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Saturday, 29 June 2013

Paying it Forward

Aren't some people great? This article in the Northern Advocate  is about a woman who needed some clothes for her children, but finding everything so expensive on Trade Me, appealed for any unwanted clothes on her Facebook page. After getting all she needed, she then decided to give away all of her children's clothes that were too small... and this lead her to setting up a Facebook page that now has 4,000 members in Whangarei, and has also been established for other areas. Great idea!

A Fabulous Remedy
Even if this doesn't work I still like it. This old folk remedy has been recirculating in recent years. Together, gin (or the juniper in it) and golden raisins provide a double whammy of anti-inflammatory compounds - the list is a mile long.(NB golden raisins are known as sultanas outside of the USA). The raisins absorb the gin, which extracts the medicinal compounds from the raisins, making them more readily absorbed when you eat the alcohol-soaked fruit. Plus, the sulphur dioxide employed to keep the raisins golden also possesses anti-inflammatory properties.

Gin Soaked Golden Raisins
Place 1 cup of golden raisins in a glass bowl and pour in enough gin to just cover the raisins. Let the raisins sit for a week or so until they've absorbed all of the liquid, then eat 9 -10 raisins a day.

Possum Bait
I know I go on about possums, but they are the scourge of our garden. I decided to look on the internet for the best bait to attract them as they had been ignoring our Timms trap. I made up a dough ball with flour,water and eucalyptus oil and added it to the trap with 1/4 apple.
Looking out this morning I could see the trap had been triggered..but only a bit of fur to show for it. Watch this space.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Pesky pests

My garden is not looking good right now, thanks to pests. I thought rhubarb leaves were supposed to be poisonous...but obviously not to possums. Why would they turn down perfectly good fruit in a trap to eat rhubarb leaves?

While we were tidying up the garage so that we can fit the band in for practice night, we came across a pile of out of date cans of beer. (I know - but I don't drink beer). So I thought I would put it to good use as a slug trap. I recently saw that someone had made these nifty little traps by recycling plastic drink bottles, so I made my own versions.

They are good because the funnel shaped bit goes in the ground, so that not too much beer is needed in each one, and the base, cut off makes a wee rain hat, when propped up on sticks. 

I've had my doubts about the effectiveness of beer traps, so this morning went to check the tally. Three slugs in 6 traps, and the third was only there because I pushed him in. I think I might need to melt the edges of the funnel shapes, because although they were buried well, I think the slugs might find them a little sharp.

Yesterday Munta (dog) and I went prospecting at the beach for a few hours with the metal detector, as it was beautiful after a couple of miserable days. Apart from finding 7 coins and 4 sinkers, plus chatting to other beach goers, I picked a lovely bunch of flowers growing wild. Time well spent.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Good Lovin'

I just have to share something from my favourite magazine of all time -"Good" magazine - and that's really saying something from a magazine addict. (Although NZ Life and Leisure comes a close 2nd)

"Good"s content is focused on family values and care for the environment. My daughter buys me a subscription for Christmas each year. I feed the rest of my magazine addiction at the library, apart from my Life & Leisure sub which Derek gets me for my birthday. I love having the paper copies and refer back to them.
The latest "Good" has an article that just hit the spot with me "Savouring the Delights of Slow Midwinter" by Rebekah White.

"It's not just competence in a chosen discipline, but an empty mind that sparks creativity - allowing us space to connect ideas in new ways."Long periods of langour, indolence and staring at the ceiling are needed by any creative person in order to develop ideas" says Tom Hodgkinson in How to Be Idle.
(I knew it!) Also long periods of time oogling Pinterest.
Great Article
Good magazine

Our local newspaper had an article this week about a shed that burned down, it appears from a rag used with linseed oil that had been thrown in with a pile of other rags. Apparently they can spontaneously combust. I so didn't know that!

Tidying up my storage area in the studio. I am constantly frustrated by not being able to find things.

Use up the art supplies and paraphernalia for mixed media works I already have and stop buying more. (Similar to using up the stuff in your pantry)

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Small Town New Zealand

Sometimes when Derek is heading to a small town for a few hours work he will take me with him. Yesterday we went to Waipu, which has a strong Nova Scotian link, with ship loads of settlers having arrived there in the 1800s, my ancestors included.

Tartan pennants for Tartan Week

It's a great place for a junk fossick, with two charity shops, and a new Hospice shop opening there on Monday. There are also three antique/ collectables shops, although yesterday only one was open.

Waipu Antique shop

Probably just as well, as I came home with a load of stuff, some of which even Derek raised his eyebrows at. But I have visions for it all! I'm going to bravely post the before photos, but there will be a wait for the afters.

First rip out all the little nicnacs and just use the box frame for a hanging succulent garden.

The chairs were only $65 for four - can't go wrong there, and we needed a few more for when the studio becomes a B'n'B. We haven't decided yet whether we will paint them different colours.

The people are so friendly - it was a delight to potter about. Plus the cafe in the centre of Waipu had the most delicious food and great coffee.

Mail Art
If you have a parcel to send off, or even just want to brighten someone's day (and the postal staff's), then go all out with a little mail art.
We had a few things to send to a family member (that's not the real address on the parcel) so thought we'd add a little something. This is just a mild version of what I sometimes do, due to time constraints, but I will post more pics of others as I do them. If you want some good ideas, Google mail art images.


Sunday, 23 June 2013

Some clever ideas

"In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different"
Coco  Chanel

On my journey to reduce consumption I have been testing out a few remedies I found for making things last longer and life easier. Here are a few that work...

For Scratched CDs
Rub along the scratch gently with a bit of non abrasive toothpaste, even childrens' toothpaste. Then rinse off with water and dry from centre to outer edge (not in a circle) with a very soft cloth. like an old t-shirt. One site suggested car polish, but toothpaste works well.

Improved Strawberry Fruiting
This tip came from a friend who grows strawberries commercially ... put your strawberry plants in the fridge for 2-3 weeks to help them fruit. This might not help in colder climates, but here in the subtropical North it's a good tip, as apparently strawberries need a frost to set the fruit, and we don't always get that here. Wish I knew this one before I planted my strawbs.

To Make Oven Cleaning Easier
I don't know why I wasn't doing this because it's so easy, and I've only just started. Maybe everyone else was already doing it. While your oven is still hot after cooking something place a pan of water in it and leave it overnight. Next day the oven just wipes clean really easily, although you may need to apply your white vinegar and baking soda to really hard to shift stuff.

Handwashing Dishes
Add a little baking soda with your washing up soap liquid if you have hard water and you will get a little foam. A little white vinegar helps in there too if you are doing a greasy load. This helps if you are using environmentally friendly detergents or Castile soap, which are low sudsing anyway.

Revive Wilted Vegetables
..from our local newspaper's frugal tips page...When vegetables become wilted (carrots, broccoli, lettuce, beets, celery etc) trim the stem end slightly and soak the limp vegetables in warm water for an hour or more. You will find the vegetables become firm and fresh and ready for use.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

It doesn't need to be perfect

A good thing about livin' slow is that not everyone is doing it, which makes it easy to buy things like pasta machines on Trade Me. I just bought one that had been tried once only.

New to me Avanti pasta maker

Yesterday I decided to try it out, and discovered why the previous owner probably gave up after one attempt.
Like anything, it takes practise to make good looking pasta. I cooked the better looking fettuccine without taking a pic; they improved in looks the more I made, and my speed increased with practise too.

Imperfect first attempt! Still tastes good.

The upside - it will just improve, and it really tasted good. Cost-wise, I think it would work out to be a reasonable cost saver, plus no plastic packaging.


I love living in subtropical Northland. While the other end of the country is experiencing snow, we were at the beach today, walking the dog and fossicking with the metal detector. We only found a few bits of old wire today, but we seem to meet lots of curious people. One woman today was keen to know whether I had hired my metal detector as she had lost a ring in a barn last week, and despite sifting through sawdust had been unable to find it. She only lives 25 minutes away, so I took her number and will pop over there next weekend.  

Another great thing about our climate is being able to grow subtropical fruit. Today we planted 2 more Tahitian lime trees, a tropical guava and another feijoa tree. We have a bit of traffic past here in summer, heading to the beach  and if we can grow a surplus I think gate sales would be a bonus.

Weekend Baking

I am always looking for recipes for something to go with a cup of coffee that is not too sweet, and has decent nutritional value, and yesterday I made this cake...


1 cup of dates
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup of maple syrup (but I use 1 tablespoon of golden syrup instead)
1/2 tsp of baking soda
2 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp lite olive oil ( I use rice bran oil)
2 eggs
3 Apples, peeled and finely chopped
1 1/2 cups of self raising flour
pinch of salt

Heat oven to 180C. Prepare a ring tin or loaf tin by lining it with baking paper.
Heat dates,water and syrup in a pan, then take off the heat and add the baking soda.
Mash lightly.
Cool 10 minutes then add vanilla, eggs & oil. Mix.
Add apples, then flour and salt.
Place in prepared pan, bake 50 minutes.

lumberjack cake - quite moist, lovely warm with coffee with a cake fork.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

What's my hourly rate?

Officially I no longer have an hourly rate, having cheerfully removed myself from the workforce. But I like to have a mental tally, so that I can reinforce that what I do each day has some value. 
So if you are an at home mother, that value is what you would be paying to have your child looked after, plus a cleaner, plus maybe the price of prepared food, that you now make at home, and so on. For me, it can reinforce that it pays for me to stay home, especially as I love it.
So today I would have been worth at least $90, because I made us some cushion covers that would have been at least $30 each on the handmade site online. I say would, because my 40 year old sewing machine started smoking after the second one, so I had to stop before I set it on fire.
So here they are.
Made from an upcycled Hawaiin shirt.

Shirt waiting to be upcycled

The cuts
The next one was made from an old blanket - great as a winter cushion, and perfect colours for our house. He'll have to wait until the sewing machine is fixed for his twin.

I have found this useful....
by Erica Jong

  1. Renounce useless guilt
  2. Don't make a cult of suffering
  3. Live in the now (or at least in the soon)
  4. Always do the things you fear the most, courage is an acquired taste, like caviar
  5. Trust all joy
  6. If the evil eye fixes you in it's gaze, look elsewhere

Tight shoes?

Don't you love the internet? I've had a pair of shoes sitting in my wardrobe that were just too tight to wear, and I was considering getting rid of them. Then I thought - I'll search to see if there's a way to stretch them, and sure!
The first method I tried was to place ziplock bags of water in them and  put them in the freezer overnight.

Next day, remove the ice bag and wear the shoes around with thickish socks. Better but still a bit tight, so I tried trick number 2, which is heat them with a hairdryer and flex feet in them. Sure enough, now they fit pretty good.

I've been busy making bits and pieces, getting ready for the pre-Christmas markets, here's a little view of some of my driftwood artworks.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Happy worms

Mother's day, a year ago my daughter gave me worms.
Fortunately they were the kind that do great things in the garden, and I put them to work in a new home made from the bowl of an old washing machine with a lid made from a huge pot plant saucer. I felt though that I wasn't reaping the full benefit of their lifestyle, by not harvesting the vermiliquid.
So yesterday I rehoused 50% of the colony into a huge old terracotta pot which sits in the carport now.

I covered the drainage hole with some mesh, so I can collect vermiliquid now. Then I added shredded newspaper and old potting mix, which I dampened. I put in a little food, even though you are not supposed to feed them when just moved until they settle, I wanted them to be happy.

Then I added some compost from my old worm farm, with resident worms, and a topping of damp newspaper for them to hide under. And a lid.

I read a magazine article recently, written by Ben Elms, which gives some ideas for using vermicast (worm poo). Here they are..
  • Use it instead of compost in a homemade seed-raising or potting mix. Use 1 part vermicast to 1 part sand to 1 part coir.
  • Pep up your old seed-raising mix by adding 1 part vermicast to 1 part seed-raising mix and use again.
  • A generous handful of vermicast planted with every clove of garlic will give you great results.
  • When sowing carrot seed, in an icecream container mix 4 handfuls of vermicast with 4 handfuls of sand. Mix thoroughly with a packet of carrot seed. Sow the mix thinly in shallow furrows.
  • Topdress all those indoor plants to keep them fresh and healthy.
If you want more vermiliquid, put 1 part vermicompost to 4 parts water into a bucket for a few days. Stir when you remember. Then use immediately. 

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Whizzy apple peeler and possums

We had a visitor for the weekend and he came bearing gifts. The first gift wrapped box contained Granny Smith apples. The second was then not at all what I was expecting it to be, and turned out to be this peeler. 

We had to try it out, and it can peel, core and slice an apple in about 5 seconds - awesome.
 I made some baked apples for dinner, which I just threw in the oven as the casserole was finishing off at about 150c for approx 40 mins. They turned out scrummy, and this is what I did


For 4 baked apples I used
 approx 3/4 cup of my homemade muesli
 1 tsp of honey
 1/2 tsp of cinnamon

Mix these ingredients together and spoon into the cavity of peeled, cored apple.

 If you get one of these fancy peelers you get a spiral cut apple.

Pour over enough apple juice to cover the bottom of the oven proof dish they are in. Place a dob of butter on the top of each one and pop in the oven to bake, as above.

We all decided that none of us really like the skin when getting a standard baked apple, so thought this was nicer. This works well for apples that keep their shape when cooked.

Agggh - possums again.

Look what they do to our garden!

 Over Summer we caught about 12 of them, but have had the trap set for the past few days since they have been visiting again, but caught nothing. I've resorted to covering things with netting, but they just move to something else. I notice last night they ate the leaves off the strawberry plants. If only we could ship them all back to Australia where they came from. They are a protected species there for goodness sake.
And my driftwood Scare Possum is not doing a very good job I'm afraid.

Friday, 14 June 2013

A bit of upcycling

I was looking around to find something to add a little interest to a corner, and came up with this old wash jug that was sitting in the garage, and some lovely bare winter branches off the plane tree down the drive.

These driftwood lamps were odd lamps that we had around, sorry no before photos. I have fixed the driftwood on with (Uncle Bill's) copper wire and screws. The Uncle Bill reference is a joke in our family as he used to fix everything with copper wire, as he had managed to acquire rolls of the stuff, I'm not sure how. It was a long time ago and he had an eye for a bargain. I'm privileged to still have a roll.

The last upcycled item is not pretty. I needed a potting bench, and we had an old barbecue that no longer cooked like it should and we have one that does. works better now as a potting bench. Those are miniature sweet peas you can see potted up there - especially for pots as apparently they don't need staking up. Grown from seed. We'll see. 

Thursday, 13 June 2013

A Test for Oil and Vinegar

The oil and vinegar test is not about salad dressing - although if it hadn't worked that's what it could have become.
I have borrowed a book called "Vinegar 100's of Household Uses" by Maria Constantino & Gina Steer. Sometimes when I see these old remedies I think - yeah, but how well do they work. So I decided to give this the photo test, on an old coffee table top that is marked with cup rings. 



The tip was to use half and half of white vinegar and olive oil mixed together, wiped on, with the grain, as opposed to scrubbing in circles. To start with I thought it wasn't going to work, but after coming back to it after an hour it looked, not perfect but a lot better...see photos.


I have had this written in my journal for quite some time, and unfortunately didn't write the source, so if anyone reading it recognizes it, please let me know so that i can attribute it appropriately.

1. Do something for someone else

2. Do something for myself

3. Do something I don't want to do that needs doing

4. Do a physical exercise

5. Do a mental exercise

6. Do an original prayer that always includes counting my blessings.
    (In my own interpretation it is think of something I am grateful for daily)

Wednesday, 12 June 2013


Once you have tried home made marmalade it is hard to go back to the bought stuff. At this time of the year the local grapefruit don't seem to be quite ready . We have just planted a grapefruit tree, but until it is old enough we depend on scrounging some off friends, or visiting an old tree on the verge of a public carpark in town.
Failing that I have started making marmalade with any citrus I have around. Yesterday's version was made using 2 lemons and a mandarin, and it turned out great. 


1 grapefruit                               4 cups of water

1 lemon                                    4 cups of sugar

Grate the skins then thinly slice the fruit removing the pips.
Boil with the water for 20 minutes.
Add the sugar and boil for a further 30 minutes at a rolling boil.
Bottle into sterilized jars when a blob on a saucer passes the wrinkle test.

This makes 2 and a bit jars. I keep mine in the fridge until ready to use as I don't seal them.


I've noticed my root ginger has grown a couple of shoots since it has been sitting in my fruit bowl so I am going to try growing it. I've just done a little research and it seems easy enough. I'm going to start it in a pot, then in spring transfer it outside to a warm spot but not in full sun, with good fertile soil. It is apparently best not to harvest it for 2 years to let it get going.

Meanwhile it seems that peeled ginger root can be stored in brandy to have it available for use anytime. I'm off to do this too, as I'm not going to plant the whole ginger, just a couple of knobs of it.


Maybe everyone knows how to do this, but I'll put it in anyway. It's another of Mother's little gems. How to fold sheets of newspaper into secure little bags for when you want to send a plant off with a visitor.

fold the top of a double sheet of newspaper over by 1/3
turn it over and fold from the side 1/3 of width
fold the other edge into the centre, tucking it under the top flap
fold the bottom up to tuck under the top flap out into a bag and fill.


Monday, 10 June 2013

Muesli and more

Probably everyone makes their own muesli, but recently I noticed this recipe on a Harraways packet and it's really good.


4oog rolled oats
100g mixed nuts
40g coconut
75g mixed seeds
150mls water
100mls oil (I use rice bran oil)
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large shallow roasting pan. Mix wet ingredients together and pour over the dry ingredients. Bake at 190C for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until crisp and golden. Add dried fruit as desired. 
Leave to cool and store in an airtight container.

Yesterday was a busy day in the garden. I planted my garlic, moved all the strawberry runners to make a new strawberry bed, plus have another bucketful to give away. I also divided up the rhubarb.

The rhubarb is what I think is a heritage plant, with the original having come from my parents place, and they had it as long as I can remember. It moves house everywhere I have been, and has been successfully given to friends and family.
When I saw a company was advertising for rhubarb crowns, that if they chose to use them would pay $1000.00, I knew that was an opportunity too good to miss, so have packaged one up ready to send today.
In the process I discovered that cat biscuit bags turned inside out make awesome courier-type bags. They are plastic coated and plain brown - perfect. 

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Paradise on a Sunday

Yesterday we took the day off to play. We wanted to visit the exhibition in the gallery in Kohukohu featuring the old truck which had long been a landmark there. We love Kohukohu with it's historic wooden buildings and character. The people of the Hokianga region live slow as a way of life.
On the way there we stopped in at this old church, a typical example of many around the North.

looking through a window

Rawene, where the car ferry leaves from to Kohukohu is also full of characters. We bought a banana palm from an old Maori lady who was selling them from her backyard, along with home grown veges. I'd much rather support a home grower in a small place than a big garden centre. It's like buying a souvenir, but not something tacky.

A little second hand shop was open on the waterfront. The proprietor had been out on her shop's back verandah that morning and hauled in a couple of great Kahawhai. Now that's the way to live.

New Zealand is a land of rainbows - we see them almost every day at this time of the year as it is often showery with the sun shining.

from the Boatshed Cafe in Rawene

We tried with the metal detector while we were there, hoping to find some old treasure, but there was so much old metal around it wasn't really successful, with only one coin found. It made interesting watching for two local girls though. 
On the way home we stopped for a spa in the natural mineral pools at Ngawha, which warmed us through for the whole trip home. It was only $4 each, and the place is open 7 days 9am to 9pm. I loved how the locals took their children there, tucking them all into their pyjamas when they got out.