Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Tips for a Holiday on a Shoestring

We like to holiday.  Specially when it's Hunker-Down Season in New Zealand - cold, blustery, wet 'n wild!  Tropical destinations tend to be our destination of choice.

We Love Bali!
5 weeks ago, we took such a respite.  Bali, Indonesia.    Once, connected to Java, the island of Bali was separated during the last glacial period when the seas rose and divided it.  The sea is apparently only 60m deep and 3km wide between Bali and Java!  
It is a veritable tropical playground for those (like us) wishing to escape our gloomy winter existences to experience balmy, sunny weather, day in, day out.  A royal solar indulgence!  A land of scooters, coconut palms, exotic temples, amazing handcrafts and leisure resorts!  A shopper's wonderland too, if that's your thang.

We divided our two weeks holiday in Sanur and Candidasa.  Both had their appealing points, and less appealing points but Sanur is a place we would venture back to.  Candidasa - been there, done it all in 4 days and no need to return in any hurry.

Parigata Resort and Spa, Sanur

Exterior Building Detail
Foyer at Parigata with Indoor Waterfall
Poolside, Parigata

Traditional Side Entry
Spa Room, Parigata
Dedicated Beach Club, Parigata, with
deck chairs and umbrellas
So how do we manage a tropical holiday every year?  Simple.  Timeshare Vouchers.  It first began when our work printer spat out a fax-attack flyer advertising cheap holidays.  So cheap, my colleagues said there must be a catch.  My curiosity was too piqued to ignore the flyer, so I took it home and dared my husband to purchase the deal - $99 each, for a week's accommodation at a 3-5 Star resort - in Aussie, Bali, Thailand or Fiji.  I reckoned it was worth the risk to lose $200, in order to possibly gain a week in sunshine at a very minimal cost!  Done!  Mike spared no time at all.  We took our first holiday in Fiji in July last year, at a 5 star resort in Denerau.  Okay, so they try to sell you timeshare and you have to attend their 1 hour presentation, but you are free to buy or not!  This year we went to Bali.  Of course, when you choose a resort, it is like dipping into the proverbial chocolate box, with your eyes shut - you never know what you'll get!  Our Parigata Resort was just what we needed - big room, slate and marble everywhere, clean, intimate small resort, great poolside with a waterfall to drown out any invasive sounds from the outside, albeit a little tired.  The next place, Bali Palms, was a bit of a let-down.  Without boring the pants off of readers, service, quality, location were all on the disappointing side, with the entire place literally crumbling to the sea or the termites!!  This despite doing our homework - Trip Advisor gave it some very, very positive feedback ratings!  The positive was that the view was stunning.

Recent Fax Attack Offer

Now believe me, the pictures you will see look idyllic.  Who would NOT want to stay here?  Me!  The place was built in a hurry, by an Englishman, and 8 years on, it is literally shabby and falling to ruin (the termites had eaten most of the posts on the stairwell!).  We had a great view, UNFORTUNATELY, the bar was just down to the left of our room, so at 5.30pm till 10pm each evening, the bar would belt out it's 80's music - not bad the first night, but every subsequent night thereafter was like groundhog day (or night!!).  Aaaargh!  There is only SO much of the old auditory stuff you can handle!  The stream bordering the hotel (which we would see each time we climbed the stairs to our room) was totally polluted with fallout (bottles, plastic, bits of old wooden crates, shoes etc.)!  Quite sad!  We even saw some hardy pollution-evolved crocodile-type creatures swimming in it (about 1.5m long).  If I were a resort owner or manager, I'd have a eco-policy in place to preserve the pristine qualities of the location!  Room was cramped, TV reception non-existent, shower was filthy - eek!  We stayed 4 days instead of the 7, and left straight after our presentation.  But then, I could have booked this resort online, and payed for accommodation - then I would have been seriously miffed!

View from our room at Bali Palms Resort, Candidasa

The company that promotes timeshare is called Dru Holidays.   They just net in the customers and onsend them to resorts, then the resort sales people do a 60-90minute presentation to sell you the idea of vacationing there for the next 25 years on a timeshare scheme (or such like idea).  In our 3 voucher holidays, we have had keen sales people, but thankfully, they don't bully you.  Rather they show you the benefits of TS, and crack some figures to show you the sums of owning TS.  Easy.  You buy, or you decline and walk away to continue enjoying your "try before you buy" holiday.  I can highly recommend these holidays.  In both Bali resorts, we were also given free half hour massages, for a couple.  One such massage was sheer bliss, might I say, the BEST massage I have ever experienced!  Indeed, my husband's groans of ecstasy during his massage were fit only for the bedroom, so good was the experience!

Beware:  There are special police out there
looking for tourists!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Springing into the Garden

It is officially Spring, and the weather is the usual mixed bag of yuck and promising.  Nothing is certain and you are thrown into the whirlpool of hope and delight, tinged with gloom and despair!  It is 6 November, and we have a fire blazing to feel a temporary blissful heat!  

But, on those days when the wind and rain are not-too distant memories, and the sun wins the battle to outshine the chill in the air, I venture out with a clipboard of To Do lists!  First up: declare war on all the weeds that took over while we were sunning ourselves in Bali, and on those pesky overwintering slugs and snails that decimate whole beds of newly planted spring seedlings (I use Quash, an eco-friendly option which kills the slime-footed blighters but leaves birds and hedgehogs to see another day).

An oxy-moron; frozen chilli!
In the Kitchen:
Rustling in the back of the freezer, I found a few bags of frozen chillies which needed sorting - they are actually great to freeze, freshly harvested, then frozen, whole!  They freeze well and when one has to process them, they are easy to handle, and the chilli juice not as fearsome as when handling fresh chillies.  Each year I make 2-3 bottles of Sweet Thai Chilli Sauce - easy-peasy!  I often don't have time at the end of Summer, as harvesting becomes a semi-full-time job.  A big freezer is just what a gardener-cook needs, to stave off those processing jobs till the need arises, or time is plentiful.

Frozen chillies blend well. I now have Sweet Thai Chilli sauce for summer supply.
We chopped down a sorry-looking bunch of winter-frosted and blackened bananas which had ripened.  They are not the best for eating, but I have made endless blueberry/banana smoothies for breakfast with them, as well as inventing a new banana jam recipe below:

Banana jam
One morning, I whizzed about 6 small bananas with 2 tablespoons almond butter and a large teaspoon honey, with a shake or two of cinnamon.  Spread on toast, and sprinkled with sesame seeds, it was SOOO yum!!  Tastes far better than it looks!

'Tis the season of Citrus.  Wonderful Signature Food for female breasts!  I am collecting red and yellow grapefruit, oranges, vaniglias and mandarins by the basket-full!  Or Pouch-full!  I tend to make blends of different citrus orbs into a wonderful juice most mornings.  A great immune boosting dose of fresh Vitamin C.

Citrus collecting pouch
Wonderful grapefruit
Grapefruit, orange, vaniglia juice blend.

Making Citrus Cleaner with citrus skins
Easy Cleaning Spray and Wipe Recipe:
Fill a glass jar with 1L white vinegar.  Add the skins of citrus; grapefruit, lemon, mandarin, orange etc.  Allow to steep for 3-4 days.  Pour mixture into spray bottle and use as a general spray and wipe (not to be used on brushed stainless steel surfaces).  Does not smell of vinegar but rather a pleasant citrus undertone.  And flies don't like it, so don't tend to land where you have recently sprayed!
The Garden in Spring
The cat that loves the garden
Garden Harvest
We are picking swedes, citrus, spring onions, cauli, celery, artichokes, peas, silverbeet, lettuce etc.

There are definite signs of Spring, even though I find I am still wearing my merino thermals!  Blossoms everywhere and that rush of growth on everything green!  I have planted my seeds: tomatoes, zucchini, eggplants, beans, flowers, chillies, corn, herbs and lettuces.  Many have come up and grown into healthy little seedlings, still awaiting others' slower emergence, but it never ceases to thrill me when I see them push up through the soil.  I am trialling a home-made compost mix to raise the seeds in, covered with a fine blanket of seedling mix (store-bought).  That way, I have to buy far less store-bought stuff, and although I have the odd 3-4 weeds come through in each tray, a quick cull restores order.

Store-bought seeds have a Best Before date, which I take roughly  not terribly much notice of.  If the date is older than a year or two, I simply sow more seeds than normal, allowing for seed failure rate.  It does happen, rarely, that nothing comes up, but I would rather try than throw away perfectly good seed!
Garlic crop growing nicely

Peas and salad garden

Green leafy veg bed

Always in the garden, never far away from the gardeners!  Garden-loving Shanti.

Claw-sharpening exercise, usually done in frenzied style!
The blossoms have long since blown away on my plums, nectarine and macadamia (we have had very fierce Bay of Plenty (wind??) winds, so hopefully, the bees have managed to sneak in the odd pollination miracle!  The blossoms were very breath-takingly beautiful while they lasted!  At the moment, there are still blossoms on the apple and pear trees.
Bee Balm Blossoms

Blossoms, like ladies in their finest gossamer-silk frocks.....

He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me..........

Nothing in Nature lasts forever, floral beauty undergoes a metamorphic change to swollen edible delights!

Spring:  A sign that Hope Blossoms!

All the bees need, is a little love, understanding, and blossoms.  Plenty of all that stuff.

How delightful for the waiting blossom; the sweet anticipation of bee-tickles!

Oh, my Honey, if you were a Bee, and I were a Blossom, you'd drive me crazy with anticipation!

Artichoke and blue Jewel-bug

Masses of Bee Fodder

Busting out with Colour

So, as I stoke the fire tonight, and plan my garden activities for that sunshiney day (whenever that may be), I languish in the anticipation of long, warm, sunny days to come................. Bring It On!!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Palet Ottoman

Otto who??  Ottoman!  A piece of furniture without a back or sides.  Or a pouffe. A footstool with attitude.  
So, last weekend (long weekend) my son and his drop-dead gorgeous girlfriend arrived.  It was a blustery day on Sunday and we decided to make something - I have plenty small wooden crates (from Christmas Ferrero Roche displays!), so I suggested an Ottoman.  Rachel was pleased!  She loves creative projects, so off to the shed at the bottom of the garden we went.  All the materials used in our project were recycled or what we could find, without having to purchase anything.

1.  Take one small wooden crate.

2.  Staple an old piece of carpet underlay on top.
3.  Cutting the underlay to size.
4.  Staple some old thin foam onto the crate.
This foam has had various incarnations; first up - changing
mat for baby, next - recovered outdoor mattress for garden bench.

5.  Test-driving the padding for comfort.  
6.  Working together to staple the fabric over the wooden crate.
7.  An old belt cut into small strips forms our corner protectors and tidies up the folds.
8.  Staining the wooden legs.
9.  Contemplating the morning's project.

10.  Our Ottoman.  I mean, Rachel's.
So ended a blustery Sunday of being tucked away in a cosy garden shed.  Cam and Rachel could take away their totally cost-free, recycled ottoman. We used fabric I've had in my sewing bundle for the past 10yrs, not the most suitable (better to use upholstery fabric which is hard-wearing) but the ottoman can be easily recovered later on.  The only expense could be to buy 4 lockable castor wheels, so the stool can be pushed to wherever needed.  Sweet!