Follow by Email

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Permission to Play

Hooray! I finally finished my tax books and got them to the accountant. Now that my most despised chore is done, I gave myself permission to play.

In my last post I talked about what people were artfully doing with beach plastic. Well here are a few pieces that I made - totally without any idea of what I plan to do with them. I have put brooch backs on a couple, but well, got that out of my system.

My beach plastic creations

Some time back I joined a Make Do and Mend Facebook page. Someone on there was mending tea towels. Now most of us would just say - they're not expensive, just go buy some new ones, but I liked the quirkiness of the mend. Plus who else can admit to still using them even when they have a hole in them. So this one might come under "Lady you look like you have too much time on your hands", but I like it. 

Mending teatowels

Talking about play - a few weeks back I bought this little beauty off TradeMe (our Ebay).

 Never having owned an overlocker before, I was a little scared of it. I asked for a lesson on how to thread it from the nice Chinese man (a sewing machine fixer-upper) that I bought it off. Given that he didn't speak any English, it was very kind of him. Now I have the hang of it and am using it to make those net bags for the market (two posts ago), which I can knock out in 10 minutes from cutting to threaded drawstring.
It has been great learning this new skill from the internet and a fabulous book on serging from the library. I can now use that new knowledge helping others at SewGood, our community sewing group.

Sometimes my days are so busy that I fantasize about taking a day off! And I'm retired !! (apart from playing in the band and running my rentals) Anyone else feel like that?

Thursday, 4 August 2016

"Strands" and Beach Plastic

Once or twice a week, the dog and I head off to the beach - great exercise for both, plus I pick up any plastic I find. 
I'm looking at some of that beach plastic with new eyes after seeing some artistic uses for it lately. 
These pieces of jewelery using beach plastic are by Sophie Carnell                                 

The next photograph is from an exhibition of works by Stuart Haygarth called "Strand", from items picked up on a 500 mile coastal walk in England, after he was asked to make something for a permanent exhibition at the Macmillan Cancer Centre. 
Colour coordinated and photographed by Stuart Haygarth

There's more on this artist/photographer's work at Zero Waste London's blogspot and More here from where you can see his spectacular hanging installation, the jewel of his works.

I'm a beachcomber at heart, so when I saw that this book was in the library I put in a speedy request.

The author writes about a year's worth of beach wandering in England, with observations on all sorts of interesting finds, and then delving into some of them for a chapter. The chapters ranged in subject from archeological finds and beach plastic to how tobacco waste had been dumped there many years ago, and it's implications on the environment and more. 

One of my own discoveries was some little skeletons, thin as the finest egg shell, that I had picked up called a Heart Urchin, or Spatangoida. They are unbelievably fragile, so must just bounce around in the waves like a bubble. 

Heart urchin shell

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Going Plastic Bag Free - Not So Easy

'Growing your own food is like printing your own money'
                                                                              Ron Finley

Welcome! If you have been following my blog recently you will know that one of my little projects is to have our local Growers Market go plastic bag free. 
This is not as easy as you might think, and our little group is still fronting up every Saturday morning and giving out reusable bags (for a donation). We haven't been able to sew enough (we have been giving out up to seventy each week), so have resorted to buying the reusable ones from various businesses and supermarkets.
We are making progress, but it is slow. The reaction from the public is greatly supportive.
For plastic free July we gave it an extra push - giving away some of the product bags that I have been making, along with a sheet of recipes for making your own personal care items and some food items to reduce packaging waste. We gave them to people as they left the market as a reward if they had no carry bags, after advertising this as they walked in. Some people declined the reward - which I totally understand.

The produce bag. I had to add an avocado to give perspective on that giant broccoli

 As well, we have been giving out soap kindly donated by Ecostore. 
Next month we will have vouchers from Palmers Garden Centre Whangarei for free coffees.

I am delighted with the support that we've had from the local community and businesses. Several curtain shops have given us fabulous off cuts to make our bags. Countdown Regent Supermarket have donated 70 bags, plus they and The Warehouse have been giving us bags at cost price.

Does anyone have a local market that is plastic bag free? If so what do the plant growers use to put their plants in if it's not a plastic bag? How do the fruit and veg sellers operate - do they weigh your produce as you choose it, or do they have containers already weighed out ready to put into your own bags?

Monday, 11 July 2016


Derek has taken some photos for me of Pahi, a little settlement on a peninsula in the Kaipara Harbour. It is about  1 1/2 - 2 hours north of Auckland.
In mid-winter it's fairly quiet there, but in season you can buy oysters and flounder, stay in the camping ground on the water's edge, maybe run your motorized bath tub in the Pahi Regatta (clip here) or of course, go fishing.

Looking over to Whakapirau from Pahi
Pahi On the Kaipara Harbour New Zealand

Pahi Community Hall

Pahi sports a magnificent Moreton Bay Fig tree - approximately 150 years old, listed on the NZ Tree Register.

150 year old Moreton Bay Fig Tree - Pahi

And this photo - with washing blowing dry on the clothesline - mid winter....

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Oh Darn, Seaweed in the Kitchen

I've posted before about darning socks here and mending things, but I haven't mentioned that it is actually therapeutic (for me anyway). There is something positive about making something broken whole and usable again. 
Sitting by the fire this week, I wanted to mend socks, but my darning egg, which was my great grandmother's, was over in the studio - a short walk in the rain. 

Pokerworked by my mother on the inside it reads "Belonged to Sarah Bell 1848 - 1942 

Instead I reached for this emu egg which did the job perfectly. Some people use a lightbulb, but even a bottle will work, as a darning egg.

This week in the post I received a parcel, which had newspaper packing. In it was an article about foraging for, and using seaweed for cooking.
It so happened that our beach was awash with seaweed this weekend so I chose a piece that had no dog footprints around it and gave it a good wash in the tide. Apparently all seaweed in New Zealand is edible and can be used fresh or dried. It is packed with vitamins and minerals, specifically sodium balanced with magnesium.
The seaweed can be used fresh thinly sliced or ground to a powder after drying in soups, stews or stirfry. Or dried pieces can be soaked and added to meals.
I ate a piece raw, and it was ok, but a little tough. Derek wasn't impressed with his piece, so I'm thinking it might need to be powdered here.

I've hung my bunch in the covered outdoor area, which gets breeze and sunshine. An interesting experiment. 
Another two huge bags full have gone around our fruit trees.

Monday, 20 June 2016

The Power of One Person and Growing Fruit Trees From Seed

New World Regent Supermarket - I can take mesh bags for produce here.
My local supermarket has been in the newspapers lately. It's all on account of a comment made by a customer to the supermarket owner - whom the customer recognized at the checkout one day. 
This New World supermarket had attempted to go plastic bag free some time back, by encouraging people to bring their own shopping bags and charging for plastic bags. It failed after one week - they returned to supplying bags as customers threatened to change supermarkets.
The comment that changed things, was the suggestion to reward customers who brought their own bags instead. Now the supermarket gives a click on a card towards a free coffee with every $20 spent to customers who have their own bags. Since they started this (about 3 months ago) they have purchased 10,000 less bags to use - and it is really noticeable now at the checkouts how many more people bring their own bags.  
Doesn't that just show how much change one person can bring about.

A  Revelation

After buying a few tamarillo trees and having them die before fruiting (they are a bit fragile and prone to doing that). I proudly told my sister in Australia that we were at last picking tamarillos. Her response was that they have picked about 180 of them and were giving them away everywhere. Tamarillos were $12/ kilo in the supermarket today, so that would have been welcomed I'm sure. The trees sell for about $15 each here, but my brother-in-law had grown his from a single fruit. Duh - why was I buying trees???
So now I have about 100 seedling trees to plant and give away. I'm going to grow a forest of them. All I did was spread the seeds from the fruit onto a paper towel to dry, then planted them all. Next stop - kiwifruit from seed.
Tamarillos are great to eat raw or in baking, but also make terrific jams and chutneys and can be used in savoury dishes as you would a tomato. 
I wouldn't try growing all fruit trees from seed, as some take ages and benefit from good root stock, but tamarillos grow quickly and are fairly short lived.

tamarillo fruit

Friday, 10 June 2016

Sugaring and Kumara Toast

Do Something New Every Week

I have just finished reading "52 New Things" in which author Nick J Thorpe sets out to try one new thing for every week of the year. I love this idea, as I'm always excited by trying or finding something new, but I kind of skim read the book. A lot of what was interesting to Nick Thorpe, I found to be not my thing (buy a motorbike, break a world record, go microlighting) or something I'd already done (get something waxed, grow your own food, volunteer, turn off reality tv).
My new things don't need to be done to a schedule, but here are two that I tried in the last week.

Kumara (Sweet Potato) Toast 

Scrub your kumara and slice it into toast-thickness slices. Put them in the toaster and cook (mine took three times down in our puny toaster)
They are then ready to be topped with whatever you fancy - pesto and camembert... sour cream and chives...avocado slices (avos currently selling for $5.99 each here!) and smoked salmon.
Who would have thought??

Kumara toasts with pesto and camembert

Sugaring wax

This is one of those things that I wondered why I have never done this before.
It is hair removal that is totally plastic-free (If you buy your sugar in bulk and grow your own lemons). 
It's way cheaper than going to a salon to have it done, or buying wax or razors, if that's what you do.
It's less painful than waxing. The sugar "wax" just washes out in water
The main difficulty is getting the sugar "toffee" to exactly the right stage, but even if you make an error, it can still be saved, and spread on and lifted off with cotton strips like wax. 
I found it worked better than wax too.

So here's how you do it...

1 cup of white sugar
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
2 tablespoons of water

Put all in a large stainless steel saucepan. Cook on medium-low, stirring frequently.
Take it off the heat when the solution turns honey coloured (approx 7 minutes from starting to bubble).
Test a spoonful in cold water - it needs to hold it's shape and be pliable.
Transfer the paste to an airtight glass container that has been warmed (so it doesn't break).
Let it cool to room temperature before using.
If it turns solid try adding a tablespoon of water and heating 10-20 seconds in the microwave.
         Sugaring "wax"        spread it on against the hair direction

Take a blob and roll it into a ball. Drag it over the (clean, dry) skin going against the direction of the hair (this is the opposite of waxing).
Hold the skin tight and flick the paste off in the direction of the hair growth.
You just reuse the same blob until you've finished, then it can be composted.
If it is too runny, you can either cook it some more, or use it like hot wax, spread it on and take it off with cotton strips.
Just don't burn yourself - be careful.
It's better to under cook it than to overcook, so watch it carefully.
I've stored mine in the fridge in case it attracts ants, and just give it 10 seconds in the microwave to make it soft enough to get some out.