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Monday, 28 July 2014

Small Town - Kaihu, Watercress


Yesterday Derek was working over towards Dargaville and took these pics of the little township of Kaihu. It had a population of approx 500 people in the 1890s when Kauri milling and the gumfields were operating, but now it is a quiet little village.
Tutamoe in the background

The Kaihu Hotel - still operating

Rustic shed, beautiful mid-winter's day

Kaihu Church and cemetery

Trouble in the Garden

We don't yet have enough on our young trees to share with the wildlife...look what the possums have done in our trees!

Possum-eaten avocado

And here is the culprit
And what they are good for...
Possum fur duster for the keyboard
Possums do huge damage to our native flora and fauna - so don't feel sorry for it.

I always thought you needed running water to grow watercress - but read recently that it can be grown in very wet ground. I have just the spot in the old fridge we painted up for a drinks cooler for our party. Yesterday I bought a bag of it, and am going to try growing it from that as there are lots of little white roots on it.

Watercress is extremely nutritional, with more iron than spinach, more vitamin c than an orange and more calcium than milk. 
It is useful cooked as a steamed vegetable or in soup or raw in salads and sandwiches. 
I hope it keeps this space for updates.

I hope you've enjoyed today's little snippet of New Zealand life.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Messing About In The Sudio

My studio is a shambles - and generally I like it that way. One day I will include a photo. I haven't been getting out there enough, what with making everything from scratch, sax practice and life in general, so yesterday I just decided to get out there and muck around.
Derek had brought home this big coffee tin - which turned out to be cardboard, to see if I could upcycle it, so here is my take on that.

Packaging awaiting upcycling

The coffee tin, with some vintage wallpaper and an old shank button (shank removed)

The other bits of packaging I'm turning into (hopefully) something more interesting too.

Art Journals
I love my collection of art journals, into which anything goes; snippets I collect from anywhere, watercolours of places I visit, quotes, websites, my list of books I've read.They would be one of the first things I'd grab if the house was burning, and they live right next to my bed.
Apart from the first one, they are all upcycled books. I work on them in no particular order, just finding a space and jumping in, so they are not in chronological order. When I first start a new book I don't like how it feels - until I start adding layers and it becomes thick and well handled.
 An important part for me is the cover. I have just done the cover of my latest book, which I picked up in a junk shop. It was an album of handmade paper with an ugly cover which I paid $1 for.

Front cover -snippet says "there are no hard and fast rules"

I have painted it black and collaged it with images that reflect a bit of myself in some way, then finished it with a coat of artists varnish. Funny thing, after adding a spanner picture, today I found one on the road - in the middle of nowhere- when I was out on my bike this morning. What are the chances of that?


Back cover -"Dance like no  every one's watching
  The back cover image is a photo I took of some belly dancers years ago. It wasn't a great photo, but by scratching out the background with a blade it brings the main element into focus. "Dance like no everyone is watching" means give the performance of your life.

Being a journal lover, I have to admit to loving glue sticks. Unfortunately they come with a little bit of glue and a lot of plastic. I have googled how to make your own glue stick, and come up with a couple of (dubious looking) recipes I might try. Then I thought - hey, we didn't have glue sticks when I was young, my Mum used to make up a bit of wallpaper paste in a pot - and we always had one around.
Recycled jar and hair colouring brush that was waiting to be reused.

 So, I still had a half used pack of wallpaper glue powder, and used approx 1 teaspoon per 100mls...and there we have it, cheaper, and only a little plastic bag that will make up 2.5 litres of glue.
Now I just have to convince Derek and Katie that it's a good swap, and that's not going to be easy, they are both glue stick devotees.

I learned a new word today - thought I would share it.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Home made Chocolate Recipe

Young Katie is a bit of a chocoholic, so we found a recipe for her to make her own.
It sets well and leans towards being a little fudgey, but not sickly sweet. We think it's a winner and so do Katie's school friends.

Home made chocolate

Chocolate Recipe

5 Tblsp of cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups of milk powder
113g butter
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Sieve milk powder and cocoa powder and put aside.
Heat sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and continue cooking until the syrup reaches "string" consistency. Having said that ours did not get to "string" - it did thicken a bit though, and still set pefectly well.
Add butter and blend well, then remove from the heat.
Add milk-cocoa powder to syrup and mix well until glossy.
Pour the mixture onto a greased tray and smoothe with a spatula.
Allow to set for 10 - 15 minutes at room temperature, then place in the fridge for 10 - 15 mins. Enjoy.

Biodegradable Sellotape

I often see plastic-free bloggers state that sticky tape is not biodegradable, but Sellotape make a biodegradable cellulose tape. Unfortunately it has a little wrap that is probably plastic - but maybe cellulose. It is not cheap tape at $9.99 for a big roll, but I hate budget sticky tape anyway - you tend to get what you pay for. You can merrily put this on your upcycled gorgeous giftwraps and feel smug that you are doing no harm.

Woohoo - I bought my Blunt Umbrella today - 2 year warranty, no more inside out umbrellas for me. Note: this is not a paid advert, but my own opinion. They sell these worldwide now.

Thanks for visiting - I love to hear from you, leave me a comment sometime.

Friday, 18 July 2014

French Bread, Umbrellas and Strawberries that Rock

Friday Night Drinks
So - Friday night drinks aren't quite the same when you are not out working. ..not that my old job had such a session - everyone just wanted to get out.
Last night Derek was having drinks and snacks at work to celebrate the end of a busy week....and I was having mine at home.....

Mulled cider, home made french bread, feta, sundried tomato

I didn't make the feta cheese or the sundried tomatoes myself - but it's good to have things to work towards, and they are on my list.
The drink is my home made cider - which now bubbles like champagne. I have been making mulled cider with it on these chilly midwinter nights, by adding 1/3 teaspoon of my chai spice mix, plus a couple of cloves, some lemon juice and water to take down the sweetness a bit, and heating it in the microwave - sooo nice!
I found the french bread recipe on Pinterest and was really impressed by how it turned out. I think it was simple enough to make - but that was kind of lost as I was making low sugar marmalade and busy people's bread at the same time.
My french loaves - a hit!

French Bread Recipe - from Heart Hands Home Blog

3 1/2 cups of warm water
2 1/4 tsp yeast
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp salt
8-9 cups of unbleached flour

Dissolve yeast in 1 1/2 cups of warm water.
Place remaining 2 cups of water, sugar, salt and 3 cups of the flour into a large bowl - stir to combine. The original recipe says to use a mixer, I used the dough hooks on my hand mixer - but you could just mix it by hand no problem.
Add in the yeast mix.
Add remaining flour one cup at a time until a smooth dough is formed.
Knead 5 minutes.
Place dough in a greased bowl, turning once to coat. Cover bowl.
Let it rise in a warm spot until doubled - about 1- 11/2 hours.
Divide dough into four and shape it into long french loaves. 
Place on a greased baking sheet, cover with a clean teatowel and leave it to rise for about 45 minutes.
Make diagonal slashes and brush with 1 egg mixed with 1 Tbsp water - or use milk like I did.
Bake at 200c (400F) for 20-25 minutes til hollow when tapped.

It is not as light and dry as the french bread we get here in our supermarkets, but makes great bruschetta. It has been a hit here and I will be making it regularly now.


After the heavy rain and ferocious wind we had here 10 days ago, I've decided that the umbrellas need some attention. Some were cheapies, bought in an urgent situation (but really a waste of money - only good to keep sun off), and others are of better quality - but they all fail, so I get out with my needle and thread and sew those bits of material back to their respective spokes. It makes them last a bit longer in this throw away society.
And then...But what I am going to buy myself is one of these - Blunt Umbrellas.
This is not paid advertising, but they have been tested in a wind tunnel to perform without breaking. They are New Zealand made and cost about $100 - $120, which is no doubt good economy if they last for ages.
I will be definitely putting a tag with my contact details on it, and some identifying marking. I don't want it disappearing when I leave it in a bucket at the library door.

Fool Those Birds

Lastly, I saw this picture of painted rocks and laughed so hard. Even if they don't fool the birds, it's a fun idea. Probably worth putting them in among your plants just before your own strawberries ripen. 
Put them among your strawberries for the birds to peck and put them off.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

DIY Lipbalm, Shopping Local

It's not where we stand, but in what direction we are moving - Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

This is the display at my local Binn Inn, where I can take my own containers to fill and the owners/staff are always lovely and cheerful about it. It is worth shopping in small shops just for that kind of personal service. They do a window display that faces into the shop - for their customers to enjoy.
I am always finding something else there that I realize I can buy with my own container to cut down yet another products packaging.

Glamorous vintage shop display

Yesterday I finally got around to making myself some lip balm, and decided it would make an excellent Christmas present too.
 I used this recipe...Wendyl's Lip Balm and it was so easy!
from Wendyl Nissen's Green Goddess books

20ml sweet almond oil
1/2 teaspoon of beeswax, grated
1/2 teaspoon of cocoa butter
1 teaspoon of icing sugar (but I would use 1/4 to 1/2 next time)
1 capsule of vitamin E (I didn't have this, so just left it out)
5 drops of essential oil - I used peppermint

Melt oil butter and beeswax in a double boiler - I used a chipped pottery bowl that I keep just for making cosmetics, in a small saucepan of water.
Add icing sugar and stir. 
Remove from the heat and add vitamin E and essential oil. Pour into a little pot and label with a pretty label. Wait for it to cool and solidify and it is ready to use. I love it.
DIY lipbalm

I bought all my ingredients from, and once you have these ingredients you can make lots of different products. I'm going to be making face moisturizer soon as I am about to run out of the last one I have.

Just remain at the centre watching - then forget that you are there
....Lao Tze

Saturday, 12 July 2014

After the Storm

If you are a beachcomber don't you just love getting to the beach after a big storm. We went down yesterday to find a few lads out surfing the wild sea and mountains of seaweed washed up.

We picked up a shopping bag full of sea plastic and found some choice pieces of driftwood.
There were a lot of dead little blue penguins and I found this fellow...that I think is a seahorse, but he's all out straight. If anyone knows for sure can you leave me a comment.

All washed up - seahorse?

Yesterday we were too jaded after a late night out with the band to pick up seaweed for the garden, so we went back today and got loads. The good news is that there was no beach plastic. Someone else is cleaning up our beach too.

I've admired this clever fence and finally remembered to take a photo.

Love the peek of a vintage caravan

Upcycled Dog Bed

Munta's new upcycled bed

For some time I have been meaning to make Munta a more comfortable bed than just the old settee cushion we found for him. Today I fished out this huge suitcase that we had saved from being dumped - it's really too big to travel with. I had just been using it to store stuff in, but really, what a perfect bed. Inside I have put Munta's old cushion, plus some tubes that I salvaged from some old life jackets that had to be thrown out. Add a piece of old carpet and he thinks, after being a bit tentative, that it's great. Now that we know he will use it I will remove the back of the suitcase so it doesn't fall on him. 

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Caramel Milkshake Syrup/ Sauce as an Example

This post is a little slow coming this week due to the fact that we've had a big storm and were without power for over 24 hours. It has been a lesson as it had us scrambling for things that we will now leave in a convenient place together in the garage. We have an emergency cupboard inside, with torches, matches, candles, portable radio etc, but we will now have one for the likes of the gas cooker and larger items too.
No power here means no running water as we have a pump, so it all had to be brought in from the tank in buckets. Talk about a lesson in slow living so that we don't take things for granted.

Our river looks like the Amazon at the moment - wide, full and dirty. 

Our river in flood, Northland NZ

The next Generation
I'm keen for any opportunity to encourage the next generation to think about how they shop, instead of it being an automatic thing, so when milkshake syrup appeared on our shopping list board I thought of it as an opportunity not to be missed.
I didn't really want to buy milkshake syrup because it's full of artificial colours, flavours and sugar, plus it generally comes in a plastic container, so I asked young Katie which flavour in particular she would like. When she said "caramel" I knew it was most likely something we could make.

 A little Googling and I came up with this recipe. Katie made it and it turned out to be, in her words, "nicer than the bought stuff" because it was not sickly sweet, but gave good flavour. It's really a caramel sauce recipe - but hey, it works in milkshakes too.

Easy Caramel Sauce from the Food Network

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup of half and half cream (we used a tin of reduced cream)
4 tablespoons of butter 
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of vanilla essence

Mix the sugar, cream, butter and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5-7 minutes until it gets thicker. Add the vanilla and cook another minute. Turn off heat, cool slightly and pour the sauce into a jar.
Done - how easy is that!

Well, back to the job of cooking up all the food that had half defrosted in the freezer during the power outage - I don't want to be wasting it.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Bling, A Refashion and The Next Generation

In my last post I mentioned bonding with an antique dealer over vintage jewellery. She told me that she has a customer who is making a wedding bouquet out of vintage brooches. The customer has spent over $100 so far, but a bridal bouquet is an expensive item anyway - and at least it will be able to be treasured - or sold - or broken down and reused...hmmm there's a business idea in there...
I thought you might like to see some glorious examples I found...

From Rooted in Love Weddings and Events

From Bridal Guide magazine
The  Next Generation
My daughter,who is 20 years old, is not a greenie. Last week when she was out she left her slippers behind. I saw they were starting to come apart, so said I would fix them. My girl said - no don't bother, they were only $5, I'll just get another pair. Hmmm, "No" I said, "I'm going to mend them." 
I want the next generation to think about these things too.
And on that is school holidays here. I saw a good refashion for track pants into a skirt so asked Katie (13) if she had any she would like me to alter, and here is the result. She was really pleased.


I had to resew that back seam a bit straighter


I Love My Own Backyard
It's mid winter here, but still quite mild most days. New Zealand is a land of rainbows as it is often sunny and raining at the same time. It makes for pretty photos.

the view from my backyard

The plane tree in it's winter nakedness, with it's own baubles.
Thanks for visiting my blog, I hope you like it!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Thrift Shop Treasure

Sometimes I have trouble sleeping, so I was reading in the middle of the night. Now I am a bit of an entrepreneur, always running with ideas, so it probably wasn't a good idea to read "Get Out While You Can - escape the rat race" by George Marshall. 

Well of course, I have already escaped the rat race - but I wanted to make sure I hadn't missed anything. Basically it's all about making money on the internet, but you won't be seeing my blog fill up with ads any time soon, that's not what it's about for me.
But I did get a few ideas going - and then really could not get back to sleep.
I decided that I might like to sell off a few things on Trade Me - which for overseas readers is our NZ Ebay. So today I took some old pieces of jewelery to town to see if I could match the missing Aurora Borealis stones.
I got into a long discussion with a lady proprietor of a crammed full antique shop and she produced a brooch with missing stones, that I can use to repair mine and sell them of for a fortune. Ahem

So here they are  - top left is one that I discovered today is aurora borealis crystal, which I paid $1 for a couple of years ago. The one on top right was my mothers, and needs repair (I will probably keep that one), bottom left is what I bought today for $5 to repair the others, and bottom right is another I paid $1 for a while back, and it needs a new stone.
I tend to pick them up when I see them cheap, even if they have stones missing as I use them in gift wrapping instead of a purchased bow. Cheaper, way cooler and environmentally ++.

My next bargain was a bag in perfect carry my bongo drums in to band gigs. Five dollars. Did I mention that I play bongos as well as sax?

Bongo bag - new to me for $5

And a bone china saucer from the same charity shop, for 20 cents. I keep telling myself no more bone china - but they keep following me home.

Royal Winchester bone china - 20 cents

One of the things I plan to do with my vintage china

Earlier in the week I found these plastic coated baskets in pristine condition for $2 each - to help me organize my pantry further. I know - plastic - but my food won't touch it, and I am recycling them.

Organize that pantry - baskets for $2 each

Lastly, some glass storage jars, trying to get my food out of plastic, for $3 each.
Taking the plastic out of food storage.

I love thrift store/ vintage shopping. Anyone want to share their bargain finds?