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Monday, 24 November 2014

A Little Pre-Christmas Gift Making (goes astray)

I know why pre-Christmas is always so stressful's because it coincides with Spring - the busiest time in the garden.
Every year I tell myself that I will be organized by at least August, but I've found that if I buy gifts early for people - knowing that it's something they want, they invariably buy it for themselves and I am left with said gift!
This week I am setting aside other work to get gifts made - at least I know they can't buy those. Today I scuffled around in the studio looking for the bits I needed, only to be sidetracked.
 I plan to make some cushions (they are so expensive for just a little easy sewing) for the girls in their 20's. I found some old ones that Derek had rescued from his work lounge.

Now, I wasn't really that interested in them, but decided to make a mobile phone holder (for myself), for when I'm gardening or bike riding or at the beach with no pockets. Next I made a spare shopping bag for leaving in the car. Finally, I combined two inners to make a new cushion, but really, I need to buy new inners for the girls' cushions, so I made one for us out of some thrifted (but brand new) material. 

I think I could describe the things that I have made from the cushion material as being a bit "daggy", but I realize this is a New Zealand colloquialism, so had better explain. "Daggy" refers to the dangley bits on a sheep's bum, and can best be explained as the opposite of chic.
Oh well, tomorrow is another day - I'll try again!

I mentioned a couple of months back that I would post a photo of the dress I bent my "No Buying Any clothes for a Year" pledge for. 
As it was for a fancy dress party - The Great Gatsby theme - I felt that I couldn't risk waiting until the last minute. It is a thrifted dress, and not like it might just have still been there. 
Derek has kindly posed with me. 

The strange black pendant is my saxophone strap that I forgot to take off.

I made the photo extra large so you can see the (scratchy) beady work on the dress and not because I enjoy putting in pictures of myself.

Thanks for stopping in. I hope you are doing way better with your Christmas organization than me!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

NZ Art on a Grand Scale

Hi All, well haven't I had fun today!
Friends had a spare seat going on a long prebooked trip to Gibbs Farm on the Kaipara Harbour.
This farm has been turned into a private sculpture collection which owner Alan Gibbs opens to the public for one day each month - for free!
These are booked out completely until next May - so I was totally lucky to get a place. There were hundreds of people out enjoying the artworks and a few giraffes, zebra, alpacas and bird life.
I'll let the pictures of some of the sculptures tell the story pretty much from here....

And a different view of this sculpture, called Dismemberment by Anish Kapoor next pic

Neil Dawson's Horizons - a trompe l'oeil to suggest a giant piece of corrugated iron blown off a  barn 

A close up of the sculpture you can see two photos back

And one of yours truly in front of Richard Thompson's sculpture, which is red on the other side.

So a 7 km walk - exercise and art appreciation,
 a beaut day out with friends, gorgeous weather - what's not to love? 

Monday, 17 November 2014

Some failures! And an Inspiration.

I like to try out lots of tips I see about. Some turn out to be fabulous life changers, but others, well I think they are myths. Or maybe they work for other people.

So a couple that haven't worked for me in the garden...
Firstly I read that if you cover your brassicas with a rhubarb leaf the white butterflies will be fooled.

Well don't you believe it! I was going to post this shot of my lovely broccoli, but then thought, I'd actually better cut it and make sure that works. Disappointment! Now it is soaking in a tub of salted water, and even then if I am going to eat it, it just about has to pass a magnifying glass inspection.
The second failure was Diatomaceous Earth that I have posted about previously when I discovered it. Well I dusted all my brassicas with it - even under the leaves (labour intensive!). Today there are still little green caterpillars crawling through it.
Another brilliant idea I had was to empty out some old spices that I had hanging about around my seedlings - ie chilli and white pepper. These were left over from clearing my parents estate, and the longer they sat in the shed, the less likely they were to get used. I just hope they annoyed some slugs and snails.
We have so many insects that it makes gardening a real challenge.

Another (suspected) myth that I am investigating is whether applying apple cider vinegar to skin tags three times a day for a week will get rid of them. 
Might have to go on a bit longer than a week to make up for the slip-ups. (Not exactly a scientific study haha). More about this in a week or two.

My Inspirational Friend

I visited my friend Yvonne yesterday. She is always one of my inspiration stops. She kindly allowed me to use a photo of one of the gifts she is making for the young ones in her extended family. I think it was seven of these she was making. This quilt is made for a boy with musical interests.

Yvonne uses old flannelette sheeting as batting (I think that's the term, you can tell that I don't do quilting - I'm too untidy), as she says it gives them warmth without too much weight.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Organized for Christmas Yet?

Every year I plan to be more organized for Christmas - because that is the secret to sticking to your principles of not buying gifts that are not good for the planet, and actually sometimes not even good for the recipient.
That's the secret to having enough time to gift wrap using recycled materials.

We have some people on our Christmas list who are hard to buy for - elderly parents who don't need more stuff, the quite well off who can buy anything they want for themselves, and some living overseas.

This year I have decided to make part of the gifts myself (as I did last year with homemade Christmas cakes). 
I'm going to make pretty jars of this yummy Annabel Langbein antipasto recipe,

Roasted feta, olives, capsicum, garlic, cherry tomatoes

(I've just made some with roasted asparagus instead of tomatoes)....                and jars of home made
orange marmalade

(not the low sugar variety), maybe some rum and raisin truffles

 plus some basket-fillers like crackers and nuts, maybe a little pot of sage (which will hopefully have grown big enough by then).
While I was doing my bulk shopping yesterday, there was a woman in buying ingredients to make her Christmas cakes. The shop owner commented - "it's hard to find time to be home long enough to cook a Christmas cake." 
That's what makes hand made gifts precious - the gift of time, which a lot of people don't have these days.
My friend Diane has just made five of these lovely rayon kimono gowns for all her family's females. They are so lucky!

Do you have any fabulous ideas for keeping Christmas sane -clever presents, gift wrapping or decor that are eco friendly? I'd love it if you share some. 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

New Tea Tree Arbor and Garden Glimpses

Every year I plan to have the best garden ever, but they never look as good as those on other people's blogs. But today I thought it doesn't look too bad so I'm putting some photos of it in. Look what Derek and Katie made - I love it!

Derek viewed through the tea tree arbor that he and Katie built yesterday for the beans to climb over.

I've got a constant brew on the go, of seaweed, comfrey and horse poo tea, which I dish out every week. My plants all get a lawn clipping mulch, after I read in NZ Gardener magazine about an nonagenarian who used only lawn clippings on his garden and it was fabulous.

Cinders loves to be where the action is - lying all over my heirloom Dalmatian cabbages

I spend a lot of time gardening, and the gardens have come a long way since I moved in. It can't be too bad...I'm picking broad beans, kale, silverbeet, rhubarb, strawberries, spring onions, mesclun and lettuce, plus calla lilies and sweetpeas. And of course herbs.

I don't have the heart to pull out some of my plants that have gone to seed when I see how the bees love them. Does that mean they will have onion flavoured honey?

Calla Lilies

After growing calla lilies commercially for a couple of years I never wanted to see another one - but I have relented. They are low maintenance and last well in the vase.
I hope you've enjoyed the little garden ramble.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Mint Jelly and an Excellent New Tea Tree Trellis

Because we can't go back and change it...
Poster by Kevin Martinez

What will your masterpiece be like when you get to the end? A beautiful work of art that calls to people? Is it considered and deliberate? Or is it an abstract that just unfolds, but is a thing of beauty to behold, maybe a Jackson Pollockesque frantic work - complicated and busy.
Perhaps it would be like "The Scream".
I think mine will be an organic mixed media with no straight lines, and just a bit messy.

And talking of organic..

Yesterday Derek whipped up this fabulous tea tree trellis for one of our passionfruit plants. The plant looks a little sorry in the photo as it had just been persuaded to change position, but it will pick up soon.

We have a supply of these lovely tall straight tea trees on our place. The next project is to be a frame for my beans that will be an arbor between raised garden beds.

The Mint Jelly Recipe

Last post I was making mint jelly for the first time - trying to equal (or beat) the beloved one that comes with artificial additives and a plastic bottle.
I found this recipe on Karon Greive's blog Larder Love for Sugar Free Mint Jelly and gave it a try.
Photo taken from Larder Love blog

Even in my half-baked fashion of not following instructions it turned out pretty good and got a thumbs up from Derek and Katie.
I only made a small amount - quarter of the recipe to be exact, because I didn't have enough mint, and that made one small bottle full. I can tell that is not going to last long so I had better nurture the mint a bit more.
Karon's recipe uses organic apple juice instead of sugar, which I thought was great. I just used a carton of juice that I had, but duh, next time I will juice some apples to get the real thing.
Karon advocates using the mint sauce on lamb, or thinning it to drizzle on new potatoes or mixing with yoghurt for a dip.
Added later: I didn't mention, my jelly turned out a bit runny to start with so I added a couple of teaspoons of jam setter. I think I may have used too much liquid in the initial apple cooking stage as the recipe doesn't specify. But it's still good.
Here is the link to her larder love sugar-free-mint-jelly recipe 

Some of my other Supermarket replacements that have turned out well are...

Margarine replacement Bob Each Way Spread which is made from butter and olive oil
And a post that links to a fabulous icecream recipe that doesn't require a machine, and no stirring once it goes into the freezer - just your own wholesome ingredients.