Saturday, November 29, 2008

Girl's Night In

DH is away on a work conference down in Nelson so a friend and I had a girl's night in + sleepover and did some crafty stuff.

Bag of Christmas cards for DS's teacher, plus the cards.

Layout of our visit to Bethells

Finally did a page relating to this incident...

Bigger sizes are on my Flickr photostream - just click on the photos.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Customs Street East, Auckland, 1924

Customs Street East, Auckland, 1924
Originally uploaded by National Library NZ on The Commons.

Cool! National Library of New Zealand have joined Flickr's Common's project! Awesome! Read about it here.

It was launched today at National Digital Forum which I was able to attend in the afternoon (and will also go tomorrow afternoon).

Some very exciting things happening around the place... more about these soon.

gingerbread man

gingerbread man
Originally uploaded by pdugmore2001.

For Scrapbook Outlet's Very Sweet Christmas Competition, Week 4 challenge. I traced his shape from the cookie cutter we have, blanket stitched him and sewed on the buttons and ribbon. Added some stickles for glitter on the rick rack, bow tie and eyebrows.

He does look like he's got a bad strabismus but Missy Moo thinks he's cute and wanted to take the "teddy" to daycare. DS thought he was "beautiful" and got all excited about putting up the tree. However, he's going to have to wait until about the 13th Dec before we put it up! ;)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Have yourself a Homemade Christmas

This time last year I was heavily into preparing home made gifts to give for Christmas. I thought I would share some of the recipes I used as well as submit this to the Make It From Scratch Carnival (currently hosted here).

I made a number of eco-bags for people using this pattern:
Eco-bag Tutorial
but there are many more tutorials on how to make eco bags, gift bags and totes out there on the "Internets". Try searching the Sew Mama Sew blog for example. Or, download the free patterns from Ottobre.

I made Mint Sauce from the Edmonds Cookbook, and some herbed vinegars as well (recipes from some place on the web).

I created my own labels for many of these things. I've uploaded them to Flickr and they are free for you to use if you decide to make some of this stuff.

My bottles of lemon cordial were popular.
Lemon Cordial Label

Lemon Cordial (recipe from Melissa)
2 kg sugar
1 litre water
25gm citric acid
25gm tartaric acid (you can get these at the supermarket)
Juice of 6 lemons
Zest of 2-3 lemons
Dissolve sugar in water over heat in a stockpot.
Heat just to the boil but don't boil.
Add citric and tartaric acids.
Stir to ensure everything is dissolved.
Cool a bit. Stir in juice and zest.
Bottle in clean bottles (I got mine from Arthur Holmes).

The Chocolate Panforte was delicious and also very popular. I think I will be making these again this year as they don't take long.

Joyce Black’s Panforte (from Cuisine magazine, )
125g almonds, blanched and skinned
125g hazelnuts
25g Brazil nuts (opt)
50g drained preserved ginger, finely sliced
50g glace cherries, halved
75g preserved orange peel, chopped small
2/3 cup flour
2 T cocoa
1 t cinnamon
75g dark chocolate
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup honey
3 T water
Chop almonds and spread in a shallow baking pan. Roast in a low oven to dry and just faintly colour. Roast hazelnuts in oven at 160°C until just starting to darken then tip into a cloth and rub vigorously to remove skins.
Preheat oven to 170°C. Grease a round, 20cm diameter sponge tin x 4 cm deep. (I used mini spring form tins to make 3 small panforte). Line base and sides with baking paper. Do not grease paper.
Chop all the nuts coarsely. Mix cooled nuts, ginger, cherries and peel. Sift together flour, cocoa and cinnamon. Mix with nuts and fruit. Break chocolate into squares and melt over hot water or in the microwave.
In a saucepan stir sugar, honey and water over low heat to completely dissolve sugar. Bring to boil and boil to soft ball stage i.e. a little syrup dropped in a cup of cold water can be gathered with fingers into a ball). Remove pan from heat immediately.
Working quickly with a very firm stirring utensil, mix syrup, chocolate, nuts and fruit together. Spread into lined tins. Smooth tops with back of a wet spoon. Bake for 35-40 mins. Cool in tin. When cold, remove the paper. Wrap in waxed paper then foil, sealing well. Store in cool place until Christmas. The panforte will soften slightly with storage. Lovely served with coffee or something stronger like sherry or a liqueur.

The rhubarb vanilla mince for Christmas Mince Pies was very yummy and actually never made it into pies in my house - it got eaten on toast like jam and mixed into porridge.

Rhubarb and Vanilla Mince Label

Rhubarb Vanilla Mince (from Nigella Lawson's Feast book)

1 kg rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 5mm slices
300g soft dark brown sugar
2 vanilla pods
2 teaspoons ground mixed spice
225g raisins
225g sultanas
225g currants
2 tablespoons brandy

Put the sliced rhubarb with the sugar into a large pan. Cut the vanilla pod into halves lengthways and scrape out the seeds, then cut each half into pieces, adding seeds and pod slices to the pan. Add the mixed spice and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the dried fruits and simmer for about 30 minutes. Stir in the brandy, and take off the heat. When it is cool enough to handle, bottle in jars.

Spice blends are easy to make and are very handy for both meat and vegetables on the grill or BBQ or roasted in the oven. My favourite is this Ras el Hanout (from Cuisine magazine, 01 / 09 / 04 by Julie Le Clerc) which can be used in tagines as well. I put mine in some cleaned baby food jars that I decorated appropriately.

Ras el Hanout (a Moroccan spice blend)
1 t each coriander, fennel and cumin seeds, dry roasted and ground*
1 t gr. Turmeric
1 t gr. Paprika
1 t gr. Cinnamon
½ t cayenne
½ t gr. Ginger
½ t gr. Nutmeg
½ t gr. Allspice
½ t gr. Cardamom
½ t sea salt
½ t freshly gr. Black pepper
*To dry roast spices: Get out a heavy frying pan (I use a cast iron one), and heat on the stove top. Don't use oil/butter etc, you just want to toast them. Add the spices to the pan and stir/shake them until you can smell them beginning to toast. Remove from the pan and allow to cool before grinding and mixing with the other ingredients.
Combine all the spices and store in a sealed jar. Makes 3 Tablespoons. Use in tagines, couscous or as a rub for meats/roast veges.

I also made some rubs from one of my cookbooks, Joy of cooking by Irma S Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker, (1997), Simon and shuster: NY, pg 86-7

West Indies Dry Rub
Goes well with pork, poultry, lamb or beef.
1/4 cup cumin seeds
1/4 cup coriander seeds
Combine in a dry skillet over medium heat and toast until fragrant, shaking pan often to prevent burning, 2-3 minutes.
Grind to a fine powder in a grinder, blender or mortar and pestle. Transfer to a small bowl and add:
1/4 cup curry powder
1/4 cup ground white pepper
1/4 cup ground ginger
1/4 cup salt
2 T ground allspice
2 T ground red pepper
Sir well together. Rub will stay potent for up to 6 weeks if covered and kept in a cool, dark, dry place.

Cajun dry rub
Use with chicken, fatty fish, steaks or vegetables - coat before grilling, frying of sauteing. It caramelises into a tangy crust. Expect the spice to smoke during cooking.
Stir together in small bowl:
1 T cracked black peppercorns
1 T salt
2 T crushed fennel seeds
1 t dried thyme
1 t sweet or hot paprika
1 t dry mustard
1 t garlic powder
1/2 t gr red pepper
1 t gr sage
Rub will stay potent if covered and kept in a cool, dry, dark place for up to 6 weeks.

Southern dry rub

Dry roast:
1/4 cup cumin seeds
Grind into powder and add to:
1/4 cup light/dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sweet or hot paprika
1/4 cup chilli powder
2 T ground red pepper
1 t ground mace
1/4 t salt
1/4 cup cracked black peppercorns
Stir together well. Keep in cool, dark, dry place for up to 6 weeks.

Christmas Biscuits (Cookies) (from Melissa)
Makes 4 dozen biscuits.
Melt: 225g butter and 3 T golden syrup
3 cups self-raising flour
1 tsp baking soda
6 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 cups sugar
Mix well and then add:
1 beaten egg
Place small teaspoons on a greased tray. Don't roll into balls as this affects the texture. Bake for 10-12 mins depending on whether you like softer or crispy biscuits at 170°C
These freeze well.

Oatmeal Choc-chip Biscuits (Cookies) (think I got these from Bron Marshall's blog)
250g butter @ room temp
300g muscovado sugar
300 g castor sugar
2 large eggs
2 T milk
2 t vanilla extract
300g plain flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
300g rolled oats
250g choc chips
Preheat oven to 180°C; line 2 baking trays with baking paper
Cream butter and sugars in large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Add to creamed butter and sugar in 3 batches mixing thoroughly between batches. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, gradually beat into sugar mixture. Stir in oatmeal and choc chips. Bake 1 inch balls of mixture 10-13 mins (allow for spreading). Cook on tray before removing to rack.


125g softened butter
½ cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
½ cup toasted pistachio nuts, ground
½ cup plain flour
½ cup corn flour

Beat together butter and icing sugar to just combine.
Stir in cardamom, sifted flour, ground pistachios, and sifted corn flour.
Remove to a lightly floured work surface and knead to bring together.
Roll out dough to 1.5 cm thickness, cut into preferred shapes with a cutter, place on a lightly greased oven tray and prick with a skewer.
Bake in oven heated to 150 ° C for 20 mins or until pale golden.
Remove to a wire rack to cool and then pack into airtight containers.
Dust with icing sugar to serve. Makes 20 small cookies.

Biscotti can be an elegant homemade gift wrapped in a cellophane bag with a pretty tag attached. They keep well and are a nice, sweet treat for having with coffee.
I've made all of these at one time or another. My favouriate are the coffee and hazelnut ones. These recipes are from Great Italian food, Australian Womens Weekly, (2002), Sydney:ACP publishing, pg 238-9


½ cup caster sugar
1 egg, beaten lightly
¾ cup plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon espresso-style instant coffee
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
110g dark chocolate, melted
Whisk sugar and egg together in medium bowl; stir in flour, baking powder and coffee. Stir in nuts; mix to a sticky dough. Using floured hands, roll into a 20cm log. Place on greased tray.
Bake uncovered in moderate oven about 25 mins or until browned lightly and firm. Cool on tray.
Using a serrated knife, cut log diagonally into 1cm slices. Place slices on lightly greased oven tray.
Bake uncovered in moderately slow oven about 15 mins or until dry and crisp, turning halfway through.
Spread chocolate over one cut slice of each biscotti. Allow to set at room temperature.


60g butter
1 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 eggs
2 ¼ cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups almond kernels chopped coarsely
¼ cup cocoa powder
¼ cup plain flour extra

Beat butter, sugar, essence in medium bowl until just combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined between additions. Stir in flour, baking powder, soda and nuts. Cover, refrigerate 1 hour.
Halve dough. Knead cocoa into one half of the dough. Shape into a 30cm log. Knead extra flour into remaining dough and shape into 30 log. Gently twist cocoa log and plain log together. Place on greased tray and bake in moderate oven about 45 mins or until firm. Cool on tray.
Using serrated knife cut log diagonally into 1cm slices. Place slices on ungreased oven trays. Bake uncovered in moderately slow oven about 15mins or until dry and crisp, turning halfway though cooking. Cool on wire racks.
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More entries for the Scrapbook Outlet Very Sweet Christmas Competition

For week 2: Make 3 Christmas Cards.  Done! I used the Paper Pesto kit I got (the November kit).  Lovely stuff in there and I do enjoy the little robins.
Christmas Cards
Week 3: A layout of the family's wish list (or a member of the family).  Wow - I actually completed this one on time to get into the raffle! LOL! (It's a sad indictment on my time these days.  This time last year I'd already started/made a bunch of Christmas presents.  *sigh* ).

Anyway, I asked DS what he wanted for Christmas and told him to make a list or draw what he wanted.  He loves combine harvesters.  He tells me "I've never been on a harvester before" in a sad, longing voice. He also tells me in painstaking detail what each bit of the harvester does, and all about the "gwain" that gets taken to the mill and made into flour, which then gets made into bread.  He currently likes the Little Red Hen story for this reason, and if I do any baking he tells me, "Wait!  I will get some "gwain" and make flour for you!". 

I used the October SBO kit for this one.  Another yummy kit which suits my tastes entirely with lots of green, browns and "natural" colours.
Christmas Wish ListYou may recall this photo of my garden at the beginning of the season.  Now it looks like this! :-)
Garden in November
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Monday, November 17, 2008

Week 1: Scrapbook Outlet's very sweet Christmas competition

Finally finished my entry for the week 1 challenge of Scrapbook Outlet's Christmas challenges.  I decided to do the "12 days until Christmas" theme.  I'm hoping to put these on a ring but I need to borrow a crop-a-dile or something because the card is too thick for my baby punch.

12days12 days
I hope to finish the Week 2 entry tonight! *cross fingers* and that will mean I will more or less be on target for this week (3) layout to be done.
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Analyse your blog

Thanks to Stephen I have analysed my blog using the following tools.

Apparently I write at high school level. Heh.

Supposedly decides which side of the brain you use to write your blog. Apparently I use more my left hand side!

ISTP - The Mechanics

The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generelly prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.
Gender Analyzer
Appears to be gender neutral (a slight preference for male). *snort*

How 'bout you?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Saturday morning randomness

I voted - did you?

These cuties were being offered free to a good home so I collared them. I know they're a bit kitsch but I like 'em.

This is what happens to Indian food when 4 librarians get together! I met up with CW and Kathryn who were over for the LIANZA conference. So neat to meet people I've chatted to online. My colleague Fran joined us. (My face matches the pink wall! And I only had a mango lassi so I can't blame any alcohol. :-P) My long suffering DH came too and put up with us talking shop.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

October Reading Round Up

Soldier Boy: a young New Zealander writes home from the Boer War / complied by Kingsley Field
Very interesting.  Felt for the boy facing a rapid "growing up" process.

Dreamscapes /Tamara McKinley
From the blurb: Catriona Summers' debut in show business came early. Her father, the leader of a travelling music hall troupe that toured the small towns of the Outback, carried her on stage when she was barely minutes old in order to introduce her to her first audience. From such humble beginnings Catriona had grown up to emerge as a rare talent, her voice garnering her praise from the public and critics alike. But her journey from performing popular songs for a few pennies to becoming an acclaimed opera diva on the Sydney stage, has been fraught with hardship and tragedy. And now some old scandalous secrets from her teenage years are threatening her present, her family and all she has achieved.  Not a bad read but it did seem to drag in places.  I found myself skimming bits.  I think the author could have easily made a 2 series out of this story.

Windflowers / Tamara McKinley
From the blurb: Claire can't wait to escape the harshness of ranching life for college and a career in the big city. Sydney in the 1960s seems a lot more vibrant and exciting than Warratah Cattle Station. But then she is summoned home to face her indomitable mother.
Found the story a little bit predictable but an enjoyable read.

Hotel of secrets / T. J. Joyce
From the blurb: In the lush jungle of New Guinea, the local hotel is where the lives of eight unlikely people will intertwine to form a tangled web of intrigue and lies. Four young girls - Eilish: a member of the IRA and on the run from British authorities. Rhoda: Daddy’s little rich girl, forced to leave her life of privilege behind. Maureen: a prostitute whose best friend has just been murdered. Carol: a university student no longer able to bear the weight of her parents’ expectations. Four men - The police inspector: a man whose sexual depravity and lust for power make him a threat to everyone he sets his sights on. Duncan: manager of the hotel, haunted by memories, tortured by his secrets. Bumbu: an old Kanaka, bosboi of the hotel, and a man fiercely loyal to those whom he loves. Mick: the lonely Sydney detective sent in to solve the case when one man disappears. Is it simply a disappearance or could it be murder?  I enjoyed this one some of the time.  It's a bit raw in places, and some parts seemed a bit contrived, but overall it was an okay book.  Not sure I'd go out of my way to read more.

The limits of enchantment / Graham Joyce
Growing up in the 1960s under the tutelage of unconventional midwife Mammy, Fern Cullen finds the people of their small English village rallying against them when a patient dies, forcing Fern to turn to former adversaries for support.  I found this one very engaging, and slightly weird but good.

The year we seized the day: a true story of friendship, fury and sore feet / Elizabeth Best and Colin
A compelling and inspirational account of how two very different Australian writers tackle their demons walking a medieval pilgrimage across Spain.

The ripening sun/ Patricia Atkinson
In 1990, Patricia Atkinson and her husband moved to the Dordogne, planning to earn their living as financial consultants, while an employee tended their small vineyard. Then the stock-market crashed, her husband returned to England and she was left to salvage their life savings from the vineyards.  Really enjoyed this book though it is not without it's sad bits.  I never realised how much work a vintner has to do.

The last concubine / Lesley Downer
Sachi, a beautiful 15 year old is "discovered" in a remote mountain village, taken from her adoptive parents and eventually becomes the Shogun's concubine.  Her life changes from a simple peasant life to one of complexities, intrigue and luxury.  But Japan is changing - the balance of power between the emperor and the shogun is tipping, Western foreigners have come eager to make Japan part of their empire too.  There are opportunities for Sachi to either choose or reject to make her life change once again.  I enjoyed the story and characters in this book.  Well worth reading.

As for scrapbooking LOs this month - I think I've done about 2-3!  So slack..
But I did do some sewing so that should could towards my craft quotient!  Not that it matters of course since I'm the only one who is counting.
;-)  Heh heh. 
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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sketchbook Retreat overrrrrrrrrr

But I had a great time, nasty cold viruses notwithstanding!

The company was great, the food delicious (both the catering and baking done by the attendees of which I ate far too much!). The venue worked very well and I think everyone had fun. Megan deserves a big shout out for organising the event - she did a great job so far as I am concerned. Crafty Tart provided us with retail therapy - I think they got a shock at us rabid shoppers but never mind!

Furthermore, I did get some scrapping done which I suppose was the whole idea! LOL! It was nice to have some me time - a big thank you to my long suffering DH who had to deal with poopy nappies and a grumpy little girl who missed her mum.

*Edited to add: blogger has chopped off some of the photos so you'll have to visit my Flickr stream to see them in full glory. Just click on them.

My Table

Angela and Sandra

Tracy, Annelie, Hannah, Megan, Sam, Faye, Michelle & Sarah-Jane (both obscured)

Delys (great to finally meet you!), Angela, Danice (*I think* standing), Bronwyn, Rachel, Carolyn, Cheryl, Jodi (obscured), Delwyn, Ann and Lisa at the end.

Table opposite

Not all the girls are facing the camera but Debs, Louise, Lesley, Carol, Lianne, Lisa and Kelly are visible.

Faye teaching her class - a mini album.

Nic teaching - a cool layout with a mini book on the layout

Faye's mini-album class

Little Halloween bag that Kelly made for everyone! Very sweet. :-)

A layout of mine - very basic

My LO from Nic's class - awesome design

Scrapbook Outlet's Challenge pack Layout - one of them anyway. I did another with I left to be judged in the competition...

I didn't get photos of the Halloween dress ups but there were some very creative ladies there! This was reflected in their work as I cruised around looking at the tables. It got quite intimidating actually! Some famous names attended the Retreat. But when I got home I realised that I need to change my attitude and instead look at what I admire about the work from those creative ladies instead of feeling lacklustre.

One thing I noticed is they do a lot more layering than I do, and there is more detail in their layouts. I would like to do a bit more of these things in my layouts. I tend to do things that aren't so busy with lots of elements. I admire the textured look they achieve with ripping, tearing, inking and so on too.

Another thing I'd like to do is more classes - bit tricky when my time is so full so I'm not sure how I'll fulfil this. Maybe online classes will have to be the go.

By the end of the Saturday night I'd started to wilt - I have a yukky cold and it was getting the better of me. Plus I'd run out of card stock suitable for the remaining photos I had and no motivation to get some from the shop. So I wended my way home and I was very glad to see my family and bed!

Thanks for everything Sketchbook, Megan and fellow scrapping women.