Follow by Email

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Lemon Honey, Sugar Cane

Yesterday I took my bags and containers for my regular shop at the Kamo Binn Inn, where the proprietors and staff are so nice. I was impressed by their shop display, loving that people take the time and effort to make something just for their shoppers' enjoyment.

"Vintage kitchen" shop display in Binn Inn, Kamo, NZ

Lemon Honey
While we were on Waiheke Island we went to the Ostend Market, where Katie wanted a jar of Lemon Honey, which she loves. A small jar was $8, which I thought was a bit expensive, but she got it anyway. It was finished in no time, and we agreed that Katie should make some. I got out my Mum's old handwritten recipe book and Katie (almost 13) made two big jars of delicious lemon honey, that I estimated would have been worth $32 on Waiheke.
Here's the recipe...and sorry, it's in imperial measures - good for the USA readers...

1 lb of sugar
6 oz butter
juice of 4 lemons (Lisbon lemons are best if you can get them for tangy taste)
Rind of 3 lemons
4 eggs plus just the yolks of 2 more

Melt the butter and sugar in a double boiler, add beaten eggs and lemon juice and rind.
Stir until it is the consistency of honey. It will thicken a bit more as it cools.
Pour into sterilized jars, and I always keep it in the fridge.
How easy is that?!!

Lemon Honey and fresh Busy Person's bread

Sugar Cane.
Recently a friend gave us this piece off his sugar cane, so I have half buried it in the ground and am eagerly waiting to see if it grows. In anticipation I have researched what to do with it and found instructions for making sugar syrup from it on the net. Don't you just love Google?

Sugar Cane - about to be planted

A while back I planted some root ginger that I had bought for cooking, and sadly reported that it had done nothing. Well lucky I didn't throw it away, because when I wasn't looking it sprouted! 

Cooking ginger grown from a piece of root 

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Upcycled Fish Smoker and a Driftwood Trellis

A Great Upcycle

Derek's been on holiday, so has finally had time to pop over the road and go fishing...hence I have something to show - our upcycled fish smoker. I remembered many years ago my Dad used to smoke fish in a 44 gallon drum, with a fire in the bottom, fish hanging from wire hooks at the top and all covered by a wet sack. Working along these lines, ours used to be a washing machine - it is now just the shell of one. Instead of a wet sack (which burned), we have a sheet of corrugated iron. This isn't a thing of beauty, and therefore is in a less conspicuous place in our yard.

Upcycled washing machine fish smoker

The fish smoking involves lighting a fire using mainly teatree, neither too wet or too dry, so that there is smoke, in the base of the smoker.
The fire can be tended if necessary through the opening at the bottom.
The fish are rubbed with a mix of salt and brown sugar to taste, then laid on a metal rack, which is suspended near the top of the smoker.

Fish on the rack - ready to come out.

The lid is put on the smoker, and the fish is done after approximately 45 minutes. Eaten still warm from being smoked - yum!

Smoked Kahawai

Driftwood Trellis

We have grown a few passionfruit plants from seed, from a dried up fruit I found under someone else's plant. Time had come to put up a structure for them to climb, so we had looked at buying some trellis....but then I thought -that is silly when we could make a more organic looking (and free) one from some of our driftwood stash. So I left it to Derek to figure out how to do it ...and here it is - yay!

Driftwood trellis for our passionfruit

Thursday, 24 April 2014

A Monster!

While weeding yesterday I came across this monster in the garden - and instead of just instantly dispatching it, I felt the need to learn more about it to make sure I wasn't destroying something that does good in the garden.
It is a tiger slug, and on googling it I discovered that it is not native to New Zealand, and that it is omnivorous. So although it eats other slugs (yay), it also devours vegetation....(squash!)

Tiger Slug

While researching, I discovered some interesting facts about these slugs - and I will never look at them the same again. When mating, the male's corkscrew shaped sex organ (!) sometimes becomes stuck fast and has to be left behind  (design fault?)- but all is not lost as they can then continue on mating, but only using their female sex organs. 
We do have native slugs in New Zealand that only eat decaying vegetation and so help with the if you see these flattish ones with their leaf pattern, don't kill them. There are four different ones, all with leaf patterns.

Native New Zealand slug

Some More Waiheke Island Treasures

Fence with oarsome art

Stylish  house number

Beach house, Waiheke Island

Nikau Palm

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Little Piece of Paradise - Waiheke Island

My Happy Place

I know I have posted Waiheke Island before, but I am there for Easter - and there is so much to add. Just a 45 minute ferry ride from Auckland gets you to another view of life.

It is just the best of all the things I love - Jazz Festival, art galleries, book fair, wineries, dragon-fired pizza on the beach and a surprise around every corner.

Wellington City Shake-'Em-On-Downers 

Waiheke Community Movie Theatre

We went for a walk this morning...everyone we met said "hi".In the next bay we walked to was a pod of twelve or so dolphins - and lots of people in swimming with them.

I love the community here - they are very environmentally conscious. They have no-plastic Fridays, where shops won't use plastic bags or disposable products. The local paper says the community will soon be planting fruit trees on public reserves - for anyone to access. Also there are arty touches everywhere on the island, and recycled items - like these letterboxes.

Carving by Anton Forde
If I could live in two places at once - one of them would be here.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Driftwood and Hundertwasser

A lot of people will find our passion for driftwood a bit weird - but too bad! A week ago we went driftwooding at our favourite haunt on the river among the mangrove trees. There is a spot where everything washes up, and we always come back with a boat load - mostly bigger pieces for garden edging or for adding to our driftwood fence.

Driftwood fence - a work in progress

I just love the sculptural effect that the tide has on the pieces we find...I wasn't really fully able to capture how cool this big piece is, but you'll get the idea.

When out fossicking, we also pick plastic and rubbish out to try and clean up our part of the world. This is a pic of last week's rubbish pick up.

Better out of the marine environment.

For Seaweek this year Derek registered us as a group who clean up the coast with CoastCare Northland and we were sent a package containing lots of marine and eco information, plus rubbish bags to help us dispose of what we clean up. There is also a place to log the rubbish collected if we want, which then gets collated to help with environmental study. 

The Hundertwasser Building Debate

Whangarei District Council has plans to revamp an old building at the Town Basin to create this tourist attraction/ gallery/ cafe. It has caused huge heated debate in the region, as it will use a lot of taxpayer money.
Despite the fact that I love Frederik Hundertwasser's work, and I think the building would look awesome, I was/am opposed to it. I felt they were just trading on his name (he originally drew a small sketch, which, in his lifetime the Regional Council,who owned the building, showed no interest in), and the gallery is only to be for Maori artists -(what about the rest of the local talent?), Plus the entry fee proposed seems quite high so will exclude a lot of people.
In a local creativity brochure takeflight, I read of a great proposal that would have me do a total about face if the ideas were adopted - so I will be letting the mayor know my view, and hoping that hundreds of others feel the same way.
The proposal was to use the Hundertwasser building as an environmental learning centre, with composting toilets, and as a centre for giving away fruit trees for people to plant. I'm sure some of that might be challenging to carry out - but worth looking in to.
Now that would meet Frederik Hundertwasser's approval if he were still with us.

Friday, 11 April 2014

I Have Spread My Dreams Under Your Feet

My Good Magazine arrived yesterday and I decided to keep it unread to enjoy at Easter - well that resolution lasted one day, and this morning I dived into it. I found this poem in there that I only previously knew the last two lines of....

The Garden
 In a lot of the blogs I read they have glorious photos of their gardens. You might notice these are not prolific in my blog, because I have a fairly disorganized garden that is not especially a work of art.

Newly planted snow peas. The climbing frame is of branches off the plane tree which I had intended to paint white and hang with fairy lights for Christmas. The white powder on the ground is diatomaceous earth, the organic way to protect my plants from pests - working so far.

However, I am still picking the odd cucumber, have plenty of basil, have rhubarb, asian greens and am still picking a few beans, and have carrots and all is not lost. I felt less embarrassed about my garden since I have read in a couple of books that a disorganized planting patter
n is helpful to fool pests, as they hunt by sight, and a random planting makes it much harder for them to find all your plants. Picture many confused bugs in my garden... 

New seedlings waiting for me to find space among the over run garden. I've grown these myself, a good percentage from self saved seeds - I love that!

Apple Snack

Now for something completely different - this idea came from my friend Carolyn, and I haven't seen it anywhere else - maybe because it is so simple.

Yummy healthy snack - sliced raw apple and cinnamon in buttered toasted pita

Toast a wholemeal pita pocket in your toaster.
Cut an opening (carefully without burning yourself), and spread a little butter or Bob Each Way Spread (which is butter and oil mix - spreads like margarine but is real food)
Fill it with finely sliced apple, skin on, and a sprinkle of cinnamon, and just a little sugar for crunch if you really want.
It is a healthy morning tea or after school snack.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Enough is Enough

I didn't realize that my slow living lifestyle is indicative of a movement called a Steady State Economy, as I hadn't heard this term before. 
Enough is Enough is the title of the library book that I am reading. It is by Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill.
The authors describe a desired state of the world that will support the number of inhabitants without the need for economic growth, but where people have just enough for their needs and don't over consume.
In this way resources will be managed, environmental damage will be reduced and hopefully population growth will settle out.
The authors recognize the huge hurdles in getting the world economies to change and look at ways that this might be encouraged. Real food for thought. Find this book if you can.


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Updates and a Little Mail Art

Stevia Extract Update
A couple of posts back I was making Stevia extract, but hadn't got to the final part, which was to simmer the vodka, after straining it off the leaves, for about 5 mins to concentrate the liquid, and reduce the alcohol. 
Well that's all done and bottled, and I have tried it in my coffee (about 10 drops) for half a teaspoon of sugar equivalent. It is nowhere near as sweet as the bought stevia powder or liquid. 
And for Sandra, it's just to get an early morning hit of vodka  to sweeten my coffee. I need to use it a bit longer before I decide if I would do this again - it changes my coffee just a little - not bad, just different.

Stevia extract - it looks like a witches potion!

(Not the) Best Ever Cleaning Powder

Last week I made a batch of my Best Ever Cleaning Powder - (put that into the blog search if you want to try it). I was rushing and made it by memory (mistake number one), then had to go look up the recipe and try to correct it. 
Number two mistake was that I put it in the food processor to pulverize the washing soda crystals. 
I quickly threw it into a container, but when I went to use it, I realized that the washing soda was still in big lumps that would scratch a fine surface.
Last time I made it I used the mortar and pestle to grind it to a powder. I think I will look out for an old coffee grinder to do this job better.
That all said - when it is made properly it is superb. I will be using this lot to clean the loo, and I have used it to scour some cups clean of coffee stains.

Ingredients for best ever cleaning paste

Mail Art
I love sending mail art. This one was sent about 2 years ago, and the recipient loved it so much that he didn't actually open it, for fear of destroying the artwork, until last month. So he had no idea what was in it.
After carefully opening the parcel he repackaged it as it was - I just got a photo of it today. It still sits on his mantelpiece.

Mail Art

Waste Not Want Not

One day as I was removing nail polish with a cotton wool ball, I thought - this is silly, why not use little squares of old cotton t-shirt to do this job. So now I keep a bag of these cut up ready to go in the bathroom cabinet.

Squares of old t-shirt to remove nail polish

I saw this quote today on an art shop in Ponsonby

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Birthday Carrot Cake and Using My Vintage Fabric

When they advise "Don't experiment with new recipes on guests" I'm a shocker for ignoring that. For our recent party I tried out three new recipes - on 100 people.
Two days before the party I Googled "Never fail carrot cake" - and this recipe is what I got. I tripled it (without testing it - they said no-fail right?), to have enough.
Stack of leather bound books birthday cake

Indeed it was the nicest carrot cake ever, and it was a success, even staying moist for a week.
Written in gold cake decorating ink, using a small paintbrush

Fortunately old books are meant to look a bit battered. If you ever want to do a big kindness for someone throwing a birthday party - offer to make and decorate the cake, as this has to be done petty much the day before and can be rather a challenge.

No Fail Carrot Cake - from The Truth About Mummy blog

4 eggs
1 1/4 cups of vegetable oil
2 cups of white sugar ( I have since cut this to 1 1/2 and it was good)
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups of plain flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
3 cups of grated carrot
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 175c
Grease and paper tin
In a large bowl beat eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla.
Mix in flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.
Stir in carrots.
Put mix in the baking tin and bake for 50 minutes.
Let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

No Fail Carrot Cake

Vintage Fabric Belt

The fabric for this sash type belt has been kicking around in my mother's, and then my material stash for a very long time - given that it was an offcut from a fifties playsuit. Along with some vintage tablecloth material and vintage buckle, it is now put to use.
I pretty much left the offcut in the shape that I found it and it fits snugly around the hips.
Vintage Fabric Belt

lining from vintage tablecloth

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Stevia - Growing and Processing

If like me you need to keep a grip on your weight, but don't like to use artificial sweeteners, you will probably be familiar with stevia, which is a no-calorie sweetener.
For the first time (after several previous attempts) I have managed to grow a decent plant that the snails haven't demolished.
It seems that Autumn, which it is here in New Zealand right now, is the best time to harvest stevia, when the leaves are at their sweetest.

Stevia plant

Last week I picked some leaves, washed them and left them to dry in the kitchen. Today I thought that I would pulverise them to make my own stevia powder - which is something I have been buying as a fine white powder in little plastic bags (sounds suspicious eh). Turns out that this is a very refined product - I don't know how they get it looking like that.
My plan was to grind it up, after snipping with the scissors, with my mortar and pestle.

This wasn't terribly effective, neither was the food processor. I eventually rubbed it to a powder through my sieve. The resulting product is sweet, but grassy smelling.

After this I decided to do some research on the internet. Turns out that a coffee grinder is the way to go for making powder.
What I did find on there were recipes for stevia extract, which I am now having a try at.
There is a good instructional blog here at (which looks like an interesting blog worthy of another look).
Basically, it is covering washed and dried stevia leaves with vodka for 2 days, in the pantry, then simmering them for a while to reduce the alcohol and liquid to concentrate it.

stevia leaves in vodka - making stevia extract.

I have a plan to make a plastic mesh insert to keep the leaves under the vodka.
I'll report back on result of taste and effectiveness.