Tarlee babeee…


Stardate Year 2021 day 4572….no wait, what? We made it to February? Yeow, whoop whoop , kiss me a kitten! Holidays done & dusted here, back at work, although thanks to Auckland Anniversary day and Waitangi day we have two long weekends on the trot, perfect. As you can see I need to spend at least one of those days in the jungle of my garden… 

So what has been occurring at Plum Towers? Well for starters please do admire my fancy new tee. This is the new Muna & Broad Tarlee tee.


Now, you might ask myself does the world need another tee pattern? Such a simple garment yes? Um no. From the perfect neckline (my sister & I have bored for England on this very topic, as only siblings can, she is V neck or die, I’m more flexible) to the perfect sleeve. I love an elbow length, which can be surprising hard to find in RTW. Fit is another can of worms altogether. I want a snug fit around my shoulders & bust, so it doesn’t look sloppy. I want a less snug fit around my waist & hips…



I love this pattern. I know not what drafting wizardry was involved, but I have a great fit through my shoulders & bust, with just the right “loose but not sloppy” fit through my lower torso. The curved hem is a cute finish, elevating this from a basic tee. I made the Size C, grading out to Size D at the waist & hips.

The pattern comes with notches for applying the neckline finish. This seems a much more sensible application than the quartering method, works much better for me anyway. Sadly my twin needle & I had a parting of ways, so the neckline isn’t finished perfectly…I need to get another needle, but I think I can zigzag this one to finish . My photographer was getting rather impatient so perfectly imperfect it is.

There is an option of a turtleneck , in various sizes, which when it cools down here, I shall definitely be making. Actually when I was growing up a turtleneck was called a skivvy, “it’s cold , put your skivvy on under your jumper”! Unlike the pattern, a turtleneck then came in one size only , tight! Many a neck was slightly strangled in the name of warmth (given the terrible heating most homes had it was probably a good thing!) 


I was gifted some beautiful merino from A & R Fabrics , the colour is Whiskey , appropriate for a Douglas. The softness (& lack of scratch) combined with a good “drape but not cling” are great for this tee. I thought the Whiskey would match perfectly with the mustard dots on my Willandra pants. If I’m standing around in the garden grinning inanely at the fence I want to be colour coordinated ok. Actually this is a perfect weekend outfit, comfy but smart enough for a casual lunch or BBQ (elastic waist for the win too) 

So other than tee shirt fun, what’s been going on?



My tomato plants have gone into high gear, as have the passionfruit. The limes are not far off either . I have “fond” memories of mid summer when I was a kid. I grew up in the burbs , Dad was a nurse & Mum looked after five of us & did a bit of cleaning work. As you can imagine money was tight, but we had the classic Kiwi Quarter acre section, and both my parents grew up knowing how to stretch a buck. Despite Mums best efforts to cover the whole section in flowers, Dad did carve out a vege garden, and we had prolific fruit trees. Which meant acres of Beef Steak tomatoes & Golden Queen peaches in summer. If there is a more thankless task than canning peaches or making tomato sauce in Auckland in January even now, I know not what it is, but back then?? Humidity in the high 90’s, no air con & ingrate children who wanted Watties like everyone else, I’m surprised Mum didn’t lose it completely. I do remember some frayed nerves…


I took the easy route & roasted my tomatoes with basil, oregano & thyme from the garden, a good splash of Olive oil, a few cloves of garlic & plenty of salt & pepper. 180C for about an hour


Push the whole lot through a mouli (or a sieve) & you have the most delicious roasted tomato passata, I popped mine in the freezer in small pottles, perfect for pizza sauce, pasta, and tomorrow nights patatas bravas, using potato’s I didn’t realize had actually survived the Auckland hose pipe ban! 


I hope January has been kind, or at least not too crappy My nephew and his lovely girlfriend in the UK contracted Covid over Xmas but have thankfully recovered. We are enjoying enormous freedom here in NZ, but I’m very aware we don’t have real freedom until everyone can be vaccinated & we can rid ourselves of this horrible disease.
So I’ll leave you with this. It was a joy to see President Biden and Vice President Harris enter the White House, but oh golly we were excited to see Major Biden , the first rescue dog to live at the White House! Here is his Indoguration, it’s all lovely, but especially at 15 mins in, Josh Grobin singing a lovely wee song. The best breed? Rescue every day (Tommy & Tuppence insist!)

We made it to February, have a fab week friends

Kristina xxx 

I’m all about the cake, ’bout the cake…


So no sewing for me this weekend, I stepped away from the Janome and up to the Kitchen Aid for a special birthday! My Father’s sister Aunty Eileen reached the magnificent milestone (oh how Dad would have enjoyed the party), and provided a marvelous excuse for the extended family to get together without the stress of a wedding or the sadness of a funeral, huzzah!.

I dont know about you but this is the first 90th birthday party I’ve been to, and not only was I in charge of the cake, the party was in our front garden. So naturally I’m throwing soil and petunias into hanging baskets like a crazy gal on Sunday morning trying to make everything look pretty. My back still hurts, apparently some people find gardening quite relaxing…..??? Give me a wooden spoon/sewing machine/glass of wine any day thanks.

Given what is happening in the world today , any excuse for something to make the day a bit brighter is a good thing. I thought I’d share my (ok and Martha Stewart’s) go to chocolate cake recipe, perfect for birthdays, high days, very especially low days…..anytime you need a delicious moist cake that is super easy to make (one bowl people!!!) and can be decorated as simply or not as desired.

One Bowl Chocolate Cake (adapted from Martha Stewart)

Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C

375 gr/ 2 1/2 cups plain flour

1 cup dark rich cocoa powder

450 gr/2 cups sugar (I keep a vanilla bean in my sugar jar)

2 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/4 tsp baking powder

1 1/4 tsp salt

3 large eggs

1 1/4 cups whole milk

1/2 cup vege oil (I use canola)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups warm water

Now its very complicated. Put everything in the bowl of your mixer (or a large mixing bowl if you are doing it by hand) and using the paddle attachment, beat together for approx 2 minutes until it is well mixed. If you are using a wooden spoon give it an extra minute or two. Yes, that really is it.

Pour into two 8 inch cake pans, well greased & lined with balking paper and bake for approx 20-25 minutes until a sharp knife poked into the middle comes out clean.

Cool, and either sandwich with buttercream or fill with whipped cream and berries (raspberries for the win!) and glaze with a simple icing made with icing (powdered) sugar, cocoa, a small knob of butter for shine & warm water until it is pouring consistency.

I filled my cake with raspberry buttercream, and covered with vanilla fondant and pink fondant flowers, simple, but very pretty. The birthday girl liked it anyway.

What we need right now, cake and kindness ………..and chocolate obviously.

Kristina xxx