From scratch: Restorative lemon, ginger and honey cordial

P2P cordialThis changeable spring seems to have brought with it more than the usual number of debilitating bugs don’t you think?  Attendance at the primary school is down by a quarter and I have had two pale, hot and listless boys home for five days running.  It’s one thing for kids, but quite another for some of the mums who have been similarly stricken. Even the ‘tough’ ones are finding it hard to soldier on with Codral. And you know what it’s like; Mums don’t always get the care they deserve when they’re laid low. We have to look out for each other ladies!

This small ‘cheer up and get well’ treat is a cordial made of sunny lemons, warming ginger and health-giving honey.  I swear that if you feel a bug sneaking up on you and you rest up with one of these you will feel much better faster.

lemons and graterConfession time. Okay well here’s the thing:  Sometimes when you learn to make something from scratch it turns out to be so easy that it’s slightly embarrassing when someone asks you how you made it. This yummy lemon cordial is one of those things.  It’s pretty hard to muck it up.

Also it’s quite hard to write an accurate recipe. Some lemons give off a ton of juice and others much less. Flavour-wise, the backyard favourite Meyers are much milder than lemons such as Yenben. Also some honeys are very strong tasting or very sweet and can overwhelm. So, it’s a taste as you go kind of thing. Trust your instincts!


  • Lemons: Two if they’re nice juicy ones from the Chinese grocer down the road or three lemons if they’re the hard waxed yellow imported ones from the supermarket.
  • Honey: Manuka has antibacterial properties and is very good but also very expensive.  I’m experimenting with the raw untreated bush honey from the little bulk shop behind the multinational hamburger joint and I’m enjoying the different flavour.  Manuka can get a bit samey-meh.
  • Ginger root: I keep one in the freezer, as it’s great for lots of things such as baking, stir fries and tea.
  • Boiling water


  • Juice two to three lemons  Have you noticed that if your lemons are at room temperature you’ll get a lot more juice?  A couple of seconds warming in the microwave won’t hurt. Don’t worry about the pips, as you’ll strain them out later.I’ll often substitute limes because I have quite a few off my tree (first time ever!) and the flavour is very fresh. Grapefruit would also be good as long as it doesn’t contraindicate any medication your ‘patient’ might be taking. I love them, but Grapefruit can be sneaky like that.
  • NOTE:  I zest the lemons before juicing them as I keep the zest frozen in a snaplock resealable bag to use later in icing or baking.  You don’t need to do this, it just makes me feel all urban homesteady and uber efficient. Don’t crush my illusions. I’ll just point out, as the owner of sometimes grated knuckles, that it is easier to zest a whole lemon than a wet, slippery squeezed rind.
  • Grate ginger on the small side of your grater.  Don’t worry about peeling it.  Anything from two to four tablespoons of shaved ginger ice should do it.  If your ginger is fresh then two or three tablespoons should do.
  • Mix the grated ginger and lemon juice in a heatproof jug or bowl with a great big dollop of honey.
  • Pour half a cup of boiling water on top of it.  Mix until the honey is dissolved.  Leave for a few minutes to steep.  Have a little taste – what do you think? More honey?
  • Find a clean jam jar or small preserving jar with a lid.  This is what you’ll use to present or store your cordial.
  • To strain your cordial put a funnel into the jar, a sieve on top of the funnel and just pour it through. This will take out the pips and ginger skin. You might still get a little sediment, but that’s OK in my world.  If you don’t have a funnel then just sieve it into a pot or another bowl.  Nothing wrong with freestyling it.
  • Top up with boiling water.  Screw the lid on to the jar.
  • This cordial should last 2-3 days in the fridge, but it usually gets used well before then.
  • You might like to write a note to tell your friend to dilute the mix to taste. With this in mind it’s better to make a stronger mix than a weaker one, and then it can be enjoyed over a few restorative sessions.
  • P2P cordial outsidePretty it up a bit!  I have a few paper flowers around from my latest obsession, so my jars went off looking quite sweet. Something tells me Martha Stewart is unlikely to come knocking anytime soon, but it made for a suitably girly spring treat.
  • Deliver to your friend.  I hope she gets better soon.

Stay well xx

P.S  Some people may think they have seen me adding a slug of whisky for certain sickies.  I couldn’t possibly comment, but if you’re making this for a man-flu victim, it does mysteriously seem to increase the chances of consumption.

Inspiration: Paper to Petal – 75 Whimsical Paper Flowers to Craft by Hand


This gallery contains 14 photos.

Paper to Petal – 75 Whimsical Paper Flowers to Craft by Hand by Rebecca Thuss and Patrick Farrell, published by Potter Craft Review in short: This book makes my heart beat faster. Review at length:  As a confessed ‘binge crafter’ of immense and rapid enthusiasms (my personal style but you can borrow it), I love the thrill of the new.  I skip passionately from one activity to the next, bogging on in, mastering the basics and moving on.  There are so many fun and interesting things to do, so why confine yourself to just the one thing?  Shirley Conran once said ‘Life’s too short to stuff a mushroom’. I disagree, but … Continue reading

Creativity is a happy virus: 10 things I learned from the 100 Day Project


100 Days title slide

Over the last 100 days, up to 760 of us have been toiling quietly away in our own private spheres, uploading one creative act to the 100 Days site every day. This all ends on Saturday, the 100th Day when I’ll join 160 other 100 Day finishers as we exhibit our work.

When I joined the 100 Days Project I made a commitment to paint one small natural object from my day, every day for 100 days.

100 day project on tableJPGIn addition to improving my drawing and watercolour skills, I had three goals:

  • Get over the idea that the work has to be perfect to be seen
  • Celebrate the living world around me with small acts of creativity
  • Bring a small spot of mindfulness to my day

As I collate my large collection of small paintings for their maiden voyage into Britomart tomorrow, I’ve been thinking about what the project has taught me.  I realise I have learned more than I thought:

10 Lessons from the 100 Day Project:

  1. I can fit at least one creative act into my life every day
  2. Creativity is contagious and inspiration spreads through family and friends like a happy virus. (Thanks everyone for your deliveries of small and interesting objects!)
  3. It doesn’t kill me to have an imperfect piece of work out there where anyone can see it
  4. I won’t like everything I make but I will actually love some of it
  5. Over time, the collection of work unexpectedly takes on a character and palette of its own
  6. As Goethe said, everything starts with the commitment, and the nature of a public commitment means I am much more likely to make it to completion
  7. It’s more fun with friends along on the ride but I still have to do my own work in the end
  8. Close observation and painting of an object captures a time, feeling and place more deeply and permanently than a photo
  9. Though we are not well acquainted, patience is my friend. The longer I spend on observing, the better the final painting
  10. It’s not cheating to work a little ahead, we can all do with easing the pressure, even if it is self imposed

Bird of Paradise

Overall I have found the project has boosted my confidence in my ability to produce work of quality and value.  The impetus to produce something every single day freed me from the need to create a ‘perfect’ thing.  I’m now happy for others to see my work, despite the flaws that I see.  I have grown to understand that others perceive my paintings quite differently to the way I see them. Over time, my style has become a little looser, less controlled, I’ve tried new techniques and I can see some new directions I’d like to take.

The commitment to the project has also had interesting flow-on effects such as a move into writing and blogging for the first time, and burgeoning connections and friendships.

Bok ChoyIf you are considering taking part in the project next year, I’d thoroughly recommend it for the fun and the challenge.  If called to offer advice, I would say keep your idea simple and flexible.  No doubt you’ll be busy with other life commitments and 100 ideas is a lot to come up with when you’re mired in the middle stretch somewhere with a thousand competing commitments.

If you’ve taken part in this or a similar project, please comment! I’d love to hear what you have learned from your experience.

Cut apple

The Day 100 exhibition is on The Nathan Room, 51 Galway street, Britomart, Auckland.  Hours are 6pm-10pm Saturday 14th September and 10-4pm Sunday 15th September.

Please join us to celebrate if you can.  All are welcome!

Made from scratch: Gorgeous lemon sugar handscrub for gardeners

limeI can’t tell you how excited I am by this discovery.  Cheap, effective and smells delicious!

The siren call of Spring and the warmer weather have lured me out into the garden. I’m spending many happy hours out there, redesigning on the hoof and trying out different kinds of garden bed construction (more on that later).  It’s bliss for most of me, but not my hands which have become scratchy and rough with ingrained dirt in skin and nail.  I don’t know about you, but I always forget my gloves, and on the odd occasion I do remember them, they don’t seem to stay on for very long!

The results?  The garden looks pretty but my hands look awful.  Worse, the really rough skin catches constantly and most unpleasantly on delicate and synthetic fabrics such as microfibre cleaning cloths and lingerie (I know, first world problems right, but still).

So it was with great pleasure that I discovered this super quick, super easy and very economical handscrub.  Major bonus?  It works to slough off dry skin and leave your hands smooth and supple and your nails looking great. Even better, you can make this with ingredients you probably already have to hand.

handscrubGardener’s lemon handscrub

  1. Put a cup of sugar into any old jar with a lid, choose a pretty jar if you have one
  2. Pour on sufficient olive oil to moisten the sugar
  3. Mix well, add more olive oil to your preference (I like it slightly on the wet side)
  4. Add a few drops of your favourite essential oil.  I’m a lemonophile so I go for lemon.  Lavender would also be lovely
  5. Keep it by your sink and next time you come in from the garden scoop a generous spoonful, rub between your soil encrusted hands and simply rinse off with warm water
  6. Enjoy your newly smooth and supple paws!

To my delight, this handscrub works every bit as well as the L’Occitane salt version (Lordy that’s pricy!) which my beloved once kindly bought for me.  So if you’re working out where to invest your hard earned cash I’d make this scrub and put the money towards a good shea butter hand moisturiser.  And, maybe come to think of it, I may just need one of these scrubs in the shower for exfoliation as well…