Environment (20) Shopping (15) DIY (11) Palm Oil (11) cleaning products (7) Ecology (6) Fair Trade (6) Savings (6) Social (6) baby (6) Food (5) Social Justice (5) health (5) Chickens (3) free range (3) Buy Local (2) Home (2) RSPO (2) Recycling (2) chocolate (2) cloth (2) nappies (2) Christmas (1) Electronics (1) Fish (1) Free (1) Music (1) Native Fauna (1) charity (1) coffee (1) eggs (1) neighbours (1) travel (1)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

This time of year

Sorry, its been a while since we last posted. No excuses really- we've been around, not particularly busy- just not posting!

So its 25 days until Christmas... a time of the year that I have never particularly enjoyed to be honest.
I have found it stressful, expensive and overall way too commercial. Around October, shops and malls start their advertising, lulling you into their stores to buy crap that you, and your loved ones, probably don't need.

So how do we make this time of year a more focussed, less commercial and ultimately more enjoyable time?

Well, I'm not entirely sure. But I do have some ideas.

Christmas means lots of things to different people. For us, its the celebration of the birth of Christ. Not the most important celebration of the year, but important nevertheless.
For us, it shouldn't be about the presents, the tree, the food. Not saying those things aren't great- though we don't really do a tree. (does a Kauri count? probably. It'll be the first time in years we will have decorated something).
So here are my ideas:

Less presents. Less crap. If you're buying presents, think about what they are, where they come from and whether they will actually be used/loved/needed. Try making something? Many people we know do baking for christmas- which can be good especially if its freezable.
In our family, we have started drawing a name out of a hat which means we only buy/make for one couple. So you still get presents, just less- but probably more awesome/personalised ones.
On a side note, those packaged christmas cookies are terrible. Does anyone actually like them? Cookie time cookies are yum and palm oil free.

If you don't enjoy it, don't do it. If the thought of putting up a tree gives you the cold sweats, perhaps reconsider why you do it. If it's important to your family, then maybe do it as a family, or delegate it to someone who wants to do it.

Food. Christmas food can be whatever you want it to be. We are lucky in NZ having Christmas over summer so we are more comfortable with the idea of a BBQ on Christmas day. Don't feel pressured into doing the big roast if you really don't want to. My family did an eggs benedict brunch last year and plan to do it again this year. It helps that my sister in law is a great cook and did a fantastic job, but you can do whatever works.

What helps you stay grounded at Christmas? Do you disagree with anything we've said? Please share your thoughts/arguements etc!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"Wasteful kiwis still biffing costly fruit and veggies"

... is the title of THIS article posted on the website this morning.

In a nutshell, we (kiwis) are still buying more than we need, cooking more than we need and throwing out the rest.

Food prices have increased, petrol prices have increased, general living costs have increased but we are still throwing away thousands of dollars of food a week.

I know for me personally, if something is on special it is very hard for me not to buy it- and in the past this meant that food has gone to waste- in the bins and in the compost. Since we have been doing meal plans (for dinners mainly) our food waste has been greatly reduced as we are only buying and consuming what we need.

So, how do we reduce the amount of food we waste?

Meal planning
If you know what you are going to eat, you wont buy unnecessary food items and therefore you hopefully wont waste them. Meal planning doesn't have to be set in stone- we often interchange what we have planned with another day, but we try to stick to a weekly plan as much as possibly.

Buy what you need
Don't go out and buy all of those cheap-as-chips specials and deals if you aren't going to consume them or use them (ie preserves, frozen meals etc) in time.

Eat or use your leftovers
So often, we don't really feel like eating the same as what we ate last night for the 2nd day in a row... If you know this will be the case, perhaps put some aside as a frozen meal (if possible) or give it away. Nanna popped over for a visit recently and we had lots of leftover casserole from the night before- she was very happy to take some home for her tea.

Store well
If you do decide to buy 20kg of potatoes because they were $1 at the local market, make sure you store them well where they wont go off fast. Same goes with any perishables. If you need to refrigerate something, make sure you remember its there! Many a time I have gone to the fridge and found something oozing at the bottom because I had completely forgotten about those <insert perishable>, even though I really wanted to eat them.

Do you have any more ideas for how you personally reduce the food wastage in your household? Please share them below- we'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Garden update

So it's week 3 of using coffee grounds to repel snails and so far, so good!
Part of me does wonder whether its also due to the fact that I have companion planted marigolds along side the veggies, along with a flower which we planted ages ago and can't remember what it is!

So these first couple of pictures were taken the day I first posted about trying a natural snail repellent here
L-R: Strawberries, forgotten-name flowers, brussel sprouts, spinach and a couple of herbs in there somewhere

L-R: herb pot (coriander & parsley), snow peas, thyme and marigolds

These photos I took a few minutes ago. Don't you just love the light on a spring morning?
One a little moth-eaten, but pretty good

So far so good here too. 

Sadly, the basil's a bit eaten, but otherwise ok. 
So, as long as one of us is having a morning coffee, I'm going to continue with the coffee grinds and see how we get on.

Now I need to work out how to prevent white moths... oh and the birds from eating the strawberries! Any suggestions/tips/comments will be greatly appreciated!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

DIY Cleaning Products: Tips

One of the problems we have found with making out own cleaning products is that they tend to solidify over time (especially if the area they are stored in gets cold overnight). We are talking here about recipes that use soap of some kind (for us that means, dish washing liquid, hand wash, and laundry detergent). Commercial products contain ingredients to stop that happening but not when you make it yourself. Here are some tips to solve this problem:

  • Make sure you use the right amount of liquid and soap when you make up the recipe 
  • Always give the bottle a shake before using.
  • If it gets really thick then pour the bottle into a mixing bowl, add a little boiling water at a time while mixing with an electric mixer on low or a whisk. When it looks like the right consistency pour it back into the bottle.
  • Ecostore soap makes products of a better consistency than Sunlight Soap. 
Let us know if you have any other issues.

While I'm talking about this, I found yet another source of soap; Trade Aid. You can buy their soaps from Trade Aid stores or online and they only cost $3. As everything Trade Aid sells is fair trade so these are sustainably  produced (even the palm oil!) and the workers get a fair wage. More info here. I have not yet tried these soaps in a recipe but I don't see any reason they would be much different to the Ecostore soaps as they have similar ingredients.

Anybody found another good source of soap?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

DIY Cleaning Products & Ecostore

Like the new blog design? I got distracted when I was meant to be writing this post!

If you are looking for an more environmentally friendly alternative to sunlight soap that doesn't cost $10 a bar then try  Ecostore bar soaps. I picked up one for about $1.80 from New World. They are a bit smaller than the average bar soap so to get the same amount as 1/2 a bar of sunlight soap (as required in this recipe) you will need almost a whole bar (60g out of a total of 80g to be exact, use scales is my advice).

Now, they do contain palm oil and I have given Ecostore a lot of flak in the past about their use of so called 'sustainable' palm oil. But recently Ecostore have been using a programme called GreenPalm. This is how their website describes the programme:
"Ecostore supports the production of sustainable palm oil through the GreenPalm programme. This means that for every tonne of palm oil/palm kernel oil we use in the production of ecostore products we have paid a voluntary premium to a palm oil producer which is operating within the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm oil’s (RSPO) strict guidelines for social and environmental responsibility." -

The way I understand it is that for every tonne of palm oil Ecostore buys, they send a premium directly to RSPO sustainable growers regardless as to whether Ecostore actually bought any palm oil from those growers. This is necessary because at the moment it is impossible to know which grower grew a particular shipment of palm oil or whether any of it is sustainable. This is because palm oil from different growers is mixed up when it is processed. The GreenPalm programme means that sustainable growers are rewarded despite the lack of traceability in the industry.

This is a major improvement from Ecostore's previous policy ('we're a member of RSPO so it's all ok') but it still relies on the RSPO definitions and policies on what 'sustainable' palm oil is (which are not ideal) and on their auditing system (which, from what I've read is practically non-existent). More on the RSPO here.

So as far as I see it, GreenPalm certified palm oil is a big improvement and I think it is good enough to be supported as a step in the right direction, but it should not stop there!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Natural snail repellent- phase 1

I'm a newbie to gardening- getting better, mind you, but still very new. We have a small veggie garden which seems to be chugging along ok but Ive just noticed that the snails seem to be back... Since I've just planted some snow pea seeds (now seedlings) I really want to beat the snails before they eat them all! Since we are trying to be less damaging to the environment and have a little one who loves the garden, we will be trying all sorts of things to rid our garden of these pests.

Week 1: coffee grinds

The coffee plunger is used every morning, so we tend to have coffee grinds every day. Some websites reckon its a great way to repel the snails, other websites dont think it works. So here we go!

I put the grounds around the seedlings this morning which are in a half barrel.

What other methods should we try?
Egg shells, sandpaper around the bases, diatomaceous earth, beer pools?

What has worked for you? What hasn't? Any suggestions would be great

Dirt is great!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Good Stuff: Cookies!

This segment highlights the good things out there. Products that by design or chance are free of all the ingredients and practices that we keep banging on about. So enjoy!

I'm not sure if we have mentioned this before but pretty much all supermarket biscuits contain (or probably contain) palm oil. We don't eat a lot of biscuits but when we do we generally make out own. But when you want a biscuit in a hurry though what are your options? 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A shout out to those without motors

Neither of us are cyclists. Sure, we have a bike which we use casually and really need to use more often, but we aren't really cyclists. 
I have some serious respect for those who forgo their motored vehicle and head out on two man-powered wheels every day- especially in a city like Auckland where the motorists, well, aren't very accommodating to say the least. 

So here's to those who choose to power their own mode of transport, here's to those who take one car off the road and here's to those who brave the unforgiving traffic and help to make Auckland and other cities more cycle (and pedestrian) friendly. 

Here's a wee promise too:
We, as drivers, promise to leave lots of room for you when we pass.
We promise to take a breath if we get annoyed and remember that getting annoyed for being 30 seconds later is just plain silly
We promise to look out for you and be as courteous as we would expect you to be if we swapped places

As a footnote, big ups to organisations like Cycle Action Auckland who state that their aim is "to make Auckland a great place to cycle" and they do this by promoting shared road safety and advocating for an improved cycling environment. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Company profile: Better World Books

Better World Books 

What do they do?
They are an online bookstore based in the US selling new and secondhand books and specialise in used textbooks. They offer free shipping worldwide and as the current exchange rate is in our (NZ's) favour, its a cheap place to purchase from.

I chose Better World Books to profile for a few reasons.

1. They resell second-hand books from all around America:
Seriously great way to recycle- rehome a used book to a new home. They also donate books to organisations they support and if the book is unsuitable for sale or donation, they recycle them. They have re-used or recycled over 70 million pounds (31,751.5 metric tonnes) of books.

2. While they ain't a not-for-profit, they do give a lot away:
They partner with a few non-profit organisations including Invisible Children and as of August 15 this year, had given over $5.5million to literacy and education organisations in America and worldwide and $4.5million for libraries all over America. For more specifics, see here.

3. And, well, they're a bookstore and we love bookstores:
Even ones located on the other side of the world. A recent quote on their Facebook page really jumped out at me. It said:
"Lord! When you sell a man a book you don't sell just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue - you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night - there's all heaven and earth in a book, a real book." -Christopher Morley
They also offer a carbon offset option when ordering books, for a few extra dollars. Which can help, well, offset the environmental cost of shipping from America. Remember also that a lot of the books you buy, even in bricks and mortar stores, were not printed in NZ!

Monday, September 12, 2011

The problem with bath toys...

When bub was around 12 weeks old, we attended a Plunket PEPE course which is designed to help out new mums by providing advice, support and education. The course itself was fantastic, and we would recommend these kinds of courses to just about everyone.

A negative was one comment that a guest speaker said which has been ringing around in my head ever since. She was talking about the importance of getting babies used to water (great stuff) and talked about bath toys. Apparently the ones that have 'squirting capabilities' get really mouldy within a month- even if you sterilise them. Her suggestion was to buy new ones from the $2 shop every month and dump the rest.
It horrified me that she was effectively promoting adding a bunch of these brightly coloured, mostly non-recyclable items to landfill every month. She didn't seem to understand my issue with it either, sadly enough.

So what do you do with a bunch of bath toys you can't use in the bath? It would be great if you could give us some suggestions!

Also, how do you deal with people who just simply dont understand (or want to)?


Saturday, September 3, 2011

What can we say on a day like today?

...but Happy Birthday our darling. One year has gone so fast and we've learnt so much.
Here's to many many more birthdays and learning so much more about life from you.
We love you, Mum & Dad

Thursday, August 25, 2011

'No poo' update

Its been about 16 weeks since I stopped washing my hair. Most sites about going 'no poo' that I have read state that it takes around 6 weeks for your hair to regulate its oil supply. For me it took a little longer, but that doesn't mean that I had greasy, lank hair for that whole time- rather it was days of 'ponytail hair'.

I started out at first just rinsing with water every day and massaging my scalp, but I found that I ended up with dandruff. A month ago, I found that if I do a weekly baking soda and cider vinegar wash, my hair ends up looking even better and with little or no dandruff.

I'm glad I started, as its so nice not having to buy shampoo or conditioner and I don't have to worry about the chemicals I'm putting on my skin.

HERE is the link to our original post back in May and below is my baking soda/cider vinegar routine, inspired by the Instructables post here

Baking Soda Wash:
1-2TB Baking soda
Add 1 cup water.
Apply the mixture to your hair- particularly at the roots, and massage in.
Rinse thoroughly

Cider Vinegar rinse:
1-2TB apple cider vinegar (I dont tend to measure, I just slosh it in)
Add 1 cup water
Work it in the same way as the baking soda and rinse completely.

Healthy hair for the both of us!

Monday, August 22, 2011

DIY Laundry Detergent: Costs compared

One of my major reasons for making your own laundry detergent was cost; but how does it really compare?  Prices vary so I've looked around and taken a rough average (eg. Ecostore was around $9 at PacN'Save but around $12 at Countdown so my average is $11). Hopefully the calculations are pretty accurate, if you spot any mistakes let us know in the comments.

The Competition:
Ecostore Laundry Liquid Ultra Concentrate: 28 washes per litre (35.7ml), $11 per litre. = $0.39 per 35.7ml wash

Earthwise Ultra Laundry Liquid: 37 washes per 750mL  (49.5 washes per litre), $7 per 750mL ($9.33 per litre).= $0.18 per 20.2ml wash

Persil Small & Mighty Cold Water: 14 washes per 475mL (29.5 washes per litre), $7 per 475mL ($14.74 per litre). 14.74/29.5= $0.50 per 33.9ml wash

Budget Laundry Detergent: 1/4 cup (60ml) per wash (16 washes per litre), $4.45 per 2 litres ($2.23 per litre). 2.23/16= $0.14c per 62.5ml wash

I would have loved to do some other brands (such as Dynamo as we used to use it) but they didn't have number of loads or usage in mls on the bottle. I would have had to buy and measure out to find out the necessary data (which I wasn't prepared to do, sorry folks!). Anyway out of the products I surveyed, Budget was the cheapest, followed by Earthwise, with Ecostore coming in third. But how did the homemade stuff stack up?

Homemade laundry detergent
50 g Borax - $0.80 (500g: $8 Soapcraft)
½ cup washing soda (130g weighed on our kitchen scales) - $0.54 (1kg washing soda: $4.19 at Foodtown)
7.5litres of water - Free*
20 drops essential oil - $0.41** (12ml eucalyptus oil: $5 Soapcraft)
½ bar grated sunlight soap - $0.39 (500G (pack of 4) $3.14 at Foodtown ($0.78/bar)
½ bar grated dr bronners castille soap = $5 (140g bar $9.99 at greengoddess)

½ cup of laundry detergent per wash = 125ml per wash.
7500ml / 125ml = 60 washes

Total cost to make: $1.73 no essential oil, $2.14 with essential oil, $6.34 with castille soap and no essential oil, $6.75 with castille soap and essential oil

$0.02 per wash without the essential oil and $0.03 per wash with essential oil. $0.10 per wash with castille soap but no essential oil, and $0.11 with castille soap and essential oil. 

So ridiculously cheap with sunlight soap and merely very cheap with fair trade castille soap. I suppose we haven't factored in the 'labour cost' but in reality, it doesn't take us much time to make anyway. And we use recycled milk bottles to put it in, so no cost there. We used sunlight soap the first time because $10 seemed like a stupid price for one bar of soap and we weren't sure the recipe would be as good as shop bought products, but after doing the calculations we will definitely use the good stuff next time!

So even ignoring the ecological benefits (which I'm not sure how I would even start to calculate) making your own laundry detergent definitely makes sense.

*Well, not actually free unless you collect rainwater but we don't know how to calculate the cost of this!
**We have gone with the general rule of thumb (and found on various places on the net) as 20drop/ml. Though technically this rule is for water, it gives us an approximate costing of the oil.
***obviously these numbers had to be viscously rounded to get numbers that makes sense in $ terms. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pie from scratch

I love to cook. Well, I love to bake. I do like to make pie though, but being a fairly lazy cook, I tend to use store-bought pastry.

Last time we went to the supermarket, Kel went and read all of the ingredients in the store bought pastries... There's a surprising amount of stuff that goes into a fairly simple product. Palm oil being one such ingredient and we aren't buying anything with this ingredient in (unless I've been lazy and just not looked before I've bought it...).
A few days ago, I wanted to make a steak pie. This time I made my own pastry and it was amazing. I'm not kidding- the pastry was everything you would want it to be- light, but not too flaky and delicious. Cheap to make too. And easy. Just flour, butter, salt and water.

So today, I will share the recipe for pastry AND steak and cheese pie. The pie recipe was written especially for a non cook friend.

Savoury short pastry:
2 cups flour
125g butter (more if you want a flakier pastry)
1/4 tsp salt
cold water

Sift flour and salt together. Cut in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. NB the butter needs to be cold. Mix to a stiff dough with a little cold water. Roll out lightly and try not to handle it more than necessary. It should make around 360g of pastry.

Steak and cheese pie:
500gm steak
Savoury pastry- enough to line a pie dish and make a lid- unless you top it with mashed potato.
Cheese- whatever type you like
Beef stock- the dry kind- oxo cubes are great
Salt, Pepper and herbs – to taste (we tend to use oregano and thyme)
Cornflour – this is a thickening agent

  • Cut up the steak into cubes. Smaller pieces cook faster and are easier to eat, but make sure they aren’t too small, as they might break apart Add a little oil to a frying pan (not too shallow) and brown the steak (until browned all over, but not burnt). Best to brown it over a high heat for a few minutes and then lower the heat to a low temp, so that the meat can simmer.
  • Mix up 2 cups of stock. Add to the steak and let simmer for around 30 mins. The liquid will still be quite watery, but that’s ok. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • While the steak is simmering, turn the oven on to 180° C and make sure the tray is about half way down- too high and the top of the pie will burn.
  • If your pastry isn’t pre-rolled, roll it out quite thin. Line the dish with one piece of pastry to make the crust- use your fingers to mould to the dish, even if it means folding over edges etc. make sure there is some excess around the sides so that the pastry lid can stick to the base and seal in the filling. Also roll out the lid at the same time. Blind bake the base in the oven for 10 mins
  • Add 1 tablespoon of cornflour to a little cold water (needs to be cold or it wont work) and stir until a paste. Add to the simmering steak mixture. Stir and stir and stir until you feel that its starting to thicken- it should pretty much straight away. If it doesn’t thicken within a few mins, add another cornflour mix until you get a better consistency. It will thicken very slightly in the oven, but I would rather have it a bit thick than too thin or the filling will fall out when you cut it.
  • Once the crust has cooled, remove the blind baking stuff and fill the crust with the steak mixture. You need to remember to keep some pastry crust free to stick the lid onto it. Cut up slices of cheese and layer on top. You just need enough to cover the steak. Fold over the excess pastry on the sides- this will make things a bit prettier and easier to seal. Brush this pastry with a little milk to make it stick Place the lid on top of the pie. If theres a bit too much lid, fold over the edges toward the middle, and if you are awesome, you could even add a bit of cheese to it before you fold them over as an incredible stuffed crust thingy.
  • Brush the whole top with milk (or an eggwash if that takes your fancy)- makes it more crispy, and stab a few times (gently) with a fork so that the whole pie doesn’t explode in a ball of meaty goodness.
  • Bake for about 30 mins or really until its golden brown- the inside is cooked anyway, so its all good.
So as Julia Child would say (can you tell I've been reading her book?) Bon Appetit!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

DIY Dishwasher Powder

We don't have a dishwasher, but Wendyl Nissen has tested this recipe and we trust her. Commercial dishwasher powder is unbelievably toxic so if you have little ones around then you should really give this a try. The recipe can be found on Wendyl Nissen's newletter (I hasn't made it on to her website yet) or get it right here:

Amazing Dishwasher Powder
I've finally been able to test the recipe I have given out before which was sent to me by a reader. It's quite fantastic. I've adjusted it slightly but you'll love it and can be safe in the knowledge that it is cheaper and less toxic than the commercial ones. This does have a little borax in it which is toxic in high doses, but shouldn't be swallowed so do keep this in your old dishwasher powder bottle with a child preventing screw cap on it.

½ cup of borax 
½ cup soda ash (this is powdered washing soda, not the crystals. Try Trade Me or
¼ cup of citric acid
½ cup salt (not iodised))
10 drops of lemon essential oil 
Place all in a plastic container and shake.
Use 1 Tbsp per load. Use white vinegar in the rinse compartment.

Let us know how it works.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Much ado about poop

Having a child makes one much more familiar with the human experience. You learn a lot about life, living and poop.

We have learnt a lot about poop over the past year but only learnt just how to remove it from the carpet last week. Clearly we needed more practise and so had to repeat the process again a few days ago.

Fresh air and a little sun is apparently quite good for nappy rash, but not so great if no one is watching what they're doing...

So, just in case you are interested, here is what we did to clean it up...

* We removed as much of the solid stuff as we could- using toilet paper and flushed it down the loo

* We sloshed down some white vinegar and blotted it dry (and scrubbed a little. Hopefully that helped?)

* We sprayed on some water to remove the vinegar and used a towel to dry it.

Still a bit of a stain though. Does anyone have any better methods they'd care to share?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

DIY Cleaning Products ep.2

Anyone try the DIY spray cleaner and glass cleaner? If you haven't, you should it's really good. Anyway here's the next one to try. It's a bit more complex and you will need to do some specialist shopping but it is worth it. If you want to try some to see if it works as good as the store bought stuff; you can buy it ready made here

(This is another one from Wendyl Nissen by the way)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Farmers markets

Though not always the cheapest place to buy food, buying from local farmers markets means that you support your local producers by buying direct from them, and buying food that hasn't traveled the length of the island from farm to auction to store is fresher and better for the environment. Also farmers markets are a great place to get organic and free range produce and to try something new. More than often you do end up picking up some great specials too!

Yesterday we discovered the Hobsonville Point Farmers Market which is located on the land where the Hobsonville Air base used to be. Its on every Sunday morning from 9am-1pm and is undercover so even though the weather wasn't so great today, we were still able to go and enjoy it.

One of the products we love to buy at the markets is local honey. We have bought EarthBound Honey which is produced in Bethells Valley many times and it is great (try the Pohutukawa). We also got some Harmony free range (dry cured) bacon for a steal! They are SPCA Blue Tick accredited and have a great range of other meats too.

Other farmers markets:
Oratia Farmers Market: Artisan Wines, 99 Parrs Cross Road, Oratia. Saturday; 9am to 12.
Parnell Farmers Market: Jubilee Building Carpark, 545 Parnell Road, Parnell. Saturday; 8am to 12.

There are many more out there (check out but we have been to Oratia and Hobsonville Point and have heard good things about Parnell from friends.

So check out your local farmers market and let us know what you think.

Friday, July 15, 2011

DIY cleaning products

Have you ever added up how much commercial cleaning products cost? We first noticed when our shopping bill almost doubled every time when needed to buy several products at once! Also there is the environmental and health concerns with all the chemicals in them. There is now lots of 'green' options but they cost even more and a lot of the time just seem to be marketing and stink of green washing. 

There is a alternative that is both cheaper, better for the environment, and your health - making them yourself! All credit for inspiration and these recipes goes to Wendyl Nissen ( First up I'll start with some that you can make with stuff that is already in your cupboard.

Spray Cleaner (replaces spray&wipe, etc)
1 L Water
1-2 Tsp Baking soda  
2 drops of soap/detergent (for ecological niceness use Dr Bronner's Castile liquid soap but anything will work)
10 drops of essential oil of your choice (optional, but it does help it kill bacteria)

Glass Cleaner
650 mL water (or 2 parts)
350 mL white vinegar (or 1 part)
2 drops detergent

The exact amounts are not important for either of these recipes, just get the ratios ruffly right.

We have been using both of these recipes for months now and they work great! They are sooo cheap to make, and most of the ingredients are eaten regularly so they are safe and healthy.

Enjoy the savings!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Free ranging it

I (Em) have been trying to write this post for nearly 2 weeks now. It's not that I don't want to talk about free range animals and products, it's not that I don't believe whole heartedly in the practise and promotion either. We've been free range egg, chicken and bacon consumers for a number of years now and absolutely believe in it. Buying free range was the first change we ever made although at the time there wasn't the range of free range products that you can get now.

Winter tends to have a habit of sucking the passion right outta me, so instead of harping on about why we believe in free range chickens, pork etc, please tell me whether you believe in free range and what it, if anything, means to you.

I'll start to make this easier: We buy free range items that gare guarranteed cruelty free. Namely eggs and bacon. We love the SPCA's Blue tick scheme which audits participating farms making sure that they are up to standard.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Winter Warmers

Hasn't the weather been horrendous? There's no doubting its winter here!
At least this weather is perfect for eating those hearty soups, delectable desserts and steaming hot drinks, so we thought that since we've been a bit slack with posting lately, we would share one of our favourite simple recipes for each of these categories!

Hearty red lentil and chickpea soup: this is yummy, cheap and easily modifiable
1 large onion (pref red as they are the best)
1 cup red lentils
4 cups vegetable stock (4 cups water with a few oxo cubes works fine too)
1 can of tomatoes
1 can of chickpeas or equivalent cooked
a few herbs- we use a bit of oregano and sweet basil from our garden
salt and pepper to taste

1. Chop the onion and fry over a little oil until soft.
2. Add the onion, stock, canned tomatoes and lentils to a pot and bring to the boil.
3. Reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes or until the lentils are soft.
4, Add the herbs and chickpeas and simmer for another 5 minutes.
5. Eat!

Mulled wine: simple to make and you don't need to use an expensive wine.
1/2 cup Sugar
1 1/2 cups Water
Grated rind of 1/2 Orange
6 whole Cloves
1 Cinnamon stick
1 bottle red wine

1. Put all of the ingredients apart from the wine into a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves.
2. Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes and then strain
3. Add the red wine and gently reheat but do not boil.
4. Serve hot with a sprinkling of nutmeg

Baked rice pudding- one of my favourites and a definite comfort food!

1 tsp vanilla essence
2 TB short-grain rice (or whatever you have, really- apparently it works fine with brown rice too, just not Quinoa- tried it- didn't work)
2 cups milk
2 TB sugar
1 Cinnamon stick

1. Preheat your oven to 150°C.

2. Rinse the rice and place in a baking dish along with the milk, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon stick. Stir to combine.

3. Bake for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

4. Best served warm and with a sprinkling of cinnamon on top

We have the lentil soup one probably once per week in winter as it really is a cheap meal and you can add all sorts to it for variation.
I'd love to hear what your winter warmer favourites are! Please feel free to comment below :)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fair Trade: Palm Oil?

Those of you that have been following my crusade against all thing palm over the last few months might be surprised that I have found a product containing palm oil that I'm happy to buy. Here it is:
Made by an american company, They are 100% organic and 100% fair trade. Yes they contain palm oil, see more info here. Now you might notice that the fair trade logo is not the usual one that we are used to seeing. They are certified by a fairtrade organisation called 'fair for life' check them out here

Why use palm oil in soap? Well one NZ soap company says "Soap without palm oil is like a cake without sugar." and it certainly seems impossible to find a natural soap without palm oil. The reason we are interested in soap of all things is we have recently become interested in making our cleaning products, inspired by Wendyl Nissen. Check out her site here and buy the cool soaps here. Look out for some posts about make your own cleaning products soon!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Best Fish Guide

In this country, being an island nation, we tend to take our fish for granted. We have lots of coastline and a seemingly abundance of fish in our water. This would be fine if we were the only consumers of fish from our waters, but we are not. Unfortunately for many years our waters have been heavily overfished and some of the methods used are heavily damaging our marine environment.
According to Statistics New Zealand, in 2009 we exported $1302million worth of fish, crusteceans and molluscs.

In our household, one of us doesn't eat fish- period. Though occasionally a rare exception is made for fish caught by a friend.

For anyone concerned about whether the fish you eat is a sustainable choice, we recommend you check out NZ Forest and Bird's 'Best Fish Guide'. There's a wallet guide you can print off so that its always handy for the next time you buy fish.

Please do take some time to check out the information on the Forest and Bird website so that we can all try to make more informed choices when we buy our seafood.

Copyright Lyall Reynolds Photography 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bubblewrap insulation

We stumbled across this idea on Frugal Kiwi which is a lovely blog written by a kiwi lady up north.
The idea is that you put bubblewrap on your windows and apparently it can halve the heat loss from a single glazed window. It seems like a strange idea, but one we are happy to try given that our house hardly has GIB let alone insulation!

We were all ready to give it a go this past weekend since we had a package arrive which contained bubble wrap but there really wasn't quite enough. So unfortunately, instead of having a great blog entry with before and after photos (and hopefully a thermometer reading also), we thought this time we would just link to the original article so that people can check it out. Here it is at Build It Solar.

We promise that as soon as we acquire more bubblewrap, we will try this and put up pictures asap!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


The free dictionary defines re-purposing as:
To use or convert for use in another format or product.
I love to re-purpose things.
Its ultimately satisfying knowing that you gave something a new lease on life. Its also a great way to recycle.
I tend to re-purpose old holey t'shirts into scarves, have made bags out of coffee sacks and the very simple idea of using glass jars to store items like pinenuts etc, but there are lots of ways you can re-use broken or no longer wanted items. Below are some of my favourite ideas, taken from my favourite craft site Craftster, and Instructables:

Side cabinet to kitty litter holder- see the cat door to the right

Books turned into a bookshelf

Drawers into shelving

And probably my all time favourite: Kodachrome curtains

How have you repurposed household items? Please share your ideas and links in the comments below as I'd love to know!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mandatory Labeling of Palm Oil Petition

Mandatory Labeling of Palm Oil Petition

As both Australia and NZ food labels are decided by FSANZ this applies to us too. Please sign! If we know what products have palm oil in them then we can make informed choices.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Roundtable On Sustainable Palm Oil launch new Logo

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has launched a new logo, Read about it here. No idea if we will see it on products in NZ, but it raises some important issues. If you saw the logo on a product in NZ would it encourage people to buy it? Would that decision be based on sound information or simply because it sounds environmentally friendly? This blog article raises many issues, some of which I will look at here.

Lets get one thing straight, RSPO certified palm oil products are more environmentally friendly than non-certified palm oil products. The question is, are they good enough? I am a big fan of the idea that we don't need to buy ethically perfect products right now (many simply don't exist yet). What we need to do is buy the most ethical product that is available and create demand for positive change. But if palm oil free products are more ethical than RSPO certified products then staying palm oil free still the preferred option.

Whats the problem?
Auckland Zoo says "only around 4% of the world's palm oil is certifiably sustainable and this 4% cannot be traced back to the plantation that produced it... At present, being a member of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) - an industry led group, not an independent body - is still not a 100% guarantee that palm oil is from a sustainable source"
So even if a product carries the RSPO logo this is no guarantee that all of the palm palm oil used is sustainable. The RSPO at the end of the day is a voluntary, industry led organisation and has limits as to how much change it can make at the local level.

So if you have no palm oil free options then RSPO certified products could be worth buying. Or you could decide that on balance certified palm oil is better than the alternatives as Ecostore do, but I simply do not see how it could be justifed. Ecostore says "The other alternative to palm oil is a petrochemical, but this unsustainable." True, petrochemicals are unsustainable, one day they will run out; but is this a problem? I would rather we ran out of petrochemicals than orangutans. 

I could be wrong here, I'm no expert, what do you think?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Love food hate waste?

On Sunday, I saw four trolley loads worth of bread products being dumped in a skip by a local supermarket. I asked people (on Facebook) why this bread could not perhaps be donated or given away and was told that although some is often donated locally, there are issues of food safety and issues of legality*.

Is it just me or is this a little nuts?

Seeing this certainly got me thinking- not just about the wider wastage of food by large companies, but closer to home- the food we waste in our households.

We all do it. We cook too much, forget to put it away (or perhaps we don't have anywhere to put it) and then we throw it out. Or we buy products on special (coz its cheap!) which we don't use;they go off and then we throw them out. In fact, I know there are food items in our fridge right now which will be going in the bin for tomorrow's rubbish collection. Stuff which we should have frozen but didn't; things which we should have made an effort to use.

So how do we combat this problem?

I have found two great websites which deal with this issue. has a great section on reducing your amount of food waste under 'Shopping'.
Love food hate waste is a website run by a non-profit organisation in the UK. They promote recycling, home composting and most of all, wasting less food.

Both sites have a great section on tips and some of these I have collated below:

  • Plan your meals-- we keep meaning to try this.
  • Use your leftovers
  • Store your food properly
  • Check 'Use by' and 'Best Before' dates (and both sites explain the difference between these)

After seeing all of this wastage, We are going to try to dramatically reduce the food waste in our household. Part of this, unfortunately, probably means reducing the amount of baking I do, which for me is quite a big thing. We will try the meal planning idea which has never worked for us, but perhaps we are missing something.

Does anyone have any great ideas on how they have or will reduce the amount of food waste in their household?

Any ideas are greatly appreciated!

*ie if someone got sick from eating old food, the supermarket would be liable. There's probably a lot more to this as well, but this is the information I was told.

Free Music @

If you're like me and you find it hard to consider new music a 'luxury', then free music is great, especially when the budget is tight. is a great site that allows artists to promote themselves by giving their music away for free. More info here.

It can be a bit bewildering looking at all that free music, so I will post some gems that I find using Noisetrade's widgets - listen to, and download right from this blog. Cool eh?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Some thoughts on being neighbourly

Since becoming a SAHM*, my reading list of blogs has increased quite substantially...
I went to one of my regular reads this morning ( and came across her post about her neighbours and how she felt bad that she hadn't gotten to know them better.
It lead me to thinking about our neighbours and how I would only be able to give you perhaps 2 first names out of the 20 something people who live down our driveway.

Seems kind of sad doesn't it? Do we really live such insular lives nowadays that we never end up meeting the people who live a mere few metres away?

As stated in our last post, we don't have much longer living here. Perhaps in our next house we will make an intentional effort to get to know those living close by. has a post about 5 ways to connect with your neighbours- the first one in particular really got my attention.

"Go out your front door"
Seems so simple doesn't it? So often I feel like we rush out of our home without a second glance at our surroundings.

So with this in mind, my encouragement to all who read this is to go out of your front door, stop and look around. Maybe say hello to the next person walking by.

If anyone has any great ideas as how to engage your community, feel free to share your tips in the comments below.

Token baby pic. Wee man @ the Cascades

*Stay at home mum

Thursday, June 2, 2011


In a few months or so, we will have to move house. As much as we would have loved to stay in our current place for a while longer, its just not a possibility. Which is fine, albeit a wee bit stressful.

There is one great advantage to having to move is that it gives us the opportunity to downsize our stuff.

We have too much stuff. There- its been said. We have far too much stuff for 3 people (and one of them is only little). A lot of it, in fact, the majority of it has been given to us at some point.

Its amazing what you can accumulate in a seemingly short space of time. Its also amazing how it, at times, seems to own you. Stacks of things that 'might be useful one day', books read only once, CDs gathering dust, piles of craft supplies which you really need some inspiration to use... stuff which you can't bear to throw out just because you might need it someday.

Herein lies our point: Give the stuff away. For free

There's something so nice about not making a profit on your wares. The rise of Trademe (and other sites) has meant that every man and his dog seems to want to make money off their stuff. It makes us wonder whether the time and effort you end up putting into selling some stuff on Trademe is actually worth it. 
It would be interesting to know whether the use of Trademe (and other similar sites) has affected such organisations like the Salvation Army, Hospice and other organisations which resell donated items. is a great website for getting rid of things (and acquiring things you need) for free. Freecycle say they are:
"a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills."
Essentially its a listing site for free stuff. Wanted and offers. Want something- place a wanted ad; want to get rid of something- place an offered ad. Such a simple concept.

We plan to use it to its full advantage once we find a new place and have to move. Admittedly, we've had more success using the 'offers' category than the 'wanted'- for the most part, if you have something going for free, someone is bound to want to take it off your hands. Anything more substantial (or in better condition) will be donated to the Sallies if they need it. []

Go on, try it: give your acquired crap (or treasure) away.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Going shampoo-free

Sounds disgusting doesn't it? Just the idea can give people visions of greasy, smelly, dank-looking hair sitting on top of an equally greasy, smelly, teenage boy...

Why go shampoo-free?
Well, aside from the cost of shampoo and conditioners ($$), most seem to contain sodium laurel sulphates (SLS) and/or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)* which are both detergent surfactants and effective foaming agents. You will find SLS or SLES in industrial products including engine degreasers, floor cleaners, and car wash soaps. In lower concentrations, you will find it in toothpastes, shampoos, shaving foams and as an additive in food as an emulsifier. As stated in our 'Ingredients List' blog, it can also be made from Palm Oil, which makes it especially avoidable for us. 

-- as a side note, we still have not heard back from Pantene or Huggies about whether their products contain Palm Oil. As a consequence, we will be looking into alternatives, though perhaps not for shampoos if this method works. 

We also are trying to get away from buying a lot of plastic packaging, even though most of it appears to be recyclable now days.

Washing your hair using detergent based cleaners is a bit of a vicious cycle- the cleaners remove the oil and so your sebaceous glands work harder to produce more oil and so on and so forth. When you use conditioners you are really just putting artificial oils back into your hair. It has really been only in the last century that people started washing their hair more frequently. This article** written in 1908 in the New York times suggests that one could wash their hair as frequently as once a fortnight but only once a month to six weeks if your hair was in good condition. The idea is that your body finds a balance of oils on it's own if you leave it alone.

How do you go shampoo-free? 
From our research done online (though we do know people who have done this sucessfully as well), it would appear that their are two methods for going shampoo- free (or as some call it, 'poo-free): the water-only method and the baking soda/cider vinegar method.

The water only method is just that- rinse your hair under water on a daily basis, but making sure that you massage your scalp to help distribute your natural hair oils (sebum oil).

The baking soda/vinegar method:
Baking soda is said to remove the grime without stripping your hair of its natural oils due to its basic pH. The vinegar (notably most recipes use apple cider vinegar) has a low pH and is said to balance the pH of the hair and some claim that it also helps detangle and clarify the hair.
This intructable does a great job of explaining this method:

Both methods seem to have an adjusting period of a month- 6 weeks. Currently E is on week 2 of the water only method and K has actually been doing this for well over a year.

Getting your head around the idea of not washing your hair is a hard one, but one we hope will become second nature in time.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fair Trade Fortnight: Coffee

Offically Fair Trade Fortnight ended last week, but we havn't finished yet!

Fair Trade Coffee is similar to chocolate in that it is very widely availible in supermarkets and usually a similar price. Non-fair trade coffee is also similar to chocolate in its exploitation of the people that produce it. Oxfam NZ says:
"Over 25 million people in the developing world depend on coffee farming to make a living. But the volatility of coffee prices makes it a very unreliable source of income for growers.
At times, coffee prices have fallen so low that growers have been unable to cover even their production costs, leaving many growers and their families suffering from malnutrition and often forced to abandon their family farms... Just a few cents of the price we pay for a cup of coffee actually gets back to the coffee farmer."
"Buying  fair trade coffee is a great way for shoppers like us to make a real difference to the lives of coffee farmers and their families. More and more coffee farmers are working their way out of poverty through Fairtrade. By selling to the Fairtrade market, coffee farmers are guaranteed a fair, stable price so that they can always cover their production costs and meet their basic needs. In addition, coffee producers receive a Fairtrade premium for investing in local community development projects, such as schools, water wells, health or training."
There is an excellent film made about the coffee industry and the effects of fair trade on the lives of coffee growers, it is called 'Black Gold'. Find out more at and it is also availible at trade aid shops.

Fairtrade Label
Look for this logo



Where To Buy:
Fairtrade coffee is availible in lots of places and is sold by many brands. Most supermarkets sell it with the regular coffee, some brands have one or two varieties certified, others have their whole range. Look for the fair trade logo. Most fair trade coffee is also certified organic so if you are interested in that look out for one of the certified organic logos, see for more infomation.

Many cafes also sell fair trade coffee, and 'Wild Bean Cafe' at BP service stations sell fair trade coffee and hot chocolate. Again look for the fair trade logo and ask if you are not sure.

What is your favourite Fair Trade cafe? let us know in the comments.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fair Trade Fortnight: Chocolate

We have found that Fairtrade chocolate is by far the easiest Fairtrade item to get excited about! Aside from the obvious- that chocolate is amazingly great- it's also fairly easy to purchase Fairtrade chocolate.

Chocolate is the kind of product that many people claim they 'cant live without'. What used to be a luxury product which only the rich could afford is now something which kids can buy with their pocket money.

Oxfam (NZ) has estimated that  
"More than 70 per cent of the world’s cocoa is grown in tropical West Africa, where over 10 million people are dependent on cocoa farming for their income.
Historically, Chocolate- or Cacao, as the raw product is called- comes from South and Central America.
It was the Spanish that took it to Europe and consequently set up colonial plantations in Africa, Indonesia, Sri Lankand other countries where Cacao was not traditionally grown. This was at a time when slavery was rife and acceptable. Slavery was abolished in England 1838, USA 1865, and prohibited internationally in 1926 by the slave convention. Despite this, according to the International Justice Mission (IJM) there are approximately 27 million slaves in the world today which is more than in any other time in history. Many of these slaves still work on cocoa plantations. Fairtrade isn't specifically about stopping slavery though- there are many fantastic organisations which do outstanding work in this area.
The Fairtrade association (international) do state that they are:
 "building partnerships with leading international development organizations specializing in projects on location to protect children from the worst forms of child labour. 
ICCO, which is the International Cocoa Organisation* has stated in their International Cocoa Agreement of 2010 that
"Members shall give consideration to improving the standard of living and working conditions of populations engaged in the cocoa sector, consistent with their stage of development, bearing in mind internationally  recognized principles and applicable ILO** standards. Furthermore, Members agree that labour standards shall not be used for protectionist trade purposes."
Fairtrade cocoa allows the cocoa farmer to make a good living as the fair trade standards include a minimum price. For those who love graphs, here's a good one which shows the difference between fair trade and the New York Market prices: "

Where to buy:
Several manufacturers in NZ produce Fairtrade chocolate. 
- All Scarborough Fair products are fair trade including their chocolate range and are available in supermarkets
Similarly Trade Aid products are all fair trade but are mainly available in Trade Aid stores.
- Candbury's 'Dairy Milk' range is fair trade (but not their other flavours - check for the fair trade logo) 
- Whittakers 'Creamy Milk' range is fair trade (but not their other flavours - check for the fair trade logo)

The great thing about fair trade chocolate is that usually (at least in the case of Candbury and Whittakers) it does not cost any more; and as there is no fair trade palm oil, it will taste better too.

* ICCO is composed of both cocoa producing and cocoa consuming countries with a membership. 
** International Labour Organisation run by the UN and is an international organization responsible for drawing up and overseeing international labour standards.