Archive | April, 2013

Vanilla Sugar Gorgeousness

30 Apr

A couple of months ago, a good friend gave me some right proper vanilla pods to use in my baking. Such a luxury.

I can’t bear to throw out the used pods when I can still see teeny vanilla seed flecks in them. So while the  batch of choc chippies were baking tonight, I made vanilla sugar by chopping the used vanilla pods in half, putting them in little jars, then covering them with sugar. It took about 30 seconds. I’ll give the little jars a shake or two over the next few days to get the vanilla flavour through the sugar.

Organic sugar looks beautiful, but I use what I have the budget for at the time. I use it in my coffee, and on top of pancakes. It’s also a great little pressie, especially if you put a little homemade design effort into the packaging.

Vanilla Sugar


Aloe Aloe Aloe

29 Apr

Sunday nights call for a bit of pampering. But not the type that takes up valuable Glass-of-Wine-Time. I’m not into putting store-bought concoctions on my face and hair when they are full of chemicals and flavours, but nor can I be bothered mixing my own mask every time out of foodstuffs. I like my avocados mashed on corn chips, and my eggs poached with hollandaise.

Last night I stripped out the gel from two Aloe Vera leaves and squished it up. This took 5 minutes. It looked like the remains of a violent sneeze. There’s no escaping that. I grabbed gobs of it as best I could and smoothed it on the ends of my hair, then pinned my hair up for about ten minutes to let the gel do its thing.

While my hair was fermenting, I smeared the Aloe Vera gel on my face. It felt really lovely. I washed it off after about 5 minutes and put my homemade almond and rosehip oil on. De-lish.

It took longer to rinse the gel out of my hair than it would with a regular conditioner, and I wasn’t sure if it made my hair feel better until this morning. I definitely felt a difference. Softer and less crispy on the ends.

I’ll do this again, but will need to create more Aloe Vera plants by separating my existing two.

Aloe Gel  Aloe Face  Aloe Hair

Worm Love

28 Apr

Every few months, my partner methodically sorts out our Worm Farm. I think it’s a type of meditation for him. Once I heard him talking to the worms. Was cute.  He does this sitting at an old picnic table under the cherry tree at the end of the garden. Far away from the sounds of squabbling kids.

We bought the Worm Farm a couple of years back, second-hand. It’s just a plastic one. One day we’d like to have a fancy wooden one.

He removes the undigested chunky stuff (remnants of an old bathmat, newspaper, and recent food additions), then gently separates the worms from their poo, or vermicast. Then the undigested chunky stuff and the worms go back into the farm with a bit of straw. The vermicast goes to wherever it’s needed in the garden. Today we put it under the lemon and lime trees. Usually the process takes about an hour. Sometimes the three-year-old helps out. It’s very peaceful.

Worm Farm about to be sorted

Worm Farm about to be sorted

Worms being separated from vermicast

Worms being separated from vermicast

Worms gone back to bed.

Worms gone back to bed.

Vermicast ready to go on garden

Vermicast ready to go on garden

Bok Choy for the Chooks

27 Apr

A couple of weeks ago, we got a Mumma chicken and her four bebe chicks. We call them Mumchick and Sons (though there is some evidence the bebes are all girls).

We feed them chicken food and mash, but I’m keen to supplement their diet with homegrown greens and kitchen scraps. Forking out at The Supermarket for vegetables is ridiculous when many greens can be grown in winter.

Mumchick and Sons enjoy silverbeet, herbs and leftover lazy bread, but their favourite seems to be bok choy (or as we call it, Bok-Bok Choy). So today I transplanted some seedlings into the garden (I’d sown the seeds about three weeks back). It was such a beautiful day, I ended up getting a bit manic and sowing sweet peas, silverbeet (also for the chicks), carrots and broad beans. We mucked out the chook enclosure and moved them to a fresh bit of lawn. They’re growing beautifully, and the cat has left them alone.  The didn’t say thank you, but I know they love us.

Bok Choy Teenage chicks

The Wheels on the Bus . . .

26 Apr

One thing that irks me a bit is how some people spend lots of money entertaining their kids in the holidays *getting out the soapbox*. Sometimes it’s the little things that get the most smiles.

Today we caught a bus into town with friends. This was of great excitement for the three year old, who I’m slightly ashamed to say, had never been on a bus before. There was the getting-to-the-bus stop-fun, the waiting-for-the-bus-fun and the actual-bus-ride-fun. Wandering around Restart in the open air gave the kids opportunities to run around and harass buskers.  The thought of driving like a ninja to find a carpark at an enclosed mall and dragging kids through an artificial climate, listening to the rabble of the Shoppers Looking For Bargains bouncing and echoing off every surface (deep breath) . . . is truly awful. You can tell I’m not a fan of supporting the malls. I don’t want my kids growing up thinking that malls are a normal shopping environment.

In Christchurch, the devastating earthquakes have meant living in an ever-changing city. After having so many things taken away from us, I appreciate the return of simple things. Like a bus service, inner city trading, buskers, trees, and footpaths.

Elise in Cashel Mall 2013

The Five Bucks Bespoke Bookshelf

25 Apr

The other day I went to EcoShop  This is the Christchurch City Council shop that sells all the bits and pieces that are one person’s trash, but another person’s treasure. It’s the best place in town for big time bargains. I bought a $5 wooden ladder which Occupational Safety and Health would not approve of. I also picked up a couple of wooden skateboards for a total of $8. Occupational Safety and Health wouldn’t approve of those either, but the kids do, which is the main thing.

It took me a couple of hours to sand back the icky paint and splodges and to do the primer coat on the top. This morning I put the pop of red on it and bunged in some books. Choosing the books probably took longer than refurbishing the ladder. With such a vintage-y shelf, I was reluctant to put in any trashy novels. This meant that I had to put in books that:

  • Look good.
  • Make me look smart.

I’m pretty stoked with the result. A preloved item bound for the dump, rescued by the City Council, and given a new life by me.

shelf before   shelf after


Autumn Fig Jam

24 Apr

It’s Fig Time in the Southern Hemisphere. Which historically has meant nothing to me, but today my sis brought round a couple of kg of ripe figs from her house. So I made jam.

  • Put a couple of kg of chopped figs (don’t need to peel) in a big saucepan with .5kg-1kg sugar, roughly chopped rind of one lemon, juice of one lemon and a cinnamon stick. If you are lucky enough to have some, scrape the seeds out of a vanilla pod and put the seeds and empty pod in too.
  • Simmer it all up for about 3 hours.
  • Remove the cinnamon stick, lemon rind and vanilla pod. Mash up any big figgy lumps.
  • Put in sterilised jars.  This made about 5 x 375g jars.

I’ve tested it, and it tastes quite good. A bit marmalade-y which is not always my thing, but I may try it this weekend with cheese, crackers and wine to take the sweet edge off it. Maybe next time I’ll use a bit less sugar to make it a purely savoury accompaniment.

*News just in* – after a bit of product testing, I think blue cheese is the right partner in crime for this jammy goodness.

*May Update* – see this blog entry for my final taste test! It’s not great to be honest.

Fig Jam