Thursday, January 09, 2014

Photo dump & new blouse

Pictorial representation of the books I read in 2013

Bow tie Blouse I made using Gertie's ( book for better sewing.  It is a test blouse - I have some other fabric I want to use to make another version but I am fairly pleased with the pattern.  It needs a few tweaks to improve the fit, but this one is chiffon so I don't mind the drape. My other fabric is cotton so I will adjust the darts a bit and take some width out of the shoulders if I can.

I paid for 5 buttons and when I got home I discovered there were only 3 in the bag so I used some teapot buttons instead. I didn't attempt the bound buttonholes... It isn't a technique I want to learn just yet. ;-)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reading for 2013

According to Goodreads I have read 60 books this year - the same as last year.  I think it is fairly accurate as I have been trying to keep the records up to date.

26 non-fiction
34 fiction

Of note, I started reading the Game of Thrones series and have just the most recent one to go before I'll join the waiting crowd for George R.R. Martin to write the remaining story!  I have also discovered the Phyrne Fisher murder mysteries which I have been enjoying too.

I'm in the midst of finishing up The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.  It's been hard going, not because it is a bad book but the writing style takes time to appreciate.

The titles that stand out for me this year have been:

The Last Runaway | Remarkable Creatures - both by Tracy Chevalier
The Dragon Keeper by Mindy Mejia

I have done a lot of reading on my iPad this year, some on my Kobo and some in print. I can't say I have a particular preference, but the convenience of ebooks has been a big plus for me.

I continue to read blogs and professional related stuff, but that is mostly done online via my iPad or computer.

How about you? Have you read any good stuff this year?

Monday, December 30, 2013

Tarty goodness

I do love a bit of tart.  Here are some I made the other day.

@ home, with love / by Julie Le Clerc (2004)
Auckland: Penguin Books

Burnt Sugar Tarts (Creme Brûlée Tarts)

Sweet Pastry
1/2 cup caster sugar
200g butter, softened
1 egg
2 cups plain flour
Pinch salt

1. Place sugar, butter and egg in a bowl and beat to just combined. Stir in flour, salt to form dough. Turn out onto a floured board and knead lightly to bring together. (Note: I cut the butter through the flour in the food processor and then add the remaining ingredients and pulse the processor until the dough starts to form together, then I finish it off by hand).
2. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 mins before using as recipe following directs.

Vanilla Custard
1 vanilla bean ( I used a good teaspoon of vanilla paste)
1 cup cream
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons caster sugar
3 egg yolks
Demerara sugar to brûlée 

1. Roll out pastry to 3mm thick and use to line 6 10cm individual tart tins. Prick base with a fork and chill for 30mins.
2. Preheat oven to 190 degrees C. Line pastry with baking paper and fill with baking beans/weights - bake blind for 10 mins. Remove paper and weights and return cases to oven for 5 mins to dry out.  Decrease oven temperature to 140 degrees C.
3. If using the vanilla bean, cut in half lengthways and scrape out seeds. Combine with cream and milk in a saucepan. Bring to boil then remove from heat for 10 mins for vanilla to infuse. (if you use paste like me, just add it to the milk and cream and bring to the boil.)
4. In a bowl beat caster sugar and yolks together until pale. Strain cream mixture and pour onto yolks, then whisk to combine.
5. Return mixture to a clean saucepan. Cook over a gentle heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Don't let it boil or it will curdle. Pour mixture into pastry cases. Bake 15 mins or until custard is just set. Remove to cool.
6. Just before serving, dust top of custard with Demerara sugar. Caramelise with a brûlée torch of quickly under a grill. (Personally I think caster sugar is a better option).

Salted caramel tarts
(I used the same pastry and method as above to make these).

The salted caramel recipe I got from one of the cooking blogs I read and I neglected to write down in my cookbook which one. So I do apologize - if this looks familiar to someone, I am more than happy to link directly to your blog if you let me know! It must have been a US one because it uses the term "stick" of butter.

250g sugar
80ml water
115g salted butter 
150ml heavy cream

In a heavy saucepan, over low heat, combine sugar and water. Cook until sugar is dissolved. Add butter. Let it come to a boil and cook until it reaches a golden caramel color. Remove from heat. Add cream - be careful because it will spit - whisk to combine and put back on stove. Let it come to the boil again and cook 25-35 mins until you reach a creamy consistency. (Note: I wanted a sauce consistency and took it off the heat sooner than 25 mins. Even so, it was really too far gone along the road to hardening off for sauce. Great for soft caramels though).

For the tarts I spooned in the caramel to the tart cases and then cooked them briefly (about 5-10 mins) until it seemed like a good time to take them out - I used mini tart cases to it didn't take long. I then broke a piece of chocolate into the hot caramel and sprinkled a few salt grains on it.

You will have plenty of left over caramel. I don't see this as a problem...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Poor neglected blog.  Time for an update I think!

So time passes and I'm emerging from the fog of change.  I'm learning a lot! Fortunately I have some good allies and examples as I move from minion to manager thinking processes.  (I still am a minion to others though which keeps me humble). I am learning to care about stuff I would have dismissed as annoying minuteae .. Well some of it anyway.  Some of it is still silly.  

I can see there are going to be good opportunities within the system I am in and this is a positive change for me.  

The daily commute is still long.  I spend quite a bit of time on my phone while on the bus. Social media features of course,  but surprisingly I have found it a good time to do my daily Bible devotions too. I had thought that audio books would be good too, but for some reason I find it better for my mental health to just be quiet in my own head.  I think it is that introvert thing of needing time alone to recover after interacting with people all day.

So stuff happens even if I don't blog.

We went and saw Alice the TBM.  She was pretty impressive! 

Miss6 wrote our names on a piece of the tunnel - so when we drive through it we can imagine our names on it somewhere!

The lava flow the works has exposed is quite amazing.

I have been involved in setting up a maker space at MPOW which includes a 3D printer. It is quite exciting to see the developments around the space and the engagement with staff and customers.

The children have finished school for the year and both have made progress in various ways. Miss6 does well at school - she is one of those kids for whom the school system works just fine. I have appreciated the efforts the school makes with Mr10 though.  We've have had opportunity to make an IEP for him and his teacher and the SENCO have been on to it in terms of looking for ways to help him.  One thing that has made a big difference for him is the iPad we bought for him at his teacher's request. It has meant he is able to by pass the difficulties he has with physical writing.  The additional help from SPELD and Kip McGrath has helped too. However, I think one of the biggest contributors to his improvements (apart from increased maturity) is the work his OT has been doing with him.

We have also discovered he has some allergies to dust, cats, wheat, some fish, soy, prawns and peanuts so I have been trying to eliminate those things as much as possible.  It isn't easy... or cheap.

Some of us folks on Twitter have been helping a women's refuge with things.  Their needs are ongoing though, so if anyone else has it in their heart to help there is a current list of needs here:

I have been doing some more crochet learning! Here are two beanies I am making to send to the refuge (Te Whare Marama).  Mum has been doing the cream one, I am following along with the red one.  It's quite relaxing. There are so many cool projects to do in crochet.  Learning to read the instructions on the pattern is like learning a new language though. Luckily I have Mum to show me and interpret.

That's all for now.  Is anyone going to do the blogging for 12 days of Christmas challenge?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Change process

Three weeks ago I started a new job.  You would think that wouldn't be such a big deal.  Libraries being the same and all. But in fact it has been a big deal for me and libraries are the same ... but different.

For 16 years I have worked in the tertiary sector. It has been a comfortable fit for me and my values align with the kind of things you find there.  For about 10 of those years I worked in one particular institution so became very familiar with the environment, the people, the type of customer, the culture and enjoyed the close proximity to my home.

But I left that very comfortable job, one that I enjoyed, a team that have been very supportive and have changed sector (to public libraries) and job role (now a team leader) and location (the CBD).  I moved from a position of being the person who knows things to a person who knows very little.

So yes, to me it has been a big deal. Just before I left, I attended a course called "dealing with change". In it I learned about the change cycle and what happened during that process. 

So far I can say I have been through stage 1 and 2!

Image from The Change Cycle, Retrieved from 

The first week was actually pretty tough. I also had this bad cold virus which didn't help. Poor DH copped his wife wailing about making the wrong decision, going off to work in tears and coming home not much better. The commute is long which puts family and recharge time under strain.

But things are starting to make more sense now. I am getting used to the different culture even if I don't always like it. Fortunately, people are friendly and though I still feel a bit Nigel No Mates sometimes, I also realize that will change as I make connections.

It both amuses and disturbs me how much I have become used to the technology freedom found in the tertiary sector. I no longer have a laptop to take around with me to meetings.  No Macs seem to exist in the organization.  I can't use Firefox (and consequently all the plug ins I had set up to use in my work), Dropbox, Skitch, slideshare... Anything cloud based is difficult which feels so alien to me. I have worked out how to get TweetDeck as a web version so that makes me more connected to my PLN thankfully.  I have managed to download Chrome so some plugins work on that. My iPad plus the free wifi lets me connect to Dropbox and other things that the web marshal clamps down on if I use my desktop.

There are things that I am doing that are exciting, challenging and will provide me with some great experience. These are the things I am trying to focus on to move myself into stage 4.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

#blogjune 2013 Day 30: In which I review the week of My Food Bag

It's the last day of #blogjune so I'm wrapping up with a quick review of the first week experience with My Food Bag.

The week we ate...

Day 1: Fish Sliders with apple slaw
Day 2: Jamaican jerk chicken with coconut rice and mango salsa
Day 3: Steak, chickpea and tomato salad with Harissa yoghurt dressing with garlic bread
Day 4: Jazzed up spaghetti bolognaise
Day 5: Butternut and ricotta canelloni with garden salad

All the recipes were easy to follow and mostly were completed and on the table in 30 minutes - some were a bit longer due to me mucking around doing other things at the same time or they required a bit more fiddling e.g. filling canelloni tubes.

The ingredients were fresh and sufficient quantity for our family.  The only time I had leftovers was the spaghetti bolognaise and the chick pea salad. 

The favourites this week were the fish sliders and the steak salad.

The meat was good quality and tasty.

Most ingredients supplied were organic or free range.

The ease of not having to think about the questions "what's for dinner" and "what do I need to shop for this week" was a big relief for me.  I know that sounds pathetic but what I feed my family and being able to enjoy cooking is something that is significant for me so this option helps lower my stress levels.

Was there anything I didn't like?  Not really -  the only comment I would make is that the fish (gurnard) is on the Forest and Bird's fish guide "orange zone" but given the paucity of options of fish in the "green zone" there has to be some lee way given.

This is what we're having this week.  It all looks pretty good to me, though the pumpkin and kumara offerings will be a challenge for Mr9 who doesn't like those vegetables much.  The delivery man came in good time.

Unpacking the bags is quite exciting :-)