Follow by Email

Thursday, 22 December 2016

The Christmas Edition

How the year whizzes by. It seems that I am doing a slow Christmas this year, partly due to recovering from a backpain episode that left me weeks behind schedule. 
Thank goodness for online Christmas shopping, as I knew that I wouldn't be up to it otherwise (all the packaging gets reused or recycled). 
I'm back on my feet now, but could only watch as the tree was trimmed. Last year I merrily bought a living tree, with great plans to use it every year - clever eh, but no - it's still alive, but not looking good enough to bring inside. So back to the beautiful shaped St John's Ambulance charity trees.

This year we decided to decorate with a marine theme in white and gold. A little gold spray paint brought these shells up beautifully - better than store bought if you ask me! 
The gift wrap followed the theme with gold starfish that I stamped on salvaged white and brown papers, making little gift tags to match, and decorating with decorations that I have bought by the bag from a charity shop, and gold crepe paper - also from a charity shop.

We are having a very quiet Christmas day - mostly just Derek and me - so we're planning a picnic lunch at this spot. The forecast is for sunshine and the Pohutukawa trees are a mass of crimson. This is the estuary - the surf beach is on the other side of the houses.


Then Boxing day we are off to see the rest of the family.

I've managed to make some of the Christmas presents to go in their gift hampers - quite safe saying that here - no family will read this.

Christmas Bark with pistachios and cranberries

This White Chocolate, Pistachios and Cranberry Bark is so easy and so festive looking - you can find the recipe here.

I've had a great crop of beetroot already so found a recipe for Beetroot Chutney. I saw it only scored 3 stars out of 5, so I made so many changes to it that I think I can call it my own recipe. It's supposed to sit for 3 weeks to develop, but it tastes great already. 

Beetroot Chutney
6 medium fresh beetroot
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp  ground cardamom
4 large green-skinned apples, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
10g fresh ginger - grated
1 cup of brown sugar
2 cups of malt vinegar (I used half malt, half white vinegar)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp coarse cooking salt
8 peppercorns and 8 cloves in a mesh bag.

Boil, steam or bake the beetroot until tender, cool a little and peel off the skins. Chop, some finely, some a little bigger.

Combine apple, spices, onion, garlic, ginger, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring at times.

Reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes. Add the beetroot and continue to simmer uncovered for another 10 minutes, or until the chutney is thick. Remove the bag of spices.

Spoon into hot sterilized jars, seal.
Refrigerate after opening

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year. May 2017 bring a cleaner, greener, more peaceful world.
xx Anne

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Calico Bags - Gift Wrap

Last week our order of 500 calico bags arrived, to sell at the market. This is part of our group's mission to have our local Grower's Market go plastic bag free.

We have progressed from sewing bags ourselves from curtain off-cuts (we couldn't keep up with the demand), to then buying reusable bags from large local stores, you know the ones - made from recycled plastic, to ordering them ourselves online (much better deal), finally getting to these better quality, biodegradable calico bags. We couldn't afford to get them printed, so they are beautifully clean skin.
I was a little nervous that they wouldn't sell, as I had invested $1200.00 of my own money, but last weekend proved that they will sell just fine at $2.50 each.

I decided to create a little promotion for pre Christmas so that people will see the bags as useful for environmentally friendly giftwrap that is actually useful afterwards, or for Santa sacks.

Calico wrapped gifts with cool little chalkboard gift tags - reusable!

If you like that deer head silhouette that I stencilled - you can make your own with the free image from

The market manager has just secured 10,000 cornstarch, biodegradable bags for the market sellers to replace their plastic bags. While this isn't the perfect solution, it is a whole lot better.
At the market this weekend 97% (my estimation) of people had their own bags or bought them from us. Plus there was co-operation from sellers to provide produce without plastic. I feel that 9 months of our effort is paying off.😊

One of the things that plastic bags were useful for was picking up rubbish in. We still get a little supply from family members who don't manage to use reusable bags 😩, but mostly I give them to the lady at the market who sells plants, so at least the are reused. I decided to upcycle Munta's dog biscuit bags by sewing on handles to them for rubbish collecting missions - they work great, being big and sturdy.

They are also great for collecting seaweed off the beach for the garden.

Just an update on the rats - I bought one of those cage traps, which I bait with home made mixed nut and seed butter on a crust, leaving the trap where we know they are going outside. We have caught 8 so far (ew). So thank goodness something is working.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

In the Wake of the Quake

Early on Monday morning NZ was rocked by a series of earthquakes, the biggest being 7.8M near Kaikoura in the South Island, with loss of two lives. It was extremely fortunate that the earthquakes occurred in the middle of the night, or the toll would have been worse.
Since the earthquakes, there has been torrential rain and flooding in the affected areas to add to it all.
We feel very lucky to be safe and free from shaking up here in the North of the North. As for the big quake 4 years ago, we are offering a place to stay for people affected by the earthquake.
The infrastructure damage is huge, plus there are a lot of buildings in the capital city Wellington that have been deemed unsafe.

So just a few pictures...but there is such a lot more damage.
A map showing the New Zealand earthquakes

Photos from the album of Aaron Woolley

It will be a long slow recovery.

Sorry if you got triplicate posts - gremlin in the works.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

DIY Socks, My Year Of No New Clothes Is Up.

My second (but not consecutive) year of No New Clothes For a Year has just ended. This time I joined the Facebook group of that name, which made it more interesting to be doing it in conjunction with many others.
I managed to go the whole 12 months without buying any clothes or accessories at all. In the in-between year I am only buying preused, except for underwear and some shoes. 
There are lots of reasons to do this - breaking spending/shopping habits, it's better for the environment and it saves money just for starters.

While I was in my not-buying year, I came across a pattern for DIY fleece socks. I decided to make my first pair from an old cotton t-shirt. I found the pattern was really too big, partly because of my choice of material, but partly because the person who blogged the pattern had already enlarged it - finding the original had been too small. So if you choose to make them, be aware that you might need to alter the sizing. 
I added the top band myself - it wasn't in the pattern

The site that I got the free pattern download from is..Salty Peanut Stitchery It is easy to figure out and not difficult to sew.
I plan to make a lined fleecy pair next.

Charity Shop Find of the Week: The not-buying-new ethic translates to all parts of life - not just clothing for me. I have been keeping a look out for a soda stream machine, to make soda with a squeeze of lemon, to help me drink fewer wines to help with my weight loss plan. I was just delighted to find this one in the Hospice Shop for only $12. It has paid for itself already. It came with a full gas bottle even!

Part of the weight loss plan has been stepping up the exercise too, so Derek, Katie, Munta and I are walking for 30 minutes/ night. We are driving to a different part of our road, and we pick up rubbish as we go. In the past week we have filled a rubbish bag and our recycling bin with what we have picked up, the place looks much better, and we are all better for the exercise too. 

My blog writing has been (pleasantly) interrupted twice this afternoon. We are on the route of the Te Araroa Trail, which is a linked walk the whole length of New Zealand. 

We sometimes have trail walkers call in asking if they can camp, because we are between camping spots. 
This year I have put little signs down on the road that we are TA Trail walker friendly, because we think it's fabulous what these young people are doing and we love to meet people from all around the world. We've just filled the water bottles of an American couple, and sent them off with a lime and some lettuce, as they don't get a lot of vegetables or fruit because they have to carry everything. The first couple in today were Japanese - they just came to say hello.
The walkers take approximately 5 months to walk the full 3,000km length of New Zealand.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Guava Moth Traps, Transition Town Seed Swap.

Hi All! Small positives for Plastic Bag Free when I was shopping last week. First I came across this sign in our local library

Then my local New World supermarket have started giving a 5c/bag discount (up to 5 bags) when you bring in your own bags (unless you are already getting their discounted coffees). It's not huge, but at least moving in the right direction.

In my last post I had made a Guava Moth trap - I can now report that it does definitely work - so here's the recipe.

Guava Moth Lure

Mix: 1 litre of boiling water
       1 tsp of vegemite or marmite
       100g sugar
       1 tsp vanilla essence

then add 1 tsp of ammonia (available at the supermarket).

Divide the mixture between 4 x 2litre milkbottles (or similar), with windows cut as per picture.

Tie the bottles into your fruit trees, using a short tie so they don't blow about and spill.

The lure will last about  month, but may need straining every few days.
It reportedly takes two evenings for the moths to find the traps.

This is what Guava moths look like...

and the damage they do...

We went to a Transition Towns Seed Swap in the weekend - Guava moths are ruining everyone's home fruit crops, so the lure recipe was really popular.
I kicked myself for not taking photos of the Seed Swap for you. There were about 20 people, everyone bringing along seedlings, cuttings, seeds and plants to share. It was our first one, and we came away loaded up with tarragon, basil, hydrangea, cherimoya, hellebores, tomatoes, tobacco (to kill chewing insects apparently), seeds of bean,cress and a weird courgette variety.

Yay! free plants

The host's garden, on a standard town section had 50 varieties of fruit trees and berries.
If you've never heard of Transition Towns, and international organization promoting positive grassroots community projects then here is a Wiki link .

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

So, What Have You Been Up To?

Yesterday I had lunch with sixteen of my ex-colleagues, in honour of one who has returned briefly from USA to visit. It was her first time reunited with many of us for about 24 years, so there was a lot of noise and catching up.
Someone asked me what I had been up to - and it's so hard to put it into words, so here is a pictorial.

Mondays are for walks on the local beach, exercising the dog and myself, plus picking up plastic etc.

The garden has been keeping me busy - raising seeds, getting them into the garden. There's corn, beans, garlic, lettuces, spring onions, peas, spinach, beetroot, cucumbers, courgettes, strawberries, kale, silverbeet, tomatoes, coriander etc..

The tamarillo trees that I raised from seed are getting planted out

This is a fishing float, a bit worse for wear that I rescued off the beach. I decided to repurpose it, rather than throw it out.

Today I have been making Guava Moth traps. I will wait until these are proven successful, then post the recipe. I'm not sure where else in the world they have these blighters, but they do so much damage to fruit.

Guava moth traps - reportedly very effective

Today I have also spent a couple of hours packaging meat for the freezer. I buy it paper wrapped from the local butcher. It is a way to reuse the small amount of food packaging that I still get. The paper wrapping all goes into the compost. 

An update on my No Junk Mail Signs that I hand delivered (from about 4 posts back) - there are now three up out of the fifteen or so delivered. Yay, three less households getting all that Junk Mail! 

It's a quiet life, but busy enough. Now - on to my sax practice!

My two saxophones - that's a vintage car in behind there at a gig we played in a workshop

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Green Drinks, Black Pools (of Ngawha)

Last night we finally managed to get to Green Drinks. If you haven't heard of this before it is an international movement where like-minded greenies get together to network and socialize once a month.
See here for Green Drinks International
In our instance the convener has a large green top hat so that newcomers know which table to gather at.
There were about a dozen people there, 30's and up, of varying shades of green and degrees of involvement in projects, or not. It was great meeting new people. After someone had inquired after our Plastic Bag Free project and I mentioned that we were really needing more people to help us  - two people volunteered!
The only disappointment was that my drink turned up with a plastic straw in it. Really?! I think that is getting sorted.

A little arrangement that I made for a friend yesterday - totally from my garden plus recycled. I so love being able to do that.

I finally got to deliver those No Junk Mail stickers yesterday that I mentioned here

I delivered about fifteen to my daughter's neighbours' letterboxes. I had to go back there a few hours later and was happy to see that one had been put onto a letterbox immediately. I'll keep you posted, but even one letterbox free of junk mail makes that worthwhile in my eyes.

Ngawha Hot Springs
Those temperatures are celsius of course

That is pronounced Nar-fa. (Maori word meaning a boiling spring).
I have mentioned Ngawha briefly before but didn't have any photos.
Ngawha is about ten minutes drive from the township of Kaikohe in Northland, New Zealand. 
Ngawha's other claim to fame is that it is the site of Northland's prison.
It's a shame you can't smell the place - it has a very strong sulphur odour, which is why people should only use old swimsuits - you can't get the smell out.
The pools are known to be therapeutic for various ailments like arthritis and eczema and lots more.

The evening that we visited it was drizzly - perfect conditions to sit there in the steaming black pools. The bottom of the pools is gravel, the sides are made from old railway sleepers. If you put your hand under the water even an inch you then can't see it, so black is the water.

There's nothing glamorous about these pools, but they are a true Kiwi experience. I wouldn't normally enjoy sharing my bath, but there are often people chatting away to each other about all sorts of things in there. Many are local, some tourists - so it becomes very social.
The warmth penetrates to your bones and stays like that for hours. Bathers are advised not to shower for a day or so to let the minerals do their work. 
When I was young there was a big colonial hotel at the Springs next door (which burnt down years ago) where would stay every year for a few days with my mother and grandmother during the school holidays so that Gran could soak, as did we and much enjoyed it.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Teaching Natural Beauty Recipes

 Katie (15) asked me to buy her some Sea Salt Spray for her hair to encourage her hair into ringlet type curls. I felt a bit mean, but I took a photo of the label of the product in the supermarket (@$18) and said I would like her to try one that I make first, and then if she's not happy with it I would buy her one.

I was fairly confident - and she's happy with it. 
It's good to look up all those chemicals so that you know what they do when you are copying a product. Most of these are preservatives and for keeping the solution in suspension. We can just shake the bottle.

Sea Salt Hair Treatment

Sea Salt Hair Treatment
1 cup of warm - hot water
1 tablespoon of sea salt (rock salt)
1 teaspoon of glycerine
6 drops of essential oil (we used ylang ylang)
1 dessert spoon of jojoba oil
Dissolve together, pour into a spray bottle(which we already had), shake before each use.

I want her to think about sustainable ways of achieving what she wants, and with her whole life ahead of her, she will save herself a lot of money if she's not sold on having to pay money for products for them to be successful.
This follows quickly after a nasty rash she developed after using a disposable plastic razor, one that had moisturizing chemicals on it. It was a fine opportunity for me to buy her a reusable one that just requires standard blades. She had tried my Sugaring Wax, but found it too difficult to manage. The reusable razor is a success.

So when Katie was wishing for some Lush Bath Bombs to add to a friend's birthday present I told her she can make those, because I've done it successfully before. She hopped online and found a good recipe, and whipped these up.
Bath Bombs

The large ones sell for $10 in Lush, so she made $50 worth of bath bombs with what we already had in the house - citric acid, baking soda, epsom salts, coconut oil, colouring, essential oil. She tried one out last night - it worked perfectly.

I just wrote a letter to the editor of the Sunday Star Times after reading this article about how to get rid of bumps on the back of your arms. 

They recommended two products costing $79 and $46.99 respectively. I suggested that they could run an article on natural products, such as organic coconut oil that would smooth the whole body for months for about $12. Now that would be a real service to women and the environment.
One of the advantages of making beauty products for yourself is that you know exactly what is in them, and in this day and age we do not need a cocktail of more chemicals.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Junk and Junk Mail

I have been reading two books simultaneously (as you do) and between them they have prompted me to action.
The first is 

I was interested to learn that US Route 411 becomes a giant 250 mile long junk-a-palooza known as the Highway 411 Yard Sale, for 4 days every Fall (Autumn).
What fun that must be! And on the other side of the coin, a great way to have a clear out. 
Both Derek and I appear to be collectors, not hoarders (much), but we're going to have to work on sorting it.
The second book is rather tongue-in-cheek...

In which I found this quote that I rather liked...

"If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?"
                                             - Albert Einstein

These two books have been directly responsible for my sorting the spare bedroom ("Oh there is a bed in there" says Derek), my potting area and the studio.

Of course, having everything left out around you promotes creativity. The neatness will only last so long I'm afraid.

Junk Mail has been on my mind since we had a fill-in postie a few weeks back and I found this pile in our letterbox. 

We had put a halt to junk mail a long time ago.  Most people get this amount several times a week, which set me thinking... Several years ago I joined a campaign to reduce junk mail in my suburb, by taking these stickers around, but I was supposed to canvas people before giving them out. Well my parents became ill at that stage and I didn't get far, so still have the little pile of stickers. 

I have decided to just deliver them to letterboxes in my daughter's street, then monitor how many actually go onto those letterboxes. Ironic really, as I will be adding to the junk mail, but I'm only going to do a little bit and then see if it is worth it. 
I think junk mail should be something people should have to opt in to, rather than opt out of, as many people just let it keep coming by not doing anything, and it promotes needless consumerism and waste. Rant over. 

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Beetroot Joy and Non-Stick Bakeware

This year I have grown beetroot for the very first time. It was by accident really, as they were a free packet of seeds that came from Koanga Gardens, where I order my seeds online. 

When I was young my parents grew beetroot, but it was only ever used sliced and bottled in vinegar. In recent years I have discovered a whole new world of beetroot uses - first as a juice component - yum, then roasted beetroot (who knew!), and just recently grated raw beetroot in salads, and the baby leaves in salads too.
I haven't even tried beetroot powder as make up colouring or natural dye yet.
One of the great things about growing beetroot is that the possums only eat the tops, so I don't lose the crop.

These came in the mail yesterday - so guess what I'm going to be busy doing today.

Non Stick Pans
Ok, so this is a little rant.
I strongly dislike non-stick bakeware. What is that coating anyway? - because eventually it comes off - and you find it stuck to your baking!
I have been searching for some new bread pans that are not non-stick and that has been a mission.
I don't use any baking paper now that I have discovered Miracle Pan Release so I don't want that flaking surface near my food.
I have finally purchased some of these stainless steel pans from a hospitality/catering equipment shop.

They are actually the containers that restaurants use for serving food in heated counters for buffet type meals. They were $18.00 each and should last forever - and they work perfectly.
The old pans will be repurposed - probably as seed trays.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Rats, Rats, Rats!

My Dad was big on playing cards. His catch cry when he was trumped or getting beaten was "Rats, rats, rats!" - so I had to title this post that in his memory, even though it is really about those horrible rodents.

We live in the country, and no matter what we do, there is always an onslaught of rats and mice and possums. My beloved old cat died earlier this year and I miss him. While he was here we had no bother with rodents in the house walls and roof. It's not practical for us to get another cat, so a few weeks back I bought one of these sonar devices that claims to repel rats, mice, spiders and ants. 
Electronic (supposed to be) rodent repeller

Well the spiders and ants remained undisturbed and so did the rat that we hear scuttling about and can't trap. So back to the shop it went. I don't know if they work for anyone else - or are they like the Emperor's New Clothes? 

Rats are a big problem here for our bird life. They eat our native birds eggs, so they are on the Wanted List. We have bait stations that we keep filled for them.

They were also getting into my compost bins, which upset me greatly. I thought I would outsmart them by burying vegetable scraps in the garden, but then they started going there too. The only way I discovered to stop them doing that was by layering seaweed and horse manure over newly buried scraps.
Recently I put a base of chicken wire mesh around the base of the compost bin. So far, despite obvious attempts, they have not got in. 

Not a pretty blog post, but there you are - life isn't always pretty.
Anyone else got any great ways to be rid of vermin?

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Permission to Play

Hooray! I finally finished my tax books and got them to the accountant. Now that my most despised chore is done, I gave myself permission to play.

In my last post I talked about what people were artfully doing with beach plastic. Well here are a few pieces that I made - totally without any idea of what I plan to do with them. I have put brooch backs on a couple, but well, got that out of my system.

My beach plastic creations

Some time back I joined a Make Do and Mend Facebook page. Someone on there was mending tea towels. Now most of us would just say - they're not expensive, just go buy some new ones, but I liked the quirkiness of the mend. Plus who else can admit to still using them even when they have a hole in them. So this one might come under "Lady you look like you have too much time on your hands", but I like it. 

Mending teatowels

Talking about play - a few weeks back I bought this little beauty off TradeMe (our Ebay).

 Never having owned an overlocker before, I was a little scared of it. I asked for a lesson on how to thread it from the nice Chinese man (a sewing machine fixer-upper) that I bought it off. Given that he didn't speak any English, it was very kind of him. Now I have the hang of it and am using it to make those net bags for the market (two posts ago), which I can knock out in 10 minutes from cutting to threaded drawstring.
It has been great learning this new skill from the internet and a fabulous book on serging from the library. I can now use that new knowledge helping others at SewGood, our community sewing group.

Sometimes my days are so busy that I fantasize about taking a day off! And I'm retired !! (apart from playing in the band and running my rentals) Anyone else feel like that?