Sunday, 29 December 2013

Chemical-free Sunblock

Sunflower in Sunshine
So how come our rates of skin cancer are souring through the roof, despite the fact that we all take "precaution" against sunburn and liberally slap sunblock onto our bodies, head to toe??  Might it be that most sunblocks are chokka-full of chemicals??  Aye.  It's a no-brainer!  You wouldn't swallow a glass of chemicals, now would you?  So how come you would slap on a ton of nasty chemicals all over your skin?  Did you know that the skin is so absorbent, it will "swallow" anything that you put on it??  Hullo, people, wake up!!  I can't bear to see parents smearing "Cancer Society-approved" chemical sunblock all over their babies and children.  A childhood of that and you have set them up for exactly what you plan to avoid - skin cancer!  There are alternatives, but they are not found on the supermarket shelf!  And they are at least twice the price.  But then, what's the cost of skin cancer??

Tips to reduce your chances of developing skin cancer:
  1. Exercise a little common sense.  If burn time is around 7-10 minutes, cover up with a thin layer of cotton clothing or seek out some shade after this period.
  2. By all means, do wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from sunburn.   By all means, do wear a hat to protect your face. If you must apply sunblock, find one on the market with the least amount of chemicals (preferable none), or, better yet, make your own.  Recipe to follow.
  3. Young children are more prone to sunburn.  Keep them protected and safe.  
  4. Do not follow mainstream sun protection advice without doing your own research.  Knowledge is sometimes a precious jewel you have to dig around and work for.  For starters, read Learn why the myth of cancer can hurt your health.
  5. Eat healthy, unadulterated foods.  Wholesome, organic, raw and fresh.

Recent 5kg harvest of healthy garden produce
I have developed my own sunblock which I make every summer.  It is not scientifically proven in a laboratory to reduce sunburn, but it sure seems to work, especially for my family who go surfing and boogy boarding in the waves for hours on end.  The main "block" ingredient is zinc oxide, which can be bought at a pharmacy.  I believe that the naturally occurring mineral is zincite while much of the zinc oxide as we know it, is a synthetically produced inorganic mineral compound.  However, it is safe to use topically and is even used to treat diaper rashes.  My beeswax is bought at Mossops in Tauranga. 
Home-made GreeNZ Star Sunblock
Organic Chemical-Free Sunblock
4 Tbspn zinc oxide
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 Tbspn beeswax
1/2 cup olive oil 
essential oil - 10-12 drops (I used Indian Basil and Cedarwood)
Optional extras:
2 tspn olive leaf 
6 drops rescue remedy
2 tspn tumeric

Melt beeswax on low heat, pour in oil while whisking, then add other ingredients while still whisking.  Pour into wide-mouthed jars that are oven-heated to resist cracking.

I go with my gut feeling when making anything in the kitchen.  If it feels right, I do it.  So this time round, I took a mental note of what and how much I was adding, so I could put it on my post.  It usually depends on my mood as to what I add, and how much!  My next batch may be completely different! This batch is quite neon yellow - but goes on as a nice tan-glow.  My husband and son have already surf-tested it and gave it the thumbs up.  That's all the proof I need.

Sun is Good!

The sunny skyline at Mount Maunganui docks.  Clear skies means Burn, Baby, Burn!  Quick, hand me the chemical-free sunblock!

Wednesday, 25 December 2013


Christmas Angel
We have just had a German HelpXchange couple stay with us for a week.  What a pleasure!  They painted the house, pimped my car, taught Shayni about what's under the hood of her little Jellybean car, made a meal, cut my hair, helped in the kitchen and weeded the garden.  Yup, all in a week.   A dynamo duo!  And they were just great company!  We laughed together and made great cross-cultural jokes we could both relate to.  We were sad to see them go.   One of Daniel's jobs was dismantling an old wooden kiwifruit bin veg-bed.  As he did the job, he was discovering potatoes in the soil.  So when he yelled out "Look what I found!", I expected to find a humungous potato but instead, there was a hedgehog mama and her 4 little babies curled up under the base of the veg bed.
A stash of hedgehogs

Trying to curl up

Squirming out of Mike's grasp

Little baby opens his eyes
What a prickly situation!!  Amelie and I set about immediately making a hedgie-house out of wood, into which we carefully placed mama and baba hedgies.  Then we set them up in a corner of the garden to snooze the rest of the day away.  Mid afternoon, we spied mama hedgehog wandering around the garden, looking for a safe space for her little spikey family - I don't think she quite like the new house we had made.  I fretted for them, wondering if they would make it.  But the next morning revealed a heap of snail shells dotted around the garden - evidence of their midnight snack foray.  They must have found a new, safer place to sleep as the house we made was empty.  What joy and bliss.  A little wildlife in our garden sanctuary.

Verocious Snail Eating Machines
So our week together with Daniel and Amelie flew by and before we were ready, we were bidding them farewell.  The down-side of opening up your home and hearts to travelers, is that eventually, they must resume their travels and you have to say good-bye.  While I was busy making a  recycled document pouch for them, they were secretly banging away in the garden shed, creating a beautiful wooden bird house for us.  It has opening doors to remove the old nest from one family so that the next spring, another family can move in!  What a wonderful gift!
Daniel and Amelie's Creative Bird-house

Garden art.  Some old tiles I framed for effect.
The garden is looking spectacular.  And spectacularly overgrown!  The underplanting of German Chammomile is spent and due for some serious clean up.  The persistent rains that normally bless all those living at the foot of the Kaimais has made for a burst of growth, not only in the good plants department, but also the weed department!!  Given that I am on glorious home holiday for the next 4 weeks, I will tackle one area, one wheelbarrow at a time.

Bloomin' Lovely Sunflowers!
My dearly beloved sister and I have a little ritual we developed of leaving singing telegrams on each other's answer phones.  The last one she left went like this: "Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat...."  I did berate her for an entirely unsuitable message for vegetarians...... "couldn't you have transposed carrots for the goose??"  I cheekily asked.  Way more appropriate, don't you think??  Think of the millions of animals all around the world that are slaughtered so we can celebrate the traditional Christmas banquet meal!  So we can feast, feast, feast on rare Who Beast!  (words of Dr. Seuss in How the Grinch stole Christmas).
The culling in our backyard includes some darn fine berry, berry delicious fare!  Strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.  Yum!
Christmas is coming, the grapes are getting fat....

Ballerina fuschias

Our Christmas celebration was stretched over a night and day.  As our son and his girlfriend were here for 2 days, we put some Christmas music on and opened some of our presents by candle-light at about 10pm on Christmas eve.  We had Rooibos Chai and chocolate slice before bed at mid-night.  Then this morning, we opened up the last ones under the tree before they had to head on off to meet with his girlfriend's family for lunch.  A great time was had by all, precious time of connectedness for families all around the globe.  Every family has their own traditions, we may just be creating new ones to fit our changing family situation.  Our children's gifts to us were thoughtful, generous and surprising!
Christmas meal fare from the garden: rhubarb, green beans, lemons, leeks, radishes, silverbeet and some flowers for the centre-piece.

Home-made Bird anti-theft device on ripe strawberries 

Be-jewelled harvest - potatoes, beans and berries

Interesting hydrangeas or Christmas flowers

So whatever your table spread, may y'all have a very Merry Christmas.  May your hearts be filled with joy, love and peace.  May your bellies be adequately full and may your dishes all be done!  And to one and all, a Good night!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Gifts from the Heart.

 A little Bohemian/ Moroccan/ Indian home made by Shayni
I love my home.  It is an eclectic mix of India/Morocco/ Mediterranean style.  Just like the little house Shayni made a few years back at school. The perfect handmade gift.  Much of our house is kitch.  Gaudy.  Like Gaudi's architectural fusion of art and kitch.  Our home is a reflection of ourselves.  And in fact, just recently, it was not the first time that someone has called me a hippy.  A parent just recently told me she was talking to another parent -and he mentioned he had spoken to a teacher but couldn't recall her name.  She asked what the teacher looked like - "like a hippy" he replied.  She said she knew exactly which teacher he was talking about - me!  This has amused me somewhat in the past - my knowledge of hippies paints a picture of someone who wearing long hair, leather sandals, tie-dyed clothes and into drugs and free love.  This is not me.  But I do like to wear ethnic or bright coloured clothing (usually pre-loved) and grow food.  Is that really hippy??

Coffee-bag lined bread bag
I have always fancied a bread bin to keep my home-baked bread in.  I make it in a bread maker, but the loaf is so fat, it is hard to find a plastic bag to wrap it in to keep it fresh.  The type I fancied was a wooden one with a little door that disappears into itself like a garage door, but I realised I never had the bench-top space to own one in reality.  So eventually, I have created my very own version of a soft bread bin.  It has recycled coffee bags to line it and to keep it fresh, and a fabric outer, with velcro at the top for easy fastening.  So far, all test runs have proven to be successful.  Mmmmmn, wonder if there is a market out there for bread bags??  Could make great Christmas gifts!

My bread bag prototype
We have a lovely German HelpXchange couple staying with us at the moment and so I thought I would make them a farewell gift - what fits into a backpack and is useful on the road - aha!  A travel document pouch to keep it all together!  So I set about making a lined, recycled coffee bag pouch with internal pocket for storing a memory stick and other little travel treasure.  I hope they find it useful!!

So maybe it's the hippy in me, I love to make and create things!  So that's why I love Christmas.  Not for me, the busy, noisey, hustling, bustling malls with it's piped Christmas tunes.  I prefer to take my time and make gifts from the heart.  If it can include some recycling, the better the challenge.   I found an old woolen blanket at an opp shop and gave it a little TLC revamp.  There was a hole in it which was nicely disguised with a great big contrasting heart, and the frayed edges got a checked edging.   It was gifted to my son's girlfriend as a hipster TV blanket.  She loved it.  Yay!  My son asked me if I liked her a couple of weekends ago when they were over.  I replied that I didn't like here quite as much as he did, but I certainly liked her plenty!  And that I hoped she'd be around for a very, very long time.  They're moving in together after a year of long-distance alternate weekends each commuting the 9 hours by bus between Hamilton and Wellington.  

Up-cycled Hipster TV blanket
I have been finding time to tutu in the little garden shed and made this wooden sculpture.  It was supposed to swing freely but only does a 180 degree clockwise and then back to it's original starting point - so it's more like a pendulum.  Sorta.  Anyway, that one I gifted to my garden.

View from top
I have included some images from previous year's gifts, all hand-crafted in the garden shed with cedar shutter off-cuts.
Planter box for seedlings makes a great gift for gardeners

A variety of wooden boxes for storing bay leaves.
My most recent project: a little set of shelves

Bay leaf boxes and a jute string dispenser for avid gardeneners
A jewellery box with compartments, a ring stack and a hinged lid with opening arm to
secure it when open.  The hinges were old shoe leather.
Even Shanti has had a cat toy made for her.  I noticed she loved to sniff at the catnip plant, so I dried some leaves and then made a little bag with tassles on.  I threw it at her and she immediately started to shred it with her hind paws and sniff at it in a druggy-like haze.  Had to try to rescue it as it is her Christmas present to go under the tree!  She is after all, a member of the family, albeit a very naughty one!  She loves all the paper fall-out on the day.  

Raw, unbleached cotton dish towels and cat toys
There are still many projects I would like to get stuck into - alas, not much time left in a work day!  The other recent little project is herb-flavoured salt.  It is sooo delicious.  And easy-as to make.  I make it for ourselves and then some to give away at Christmas. Seeing the Rosemary bush look set to turning into a tree, I took to it with a secateurs and pruned all the out-of-control branches.  Popped the leaves and a big bunch of parsley into the dehydrator for a few hours and then ground it all in our old second-hand coffee grinder.  It works out perfect when you have a cup of dried, ground herbs to 2 and a half cups of unwashed natural sea salt.  I have also experimented with chilli salt - dehydrate and grind your chillies up and add to the salt.  In this case, a tablespoon of chilli to 2 and a half cups salt is sufficient, unless you want  to blow your Christmas recipients' socks off.

Mediterranean Salt
I received a lovely surprise early Christmas gift from the Heart from my daughter 2 days ago, when she presented me with a Christmas angel picture she had painted for me on a piece of cardboard.  Will be framing it.  Can't wait for our annual Christmas break which starts in 2 weeks time - my project list is as long as my arm!  Bliss!
Christmas angel painted for me by Shayni

Cool little corn angel gifted to me by a friend
sits atop our Chrissie Tree

Aquilegia or granny bonnets in the shady parts of the garden - gifts for the heart!!

And for the love of making and recycling.... check this amazing website out - the owners made a stunning home for very little money, out of 2 old shipping containers.  Wow!  Awesome!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Fascinating People and Annoying Cats

This place, this place!  It has a beauty which takes my breath away sometimes.  Little Ol' Katikati.  Such a sleepy little hollow, yet so full of radiant beauty!  And the people too.  There are people from all walks of life.  Some colourful characters, interesting and downright fascinating!  Take for example, our builder who has just come to build our boundary fence.  He arrived in a custom-built, canary yellow corvette-looking car, complete with cut-away roof above the driver's seat!  Not your average beat-up truck or utility vehicle!  

The beauty of sun-down at the Park Road Harbour

Tidez Out.
Looking through rainbow-coloured windows onto the world

Our stained-glass kitchen window that I LOVE!
When I was a young teen-adult, I loved to watch people.  I would sit in a cafe or on a pavement and simply watch the people passing by, interacting with one another.  A very interesting past-time!  A little while ago, we had a Mural and Art Festival, drawing some interesting folk to a small town.  Below are some images of interesting characters from the entertainment offered, that I captured.....

The Red Girl 

The Red Man


Red Girl, again.
 Sometimes, the audience were as colourful as the entertainers themselves........
A member of the audience
Another gorgeous member of the audience

Wai Taiko drumming group performs for the audience

A drummer from the Japanese drumming group from Hamilton, Wai Taiko
And then there's the fascinating little Katikati character called Shanti Shakti Shiva Punjabi Kamekaze Green, AKA, Shanti, our tri-colour cat.  I could have wrung her little fluffy neck this week!  First off, she was involved in a cat fight on Tuesday evening and we had to rescue her out of a tree at approximately 10.10pm.  Then I locked her in so that she wouldn't fight again.  She woke me several times over the course of the night, running up and down the stairs, meowwing, clawing the carpets and being very noisey until I got up to see what she was up to.  I was confronted by a powerful smell of cat poop - so at 3 am I had to clean it up, half asleep and gagging!  I was so annoyed that I banished her and locked her out this time.  5 am and there was this incessant and pitiful mewing coming from outside our window.  She has taken to climbing the first and then second level roof to reach our window.  I tried ignoring her but she was pretty persistent.  I did not get much sleep!   Perhaps if I was not vegetarian, it may well have been cat stew on the menu this week!  The next night, our daughter slept over at a friend's place, and returned the next morning to find the fiendish feline had chundered on her bed!  Yuck!  what is this cat coming to??  Next offense - she has begun to claw all 3 of my new coir door mats to shreds!?!
Crazy  Kati Kati Kitty!

"Cat Pooh.  Cat Spew!  Cat stew?"
Bearing in mind, her given name, Shanti, means Peace!  Certainly has not lived up to her name this week.   I do love her dearly.  Just not this week.  Will give her another week to redeem herself............

Om mani padme hum.  Om Shanti.
“Cats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a purpose.” 
― Garrison Keillor