Being short on creative talent myself, I'm greatly in awe of people who can use their minds and hands to produce objects of beauty.
My father was a water colour painter and skilled woodworker. My sisters are both accomplished artists, working in several mediums. Me? Zip talent discovered as yet... but ever hopeful. Our mother has beautiful art works by family members gracing her home but I'm sad to say my piece on her wall (pictured) was done when I was at kindy, when my creativity appears to have been at its peak.
I have tried various art forms from time to time over the years. A while ago, inspired by a treasured shawl made for me by my grandmother, I decided to give crochet a go.
Given that people voluntarily crochet coverings for city bike stands and park benches, how painful could it be? Well, it turned out to be impossible for me to turn a corner in my crochet. There's only so much you can do with a REALLY long string of small hoops! I tried following YouTube video instruction, I even contacted the local rest home, thinking someone there might enjoy helping me turn a corner with my crochet, but it wasn't to be. Maybe my reputation preceded me.
This Thursday Welcome Tours will get hands-on in Lower Hutt on the Let's Get Crafty tour, with a beading activity at Village Beads. Fortunately we won't be left to our own devices, we'll be given expert guidance on how to successfully create something like these lovely miniature christmas trees.
Sticking with the craft theme, Welcome Tours will take a group up to visit the biannual Feilding Craft Market in June. I'm really looking forward to it. This is the largest indoor craft market in New Zealand with over 200 stall-holders coming from across the country. The venue is the size of a rugby field. That's a lot of craft!
Here in Wellington, if you are hunting for gifts or souvenirs, these are my tips for great arts and crafts shopping spots.
Thank goodness for other people's talent! There's a lot to look forward to over the next few months. And keep an eye out for a Welcome Tours day trip to selected Wellington city art galleries over Winter.
Did you know you can search online for upcoming craft events in New Zealand? Have a look at https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/craft-object-exhibitions/events/new-zealand and refine the search by area location.
It's a tricky business isn't it? ... deciding what to hold on to from the past. Somehow I'm now of the generation that is entrusted with the guardianship of family history. It feels like a big responsibility.
I admit that I didn't used to have much interest in the past. Historic photos sometimes grabbed my attention, particularly those that showed the early twentieth century era that my grandparents grew up in - through the photos I could imagine the crazy rate of technological change experienced during their lifetimes.
Now though, I've come to appreciate that going back only two or three generations earlier, my family were among the earliest European settlers in New Zealand.
Wow!! Like really, WOW!! How amazing would it be to step back into their shoes? How extraordinarily different this new land and the new life of those very early settlers must have been from what they knew in their homelands.
Take Alice's parents for example. Alice Russ is pictured here with her husband Thomas. Her parents James and Sarah Horn sailed into Nelson aboard the Prince of Wales on 31 December 1842. In James Poppleton Horn's later life he recorded some fascinating memoirs that give me an inkling into their lives as Nelson established itself. I doubt that James could have imagined what a gift he was giving future generations when he put pen to paper.
I'm pleased that my mother has written and shared 'snippets' of her childhood for our family to enjoy. In fact, I've taken to recording some memories of my childhood in a notebook myself. In the words of Louisa May Alcott:
I appreciate now that learning about James, Alice and others who have passed before me helps me to understand who I am, and the time and place I live in. But I am shaped by so many strands of cultures and circumstances. The broader the interest I take, the better.
Aside from James Poppleton Horn and my mother who have done their bit to preserve memories, I am really grateful to the heritage devotees who put in hours, dollars, and hard yards to protect and preserve treasures from the past. We'll be visiting some of these enthusiasts on the Wairarapa Heritage Tour in September. The motorcycle and side car pictured here are part of Gaye and Francis Pointon's magnificent vintage automobile and motorcycle collection, and the splendid vintage sport leotard is from Henry Christensen's private treasure trove of rural relics at Mt Bruce.
Excitement about the Wairarapa Heritage Tour is building, so be in quick if you'd like to join this adventure. Staying at Llandaff will be the perfect setting for our Heritage excursions.
I look forward to hearing from you - 04 478 6033.
One thing is for sure - you never know what Wellington will serve up next. Last weekend these free-styling zebras were out doing their thing, as cool as cucumbers on Cuba Street.
The zebra crew were a roaming feature of the event-packed Cuba Dupa festival. Even the rain could do little to dampen the vibrant party atmosphere around the 'Cuba Quarter'. With many of the 250 performers wandering amongst the crowd between shows, kookiness was everywhere.
And food???!! The choice from street food stalls was amazing. The Whittaker's chocolate and plum doughnut was to die for (hmmmm, perhaps one shouldn't have too many of those...)
A couple of weeks earlier the colourful Wellington International Pride Parade filled the city streets to the sensational beats of Wellington Batucuda. It was impossible not to get caught up in the rhythm and vibe of the celebration.
Summer brought with it Wellington's neighbourhood festivities as well, with market stalls and family-focused entertainment events. The kids dancing at the Island Bay Festival in February were a highlight for me, and it was pretty special to see that the Fred Dagg's Kiwi gumboot legacy lives on.
Events compete for attention in a jam-packed buzz of cultural activity in Wellington. Pigs in muck we are. I haven't even mentioned the annual Gardens Magic concerts, Waitangi Day events, the Pasefika Festival, Readers and Writers Week, the Fringe Festival, the opening of Te Auaha, the New Zealand Festival, or Chinese New Year celebrations.
Several years ago Wellingtonians were chuffed when the Lonely Planet travel guide described our city as the "coolest little capital in the world". Size aside, I reckon we're possibly the coolest capital, full stop.
Quarrying at Owhiro Bay is thankfully well behind us and now days this spectacular piece of coastline is even graced with a landscaped visitor entrance and a designer information centre. If you are keen for a hike around the coast, it's a good idea to come here on a Sunday when the area is closed to vehicles. And if you visit between May and August you will be treated to the sight (and smell!) of a colony of fur seals hauled up on the rocks at Sinclair Head. They are definitely worth investigating - from a safe distance!
Speaking of marine life, Taputeranga marine reserve was introduced in 2008 and stretches from the old quarry at Owhiro Bay around to Princess Bay. The resurgence of sea life within this 854 hectare protected area is stunning. It's definitely worth getting amongst it with a mask and snorkel (and preferably a wet-suit - the water here is NEVER warm!). They say the sea floor around the island is now teeming with crayfish and that the crays are so at ease, they don't even bother hiding in the crevices anymore.
In my view the moods and spirit of the South Coast are captured well in artist Michael McCormack's paintings. Good on Michael for gifting the mural on the side of his studio gallery (pictured) to the people of Island Bay. It's a lovely feature.
Discover some of Sue's favourite spots with her on the Wellington South Coast Discovery Day Trip. Thursday 19 April 2018.
Have you paid much attention to the Wellington waterfront lately? I mean, really taken a good look at what's there? Sure, it's a great place for a stroll on a gorgeous day - picturesque with a buzz of activity. But if you start peeking in the nooks and crannies and paying attention to the information around you, you'll be treated to a wealth of art and culture. And it couldn't be easier, with a number of helpful guides that make this discovery a breeze.
Let's start with the Wellington Writer's Walk. Sculptural quotations dotted around the waterfront pay tribute to Wellington in the words of New Zealand poets, novelists and playwrights.
To spur you further along your cultural journey, there's a Waterfront Sculpture Trail.
One sculpture of note is the Kupe statue which depicts the arrival of Maori in Aotearoa/New Zealand. It was originally on show at the grand Centennial Exhibition in Wellington (1939/40) and has resided at the Wellington Railway Station, the Wellington Showgrounds and Te Papa. Now cast in bronze, the statue seems at home on the waterfront, standing proud in front of Te Wharewaka o Poneke function centre.
Of the 13 sculptures on the trail, my personal favourite is Nga Kina by Michel Tuffery. It reminds me of summer holidays. At present Nga Kina is backed by a building site, but it's still worth a visit.
Left: Kupe by William Trethewey (1939), Centre: Nga Kina by Michel Tuffery (2012). Right: Fruits of the Garden by Paul Dibble (2002).
And call me unobservant but I only recently noticed the large Paul Dibble sculpture Fruits of the Garden that sits high in Frank Kitts park. This is best viewed from the park, but can be seen from the waterfront walk as well.
If you would like to join a small group, Sue is hosting a guided tour of Wellington Waterfront on Thursday 22 March.
Foxton, with it's vast black sand beach was my party venue as a Palmerston North teenager. And the super cool thing was that you could drive all the way up the beach to Himatangi.
I have barely thought about Foxton since, but as a tour operator, a new cultural heritage centre has brought the small Horowhenua town back on my radar.
Te Awa Hou Nieuwe Stroom opened to a large multicultural crowd on 18 November 2017.
It houses the national Oranjehof Dutch museum along with the Piriharakeke Generation Inspiration Centre which tells the story of local Maori. The facility appropriately carries Foxton's original name 'Te Awahou', meaning 'the new stream' in its title, and a Dutch translation of the same.
Foxton is a great choice of location for New Zealand's national Dutch museum. For starters, Foxton has boasted a functioning replica 17th century Dutch flour mill in its main street since 2003 and the area has strong Dutch ancestry.
Officials and locals alike are hoping that the 8.5 million dollar Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom will help to breathe life back into a town that has seen busier days. The new venue certainly piqued my interest, and once Foxton got my attention I realised it has much more to offer.
Consequently Welcome Tours' upcoming Dutch-themed trip to Foxton will also include a visit to MAVtech (audio visual museum) housed in Foxton's historic movie theatre. Enthusiastic volunteers are opening the doors to us so that we can take an entertaining trip down memory lane.
The beautiful godwit sculptures at the turnoff to Foxton represent the Manawatu estuary's wonderful natural environment. The bird life is so impressive that the area has been recognised as a wetland of international importance by the United Nations. Ninety five species of bird having been identified there!
I am beginning to picture a second day trip to Foxton that includes a visit to the Manawatu estuary, the Piriharakeke Generation Inspiration Centre and the flax-stripping museum....
Sure, Foxton's not likely to outdo Queenstown for visitor numbers any time soon (and that's a good thing), but I do recommend you check Foxton out next time you are in the vicinity. Or even better join us on Friday 8 December for a fun day of discovery! Details are here.
Sue is the Director and Chief Explorer at Welcome Tours. Sue blogs about new discoveries and the things that matter to Welcome Tours.