Where there is a will there is a way

Sunday, December 29, 2013

JR's stripey toque (using Fair Isle to make the stripes)

JR requested a red and blue toque (beanie), stripes which were balanced like ying and yang. I wanted to knit so that the blue and red came into a ying yang swirl at the top - but this is difficult with knitting. My sister Wendy stopped me from using all these lengths of cut strings so I could have diagonal stripes (like how you change colours to knit a picture) and showed my this amazing simple knitting method called Fair Isle.

Basically you use two colours of wool at once, knitting 3 stitches of one then the other colour, just looping the unused colour round the back (in this case I did this on 3 double pointed needles so it went round and round). (You can also do 4 stitches of each.) Basically you have one extra stitch total in the round, so additional to the multiples of 3 (or 4 if you are doing 4), so the pattern is staggered by one each row.  I charted how multiples of 3 or 4 would look, and chose a multiple of 3 as the stripes were thicker.

I still wanted to try to swirl the stripes into ying-yangs at the end, but it just wasn't the easy way the medium wanted to go. I did decrease only at the start and end of each needle so the hat kept swirling in a cool way at the top - decreasing did not wreck the pattern.

How to make hot chilli pepper jelly (and preserving info)

This is the best thing I ever made from my garden produce.

So simple to make, but the finest.  You simply blender hot chillis, capsicums (peppers in North American) and vinegar.  I found the recipe here at this great publication about chilli peppers and capsicums, "Peppers: Safe Methods to Store, Preserve, and Enjoy"    (Content reviewed and revised by LINDA J. HARRIS, Food Safety and Applied Microbiology, Specialist, Department of Food Science and Technology, University of California, Davis.)  Their recipes were adapted from “So Easy to Preserve,” 2nd Edition, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Georgia.

This is because I couldn't just try a recipe blindly.  I was learning to live off the land, and preserve my garden produce - possibly for a long time, so I had to learn how to do it safely (and yummily!).

My favourite recipes in this publication was the "Pepper Jelly" (p.11), followed by "Hot Chilli Salsa" (p.8).  But one of the reasons it tasted so amazing was the produce - fresh from my own garden, and using a variety of amazing heirloom and interesting tomatoes ranging from jam tomatoes, various coloured tomatoes, to different shapes of varieties.

Here is the recipe for Hot Chilli Pepper Jelly (sometimes called Red Pepper Jelly) but omitting a few drops of food colouring as I like completely natural foods.  For the info I needed on preserving in general, go to the full scientific paper on preserving peppers, here.  It is so easy!  Just blender, and bottle.  An amazing food with cheese, or on meats.

Hot Chilli Pepper Jelly

Makes 5 half-pint (250-ml) jars.

4 or 5 jalapeƱo or other hot peppers cored and chopped
4 medium green or red bell peppers cored and chopped
1 cup white vinegar (5%) or 250 ml
5 cups sugar or 1.25 L
1 pouch liquid pectin

1. Put half the peppers and half the vinegar into a blender; cover and process until
peppers are liquefied. Repeat with remaining peppers and vinegar. 

2. Combine the pepper and vinegar mixture with the sugar in a large saucepan and
boil slowly for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. Add liquid pectin and boil hard for 1 minute. 

4. Skim foam off the top of the jelly and pour jelly immediately into canning jars, leaving 1⁄4 inch (0.5 cm) of headspace.

5. Wipe jar rims with a clean, damp cloth and secure lids and ring bands.

6. Process the jars of jelly in a boiling water bath as prescribed in Table 7.

Table 7. Recommended Processing Time for Pepper Jelly in a Water Bath Canner
Processing Time at Various Altitudes
For jar size of half-pint or pint: 
Altitude 0–1,000 ft  is 5 min processing time
Altitude 1,001–6,000 ft is 10 min processing time
Altitude above 6,000 ft is 15 min processing time

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Knitted jumper for unipegasus (sweater)

Jumper (sweater) for Uni-pegasus as it's colder here in Canada (Troy's request). Troy has also requested jeans and shoes for Uni but these things take time.

I just sewed pieces together - a back piece with large buttonhole for wings (I put half the stitches on hold, and knitted one side at a time, then rejoined to finish top). Then I did a bottom piece shaped like an hourglass to go make room for the legs. After sewing back and front together I knitted and sewed on the ribbed sleeves. All while visiting, so wasn't tedious.

How to repair a hole in your jeans - or anything.

Cut patch.
Smooth it so it lies right, then pin it.
Sew around it while hanging out with friends or family.  (Big needles are less fiddly to use.)  You can patch on the inside or outside.  If you loop the needle through each loop as you go round, it will make a nice pattern.  When you are done sewing round, "heal" the hole by sewing it down until the edges will no longer fray.

Also - when you start using a needle (you can keep a few big needles and some thread around - don't be fussy or it's no fun) you can use your skill for many things. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

How to make a good old-fashioned slingshot

Cool idea from my father.

"This is the way we used to make slingshots as kids."

How did you make this slingshot today, Dad?

"That stick was a forked branch from a plum tree. I peeled the bark off it. Notice that I notched the top of the forked branches. Notice that I cut a pouch out of leather. I used a strip of inner tube rubber, I stretched it around the notches and wound cotton around to fasten the edges. Lucan stretched the rubber into the holes in the leather, and I used cotton string to tie it."

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Glass Milk Bottles seen in Kimberley BC (Canada) that you return for a deposit

Just visiting my good friend who lives in Kimberley, BC, Canada - and was so happy and hopeful to see that they are using a system of actual glass milk bottles there that you return for a deposit and get refilled!

This makes me more happy than one normally feels - at seeing milk sold in a grocery store.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The quick and dirty method for separating worms from compost of your worm farm.

A quick way to separate worms from their compost is to dump a whole entire layer into a large vessel, like the one pictured.  Then I then fish the worms out (not as hard as you think, you can feel them and grab them from the brew) and pour and use compost water on garden.  I use this method when I don't have time to fuss around, and would like to clear some room in my compost bin fast!  Also, seeds float to the top, so you can remove future sprouters.  

How to fish them out?  Any utensil - they really grab onto any object which passes through the water they will cling to.  Truly, my rubber gloved hand passes through at the end to make sure I have got them all out (or most - as long as you return as many as you can, they can only assist in the garden - dead or alive...)

I deposit them into a separate bucket which I have ready before I start, then when I am done I throw them all back to work in the worm farm.  I had started initially by using colanders, but they get clogged up and are unnecessary.  With worm farming, your rubber gloves are your best friend (and tossing around the layer you are adding to each time - and adding lots of paper!)

I also have a bucket ready to throw all the crap like seeds, and another for uncompostable crimes of humanity - plastic bits.  The seeds and bits can be composted, tossed somewhere to rot, or perhaps planted.  

This method allows you to clear what you are throwing in your garden from rubbish, or unwanted things - and since you are adding the compost with water, the plants can access the rich brew just fine!  A wonderful method.

For the usual method - which I finally realized how to do easily, go here.

Honey toffee in moulds shaped like animals and flowers and tikis

I started experimenting with making caramel and hard toffee candy after my son Luke asked me how candy is made. Of course the kids all loved it, but I felt bad about how much sugar they were eating. 

I had read a great article on how much better for you honey is than sugar - it is a far more complex food. I did a search. Did you know you can make candy using only honey and butter? (Usually it's made with sugar.) A French recipe makes honey butter candy by boiling equal parts of both to 150 degrees C / 300 F (upper limit of hard crack stage).  Then nuts and dried fruits are added.  

So you can make pure honey candy, which is the healthiest.  For the candies above, I used some sugar.

Mix and boil 

230 g butter
500 g honey
1 cup sugar

Boil candy to 135 C / 275 F.  (You need to use a candy thermometer.)

It turned out great, but a little too much sugar - a few pieces and my blood was racing. I actually wished I had just used honey alone as the French recipe said.

Blueberry Pielets - with my Mom's recipe for the pie crusts

I have been on a pie rampage these last few weeks - I am a novice, but it's a fun new treat (which can be fairly healthy if you use honey instead of lots of sugar).

Blueberry pie-lets:


3/4 cup honey (that's a guess, 1 tablespoon per pie-let)
¼ cup flour
4 cups blueberries
lemon juice (one drizzle per pie-let)

Using a muffin tray, cut out circles about 2cm larger than a mug. Set into each muffin shape on the tray. Fill with blueberries which have been rolled in some flour (I had to dump out the ones in the photo to do this step, do it first). Add a tablespoon of honey, and a squirt of lemon juice. Top with another circle of the same size as before. Squish the top roof of crust to bottom crust decoratively. (I use first two fingers of left hand and right thumb inbetween, the left fingers push crust edge down, thumb opposite, up - and go all around making this pattern.)

*Obviously you can just make a blueberry pie - the filling is enough for 1 PIE.

I just discovered that my mom's crust recipe kicks butt on the other dumb one I was using. It is amazing! Even if you are half dead it makes great pastry.



454 g / 1 lb. margarine or butter -- both is the best
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
5 cups flour
1 egg
2 tbsp vinegar
¾ cup cold water
Mix together and roll out.

I put the dry ingredients together, then added the egg, then squished in butter and marg (454g total) with my hands until uniforms. Then I added the wet.

Primal wool knitted hat and scarf - made by interspersing fur effect wool with real wool

When you knit a hat, you can mix a type of synthetic wool called Primal wool (fur effect wool) with regular real wool, and it makes this lovely effect. On its own, the Primal wool when you knit it makes a surface like a soft, plush teddy bear. For Phoebe's hat I actually just added lengths of it until they ran out, knitted a few rows without, and added again.

The idea came because I was short of the pink wool - my friend had made the scarf for her daughter, and I was making the hat out of a limited amount of wool that I was given by another friend. But I ran out of wool and had to completely unravel what I had done. As it was hard to unravel, I had to cut it up - thus the lengths. Then I came up with this idea which is so fun, and better than just the Primal wool alone.

Idea of buying reconditioned appliances - give it a go they are great value.

This is so cool. You can buy refurbished (repaired) kettles and appliances for a fraction of the price from Trademe. Applianceoutlet is the repair shop for Breville. After they fix a return, the appliance is tested and resold.  We gave this a try and got an awesome kettle we wouldn't have been able to afford.

Give it a go, get a a better model than you can normally afford while helping to preserve the environment by preventing waste!

Brick wall analogy meme by nature lover and scientist David Suzuki

This is his central message - the warning of a scientist who has studied populations, and understands nature; based on how the way we're using up the Earth's resources, with our population growth the way it is - we are going to run out in an exponentially short amount of time.

More on that here.

Great Solar Oven

My brother and sister-in-law made this amazing solar oven, which they use in San Diego all the time.  It can even cook potatoes.

They have lined the inside with reflective foil and insulation.

Easy healthy and simple porridge for breakfast - how to prepare bulgar (instant wheat) and make it for a breakfast porridge

"Bulgar" is something I grew up with an awareness of as my parents made it.  I knew of it as hard clusters of cooked, dried wheat along a baking tray, but I didn't know its purpose.  I did know my Dad sometimes ate it on camping trips (when he hiked in the mountains, and slept in a tent).

My dad explained it to me on my visit home.  It's something they do in the Middle East, and you can buy it in shops, but my parents prepare it themselves at home.  The point of it is that after the wheat is cooked, it requires far less cooking time - instead of a cooking time of 10 minutes for uncooked ground wheat, it's pretty much instant - just add boiling water.

In the Middle East they use it as cous-cous in pilafs.  It can be used as rice is used; you can also add it to baking, add it to mince in burger patties, add it to soups.  But my dad usually just eats it as a healthy, simple porridge - and instant easy breakfast when camping (he even takes it in a plastic bag and just adds hot water in the bag and voila great survival skill).


There are a few steps - very easy steps, but with a lot of time elapsing inbetween.


First you boil the wheat until it is soft and all the water is absorbed.  If you have a pressure cooker, it's easier as you pressure cook for 5 minutes, then just turn off the heat and leave it in the sealed pot for a few hours, or overnight (it will continue cooking in the pot).  If you don't have a pressure cooker you can also cook the wheat on low heat for a couple of hours (after the water gets up to boiling first, then turn it down to lower heat).  When both methods are done all the water should be absorbed into the wheat.

The right amount water varies for the pressure cooking vs the sauce pan way.  Here are the two ratios:

Pressure Cooker Method:  4 cups washed wheat to 6 cups water, pressure cook for 5 min then leave it in pot for a few hours or overnight.

Saucepan Method1 cup washed wheat to 3.5 cups water, cook in saucepan for 4-6 hours.


After the wheat is cooked, soft, and all the water is absorbed, spread it out on large baking trays at 200-250 degrees F (93 degrees C) for 4-6 hours until completely dried.  You will need to stir it around once in awhile so it won't stick into clusters (how I often saw it growing up).


After the cooked wheat has been dried, grind it coarsely.  It can now be used as a very easy to cook, far less sticky porridge - easier cleanup and it tastes better as a porridge too (than cooking raw ground wheat).  All the same nutrients are there, but it is now "fast food".

After eating this every morning at my parents house, taking part in this healthy, wholesome and happy lifestyle - I would like to prepare ground up bulgar each weekend to eat in the mornings at home during our busy lifestyle for our family, when both my husband and I are working.  The simpler wheat porridge breakfast (healthy with lots and lots of fibre, no packaging, and really cheap) will then be achievable.


It's actually just a light, fluffy, healthy, yummy breakfast.

For every 1 cup of ground bulgar, use 3 cups of water.  First heat the water in a saucepan, and when the water boils, turn it down and add the ground wheat in a thin stream while stirring to prevent clumping.  My dad likes to add dried raisins to his bulgar, and 1 tsp salt.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Knitting graph paper - a totally cool idea for designing your own.

Did you know that you can print out graph paper for knitting, and mark it up for planning your knitting?

In this way, I planned how a new method (Fair Isle) for knitting would work for a gift I am knitting for my nephew.  The graph shapes are really rectangles, as knitted stitches take up more of a rectangular area than square.


For this toque (hat) I marked out two different variations, then was better able to choose which one I wanted to take the time to knit.  

Fair Isle is so cool and easy - this one is multiples of three all around, but then you have one extra stitch.  Then the whole pattern gets shifted over one (1 out of the 3) each time.  You can also move it over by 2.  Much experimentation by me in the future to come. 

I am already feeling the urge though for these straight lines to curl off into spirals.  Totally hard to do at the crown, with knitting - but can repeat a few round the band after a bit.  Using the knitting graph paper, I can follow my own designed pattern.

Here is the paper I found online, which can be saved-printed here:

The House

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Jones Family Jam

We just had a great visit with my brother Allan and his family.  His wife is really "into" music (and possesses fierce discipline).  I loved our experience - we were blown away.  We marvelled at the music which suddenly came forth and was present.  It made me want to play music!

Lucan has always shown a love of music - and used to pluck at our guitar (which we didn't know how to use) and sing, as a baby. I brought a ukelele, and one of the musical daughters, Elizabeth, is going to get us past the intimidating part to use it!  This is one of the great things about travelling.  You learn so much from people. 

Don't laugh about the uke. Anything new is daunting.  I played the piano for years, had piano lessons.  But we never touched a stringed instrument!

When I saw the musical expression pouring out of those kids, especially the oldest boy, and oldest girl, who seemed to really love it - it made me wonder at how humans have fashioned musical instruments to better voice the music inside us.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A wise way to live

When I visit my parents (see photo of super sharp knives - all with holes drilled into them to hang on the wall - with some small chopping boards) I get the sense of, this is how to live. It's a wise, way to live.

They have good tools, very good quality, even expensive good tools. With which they save heaps of money by doing everything themselves.

Supermarkets are selling fruit and vegetables that are often mass produced, with less and less nutrients - but they use a loophole and were growing their own veggies.

They made their own bread (with the help of a food processor with a dough hook), they did store away bulk foods that were dehydrated or processed so that they could be, to use as a backup (like "doomsday preppers" do). They were just being clever with the resources they had all the time. Very clever!

Now their money is put into things they really care about - like their beautiful restored heritage home, and travelling to do what they want to do. Probably also helping everybody.  Being out of debt.  Being as free and as happy as possible.

My Dad's garage

Entering my Dad's garage is like stepping back in time.

Despite all the change around his home, new monster houses and duplexes rising up here and there, even more so time stays still just inside these walls.

Every tool, even from decades ago, some even older, are cared for so well. In this house, even more care can be seen - with wooden tools and objects made for every purpose and ease. Everything is fixed, painted, well kept up. The energy put into it is beautiful.

This place has so much spirit I can even feel it in the photo.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Old world, New world

I have visited home before - but not during winter.  I think any person who has permanently left their homeland and relocated can understand the depth of feelings it is to leave one world and have it absent completely for a long time - then suddenly return to it.  Just the chill in the air - that's something I haven't felt in ten years - when you come out of a warm space like a car or a house and come out to a colder chilliness - brings back my entire life of memories and experiences until 27 years of age when I left here.

Here is Calgary (said CAL-gry).

Snow crunching, air chilly - memories of air frigid and the cold despite dressing really really warm.  All sorts of memories have been flooding that sometimes play through my mind at random times in semi-tropical home.  The satisfying crunch thin ice over a puddle of water in the park - just the freshness of home.  To be honest, not usually freezing but fresh and sunny.  Snow melting, bright, fresh days.

My family's home was overwhelming - as I thought it would be.  But having grown up in a heritage home and having thought it was normal at the time - since then I have lived in newer houses, and I can feel the history of the wooden steps, everything far more handbuilt than now. Switches that push in with a loud click, they don't flip, beautiful wood and wallpaper.  Like a farm cottage, really beautiful.  The shape of closets and spaces all over the home - original 1913 bathroom with old taps and a bathtub with claw feet.  But as different as it was at the time - my family bought a run-down "haunted house" at the time and completely restored it - but it took 20 years and alot of effort.  The kids grew up helping our parents.  Now it's a gorgeous historical home - even more bizarrely in the middle of sweeping change of this neighbourhood around it, like a beautiful stone in a river.  I hope they never change it.  Many little box homes remain on the streets around it, but about one in 10 has been transformed into a monster multiple living plex - rising up like the future around it.  But enough remains of what I knew, the old, which is also new again to me.

My favourite was when the garage door raised up, returning home for the first time - and even more from the old world was exposed.  A completely wooden garage inside, hung completely with tools - many old but kept in perfect condition.  The floor, wooden - the window - the same from when this garage was built to keep the cold out.  The garage is not that old I don't think, as the house, which is from 1913, but it's still such an old way of living inside it.  There is even a cellar under floorboards of the garage - the "greasepit" for working under the car.  But my family stored potatoes in it for a family of 10 to live off of all winter long.  Which we grew here on this city property.  So not a normal City of Calgary residence at all.  A special, special place.

I will take photos tomorrow in the light - it got dark here at 5pm!  But I will disturb people now.  I did photograph one very small thing.  My dad has built many things around this place - every wooden chair shines, every bookshelf made into a better one - and now he has a masters woodworking shop in his garage.  In fact I am besmoggled by their management and care and just the strength of their "good husbandry" - I think it's a term that means they look after things well.   Everything is clean, fresh, painted, simplified, organized.  I feel extremely intimidated, or besmallered - my way is very small in contrast to the strength of their organization.  People who used to run a ship of 2 adults and 8 kids - who now just manage themselves.  Anyways of the many other well-maintained tools about this place, shelves, quilts, etc, this is the little wooden structure my Dad has made just for drying small plastic bags he has washed.  I will take lots of more photos.  Just for us all to learn from, including myself!  I want to remember.

I really really want to paint our home, and not be lazy - there are so many tiny unfinished projects I have not even bothered to finish.  A kids dresser half painted, a fairy dress unsewn with pattern and material ready, a unicorn stuffed animal cut but not sewn.  Kids room unpainted.  Whole house unpainted.  Hideous curtains.

See why it's overwhelming to visit home?  For now - besides documenting it all - I will enjoy that long missed experience of the crunch of snow.  And helping my NZ family to not slip and break any legs on that slippery ice!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Rescuing Hoihoi (a baby blackbird)

This is Hoihoi - a rescued baby blackbird, fallen out of the nest and missing some feathers.  Always pays to keep your eyes peeled - which is something I am not particularly good at. Good thing my husband Shane and daughter Troy are.

Hoihoi suits his name (Maori for noisy), he likes to chirp away and make vocal communication.  He (or she) gobbles up a cereal mixture from a homemade eye dropper, just like you see baby birds in the nest doing when their mothers bring back worms. He sits on your finger when you bump a horizontal finger against his chest, and runs around on long road runner legs.

We didn't have an eyedropper to feed this baby song thrush so I fashioned one by cutting a length of plastic tubing, and trimming down a wine cork.  The eyedropper places food in the bird's "crop" just like the mother would with her beak.  I researched what to mix up - cereal (weetbix in milk), with a teaspoon of jelly meat (cat food), and an egg yolk.  They said to add calcium, but as our funds were low we bought high calcium milk and only used milk to dilute, no water.  When it was runny enough, it either ran out of tube - or we pinched it to help it go.

He is getting very fat and healthy now, we also built a bird enclosure with materials we had - mostly to contain the mess!  We also make a perch set into a stump, with a few different sticks he can perch on.  The cage is bottomless - just sits upon a board - so that later we can just set it on garden dirt outside so he can practice digging for worms.  We have already started to bring in trays of dirt with a few worms in it which he pecks at, and finds to eat.  The lid with bamboo poles (he is sitting on here) just lifts off, we also use it as a place for him to perch while we feed him, or he can hang out on it.

Now that he is stronger he shows a more mischievous, cheeky personality - he likes to run away from you behind his cage, or runs up to us / flies up to us asking to be fed.

Some people might wonder why we would bother with a small creature.  How could you not?  He's a little person, even the little snails I pull from my garden are small, inquisitive, seeking little guys.  Our eyes are just not closed to it.

He's a cool little guy.  We were having a very challenging period.  Hoihoi was a blessing as he was a humorous distraction.  He can fly around the room too.  Our kids and their friends have all had fun feeding the baby bird.

Video of us feeding Hoihoi:

Update 10 November.   Hoihoi's return.

After bringing worms in to Hoihoi, Shane started taking him outside on walks in the backyard regularly to dig for worms and explore.  He was no longer scruffy and weak, now he was vibrant and had grown larger.  But sometimes he didn't want to look for his own worms, and preferred to be fed - and we knew we had to release him soon or he would become dependent on us forever.  Then he started to enjoy the freedom of being outside, pecking for food, and flying where he wished.  He flew onto the roof, and listened to the birds in the neighbourhood.  Shane collected him down, but knew he was nearly ready to go.

One wet morning, when many worms had been washed out of their holes, and although the air was damp and the skies overcast the neighbourhood was full of birds singing and chattering.  Shane took Hoihoi back to the park where he had first found him.  He set him down, where he started to run about and forage in the ground, pecking for insects and worms like a little bird should.  Then a blackbird made a sudden landing nearby.  He (male as he had dark colouring) hid right away from us behind the nearest shrub, but kept following Hoihoi protectively.  Up to this point we didn't know he was a blackbird as they look lighter, and don't yet have such an orange beak when they are babies.  Both male and female parents care for fledglings (we looked this all up in our official bird book).

Since then when we visit the park, we know it's Hoihoi as he doesn't take off when we come by - as all the other wild birds do.  He doesn't vocalize back any longer, but stops his busy job of pecking the ground for food, and looks at us.  Then his parent blackbird flies down to protect this grown-up baby who still needs to learn many skills.  He is so quick and fleet now, you wouldn't know he had ever been looked after by humans - except for his lesser fear of them.

Hoihoi is free now, living just as a wild bird should.