Monday, October 29, 2007

On yer bike!

DH splashed out on a Trailgator and 2-wheeler for DS so we can do some bike riding for exercise. DS was naturally delighted about it all. DD needs a better helmet but the bike shop didn't have one small enough. I'm using DS's old one and padding it out with hats. Not the most ideal. She likes riding in her seat though and sings happily while we (I) pedal and puff along.
We went for a test cycle on Friday and it worked well. DH found himself pedalling happily along but then suddenly the bike would slooooooooow down. Looking back he would see DS had put on his back pedal brake! LOL! So he is still learning about his bike. He has been spending a lot of time in the garage sitting on it, ringing the bell (very important to help it go) and riding round in circles.

I finally finished this dress for DD. I thought it would be an easy job and while the dress itself it very simple, that frill was so annoying to get right because it is so long. I wish I had a gathering foot for my machine. I should look to see if I can get one.


Menu Plan Monday

I'm going to try and do this more regularly. It helps to keep my shopping normalised and reduces the stress of having to decide at 4.00pm what we're having for tea.

Roast Chicken (nothing particularly fancy - just going to shove a lemon up it's bum with some garlic cloves and sprinkle with paprika) and roast veges. Hopefully I'll have some leftover chick for sandwiches.

Pork mince meatballs with stir fried green beans

Chicken marsala

Felafel and pita salad

Kedgeree crockpot dish from HFG

Oregano & lime roasted leg of lamb with Spanish Paella (from Dish)

Leftovers? Or carrot, Kumara and lentil soup (crockpot)

Thanks to Kristen for introducing me to the concept. You can read all about it at Org Junkie.

Friday, October 26, 2007

O happy day!

I am so lucky. I'm the recipient of the NZ Dare draw - a kit from Paper Pesto! So awesome :) Thank you!

This fortnight's dare is sounding good too.

DD discovered the laptop open on the coffee table and proceeded to pick off several keys off the keyboard, including the Enter key. I've managed to fix most of the keys back on but her manipulations have not improved things! So I hope I can keep typing without driving myself crazy.

DH (the mad photographer) has discovered an interesting site with a whole lot of photography related podcasts including various tutorials like how to take good photos at the zoo, photoshop techniques etc. Photocast Network also has links to video tutorials on programs such as the Gimp - a free photo editing program. Some of the podcasts are very interesting!
Looks like I've been tagged by themommykelly - go check out her photos :)

I shall try not to have food items for all of the letters though it is usually what comes to mind first when I think of words!

A - pile of laundry awaits my attention in the lounge room. *sigh*
B - books. Well what did you expect from a librarian? Come on!
C - Cranium is a board game I like to play but only with people who can answer the questions.
D - my maiden name and my surname begins with it. So convenient that my initials didn't change.
E - elementary my dear Watson. I like reading mystery stories, crime and adventure.
F - Flanders and Swann. Make me laugh. Especially their Gnu song.
G - geckos. I am fond of them and collect them. I have 2 gecko stamps, a ceramic one for my wall, a beautiful ornamental one in it's box waiting for the time when I finally have a china cabinet. I also like dragonflies.
H - have a cup of coffee? Sure! Especially if it's Atomic coffee.
I - ice cream. Sorry. But I had to have it for this letter. Favourite.
J - Jahangir. Am reading a fictionalised story of this emperor right now. Or more particularly his wife. I really want to visit India before I die.
K - "K-K-Katy, beautiful Katy you're the only g-g-g-girl that I adore". My mum used to sing this song.
L - lounge room. Laundry. See A.
M - motherhood is probably the hardest job I ever did but the one I do with the most love.
N - nearly finished!
O - fortuna... from Carmina Burana. I once saw Uwe Grodd conduct this at a graduation festival. The hairs on my arms literally stood on end.
P - First letter of my name. I was going to be called Amanda Gail until my parents saw me when born. Then they decided I didn't look like Amanda and was called Penelope. Most people call me Penny though.
Q - questions, questions, questions... what I get from DS.
R - Rusty. Is sitting here beside me. He is DS's favourite at present.
S - singing. I love to sing and have sung in choirs throughout my life. Should like to do so again one day.
T - Tanekaha, celery pine, Phyllocladus trichomanoides one of the few latin names I remember from my botany days.
U - underwear. I do wear it. I'm sure you're pleased to know that.
V - vacillate. I am a chronic fence sitter. I most often see both sides of an argument.
W - waiting for me. Laundry. In the lounge room. See A.
X - x-craft. What I named my first car, a Mazda hatchback. So called because I could reach all parts from the driver's seat! LOL! All subsequent cars are now named x-craft in memory. DH used to call it the Rustang.
Y - younger sisters. I've got two of them.
Z - zzzz... my kids are sleeping at the moment.

Now I know my A,B,C's
Let me think, yes, I'll tag thee
(if you feel like it of course!)


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Oratia Farmers Market

I was delighted to find that there is a new Farmer's Market started up - in my neighbourhood! Yay and Yay!

My sister and I went last Saturday. My sister is allergic to mornings and by the time we got there it was well started by a good hour and half. Unfortunately most of West Auckland appeared to be there as well so many of the stalls we were interested in had sold out. There were quite a few stalls with blackboards saying "so and so coming soon" too. So my delight was somewhat diluted!

But even so - it's great that the Westies have finally got something going. I hope to patronise it frequently. And earlier.

Find a Farmer's Market near you...

*PS. Thank you for your uplifting remarks. I feel very blessed to have understanding friends.*

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sometimes it can be hard

to know where to spend your charity dollars... but today it wasn't.

My shampoo is trying to brain wash me. But I like the swirl around the box. Excuse the bad photo.
Layout and some cards I've made. I'm in a flowery mood I think.

So the long weekend came and went. Awful weather and we didn't go away which judging by the traffic reports was probably just as well. Feeling kinda blah from lack of sleep (thanks to DD), and other stuff. .. friend's marriage breaking up, feeling sad about that. Feeling sad about this mother who died while breastfeeding. My alumni magazine came and has an article about great and exciting things some graduates are doing... feeling very mumsy and drab.

Some days I think I'm just not cut out for this motherhood lark. The days when I need to put myself in time out because of my grumpiness. I hate myself when that happens. Yet I love my kids and wouldn't exchange them for anything.

I need to get over myself.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Mooncup Revealed (might be TMI for some)

Couple of you mentioned the Mooncup in your comments and CW has even got one waiting to use so I thought I'd address her questions publicly in case someone else was interested. There is also a handy FAQ here.

When I originally heard about it I thought it was kind of strange but was intrigued. The history of it is interesting.

Menstrual cups were developed in the 1930s and went on commercial sale at around the same time as the first tampon. In that early post-Victorian era it was not considered ‘proper’ for women to touch their vaginal area. The manufacturers of the tampon overcame this obstacle by providing those disposable applicators that can still be found floating in our toilet bowls today! Menstrual cups require a ‘hands on’ approach and were only purchased by the most liberal minded woman in those days.

Commercially, the tampon is a more viable product, as customers need to repurchase month after month In contrast menstrual cup manufacturers do not expect to make repeat sales to satisfied customers, only to their friends and relations! Sadly such intimate matters were not discussed in polite company back in the 1930s. Sales of tampons soared and massive advertising campaigns were launched. Disposable feminine hygiene products soon became established necessities in modern western society.

Then one of my friends bought one and I decided to do so too - bearing in mind that at the time they were offering money back guarantee if it didn't work.

Do you find it easy to use?
Yes - now I do. Not at first though because I was nervous. It did take me a few cycles to get the technique right in terms of insertion. At first I was all fingers and thumbs! I found it easiest to squat to insert it. I no longer need to do this - I think that is partly practice and partly because I've had another baby since.

Did it take you a while to get used to it?
I think I took about 2-3 cycles to trust it! LOL! Then it's a matter of learning when is good to empty it according to your own cycle. At first I tried to empty it every time I visited the lav - no point. Then I left it too long on a heavy day and had a major spill - not good. But now I've learnt when is good to empty. I used to wear a panty liner for heavy days but no longer need to do that even.

I did have to trim more off the stem than I thought I'd need to when I first got it.

Now I hardly notice it when it's in use. Unlike tampons which proclaim their presence via their irritating string, and pads which get hot, bulky and - lets be honest - stinky if you don't change them often enough, the Mooncup is simple and efficient. You no longer have to worry about disposing of used stuff in public toilets. So long as you remember to keep it in your bag you won't need to worry about whether you replaced that dodgy tampon at the bottom of your handbag along with the crumpled up receipts.

During use, I wash the Mooncup after emptying and at the end of my cycle it gets plunked in Milton to sterilise it. If I'm in a public toilet I make sure to wipe it clean before reinsertion and wash it later.

Any further questions? Please feel free to email me :)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

In its inaugural year, Blog Action Day will be co-ordinating bloggers to tackle the issue of the environment.

So here's my post possums...

If I was to classify myself I'd probably say I'm a pragmatic greenie. I am concerned about sustainability, conservation and the impact human beings have on the environment. I can't say I have all the answers though! But I do believe we've been given stewardship of the earth so it behoves me to try and be a good steward. That doesn't mean I have to wear a kaftan and meditate in my backyard naked.

I can make some lifestyle choices that reduce my ecological footprint though.

Actually I wasn't sure what to post so I decided to interview myself using the questions the Herald uses to grill various "famous" people.

What are you doing personally to make a difference?

I try to reduce the amount of waste our household produces. To this end I compost all our vegetable waste, lawn clippings, hedge clippings and other bits and pieces (e.g. contents of my hair brush). We recycle through the local council's recycling initiatives (paper, plastic, glass, cans, tins etc).

I use cloth nappies (diapers) on DD almost exclusively. I do admit to putting her in disposables at night though - that means I don't have to wake her up totally by changing her. Any mum who has kids who don't sleep through will understand how maintaining every precious skerrick of sleep is to me!

I personally use a Mooncup instead of disposable sanitary products. It can be purchased in New Zealand from Embrace. Viva recently reviewed menstrual cups and their verdict was "Eeeuuw!" My reaction to the reviewers would be an eye roll and a "Get over it!" comment. I find the thought of putting sanitary product waste into landfills more disgusting than emptying the Mooncup. I suppose rabid followers of Viva fashion, who happily spend NZ$500 on a pair of shoes might struggle a bit with the idea of their own humanity. Admittedly, if you are nervous about touching your girl bits you might find it weird but hey - this is the enlightened age isn't it? No more bathing in your nightie, embrace your womanhood, know your ... uh ... fanny and all that.

I try to use reusable bags.

I also try to buy local produce and mostly seasonal stuff (although tomatoes and bananas are a weakness of mine). I'd love to buy organic food exclusively but we can't afford to do this all the time. I like to use "eco" cleaning products too e.g laundry powder, dishwasher powder, washing up liquid etc. Eco-store has some really nice stuff that works and it lasts for ages.

We're growing some of our own veges and fruit and we try to do this in the most "green" way we can. One of my favourite organic garden products is Neem which helps to protect my tomatoes etc from sucking bugs and some soil pests. I do some companion planting to confuse the baddies and attract the goodies. My simple method for dealing with aphids is *don't read this if you're Bhuddist* to use the old manual-squish-and-squirt procedure. That is squish the infestation and squirt it with the hose at high pressure. That's why my gardening gloves have green fingers! ;-) Alternatively, a strong infusion of chillies and garlic sprayed onto the plant works not too badly either. Unfortunately, I've yet to find a good solution to the slug/snail issue. Apart from ducks/chooks of course. But living in suburbia, they would bring their own problems.

I try to walk to get errands done - or at least combine trips so that I use the car less. Online banking etc has made this so much easier.

Simple things like picking up rubbish when I go to a beach makes me feel like I'm helping.

What more could you do?

If I could afford it I'd do a lot more in terms of my purchasing power. Eat organic/sustainable food, buy organic/sustainable products, avoid products made out of the Australasia area, buy organic cotton clothes and so on.

I would like to bike/walk more and avoid using my car. I used to bike to work and really enjoyed it. DS loved sitting in his Wee Ride seat - he even went to sleep in it. Perhaps if I got some panniers I could use my bike more often to do some basic shopping trips. Once DS can ride his own 2-wheeler I will be able to get one of those Trail-Gator things.

I would like to be more energy efficient. If we could afford to install it, I would like to use things like solar heating and roof run off for grey water. If we ever built a new house I would seriously consider such a thing.

I would like to be able to afford to donate to conservation efforts for NZ native animals, plants and habitats.

What is your biggest environmental sin?

Probably my car. *sigh*

Living at the bottom of the world means we import a lot of things too, and I do think it a real shame that some of the big NZ firms are out sourcing their factories to Asia. I wish NZ could grow cocoa beans and coffee beans... avoiding the food miles there.

Global warming: true or false?
I think it is true that our climate is changing. What I find confusing and cannot decide on is whether this is part of a natural cycle or if humans are the sole cause. I do think humans can influence the climate though, and through choices about our lifestyles I think we could learn to live within the bounds of our environment.

Hope this doesn't sound preachy or pompous... these are just my choices that have worked for me with very little to no inconvenience to my life. As for my death - I think one of these would be good.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Quick post about Lightroom

I was going to make DH post a "guest spot" on my blog about Lightroom but he's too chicken. *shrug*


What is it?
Lightroom is a software product from Adobe that works mostly as a collection manager of your photo collection. If (like DH) you take LOTS of photos and you wish to organise them, then Lightroom is probably one of the better products to do it.

What does it do?
There are a several aspects to Lightroom. There is the major part of organisation of your photo collection. You can assign metadata, keywords, titles etc to your photos and group them according to a hierarchical classification scheme of your own making. You can see how this appeals to my librarian's heart! The database is searchable and I have my photos catalogued in it too. So if I need a picture of DD I can search her name and it will bring up all her photos. Or if I need a picture of a lemur, I can find them quickly without searching though months and months of photos. In addition, Lightroom also has
  1. A Develop module with some photo manipulation tools (e.g. crop, contrast, vibrance, histograms etc)
  2. A printing "module" where you can set up print layouts and other controls
You can do the usual import and export too and some other stuff that I don't know much about.

And the $10000 question - Should you get it?

I guess that depends how much in the money you are! We essentially lucked out on this one. DH had purchased another product that did similar things, and that product was brought out by Adobe. As they weren't going to develop this product further, they offered customers the option of converting to Lightroom 1.0 for free. Which DH did.

If you are looking for a product to manipulate your photos then you are better to get Photoshop Elements or Photoshop itself. Lightroom compliments these products and works with them rather than replaces them.

If you've got any specific questions about it, let me know and I'll direct them to the "master"! Heh heh!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Lemon Cheer

Well the country is in mourning and while I have no interest in sport, it really is disappointing! So I will resist gently pulling the legs of my online friends, (who are feeling this keenly) and instead I will post about this yummy cake.

Iced Lemon Curd Layer Cake
Delia Smith's Winter Collection, (1995), London: BBC Books, pg. 229

175g self-raising flour, sifted
1 level teaspoon baking powder
175g butter at room temperature
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
grated rind of a lemon
1 Tablespoon of lemon juice

For the Lemon Curd
75g caster sugar
grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon
2 eggs
50g unsalted butter

For the Icing
50g sifted icing sugar
zest of 1 large lemon
2-3 teaspoons lemon juice

Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees C (325 F). Prepare 2 x 18cm sandwich tins, 4 cm deep by greasing them, & lining with baking paper.

Measure all the cake ingredients into a mixing bowl and beat - ideally with an electric hand whisk - till you have a creamy consistency. (I used my cake mixer). Divide the mixture between 2 tins and bake them on the centre shelf in the oven about 35 mins or until the centres feel springy with lightly touched with a little finger.

While the cakes cook, make the lemon curd. Place sugar and grated rind in a bowl, whisk the lemon juice with the eggs and then pour this over the sugar. Add the butter cut into little peices, and place bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir frequently until thickened. The recipe says you don't have to stay with it but to come back from time to time. I personally couldn't do that because I'm paranoid.

When cakes are cooked, remove them from the oven and after about 30 seconds, turn them out onto a rack. When they are absolutely cold, cute each one horizontally into 2 using a serrated knife. Spread the curd thickly to sandwich the sponges together. You will notice I didn't bother cutting the layers... my tins were slightly too large and thus the layers were too thin for me to cut into two. Heh heh - more lemon curd for me!

To make the icing, remove the zest from the lemon using a zester to get long curly strips. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and gradually stir in the lemon juice until you have a soft runny consistency. Allow to stand for 5 mins and then spread on the cake. Scatter lemon zest on top.

DH discovered a cool technique to do in Lightroom. It's a kind of grungy, surreal, painty effect.
This is one DH did of DS and his kite. I did the one of DD. Before

and after..

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

RIP Yippy

The black & whi-puss has gone. I knew it was going to happen soon. He was over 17 years old and his joints were so stiff he could hardly get on the bed any more. I knew his kidneys were packing up because he was drinking so much water. Every week I'd buy his food wondering if this would be the last time.

Last night he had a fit that lasted about 30 seconds. I knew that this wasn't going to get better and I didn't want him to leave us during another fit or in pain, so today he had an appointment. Today he didn't come home from the vet.

I guess one day we'll get another pet. DS has turned out to allergic to furry things so we'll wait and see if that settles down before we decide.