip up the Coromandel Peninsula, and let me tell you- it was an adventure in more ways than one. The weather was cloudy with a bit of rain, but what's a bit of water in the face of adventure?
The road is long and impressively winding. Where the highways I'm used to cut forcibly through the landscape in unforgiving straight lines, this one winds gracefully up, down, and between the mountains. They're the kind of roads you see in Bond movies, with a vertical cliff face to your right and a straight drop miles down to your left. And bonus points for the frequent scenic outcroppings complete with parking areas.
At one point, there was a narrow, overgrown pathway that led to a view that Sheep couldn't get enough of. He even thought he heard some Kiwi birds...
Upon arrival in Whitianga, we did a bit of exploring and went out in the bay for a bit of swimming and kayaking. It was still rainy, so the escapade was cut short by my worry at the level of waterproofing of my camera bag, but it was fun while it lasted. The next morning we spent a bit of time wandering around in town, where one of the local shopkeepers recognized me from the day before by my hair. It's a good thing I'm not a spy, really- hard to keep a low profile with a highlighter on your head...
Next, Hot Water Beach!
Hot Water Beach has a hot spring under it, and you can go during low tide and dig holes in the sand. The holes fill with spring water from under the ground, and you get a nice hot tub effect while hanging out on the beach. It's a great idea in theory, but there are some issues. First is people- it's a very touristy spot, and I was lucky to be able to take a few pictures before too many came to stake their claims.
The second issue is that you're supposed to start digging your hole while the tide is still moderately high for Maximum Hot-Spring Enjoyment Factor... which is difficult. You start digging your hole, and a wave comes in and washes the whole thing flat again. you try to build a barricade, the wave washes it away. You try to use a human as a barricade, the water gets around him and washes sand into his shorts. It's sort of destined to fail from the beginning. Didn't stop us from trying, though!
The boys tried a couple of approaches while I stood by with the camera. Eventually, they started trying more obscure digging methods...
The cool thing about it is that you can see the hot water bubbling up through the sand if you're looking- too hot, actually, to stick your foot in. I heard surprised yelping in several different languages in the few hours we were there- like I said, it's a very touristy place. Eventually, it became impossible to dig without fear of beaning an innocent bystander with a spade full of sand, so we left in search of less crowded adventures.
We decided to go explore Cathedral Cove next- it's a spot I wanted to visit and also a pretty cool hike.
The hike takes about 30 minutes, and there's all manner of interesting things to see along the way.
The interesting thing about the New Zealand countryside is that there is so much of it, and yet it's all so different.
At one point, as you walk over the top of one hill (It's about the halfway point)- the view to the left is a perfect description of the rolling hills, rocky outcroppings, and lush greenery that seems to mark New Zealand's summers:
Standing in the same place and looking to the right, however, reminds you that there is in fact an ocean surrounding this place, and you'd do well to pay attention or risk falling off the edges of the earth.
After the 30 minute hike to Cathedral Cove, which may have been slightly longer on account of all the breath-catching that had to be done because 'lung capacity' is not on my list of strengths... we emerged:
Cathedral Cove is exactly as beautiful as they say: times about a million. Because of the weather and the time of day, there were only about 12 other people there with us, so I took advantage of the photography. The wave sounds that can be heard echoing through the cavern are haunting and beautiful, and the water is so clear that you'd swear you were the only other human on the planet.
I'm having this problem with the scaling of everything- there are no words, and no photos that can accurately describe the intense largeness of the cavern- or the feeling of smallness you get from standing inside it.
Here, for your viewing pleasure, is what the start of the return hike looks like:
On the way back, we met this dapper fellow and his lady friend- at first they were afraid, but I crouched down to take photos while Jon made some whistling sounds, and our new feathered friend came over and posed on a rock so I could take his picture.
By the time we got back to the house it was dark, which turned out to be just fine considering the sunset. Although it was cloudy and rainy for most of the weekend, the skies cleared up enough for a night-shot of the view from our front porch. Off to the left is Shakespeare cliff, which was on the list of things we would have done had the weather improved.
The next day, we went on a new adventure to see what apparently has been voted "New Zealand's Most Beautiful Beach"- It's another one that you have to do a bit of hiking to get to.
After getting distracted looking at seashells for a good half hour, we went inland where I was surprised to discover an area that looked like it was the hand-built set from a Jurassic park movie. Everything was still, and you could hear but not see the ocean through the undergrowth. It was beautiful, and creepy all at once.
It was, actually, a beautiful beach. Another stroke of luck with only 10 or so other people around, and this little lean-to constructed out of palm fronds and tree bark:
Far enough up the beach, there are even sand dunes that look out over the water. Birds nest on the dunes, which is cool as long as you abide by the natural order of 'you stay on your side of the rope, I stay on my side of the rope' -Otherwise, eyeballs get pecked out.
Here we are: the sun sets over New Chums beach...
And walking back, we could see the beach from between the trees:
You'll forgive me for saving the biggest adventure for last.
After all the adventure we crammed into the 'annual camping trip' this weekend, I figured we were about finished with it all when we packed the kayak and everything else up and headed for home. Sheep was more than happy to stand guard while we put everything else into the car and took off- after a quick pit stop for fish n' chips, of course.
Unfortunately, about an hour and a half into our return trip (and stops every 15 minutes or so to let people pass us and make sure that the kayak was in fact secure- it was) we drove around a corner and a gust of wind hit us so hard that it shook the car. There was a loud clap and a bang, and I watched as the nose of the kayak swung around over my window. We pulled off the road, and Jon started working on assessing the damage. I, meanwhile, was trapped in the car by a twisted piece of the roof rack which had levered itself against my door. About a minute after we pulled over, a police officer found us and pulled off. She saw the twisted pieces of metal that remained of the rack, and Jon told her that it had snapped in the wind, and we were trying to fix it. She helped to twist the kayak back to its proper position, which partially freed the piece of metal against my door, and then apologized because she was on her way to an accident further up the road, and left.
After Jon pried me out of the car, we set to disassembling the wreckage and reattaching the kayak facing, once again, front to back. It took about two hours, one tarp, a duvet, a bungee cord, and 20 feet of rope to get it tied back on, and by the time it was tied, the car battery was dead from the hazards and headlights. When we attempted to flag down an officer for help, he refused, laughing, and drove away.
I was a little miffed that nobody else stopped to help us (considering the eight other police cars that drove by), but I counted it as a win because the only major damage was to the roof rack. I figured that was the end of it, until this popped up on the NZ National News two days later:
According to the original article, police pulled over an Irishman who told them he though that was how kayaks were supposed to be transported- and was 'unrepentant'. Basically, the story went viral, and even more viral when they found out that the driver was actually about as close to being Irish as a bottle-nose dolphin. The police ended up having to actually apologize to the entire Irish nation -Foreign relations and all. If you'd told me a few months ago that I'd be on an extended vacation in New Zealand, I would have laughed in your face. Imagine what would have happened had you told me I'd be four day's worth of top story on the nightly news after only a week abroad! It might say a thing or two about the comparative importance of news stories here and in the US, to be sure.
Do you remember when I said that thing about how I was going to get all nice and caught up on my blogging by December, so that I could switch gears and tell you all about New Zealand when I got here? Sorry.
I'm most of the way through the screen printing post, and still have to do my moccasin boot post as well. I'm going to save those for a rainy day- and let me tell you, those seem pretty hard to come by in my current corner of the Pacific...
But first, a bit about travel (in case you're interested in visiting little old me)... The flights were fairly uneventful- a good thing when your total travel time is 26 hours. It gets to the point where you give up on trying to keep track of what time it is. My layover in Los Angeles was 6 hours, which went by really quickly because, as it turns out, the most interesting people you'll ever meet can be found in the international departures wing of an airport. We bonded over a singular need for electrical outlets and talked for hours. I met JD and his twin brother Sam who are travelling around the south island for 3 weeks (mostly hitchhiking, and I am very curious to know how that's working out for them), and Ashley who studied fashion design and now would like to start a business with her twin sister who she's meeting in Australia, and last but not least Tim and Mary- who told stories of their grandkids and offered us all a place to crash if we ever found ourselves near Wellington. Mary was astounded to hear that JD had only brought one pair of socks for his entire trip, and even went so far as to find him another pair (so he can wear one pair while the others are drying)- which I believe she gave him as we were boarding the plane.
Tim also told us that in New Zealand socks do not come in pairs, and that we would get callouses on our heads because of the waking up upside down- and managed to keep a straight face while he said it.
We landed at about 8am local time and my jet lag had not yet set in- so we went on an adventure, of course! There is an old navy base on a mountain near Auckland called North Head (I say mountain. It is a little mountain, but big enough.) It's very park-like, with flowers and trees everywhere, and at the top there's a great view of the city and surrounding beaches.
The old Navy barracks are here, along with some very cool, very large cannons. New Zealand's Navy is currently located one mountain over, this stuff is circa World War II. Part of what makes this place so interesting, though, is that most of the stuff that goes on here is underground- the barracks, ammunition storerooms, and even the places the cannons are stored- are built into the mountain. Some of it is open for wandering, and some areas are closed off.
After a thorough exploration of the above-ground areas, we ventured inside the mountain.
It's a very interesting combination of manmade and natural structure inside, this little room, for example, was right off one of the hallways and yet held no trace of ever having been effected by people.
When the base was in use, this cannon used to fire and then flip down inside the underground room for storage. Sneaky.
By some other cannons, there was a plaque that talked about how the locals were upset that the sonic boom from the blasts would shatter their windows, so the Navy planted trees to dampen it...but by the time the trees were large enough to make any difference, the cannons were obsolete.
There were a lot of ways in and out of the tunnels, and we tried to explore all of them. A lot of them are covered in graffiti, and some were more overgrown than others.
It would have been a great place for a picnic if I hadn't been utterly and completely confused about what time it was. Feels like dinner time, looks like lunchtime? Even at dinner time here as it turns out, the sun is still bright in the sky. It doesn't go down until nearly 9:30.
We emerged from the tunnels at a perfect vantage point- overlooking Auckland on such a beautiful day. Everything is so blue!
If cityscapes aren't your thing, feast your eyes on the aptly named 'fire poker' flower.
Travelling to other countries is so interesting- the people are still people, and the important things are the same, but then there are these weird differences that you sort of notice along the way, like all the trees and flowers are different, or the doorknobs are located at least a foot higher on the door... or that you drive on the left side of the road. Still not comfortable with that last one... I'm trying to practice deciding which lane I would turn into when I ride along in other people's cars, and I keep getting it wrong...
It's been five days now since I got here, and I think it's safe to say I'm over the jet lag. It took about four days to wear off completely. The second day (before I got super sleepy like a 90 year old lady at the ripe old hour of 7pm) we went to Parnell rose gardens, which turned out to be a lot more than roses (though also a lot of roses)
Long stalky flowers are difficult to take photos of when it's ridiculously windy outside, but I managed..
And of course, roses. So many roses, in so many colors.
Sheep also made an appearance once he saw some flowers he liked.
As if by magic, as soon as I said "I wonder if any of these roses match my hair"- there they were!
Those were the two big adventures this week. It was nice to have a few relaxing days around to adjust and talk to home and stuff. On the list of things not covered however, we have:
- Ate octopus (eh), squid (yum!), papaya (nope), and green-lipped mussels (yum, but want to cook with them myself)
- Tasted the nectar of the Pohutukawa tree (yum!)
- Went to two night markets (full of Asian food and trinkets- the kind of place that makes you want to hold on to your wallet...but the kind of place with the best mango smoothie ever)
- Went to the Largest Shopping Mall in New Zealand- which is roughly equivalent to a smallish shopping mall in the states.
- Experienced unrefrigerated eggs, and solved that mystery: Eggs in the US are washed which strips them of their protective coating, making them more likely to absorb contaminants. Eggs almost everywhere else are not washed, which means the protective coating stays intact,and also gives farmers more incentive to keep their chicken's environments clean, so that the eggs stay cleaner anyways.
So far, New Zealand and I are getting along excellently. Now that I'm here getting acquainted with things, it's a lot easier to do my travel planning, so I'm working on my list of things to make happen before I leave. The exchange rate works in my favor, which is helpful, and once I get a bus card in my hand I'll be unstoppable!
So, here's the thing. When you're a student, you spend most of your time either in a classroom or doing homework. Sometimes all of your time. Sometimes so much time that there's none left to spend on sleeping. Or eating. Or friends. When you're working, it's the same although I've been lucky so far to not have the kind of work that comes home with me, past the occasional entertaining story at the dinner table. When you're travelling, there's no time for crafty business but it's alright because SELFIES! Sorry..It's alright because you're enriching your knowledge of culture and diversity and taking pictures of all of the exciting things (ahem)... There's not a lot of time for craftiness, unless you make it.
Unless you're in a holding pattern between Job A, Job B, and more travelling- in which case, you attempt to make up for all the crafting time lost!
I made this dress last month- in October- and it was the first dress I'd made yet this year, which is tragic. I have since nearly finished one more and have plans and fabric for a third, but that number is still much too low for something on my list of favorite things to do.
I found this fabric without really looking at Joanns, and brought home enough to make 'some kind of dress'... Sometimes there's a plan, most times there's not.
I drafted the lace-up bodice pattern myself, and then just kind of made up the skirt part as I went. The fact that this pattern only exists in my head, though, doesn't mean it can't be learned from.
- 3 yards Brown Floral Fabric (100% Cotton)
- 1/2 yard Contrasting Grey Floral Fabric (also 100% Cotton)
- 12 ft. of Grey Paracord
- 10 Spacer beads (for lacing)
- Contrasting silk thread for topstitching
- Zipper (I eventually replaced mine with a metal one, after my invisible zip ended up having a flaw)
- Lining fabric (I used some undyed muslin from the stash because I'm thrifty like that)
Having a bias tape maker was also helpful, since there's a lot of that in this dress. Also the usual sewing machine, needles appropriate for the job, etc.
After making a mockup out of cheap woven fabric I keep around for precisely that job, and making sure it fit how I wanted it to, I started working on the bodice. I consists of 7 panels- center front with princess seams, then side front, side back, and center back. The center back piece supports the lacing. I had originally planned for the zipper to be at the center back, but that kind of went out the window when I decided there needed to be bias tape at the waist and a little design under the lacing. Side zips are easier to manage getting in and out of anyways.
After I had the bodice constructed, I made the entire 1/2 yard of grey contrasting fabric into 1/4" Bias tape. If you're unfamiliar and you wish to be, there are excellent tutorials for this in most quilting books, which is how I refreshed my memory. I used a few inches of the tape to bind the center front, and then cut two 72" pieces that bound the reset of the top edge, starting with the center back at the base of the lacing and then going up under the arms. When these pieces met the princess seam in the front, they became the straps, which cross in the back and then lace down. The bias tape is handstitched (invisible mattress stitch- my favorite!) closed over lengths of paracord which I used to add strength and roundness to the straps. I finally found an use for the stuff!
After adding the skirt (just six triangular pieces- take the waist measurement of the bodice, divide by six- that's the measurement of each skirt panel, add seam allowance of course. The hem measurement was based on maximizing the fabric I had leftover.) I decided it needed some extra flair, so I used some of my (plentiful) leftover bias tape to add interest at the waist and hem. These pieces were pinned in place while Lucille wore the dress, and then machine top-stitched with yellow silk thread. I like silk because it tangles less, and the thread has a different sheen than cotton or polyester- and it stands off the surface in a lovely way. I also generally try to avoid sewing with polyester thread if what I'm sewing into is cotton. I'm not actually sure if it matters, but I like it anyways.
The hem is more bias tape (continuity!) with a top-stitched piece 2 1/2" from the bottom. Because of the way the bodice is made, the skirt is lower in the back than it is in the front- the perfect length so that I'm not sitting my bare legs down on chairs and such! The nice thing about making your own clothes is that you can account not only for the way you're shaped, but the way you prefer to wear them. All my store-bought dresses are a bit short, so I compensate by making all my handmade dresses a bit long. Things even out.
I hope that if you happened upon this blog because you're interested in dressmaking- that I have provided you with at least a bit of an explanation of the proceedings. One of the best parts about making new clothes is getting to wear them though, so that's what's happening next!
Less than a week after finishing this dress, I drove up to the lovely city of Chicago for two days to catch up with Jon.
The weather was spotty, but acceptable. We were for a short time trapped in a Starbucks due to the rain, but even that wasn't too bad. We spent a day in the Museum of Science and Industry which was fantastically awesome- albeit dimly lit so photos were difficult.
The building the museum is in is mostly underground so it looks oddly small on the outside- and then you wander in and realize that there are 12 planes including a Boeing 747 hanging from the ceiling...
This is a wonderful place! Full of not only exhibits that teach science in interesting ways (Launching balls across rooms over innocent bystanders below, anyone?) but also some pretty excellent historical artifacts.
There was a special exhibit while we were there called 'Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives' which had a whole chronology of Disney- from the movies and shows to Disneyland itself. There were examples of the multi-plane camera technology he used early on, plus lots of models, sketches, and video clips, and some incredibly exciting newer stuff...like, say, costumes from some recent films...!
I had no idea that these would be here and I think there was probably a scary amount of excitement going on...especially when I turned around:
I MADE Alice and the hatter from photos right after this movie came out- I may have taken some liberties with the hatter, but seeing in person that my Alice was spot on- that was such a cool feeling. I'm sure that I got some strange looks for the complete freak out I had about the whole thing.... even Sheep was looking at me like I was a little nuts-o. Worth it. Worth it times a million.
After the Museum, we walked around the zoo for a bit (I love cities with free zoos. St. Louis's is totally better though...Sorry, Chicago) and then headed off to Gino's for some super tasty Chicago-Style Deep Dish pizza.
The thing you have to understand about Chicago style deep dish pizza is that it's basically cheese, flaky crust, a little bit of tomato sauce and toppings, and then some cheese... and some more cheese.
The thing you have to understand about me is that I love cheese.
That's really all you need to know.
Day two of Chicago was some exploring of shops, and general walking about the city. What more fitting than to see this totally epic two story display of old sewing machines in front of a clothing store... in a dress I made myself! Many selfies were had by all... especially since we have some of the sewing machines that were displayed behind me.
I got lots of complements on my dress while we were walking around the city, and I love when strangers tell me I've done a good job on something like that... They have no motivation to lie to you so you know you're doing alright.
We sat in a park to people-watch and were at one point offered free cookies- which is the marker of a fantastic day- and sheep was indeed very unhappy when it was time to leave.
Chicago is another city I hope to be able to explore more at some point, and it seems like a pretty spectacular place to live- if a little windy. It's nice also to be in such close proximity to the great lakes, because those are always good for an adventure or two. I'm so happy to be able to finally get back into making moderately large-scale projects again, something I've missed pretty incredibly basically the whole time I've been in school. Obviously, having a job slows things down a little but not as much as school ever did. There are so many more dress-related projects and assorted other crafty adventures to come, and I have never been so excited with the prospect!