Monday, 29 December 2014

Cruelty-free Christmas Feast

Crimson Pohutukawa Sentry stands guard at Beach Road Harbour jetty, New Zealand's Christmas Tree!

Note the bee coming in to land on a sea of crimson
Red puffballs of colour bedeck our coastal trees, why - it must be Christmas!!
Twas the night before Christmas though, when the Man of the House, inspired by River Cottage, a TV cooking show, decided to cook up a feast - exotic Asian noodles with beans and roasted peanuts with Toasted Sesame Oil.  This is an event of Magnitude 5 on the Richter Scale.  Hasn't happened too often.  Said guy is a salad maker, not comfortable near the stove!  I applaud all these cooking shows with men as the star role model in the kitchen!  Bring it on!  I've reserved a spot in front of the TV for Monday night's show of River Cottage for him, in the hope another inspirational dish might result!
Nothing sexier than a man in the kitchen!!
Exotic, Sexy Asian Man-cooked Noodles

The day before Christmas, I prepared some dishes for our celebratory family meal on Christmas day.  They are tried and true recipes that form a bit of a tradition in our home, and which the kids have always looked forward to.  They are caponata, rice salad and 3 bean salad
Home-made pita with organic white flour and ground chia seeds
 Our traditional Christmas breakfast dish is a cupful of oats soaked in 2 cups of natural yogurt, along with spices of choice (I use a medley of cinnamon, cardamom and ginger) and handful sultanas.  This is soaked overnight in the fridge.  In the morning, I grate a peeled apple and add that with a tablespoon of honey and stir it all together.  It's a lovely cold breakfast that keeps you energized until lunchtime!

Yogurt soaked oats, spices and sultanas.

Total Vegetarian Feast

3 Bean Salad Recipe
3 tins different beans, drained and rinsed
1x green and 1x red capsicum chopped
1x onion, chopped
1 handful sultanas
Throw above ingredients into a heat-resistant salad bowl

125ml each, Apple Cider Vinegar, sunflower oil and soft brown sugar
Boil marinade for 5 mins till sugar is dissolved.
Pour marinade over salad mix and allow to cool.

Best eaten the next day but will keep in the fridge up to 3 weeks (as if!!).

Cruelty-free meal.  A taste sensation!

2 cups diced celery
1/2 cup olive oil
1 medium eggplant, cut into cubes
1 large onion, chopped
1/3 cup wine or ACV vinegar
1 tspn sugar
2 Large tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup water
1 Tbspn capers
1/4 cup pimento-stuffed olives
1 can sliced ripe olives
2 Tbspn minced parsley
salt to taste

Cook celery first in oil, till soft.  Remove with slotted spoon and cook eggplant till browned and tender.  Add onion and cook till soft.  Remove from pan, adding to celery.  Put vinegar, sugar, tomatoes and water into pan, cooking for 5 mins.  Return veggies to pan, stir in olives, capers and parsley.  Cook uncovered on low heat for 20 minutes.  Add salt to taste.  Cool and serve at room temperature.  Keeps in fridge for 2 weeks (as if!!).

Rice Salad
2 cups cooked Basmati rice, while still hot, add:
1/2 cup melted butter or olive oil,
1/4 cup vinegar (ACV)
1 tspn salt
1 tspn black pepper

Cool, then add:
1/4  each chopped green and red peppers
1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 stalks diced celery
1 small cucumber, chopped
watercress or radish, finely chopped
Toss all together, garnish with olives.

I pride myself on the knowledge that nothing with a face or a mother had to die for us to celebrate in style!  I shudder to think of how many cows, sheep, pigs, turkeys, ducks and chickens lost their lives over the festive feasting season across the world!  A massacre of mammoth proportions.  If there is one New Year's Resolution you can make to help climate change, why not adopt 3 cruelty-free meals per week?  Do the planet and your body a massive favour!  I am planning 2-3 green smoothies per week as a health boost. And a plan to slow things down a little in my life -; life in the stress-free lane!   How?  Still thinking on that one..........
Empty plate.  Seconds anyone?
We had the traditional gift-giving session and delighted in showering our family members with small tokens of love and appreciation for one another.  True to form, my daughter had hand-made her gifts - brilliant artworks.  Our son's talented girlfriend too, painted a stunning art piece for us.  Our son gifted me with a companion for Stumpy Feldenkrais, the garden gnome he gave me last year!  I think I'll name him Bashful Feldenkrais!  Why Feldenkrais? Cause they look Norwegian!
The art of giving and receiving with gratitude and love!
Later in the day, we went for a walk and a few doors away from us, I spied this great little postbox festooned with accessories of the season!  The spirit of Christmas is everywhere!
No junk mail required, but a Merry Christmas to all!

Hydrangeas.  My Christmas Roses!

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas celebration
with loved ones.   Look out!
Here comes New Year celebrations!!

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Christmas Capers, made, bought and found!

Our fake Christmas tree which we bought when we celebrated our first
New Zealand Christmas, that has stood the test of 20 years!
 Sitting beside to our 20yr old Christmas tree, decorated by our daughter, I reflect on the Christmases past and what it means for us as a family.  It's a time of giving and receiving, of loving and being loved, of remembering special people in our lives, of feeling blessed, grateful and restful.  All this, surrounded by tokens of familiarity - decorations reflecting a person having given it or made it, or a time - often representing the ages of our rapidly growing children.  The presents under the tree - made or bought, with a loved one in mind. The anticipation of their reaction.  Christmas.  It's all that, and more.

The cut-off legs for denim jeans-shorts and a
re-used coffee pouch star (my favourite recycling project)

Simple, naive tags.  Gift tags for pressies, 
sewn together with scraps,
recycled bits and made with love!

Quick to make and all materials used are "throw-away" stuff, re-purposed.
I have always asked my children to make our Christmas presents.  I told them to save their pocket money, and to show us how much they appreciated us, to make us a gift instead.  This has seen us receiving the most unusual, well-thought out and unique gifts over the years.  A lot of them are still in use, or displayed with pride.  There was a gumboot rack, shaped cedar wood necklaces, neck pillows, recipe book holder, paintings on canvas and even a record, tie-dyed t-shirts, ukulele stand and more.  From their angle, our children have enjoyed sneaking off to the shed, or barricading themselves in their rooms for a week or two before Christmas, making the family tokens of love.  We have in return, bought items which were useful, items we knew they needed (never just what they wanted), along with tokens of our love - hand-made, of course.  This resulted in them being impatient for the opening of their hand-made gifts - to see our reactions, rather than their being impatient to open their own presents for themselves!  The joy of giving reinforced!

This year, I created a new kitchen gift:

GreeNZ Nut Salt Recipe
3 cups un-washed, natural sea salt (with minerals still intact)
1 cup almonds
1 cup sesame seeds
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 tspn green leaf stevia powder
1/2 cup Brewer's Yeast (good source of B vitamins)
1/2 cup dried Basil
Roast nuts in oven for 1/2 hour on 160deg.C  (optional)  Blend first the cooled nuts, then add the rest of the ingredients in a food processor to mix.  Package in wide-mouthed jars and use a teaspoon to sprinkle liberally over food.  Why not get your protein hit, alongside your condiment shakings??

Beautiful rhubarb 
While our citrus harvest has declined in magnitude (still a few oranges left), we have found ourselves without much fruit on our trees during the last 2-3 weeks.  Luckily rhubarb has come to the rescue, with black currants ripening enough to pick a bowl-ful this morning.  Strawberries are fattening up nicely, but unfortunately, time has been against me in regards to building strawberry bed enclosures.  The minute they ripen, the birds get them - here today - gone tomorrow!  So it is with delight, that my helpxchange friends, Rodrigo and Maria, from Chile, managed to build an enclosure this morning before leaving on their next travel adventure.  I can sense some strawberry delights coming in the next 3 days or so!

To make rhubarb compote, I wash and chop my rhubarb stems up into 1 cm pieces, add them into the pot and pour 1/2 to 3/4 cup of sugar over.  Simmer with a lid on, until they soften.  Do not add any water to the pot.
A great little treat; rhubarb and yoghurt for breakfast or dessert!
 We have enjoyed a few spring artichoke treats.  Not your average culinary treat in NZ - most people don't know what to do with them or simply can't be bothered by the fiddliness of getting to the heart of the matter ('scuse the pun!).  They are a token of Spring, and should really be eaten before they open fully to reveal such breath-taking beauty that I don't mind losing a few to experience this floral beauty!

Globe Artichokes

Artichoke Lunch, with garlic butter lemon dipping sauce, and salad.

There'll be days like this, now that the sun has finally decided to Shine!!
Time at home over Christmas means I can get all those 101 little chores done that I never get time to do during term time.  Like repainting the outdoor table which we have had for ages and needs a new paint job every 2 years to extend it's life!  This facilitates spending time outdoors eating al fresco.  I have recently had a few surprise gifts - someone else's discarded unwanted goods give me a thrill when I can find use for them in my world!  Like a new little handbag that fits over my shoulder and leaves me 2 free hands when out and about.  I spied it at the local opp shop for $4, and a beautiful red scarf for $2!  What a gift!  A thrill!  I can't bear to enter a shop where everything on the racks are multiple clones of one another!  Finding an Opp Shop treasure is like being in Aladdin's cave of wonders and picking something that speaks to you!  Often, the items SCREAM to me!  Pick me, pick me!

My newly aquired pre-loved handbag and scarf.
The other little treasure I found brings me much joy and is also so functional!  Driving down one of our side streets, I spied a little table on the kerbside.  Aha, I thought, that would do nicely for my student daughter when she goes flatting.  Stopped to pick it up and gasped in surprise as I saw the intricate inlaid woodwork masterpiece that was the table top!  Perhaps I won't give it away, I think I shall keep it - Love at First Sight!  Reminds me of a Dutch painting!  There is a small piece that is lifting and a missing piece but hardly noticeable.  Looks like a museum piece!  LOVE my piece of street art!!  Makes a handy little coffee table!  A Christmas gift to myself, from the Universe of Abundance!
My street-gifted Christmas pressie
My 4 week term break will see me out there in the garden, with the birds and bees, flowers and trees.... sowing seeds, planting summer veggies, harvesting yummy plums and nectarines (mid January), painting and maintaining our little paradise. 
 Oh, reading too!

Merry Christmas Everyone!!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Inspiration in Hamilton's Gardens

Our children both study in Hamilton, an hour and a half away from us.  We have just had the occasion to visit them there.  We never tire of the gardens, candy for the eyes and food for the soul.  A morning at Hamilton's Gardens is inspirational! What a fantastic way to spend rate-payers money!  Well done, Hamilton District Council!!  This amazing public space is open to all, free of charge.  Allow yourselves at least 3 hours to see all the wonderful garden spaces.  Take a picnic and soak up the sunshine while admiring the mammoth creative genius that has gone into creating and maintaining this botanical wonderland!  Below is a gallery of snapshots to capture the essence of this magical place.

Ducklings bask in the morning sun, at the lake edge.

Making shadows on the carpet of flowers.

A glimpse of a bridge in the distance, reflected perfectly in the canal.  

The rose arbor.

A delighted fat bumble bee burrows busily in the beautiful blooms.
Methinks there's inspiration for budding poets in this beautiful space!

Fat, well-fed pigeons also enjoying the sunshine.

Beautiful avian "ornaments" in the English Garden.

I definitely want to try my hand at making one of these handy little garden support structures.

The Indian Garden

Peaceful reflection within the walled Indian-inspired garden.

The Maori Garden fencing provides security against marauding neighbours.

A great way to educate family members what to pick in the edible garden, when sent to collect something for the busy cook!

Neat rows of vegetables flanked by nasty-insect repelling marigolds in front.

Great support structure for rambling raspberries.

Emerging peas are given protection against marauding birds, as well as a structure to climb up.

Small canes spaced close together to support peas.

Brilliant Bean supports.

What ingenious garden architecture!

A bit of garden-path art in the edible backyard garden.

The movable Chook Tractor/ Chicken Run

Garden-Art Scarecrow guards the edible crops.

Anyone for a seat?  A concrete and mosaic resting place to contemplate the next gardening move.  Every garden should have one!  Note the mobile phones and old garden tools embedded in the seat.

Pappa, Mamma and Baby plant supports.
On our way to Hamilton, we stopped to take a picture of some cows in a field of yellow buttercups.  While taking photos, another car came screeching to a halt on the side of the road behind us, and out hopped an old fella who whipped out his mobile phone to also take a few shots of the cows.  In 5 minutes he had asked a host of questions and told me his entire life story, before hopping back in his car, waving farewell and rushing off again!  It's a funny old life!
We spied this beauty in the field on the way to Hamilton.

"Blessed are those, who delight in the small daily miracles of life."  quote by Mwa.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Home Fronting, Healing Balm and Mayonnaise!

Calendula flowers for Healing
At last, we experience some welcome sun rays in Aotearoa (well, what d'ya expect, the name does mean the Land of the Long White Cloud!!).  My soul is nurtured and our solar panels are pumping out max kilowatts of pure sun-energy!  Hooray!
Our lovely German twin helpers
We have had help in the form of two lovely German non-identical twins.  They painted our entrance way and part of our new fence which was erected a year ago!  Always meant to paint it but of course, the lament: no time!  Helpxchange is a great way to share - your home, in exchange for work around the home or garden!  Highly recommend it, we get to meet a bunch of people from all over the world and make some really good friends!

Painted fence on the left, with unpainted panel on right waiting to be painted.
Calendula Ointment
My friend, Anna gave me a recipe for calendula ointment - great for wounds, scalds, rashes and eczema.  Calendula protects cells from free radical damage while fighting inflammation, bacteria and viruses. One of our kindergarten children has really bad eczema and can scratch herself till she creates lesions.  I tried making some for her and she so loved having her own "flower ointment", that she finished it in one week!  She asked me to make her some more, so we collected the flowers in the kindy garden and over a week and a half, I taught her how to make her own ointment!  Empowering the next generations to take care of themselves!

What you need:  Collect a cupful of fresh calendula flowers.  Dry these in the hot water cupboard for 3-4 days (I find the dehydrator does this in 3 hours).  Add them to a jar of vegetable oil base of your choice.  I used coconut oil.  Place the flower-oil in the hot water cupboard and shake every day for a week.  Strain.  Melt 1 Tbspn beeswax in a small pot, remove from heat and whip in the flower-infused oil.  Pour into small wide-mouthed jars (pre-heated) or small metal containers.  Cool.  Should last 4-6 months, depending on the freshness of your oil.  I think a nice inclusion next time round will be to add a few drops of lavender oil too.
Tools required to become a kitchen apothecary

Tins of Calendula Ointment
Apart from making natural medicines, another great kitchen craft is making natural ferments.  Here's how to make super-easy saurkraut.  Great tasting and excellent flora-inducing gut medicine!  You need some whey liquid.  I make a cream cheese with yoghurt, and keep the whey from this process.  It keeps in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.  Whey is a nutritious by-product from cheese-making processes and can also be used for stock in soups.

Harvest a cabbage from the garden (if you grow 'em) and finely slice it.  Place in a large bowl and add 1 Tbspn salt.  Massage or crush cabbage until it releases a heap of liquid and looks a little glassy.  Add 1 -2 Tbspn whey liquid.   Pack cabbage tightly into a wide-mouthed glass jar, making sure you press it down firmly and the liquid covers the cabbage.  Place a heavy weight over it to keep the cabbage immersed.  I use a little plastic disk cut out of a honey lid, placing a well-washed stone on top.   Leave in a cool, dark place for 3-5 days.  Skim off any scum that collects on the top.  Keep in fridge and eat as a digestive aid at meal times.

Crushing the cabbage.

Saurkraut with stone weight to keep it immersed in it's liquid

Rawfood Mayonnaise
This is a recipe from my friend, Google, on a website called Mother Nature Network, and it is the BEST mayo ever!!  Unfortunately, my significant other is allergic to eggs, so it is such a blessing to be able to make an egg-free mayo!  What you need:

A sizeable chunk of tofu (about 250 - 200g)
2 tspn fresh lemon juice (I probably use more)
2 tspn Dijon mustard (I use my own home-made one)
1 cup olive oil
Salt to taste
Blend all the above ingredients in a processor till smooth.  Adjust taste with salt, mustard and/or lemon juice.   Sooo easy!  And there's enough for a second meal application!
Rawfood Mayonnaise
Recycled Traveller
Not planning to travel till next year again, but we have been using back-packs to transport our gear and have begun to think we are too old for that!  So imagine my pleasant surprise when I spied this near-new trolley travel case (albeit a great deal dusty) in our local 2nd hand store!  Yay, just what I need to make travel adventures easier.  Suitcases can set you back anything up to $160 but I got this beauty for $10!  Brought her home, gave her a brush to remove the layer of dust and aired her out.  The handle, wheels, zips, lining - all in fab sturdy condition.  I just don't have the combination for the lock.  However, I have a small travel combination lock I can use to keep the zips secure!  (I recall that little piece of hardware cost me twice the price of my new suitcase!) I also managed to buy a cosmetic travel bag for the princely sum of $2, so next time we head off for tropical climes, I'll be travelling in Style, baby!
One man's travel junk is another's "Yeeha" - treasure!
Move over, Pierre Cardin!  The ultimate in reused travel gear!!

In the garden
Want to protect your vulnerable seedlings from slug and snail devastation?  Recycle old catering cans as mini-protection cloches.  They provide shelter from the wind as well.  Gives your seedlings a better chance of survival!
Healthy, protected eggplant seedling.

This eggplant had no protective cloche and despite being planted at the same time.
shows the ravages of wind and snails!

Seedlings awaiting a more permanent home - I love this aspect of Spring!  Emerging Life!
Labels are recycled slats from venetian blinds. They are re-usable.

Feijoa flowers always remind me of Christmas!

The olive and feijoa grove walkway at the end of the garden.