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Sunday, 29 September 2013

Up Close with Nature

Saturday Night Entertainment
Derek took me out last night - to the garden. We have been manually picking slugs and snails, getting hundreds every time we go out - no wonder they were slaughtering our garden. I think this is the only way.

yup - that's me

It actually is really lovely out though - we can hear frogs, bitterns booming and moreporks. The stars were fully out and the temperature was mild.
There was a morepork sitting in the dead cabbage branch just above us watching, so we tried to capture him (image only on Derek's new camera). It wasn't entirely successful, but here he is.

our garden morepork

For a bit of entertainment Derek makes a morepork call, which Munta the dog copies - lucky we have no close neighbours.
Munta and Derek are quite talented - had their own guest appearance at a music event with a song written for Munta because of his singing ability.

Mother of Invention
My 20 year old daughter lives in town - close enough that she can bring me her washing disasters - pretty clothes with a mark on them that she is too scared to touch in case she ruins them. This means that they come to me untreated, so I suggested a prewash treatment would help until she got them to me...but wait, don't buy one - here's one I invented.
Prewash Treatment Cloths
squares cut from a discarded white t-shirt into a plastic container, over which I poured:
 1/2 cup water                       }
 1 tsp of liquid castille soap    } mixed together
 1/2 tsp of eucalyptus oil        }
Then she just gives the stain a little rub and rolls the cloth up in it until it gets to me. Hopefully the eucalyptus will deter any mould in the container or the clothes, but I won't make too much at once. No colour runs either on my tests.

Tuis in the flax
The flax is flowering outside our kitchen window, so the tuis are back.

taken from our kitchen window

 They are a joy to watch and their song, which is like a language with chirrups, whistles and gutteral sounds, with a signature song for each bird, reminds me of how my daughter sounds when she becomes animated and laughs.

 Listen to Tui song recording.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Hummus and life

"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed".
Mahatma Gandhi

Eco pack for the car

This is a good idea to take along to save on disposables.

  • A film container or medicine bottle with a recycled plastic bag in it for emergencies (like picking up shells and seaglass from the beach)
  • picnic cutlery for the family to save needing more when you get a chinese takeaway  (which hopefully you have taken containers for)
  • Reuseable coffee cups such as my ideal cup  - keep some in your glove compartment.
  • Acrylic wine glasses. I cant tell you how often these have come in handy. 

I'm taking things quietly for a few days, after flying off my bike yesterday and landing on my face. I now look like I lost a fight, with six stitches, a black eye and a swollen face. Lesson learned about speed, hills and metal. It could have been worse.
So this morning I am completing the hummus I had planned to make yesterday, which I have started from dried chickpeas, as taking a step back from the convenience of tinned chickpeas.

To prepare dried chickpeas
Soak the chickpeas overnight in plenty of water.
Drain and rinse the chickpeas.
Place in a large saucepan with double the volume of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for approx 40 mins, or until tender.

They can be frozen just like this for 1 year according to one site, but I would rather use them in 6 months or less.


For a smoother hummus cook your chickpeas until very soft, firmer texture is preferred for curries etc, so I have compromised.

Into the food processor throw:

2 cups of chickpeas
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1/2 cup of orange juice - I used a mix of citrus like lemonades and oranges that I wanted to use up.
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp cumin
salt to taste - approx 3/4 tsp
olive oil - approx 2-3 tablespoons
A large tablespoon of unsweetened greek yoghurt

just add yoghurt and whizz

Blend to desired consistency - done!

So now I'm feeling good about doing away with the expensive and packaged hummus from the deli section, but also bypassing cans, as chickpeas are a good bulk buy with my own container.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

A Recipe to Use up Bread

Bread and butter pudding

A delicious old fashioned pudding that uses up the end of the loaf.
I haven't been buying our usual Vogels bread for weeks now - instead making my own using Annabel Langbein's Busy Persons Bread recipe  which is a no fuss recipe that turns out every time - no breadmaker needed. 
For a change Derek bought one of his favourite caraway loaves, only to be disappointed - must be a different baker. But it makes a great B n B pudding.

Bread and Butter pudding ready for the oven.

4  thick slices of bread, buttered       1/2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs                                           lemon rind
2 tablespoons of sugar                    1/2 cup sultanas
2 1/2 cups milk                               nutmeg or cinnamon

Arrange the slices of bread, butter side out, in an ovenproof dish.
Beat eggs, sugar, milk and vanilla - pour half of this over the bread and let it stand 10 mins.
Whisk the remaining mix, add rind and sultanas and pour over the bread. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
Stand the dish in a large pan of water. Bake at approx 160c for 40 - 45 mins until set.


Some time back I posted that I was going to try growing ginger from root that I had bought at the supermarket because it looked like it was going to sprout. Well I have to report...nothing. It still looks the same. It must have been treated with something to stop it sprouting...ah well.

Five Regrets of the Dying

I recently stumbled across the blog of Bronnie Ware, called Inspiration and Chai, in which she expands on the sentiments below - worth a visit.

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn't work so hard
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Today I have been out visiting my lovely friend Yvonne - she always inspires me.
And I didn't work very hard haha.
Plus I totally give myself permission to be happy - an old colleague I met in the supermarket told me I inspired him to do what he loves - yay!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

A non-shopping resolution

Ever since I was a teenager I have shopped for recycled clothing. About three years ago I stumbled on a site that promoted a challenge not to buy new clothes for a year - apart from one special outfit if necessary - and of course underwear, socks and shoes. I decided that I would do that - without joining officially. Second hand and home made were acceptable.
It was good and manageable, but I find that I have a little addiction going on, and way too many clothes. I love recycled label clothing for the interesting features and quality...these were approx $25 each
stitch ministry

friends of couture

Robyn Mathieson

Liz Jordan

So after this week (awaiting last ordered item) I am making the commitment to myself - and obviously putting it out in the webby world, that I will not be buying ANY clothes at all for the next 12 months.
I told my daughter (20) and she said that I spend way more than she does, because I could get better bargains shopping how she does. 
I explained that it isn't about bargains (well maybe a little), but not wearing what everyone else is, plus not using up more of the world's resources.  
I feel good that I will be saving myself time and money, plus cutting my consumerism a bit more and breaking that habit.

It may not be pretty but...

In the North we seem to have idiots with not enough to do, so they vandalize and steal letterboxes. Ours went missing last Christmas, along with others in the neighborhood. Our postie advised us not to get a new one until after the holidays, as it would just happen again, so...I made one out of a plastic container we found washed up in the mangroves. A couple of days ago the front broke off so i thought I would show you the repair of a repair. I'm not sure where this is going, or if we will ever have a normal mailbox again, but here it is.

Flash eh! repair made using a worn out leather belt and a few nuts and bolts.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

It's Not Easy Going Green

I don't claim to be a Green Genius. I wish it was that easy, but it's going to take years to unravel the consumerism and find the pathways to those places nearby that sell products without packaging, and learning to do without things that I have always used, like tin foil and baking paper. It seems that to cut back on waste every little thing needs to be reassessed.
Sometimes I slip up and feel bad - like all that disposable stuff you get when flying, (let alone flying itself), although we could have taken our own food. But it's not just me in our household. I have to gently green our household in a manner that others can live with too, and that takes time.

I have just started reading "Zero Waste Home" by Bea Johnson, which I found in our local library. I have to take my hat off to this author. She has gone from living the American Dream life to virtually zero waste - it is an inspiring story.
She has recipes in the book for all sorts of things, even mascara and hairspray. I've put a link to her zerowastehome blogspot here.
Her mantra is to use the 5 Rs in order, so that by the time we get to recycle, there is very little. Her order is
1.Refuse - turn down unnecessary things, like plastic bags and dockets, junk mail and freebies.
2.Reduce - what we do need and can not refuse.
3.Reuse - what we consume and can not refuse or reduce
5.Rot - what is left can be composted 

I am re-inspired

What's the buzz?
I've just been for a walk outside, it's Spring! It is heartening to hear the buzz of bees around the blossoms in our fruit if we can just keep the possums away...
busy bee

  We are lucky to have a lot of hives in the vicinity.
I am delighted to be able to walk outside and pick flowers for the vase. In this day and age it seems like a luxury.

Making Mustard
I thought making mustard was going to be difficult - boy was I wrong.
I found two helpful sites for mustard recipes here and here.
All it involved was soaking some mustard seeds - in a ratio of 1:1 with vinegar, although one site says water can be used. 

It was supposed to soak overnight, but I am too impatient, so it soaked for a couple of hours. I used:
 3 tablespoons of mustard seeds
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar

I just used the mortar n pestle and enjoyed the popping seeds. I found the mustard a little bitter, so added a teaspoon of honey, which helped, and 1/3 tsp of salt. Still a bit bitter so I ran for Google, and on one of the sites above it states that the bitterness will fade and the taste improves within a few days.
finished product ready to jar up

I'm happy enough with it now, and I use grainy mustard quite a lot when making my vinaigrette dressings.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Little Gems

"Integrity is doing the right thing,
even if nobody is watching" - anonymous

Wrist Cuff
One problem with wearing dangly jewellery when I play my sax is that it bothers me that things might get caught up when I'm playing. I don't wear rings when I'm playing either because they get all bent out of shape on the bongo drums. So I have felt naked in the jewellery department while performing, and have been looking everywhere for an interesting wrist cuff. I didn't find one anywhere. Not being one who is too concerned about following trends, I have made my own out of stretchy black lace, velvet, vintage beads and such like. It's different.

wrist cuff

Pick 'n' Pedal
I posted one of these before - it is my combination of exercise and keeping our patch of roadside beautiful (and exercising the dog). This was Monday's pickup over a short bike ride of approx 2km.

Kaipara Flats

A few weeks back we made a detour to check out a chipper/shredder, and drove through this little place on the way home. Just blink and you'd miss it, but here are a few pics of rural settlement history.

the library

kiwi ingenuity, mailbox

the old butchery

Sunday, 15 September 2013

More snippets

Portable Art
When I travel, or even just visit small towns, I like to take my watercolour pencils and fine tip waterproof ink black pen.

It feels like I have really etched every detail of something into my brain when I have really looked hard enough to make an artwork. They usually go straight into my journal, but this time I took a sketch pad, the current journal has become too heavy to travel. i don't worry whether or not they are good - that is not the point.
A little vignette from our friends' beautiful kitchen

To use watercolour pencils, you can either pencil sketch and colour in, then add pen detail later - or add pen first if you want - there are no rules. The bottle top is for holding water, because after colouring you then wet it with a wet paintbrush and it all turns to a watercolour. Find a book for more technique, but it is so instant and portable.

From a previous trip to Rarotonga

Any products I mention in my blog are just ones that I personally like, and are my own opinion - not paid, sooo...
In Australia I happened upon the most beautiful smelling shop "Lush". They sell handmade soaps, toothtabs, cosmetics etc.

They are against animal testing and have their environmental statement on their website. They try to reduce their environmental impact by reducing packaging. I bought some of their toothy tabs, which come in a little box, plus some bar conditioner, which I hadn't seen anywhere else. It works fine and means another plastic bottle I can do away with. They told me there is a shop in Auckland, and I can shop online! Yay!

Our Green Roadie
On Thursday night we attended a viewing of "Our Green Roadie," a film made by Emma Heke and her young son Connor as they took a road trip around New Zealand, interviewing people with green businesses and lifestyles. It was really inspiring, and there was a full house at The Old Butter Factory. You can find them on Facebook here. If you can, get along or give support, as she's hoping to make a tv series, and that would be great. 

Thursday, 12 September 2013

A Spring in my Step

Actually a good news call from my accountant put a spring in my to the garden centre. We've got plenty of undeveloped garden here still, and I can't wait for it all to look gorgeously abundant.

This should keep me busy for a while.

But today it's raining, as it often does here in the North - that's how it stays so green and subtropical. So I've spent my time planting up seeds. I just have to remember to plant more, regularly, to keep the supply coming.

time well spent

I'm mostly having to buy veges at the moment and they are so expensive.
One telegraph cucumber - $4.49
Leeks - $2.29 each
Yellow Capsicum - $2.99
The broccoli, $1.99/head; lettuce $1.99; carrots and onions @ $2.50 for 1.5 kg; kiwifruit@ $1.99kg were not so bad.
That was particularly for overseas readers who might be interested.

More Inspiration from travel
There's nothing like travel for broadening horizons.
I had read an eco impact summary in the Green Ideas Magazine comparing methods of hand drying. What came out an obvious winner was the cold air 'blade' dryer, which uses high speed air 'blades' to scrape the water from your hands, meaning the air doesn't need to be heated.

Air 'blade' hand dryer -I was so impressed, I should sell these.

I got to try one at Auckland airport, as I hadn't come across them before. They use the equivalent of 3g of CO2, compared with the next best, which is cotton reel handtowel, which uses the equivalent of 9.3g every time it is used.

While I was away I checked out lots of good books at the airport bookshop, while waiting around, and at places we stayed. I wrote them down, and last night happily discovered that my library has several of them in stock, the others - I will ask if they can get them in. It might be a wee wait, but they are generally very obliging. 

This book is full of totally inspiring content - go look it  up!

I found this quote in the front of Robert Kiyosaki's book Why "A" Students Work for "C" Students - and "B" Students Work for the Government.

"When I was 5 years old my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life
When I went to school they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up - I said "happy"
They told me I didn't understand the assignment - and I told them they didn't understand life."
John Lennon

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Inspiration from Abroad

On our recent trip to Australia we stayed with my stepson and daughter in law, and baby Kian. Amy is a great mum, making conscious green decisions about parenting. She uses cloth nappies for Kian, which come in cute designs, but reports that only 2 out of her mother's group of 20 do this. We obviously have a long way to go...

They also have a room of sturdy plastic toys and play equipment. Alarming? No, they got them preloved from Gumtree for a song, and will sell them again when they are finished with them.  

We also visited with friends, and I had admired these quirky little glass artworks, with text, which so appealed to me. As we were leaving, Bindy gave me a couple to take home for inspiration.

I happened on an interesting site while reading my Aussie magazines on the plane. It is - this is a link to the blog, but there is also a place for everyone to list 3 things that they are doing to change the world - from small to large. It's inspiring to read what others have written.

Washing Clothes
It is well publicized that we wash our clothes too much, which is not the environmentally friendly thing to do, but it is a hard habit to break. There is nothing like travel to break you of this habit  - with one case of clothes, and not your usual easy access to washing and drying. Even I, who hate to travel light, managed more rewear than usual. I still couldn't wear my jeans for 4 weeks, every day without washing them as was suggested in one article I read. It's easy to manage the rewear thing at home though, as no one sees me, and I can end up with some weird and wonderful combinations.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

A little taste of Aussie

We've just spent 2 great weeks in Australia, being spoilt by friends and family. We wanted to take some gifts over, so among other things we took some lovely possum fur items, as it gets pretty cold in Adelaide and Perth at times. We thought it only fitting to take some possum back from whence they came. In line with my no giftwrap buying commitment, some of the gifts went wrapped in old NZ maps, which were well received.

I discovered, while stocking up on reading material for the flights, that Australia now has some great eco focused magazines - loved their Peppermint and Green Lifestyle. I know that magazines are paper resources too, but I just love them, and they don't get thrown away, but reread and shared with others.

Fly Deterrent
In one magazine I read a tip to rid the house of flies, by closing all the blinds to darken the room, but leave one window open. The flies all go towards the light and fly out. 
I discovered a good deterrent for myself, while out walking in the Aussie bush to Alligator Gorge.

The flies were just dreadful, so I crushed a handful of eucalyptus leaves, and rubbed some on me, keeping hold of the rest. When we stopped to talk to some other walkers, they were having dreadful bother with the flies...but we no longer were.
Happily I remembered that eucalyptus is a fly deterrent

Small Town Australia
We love small towns, so to us there is no better way to see another country up close. We went from the Adelaide Hills to the base of the Flinders Ranges, and back through the Clare Valley. The scenery was just beautiful, with vast fields of bright yellow rapeseed, butted against green crops...and the old stone buildings and small villages were so full of character. 

The Melrose Hotel - fabulous character pub. We stayed in an old stone cottage at the side for AU $105/ night

old stone and batten house, Melrose

Disused Melrose Brewery

Fields of Rapeseed
I've come home refreshed and full of creative ideas, having wandered galleries and kept my eyes open for new and interesting things.