Latest Posts

Now those look like proper children’s clothes!

At least in a sort of rich, elaborate, 18th century fashion

The Marsham Children by Thomas Gainsborough, 1787, the Staatliche Museum, Berlin

Look, Master Marshall even has his waistcoat unbuttoned so that he can climb a tree!  And Miss Marshall is getting her dress soiled with fruit, while the littlest Marshall gets muddy paw prints all over her (well, probably her) pretty white frock!

On Fasting: some answered questions

Tomorrow is the last day of the Baha’i fast.

For nineteen days, Baha’is all over the world have been abstaining from food and drink between dawn and sunset.  And, for nineteen days, random people all over the world who have never encountered someone who fasted before have asked lots of questions, frequently starting with “why the heck would you do that!?!”

These are the questions I often get, and my answers to them.

I have no idea what kind of photos to use, so pretty ones of NZ would have to do

1. Why the heck would you do that?

First, because participating in the fast is part of my faith.  As part of being a Baha’i, we are asked to act in a certain way, and uphold certain principals.  I firmly believe that everything that God requires of us has a specific purpose, and is absolutely necessary.  Sometimes we, as people, can understand the purpose, but sometimes the laws of God don’t immediately makes sense, and we just have to trust that they are right.  That’s faith.

The fast is something I can completely understand and accept without any leaps of faith.  Fasting may seem odd, archaic even, in a society that is centred around abundance and instant gratification, but I think it reveals so much that needs adjusting in our societies dominant mindset.

For me, fasting is an escape from our society: a reminder that the fetters of conspicuous consumption, of luxury induced apathy, can, and should, be broken.   It reminds me not to be dependent on material happiness.

Fasting allows me to break all the habits and routines I get into.  Eating can be such a habit, and when you remove it you also start to assess all of your other habits: the time you waste on the internet and watching TV, how easy it is to fall into being discourteous to the people you interact with on a daily basis, the things you do that aren’t actually important to you.  I find myself re-focusing on the important things, cleaning my house, and cleaning my life.  My whole life become physically and spiritually refreshed.  No amount of money can buy that.

Hawkes Bay NZ, 2003

2. Is it hard?

Yes, and no.  After the first day, it really isn’t hard not to eat and drink for 12+ hours.  I do get a bit fuzzy and peckish around the 4pm mark.  For me, the hard part is the lack of sleep: getting up before dawn is early .  Sometimes I would rather skip breakfast than wake up at that time!

The other hard part is habit.  If I garden while fasting I find myself picking berries and lettuce leaves to pop in my mouth without thinking.  When I cook, I dip spoons to taste, and have to stop with the spoon halfway to my mouth.  I realise how much I really eat without intending to.

Cows eat grass, Waipoua, Northland, NZ, 2003

3. Isn’t it bad for you?

No.  There are also health checks on the fast: you shouldn’t do it if you are under 15, or over 70, or pregnant, menstruating, doing heavy labour, traveling, or ill.  It’s very sensible.

I have a check up with my doctor and a discussion about the fast every year before I do it.  Some years, due to health reasons, I have to do a modified fast where I drink during the day, and sometimes have a bit of fruit.

There are no specific instructions of what you should do if your health prevents you from fasting, but I still feel you should follow the spirit of the fast as much as your health permits.

Pretty ponds, Hawke's Bay, NZ, 2003

4. Are you glad it is over?

Yes, and no.  It will be nice not to have to wake up early, and it will be nice to eat, but I’ll also miss the specialness, and I’ll miss the comradeship: the dinners with other Baha’is to break the fast in the evening, and the jokes about food and weight loss.  It’s a wonderful time of year, but it wouldn’t be so special if it didn’t come for just this 19 days.

Swans on the pretty pond, Hawke's Bay, NZ, 2003

Friday Review: Bryan Gaskin Fabrics in Palmerston North

John Cleese famously dubbed Palmerston North the ‘suicide capitol of NZ’ and advised that a visit to the city would inspired anyone to be able to do the deed.

If you are a fabric and textile enthusiast there are only two reasons that a visit to Palmy would only inspire you to end your existence.  You might do it if you were completely overcome with fabric fabulosity and couldn’t stand the wonderfulness anymore.  Or perhaps you might need to permanently alter your social standing if you spent so much money on fabric that you decide it would be easier to kill yourself than to face your significant other when they see the bills.

One of the main reasons for all the fabric fabulousness in Palmy is Bryan Gaskin Fabrics, 402 Main Street, Palmerston North (just off The Square)

The Good:

BGF’s stocks…well…everything.  They focus on bridal and evening fabrics, so the selection of laces, beaded fabric, and silks of every variety is spectacular.

A rainbow of fabulousness

Being bridal specialists, they have a lot of white, but their stock comes in every other colour too.

And a whole selection of pale

Of course, I’m notorious for loving white and pales, so I drooled over the whole selection.

Bridal laces. Yum!

They also stock some extremely specialist and hard to find fabrics, like feathered fabrics…

Indian feathered fabric on silk. If only I had a spare $400 a metre to spend...

And pleated and ruffled fabrics…

Wouldn't a skirt of those pleats be amazing?

And the most amazing rhinestones and pearled motifs…

This is over a foot and a half across. What would you do with it?

And gold and other lace trims…

Real metallic lace!

And more lace…

Lots and lots of lace

Yep.  Pretty much everything you would ever need to make endless fancy, fancy, delicious dresses.

Mmmm...fancy, fancy dresses!

Of course, as much as we want to, we can’t live in pretty princess dresses forever.  Sometimes you need fabric for things that are just a bit more casual, and BGF’s have that as well.

There is the really practical:

Lovely cottons and linens and wool

And the somewhat practical, and utterly adorable:

Cherries are a retro cliche, but they are so cute!

Beyond fabric, they carry a selection of basic notions and buttons and bits:


And a less basic selection of all the the sparkly bits that brides love to deck themselves out in:

Tiara's and necklaces and other bride-y things

The Bad:

They are all the way up in Palmy!  And the prices are not exactly low (well, neither is the merchandise)  and I didn’t get the impression that that they have a lot of sales.

Boo. I'm going to have to save a lot of pennies to afford this drool-worthy embroidered silk

The Ugly:


Well, maybe not precicely ugly, but certainly only suitable for very specific purposes.