Love Your Armpits

This is a bit of an odd post; partly because we don’t really talk about armpits in general and partly because, well, what’s to say about them anyway? Well lots actually! Everyday millions of women worldwide wake up, shower and apply deodorant or anti-perspirant. I was using the Dove Limited Edition Pink Anti-perspirant complete with logos of the National Breast Cancer Foundation and the NZ Breast Cancer Association on them. It also claimed to be moisturising too. All Good Then. However, on my latest quest for natural home made beauty remedies I came across one for deodorant which puzzled me somewhat. Why on earth make your own deodorant? Being the inquisitive soul that I am I began to Look Into It and what I found took my breath away. Now, I have to point out that the following hasn’t been proven but there is a chance that the aluminium content in anti-perspirants have been linked to breast cancer. I looked at the back of my Dove anti-perspirant and there is was, listed after water, Aluminium.  Hmmmm…. The Aluminium is added to stop the sweat; the aluminium actually enters the pores in the skin and blocks them. You know the funniest thing though? My anti-perspirant didn’t even do that. Yet I continued to use it. So this post is just information for you all. Check the back of your anti-perspirant and ditch it if it contains aluminium. Either buy a Green Alternative (Tea Tree ones are good) or make your own…..

I have been wearing my own home made deodorant for 2 weeks now and I’m happy to report that I still have friends! One thing I’ve noticed (and please don’t be too repulsed) is that while I do still sweat (hurray my body is functioning normally) there is (how can I put this delicately?) Less Scent. There, I said it; there is less smell and I now think, in hindsight, that my body has been rebelling against these chemicals all these years. Generally as chemicals ‘warm up’ their constituency changes. Who knows what chemical reaction was happening in my armpit all these years and what kind of chemical smell it was creating…. So, after years of this nonsense I’m going Back To Basics. Here is my recipe for Deodorant:

Ingredients

6 Tablespoons of Coconut Oil (get the best one you can buy)
1/4 cup Arrowroot Powder
1/4 cup Baking Soda
essential oil (optional)

The baking soda acts as the deodoriser, the arrowroot soaks up the sweat and the coconut oil holds it all together. Simple huh?

Put all the ingredients except the essential oil in a bowl.

Step 1

Using a fork mash everything together to a paste. You can add the essential oil at this point (just a few tiny drops). I didn’t add any essential oil but I might try it next time.

Step 2

Pour the crumbly paste mixture into a jar (I just used a jam jar but next time will look for a prettier option!). The first time I made this I almost gave up at this point. How on Earth can I use this crumbly stuff? Keep Calm and Persevere! Just pack the crumbly stuff into the jar and firm down. Coconut oil will be solid at room temperature in the colder months. In summer you may have to store in the fridge. If you have an old deodorant stick with a twisty bottom simply clean out the old deodorant remains and twist all the way down to the bottom and fill with your own deodorant.

Jar

With the jar method simply scrape a little mixture onto your fingertips and smooth onto your arm pit. Now I know there are a few of you who are thinking, “That Is Quite Frankly Revolting.” I too thought that but I went with it and was pleasantly surprised. The Coconut oil melts effortlessly into your warm skin and it’s rather nice.

Jar CLose up

Once you start using your deodorant you will develop an all-encompassing Paranoia that you Smell Bad and you will find yourself surreptitiously sniffing your armpits and clothes every few minutes. Let me reassure you that this is Perfectly Normal! You may move onto the phase I’m in now which is Talking to all my Friends about it and asking them how I smell!!! Now, you should only ask Good Friends; acquaintances might take offense. My friends have all been Very Interested in my Home made deodorant; some have asked for the recipe some have even shared their own deodorant journeys! Whatever you think after reading this post do think about what you put on your armpits…..go on….show them some Love!

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The Muesli Bar Challenge #3

I happened upon this little muesli bar recipe in a library book. I’ve only just started getting cookery books out from the library but it’s such a great thing to do. This book was called The Homemade Pantry : 101 foods you can stop Buying and start Making by Alana Chernila. She lists three muesli bars (although she calls them Car Snacks) and this one is my favourite. Don’t be put off by the Rice syrup or Millet; it’ll be in your local health food store if it’s not in the supermarket.

Ingredients

Ingredients

1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups puffed millet (or rice bubbles/rice krispies)
1 1/2 cups loosely packed dried fruit
1 1/2 cups toasted, slivered almonds
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup choc chips
(I sometimes reduce the almonds by 1/2 a cup and add 1/2 a cup of sunflower seeds)

Melt together the oil, rice syrup, brown sugar and vanilla essence. When it starts to bubble boil the mixture for one minute.

Saucepan

Measure out the dry ingredients in a bowl.

Dry ingredients

Add the syrup mixture to the dry ingredients and mix really well until everything is coated.

Add wet to dry fter Stirring

Press firmly into a 23 x 23cm tin or thereabouts and chill in the fridge for an hour.

In cake tin

Cut into squares and enjoy! I lay the squares on a tray and freeze them individually. Once frozen I store them in a tupperware box in the freezer and pop them into my children’s lunchboxes in the morning; by Morning Tea they’ve completely defrosted and they have a lovely healthy energy snack to keep them going.

Finished Bar Close up

Taste – Lots of flavours going on in each bite
Sweetness – the cinnamon makes it quite sweet but not overly
Crunch Factor – is more toothsome than crunchy and addictively chewy
Crumble Factor – holds together so well with the odd crumb escaping here and there
Verdict from the Little People – always disappears from their lunchboxes
Overall Rating – Probably the closest you’ll get to a shop bought muesli bar but heaps tastier (and better for you) 9.5 / 10!

The Ultimate Kiwi Lolly Slice (recipe from Emma at Adventures of a London Kiwi)

One of the most surprising and wonderful off shoots of blogging has been the people I’ve “met” on other blogs. Blogging seems to bring out the best in people and it’s been a delight to follow other like minded bloggers on their blogging journeys. I was especially thrilled to happen upon Emma’s Blog Adventures of a London Kiwi and it struck me straight away that we were mirror images; Emma being a Kiwi in England and me a Brit in New Zealand.  After some cyber-chit chat we decided to each bake something from our respective countries as a Guest Blog Swap for a bit of fun. Read Emma’s yummy post below and enjoy!

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Sarah’s blog is a delight to a long term expat like myself and in some ways we seemed to have swapped; I’m a Kiwi living in the bright busy lights of London, and she’s a Brit who has escaped to a far more tranquil life in New Zealand.

When Sarah ended up on my blog in her search for more Kiwi slice recipes, it was great to chat over email and deciding to swap a recipe or two. Armed with an excuse for once, I trekked to a few corners of London (again, any excuse) and tracked down the ingredients to assemble and share my absolute favourite slice in the world, the slightly misnomered Lolly Cake. Ironically, it wasn’t the Kiwi ingredients (Malt Biscuits (the UK ones aren’t quite the right texture) and Eskimos) that were hard to find, it was the coconut that took me an age and three different supermarkets…

Lolly Cake is also quite interesting as Brits call Ice Blocks Lollies causing much Faulty Towers amusement to my English husband. Sarah, have you turned to the dark side yet or is your Lolly Cake going to have Popsicle sticks hanging out it?

Crush a packet (250g) of Griffin’s Malt Biscuits into chunks – around 1/3 pulverised, 1/3 medium chunks around the size of a 5 cent coin and 1/3 large chunks around the size of a 10 cent coin.

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Cut up a packet (190g) of Eskimo or Fruit Puff lollies into bite sized chunks and add to the malt biscuits.

Warm 120g Butter – I prefer normal salted butter – and 1/2 a tin (200g) of Sweetened Condensed Milk in microwave until pretty liquid (or do what I did and use a hairdryer under the bowl because your microwave is broken). Mix crushed Malt biscuits, lollies, butter and condensed milk together.

Tip out onto a cutting board once combined, then use your hands to form into a firm log shape. The heat of your hands is key to getting a good texture as it will help combine everything.

Roll in coconut, wrap with foil or clingfilm and chill in fridge for 4 hours.

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When set, cut into slices and serve.

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If you ask pretty much any Kiwi for ‘the slice’ that they miss when living in another country, it’s Lolly Slice. I know rather high brow Brits who squeal when offered Lolly Cake, and Kiwis who track down dairy-free condensed milk in order to make it. It’s also pretty well known here in the UK that if you want to ask a Kiwi for a favour, it’s Lolly Slice you want to make.

Ps. Did you need proof that Lolly Slice is as Kiwi as you get? I have photographic proof of girls dressed as Lolly cake, standing outside London’s Parliament Square on Waitangi Day.

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Thanks so much Emma for that fabulous recipe! I’ve loved swapping my Cherry Bakewell Post with you. Not sure I’ll ever dress up like a Lolly Slice (or a Cherry Bakewell for that matter!). I have definitely moved to the dark side and I even find myself saying ‘aye’ at the end of sentences now….. It’s a slippery slope!

Garden Share Collective

This is my first post for the wonderful initiative that is The Garden Share Collective dreamed up by Lizzie from Strayed From the Table. Gardeners love nothing more than chatting about their triumphs and flops so this is a fabulous way of getting inspiration and support from other like minded folk!

I thought I’d start with a Before and After shot of my Vege garden.

Veggie Garden 2009  garden view

We moved to New Zealand in 2009 and bought a house on a 20 acre apple/cherry orchard and one of the first things we did was create a vege garden in the 2 acres of garden that we have. Mr Fig made the raised beds for me and we arranged them in a kind of octagon shape with three square beds in the centre. This layout has worked well over the past four years although we have extended the garden somewhat; a potato/squash bed, a cucumber/gerkin/squash walkway and a herb spiral.  The honeysuckle entrance is one of my favourite parts; I wanted to feel as if I was walking into a room or a very well stocked pantry! The scent is gorgeous and it attracts bees so thumbs up all round. I’m planning on growing a scented rose on the far archway this Spring where I usually grow sweetpeas. If anyone has a recommendation I’m all ears. I love growing flowers in with the veges; my favourites are calendula, heartsease, borage and dalias. I planted the wrong type of marigold last year and the variety ‘sugar and spice’ grew as tall as the tomatoes! Everyone who visited loved the colour though and my toms were very healthy! I’m going to grow Nasturtium ‘Peach melba’ through my courgettes this year and viola ‘Chicky Chicks’ in the Pimm’s bed. I’ve also been tempted by Sunflower ‘Golden Toasted’ which has edible seeds. You simply soak the seeds in salt and/or spiced water for a few hours, pat dry then roast in the oven or microwave.

What’s growing?

I’m not much of a winter gardener it has to be said but I always plant garlic. I plaited my garlic harvest for the first time last year and I get a little rush of pleasure every time I walk past it or snip one off to use for dinner.

First garlic shoot Garlic 2

I also love to grow herbs all year round. They have a much better flavour than the supermarket herbs and are much cheaper. Winter is the only time that I have any success with coriander and dill; it’s much too hot for them in the summer and they bolt so quickly.

Dill Coriander

I also managed to grow a mountain of parsley this winter. It’s in a flower bed because I thought it was Candytuft that I had grown from seed! Must remember to label seedlings next spring….

Parsley Mountain

I’ve also added silverbeet ‘Rainbow Lights” to the garden this year. It’s great in stir fries and a substitute for spinach (my spinach has a long way to grow) and looks beautiful with the sunlight shining through the stems. Pak choi is another favourite winter green and, again, I use it much as I would spinach. It probably looks as if my pak choi is in prison with the docking gate behind it! The naughty chooks adore pak choi; they pecked their way through my first sowing so Mr Fig exercised his Kiwi Ingenuity and constructed a functional (if not downright ugly) cage for them from an old docking gate and some netting and bamboo canes. Some of my veges are lucky enough to have proper cages made out of pvc piping and netting!

Rainbow Lights Silver beet Pak Choi

There’s always room for lettuce too and I have sown some microgreens in an old wooden crate. Microgreens really tart up a salad! They are very nutritious too of course and are the ultimate in Fast Food since some varieties are ready for harvest in just 10 days. I grow about four varieties in strips. Press the seed gently into the soil and cover lightly with potting mix. I choose different colours and textures so they look really pretty. My favourites are Pea ‘Fiji Feathers’, Beetroot ‘Bull’s Blood’, Mustard Streaks (Brassica juncea) and Radish Rambo. I’m going to try Beet ‘Rainbow Lights’ as a microgreen this year too – so pretty.

Lettuce and silverbeet Microgreens

Growing away merrily oblivious of the weeds (or perhaps too polite to say anything) are my Sweet Peas. If I absolutely had to choose my favourite all time flower the Sweet Pea may well be It; the colour, the scent, the way I can just plonk a handful in a vase and they still look gorgeous…… sweet peas rock.

Sweet peas

Now I’ve been saving one of my most exiting projects till last…..here they are…..

compost bins 2 compost bin

….my beautiful compost bins! I’m looking forward to getting to grips with the magic that is Compost Making. Turns out I’m not the only one who thinks they’re pretty cool. The Figlets had a great time one afternoon!

Kids compost

Tasks to be Tackled

Pimm’s Bed – I need to dig out the soil and weed mat it because couch grass has just Taken Over this space grrrrr. It’s a Battle I will Never Win but I can make it hard for them without resorting to Chemical Warfare…. I’ll then plant up with strawberries, cucumber, mint, borage and Viola ‘Chicky Chicks’ for the Ultimate Pimm’s. I’m also vaguely thinking about a Cup of Tea bed; basically a bed full to the brim with herbs that make a good cuppa; mint, lemon balm, fennel, violet, chamomile and lemon grass. I’m wondering whether a glass of chilled violet tea would taste anything like those violet sweets I used to eat as a child……

Pimms Bed

Clean out the greenhouse – I must clear all the cobwebs that are decorating not just the corners but the ceiling and the walls and the seed trays and harvest the last of the chillies.

Dig in lots of sheep poo from under the sheep shed of my Crazy Farmer Friend who is busy milking cows at the moment to feed her gorgeous little calves (I feel another post coming on!)

Weed, weed and weed some more and weed mat the garden paths.

And my personal favourite job…..order seeds for spring! I had a clear out of my Seed Box and look what I found….

Old seed packets Mystery Seed packets

Lots and lots of seeds (only three out of date but I’m sure they’re fine) and three “Mystery Seed Packets”…. I wonder what they are? That’ll teach me for leaving them out whilst watering the greenhouse…. Do I really need to order more seeds? Well of course I do!

So many plans and thoughts for the garden this year! Here are a few heart warming pics of Nearly Spring in my garden! See you next month.