Mail bags

Many thanks for mailing through your tips and suggestions – those living off the smell of an oily rag always have interesting ideas that are new and unusual!

Teresa from Auckland writes, “As a bathroom cleaner, I use one bar of sunlight soap and a green foam ‘scratchie’. It sits in my shower and I clean one wall every second day or so. Works a treat.”

Maureen has some advice for beating the winter chill. “I have just made a draught stopper from left over polar fleece and soft toy filler. Also in older houses check that windows and doors are closing right shut. If not buy the stick on strips for the areas where the windows and doors do not meet the frames.”

Butterfly Lady from Blockhouse Bay writes, “Slow cookers are a great way of cooking casseroles/stews but who can afford to buy one? Try making your own slow cooker… it’s called a straw box. I use a strong carton or a chilly bin, which I pad with towels (or any clean insulation fabric/paper), one folded neatly in the bottom. To prepare your stew, use a casserole dish (with a lid) on the top of the stove. Bring the finished stew to a rolling boil – stir it well to make sure ALL is boiling. When the recipe says “leave it to simmer for x hours” transfer the pot and lid into the straw box. Ensure all the nooks are stuffed with insulation. Close the carton and put to one side for at least four hours. You cannot overcook a stew made in this way. After four hours, test the meat with a skewer to make sure it’s cooked. I once cooked a meal as I drove between Auckland and Taupo!”

As a matter of interest a straw box comes by many names, including a haybox, fireless cooker, insulation cooker, wonder oven, or its more generic name of retained-heat cooker. They became popular during WWII as a way of conserving energy. Things are not so desperate nowadays, although commercial versions are still used by campers. All sorts of materials can be used for the insulation besides hay – shredded paper works well! In fact, anything can be used as long as it packs down well and creates small pockets of air.

Peedeenz from Hastings writes, “For those with welding and mechanical skills and a bit of spare time, converting old decommissioned propane cylinders into a pot belly stove for heating the shed works well. There are a number of YouTube videos showing how to do this. Since scrap metal dealers don’t want the cylinders, go to the place where they retest them and ask if you can have the failed ones. They have no valves, a hole has been drilled in them to prevent them from being used again, and they have been washed out during the testing process. Angle grinders, a cheap arc welder and a bit of scrap metal can turn out a nice little shed heater. Use it safely to burn old pallet wood and junk mail brickettes – homemade of course. It can be mounted outside the shed and the heat ducted in to the shed if there are safety concerns. Use the ash from paper and untreated wood in the garden as it is a source of potassium. Use an old speaker magnet to remove the nails from the ash. Have a warm winter!”

Adrienne from Christchurch has a couple of pie recipes to share. “Here’s a recipe for those with a toastie pie gadget. Cut a pastry square in half and place on the toastie pie maker. Use leftover mince, spaghetti, baked beans or a mixture of chopped onion, bacon, 1 egg, and grated cheese. Put the other pastry half on top and lower the lid but don’t click it down because it allows the lid to rise as the pastry cooks. Eat hot or wrap in plastic film and place into an ice cream container before freezing. Something different for lunch!”

The second recipe is a quick and easy bacon and egg pie. “I use a pastry square on a casserole lid or pie plate to make this. Cook half a cup of peas. Boil a potato and slice. Chop up a slice of bacon and an onion. Place the bacon and onion on the pastry first, then other ingredients. Beat two eggs and add a tablespoon of milk. Pour over the mixture then top with grated cheese. Seal the top by folding the corners over and cook in an oven for 25mins.”

Nmkozik from Oamaru says she swaps home grown veges with neighbours – as well as giving surplus produce to her elderly neighbours, so they don’t go without. What a nice person Nmkozik is, and it just goes to show the good things that come from living off the smell of an oily rag.