Chengdu – Wenshu Monastery, Chunxi Road, Tianfu Square and People’s Park

When we go on holiday, we have a bad habit of NOT taking things slowly and getting exhausted part way through the trip – our first day in Chengdu is a prime example of this! We had quite a bit of time in Chengdu, so we could have taken things slowly, but instead we ended up walking all over the city and seeing so much in our first day.

First up was the beautiful Wenshu Monastery, the monastery was just a short walk from our backpackers – when walking there, you passed through quite a few chaotic streets, until you arrived at an “old town” style area where the monastery was located.

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The monastery felt so calm and quiet, after the walk there – Rich and I were never really sure what the road rules where in China in terms of crossing the road and who should give way, also the scooters and bicycles seems to have just as much right to the footpath as pedestrians. So heading into a monastery where there were only people, mostly speaking in quiet tones was quite a relief.

The fact that the monastery was also incredibly beautiful also helped to calm the soul as well.

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When we were in Chengdu it was autumn, which I think may be my favourite time to travel (last year we went to Korea/Japan in autumn) as the trees look so pretty and it’s still warm enough to just wear a light jacket and scarf. Perfect weather for exploring really!

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The monastery also had a tea house and restaurant, so we decided to have a vegan hot pot while we were there. I know this doesn’t look like much, but believe me, it was delicious. When we were in China it was so hard to find any vegan or vegetarian food – so when we did find “real” food we can eat (i.e: not just bread, or street snacks) we kind of went all out.

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This photo shows a bit more of the “old town” surrounding the monastery, it was really lovely and there were some nice restaurants, tea houses, bubble tea places and artists in the area. It’s just a really nice place to wander around and take in the atmosphere.

After visiting the monastery and the surrounding area, we decided we also wanted to visit People’s Park that day – but after being in a plane, on a long flight the day before we decided that we really wanted to get some decent exercise so we decided to walk to People’s Park. It turned out to be a LONG walk – with some surprises along the way!!

The first surprise was Chunxi Road, which is a big shopping area – I think we’d both read about this area before we left and Rich found a couple of vegetarian/vegan restaurants in this area – so we would have ended up here at some point.

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It was, however, a shock to the system turning up here without having time to mentally prepare what we were walking into! I mean, it’s A LOT – a lot of stores, a lot of street vendors, a lot of people outside stores yelling at you to come in and buy stuff, guys that want you to go somewhere with them so you can buy (probably fake) labelled clothing.

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Also all of this chaos was happening on a Tuesday afternoon, hardly high shopping time here in New Zealand, but this is China. I have to admit, despite being to a lot of large Asian cities, this felt a little overwhelming to begin with – bit I did finally begin to adjust to all of the chaos.

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We did end up coming to this area quite a few times during our stay in Chengdu, so it wasn’t that scary – but it’s a lot when you’re not ready for it!

Our next stop on our way to the People’s Park, was Tianfu Square – I was actually pretty happy to stop here. It’s a really nice area that I’d seen from the taxi while we were in the taxi from the airport to our backpackers.

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I didn’t really get any good photos from the square on our first day in China, but here’s a view from the square – on the other side of the road there was a science and technology museum and a statute of Chairman Mao.

Finally we arrived at the People’s Park and it was BUSY! It looked like there was some kind of flower festival on (probably in it’s last days as some of the flowers were dying), the park was nice enough, but to be honest, I find it weird being in parks with a tonne of other people – that said, it’s really well taken care of and obviously well loved by the locals.

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Well that’s it for the first day of our trip – it was A LOT, but on reflection, I don’t think I’d really have it any other way.

Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book – Boarder Print Dress

This is another make from a while ago that I haven’t shared, and it’s my third make from Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book. 

There are a tonne of different options in this book, but I stuck with the basic bodice again, but added the puff sleeve this time rather than going sleeveless. For the skirt I just gathered the fabric, to show off the boarder print as much as I could – I also bound the sleeves in the off cut of the boarder print to give a bit of contrast.

I was going to put some green buttons on the bodice as a decorative feature, but decided I really wanted to wear some of my big statement necklaces with this dress – which wouldn’t work if there were buttons, so in the end I kept it plain.

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The fabric I used for this dress is from Wellington Fabric-a-Brac, I have had it in my stash for a while, just waiting for the right project (and definitely not hoarding it for no reason….). I should have taken more pictures of the boarder print before I sewed the dress, but I didn’t, so here’s a couple of pretty average photos of the boarder print that I took while I was wearing the dress.

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Fortunately my plan paid of and this dress does work really well with big, chunky necklaces, in this photo I’m wearing it with one of my (MANY) Erstwilder Necklaces – this particular necklace always seems to start conversations.

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To finish off, here’s a picture of me with Alison, because she always needs to be the centre of attention wherever she goes (but we still love her).

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China – It’s a wild ride

Sometimes our trips have been based on places we’ve always wanted to see, taking the opportunity to visit friends, or just choosing something off a “places you must see” in [insert year here] list.

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But last year our overseas trip was based on something else, extremely cheap flights from Auckland to Chengdu on Sichuan Airlines. I know, it may not be the best or most thoughtful way to choose a destination – but hey, not everything needs to be part of some giant life plan.

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I knew that Chengdu was the home of pandas in China, and found out the Xi’an was fairly close to Chengdu by high speed train – so why not go to China?

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The lead up to the trip was quite a strange and busy time, the trip was in November and we lost Mia in August and I started a new job in October – long story short, we didn’t think too much about this trip, we had flights, accommodation and had booked our train tickets a few days before we left. I have to admit just before we left, I was left wondering if this was actually such a good idea – especially when I told people where we were going and we pretty much knew no Chinese apart from “Hello” and “Thank You” and their response was you’re so brave/adventurous (I don’t feel brave or adventurous!).

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I think I boarded the plane in Auckland not knowing if I was ready for China, I mean, I’d been to Shanghai before – but Shanghai is a big, international city – Chengdu isn’t Shanghai, what was I even doing?

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Turns out I shouldn’t have worried so much, and that actually I’m a more experienced traveler than I thought – China, was in fact, amazing – but it really was a wild ride!

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I’m going to do a few posts about our adventures in China, because we saw and did A LOT over a couple of weeks! But just wanted to say if you’re thinking of visiting China, you should – even if all you can say is a few words of Chinese, you’re going to have a blast!

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Basic Bodice, Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book

I want to blog a lot more this year and one of the reasons I want to do this is to keep a record of all my projects – I really want to sew more and be more creative this year. However, before I start to blog new things, I need to catch up on blogging all things I’ve already made, starting with this green dress from Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book.

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I’ve been a fan of Gertie for a long time (I even met her in Auckland last year!) and I really wanted to sew some dresses from her Ultimate Dress Book, but I wanted to get the fit of the bodice right first so decided to make the most simple dress in the book – a sleeveless bodice, with a gathered skirt.

The pattern in the book calls for an all in one facing, but I love bias binding so I used that instead and fortunately didn’t really have to do many adjustments to this bodice (yah!) so it really is a wearable muslin (in my experience, some wearable muslins are wearable in name only).

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The fabric I used for this dress is some simple green quilting cotton that I bought in Hamilton many years ago with some fancy retro ladies printed on – it’s kind of fun, the cats eye glasses were the thing that appealed to me the most about this print.

As it turns out, I really do like this dress, and definitely have plans to make more dresses from this book that are a bit more detailed/complicated. I especially love the versions with collars and bows. The images below are all from Gertie’s old blog. 

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Well, that’s all for now, but I’m sure you’ll be seeing at least a few more Gertie dresses (and projects in general) here in the future (if I can keep up with blogging), but to finish off – here’s a picture of me with Alison – because she really doesn’t mind being held (also if there’s anything happening in the courtyard, she NEEDS to be part of it).

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Welcome to Alison

Last year, when we lost our sweet Mia suddenly to cancer, we were both heartbroken – and to be honest, I still miss her every day.

We did know, however, that we did want to get another kitty, it was a matter of when it felt right to adopt a new cat.

We put a lot of thought into this, and due to travel we had planned (including a trip to China that I must blog about) we decided that two weeks before Christmas would be the best time to adopt a new cat – I couldn’t think of a better Christmas present.

We knew that we would adopt our new cat from Wellington Cats Protection League , which is a wonderful organisation, it’s a no kill shelter that re-homes a lot of older cats (as well as younger cats).

It was really important to us to adopt an older cat, these cats often get overlooked for kittens or young cats which breaks my heart – if you’re looking to adopt, please consider an older cat, as they have a lot of love to give.

We went to Cats Protection League with four cats in mind (and it was really hard to get our list down to four) – however, we ended up with a cat that wasn’t on our list, but she clearly wanted to adopt us as her human – meet Alison.

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When we met Alison, we were actually looking at another cat Minnie – but Alison was in the same sun room area as Minnie, sitting on the window sill. As soon as I approached her, she snuggled up to me, and I was kind of smitten straight away.

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Alison’s background is quite different to Mia’s, while Mia had a bit of a difficult time before we adopted her, Alison had a very loving owner (who had been a Cats Protection League Volunteer) who passed away and her four cats all went to Cats Protection League for re-homing.

For some reason, Alison had been at the shelter for over a year when we adopted her. I can’t understand why – as she is a sweet girl, who is really snuggly and relaxed.

Most of my friends never met Mia, because she was so scared of people, where as Alison will take all the pats she can get, and if you sit down while she’s nearby she will sit on your lap and want all the pats.

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I suspect the reason Alison was left behind is due to her age (she’s 12 years old) and also possibly because she has a heart condition so she needs to take daily medication.

But her age and medical requirements don’t bother us at all – she’s a lovely girl and we are so happy she’s now part of our family.

Dunedin Adventures 2018

For my birthday this year (way back in July!) Rich and I headed to Dunedin for my birthday, which is one of my favourite cities in New Zealand (I can’t believe it’s been so long since I visited).

I thought I’d share a few of my favourite things in the city:

Tunnel Beach

For some reason, on our previous visits to Dunedin we had never been to Tunnel Beach and I was so glad we finally went to check it out this time. It’s a short (but steep) walk to Tunnel Beach, and to get to the actual beach you need to walk through a man made tunnel.

The tunnel was built in the 1870’s by John Cargill, so his family could have a private secluded beach.

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Street Art

I love street art and it’s everywhere in Dunedin central, there’s a map available at the information centre if you’d like to do a “street art walk” – otherwise, you can just find it on your own as you walk around the city centre.

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Vegan Food

I was worried that I may not be able to find much vegan food in Dunedin, but there was no reason to be worried as there was plenty of delicious vegan food available including the best vegan breakfast I ever had!

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Museum and Art Gallery

We visited the Otago Museum, which had an exhibition on the iconic New Zealand band The Chills, who are one of the bands famous for the Dunedin Sound. 

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We also visited the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, which is one of my favourite art galleries, its small but perfectly formed.

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Architecture 

There’s a lot of amazing architecture in Dunedin, there’s always so much to see around the city. The building with the mermaid and Neptune (?) was the hotel we stayed at, Wains Hotel.

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Go to pattern – Astoria

During my blogging hiatus, there is one pattern I made over and over again (and I’m probably going to continue to make over and over again) and that the Astoria sweater by Seamwork Patterns.

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It’s a really simple knit pattern and you can see approximately one million versions of this top if you search #seamworkastoria on instagram (actually, it wouldn’t surprise me if there was one million).

As a committed wearer of skirts and dresses I do love a good cropped sweater, so it’s perfect for me. I made my very first version from a black sweater knit that I inherited from a friend to take on our trip to Korea and Japan in November/December last year. It turned out to be the most worn garment of the whole trip. That said, I have literally no photos of me wearing it on that trip – so here’s a selfie of me wearing it at home.

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Also that patch does say “bad luck for sale” on it, but I mostly added it because it has a cat on it – because everything is better with cats.

The next version has a bit of colour blocking, because that’s always fun. I bought this spider knit fabric from fabric a brac the black fabric was given to me by a friend. I bought the spider fabric, even though there wasn’t a huge amount, because spiders. This version is made from much thinner knit fabric, but I really like it and it goes really well with my Erstwilder  vampire teeth necklace (because dressing like every day is Halloween is my thing).

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The next version is literally the warmest item of clothing in my wardrobe (well apart from, you know, jackets). I bought this sweater knit from fabric a brac with the intention of making a coatigan (something like the Jill) but when I got the fabric home and washed it I found it full of holes – bummer.

There was enough fabric left, once I cut strategically around the holey parts to make an another astoria. I’ve not been wearing this one so much as it’s spring and its starting to warm up (well in theory at least) but I will definitely be taking it with me to China in November.

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Finally, one of the reasons I love this pattern so much is it’s really easy to create a seasonal garment without too much work (in fact the most difficult thing is finding the right fabric).

Way back in March I had a St Patrick’s themed afternoon tea at my house with some friends, I asked everyone to dress in green (obviously) and I made this appropriately themed astoria top for the occasion.

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I bought this extremely Irish fabric from a fabric resale group on Facebook, the woman I bought it from said she’d been planning on making underwear with it – fabric this great deserves to be shared with the world, not hidden away as underwear.

I have actually made MORE astoria tops than what I’ve shared here – so perhaps I will make more of an effort to take photos of those and do another update in the future.

Until then….a fun photo of me with Jo and Joy  on St Patrick’s Day – because I love any opportunity to use my selfie stick (and props).

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