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Thursday, 30 January 2014

Renovated Vintage Caravan - Sneak View

I have a busy 2 months ahead. When planning a big party at home, it's not just the party itself that takes a lot of work. Everywhere we look we see things that need finishing or tidying up.
I am currently working on getting the vintage caravan that is permanently parked in the back yard, habitable for guests.

Don't miss viewing the completed caravan - here
Caravan interior - before

Caravan interior - after

Unfortunately this meant moving a lot of stored "stuff". Bearing in mind that we are both creative types who like to collect, this is causing some problems actually finding where to put it. Conclusion: we need to trim.
However it is sometimes good to keep things, like the sides of the bamboo blinds we trimmed down. I just found a new use for them - covering the ugly lampshades that were in the caravan. Cost: nil.

Original lampshades from the caravan

Upcycled bamboo blind lampshade
Bamboo blind piece is just tied over the top of the original shade
The cupboards all have new knobs too, which I had in stock from a road trip home to the North from Wellington through junk shops where I found bags of gorgeous ceramic knobs cheap as chips. I've still got lots left for the jewelery hangers that I intend to make.
When I have finished the curtains and squab covers I'll show the lot.
Back to work.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Some Cool Upcycling Ideas

I've been busy lately with painting our stationary backyard caravan - photos to follow when it's finished, and just continuing to make things like bread, icecream, toothpaste, dishwashing powder etc. I have already blogged about these things, feel free to look for them using the search box. So I have decided to post some of the great upcycling ideas I've spotted on Pinterest.
Upcycled paintbrush fish
Now here's an idea to reuse the paint brushes that I was going to have throw out after using Bin Sealer. I can just see some of these hanging off our driftwood fence.
Upcycled paintbrush handles from

Bathmat from old t-shirts
This will be a good project for winter. I'm saving all the old t-shirts from our big wardrobe sort out. They make great rags, but nice coloured ones would be good for one of these bathmats.Here's the link to the instructions-how-to-make-an-eco-friendly-bath-mat

Bathmat made using used t-shirts or old towels

Vintage Plate Graphic Wall Art.
This is a cool idea. I knew I had been collecting vintage plates for something and will give this a go when I have got a breathing space. They would make a great personalized birthday gift. Someone in New Zealand makes them with the vices (like greed and envy) written on them. You can find a tutorial on how to make these graphics on vintage plates here
From Angel in the North blog - a tutorial

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Old Books and Bric-a- brac

My Derek is a collector of old books. Among them I found this one printed in 1908 - "What a Young Wife Ought to Know" (from the Self and Sex series)

Old Books - "What a Young Wife Ought to Know"

I found this interesting...When the bridal trousseau is wisely chosen, the home will be furnished with like taste and wisdom.The furniture that is really needed, and that of the best, dresses the house far more elegantly than can a vulgar profusion of showy articles. Tinsel bric-a-brac, cheap cushions and tidies and bed-coverings proclaim the uncultured taste of the home keeper.....
The crying need of many of us today is not for more, but less. We have too much, so that our lives are robbed of all simplicity. We are choked by our possessions, as the Roman maiden by the golden bracelets for which she betrayed the city.
....feeling choked by possessions myself, despite taking a bootload to the charity shop the other day. It's a work in progress. Good grief, what would they think of how we live now!

And speaking of bric-a-brac
Is that what we call our collections of stuff? A little vignette...

Themed Olden days Travel

I have to say that what looks like scrimshaw is not actually real whale bone.

And a piece of driftwood art (by me) entitled "Going Down" I rather love the little naive boats so thought I would make some.

Driftwood boat

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Ukulele Art, Salsa

A while back I posted a shot of my altered recipe book, that I have turned from a dated microwave book into a personalized recipe collection. At that stage I hadn't altered the cover, but now here it is...a collaged front cover.

Altered cookbook cover - collage. The little caption reads "Femineering at it's finest"

I love my altered book now - it feels so fat and handcrafted with its glued in recipes, and some other random stuff. When it's filled up I'm going to add an index which will make it easier to use.

Altered Ukulele
While I am on the subject of altered is a ukulele that I decorated as a gift for Derek a while back. I picked up two preloved ukes, both the same and gave one a Kiwiana twist. The cut out images are glued on with Modpodge, then I Modpodged over them to seal. Little paua shell tabs added to the ends of the strings.

Kiwiana decorated ukulele


No, not the dance. 
I didn't like salsa on my cornchips, but that was before I went all slow living and vowed to not buy any more premade dips etc from the supermarket.
I have just made a recipe from Annabel Langbein's "Simple Pleasures" cookbook. It is called 
                                   Pico de Gallo
2 large tomatoes cut into 1cm dice
2 Tablespoons of very finely diced spring onion or red onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
1-2 tsp finely chopped red or green chilli
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp salt
ground black pepper
a pinch of sugar to taste
1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves

Mix all ingredients except the coriander leaves in a bowl and allow to stand for at least 30 minutes or up to 8 hours in the fridge to allow the flavours to develop.
When ready to serve, taste and adjust the seasonings. Stir in the coriander leaves and serve with chicken, meat or a bowl of tortilla chips.

Pico de Gallo (salsa) - minus the coriander because it was raining hard out.

I just love how "slow food" produces much tastier food than what we had got used to. So worth it.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Steps to Save Using Plastic

Little Steps To Reduce Plastic Use
We have Derek's daughter living with us now and she's going to be heading back to school soon. I wanted to start with some eco moves early on as I need her to fit in with my greenie lifestyle. 
These arrived in the mail yesterday. I thought they would save us using tons of gladwrap for lunches, and Katie had picked out the one she liked best. They are made by Ginger Pye in Dunedin NZ. The little square pouches are for snacks. 

Reusable sandwich wraps by Ginger Pye

I thought about making some, but she uses a food grade plastic which I have not seen anywhere, and they are so nicely done.

Party Planning
We are planning big party for March. I have been mulling over how to feed people with the least rubbish output. I've decided that I'm going to buy more plates (we'll need about 70!) from charity shops and garage sales. I'm trying to stick to a colour scheme of blue and white. I've decided not to spend more than 50 cents per piece, which works out cheaper than the biodegradable ones - which also use energy in their production.
We already have tons of cutlery, after combining two households, plus extras that we have accumulated.
We thought that people wouldn't mind doing a camp wash of their own plates to save us work after dinner, (New Zealanders are good like that, and it will be a very informal affair) especially as it means not eating off horrible paper plates with plastic cutlery.
 The other part of the plan is that we will let people know we have the plates in storage after the party, so that anyone else is welcome to borrow them for their own party.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

A L'il Bit O' This, A L'il Bit O' That

One of the good things about everyone moving to Australia is the great bargains you can get on Trade Me when they sell their stuff.

Umbrella off Trade Me

Some of the things we have picked up lately are a sun umbrella for $40, some great handbuilt macrocarpa tables at $70 each, a handbuilt workbench for $129 (which is the price of the materials) plus these great shelves to store our driftwood.

Second hand shelves for storing our driftwood collection

Now when we want to create something it is all there, easy to see.
Another great thing about Trade Me is the lovely people you meet when you go to pick things up.
We could buy new, but I see buying good second hand as a better eco footprint.

Saving Seeds
I'm doing this all the time now. Yesterday I sat in the sun podding heirloom lettuce seeds, which I then put in an envelope in a plastic bag in the freezer to kill any tiny insects.
I get all excited about free plants from seeds I have grown and saved. It feels like being part of a big cycle. I find they grow better too.

Sweet Pea seeds ready for podding, packaging and labelling

These pretty flowers I grew from seed from a hanging basket mix. I don't actually know what they are, but they have done a great job there of disguising my poor tomato plants that all dropped with disease. 

Driftwood Blackboard
There are so many things you can do with driftwood - just see my pinterest driftwood board! When I find one with a fairly smooth side I like to make it into a blackboard.
Driftwood blackboard

Monday, 13 January 2014

Spiced Chocolate Courgette Cake and a Natural Tooth Whitener

We've got neighbours coming over for dinner tonight and I want to cook using ingredients from our garden. Sounds good? But they all have gardens too, and I'm thinking, how do I do this so that they don't go oh no, not beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes and basil again!
So I have made an aubergine (home grown) dish, layered with a refried bean/ tomato/ onion mix, interspersed with sour cream and grated cheese, and a little pesto thrown in for good luck.

layered aubergine dish

After kebabs and lamb chops from the barbecue, green salad, baked layered potato/cream/cheese/onion and cucumber raita, I will be serving this chocolate courgette cake (sneaky eh?), but instead of icing there will be stewed apples and custard. 

Spiced chocolate courgette cake
This was my sample piece to make sure it was edible - it passed with flying colours.

Spiced Chocolate Courgette Cake

250g butter
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1/2 cup light olive oil
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa
2 tsp chinese five spice powder or mixed spice
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 courgettes, grated ( 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup unsweetened plain yoghurt

Beat the butter and sugar and oil together until thick and creamy. Beat in the eggs.
Sift the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture, and fold in with the yoghurt and courgettes.
Turn into a well greased and lined 23cm cake tin. Bake at 180c for approx 1 hour until cooked.
If you wish to add chocolate glaze, wait until the cake is cool.
Chocolate Glaze
2oog dark chocolate
3/4 cup of cream
Melt together the chocolate and cream in the microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir until smooth.

Tumeric tooth whitener

In a recent post from a blog I follow quateracrelifestyle there was a post about using tumeric as a tooth whitener, which I had never heard of before but was interested to try. I've only tried it once and there wasn't a noticeable difference, but I think it takes longer than that, so I plan to try it for a while off and on.
 Anyway it wasn't too unpalatable, although we are advised to use an old toothbrush, protect surfaces and use an old facecloth or suchlike to catch drips as it stains whatever it lands on.
Mix 3/4 teaspoon of tumeric powder with a little water and brush teeth for 1 minute, after which rinse and clean teeth as usual.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

A Bedroom Revamp

We have Derek's 12 year old daughter coming to live with us and we thought we would surprise her with a spruce up of her room.
The only input she's had was a mention of her favourite colour aqua. Normally I wouldn't consider doing this for an almost teenager without more of her input, but Katie is easy to please, and we are pretty sure she will be delighted.
Spruced up room waiting for the occupant's finishing touches

There's no before photo, because honestly it was so overloaded with everybody's stuff that I didn't want to take one.
We have been busy for days with painting and making curtains and looking for the right shelves and mirror.
Most of the things in there we already had, some got a little paint up. We tried to find what we could second hand, but had to resort to new for some of it.
The dear little desk we found on Trademe - all painted up like that.
I've made the lined curtains, which was a mission for me as I can't do anything in a straight line. They might not win any prizes but they look ok.
Thank goodness for tutorials on the internet.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

A Summer's Day and Keeping it Great

There is nothing like a New Zealand Summer - blue skies and gentle breezes.
I don't mean to sound boasty, but we don't go away for a holiday in Summer because it is just perfect where we are. 
Today we took the boat across the road to the river, and within 15 minutes were at this beach - which has no public road access.

New Zealand Summer,the beach 15 minutes from home

We spent the day driftwood gathering, reading in the shade and having a picnic lunch. Divine!
That's me under the huge old Pohutukawa tree.

Pohutukawa tree, New Zealand

We picked up a bit of rubbish while we were there. There was quite a lot of pumice so that came back too for me to make more pumice totems (see in an earlier post)

The beach rubbish pick up

We met a young man on the beach when we arrived...shame I didn't ask for a photo, but not the done thing. He was of Maori descent, on his family land for a holiday with his two gorgeous children. He was in nice shape, with plentiful tattoos and a turret shell through each earlobe.
The most remarkable thing about him though was his passion for the land. He was making sure we weren't going to disturb nesting birds, and I loved how he said he taught his children to pick up rubbish off the beach.
We talked about how the fishing and shellfish beds were no longer as good, and his disgust with people who take greedily.
It was a conversation strangely like what I have been reading about in this very interesting book - Confessions of an Eco Sinner by Fred Pearce.
The author traces where his stuff comes from to give their story with an eco slant.

"A T-shirt for instance. Britain imports almost half a billion T-shirts each year. About eight each. They often cost little more than the price of a beer. Yet to make the cotton for the average 250 gram T-shirt requires 80 grams of fertilizer, 3 grams of active ingredient in pesticides, and between 2,000 and 7,000 litres of water, or upwards of 30 bath tubs full. For one T-shirt."
Fred Pearce travels the world and his stories aren't all statistics, they are mostly about the people. Pick this book up if you see it.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Hey Pesto and Toothpowder

Experiment! I've found pesto can be made without expensive pinenuts - roasted cashews work well, or what about toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds. It doesn't have to be olive oil if you have none left, and even different herbs work - although basil is my favourite here, but it could be a mix. 

Big handful of basil
1-2 cloves of garlic (roasted preferably but not essential)
1 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup of lightly roasted nuts - pinenuts or otherwise
pinch of salt

Place them all in the food processor and add 1/2 cup of olive oil slowly with the motor running.
This keeps in the fridge for up to a week, or will freeze, but better without the cheese which can be added later. It's great stirred through pasta.

Home made pesto with crispy french bread crostini bases

This past year I challenged myself not to buy any more dips and pestos or baba ganoush and have not only saved money but not brought home heaps of little plastic containers. Home made is sooo nice.

I've been buying day old french loaves from the supermarket, which is just fine for making these crostini bases. Thinly slice and brush both sides with oil, then bake approx 15 mins at 160c. I can get 2 loaves for $3.00 and it makes lots. They store well in airtight jars. 

Tooth Powder
I'm nearly out of the tooth tabs I bought from "Lush" and decided to have a go at making my own powder. It turned out great - and left my teeth feeling super clean. I made this up from a mix of recipes - just experiment I say. 
This only makes a small sample amount so you can see if you like it. If you find it too strong add more baking soda. 
I just dip my wet toothbrush into it then brush. 

2 teaspoons of Baking Soda
A pinch of stevia powder
2 drops of peppermint essence
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Mix them together and store in a little container.

Home made tooth powder - never buy toothpaste again!

Disappointment in the Garden
This happens. The potatoes died back, but next to no potatoes on them - I don't know why.
The garlic crop has failed for the second year in a row, sigh.
And we are battling with green shield beetles. They have arrived in multitudes and I spend ages squashing the stinky little b#!x*#<. They pierce the beans and corn and suck the life out of plants. If it's not one pest it's another.

immature green shield beetles

On a Brighter Note.
The courgettes and cucumbers and beans are doing well. We are getting tomatoes and aubergines and basil and spring onions. The thornless blackberry has a good crop coming on for the first time, and the possums have left our fruit trees alone.