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The Search for Balance

Posted on October 3rd, 2016

“It’s all about balance“, magazine articles proclaim.  “Balance is key“, they say.  “You’ve got to find a good work/life balance“, I’ve been told.   I’ve been thinking about this illusive ‘balance’ lately, and wondering if anyone truly has ‘balance’ in their lives.  I feel like we’re all just constantly juggling the various things that are […]

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A New Year

Posted on January 4th, 2016

2015 was a whirlwind of a year.  We’ve been back in New Zealand for two years now, and we’ve gotten to a point where we’re feeling pretty settled here in Wellington, in our cosy little place amongst the bush and the birds.  We’ve developed our little routines and rituals, found favourite spots and lots of […]

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Wrap it Well

Posted on December 15th, 2015

Just a quick post to share a couple of my favourite homemade gift-wrapping ideas, in case you need a little inspiration for dressing up your Christmas presents this year. If you’d like to make some unique wrapping paper, how about trying these ideas: Painted giftwrap – grab some acrylic paints in Christmas colours and paint […]

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Brewing Adventures

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Posted on November 19th, 2015

You might not know this about me, but I like to brew beer. Over the past few years, this interest has grown from a passing phase to a full-blown passion. Now we that find our house is becoming too small to support our habit… a whole wall of our bedroom is stacked with boxes of bottled beers of various styles. There’s a coffee porter, an imperial Egyptian-style stout, a spiced oatmeal stout, a hoppy NZ IPA, and an APA. We recently had an Imperial beer-brewing night with friends, where we each made a different imperial brew. Shane’s Oak-Aged Manuka Honey Imperial Porter turned out to be the best that we’ve brewed – rich, smooth and chocolatey; a real special occasion brew – while my Imperial American Pale Ale is mellow, fruity and refreshing.

We started out making brews at home almost ten years ago now, using malt kits and a big pot on our stove. The main reason for this was that we were living in a really remote area of Australia and beer was so expensive. The beer we made was pretty mediocre, but better than paying upwards of sixty bucks for a dozen. We even brewed on the road at one point, as we travelled around Australia in our van – we boiled it up on our gas stove, then had it fermenting in a container in the back as we travelled. The beer we make now is made from scratch, using whole buckets (sometimes two) of grains and thoughtfully crafted recipes. We brew it at a great local place called The Occasional Brewer.

The Occasional Brewer is awesome for lots of reasons. They have all the equipment you need, including professional 3-stage brewing kits and a range of recipes. When you’re learning, they’ll take you through the steps in a hands-off way, allowing you to really take control of the process. The staff are really knowledgeable and passionate about brewing, and will also help you develop your own flavours and spins on the recipes if that’s what you’re into. They always have time for us, and whenever we go there we find our knowledge of brewing increasing a little more. Now that we’re more experienced brewers, we can book a brewing kit and just go for it, while having the guys on hand to answer any questions we might have.

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In August we got the chance to brew a beer for Beervana, the biggest beer festival in New Zealand. We used The Occasional Brewer’s imperial stout recipe, and put our own spin on it by adding a kilo of dates, some orange zest, star anise and cinnamon. It was pretty experimental, and we didn’t know quite how it would turn out. We ended up with a dry, spicy stout which was surprisingly refreshing. We called it ‘The Curse of the Mummy’ because of the Egyptian spice flavours.  Our friend made us a poster to display at our stall.

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We learnt how to keg the beer and served it from The Occassional Brewer’s stall ourselves to punters at the first Beervana session. It was pretty amazing to see people’s reactions to our beer – we sold a lot more than we expected, and got some great feedback. Some people even came back for seconds!

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Brewing beer is like any other craft really – it takes a bit of time, work, and practice to get the end product that you want. Shane and I have recently been focussing on how to improve our brews to refine their flavours and clarity. I love experimenting with different flavours, trying out new recipes and drawing inspiration from fellow brewers. Best of all, I feel like we belong to a creative community. It’s so much fun getting together and crafting some great beer, then reconvening a few weeks later to taste the finished product. We’ve held two mini ‘beer festivals’ with friends, and are trying to get a brew club started (I love the name our friend Ellery has floated for this, ‘The Brew-Tang Clan’). Like most of my creative endeavours, this craft involves a fun process and a rewarding end product. I think that deserves a drink, don’t you?


Market Finds

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Posted on November 15th, 2015

Just wanted to show you some of the awesome art that I bought from other artists at Craft Central! There were lots of talented people there, but I need to be a bit realistic about how much art I buy, so I had to restrict myself… here are my fab finds this year:

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‘Tui’ print by Joe McMenamin, an artist and high school art teacher whose work I’ve admired for a while now.  The hand-drawn line detail is incredible, and I love the pop of colour from the powdered ink he uses.  You can find more of his work here.

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Robin print and a pack of eight greeting cards featuring a range of bird illustrations by Melissa Boardman from Bird Plus Bird.  I love the way Melissa manages to capture a bit of each bird’s character in her drawings.  This little robin looks so inquisitive and alert, just like these birds in real life.  Check out Bird Plus Bird’s website here.

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This final print is a linocut called ‘The Readers’ by an artist called Penny C.  Penny is a self-taught printmaker like me.  Something about this print really speaks to me.  I can imagine it hanging in a child’s room, maybe my own child’s room one day.

I’m a big believer in supporting local artists by buying their quality, unique art when I can! If you are too, then you must check out felt, New Zealand’s online marketplace for hand-crafted goodness.  They’ve also just released their Christmas catalogue – have a look here!