29 April 2013

Holiday lip treat

It was ironic that it was with traumatised lips (see my last post - sorry it was so long ago - much energy has been used to heal my lip) that I first made my own lip balm. Most of the irony lay in the fact that this lifelong lipbalm addict couldn't even use it! (Perhaps I won't need it so much with my new lip skin? It's too soon to tell.)

But it had been months since Anna and I had bought a block of beeswax from the Farmer's Market, and we'd been sniffing its heavenly honey scent periodically, as I wondered what on earth I'd do with it.

Then I found a 'non-petroleum jelly' recipe on a blog (actually, the same recipe's on lots of blogs: it's 1 oz (25g) of grated beeswax to 1/2 c olive oil).

So, it being school holidays and a perfect time to do a few shared projects, Anna and I got to work last weekend.

We used grapeseed oil instead of olive oil because I didn't like the idea of the olive oil smell on my lips. Grapeseed oil is odourless. Also, we added 4-5 drops of lavendar oil.

You just need to put it all in a pot, and melt it really slowly.

Once it was all melted, we poured it into little pots. I've been collecting them for a while now, with the intention of doing a project like this.

It seems good! The texture is right and the lavendar smell subtle. I've sneakily swiped my new lower lip skin a couple of times with it, although I'm only meant to be putting antibiotic cream on it.

It was VERY cheap to make. I think the beeswax block was about $2 and we used less than half. There was probably $1 or so worth of grapeseed oil in it, and the lavendar oil was so scant that it was virtually free. It made enough lip balm to last for months.

Next time I might add honey, stirring it in once the balm started to cool. I'll also be wearing an old shirt or apron: there's potential for a big mess. Very hot water, however, cleaned up the pot, grater etc just fine.

I love the idea of using something totally natural made by clever bees. Isn't the internet the most amazing source of ideas?

20 April 2013

Just do it

Recently I've had occasion to think 'Just do it'. Do two things that have been really hard, without mulling them over too much.

The first was this: kill a chicken. I've had one that's been a bit of a dud for a while - a brown shaver that rarely lays, and when she does the shells are super thin and the whites very watery. I want to increase my flock to five; she was the old number three who needed to drop away so that my three new chickens would become the majority and therefore be less bullied by the two remaining matriarchs.

Also, she was a bit unwell, often sitting hunched.

The unlucky bird in healthier days.

I knew my neighbour's father was visiting yesterday and I planned to ask him to show me how to 'neck' a chicken. He turned up, I came across him in the driveway and he asked when I wanted to do it. I knew that the next day an appointment might stop me from doing it, so we seized the moment and did the deed.

I did it, with his hand over mine. She didn't struggle - well, before death, that is. I wish he had warned me. I thought that only happened with decapitation.

Regardless, she went quickly.

The appointment was with a plastic surgeon, in whose hands I literally put my poor lower lip. My poor lip that's constantly needed lip balm on it since I was a child, or it would crack and bleed. That for the last six months has had a raw patch that never healed.

It's never going to get better, he said, and it's precancerous. Sunburn when I was a child is the likely cause (although he said there is huge variability in how people can handle such burns, so not everyone who's had burnt lips will be in my situation).

The inside of my mouth has become my 'new' lower lip. The underlying muscle remains intact, it's just the skin on top that's now in their rubbish bin. Fairly shocking, and he did say I could go away and think about it, but I knew that would only make it worse, so I told him "Just do it".

The other thing I'll be just doing is putting lip sunblock on my children from now on. I've hesitated because they'll end up swallowing sunscreen chemicals. But with my genes, that's probably a low risk thing to do compared to the prospect lip surgery.

At least, I kept thinking, it wasn't my eyes. And this too will pass.

18 April 2013

Bang, crash, clang music

The source of noise from over the fence:

And what to hit them with?

This was made by my neighbour Lucy for her 4 and 2 year old to bash away at. The noise, I should add, is great!

16 April 2013

A million dollars

Last night I came across a book I write in sometimes - a kind of diary about the children. I started writing it when Jack was born, and wrote in it regularly for a few years. I still do, but rarely.

I discovered amazing memories that would otherwise be lost. Oh, what I had forgotten! I had forgotten that Anna as a baby used to always twirl her dainty feet around and then freeze them in a ballet-like position. Or that the first time Ian played "Wipeout" to her on the guitar, she was so intensely interested that she went all stiff and twitchy. Or that she sung before she could talk.

I had an idea that Jack as a preschooler was a real character, because I remember people telling me that. But I really had no idea quite how funny he had been, and how he constantly lived as one book or movie character or another - Roo, or Fireman Sam, or Pingu. I laughed until I cried. And if it wasn't written it down, I would have forgotten it for good.

When he was 3 he had to wear a name badge for kindy because they had a reliever teacher. He wanted to keep it, but the head teacher told him he wouldn't need it when he came back because the normal teacher, Linda, would be there, and she knew who he was. "She knows I'm Peter Pan," he agreed.

Once I told him I loved him even when I was angry with him, and he said he loved me when he was angry with me, too. Then I heard him add quietly, "But not very much."

His beloved grandma took him, still aged 3, to see a digger, and he strode around saying "I'm the man for the job."

I kept reading until well after I should have been asleep. Talk about hard to put down. This book is worth a million dollars to me.

14 April 2013

Weaving threads

In the weekend I gathered together three little girls (and actually two boys, but they absconded) to do some weaving.

I'd been inspired by Made by Joel's blog, which my neighbour told me about. His projects are classy and stunning to the highest degree, and they use stuff I generally have lying about the house.

His weaving project grabbed my attention, so we set off on a little adventure with a cut up cardboard box and wool bits I've collected from op shops.

The two six year old girls lasted about 10 minutes before the trampoline tempted them outside. But the nine year old - who kept saying how much she loved it - stuck at it. There was lots of chatting - who she played with at school, etc. After an hour or so, this is what we had made.

Little mouse blankets, doll's house rugs?

Fun, anyway.

10 April 2013


Today I had the privilege of meeting a very new girl. A girl living her very first full day. It was lovely.

I find that I need no religion go along with the concept of blessing. Good health and luck to you, little girl! May you live at least until your hands are again this wrinkled.

9 April 2013

Zig and zag of plant

Yesterday I had to prune a plant that has grown like billy-o despite our hot, dry summer. It was stopping our garage door from opening. I love its foliage so I brought some of it inside.

Meuhlenbeckia astonii
It's a divaricating plant - hence the zig zag stems. New Zealand has a particularly high number of divaricating species. One of the main theories as to why is that it protected the plants from being eaten by moa. Certainly it grows into a tangled mass that makes pruning a small challenge. It reminds me of a certain little girl's hair, although the plant didn't screech like she does.

Pity there's none of those big birds left, isn't it?

I love its delicate heart-shaped leaves, and the contrast in colour between leaf and stem. Also, I see, it has tiny little flowers.

5 April 2013

Shades of blue

One of the best things I did over Easter was climb Mt Maunganui with my boy. He was keen as mustard, and clambered up like a mountain goat while I puffed damply behind him.

Fortunately, I 'had' to keep pausing to take photos.

Up the top.
So much beauty, so much blue.

It reminds me of one of my favourite things - a ceramic shell by potter Royce McGlashen. I suppose I could use it for a salad bowl, but it's so beautiful that its function in this house is to be beautiful.

3 April 2013

Home made mozzarella

I don't make preserves or jam, so in some ways I'm a bit of a lazy gardener/eco-fruge (short for frugal person).

But recently my mother gave me a recipe for home made mozzarella that I got excited about. I love the idea of home cheesemaking, and the recipe said that this one takes eight minutes! It took about 15, but I can live with that because I got on with other food preparation during that time, while the milk warmed.

I needed no special equipment apart from some disposable rubber gloves.

I love mozzarella, and it's pricey.

I made little salads with homegrown tomatoes, oregano and an oil/vingear dressing.

Mozzarella Cheese - fast.

2 litres boiling water
1/2 cup salt
2 litres full cream (blue-lid) milk
1 tsp citric acid
2 tsp Renco (liquid rennet)

1 Make salt broth by boiling the salt and water in a pot until the salt dissolved. Cool. (I did this a few hours in advance, so the water was quite cold.)

2. Place milk in a deep microwaveable dish, and stir in the citric acid.

3. Microwave milk 6 minutes on high, then stir in Renco.

4. Microwave for 1 minute. Remove and drain some of the excess liquid.

5. Microwave 45 seconds more, then transfer gently into a colander, from which most of the liquid will drain from the curd.

6. Place the curds that remain into a bowl. Don the gloves, and form the curds into two or three balls. To get rid of the lumps, dunk each ball into boiling water and gently stretch and mould the curds. The heat of the boiling water will tranform the lumps so you can shape a reasonably smooth ball.

7. You're finished, apart from soaking the balls in the salty water for 20 minutes to add flavour.

8. Store covered in the fridge.

My experience:
:: maybe they need longer than 20 minutes of soaking, or the salty water should be warmer. I felt our cheese wasn't salty enough, but it was still delicate and delicious.
:: I wasn't sure how much to stretch and work the curds at the dunking-in-boiling-water stage. I did it for less than a minute, just enough to make the cheese smooth instead of lumpy. Possibly  bit longer might have been better, because some lumps remained, which you can see in the photo.

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