Monday, 24 September 2012

Springtime in Christchurch & some treats in store ~

I'm in Christchurch at present - lots to wrote about which will have to wait until I'm back to base.  I mention this briefly so you can look forward to reading more later:

Yesterday I went to the Opawa Farmers Market, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and called in to the NEW New World supermarket in St Martins - a welcome re-addition to the ranks of Christchurch's supermarkets.  I also want to write about the Flo Cafe, which I've had the pleasure of visting on an earlier occasion.

Christchurch is beautiful in the spring, with loads of dafffies, blossom, ducklings and other spring delights....

Alongside all of this reminders of earthquake damage and recovery are all around: road cones, scaffolding, demolition signs and heaps of rubble - yes, still - there is so much work still to do, which will take many years.

Driving into the city when I first arrived the rocky peak and outcrops of Castle Hill look somehow different than I remembered them even from my last vist of a few months ago, and as I drove further east around the foot of the hills past the bottom of Mt Pleasant, through Redcliffs and on to Sumner I found that the roads were just as bumpy, patched and uncomfortably uneven as they had been previously - only the forests of road cones which denote major repairs to the sewer lines and other subterranean services had moved.  The cliff faces all looked subtly different, perhaps a result of recent heavy rain which had very likely washed away loose soil.

Anyway, lots of interesting photos and information to share in week or so.  In the meantime, I'm off out into the sunshine and pleasant springtime breezes...

Friday, 21 September 2012

Pink Boston Bun ~ a shopping day treat

Shopping is hard work and it's nice to have a tasty treat as a reward, and although we do most of our own baking it's nice to have a break and enjoy someone else's now and then.  Pink Boston Bun is a household favourite.  All such buns are not equal, and in fact some of them are downright disappointing, which is why we always call into Dunedin's Garden New World supermarket when we are at that end of town - theirs is baked on the premises and is exceptionally good!

You can see from the price tag that it's a modestly sized treat: $2.99 is an okay price to pay for a bun large enough for four to sit down to with a cuppa.  It makes a nice equivalent to a treat at a cafe, which we can't afford.  I prefer to eat at home anyway - it's more restful.

In the photo above you can see that there are sultanas in the soft, rather doughy bun, but the chief delight is the rather buttery pink icing which includes a generous amount of shredded coconut.  Yum!!!

'Shop on Taieri' ~ Mosgiel's first rate charity shop

'Shop on Taieri' is on Gordons Road, the main road of Mosgiel, Dunedin, right at the heart of the shopping centre.  It is run by Presbyterian Support, Otago, an organisation dedicated to helping in communities.  I rate it as easily the best charity shop in the Dunedin area.  

Charity shops stock second hand items which have been donated by people who no longer want them.  They are mostly staffed by volunteers and the money raised from sales goes to support charitable work.  Part of that charitable work starts with the availability of good, second-hand items being made available cheaply to people who can't afford to buy things new, as well as to anyone else who has an eye for a bargain.  In this way everyone involved is doing everyone else a good turn, which is something to take pleasure in as well as be proud of.  

Charity shops are further distinguished by their significant role as recyclers, so top marks to them for assisting the rest of us on the sustainability front. 

The window displays of 'Shop on Taieri' are as good as you are likely to find anywhere and are regularly changed to show eye-catching and fashionable clothes all of which keeps the shop looking fresh. 

I've got some great things there.  The favourite scarf you can see with this jacket is from there:

This photo originally featured in my earlier article:
I also purchased this special vase there:

The roses are called 'Grace'

I purchased the small golden jar next to it for $2 at a junk shop around the corner...  

Another charity shop, also on Gordon Road, deserves a worthy mention: the Mosgiel Salvation Army shopItems I've bought there can be found in every room of our home, from lampshades to kitchenware, furniture and clothing and appliances!

This sort of shopping is like a form of sport which can be fun and is full of surprises.  You never know what you will find, and because stock is sourced from donated items it changes all the time.  It's amazing what you can get if you know what you want, keep your eyes open and your wits about you!

So, if you have things in reasonable condition that you no longer want consider giving them to a charity shop; and if you need low priced clothes and household goods consider shopping at them.  I do both.   
Thanks everybody!

Asian Groceries, Dunedin ~ the best place to buy tofu

The rather cluttered frontage of this shop conceals a fascinating interior.  I love going into it as it is jam-packed full of all manner of foods that I have no idea of, which have their own mysterious aroma. And along with these more rarefied goods there are others that I do know and use, such as dried beans, dahl, chic peas, spices and more.  In some ways it's like the shop that time forgot.  I find it rather a relief that some of these shops still exist in spite of glaring, musak-filled supermarkets.  I most particularly go there for tofu.  

Tofu is made from soy beans which are transformed into soft, white, rather bland-tasting blocks of curd.  It is made in varying consistencies, from the decidedly rubbery to blocks that are so soft that the curd collapses into a mush when stirred in with anything else.  It's very high in protein, low in calories and contains very little (if any?) fat.  This is all good, but due to my previous experience of consistencies I didn't much like I hadn't been accustomed to using it much until recently.  What changed?  I found this shop, which stocks delicious tofu, which is just the right consistency and a delicious addition to any stir-fry. 

I like to chat to shopkeepers, sales assistants and other service providers, so last time I was in there I got into a chat with the shopkeeper there, which was all very pleasant.  I mentioned how much I like their tofu, and guess what - they make their own!  For me this is another reason to buy it there: I support local producers wherever I can!

If you don't already know this shop it is well worth a visit.  It's in St Kilda's, in South Dunedin, at:
  • 74 Prince Albert Street 
As you drive towards St Kilda's beach it's on your right, quite some distance after you have passed by the other shops.  Once you get there you'll find it easy to park close by. 

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Veggie Boys ~ for fruit and vegetables

Veggie Boys is a recent addition to my shopping circuit.  It's handy to get to as it lies between Dunedin's two main thoroughfares, Cumberland Street and Crawford Street.  

The street address is 105 Cumberland Street.  If you live in Dunedin and don't know where it is you probably know Briscoes or Spotlight, which are close by.  It has a carpark, fairly small, but enables the driver to turn in from three streets.

It stocks a good range of fruit and vegetables, also some vegie seedlings, eggs - including free range, milk, chilled drinks and a few other things.

Shops that sell largely fruit and vegetables are such a rarity these days that the term used to described them seems to have almost disappeared from usage.  They are called green grocers!

I have been pleased to find that the origin of some of the produce was identified.  I got a handsome bag of Nadine potatoes from a Southland grower for a very reasonable price.  I much prefer to get relatively local produce which is identified as such rather than that which is identified only by brand or type, which is a common presentation in supermarkets.  I get particularly annoyed by potatoes often being identified only as 'suitable for boiling', etc.!  I want to know where things are from and exactly what sort they are, so points to Veggie Boys for being more specific. 

I was more than happy to pick a bag of apples from a big bin of apples grown in Otago, which were clearly seconds, but this doesn't bother me at all.  They were priced at 99 cents a kilo and crisp and delicious.  I want to support local growers, especially orchardists, who, from what I have heard, have very lean profit margins these days.  There is so much wastage of good food, all so that we can be presented with perfect specimens.  From what I grow in my own garden I'm well aware that not all of it is perfectly formed; it's freshness is far more important to me.

Each time I've been there the staff have been friendly and helpful.

I like the sign pictured below. I was told it was painted by designer Tracy Smallman, a relative of the owner - which is great.  I like that the wider family are involved in this business.

Here it is as seen from the car park.  This shop is definitely larger on the inside than it looks from here.

I see from their Facebook page, that they have at least one other shop, over the hill in Mosgiel on Bush Road. 

Spotlight is just across the road, and Briscoes can be seen at its right:

Spotlight is also on my shopping circuit, which I will write about separately.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Shops and products I like ~ additional coverage of Rushleigh articles

I often write about living better on less, placing emphasis on developing domestic skills and increased self-reliance.  This reduces the need for ready-made products but it doesn't do away with them altogether, not by any means.  

Part of living better on less involves knowing which shops and products are the best value for money - for a variety of reasons; and an important part of living better is dealing with people and businesses which treat me as a valued customer.  I want to share some of my favourites. 

Although most of these will be particular to Dunedin here in New Zealand, there may be mention of ideas or points that are helpful to those who live elsewhere.   

As I write articles I'll place links on this Chronicle's index page entitled
I'll also note them on The Rushleigh Chronicles Facebook page.  I post links there to all articles as I write them, so a subscription or 'like' of this page will keep you up-to-date.

For starters, here's the link to an article I wrote a while back, featuring the Otago Farmers Market, and the excellent Edmonds Fresh Fish shop in Green Island of Dunedin.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Folded paper / origami boxes, bins and packets ~

As part of my campaign to rid the household of plastic bags I've been experimenting with folding paper.

I haven't got all that far yet, and need to give the subject more time and thought.  In the meantime I share the links here to the instructions I've been following.  They are nice and clear and easy to follow.  Once you get the hang of this sort of thing it becomes as easy as folding babies nappies / diapers.  Needless to say, I'm not at that stage yet!

It took me a long time to find these particular tutorials.  If you have your own favourites I'd be pleased to hear of them.

Here are three designs I've been working on: 

My own modest effort:


This small one was useful for my clipped sewing threads when I was working at my sewing machine:

(3) In the course of my searching I came across a simple version of a folded paper packet or bag.  It was a method I'd come across years ago, but couldn't remember the knack of it.  It's on a rather special blog site called:
I liked this site so much that I've added it to the right hand sidebar of this Chronicle under the heading 'Sites of special interest'.

Here are the writer's instructions:
(4) Refer to my later article 

The site has lots of interesting designs. 
The link below is to the category for:

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The joy of compost ~ setting up the garden for the summer

Now that the burst of spring growth is well under way I've begun stripping the winter weeds back in earnest.  The piles of weeds that have resulted prompted me to disestablish the compost heap from last summer so that I could use it to build up the central part of the top terrace, and then begin the compost heap a-fresh.  Last summer when I dug up part of that terrace to put in a garden under the big tree I had envisaged this possibility.  The roots of the tree had been too shallow for the lawn to grow properly, and although I added fresh earth and compost to the area at the time I knew a lot more was needed. 

The compost heap had been built up with layers of weeds, manure, and the kitchen scraps which had been decomposing in bokashi buckets.   The photograph below was taken at the beginning of March six months ago just before autumn set in:

During the winter I left it entirely alone to allow it time to rot down, and the result is first rate.  Once I lifted off the top layer, which has yet to fully break down, the wonderfully rich dark earth was revealed...

It contained many beautifully dark pink, shiny and wriggling worms, a sure sign of health in the garden.  I lifted the earth carefully to avoid harming them - they are a great asset to the garden and I regard them as helpers.

I expected that digging out the old compost would be done fairly quickly, an assumption which proved to be a long way out, and I lost count of the number or barrow-loads that were forthcoming.  I got at least twelve!

Weeds were easily removed thanks to the layer of mulch I had put onto the garden in the autumn, and the ground beneath it was soft and fresh.  As I pulled the weeds back a lot of the remaining mulch came with it, but I don't mind at all - its fibre will contribute to the health of the new compost heap.  As I put the composted earth in place on the garden I gently stirred it about, no more.

My little cat, Louisa, helped:

As I continued to clear the garden of weeds they piled up in impressive heaps!  Although part of this heap was the result of an earlier clearance I certainly added to it considerably!

And since some of the compost heap hadn't yet fully rotted down I had to make a pile for that as well.  The old curtain that I keep for this sort of work kept the loose earth off the lawn:

Phewf - it was hot work!  I went inside to get some lemon cordial to cool me off and keep me going.  I was glad to have this to hand, made from lemons sent down by family up north.  The bottle is leaning against some clumps of strawberries:

A few carrots remain in the ground from last summer's crop.  They have survived there quite comfortably over the winter, and although rather hard to eat raw, cook up well when they are just as sweet and tender as ever.  They are going up to seed now, so it's probably time to take them out and use them before they go woody.  There are some beautiful flowers:

This one isn't yet fully formed:

Seeing the orange top of a carrot exposed I bent over to see if I could pull it out.  I wiggled it gently.  Out it came, and was revealed to be of astonishing size!  I don't know what made the carrots grow so very well, but whatever it is they like it!

Dock was another long-rooted plant that did well here during the winter. There is masses of it in the paddock over the fence and I knew it would seed into my garden but was philosophical about it.  Now is the perfect time to remove it as the ground is able to give up its long roots relatively easily:

This is one weed I don't put in the compost as even small pieces of root will grow again with gusto!

The strawberries I had planted along the front of the terrace last year needed to be taken out so that I could add a substantial amount of compost to the bed raising it by about six inches.  Doing this and then replanting them made more work than expected but was worth it.  The garden looks a lot healthier and the plants will do better with the rich earth to nourish them. 

I had expected to be finished by lunchtime, but wasn't anywhere near it, so I went inside and made myself a sandwich.  As I was putting it together it occurred to me that it showed how well we now manage in making a lot of good stuff ourselves: Rewi had baked the bread, the rocket and beetroot had come from the garden; and I had made the pesto last autumn from our massive basil plants (grown in the sitting room) and walnuts which came from family up north. 

If you're wondering what the white stuff is it's cottage cheese, the Tararua one, which incidentally is the only one available in New Zealand that uses a vegetarian culture.  New Zealand retro fans of middle years may recognise the Crown Lynn plate.  All this is very satisfying.  We might be cash poor, but we are increasingly capable and growing richer in what we can do for ourselves in truly wholesome ways.  I would not describe it as a glamorous way of living though, and takes a lot of determination and solid work. 

After lunch it was back out to my compost!

As I dug down to the bottom of the compost heap I came across a caterpillar of a sort which I hadn't seen before.  Here it is:

Since I had no idea if it was the last of a nearly extinct species or some frightful kind of pest I put it in a box and enquired further.  The answer came back promptly: it is a pest, unfortunately, a porina.  They are a pest in pastureland and eat greenery prodigiously at ground level.  The caterpillar is the larvae form of a large moth which lives only about four days, during which time it distributes from 1,000 to 2,000 eggs over fields.  The next morning, mindful of my responsibility to the garden, I very reluctantly took it down to the sea along with shell-fish leftovers and cast it into the tide where it could nourish the little creatures there. 

Finally I got the last of the compost fully distributed.  I cleaned out the up-turned lampshade I use for a bird bath and put the rocks back into it.  The wonderfully rich compost had added from six to ten inches of height over that particular bed, an impressive result!

One task remained, which was to start off the new compost heap with all my weeds.  I set about constructing it in layers: I started off with some branches which had been pruned from shrubs - these will prevent the compost from getting boggy at the bottom; next came some of the old compost, and after that a bag of horse manure:

The manure was free.  A nearby rural property has a large pen next to the main road marked with a sign inviting those interested to dig and carry away manure for free.  This lot looked as if it had come from the bottom of horse stalls as it had a lot of hay mixed with it.  So much the better!

Those of you who have heard my tirades about plastic bags may be surprised to see them in use here.  These are old official Christchurch rubbish bags left over from when we lived there about five years ago.  Christchurch has since phased out the use of rubbish bags but we continue to get good usage out of these ones!

Anyway, on went a bagful of manure, topped by more weeds, then the contents of the bokashi buckets, then more weeds and manure, and a final thatch of weeds.  It looked great!

There were still weeds which I hadn't put on to it, but these had been put to work on top of the freshly weeded vegie border where they will keep the ground soft and fresh growth at bay until I'm ready to plant there. There they are in the foreground shown below.

You can see the compost heap at the back right.  There was just a bit more stacking and raking to be done at this point before I finished up:

Next morning I came up the garden to make my inspection.  The top terrace looked very fresh and inviting.  I'll try growing pumpkins again here this summer and maybe zucchini (also known as courgettes).

From the terrace below I could see that the plants along the front edge were well settled with their new earth around them:

The vege terrace looked ready for action:

And the compost heap in that shady back corner looked tidy, and, I have to say, rather large for a brand new one!

I have heard it said that compost heaps are the heart of the garden, and I agree: it's the place where the life cycle of growth and decay both begins and ends, so for me it is a wonderful representation of the continuity of life, which is what gardens are all about.  This heap will rapidly sink down and a great deal more will be added to it over the summer.  Next summer it will provide many more barrow-loads of rich dark earth which will be able to be used to enhance the garden even further.  It does this all for no charge, without any instructions from anyone, and with very little intervention from me!  How wonderful - that suits me perfectly!

It is important to note that handling compost does have an element of risk as it can harbour microbes and fungi that are hazardous to health.  I've written about this in my article:
It is equally important to note that these organisms exist all over the place, and that it's only where they have built up to concentrated levels, and / or one has an especially vulnerable respiratory or immune system, that they are harmful.  I do wear gardening gloves but other than the usual hygiene of hand-washing and not standing over anything obviously mouldy I don't worry too much.  If you want to find out more there is a very full list of precautions you can take in the article linked to above.

My compost heap hadn't been slushy or overheated or left in an enclosed plastic bag so I didn't fear any untoward effects.  My nose ran steadily all day though, which I take as a healthy response to dust particles or pollen that was being washed right back out!

In quite a different part of the garden in my irises and roses grow unattended - a reminder that there is still plenty to do to keep the garden in step with the season, but that can wait for a bit while I draw breath from this project, and choose my vegie seed and seedlings...

More related links: 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Sewing cosy hats ~ use those oddments!

I've discovered that cosy hats can easily be made from knit or other stretch fabric - even a favourite old jersey can be transformed and given fresh life in this way!  In the photo below the one on the left was made from just one such: the jersey was full of holes but the back was still in quite good order.  Rewi needed a new hat, so I measured around his head and then across the back of the pullover and decided I had enough, at least to give it a go.  It was either that or make it into a hottie cover!  The knit fabric was easy to cut into shape and I then secured the edges by zigzag-stitching along them so that they wouldn't unravel.  The result was surprisingly successful.  It encouraged me to experiment further with some polar fleece remnants and I share the results here. 

The one made from the pullover was made out of a single piece and the other was made from four pieces, but the principle is the same: the sides curve inwards to meet at the crown of the head in four parts:

Basically one starts with a pattern piece that looks like Gothic window.  The hat shown above on the right is made up from four identical pieces.

The pattern piece shown here is sized to fit adults.  The top part with the curved sides is 12cms in height; the middle section, which covers ones ears, is 8cms; and then the lower band is the part that turns back, and measures the same amount.  The width of the lower edge is the circumference of the head where it will cover the ears, plus the seam allowances.

I've experimented with sizing and have found that too small felt tight, and a loose fit was just annoying - a snug fit feels most comfortable.   

The following measurements will make it easy to get the sizing about right for anyone you choose to sew for: 

  • Measure from the crown of the head to the middle of an eye-brow, and then from the crown of the head to the bottom of an ear lobe.  These measurements are likely to be the same.  That is your basic measurement for the depth of the hat.    
  • If you want a fold-back decide how deep you want it to be.  I like mine to be about 8cm / three inches. 
  • Add these two figures together.  This is your total single thickness measurement in length.
  • If you want your hat to be fully 'self-lined' in the same fabric double that total.
  • If you want your hat to be only half self-lined decide how much.  You might want to add only half again and leave it at that, or you may wish to line the inside of the top in another fabric.
Circumference and width:
  • Measure around the head taking the tape around where you want the finished lower edge of the hat to sit.   
  • Add seam allowances.  I allow about a quarter of an inch, which is about three quarters of a centimetre.
    • If cutting the hat from a single piece add the seam allowance twice.
    • If cutting the hat from four pieces add the seam allowance eight times.  
  • Add these figures together to get your total and then divide by the number of pieces used. Since your fabric has a bit of stretch in it, this will give a snug fit.
If you're unsure what sort of fit will suit you, make your pattern piece larger rather than smaller as you can always unpick and re-cut it.  

Cutting out:
  • To fully self-line your hat in the same fabric, double your fabric over and place your pattern piece on the fold.  This will give you a piece that looks like this:
  • Check your fabric for any obvious 'nap' (surface sheen or pile that lies particularly in one direction) or pattern and adapt the layout of your pattern pieces accordingly.
  • Cut four of them.
Sewing the hat:
  • Lay the pieces with right sides together, having again checked that any nap is lying in the same direction, and pin the four seams.  
  • Stitch the seams, leaving an opening in one of them of about five to six centimetres on the upper end of one of the straight parts: this is where you pull the hat inside out.  
  • Note: I sewed each of my seams in two parts, starting from somewhere in the middle of the length of the seam as this made it easier to get the end of the second seam to match the other pieces where they meet in a point - make sure that you stop your seam leaving the seam allowance for the other side clear, which will give you a nice clean finish.  If this sounds confusing I'm sure that it will make sense when you are actually doing it on the machine!  I hope so anyway!  

Now you can reverse your hat through the hole.  Here is it right side out, looking rather like a deflated rugby ball:

Now push one end inside the other, turn the edge back and voilĂ !

It took me a while to work out how to get the sizing right, but having done so I found these quick and easy to make - less than an hour each, and if you have suitable fabrics in your scrap bag as I did it costs nothing at all.  Now I call that economical!

Link to another article about sewing polar fleece:

Monday, 10 September 2012

Sewing handerchiefs ~ and how to mitre corners

I gave up using paper tissues years ago: I prefer to use cotton handkerchiefs as I don't want trees to be grown and then destroyed so that I can blow my nose, but it wasn't until recently that it occurred to me to make my own.  On reflection I decided that I didn't need someone on the other side of the world to make them for me as I could sew my own, thank you very much!  So off I went to Spotlight, where I asked for lawn, a fine fabric which is one hundred percent cotton.  

There it was in cream, pink and yellow, so I bought a quarter of a metre of each of the coloured ones, and half a metre of the cream.  I was very happy with my purchases: the material cost about $6 and the thread about $5.  From this I produced a dozen pretty hankies, so in dollar terms it was economical - they will last me for years!

Sewing a hem around a square can be either simple or fiddly depending on the technique used.  On this occasion I decided to 'mitre' the corners, which is time-consuming and fiddly but looks great, and I share here how I made them in case others would like to have a go:

To show the method clearly I've photographed gift-wrap paper marked with pen.  If you want to see the images rather larger click on the images themselves.

Cutting the required square:
The quarter of a metre was just the right size to start with.  The width of the material wasn't quite enough to get four squares across, so must have been about 5cm less than a metre in width.  The easy way to work out squares is to lift one corner diagonally across to form a triangle like this:

The dotted line shows where the edge of the paper will lie when folded fully across the corner.  Cut along the dotted line and you have your square.  As long as you start with one properly right-angled corner you will get a nice even square. 

How to mitre the corners:
The whole point of a nicely mitred corner is that it sits beautifully flat and has a bulk similar to the rest of the edging.

The first step is to fold a small edge over all the way around the square keeping it nice and even in width.  Press firmly with a steam iron to crease the fold:

Now fold it over once more and crease it again.  Notice that the folded corner has now become quite bulky:

At this stage you may wish to pin the middle of each side, but it's not essential.

Now open your creased corner:

In the following illustrations I've marked in the creased lines with dashes so that they are easier to see.  Here is the same thing inked in:

Now prepare to cut the corner off... this:

Now prepare to fold over this new raw edge... this:

And fold up the side seams once more, first once...

... then again...

... and you're done!

This looks like a lot of steps but once you get the hang of it it will seem completely logical and straightforward! 

The best way to secure these beautiful corners in preparation for sewing is to put two simple tacking stitches in each one.  I'm fairly sure that when I was taught this sort of thing at school we called them 'tailors tacks'.  No knots are required as the double stitch holds perfectly well and can later be easily removed:

I then stitched two seams: one just next to the actual hem, and then another next to the outside edge.  Not all my edges worked out perfectly, but overall I am very pleased with the results.

My hems have a finished width of about one centimetre, which was about the amount I could comfortably manipulate to get the desired result.  Any smaller than that was too difficult to handle or get even.

Next time I make handkerchiefs I plan to use a simpler hemming method which is less time-consuming, but am very pleased with these ones!

Mitred corners can be used in any sewing.

In a simplified method a corner neatly snipped to the desired depth and edges 'neatened' (fabric secured from fraying) with a zigzag stitch the edges need be turned over only once.  I've used this method when sewing up hand-towels cut from towels which had frayed edges but still had plenty of wear left in them.
Happy sewing!

My other articles about housekeeping and sewing can be found by clicking on the link below: