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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

When Your Dishwasher Doesn't Clean; Wormwood

When Your Dishwasher Won't Clean...
A while back one of my tenants reported that their dishwasher wasn't cleaning the dishes. Well I have learnt not to rush off and phone up a repairman. First thing I do now is Google the model of the appliance and the problem and it is amazing how often I am able to sort the problem myself - or at least get a better understanding of it.
So when I asked my daughter how her new (second hand) dishwasher was working, and she replied "not very good", I knew what to look for.
The first thing to do is check that the rotating arm is not being stopped by large dishes. The second thing is to take those arms off - generally they seem to unscrew easily - and clean out the little holes, then run some hot water through them from the tap to make sure they are clear.
It looked like her dishwasher arms had never been cleaned, and now the report is that "it's much better now thanks"

Dishwasher arm - some have tiny holes that block - no squirt - no work

I read that wormwood is a good pest deterrent - and I'm all for that!
I bought myself a packet of seeds and boy did they grow!
So now I am giving them away - anyone want some?

Wormwood seedlings

I have discovered however that you need to know what you are doing with this stuff. It has a growth retardant effect on other plants - so watch where you plant it. The growth retardant factor washes out from the roots, and you don't want to use tea made from it on any young or tender plants for the same reason.
 And you certainly don't want to drink that tea. Wormwood is what absinthe was made of in the old days and can be lethal. In fact it is recommended that you wash you hands even after handling it.
If that doesn't put people off, then it is supposedly a deterrent to ants, mice, moths, flies and other insects as well as possums, rabbits, birds and deer.
So I am going to carefully position it, and then hang branches of it in the fruit trees to put the possums and birds off eating our fruit. 
I'll let you know how that works out.

Mint Sauce

I don't much like mint sauce, but everyone else here adores it. I looked at the (plastic) bottle and declared that I'm sure I could make better mint sauce without all the numbers (food colouring etc), and without it being 30% sugar like the bought stuff. Let alone save on price and packaging.
So today that is what I am doing and will post the results next time.
I am trying to make it like a suspension or jelly, as opposed to the stuff my mother made - the old English way - which was pretty much instant, just mint and vinegar with a bit of sugar.

It's a great day for being in the kitchen. It's pouring with rain, there's thunder and lightening and Munta has taken to being a big sook and thinks he should be an inside dog. I have let him have the mat just inside the door because I am a big softee.
Being scared of thunder and lightening

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Replacing the Nutella, and a Recap

A few posts back I made some place mats for my daughter out of an old bamboo blind and was waiting to see what she thought. I just got a text to say she's having people round for dinner and is going to use her cool place mats..success! And the magnets passed too.

I have always tried to make things instead of buying them. I remember when we could first buy sushi and it became my daughter's favourite food. But it seemed so dear for a few little hard could it be? I made some without telling my daughter and placed them in a washed sushi container. She didn't say anything (but later said she'd suspected I'd made them), but when I tried them they weren't quite right. I then learned about the vinegar mix that goes in the rice and can make them just like the bought ones now. 
So my latest trick was to replace the Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread) that Katie loves. That stuff is full of sugar, plus I don't want to be buying plastic containers of it.
After looking around for recipes I just gave it a go. All the recipes I saw said to roast and skin the hazelnuts - but I'm lazy and just left the skins on them - turned out fine.
I don't have a proper recipe, but this is approximately what I did:

DIY chocolate hazelnut spread

Chocolate Hazelnut (and Almond) Spread

50/50 mix of whole roasted almonds and hazelnuts approx 1 1/2 cups total
olive oil (a mild tasting one)
heaped tablespoon of whole milk powder
3 teaspoons of icing sugar
1 tablespoon of cocoa powder

I put all the ingredients except the olive oil in the food processor and whizzed them up, then added the oil slowly through the top until the spread was the consistency I wanted. I left it a bit grainier than Nutella - I like that home-made texture.
It was a hit with Katie. It's not too sweet, but just enough and has a lovely hazelnut flavour, not overwhelmed by sweetness.

I don't mind so much if it is a caterpillar eater like this one (no monarch butterfly caterpillars here yet)

I've just been out in the garden and got a wasp sting - ouch! I don't know about you, but I rush for the lavender oil. It took the pain away within about 20 seconds, and a short time later you wouldn't have known I'd even been stung.

Today I have planted out my corn, dalmatian cabbages, butternut pumpkin, kentucky pole beans. I'm all excited to see flowers on the tomatillos already.

My tomatillo plant in flower, and yes there is another to pollinate it.

Hope your week's going well. Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Art in Travel, Travelling Art

It's time I posted some artworks. It is too easy to get tied up in the slow living thing, making food and green cleaners and beauty products, gardening, blogging. Sometimes art goes on the back burner.
Holidays are the ideal time to break out the watercolour paints or watercolour pencils and a good fine tip permanent ink pen. They are easily transported, easy to clean up, and quick drying.
Recently we took a road trip to Ruapehu, to the snow. Now generally if I have a choice I will go to a tropical island and leave the snow for others. So one day, Derek and the girls went up the mountain and I stayed at our lodge to paint. It was a beautiful day, actually hot. This was my watercolour.

The view from our back door, Ruapehu, looking away from the mountain.

The trick to not having the paper curl up, unless you stretch it, is to brush the back with a wet brush, either when you've finished, or you can do both sides before you start and let them dry.
I like to paint or draw at least one thing every time I go away. The point is not that it has to be good - don't worry about that. It means that I spend the time in the moment, seeing every little thing in front of me. It's way more meaningful than a quick photo. If you haven't tried it, I urge you to.

Mail Art - but on the Inside

We have a dear friend who often sends us music that he thinks we might like. So this parcel is for him. This time there will be no mail art on the outside - just plain brown paper wrap. But the inside....under the book and cd that we are sending in the box will be a little surprise. The number is his year of birth. The box is from an old, incomplete lotto game that I picked up for a couple of dollars. The small compartment with the driftwood and piece of bone etc lifts out. It was inspired by wunderkammer - cabinets of curiosities. 

A little curiosity to send

I used E6000 Industrial Strength glue to secure the pieces - that is the best glue ever. I bought it for fixing the vintage jewellery I've been buying and have been totally impressed. 
Thanks for stopping by - maybe you'll be all inspired to go off and create something for yourself.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Creative Mother Upcycles

Kia ora - thanks for popping in.

I thought I would add a few typical New Zealand photos taken by Derek on our recent road trip to the mountains.

Maori meeting house in the township of Taumaranui

Typical rural roadside scene - we love the look of old farm buildings 

This slide is really best when the tide is in at this home in Raglan on a tidal inlet.

Creative Mother
(...that's me)

My daughter Maria (21) has just moved into a house by herself, and we are still busy getting her organized. I came away with a list of all the little things she needs - because we have amalgamated a few households over the years and have way too much stuff.
On this list were fridge magnets ("not tacky ones though"). We have a lot of those promotional magnets that you get sent without asking for. They are not pretty, but I don't like to throw them out. Usually I stick pieces of them onto the backs of postcards and display the cards on the fridge like that.
This time I though I would cover a couple using some upholstery vinyl that I had saved from a project. I will wait and see if these pass the "not tacky" judgement. I thought they would go with the black and white decor.

Double sided sticky tape and new cover for fridge magnets

Fridge magnets - now a bit more attractive
The next item on the list was place mats. I know I have some extras somewhere - probably stored high in the garage, but meanwhile I came across the remains of an old bamboo blind...the same one I used to make light shades with for the caravan refashion.
Don't throw those old bamboo blinds out!

A bit of work with the scissors, and a good scrub, and I will hand them over with a poker face to my girl who has champagne taste on a beer budget. They should do until she has enough money to buy herself what she likes.

"New" set of bamboo place mats - no expense spared.

It's only small stuff - and yes it would have been (almost) quicker to go out and buy new ones - but where's the fun in that?

Sunday, 12 October 2014

The Band Clip Post

If you call me - let the phone ring because...

I'm making a new garden with hebes and flax and bromeliads etc, to tidy up a corner (where the dog had taken to digging). It's low maintenance stuff, with a shell mulch and driftwood edges, in keeping with the other borders nearby. And it's more or less free as I'm dividing up plants that I already have to use. Photos to follow when done.
Plus I've transplanted some kowhai seedlings that I found, into pots for a while until I'm ready to plant them out. Then there all the seeds I've planted, gardens to weed, lawns to's a great time of the year.

The Band

Recently I was asked to put up a clip of our band playing. As I talk about it a bit, that is only fair, but I don't have a great choice of clips for easy access to put up - so this is it.  video clip of our band "Inertia'
I have to say putting this on has stretched the limits of my technical ability - please let me know if there is any problem with it.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Of Towai, Kauri Gum and Some Baking Soda Uses.

It's Spring here, and not only have we been away and occupied with school holidays, but I have been busy in the garden - planting and tidying up.
We could have done without getting home in the early hours of Sunday morning to discover that idiots had not only stolen our recycling bin, but had strewn a lot of the contents over our road. Sunday morning was spent sweeping up broken glass..grrr. The only good thing that I can think of is that the thieves are into recycling...hence needing our bin.

Saturday night was spent with the band, playing for a small rural community Church Centennial Dance. I thought I would throw in a few photos, because they are one awesome community in Towai - the little hall was packed, with not enough seating for all..lucky many were up dancing the night away.

Hall decoration for the Centennial Dance

What I loved was the decoration of the hall, which some of the ladies had spent a lot of thought and time on.

flower arrangements in vintage cups - you can get a feel for how rural this hall is.

The 100 year old Towai Church
In the top photo you can see lumps of something on the floor - they are Kauri Gum. The gum from the Kauri tree plays a large part in Northland's history, and changed it's demographic, with many people having come from Dalmatia (Yugoslavia and Croatia) in the 1880s to the gumfields.
The gum was used commercially in varnish and in linoleum making, but had been used by the Maori people for many things from chewing gum (when fresh and soft) to firestarters as it is highly flammable and amber jewellery.
Kauri gum (which is fossilized resin) is one of the things I have been finding washed up on our local beach. There is still a market for it, but I haven't tried selling any yet.
Kauri Gum that washed up on our shores.
What took me so long?

Sometimes I wonder why I don't think of things earlier. Last weekend I needed potting mix and seed raising mix as I haven't been able to make enough (especially as a rat got into our compost and I don't want to use it). I don't need a trailer-load, but neither do I want to keep buying plastic bags of it. A phonecall to Greenfingers and I discovered that we could take our own bags down there and fill them ourselves. Not only did this mean we managed with less plastic bags, but it was way cheaper. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get the seed raising mix unless I ordered a lot.

my seed growing operation, with evidence of baking soda zapped weeds in the foreground.

Baking Soda trials
The other thing I have started doing is killing off the weeds on our paved area with salt or baking soda and boiling noxious sprays, but only good in places where you don't want to grow anything. 
And on the subject of baking soda - I washed my hair with it the other day for the first time and rinsed with white vinegar. Just rub a handful of baking soda through wet hair and massage. Seriously impressed! My hair felt lovely and clean and soft and shiny. I hadn't done this before as I use my own home made shampoo soap and conditioner, but it is a good, cheap alternative.