Friday, December 31, 2010

Day 7 #blog12daysxmas In which water fights were had

By members of the family - DS has been agitating for a Big Purple Water Blaster from the Red Shed so today we went to see what was available. DH found one he liked too so the game was on!

DD escaping - she wasn't so keen.

The boys fight it out.

I joined in the fun (in my togs) too though my weapon was a bit pathethic - it had prostate problems some of the time.

Doing the last grocery shop of the year I saw that red capsicums are starting to come down in price so I got some to roast. To me, nothing screams summer more than the vegetables that come available at this time of year. This is one of my favourite dishes for summer.


Grease a roasting pan. Halve the capsicums and put some of the following in each of them:
  • a garlic clove
  • olives
  • capers
  • anchovies
  • basil
  • dollop of olive oil
  • feta cheese cube
  • pesto
  • tomato quarter or sundried tomatoes
Sprinkle with pepper and salt and sprinkle a bit more oil over the edges.  I sometimes use the spray oil for this.  Roast in a very hot oven until the edges start to blacken and the capsicums start to collapse. Mmmmm.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Day 6 #blog12daysxmas In which I make rum balls

Rum balls

The sad thing is I intended to make these on Christmas Eve to take up north with us. It never happened. The mixture has been sitting in the 'fridge until today. I need to invite some people around to help eat them!

I also did a scrapbooking layout - the first in about 6-8 months. Pretty sad that it was of DD's 3rd birthday - her 4th birthday is next week.

Birthday Girl

I'm a bit Meh about it but it will do to break the drought. I've got plans to do some 6x6's for Southern Cross Kids Camp and get them off to Trina.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Day 5 #blog12daysxmas In Which Purchases Are Made With Christmas Money

Santa kindly bought us "pictures of the Queen" or to be more exact, "pictures of Ernest Rutherford", (aka money) so we popped out today to exchange them for some Items of Desirability.

Christmas Presents

I bought myself a mug that I liked. ;) I also got a new ice cream scoop since I broke the old one last night serving up home made strawberry cheesecake ice cream. This one looks nice and sturdy. I also discovered that St Lukes has a little chocolate stall place (near Starbucks) that sells Schoc chocolate - a chocolatier that I have great admiration for. 

Christmas Presents

I was given this Annabel Langbein book for Christmas too, so a nice little foodie haul here in this photo.

We also made arrangements to purchase a Big Girl's Bed (to be delivered after January 10).  Yes, my baby is finally moving from the toddler bed into something more suitable for a growing girl. *sob* She turns 4 on the 7th. 

I did not, however, manage to find a swim suit.  I suppose it was a bit optimistic of me to think I could walk into a store and find one I liked. I like one piece suits and found one store that had nice ones but I had to walk away.  Call me Scrooge but I can't bring myself to pay NZ$229.00 for a pair of togs!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Day 4 #blog12daysxmas Garden bounty

This is what happens when you go away for 4 days and leave the beans just as they are about to be useful. They become enormous!  I hope they are not too stringy.

Seven cucumbers and more on the plant... oh man.

cucumbers & beans

Oh - and if you wish to see the first attempt by DH at taking photos of damselflies, he has posted one here on the AFN forum.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Day 3 #blog12daysxmas

So I missed yesterday. Too bad. Tummies, tempers and tiredness got the victory over me. Thank goodness for new mercies each morning!

Movin' right along. We ventured down to the Quarry Gardens today so DH could practice with his macro lens. We were hoping for dragonflies & while some were observed they were the darting kind so too hard to capture. Oh boy those babies can fly! We did find a damselfly & a spider with 2 horns on his bum... Names and photos to come. (Blogging by iPad so no Sd card facility).

Considering heading out to find some smallish waves for the kids to try their Boogie boards.

The lurg is making the rounds of the house.

I have to say this weather (overcast, drizzle now & again) reminds me of the Christmas of my youth when in never seems to be fine for when we wanted to play with new water toys! Still, sunny in parts and we're on holiday so got to make the most of it.

Probably going to visit great aunties this evening.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Meri Kirimete! #blog12daysxmas

Reporting for 12 days of Christmas blogging starting from today!

Having spent the early hours and morning of Christmas eve with a tummy bug I managed to scrape myself together enough to pack the bags to come up north to the in-laws for Christmas. Fortunately the traffic wasn't too bad by the time we left. Secreting the presents into the car without two interested parties seeing was tricky but we managed it.

Today we woke to two excited kids(at 615am)to see Santa had been. They managed to hold off opening things until after breakfast.

In my half dead sate yesterday I managed to forget to bring my camera so will edit this post with photos when I get some off The Mad Photographer who, as you might imagine, did not forget his!

Hoping to feel more like eating in order to enjoy Christmas dinner.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Blogosphere November Book | Reading Round Up

Hmmm.. November was a sparse month for reading.

The redbreast / Jo Nesbo ; translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett.
In 1944, Daniel, a soldier legendary among the Norwegians fighting the advance of Bolshevism on the Russian front, is killed. Two years later, a wounded soldier wakes in a Vienna hospital. He becomes involved with a young nurse, the consequences of which will ripple forward to the end of the century.1999: Harry Hole, working alone having caused an embarrassment in the line of duty, has been promoted to inspector and is lumbered with surveillance duties. He is assigned the task of monitoring neo-Nazi activities; fairly mundane until a report of a rare and unusual gun being fired sparks his interest. Ellen Gjelten, his partner, from his police officer days makes a startling discovery. Then a former soldier is found with his throat cut. In a quest which takes him to South Africa and Vienna, Harry finds himself perpetually one step behind the killer. ~from the blurb
This was a well executed thriller/crime novel.  I enjoyed it.

The optimists / Andrew Miller.
His optimism about life shattered after a visit to an African massacre site, London photojournalist Clem Glass falls into a deep depression and withdraws from everyone except his mentally troubled sister, whom he nurses back to health, until an opportunity arises to confront his own demons.~ from the blurb
It was ok. It felt a little slow to get started.

The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks / Rebecca Skloot.
"Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer, yet her cells--taken without her knowledge--became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first "immortal" human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer and viruses; helped lead to in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks is buried in an unmarked grave. Her family did not learn of her "immortality" until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. The story of the Lacks family is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of."--Publisher's description.
I found this book fascinating on a number of levels.  Firstly from the viewpoint of scientific development, secondly, the ethics and the development of the idea of informed consent and thirdly, the human side of the story - namely Henrietta and her family.  Parts of the story are very sad but the ending is ultimately uplifting. I would recommend it.

November Blogosphere Book Circle Book

The road / Cormac McCarthy.
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. ISBN: 9780307476319

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. They sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.~ from the blurb

I have to admit I'm not a fan of apocalypse-style fiction.  I remember having to read Z for Zachariah for school and struggling with it.  This book was no exception and I have to say I skimmed most of the last part to get to the end quicker.  It wasn't as though the writing was bad or anything, but the subject was so depressing.  Being a disgustingly optimistic person I prefer to think that in such an apocalyptic event there would be people who would allow some inherent goodness to come forward rather allow the amoral, animalistic side of human nature to control.  I guess it is a naive viewpoint.

So yeah - it wasn't my cup of tea at all. I hear they are going to/have made a movie of the book but I don't want to imagine how even more depressing a visual depiction of the book would be. Ugh.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

In which I boast about my husband

This man (whom you see here watering the garden)

has had 6 images published in this book

published by Potton.

We now have a box of 12 of these. Guess what his whanau are getting for Christmas!?

Homemade Christmas 2010

Around this time of year I find myself thinking of making stuff for Christmas.  I enjoy making it and giving it away.  Many of the food related things I make are found in this document here Homemade Christmas Recipes.

My Eco-bag tutorial is still available 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.

You might like to make a fairy skirt for a little girl.

This year I want to make this fudge that Mel posted.

I have cheated a bit with the family Christmas card this year.  I herded the family out to the park for family photo - always tricky to get one where everyone looks semi normal.  Anyway, we got something that is ok (posted on Facebook).  To take some of the stress out of it I used some of the free templates for digital cards found on Write.Click.Scrapbook and uploaded it to Snapfish. 

Miss 3 discovered my stash of pirate clobber (in preparation for the work Christmas party which is pirate themed).  Apparently the sword is for sawing which makes sense if you just listen to the word sounds and ignore the spelling.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

In which more felting is done | Reading round up October

At the moment my mind is full of ideas for felting projects.  I just got some more colours from Kane Carding, and I found Craftworld had some Alpaca wool which will be fun to try.

I was commissioned by a work friend to make this one for her.  She loved it and has already asked for another in a purply colour.  She was modelling it around campus and already 3 others have expressed interest in commissioning one from me.

Nuno Scarf for Michelle

This one is made of silk chiffon which is beautiful to wear and was much easier to work with than the cotton chiffon.

Nuno Scarf for Michelle detail

This one I made for a friend - it's synthetic crinkle chiffon but the weave was nice and large so the wool fibres could travel through it a lot easier.  I want to start making them a bit longer but my table is only so large so that means I need to learn how to "scroll" the laying out.

Nuno scarf for Heather

I also purchased some tussah silk (which I will have to dye) to use with the wool.  All new adventures!

It's the middle of November and I forgot to put up my October Reading Round Up so here it is.

First of all, the Blogosphere Book Circle Book of the Month

Pride and prejudice and zombies : the classic Regency romance - now with ultraviolent zombie mayhem / by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. Philadelphia, Pa. : Quirk Books, c2009. ISBN: 9781594743344

Synopsis: A mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton - and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy.~ from the blurb

This one has been advertised as an unashamed mash-up of the classic Austen novel with popular culture.  For me (an Austen fan) it required a total suspension of disbelief in order to read it.  The pop culture of zombies is one I find mildly amusing, especially when I see how some of my librarian colleagues have used it to engage their clientele. Mixed with Austen it was just really weird and to my mind a real disconnect. Though I did find the martial art aspect of story diverting (as Lydia Bennett might say) - that part was funny.  The come-uppance devised for Wickham was suitably disgusting and vaguely satisfying in a vulgar way.  But I did feel sorry for Charlotte and in a way, even for poor, sychophantic Mr Collins and their terrible end.

Fortunately, Mr Darcy remains delectably lucious.

The good plain cook / Bethan Roberts.
It's summer 1936 in rural Sussex, a local girl Kitty Allen answers an advert looking for 'a good plain cook', she has no idea what she's in for. Her employer is an American who believes in sunbathing in the nude. Kitty is in no place to criticise - after all she claimed to be a good cook, despite hardly knowing how to boil an egg.

There is a whole lot of conflict in this novel.  Kitty is pretty naive and her employer a sophisticated, worldly woman.  Essentially a coming of age novel, I enjoyed the development of Kitty's character.

Lands beyond the sea / Tamara McKinley.
Jonathan leaves Cornwall to sail on the Endeavour, leaving behind his sweetheart, Susan... That is, until an act of brutality reunites them in the penal colony of New South Wales. Billy Penhalligan survives transportation and clings to the promise of a new beginning. But there will be more suffering before they can regard Australia as home.~ from the blurb

Hmm.  It started promisingly but I think the author tried to cram too much into the novel.  I could have done as 2 sequels I think.  It chopped and changed from quite a few POVs.
Falling & laughing : the restoration of Edwyn Collins / Grace Maxwell.
 "In February 2005, Edwyn Collins suffered two devastating brain haemorrhages. He should have died. Doctors advised that if he did survive, there would be little of him left. If that wasn't enough, he went on to contract MRSA as a result of an operation to his skull and spent six months in hospital. Initially, Edwyn couldn't speak, read, write, walk, sit up or feed himself. He had lost all movement in his right side and was suffering from aphasia - an inability to use or understand language. Through a long and arduous road of therapy he began to re-inhabit his body until he could walk again. Grace's story is an intimate and inspiring account of what you do to survive when your husband is all but taken away without warning by a stroke."--Global Books in Print

Reccommended to me by a friend, I enjoyed this biography.  I wasn't aware of the musician himself but the story of his stroke and subsequent struggle to re-learn a whole lot of areas in his life was absorbing.

Animal's people / Indra Sinha.
Ever since he was a small child, Animal has gone on all fours, his back twisted beyond repair by the catastrophic events of "that night" when, courtesy of an American chemical corporation, the Apocalypse visited his slums. Now not quite 20, he lives a hand-to-mouth existence with his dog Jara and a crazy old nun called Ma Franci, and spends his nights fantasising about Nisha, the daughter of a local musician. Their lives, irreversibly changed by "that night", reach a new crisis when a young American doctor called Elli Barber arrives in Khaufpur. Elli has come to open a free clinic for the still suffering townsfolk, but instead finds herself struggling to convince them that she isn't there to do the dirty work of the "kampani". ~ from the blurb

Based around the Bhopal disaster, this is another coming of age story with some rather compelling characters.  I found it a bit confusing in places trying to read between the lines of what was actually happening in reality and in the narrator's mind.  Quite good.

 Lone Creek : a novel / Neil McMahon.
After a failed career and marriage in California, Hugh Davoren is back in Helena, Montana, as a construction hand at the old Pettyjohn Ranch, home of many childhood memories—including the seemingly accidental death of his teenaged first love, Celia. Hugh is just trying to get through another long workday on the ranch when he discovers two dead stallions. A further probe into the matter only pushes Hugh into dangerous corners, as he finds that the ranch's slick new owner, his beautiful wife, and even old Mr. Pettyjohn have terrible secrets to keep.~ from the blurb

A decent crime novel with some interesting twisty relationships.

The English patient : a novel / Michael Ondaatje.
Three individuals--nurse Hana, thief Caravaggio, and Kip--are brought together in an abandoned Italian villa at the end of World War II by a nameless and hideously burned English patient. ~ from the blurb 

I have to admit I didn't completely finish this one.  It all got too waffly for me. 

Sunday, November 07, 2010

In which camping is done among other things

Photo of me wearing the beret I felted. This is my first attempt at a 3D object and it worked out quite good though I did have a few near disasters happen. All good learning!

We camped at Tawharanui over Labour Weekend. The weather was gorgeous and we had a prime spot in the campground too. DH took around 350 photos (most of which will be deleted) so he was pretty happy about that. There were some dotterel pairs on the beach which featured strongly on his memory card but also the sunset/sunrise scenes too.  You can see some of his efforts on his Flickr.

The children love camping.  They also like playing Angry Birds on the iPad.

We spent a bit of time looking around the rock pools and seeing the sea life there.  It's a marine reserve so there is quite a bit of interesting stuff there.

Even though we're camping it still seems that someone likes to visit Mum & Dad's bed!

This one tends to roll off the bed in the night.

Back home I went to another felting class this past week to learn how to make bags.  These were the sample ones the teacher had on display.  I really liked the red one.

These were the bags our class made.  We ran out of time to make the cords for the handles so I still need to do that.

This is a closer look at my one.

With the flap opened.  It has a little pocket inside for a cell phone.

I'm really enjoying the felting thing.

Yesterday I went to a Stampin' Up! Extravaganza and made some very cool things. :)  It was nice to get into paper craft again - I've done so little of it these past months.

I have also been sewing - it always annoys me how much I underestimate how long a sewing project will take! Anyway, done now. More planned. Just need time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

September Reading Round up with some October mixed in!

The Einstein girl / Philip Sington.
"Two months before Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, a beautiful young woman is found half naked and near death in the woods outside Berlin. When she finally emerges from a coma, she can remember nothing, not even her own name. The only clue to her identity is a handbill found nearby, advertising a public lecture by Albert Einstein: 'On the Present State of Quantum Theory'. Psychiatrist Martin Kirsch little knows that this will be his last case. Searching for the truth about his celebrated patient, he finds professional fascination turning to love. His investigations lead him to a remote corner of Serbia via a psychiatric hospital in Zürich, where the inheritor of Einstein’s genius – his youngest son, Eduard – is writing a book that will destroy his illustrious father and, in the process, change the world."--Publisher description.
Interesting story in an era when mental illness was treated inhumanely and the threat of the Nazi thought coming into play.  It has a sad but ultimately satisfying ending.

Sweetwater Creek : a novel / Anne Rivers Siddons.
At twelve, Emily Parmenter knows alone all too well. Left mostly to herself after her beautiful young mother disappeared and her beloved older brother died, Emily is keenly aware of yearning and loss. Rather than be consumed by sadness, she has built a life around the faded plantation where her remote father and hunting obsessed brothers raise the legendary Lowcountry Boykin hunting spaniels. It is a meager, narrow, masculine world, but to Emily it has magic: the storied deepsea dolphins who come regularly to play in Sweetwater Creek; her extraordinary bond with the beautiful dogs she trains; her almost mystic communion with her own spaniel, Elvis; the dreaming old Lowcountry itself. Emily hides from the dreaded world here. It is enough. And then comes Lulu Foxworth, troubled daughter of a truly grand plantation, who has run away from her hectic Charleston debutante season to spend a healing summer with the quiet marshes and river, and the lifegiving dogs. Where Emily’s father sees their guest as an entrée to a society he thought forever out of reach, Emily is at once threatened and mystified. Lulu has a powerful enchantment of her own, and this, along with the dark, crippling secret she brings with her, will inevitably blow Emily’s magical water world apart and let the real one in - but at a terrible price. ~blurb
This one felt a little contrived in that most college age girls wouldn't be interested in playing friends with 12 year olds and vise versa.  I also found the relationship between Emily, her brother and Lulu's grandmother to be rather deus ex machina.

Last rituals : an Icelandic novel of secret symbols, medieval witchcraft, and modern murder / Yrsa Sigurdardottir ; translated from the Icelandic by Bernard Scudder.
A young man is found brutally murdered, his eyes gouged out. A student of Icelandic history in Reykjavik, he came from a wealthy German family who do not share the police's belief that his drug dealer murdered him. Attorney Thora Gudmundsdottir is commissioned by his mother to find out the truth, with the help - and hindrance - of boorish ex-policeman Matthew Reich. Their investigations into his research take them deep into a grisly world of torture and witchcraft both past and present, as they draw ever closer to a killer gripped by a dangerous obsession.~blurb
This is the first book in a series, I read the sequel last month.  I really enjoyed it - another neat crime writer to add to my list.  The writing style and setting of the book is well done.

Martyr / Rory Clements.
England is close to war. Within days the axe could fall on the neck of Mary Queen of Scots, and Spain is already gathering a battle fleet to avenge her. Tensions in Elizabeth I's government are at breaking point. At the eye of the storm is John Shakespeare, chief intelligencer in the secret service of Sir Francis Walsingham. When an intercept reveals a plot to assassinate Francis Drake, Shakespeare is ordered to protect him. With Drake on land fitting out his ships, he is frighteningly vulnerable. If he dies, England will be open to invasion. When a high-born young woman is found mutilated and murdered at an illicit printing house, it is political gunpowder - and Shakespeare has no option but to investigate. But why is he shadowed at every turn by the brutal Richard Topcliffe, the blood-drenched priest-hunter who claims intimacy with Queen Elizabeth herself? What is Topcliffe's interest in a housemaid, whose baby has been stolen? And where do two fugitive Jesuit priests fit into the puzzle, one happy to die for God, the other to kill for Him? ~blurb
My usual favourite genre (historical fiction) with a mystery story thrown in... it's full of win!  Some desperate scenes including some rather gruesome torture stuff.  It was quite a twisty story.

Empress Orchid / Anchee Min.
A fictional portrait of the last empress of China follows Orchid, a beautiful teenager from an aristocratic family, who is chosen to become a low-ranking concubine of the emperor and rises to a position of power in the Chinese court.~blurb
This one was okay.  Found the writing to be a bit slow.

Day after night : a novel / Anita Diamant.
Four young women haunted by unspeakable memories and losses, afraid to begin to hope, find salvation in the bonds of friendship and shared experience even as they confront the challenge of re-creating themselves in a strange new country. Based on the extraordinary true story of the October 1945 rescue of more than two hundred Jewish prisoners from the Atlit internment camp outside Haifa.~blurb
I've had a hold on this book for quite a while so I was pleased when it finally became available for me.  This is one of those books that give a flavour for a particular place and time.  I enjoyed the stories, the struggles and conflicts portrayed in the book.

My stroke of insight : a brain scientist's personal journey / Jill Bolte Taylor.
Jill Bolte Taylor was a 37-year-old Harvard-trained and published brain scientist when a blood vessel exploded in her brain. Through the eyes of a curious neuroanatomist, she watched her mind completely deteriorate whereby she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life. Because of her understanding of how the brain works, her respect for the cells composing her human form, and an amazing mother, Jill completely recovered her mind and body. In this book, Jill shares with us her recommendations for recovery and the insight she gained from having this ironic and unusual voyage into, and back out of, the silent abyss of a wounded brain.~blurb
I found this biography an incredibly interesting insight into the brain.  I placed a hold on it after watching her TED talk which I found very moving.  One of her points she brings out so beautifully is the positive effect gratitude has on us on a entirely biological level.  Her website has more information about her.

September's Blogosphere Book Circle Choice
The lacuna : a novel / Barbara Kingsolver. 
New York : Harper, c2009.
ISBN: 9780060852573
"The story of Harrison William Shepherd, a man caught between two worlds -- Mexico and the United States in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s -- and whose search for identity takes readers to the heart of the twentieth century's most tumultuous events"--Provided by publisher.

I have to admit I wasn't sure what to expect with this story.  I haven't read any of Kingsolver's other fiction, only her non-fiction stuff.  The story begins with Harrison's childhood and moves into his adulthood.  Over the period of the story he comes into contact with some significant historical figures which later on impact upon his life and success.

It took a little while for me to get into the story but it gradually drew me in.  The portrait of McCarthyism in the US is particularly well done.  It interests me that this is one of the themes in the book and I wonder what prompted (if anything) Kingsolver to write about it in this particular generation.  It seems to me that it could be a revolt against some of the thoughts and social mores happening today in that part of the world.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Digital storytelling: Week 1 #Octshowntell

As part of a learning challenge Ruth has initiated, I am taking part in a digital story telling project during October.  This is my first attempt.  I've used Pixton which is a free comic making tool.  Well, it's free sort of.  You can use the free parts quite reasonably, and there are bits you can pay for or earn "credits" for.  It's actually rather fun.

In any case, at least I will post 4 times this month!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Nuno felting

This was my first attempt at nuno felting.  This type of felting is where wool is felted on to other fabric.  I used cotton chiffon and it did work but if was very hard work!  I think I will use something finer next time, hopefully silk or something.

This is what it looks like spread out.  The felt is around the edges and also on the scarf itself.

First attempt at Nuno felting

As the wool felts up it brings the chiffon with it creating a cool texture. The edge was made with light pink wool.

First attempt at Nuno felting

I used grey and pink wool for the circles and waves in the middle of the scarf.

First attempt at Nuno felting

Here I am modelling it. Ignore my stupid grimace.  I wore it to the conference where I presented a paper with my colleague. A couple of folks admired it. :-P

Me modelling first attempt at nuno felting

I think I'm finally ready to move on to felting something with a resist. Hopefully a beret. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010


well I have some flowers at least.  These ones will be winging their way to Rachel for a very belated birthday present!

As for the weather - bah humbug.

What has been happening round here?

1. We have had a run of birthdays - Sept is our "birthday" month in our family.  My 2 sisters, SIL and Mr7 all have birthdays one after the other.  Mr7 was stoked to get lots and lots of lego which is his current obsession.  (Thomas is on the out and out).  Fortunately I've been keeping an eye on the sales and got some good deals.

He had a low key party with some mates over to play lego.

And of course, the inevitable train cake which he requests every year since I bought this particular cake pan.  Worth the NZ$25.00!

2. We have had more than our fair share of sickies.  Various permutations of the cold virus with a bit of tonsillitis for Mr7 thrown in.

3. I have to give a paper at an e-fest in Hamilton with a colleague of mine. Neither of us were particularly keen but we were shoulder tapped to do it. It's the first time I've done this sort of presentation.

4. DH got 9 images accepted for a book being published in November by the publisher Potton.  It's going to be called New Zealand: Eye on the Landscape so if you see it take a look.  DH is feeling chuffed about this one and rightly so.

Personally I am ready for some decent weather and a few days off during the school holidays.  

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Have you read/listened

To my librarian colleague Michael's podiobook The Spiral Tattoo?

Here is the blurb:
When you're six inches tall and can fly, life can be tough in a big persons world. What better then than to be partnered with a seven foot troll. She’s the brawn and I’m the brains, and if you believe that I have a castle to sell you. She joined the guard to gain respectability, I joined the guard to escape. I’m Gurt and she’s Elanore Fursk. Don’t forget it.

In the darkened alleys of Delvenport the discovery of a naked corpse sets off a surprising chain of events. Leads will unravel at every turn, although Elanore appears to know what’s going on. I just tag along for the ride. With the rising tide of drugs, magic and ambition that threatens to engulf our city, trouble will lurk in our every shadow. But as long as no-one puts a knife in Elanore, or calls me a girly voiced fairy then the bodies won’t be piled too high.

Otherwise all bets are off!
I had the honour of reading the manuscript and enjoyed it a lot - am looking forward to the sequel. :-P  No pressure Michael!

If you like crime, mystery and especially in a different world then this one will appeal.

Monday, August 30, 2010

In which more felting is done | Reading round up August

This one is for a friend.

August Reading Round Up

This month has been a slow reading month.  I've had a bit of stuff going on which means I've not had time to sit and read.  I realise how much I read/ate by myself at lunch time in my old job whereas here I tend to eat lunch with colleagues and chat.  I miss it actually.  I think I need the downtime. At the Main campus I don't have easy access to the public library's collection like I do at Waitakere so actually getting to the library requires an effort.  Having the iPad means DH has been buying quite a few ebooks so he hasn't been inititating any visits either. 

Hobson's chance / Jenny Haworth.
Travelling to England in 1830 with her brother, Anita Hobson is desperate and in love. She has been torn from her homeland by family who believes she will be implicated in the actions of her criminal fiance who has been transported to Australia. In a desperate bid to see him Anita takes a job as a governess in Australia. ~from the blurb
Her choice to take on the governess position eventually leads her and her ward to Australia and then to New Zealand.  I found the plot a bit plodding to be honest.  Some of the story seemed to be purposefully written to encompass particular events happening at the time that I'm not sure actually added anything to the plot.

Rifling through my drawers / Clarissa Dickson-Wright.
Autobiographical riffing.  I have to confess I didn't finish this one.  It got a bit boring and I didn't agree with some of her ideas so all in all I wasn't particularly motivated to finish.  It had heaps of holds on it so I took it back to the library.

Ashes to dust / Yrsa Sigurdardottir ; translated from the Icelandic by Philip Roughton. 
Bodies are discovered in one of the excavated houses at a volcanic tourist attraction dubbed 'The Pompeii of the North'. Markús Magnússon, who was only a teenager when the volcano erupted, falls under suspicion and hires attorney Thóra Gudmundsdottir to defend him - but when his childhood sweetheart is murdered his case starts to look more difficult, and the locals seem oddly reluctant to back him up..."-- Publisher description
Great read - would read more of her work.  It kept me reading and had a surprisingly twisty ending.  I say surprising because I didn't expect the killer to be the person it was!

Six feet down under : memoirs of a New Zealand funeral director / Chris Mann.
There is an element of mystique about the funeral business that often leads people be very curious. This is Chris Mann's story from his early days as a Funeral Director's assistant through to becoming a Funeral Director himself. It covers stories of tragedy and laughter, from funerals attended by high class society to occasions when nobody at all attended"--Publisher's description.
This is a self-published book from what I can see, and as such it would have benefited from a skilled editor to enhance the story telling of some of the material.  Having said that I found it interesting given the location from which the book is written (Auckland) and the era from which is comes (80s-90s) is basically the time and place I grew up with.  I also find the whole ritual of funeral/death/grieving interesting from a sociological point of view.

Blogosphere Bookcircle of the Month

Novel about my wife / Emily Perkins. London : Bloomsbury, 2008. ISBN: 9780747596509 (pbk.)

Tom Stone, fortyish, English, is madly in love with his wife Ann, an Australian in self-imposed exile in London. Expecting their first child, they buy a semi-derelict house in Hackney. They believe this is their settled future, despite Tom's stalling career and their spiralling money troubles. But soon Ann becomes convinced she's being shadowed by a local homeless man whose presence seems like a terrible omen. As their child grows, so too does Tom's sense of an impending, nameless threat. On the verge of losing the house, Tom makes a decision that he hopes will save their lives.~ from the blurb

I have to admit, it has been a while since I read the book as it arrived in the library for me earlier in the year.  I do remember struggling a bit trying work out if the wife's problem was real or if she was imagining it, and the ending was decidedly confusing for me.  I had to re-read that part several times and I still don't actually understand how she dies.  But there it is. The story was gripping though and really gave a grimy, urban feel.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

In which iPads are purchased & I make another scarf

I was sitting in the TELSIG plenary when I get a txt from DH saying "I can't have a camera but can I have an iPad?" [Back story = we're saving to replace my vehicle so I have said no new cameras until this is achieved]  The iPad was released in NZ on the 23rd July and while we had discussed their desirability - hey, this is a geek household - I hadn't thought more about it.  DH uses his iPod Touch a lot.  He travels for work regularly (been away 3 times this past week around the country) so it gets a work out.  So I gave him permission. :-)  Shortly after I got a txt saying it was charging up!

So yeah, a bit of an extravagance but sometimes compromises need to be made.

I have been allowed to play with it a bit and it is neat.  The children find it intuitive to use - Miss 3 now tries to press the screen on the laptop to make things "go". Tonight the Angry Birds app has been downloaded and there are 2 males agog trying to devise tactics to get rid of those pesky pigs.

My Mum turned 60 last weekend and we had a surprise party for her.  It's been hard work keeping it secret from her and also doing organising!  Her cousin and sister came over from Australia for the party.  Mum knew that J, her cousin was coming but not that her sister was also going to arrive.  So she had a surprise the morning before the party when N turned up on her doorstep!  She had asked me to felt a scarf for J so I made one in autumn colours.

It looks a lot less like a cow hide IRL! :-P

The party went well but I'm glad the stress of organising it has finished.

My new job is progressing.  I am finding it tricky because the role is new, the boundaries are fuzzy and I'm trying to build relationships with a bunch of folks we've not really had much to do with in the past.  It's crazy in a good way but I am really, really tired at the end of each day.  I am feeling some pressure from various sources to produce some feel good stories and that makes me nervous.  I had a bit of melt down on Monday over it which DH and kids had to bear the brunt of, (Mummy crying is never nice for them), but I hope I've managed to get my head above the water again.  I shouldn't be feeling sorry for myself and I'm not really - just would like to be able to meet the expectations of those I am working for (even though in 100 years it won't matter anyway). 

This morning I came out to the kitchen to discover a tiger was making me coffee ...

Monday, August 02, 2010

More felting & a recipe

I had a scarf for Mr6 laid out for a week before I finally got to felt it.  I wanted to try something I'd seen in a book whereby you embed marbles into the felt and use them as resists creating cell like structures as texture.  Mine didn't entirely turn out like the picture in the book but I've learned a few things along the way which may be useful for future creations.

Here it is laid out and sprinkled with soap before I put netting over the top.  The marbles are under the lime green ends.

Here it is wetted out and the felting process started.  It took quite a while actually.  I think the wool got cold very quickly and I've noticed the wool I got from Designscape seems to be harder to felt than the stuff from Kane Carding (the wool we used in the class).  I sopped up some excess and added some more hot water and soap (the white stuff on the ends) in the hopes that it would felt a bit more.

Working around the marbles was quite tricky.  Some of them popped through before I was finished which was annoying.  I did place them under 2 layers of wool but suspect more would have been better, however, that would have made the scarf too thick.  This technique would probably be better for things like bags.

Finally it was ready to roll 400 times.  The weight of the marbles meant I needed to wrap the outside of the roll with a tea towel so it didn't flop open all the time.

You can see one of those naughty escaping marbles here!  The fulling process has begun.  It gets folded up in the bubblewrap, wrapped in a towel and beaten against the table.

Now for the final fulling process.  Throwing it onto the bubble wrap!  Felting is quite physical work.

You can see the little cells the marbles make beginning to take shape on where the odd one has come out.  The scarf gets rinsed in clean water, then briefly soaked in a white vinegar/water mix to get rid of any remaining soap, and restore the pH of the wool to neutral.

Then the scarf must dry entirely before the marbles are cut out.  The final result looks a little like sea squirts, or the cells bumble bees make in their underground hives.

I made this recipe the other week - it was amazing.  I didn't bother with the individual pie thing, just served it as a stew with a mash.

Beef & caramelized shallot pies with cauliflower tops from Dish Issue 30, July-August 2010, p. 64

30 g butter
1 1/2 T olive oil
18 shallots, peeled but left whole
3 bay leaves
1 T sugar
1 T white wine vinegar
sea salt and pepper
1 kg chuck or blade steak
3 T flour
1 T tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 t Dijon mustard
2 cups beef stock

1 large floury potato (about 300g), peeled and cubed
1/2 small cauliflower, about 350g, cut into florets
45g butter
3-4 sheets ready-rolled puff pastry
6x individual pie tins

Preheat oven to 170 deg C.

Heat the butter & 1 T oil in a large saute pan until sizzling, add the shallots, bay leaves, sugar & vinegar.  Stir well then reduce the heat & cool the shallots slowly for 10-15 mins or until lightly golden but still holding their shape.  Season with a little black pepper then remove from pan and set aside.

Trim the beef of gristle, cute into cubes and toss in seasoned flour.  Heat remaining oil in the same pan, add the rest of the beef & cook until golden all over.  Stir in the tomato paste & red wine letting the wine bubble away then stir in the Dijon mustard, salt, pepper and beef stock. (Have to be honest here and say I didn't bother with the browning step.  It all got dumped in my clay pot, including the wine... none of this "bubbling away business thank you very much!)

Transfer the mixture to a casserole and cover the surface directly with baking paper. (Didn't bother with that step either.  Am so bad).  Cover the pan and cook in the oven for 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 hours.  Remove from oven and leave to cool completely, preferably overnight.

Topping: Cook the potato and cauli in boiling salted water until tender.  Drain well and mash with the butter and Dijon mustard.  Season and set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Line the pie tins with pastry and prick the base a couple of times using a fork.  Dived the cold filling & onions between the tins then top with the cauliflower mash.  Bake in the oven for 20-25 mins or until the tops are golden brown and filling is piping hot.  Serve with sauteed greens e.g kale.  Serves 6.