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Sunday, 28 July 2013

Book Fair finds

There are only a couple of things that will get me up before dawn these days, one is overseas travel, the other is the Zonta Book Fair.

It is a win/win situation, with the money from book sales going to several local worthy causes. The books were only $2-$3 each anyway.
I am about to embark on a little soapmaking, which I haven't done for years, so was delighted to find a soapmaking book, plus another book I picked up because it was old and I liked the paper - the one on London- to find it is 99 years old.  Guess I wont be chopping that one up for an altered book or art project. There's also a 1960 cookbook which didn't make the photo, which I bought to chop up for my artworks and cards. I liked the one "Dear Me - letters to my 16 year old self" by various different celebrities. Last night when I was having trouble getting back to sleep I composed what I would write to my 16 year old self. (See below)

Letter to my 16 year old self
Dear Anne,
Firstly, don't worry about being plump - believe me, you are fine, and are the slimmest you will ever be, not that you get much bigger, just the normal ageing stuff. You are going to have some very trying times in your life, but don't worry, you are strong and will cope, and they will make you who you are. You will have a beautiful daughter of whom you will be very proud. I strongly advise you to keep playing music - learning the saxophone in the next little while would be good - and keep it up, it will come in useful.
You will have everything you dream will be sweet.

Organizing my pantry
I was going to put in a before and after photo - but I can't yet, it's not good enough, it's a work in progress.
I wanted extra storage bins as things were falling on my head, but I refuse to buy new plastic stuff. So my pantry will not be all matchy/matchy - but it will be earth friendly. I wanted clear fridge bins, but couldn't find many - but these are what I came up with, and they only cost me $7 all up.

They are already making the pantry easier to use, as I can pull out all the cereals at once, or all the flours, etc.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Tin Can Lanterns and more

Busy Person's Bread
I have Mentioned Annabel Langbein's Busy people's Bread before. It is a fabulous recipe that doesn't need mucking around to let it rise, it's just mix and pop it in the oven, and it works every time.

You can link to the recipe here
 I made some this morning. I need to get into the habit of making it regularly, as Vogel's is not what it used to be, and then there are all those plastic bread bags. I now understand why "back then" housewives had regular days for washing, baking etc. It means you have a system so that you can fit it all in. Hmmm might try that.

Date Loaf
While the oven was hot I made this using a recipe that I have used for 30 years, but with 1/4 of the sugar of the original, and replaced half the white flour with wholemeal.
2 cups of dates               2 cups of boiling water
1/2 cup of sugar             2 dessertspoons of butter
Mix these together and leave to cool.
2 tsp baking soda            2 cups white flour
2 tsp baking powder         2 cups wholemeal flour
nuts or spices as desired
Stir well
Bake in a loaf tin for 1 hour at approx 180 c.

Tin Can Lanterns
I have been saving up all our cans for ages after seeing these on Pinterest. I thought they might go well at my pre-Christmas market stall.
I'm pleased with how they have turned out generally, and will just tweak one or two things on the production line.

The secret to making them is to put a little water in the bottom and freeze them, then fill them to the top and freeze again so that you can hammer the holes in without flattening the cans. The first bit of water is so that the bottoms don't bulge.

Kiwi Soundtrack

If you are not sure what a kiwi call sounds like then this is a site where you hear it, and also other night birds that can be confused with the kiwi's call. We think we might have heard some around here so this is great.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Saving the Good - Losing the Bad

The Good
We have some awesome magazines here in New Zealand. Being a magazine addict (under control) I always look at magazines when I am in a different country, and remain impressed by what we have here.
I caved and bought "Green Ideas" magazine last week, and have to say I have markers hanging out of it on interesting pages.

I'm going to suggest that our library might like to stock this magazine as it would fit well there (and that's one less that I will be tempted to buy).
In the article Wetland Wonders I read about the Australasian Bittern, which is a bird that makes a sound like when you blow into the top of a bottle, a booming noise.

We have some here, and I was delighted to spot one some months back when I was out on a bike ride past the mangroves. They stand still with their head in the air, pretending they are reeds, which is ok, but my partner Derek has seen one do this in the middle of the road. Anyway, turns out they are endangered, with only approximately 1,000 left in New Zealand. I'd say we are fairly lucky to have seen them here.Bittern info link here

The Bad
Look at this lovely plant

...we nabbed a piece from a bank in a residential area thinking it would be good for our subtropical themed planting. Turns out it is a noxious weed - Palmgrass. So today..out it goes. I will have to kill it by sealing it in a black rubbish bag and leaving it to cook somewhere- like on the shed roof.

Mail Art
I've sent this wooden postcard I made to Annabel Langbein's people, in thanks for her latest cookbook "Simple Pleasures" which they sent me after I asked permission to use her icecream recipe on my blog.

The latest cookbook is as beautiful as her last one, and I can't wait to try the recipes. I love how she emphasizes homegrown or local ingredients, and simplicity.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Gift Wrap Pledge

About 3 years ago I decided that for the next year I wouldn't buy any more giftwrap. You could say.. a little pledge to myself. Well I discovered that I could manage perfectly well without buying giftwrap, so have continued this plan forever. The thing is... I just love beautifully wrapped gifts, so no tatty recycled paper for me. Although I do reuse wrapping papers that arrive at my place, they have to be worked in to look arty or creative and beautiful.
I will post some of my wraps as I do them, and here is one I created a couple of days ago. The heart is one I decorated too.  

All packaging used here is recycled.

Box covered inside and out with vintage book pages and sheet music.
We visited this lovely coastal village yesterday, in the Far North. It was once a bustling whaling and trading port, and has some lovely heritage buildings and a heritage walking trail. The fish shop here is famous for it's fine seafood and is worth a visit, despite being a little pricey.
Note the Maori Pa site on the hill in the background

The view from the fish shop window

Classic Kiwi school holiday entertainment - fishing off the wharf

Mangonui village

House in rural Kaeo - still inhabited

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

When it's pink, it's green

A local firewood seller dropped a pamphlet in our letterbox, so we thought we would go check them out. We couldn't tell from the road, but up a winding drive we found a mill. We knew we had the right place, despite no signs up, when we came across these carvings..

The firewood business is a professional one, supplying the Auckland market. Ken, the proprietor was keen to help us, and  told us how to tell the difference between green firewood, and dry firewood that is ready to use.
He picked up two dry pieces and knocked them together, end on end. They made a ringing noise. Firewood that isn't dry will make a dull thunk. He doesn't use this system himself, instead using a moisture meter. He doesn't recommend banging the wood for gum or teatree, as they are quite dense woods, so he recommends splitting these and holding them against your face to feel moisture, or for teatree - if it is pinkish inside, it isn't dry. 

Great White Butterfly
I was alarmed to read in the Weekend Gardener magazine of a new pest in New Zealand, at present only found near Nelson.
It is a bigger version of the White Butterfly that we already have, but can do serious damage to our gardens. We all need to be aware that these are in New Zealand and get any suspicious looking eggs/ caterpillars/ butterflies checked out. I so don't want those here - I have enough pests as it is. I have a link here to the DOC fact sheet.

Great White Butterfly eggs

Great White Butterfly

Great White Butterfly caterpillers

Monday, 15 July 2013

Pampas Grass

Before we attended a Weed Workshop a couple of weeks ago, we couldn't tell the difference between Pampas Grass, which is a noxious weed, and our native Toetoe grass as they look so similar. In our local environment now, we seem to see nothing but Pampas grass, so I thought I would include the following extract from to help others recognize it. It can be destroyed with digging out - for smaller plants, or poisoned. This site has good photos to help compare the two.
Another good site for weed info is

toetoe-pampas comparison
Native toetoe (left) showing waxy surface of leaf base, compared to exotic pampas grass (right)
toetoe-pampas comparison
Native toetoe (left) showing ridged leaf, compared to leaf of exotic pampas grass (right).


Do you know the difference between pampas and native toe toe?

Common and purple pampas should not be confused with the four native Cortaderiaspecies (commonly referred to as toetoe)

Toetoe is generally smaller, (no more than three metres tall when flowering) and the flowers, which are a creamy-yellow, ‘droop’ significantly from October to January.
Toetoe also has a white waxy surface on the leaf base where the common and purple pampas have ‘hairy’ leaves.
Toetoe leaves have distinct veins between the mid-rib and leaf edge. Pampas leaves have a conspicuous mid-rib but lack distinct veins between the mid-rib and leaf edge.
pampas-toetoe compared
Native toetoe flower head (left) compared tothe exotic pampas grass flower head (right). Note that pampas flowers can also droop when they get older, so don't rely on flower head alone - check the leaf base and leaf veins too.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Snippets of Paradise

I just love where we live, from our own little patch of 1 acre paradise to our beaches and small towns of Northland. 
Today I am posting a few artworks that people have made and put out for the enjoyment of others.
The Green Man - as we have labelled him, appeared one day about 2 years ago on the end of a sawn branch by the side of the road. I'm not sure what he is made of. He is the subject of debate between Derek and I. I get annoyed by the things people adorn him with - and he nearly always has cap and sunglasses, and at Christmas a Santa hat and tinsel. Derek thinks that is all ok, that it makes him interactive. So, I'm sorry, at present he is adorned.

 The next two are side of road finds

We took a little trip to Kerikeri yesterday, which is a pretty, small town with a lot of horticulture, antiques and art in the area. 
The shopkeepers we came across were friendly and the proprietor of the music shop was super helpful. Some nice cafes there too.

On the way we stopped to take photos of the Towai Hotel, where our band played last night. I love these old character pubs, and they usually have some real good local characters inside too. It was a great night.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Icecream in Winter

"Why fit in when you were born to stand out"
Dr Seuss

On my mission to live slow, I have been making lots of things from scratch, but I still like to find the easiest ways of doing this. There are better things to do than spend all day in the kitchen.
Yesterday I made Ginger Icecream, which is my own interpretation of Annabel Langbein's icecream recipe here. This is a great recipe, that doesn't require extra stirring once it has gone into the freezer, nor do you need an icecream machine. In fact when I started making it, I didn't even have an electric mixer, and it wasn't too bad to make with a hand beater. I just make the base recipe, then add whatever I feel like, but keeping to the quantity guidelines.
For the alcohol in the recipe I add Stone's Green Ginger wine, plus I stir through some finely chopped or grated fresh ginger, about the size of a thumb.

Ingredients for ginger icecream
One of the good things about making your own food is control of what you eat. I like to lower the sugar content of the icecream by using half quantity of Dentasweet, which is like sugar in consistency, but is Xylitol, a product made from plant extracts, with half the energy of sugar. It tastes no different to using sugar.

What You Give Out...
The cookbook mentioned above is a bit special...apart from that it is good (you should also check out her Busy People's Bread ).
This is a bit of a story...
A while back I met Derek's great nephew, aged about 11 at the time. He was so enthusiastic about cooking - with plans to become a chef - that I was really impressed by his passion. Wanting to encourage him, I posted him a couple of magazine type cookbooks that I had, along with an encouraging letter, and thought no more of it.
Later in the week, I received in the mail a prize for having a letter published in a magazine..a cookbook. Then another day or two later a courier arrived with a parcel. It was a thank you present from a young Christchurch couple who had come to stay with us, with their two little ones, just after the second earthquake. It was Annabel Langbein's Free Range Cook book. 
Sent two cookbooks out two straight back!

Monday, 8 July 2013

Some projects completed

In an earlier post I alluded to my habit of starting lots of things, being full of ideas and enthusiasm, well I managed to finish a couple.

"Before" junk shop find

"After" - just need to add a few more succulents. In a month it will be ready to hang on a wall

"Before" - although I just remembered to take pic after I had started painting the rims

"After" - must say it has a nice pinkish glow when the lamp is on!
 On our way home yesterday, I didn't mention that we had stopped at Huanui Orchards and got a 5kg bag of Granny Smith Apples for $1/ kg. So today I got my whizzy apple peeler and corer out and made light work of most of the bag into bottled stewed apples (no added sugar) and an apple crumble. If I go back I might get enough to try making cider, watch this space.

Woohoo - good hourly rate today!
As well as a bunch of other chores I cleaned my oven today. Of course it was an environmentally friendly clean, just baking soda and white vinegar. I used to really hate cleaning the oven - in the days when I didn't know any better and used nasty toxic products, the ones that would burn you if they got on your skin, and smelled dreadful.
Yesterday I saw an magazine advert for a company that cleaned ovens in an environmentally friendly way, so I went to check out their website to see how much they charge (because I'm nosey). $95! Am thinking of setting up my own business haha.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Beautiful Sunday

It has been a lovely weekend, and with no band gigs or kids we have pleased ourselves.
Yesterday we attended a 3 hour workshop run by the Northland Regional Council's Sara Brill on "Weeds". I wasn't sure it would hold my interest for 3 hours, but Sara has a wealth of knowledge on the subject and it was good. The only downside is that when we are out now, we just see so many noxious plants. At least we recognize a lot more now and know how best to get rid of them. There was a pretty good attendance too, it's great seeing others who care.
As we were up early on a Saturday we took the opportunity to go to the Whangarei Growers Market.

It is a bustling place if you get there early, and great to see so many people supporting local growers, buying fresh, local food. There's all sorts, from fish, cheese, chutneys, flowers etc. Plus some buskers. The photo I took really doesn't do it justice.
Today we ventured over to Tutukaka, as we had heard there is now a fresh fish seller there - legally selling off a fishing boat. We bought some filleted snapper for dinner, which wasn't much cheaper than in the supermarket, but it is really fresh.

Tutukaka marina
While there we had a browse around in Eclectic Culture Co. which is a cool little shop selling recycled clothing, vintage and upcycled and new goods and gourmet. Somehow it works really well.
After a little hunt on the beach with the metal detector (at which I found my first gold coins), and a little seaweed gathering for the garden, we popped in to Schnappa Rock for lunch.

We just love the atmosphere there - it's decorated with tapa cloths, big round rustic posts and recycled timber etc. The food is pretty good too.

That's me

On the way home we picked up a bootload of bottles and cans etc from the roadside that have been bothering us every time we drive to town.
I took photos of some fly tipping which I will email to the nice man at the council who said to let him know if he needed to send someone out to clean up...that would be great, thanks.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Really slow living

"Nothing would be done at all if a man waited until he could do it so well that no-one could find fault with it."
Cardinal Newman

I like that quote. When I have people come up to me when I'm playing in the band, they usually say -"I just love the saxophone - is it hard to learn to play?"
I tell them that I didn't even pick one up until I was 42, and it has been a fabulous journey. Then I give them some tips on how to get started, and a version of the above quote. 
I used to be anxious about making mistakes while playing, until I noticed that all the boys make mistakes too..and they have been playing a lot longer. They just shrug them off and say "you get that with live music". And the audience still seem to love it.
I even had one fellow musician from Australia come up and tell me I had made his weekend with one song I had played - and I'd missed a couple of notes on the solo! He hadn't noticed, and I wasn't going to tell him. 

The Beer Traps
In an earlier blog I raised my doubts about the effectiveness of beer traps. Well today I went down to the garden and emptied and reset them. From 2 cans of (out of date) beer I got the following catch...

Of great interest to the kingfisher who perches in my garden

Fridge Food Covers
A family member asked me, when I brought out one of these little beauties, if I had raided my grandmother's kitchen drawers. I told him, no that I had made it myself. After a little silence, he mentioned "did you know you can buy those?"

Yes, I do know - but I can make them for nothing, using up scraps of material, odd coloured thread and scrappy bits of elastic...and they are unique.
Rather than worrying about where I can get food grade plastic, I just use the inners of cereal packets - they've got to be food grade, right? 
I've found that using netting or lace fabric means they dry quickly when washed, and they don't fray.

I pull the elastic tight as I stitch it on with a zigzag stitch, on the plastic side with both layers together. I don't cut a piece first, rather just snip it off when I've completed the circle.

Sewing Machine
I mentioned in an earlier blog that my sewing machine started to smoke...well sadly it is unfixable. I put the first payment on that machine with my first 1976, a Bernina 807. The ladies in the sewing machine shop were hoping I would be buying one of their nice new electronic machines, but I've put a (free) ad in our local paper to try to get another one just the same.
Meanwhile Derek's daughter has loaned me hers (which is the same model), which was given to her by her grandmother. I am very grateful for the loan.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013


It has worried me that if I stopped working, I might lose my mojo and become lazy. For the last few days I have been alarmed that all I have wanted to do is sit around watching tv quiz shows and the like. Admittedly it is the middle of Winter, the weather has been cold and wet, and I have had achy bones and bronchitis and have been up nights coughing. Today I took an official sick day and have just got up at 1.30pm. It has been immensely enjoyable, and I have been busy doing a little sewing and watching telly without feeling guilty.

This organza flower brooch I finally finished while sitting in bed

I made these coffee sack canvases a while back, but started adding the stitched adornment today. I'm not quite sure what I think of it yet. Am still planning the second one.

Driftwood boats awaiting flags

Wooden postcards (found while junk shopping, see earlier post Small Town New Zealand)- awaiting finishing touches

Also bought while junk shopping for $3, I was going to  cover it with a coffee sack - but I don't have enough left, then thought an old sea chart, but the one's I have aren't just right, so will probably go with vintage book pages.
This first year of my "retirement" is to try out all of the ideas that are running amok in my head. There are a lot of them, as I see inspiration everywhere. 
I'm just great at starting things, and have oodles of unfinished projects. Hopefully putting them up here will make me finish some.