Sunday, 20 September 2015

Travel Packing Guide

Blue skies, swaying palms, golden sands, warm sunshine...
We like to travel.  Particularly to tropical destinations.  We love Vitamin D - how it feels on the skin as we soak it up, lying on vanilla sands as we gaze across azure waters.  Our next destination: New Caledonia.  A little French-speaking island in the South Pacific.  Never been there before but if the pictures are anything to be believed, a veritable Robinson Crusoe destination.  Multi-coloured blue oceans and lagoons, coconut palm-fringed beaches, mellow yellow sandy coves and desert-like landscapes in the hinterland.  Can't wait to explore!  We are headed to Noumea, to a self-contained BnB for 4 nights in Mont Dore, then 5 nights on the island of Lifou (highly recommended by an Algerian-born Frenchman who makes pizzas in Katikati), and the last 3 nights back in Noumea at a beach-side hotel.   

Fiji time.
 A few tropical holidays over the past few years and we now have packing down to a T!  We used to start 3 weeks ahead of time, but now it begins a week in advance, using our trusty holiday packing list.  This way, we can print a new copy off each time, cross off what we are unlikely to need for that particular trip, add anything new and start to tick off what goes into our suitcase.

 The suitcase is a whole new adventure in itself, we bought a second hand, hard body Zootcase on wheels, from the Bowling Club garage sale across the road from us a couple of weeks ago, for a princely sum of $10.  Anyone out there who has had to purchase a new suitcase will know that these cost anything up to $180 for a new version, so I am feeling particularly chuffed with this.  It has a small ding on the outside (probably why someone gave it up but I have reinforced the inside with duct tape) but inside is like brand new!  It's all zips, secret compartments and pockets!  The inbuilt combination lock is sans-combination, but that's okay, I have a little combination lock which can be used to lock the zips together.  Mike has one side (all fully zip-locked close when done, to separate his from hers).  I'm in love!

I will share our list, simply because it makes travelling so much easier - adapt it as you will, for the occasion.  Note; this is a travel list for tropical destinations!

Travel List
Clothes/ Extra:
Nail brush
Stock cubes
Drink bottles
Insect repellent
Tea bags
Walking shoes
Massage oil
Dental floss
Travel snacks
Foot scraper
Nail clippers
Skim milk
Tooth brush/paste
Swim togs
Empty H2O bottle
Walking shoes
Healing Cream
Coconut oil
Light jersey
Koromiko (remedy)

Rain jacket
Kitchen Sponge
Reef shoes
Waist pouch
Sunlight soap
Mobile phone
Credit cards
Mossie Coils/mats
Ziploc bags
Diary and pens
Travel adaptor
 Mending kit
Shopping Bag
 Swiss army knife
Travel material
Battery Charger
 Solar torch

A footnote on some of the above items:  
Koromiko is a homeopathic remedy for traveller's diarrhoea.  I have had to use it once in Bali, and it was a lifesaver.  The shopping bag is a little fold-up bag which takes very little space, and can be used when shopping in markets or shops instead of using that unsustainable option - the use-once plastic bag!  Ziploc bags are the new airport must-have, to parcel up any cosmetics, personal care items or lotions.  Keeps them from spilling into your luggage, as well as handy for showing or declaring to customs.  Incense is a must-have for me, I like to mask smells in hotel rooms, or accommodation where there is a strong odour of cleaners or mustiness.  And it makes me feel instantly at home!  I like to keep an old fashioned diary of our travels - I use this to log any ideas, thoughts and experiences.  Long after the memories have faded, reading the travel diary evokes strong visual memories and feelings.  We don't always take all the food options, depending on where we are staying and what we will doing - for example, I like to self-cater, so stock cubes can turn any bland meal into something quite delicious and palatable.  Tea, coffee, milk powder and sugar is an essential, along with a small stainless steel (indestructible) plunger.  I have crafted a bungey-cord washing line which can be strung over the bath, and we usually hand wash our day's clothes every evening so that we do not have to take huge amounts of clothing. A bar of pure sunlight soap works wonders, I use it for dish-washing as well as laundry soap.  One item, many uses.  
Fruit blended smoothies, a great tropical location meal.
We have started to take our Nutri Ninja, so we can blend up fruit smoothies even in a hotel.  My Swiss army knife prepares many a meal, I just make sure it goes in the luggage hold or else it'll be confiscated!!  (Been there, done that before!)  I take coconut oil in a small jar, good for skin, lips, hair - all. Sunscreen - well, I make that.

Ingredients to make natural sunscreen.

Melting the wax to make holiday sunscreen fills the kitchen with the smell of honey!
Melted beeswax, olive oil, essential oils and zinc oxide powder whisked together.

Sunscreen on right, in screw-tight, wide-mouthed plastic jar.  For recipe, click here.

Tetrapak (recycled) Travel Sewing Kit
 We will only be taking the one suitcase (23kg) and 2 small day packs (cabin luggage), so every item is scrutinised for necessity.
His and Hers compartments.  Our Pre-Loved New suitcase - perfect for the job!
New Caledonia, here we come!  One week to go........

Monday, 14 September 2015

Attracting Birds

We don't have any crows to scare.  In fact, I want to attract birds, not frighten them away!  Birds scratch up the ground (tilling) in search of worms and bugs and eat a lot of pesky insects (pest control).  I recently made a Garden Sprite (note, not scarecrow), to be company for our faithful Josephine (another Garden Sprite).  The newcomer's name is Aurora.  She was constructed in the garden shed, one cold end-of-Winter's day, from off-cut scraps of Cedar shutters.  I simply used the pieces in the lengths they were found, so she has a child-like appearance.

Aurora, the Garden Sprite
Aurora's eyes are 2 old wooden door knobs, the nose; a circular cut-out I drilled to make a hole in a bird nesting box, and the mouth a strip of old plaited leather belt (whose buckle broke).  I have had a small piece of mirror lying around the shed for ages, so it was a good project to use it on - it gives the appearance of a hole in the center of her stomach!  My mother's old broken jandal soles have become her feet.  (Sadly, yes, I do horde lots of things for that one day, when I might use it!!)

Coming back to attracting birds to the garden, they need food, water and shelter and here are some ways to achieve that:
  • Improve the backyard habitat and create a safe oasis for birds to visit and live.
  • As Spring is on our doorstep, add a few nesting boxes around the garden, on a fence or tree, where cats cannot get to them.  Ones that open can be cleaned out before Spring, each year, to make way for a new family.
  • A Bird Supermarket is simply a collection of nesting materials provided for them to forage and use in the building of nests - human hair, straw, string, wool, strips of fabric etc.

3 different nesting boxes and a Bird Supermarket on the right.

The Bird Supermarket need not be so specific, just a collection of natural nesting materials for easy bird access.  This one is made from bits of wood, old perspex pieces and "landing" perches.

  • Birds need access to water.  Have several drinking sources around the garden for them on a hot day.  If the container is flat, it offers a wonderful opportunity for them to have a quick bath on a hot day.  Water needs to be changed regularly, to ensure it is clean and safe.
  • Shrubs and trees - birds need places to hide, to nest and to forage in - we planted kowhai trees specifically to attract the mighty-beautiful tui.  If you grow fruit, then you may need to bag your growing fruit (I have sewn individual little bags which I peg around near-ripening fruit) or else you will be growing fruit only for the birds and none for yourself.  I leave the fruit at the top which I cannot reach, for the hungry little birds to eat.  Fair share for us and for them.

This water source is good for a drink, not a bath.
  • Birds need not be fed over the summer months as there is plenty to scavenge in the garden, however, in the colder months, I like to feed them.  Scraps of bread or rice get thrown out on the grass and soon attract hordes of wax-eyes and sparrows.  I have been making Seed Cups lately (melt coconut oil and mix in wild bird seed, pour into a cup and hang in the tree) and enjoying the Feeding Frenzy that results.
Seed Cups

My seed cups last about a week as the birds get to know about them!
  • Birds need a cat-free garden, or like ours, a Super Lazy Cat, who allows them to creep right up on her while she sleeps, and sneak her remaining food right out of her bowl!  From a kitten, we have discouraged her from catching birds (yes, it can be done!).
Our old birdbath (needing a good scrub and filling up with fresh water).

Buddha Head Bath is always a good drinking hole for birds as well as the cat!!  
I sometimes used to curse the birds in our garden, as I would find them scratching up new seedlings, or pecking every ripening fruit or messing up my newly laid out pathways, but I have learned to live alongside them.  I have a few little blackbirds that forage for worms within my grasp, while weeding.  They have come to know and trust us.  A few thrushes living in our garden are wonderful garden helpers - we hear them pounding the snails they find, on our stepping stones and it makes us smile, they are working hard at saving our crops from snails!  When I plant new seedlings, I have to put collars around them (plastic bottles or cans) to stop hungry little birdies from scratching at their roots - but these extra measures just ensure that we all stay happy, and in harmony with one another!  The joy of seeing them in the garden, and the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.