zeborah: Zebra with mop and text: Clean all the things! (housework)
I don't know how many of these methods I'll keep up in the long-term, but I thought I'd list them in case they're of use or interest to anyone else.

Essentially I found myself in a mood to ask myself, just how much plastic is passing into the environment via my purchasing habits? Even though I send a lot of it to recycling, that's its own use of energy. Mostly I was looking at my grocery shopping:

  • I already take my own reusable bags (or reuse old plastic bags) at the checkout, and for fruit as well. I do like to get the occasional new plastic bag for use as bin-liners; I'm going to try emptying their contents directly into the red bin for a while, instead of tying the bags off and putting them in all together. But I haven't found myself throwing much into the red bin since making this resolution so no data on how that goes.

  • A 2L plastic bottle of milk every 7-10 days. And you can't even reuse milk bottles to store water against emergencies; hygiene aside, the plastic breaks down over time. Speaking of emergencies, though, I'd been considering getting a bag of milk powder for my supplies. So I thought I'd try it in every-day use. So far it's worked well in baking, yoghurt-making, hot chocolate, and morning cereal, ie all my normal uses except drinking straight from the fridge, which will wait until summer for testing. It takes a few moments extra in the morning to mix it (my preferred method: boil the jug, dissolve the powder in a bit of boiling water, then add cold to desired strength) but it's become part of my routine over the last couple of weeks so I think I will keep this one up. Bonuses: here at least it's significantly cheaper than fresh milk; no running out at inconvenient moments; and conversely no finding that it's gone sour before I've finished it.

  • A plastic bag around my bread each week. I've revived my bread-making to avoid this; to be honest it's the one I'm least likely to keep up. OTOH I have discovered that if I bake the bread and let the oven cool somewhat but not completely, it's a great place to incubate yoghurt overnight. And the bread is so tasty - it's just the time it takes. We'll see. I may just keep going through phases on it.

  • A plastic bag of muesli every week or so. I'm experimenting with pick-n-mix (taking my own bags) but pick-n-mix rolled oats alone cost about the same as (budget) prepackaged muesli. :-( Does anyone know why rolled oats and muesli come in plastic, when flour and sugar come in paper??

  • A couple of plastic packages of shaved ham every few weeks. (The recycling status of which I was never sure about, so red-binned them!) Careful attention revealed that cheap ham at the deli is cheaper than cheap ham prepackaged. Moreover today I was brave and found out that if you take your own container along they'll use that instead of a fresh plastic bag. (At least the guy I struck today did, and even set the scales to discount the weight of the container though I wouldn't have minded that little bit.) So I just need to keep organised.

Beyond plastic - I've also taken to washing dishes in a tub, and using the water on the garden. (Someone at church has set up her laundry pipes to use water from that on the garden; I think I'd just flood the house.)

And recently I came across SolarAid, a charity whose selling point is that you can 'offset your carbon' from flights you make by funding solar-powered lights for personal use (eg kids doing homework) in developing countries to replace kerosene, which besides emitting copious carbon dioxide is expensive, not that bright, and seriously unhealthy. It seems win-win-win so I looked for a catch but couldn't find any.

Anyway this came at a time shortly after a) I'd made some international flights and b) I'd received a tax rebate from last year's charitable donations so next thing you know I'd apparently donated enough to get sent an example solar light in the mail. It just arrived today, and it's cute and lightweight and works out of the packaging, and I'm weighing up whether it goes in my emergency kit or to City Mission here because goodness knows it's not just kids in the developing world who can't do homework due to lack of money for power.:-(
zeborah: Zebra with mop and text: Clean all the things! (housework)
I go through phases. There are Reading All the Things phases, and Writing Every Spare Half Minute phases, and Sewing Sewing Sewing phases and Teaching Myself Latin Yes Again I'm Using A Different Textbook This Time phases.

I recently found myself in a lull between phases but it's important for me to keep achieving things or I start feeling guilty for being useless and then I get the blahs. I find it easier to prevent the blahs than to get out of the blahs so try to pay attention when I feel the urge to sit on my couch and read fanfic for too many days on end. Fortunately they don't need to be spectacular achievements: doing the dishes often works.

This most recent lull has lasted longer than usual though so although I've read/written/coded almost nothing in my spare time for weeks, I have:

  • cleaned and tidied like my entire house. Not actually my entire house, the spare room is turning into storage and there are Certain Cupboards, but definitely like my entire house. (Much of this was achieved while watching Star Trek Next Generation on the laptop or I'd have been super bored.) The floor is cleared and cleaned! Mopped even!

  • done so much gardening. Spring is awesome, you put seeds in the ground and they start growing food! (I have asparagus and lettuce and celery and silver beet and spring onions, and am working on courgettes and pumpkins and tomatoes and bok choy and lemons and strawberries.) On the downside, other things propagate themselves by root and next minute you've got a forest of plum shoots and ivy. Over the last couple of weekends I've been sawing down and rooting up eight years' worth of plum-and-ivy growth. The ivy goes into the green bin to be dealt with Elsewhere, the plum growth gets cut up to as much as possible go back on the garden. The parts I've achieved look awesomely tidy!

  • sewed the handle for a carrybag back on! This is an awesome grocery shopping-sized rugged zebra-pattern bag which I've had for ages and the handles broke once but Mum fixed them, and then I carried too much in it and it's been sitting around broken for possibly years and now I can use it again!

  • started going to a regular "speaking Māori" date with some once-strangers! My first week I started off all "What is kupu how do I reo???" and then after an hour I was talking to them about my Master of Library Studies research project. Really badly but communication was happening! Similarly today actually (ended up talking about my current research into open access and conference papers). I need to learn more kupu. Also more grammar but especially more kupu. I might start writing a diary.

  • invented a dessert. I'm working on the name but something like "Jellytip slice" / "Jellytip cupcakes". First you make a base out of biscuit crumbs and butter. Cool it. Separately make jelly but with half the water, and cool that until it's starting to set. If you don't cool it enough then when you pour the jelly on top of the base, the jelly will sink in and the biscuit will float up and it'll still be delicious but it won't be what you wanted. Then you put them back in the fridge. When completely set, you melt chocolate and spoon a thin layer on top of the jelly. This is the part I was most nervous of failing but it's really easy; don't dawdle about smoothing it out but you're not really on the clock even. Then back in the fridge until dessert time. Cut up / remove from muffin cups and serve with vanilla icecream. My friends approved of it last night. Their 4.5 year old son refused to eat anything but the icecream but that's normal for him and meant more for us.

I am now about to go to bed on time so while I'm sleeping it's your turn: in what way have you been awesome recently?
zeborah: zebra-striped biscuits (cooking)
I've switched to Fair Trade chocolate, because it tastes of freedom (and especially dark chocolate, because I can snack on dairy milk until the whole block's demolished whereas with dark a couple of squares are enough, so my money and teeth last longer).

So I've been looking around for Fair Trade chocolate Easter eggs and wow that's not so easy. The options I've found are:

  • Cadbury's 65g Fair Trade Dairy Milk Easter Egg. Note that Cadbury make a big deal about how all their Dairy Milk chocolate is Fair Trade. It's really important to note that Dairy Milk refers to one of their products. It doesn't mean all of their milk chocolate products (like Black Forest, Caramello, etc) are Fair Trade. In fact you can tell they're not because they don't proudly sport the Fair Trade logo. Webpages like this, I can't even tell where the spin stops and the doublespeak begins. In short, if you can't see the Fair Trade logo with your own eyes, it's not Fair Trade, it's Cadbury hoping they've misled you with a sequence of carefully selected and phrased facts.

  • Plamil's 85g organic Easter egg. I'm a little concerned at the idea of dairy-free milk chocolate, but if you like milk chocolate and can't tolerate dairy this is probably awesome. If you don't live in Auckland the Cruelty Free Shop appears to ship.

I'm not so certain about:

  • Moo Free Bunny Bar, because this is described as "using a combination of natural, organic and fair trade ingredients" which has ambiguous scoping (is it combining organic-and-fair-trade ingredients, or is it combining organic ingredients and fair trade ingredients?) and doesn't sport a Fair Trade logo.

Another alternative seems to be to hop on a plane to Melbourne and buy from:

So the other alternative is to buy some chocolate moulds and some:

  • Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate, the kind that has the Fair Trade logo on it

  • Whittaker's Creamy Milk or Dark Ghana chocolate, see also re Fair Trade logo

  • Green and Blacks any flavour, look how they all have the Fair Trade logo!

I've resorted to this method (using Whittaker's Dark Ghana and these silicone moulds. (I know many people hate silicone but it is fantastic at being non-stick which is really important for this purpose.) It's much more time consuming than visiting the store, and the resulting hollow eggs are kind of fragile and messy-looking, while the solid chicks are really solid. But otoh chocolate is a lot cheaper by the block than in Easter Egg form, so I guess there's some savings there.
zeborah: Zebra with stripes shaking (earthquake)
I knew this would happen one day. In fact I suspected it would happen today.

Because a while ago when I came home there was a fence up around the house next door. And yesterday when I came home there was a bulldozer on the driveway beside the house next door. So today when I came home it wasn't terribly surprising that there was a bulldozer on the small pile of rubble that is all that remains of the house next door.

But I am disappointed that I can't share any photos, because it's winter and my commute is about 1h15 each way, so when I leave in the morning it's dark and when I get home at night it's dark.

In related news, I got a surprise voicemail from EQC/Fletchers last Thursday and after a couple of rounds of voicemail tag they asked me if the repairs on my house had in fact been completed. No, I replied, in fact they had not. Much as I told you last time you asked me this five months ago. Oh, they said, and asked for details again, which I told them again. It's possible that this time they'll do something about it, but I'm not in a rush. (It's just aesthetics around my living room fireplace. It's serious aesthetics, so sometime in the next five years would be nice, but people are living in their cars and using bubblewrap for insulation, y'know?) Mostly I just want to know that their records reflect the fact that they haven't finished, so a call every several months suits me fine.

A few days later I got a further call from EQC related folks but in this case it was land assessment, wanting to check what damage my land sustained. I could have sworn they'd already assessed my land (you know, before spending all that time and money mostly-fixing my house 18 months ago) but I'm a librarian, not a geotechnical engineer so what do I know? I managed to get agreement that they don't need access to my house because, while they'd like to check the land underneath it, they respect my desire not to have my new insulation and plastic sheeting torn up for the purpose. Peering through the vents will apparently be fine. This means they can come and skulk around the property by themselves while I'm at work.

In unrelated news, I've been baking a series of Herman the German Friendship Cakes, which involves keeping and feeding a yeast-based starter. Whether it's particularly warm of late, or the ingredients have got off-balance, or what, but the last several days he's really taken off with serious bubbling. He also smells increasingly alcoholic. :-D

I mentioned making curtains: I now have the three incorrect ones up and will make the fourth one correct in due course.

I may have also mentioned dehydrating fruit. When my trees are in fruit this is peaches and plums; right now it's mostly cheap apples and pears; but sometimes I have some persimmons or honeydew melon going soft. So I can come home of an evening and grab myself a slice of dried persimmon, and it is good.

And at work I have been making a javascript bookmarklet to provide a permalink to bibliographic database pages. This is more complex than one might expect if one doesn't know bibliographic databases; but it's also a lot simpler than I initially feared. Not that this cut down on any hours of debugging. (One of the most frustrating was a bug introduced only in IE when - as I eventually tracked down - the page's doctype is malformed, which happens on more databases than you might think.) But it's now good enough that I'm getting a colleague to send it to a couple of potential users for testing purposes. And it's so pretty.
zeborah: Zebra with stripes falling off (stress and confusion)
Flickr theoretically can post directly to Dreamwidth, but today it chooses not to. It also chooses not to give me back my highly entertaining and heartrending account of my curtain adventures. Thanks to an unexplained interoperability error, the tale is gone, more transitory than even the campfire tales of old. Sic transit gloria fabuli. So you'll have to make do with an abbreviated version.

I made thermal linings several months ago for my living room and bedroom curtains, and lo, they are good. I also started on new yellow curtains for my sunroom, but shiny things distracted.

The leadlight windows in my bedroom had no curtains, which is bright too early in summer and cold in winter. So with $0.50 of navy polyester from an op shop, leftover thermal lining scraps, tape and hooks scrounged from some dirty old netting curtains, a bunch of salbutamol to resolve the asthma triggered by said dirt, and railings and old nails found in my garage, I spent Saturday sewing and now have:

Leadlight Curtains

They make my bedroom super dark, it's fantastic.

On Sunday after church and grocery shopping I peeled, cored and sliced 2kg of cheap apples to throw in the dehydrator, bleached a path across my back porch where I won't have to slip on moss (I'd have bleached the whole thing but I have this habit of stopping work when my exertions start making me nauseous), and bought another 16 metres of curtain tape. Then I spent the rest of the day watching West Wing while sewing the tape onto three of the four curtains for the sunroom.

I went to bed with a slight headache (either bleach or lengthy-sewing induced) but it's Queen's Birthday weekend so I could sleep as long as I like, and accordingly had many cool dreams. The coolest was preparing to fight against a larger force and splitting our rearmost battalion so each member held up flags as if they were a battalion each. Our enemy promptly surrendered. It was fantastic.

Anyway, at the proverbial 2am I was mulling over this dream and thought: "...I shouldn't have sewn the tape at the top of the curtains." This morning I checked and yes, the curtain looks okay hung up as I sewed it, but if I had an extra 6cm of curtain on top of the tape it'd reach to the ceiling and thus block out more light and cold. It's just to do this I'd first have to unpick twice 11.2 metres of seams.

Poll #13606 What should I do now?
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 5

What should I do now?

View Answers

0 (0.0%)

Unpick 22.4 metres of sewing and resew
0 (0.0%)

Just go ahead as planned
1 (20.0%)

Make the last panel with 6cm above the tape, and leave the others to fix on Some Other Day
3 (60.0%)

Eat some leftover trifle
1 (20.0%)

zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
Any Good Friday where my cat isn't desperately ill is a good Good Friday.

What's more, it's perfectly sunny, which means my yeast mixture rose. It rose so much I had to add an extra cup of flour to the mixture (ie an extra 25%). Then forgot to add extra spice to match. Also I think the temperature in the recipe is too hot really, but I was watching this year so they didn't burn; I just hadn't finished making the glaze yet when I had to yank them out.

Off now to share them with family at parents' house.

(Now with bonus recipe.)
zeborah: Zebra with mop and text: Clean all the things! (housework)
Every now and then I get in this thing of being all Organised and stuff. I think it's an attempt to wrest control over a chaotic world. Usually it starts with general reluctant resolutions and lasts a couple of days at best, but occasionally when my mindset's just right, cleaning the inside of the microwave gives me the most satisfyingly self-accomplished feeling ever. Like, "There's no longer any cat puke under my dining table, I'm totally awesome!" Last time this happened, it lasted a couple of weeks, I think. Not sure about this time. After the spurt of "Eek, EQC inspectors coming, must hide evidence of slobbiness!" on Wednesday morning (I'd been putting off vacuuming up all the cat hair because first the vacuum cleaner needed emptying, and it was a pain to empty because the bag has a strategic knot sewn in the middle of where you'd empty it, I don't know why. "Had", I should say, having now taken scissors to it, so I might now vacuum and empty it at actual regular intervals, who knows?) -- so, since then, just maintaining a decent house might require sufficient enthusiasm without going so far as to actually clean the stovetop and vacuum up the potting mix that got spilled on the 22nd February.

(Oh God, someone remind me, tomorrow when it's light, to scrape at the bleach I discovered that had been spilled onto a bare untreated floorboard inside a cupboard since 2:20pm on the 13th June. Turns out bleach turns wood very white and very soft, but I have yet to determine just how far through the softness goes.)

This is starting to sound like I'm not all that Organised at all, which admittedly is the ordinary state of affairs. Let me explain:
  • I'm now making all my own bread in my breadmaker. This was originally so I wouldn't have to haul bread from far-off supermarkets or risk running out between shopping trips, but now it makes me feel so clever I'm likely to keep doing it even though the supermarket's back here. Ten minutes each loaf to measure ingredients and wash the breadpan before reusing it (while I wash, the yeast/liquid mixture sits in warm water to start rising) and then I go to bed while it bakes. It beeps in the night which wakes me, but I'm kind of used to being woken in the night now so who cares. Then in the morning I get up and I'm already an accomplished baker! Possibly it's more nutritious, tasty, and cheap too, I dunno, the important thing is it makes me feel like a genius.
  • The other cool thing to do in the morning is to dump the laundry in the washing machine on the way to the shower. The way my shower works, this is not a recipe for pain. Instead I shower, get ready for work, cut myself some fresh bread for breakfast nibbles and lunch sandwiches, drape the now-clean clothes over an A-frame in the bay window, and go to work knowing that by the time I get home again they'll be dry.
  • One morning I also did several days of accumulated dishes before even checking my email. And I didn't even miss my bus!
  • Another day I did some weeding! Of course that was while I had a cold, but I stopped when I realised that the effort was making me nauseous. Whoops.
  • Did I mention cleaning all the things on Wednesday morning? It's now Friday evening and they're still all clean! I walk into a room and there's floor! The clean parts of the bench are expanding! I even got carried away and wiped an edge of the dirty stovetop!
  • My old M.O. when I discovered a pair of tights has got a hole in the toe was to put it aside for mending. My new M.O. is to put it on and darn it while reading my email. (The way I do this it's perfectly safe as long as Boots doesn't try to help.)
  • I eat food most nights. I'm trying to get in the habit of buying meat on the way home and not freezing it. Occasionally I have nights where I'm like: "I have stale bread, cabbage, red peppers, cheese, cooked chicken, and milk - what happens if I throw it all in a casserole dish?" But since what happens isn't all that bad this works out quite well.
  • I changed a lightbulb that's been gone for a couple of months.
  • I'm working steadily through my pile of Highly Overdue paperwork. I started with the unthreatening "Return to sender" letter, now finally posted. There remains an insurance bill (I try to have everything on automatic direct debit, or at least automatic credit and then my credit bill is paid in full on automatic direct debit, but the history behind this one is complicated; fortunately this insurance only comes into effect if I die so I'm not actually all that fussed, which may be why it's maybe a year or two overdue) and taxes (only half a month overdue so far, and I think I get an extension) and submitting my earthquake bills and content claims (except my laptop's DVD drive is miraculously working again) and... oh yeah, some earthquake people wants my up-to-date contact details. Also, as of today the government wants to know how I think they're doing with earthquake stuff. Do you think they'll care if I tell them that I think since they're spending 500 million on supporting insurance companies, maybe they could spend 500 thousand on Women's Refuge?
  • (Oh btw, the home and contents insurance have paid out for all the burglary repairs beyond my excess, which was nice of them considering that the lovely door repair guy - friend of a friend - has a unique style of invoicing which consists of scribbling his ridiculously low labour charges on the bottom of the receipt from the hardware store for whatever he didn't scrounge from his garage. Don't get me wrong, the insurance company totally phoned to Ask Questions about this, but then they paid it.)
  • Generally being awesome at work and reading lots of books and working on Distributed Proofreaders (whose forums took it remarkably well when I suggested we could maybe try finding more non- white-and-male authors to work on) and... not actually doing a lot of writing, but a bit, and a bit of critiquing.
I do fear that I'm already neglecting a choir commitment I made; Saturday's to-do list (Sunday being reserved for the ordinary rush of church, and critique group, and potluck dinner at friends' house) includes weatherproofing the boards they put up in place of my chimney but didn't weatherproof because they didn't realise things would drag on this long (wtf? *I* could have told them things would drag on this long, and wouldn't be surprised if those boards wait another year before a permanent fix. Also it could have poured with rain any time in March), and getting new lightbulbs which have been waiting to be changed for a year or two, and booking in for that massage I've got a coupon for, and insurance and taxes and baking a dessert for potluck dinner, and printing out the choir music and phoning up the nice person who said she would help tutor groups of us, hoping desperately that she didn't start doing that like two weeks ago.

Oh yes, and the bleach thing.

Also there's that list of things that I'm totally going to get around to any day now, including cleaning the shower properly, and mopping the floor properly (including the pantry floor, after relocating the civilisation that's developed there in the meantime), and deciding whether or not my ill-fated potted mandarin has enough life force remaining or should just be put out of its misery, and finish weeding the 'rosary', and writing all the books.

So, all the stuff to do still feels quite overwhelming, but I think I'm in a space where I can actually chip away at them, and hopefully I can get through most of the really important ones at least before the inevitable burnout hits.
zeborah: zebra-striped biscuits (cooking)
She has just caught and nommed the fly that's been incessantly buzzing around my hair. I have rarely been so grateful to her.

Now if she can just catch and nom the other fly that's been incessantly buzzing around my hair...

In other Operation Keep Eating news, I have made banana cake! Banana cake is good for you, because it has flour and bananas and eggs, which are all part of a healthy balanced diet, and it has baking soda dissolved in hot milk, which is Science.

I have also washed the dishes (in the mixing bowl because boiling enough water to fill the sink would take literally forever due to the fact that it would cool down while the next jugful was boiling) and shovelled/brushed/washed the liquefaction silt off the paving stones in my backyard. (Now remains the patch of silt in the middle of the lawn, which I hope will eventually get washed back to ground level, and the sand dune that used to be my parsley patch, which I'll either remediate somehow or plant with tussocks and other sand-dunish plants.)
zeborah: Zebra with mop and text: Clean all the things! (housework)
(aka throws things in a pot and calls it dinner, but with sufficient success that she may repeat the method some other lazy evening)

Two eggs and a serving-sized amount of pasta in a pot with cold water, boiled while doing overdue dishes. [All the recipes say to boil the water then add pasta, but it seems to work my way too.]

When almost ready, chopped green stuff (spinach would have been perfect but I had bok choy and that was just fine) and added to same pot until a nice bright green.

Drained water out. Shelled and mashed eggs. Sprinkled on lemon-pepper seasoning. Mixed together.

Ate from the pot. I really like minimising dishes.

I think I shall have an apricot for dessert.
zeborah: Zebra with mop and text: Clean all the things! (housework)
Oh noes, I still don't have a food/cooking icon! This must be remedied.

In the meantime, have a poll instead:

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 4

When baking banana cake, the funnest part is:

View Answers

creaming 100grams butter with 150grams sugar
0 (0.0%)

mixing in 2 eggs and 3 mashed bananas
0 (0.0%)

mixing 1tsp baking soda into 2Tbsp boiling milk and watching it froth up like you're a mad scientist, mwahaha! then adding that to the mixture
2 (50.0%)

mixing in 200gram flour and 1tsp baking powder
0 (0.0%)

pouring into a tin and licking the bowl
1 (25.0%)

doing the dishes while it bakes at 180C / 350F for 30-40 minutes
0 (0.0%)

eating slices of the fluffiest banana cake ever made in the history of the entire world, hot out of the oven
2 (50.0%)

ticky box!
3 (75.0%)

zeborah: Zebra in grass smelling a daisy (gardening)
The building is being renovated, so we all have to move out of our normal office into the other end of the building. I was out on Wednesday morning when my desk needed to be dismantled, hence the box.

Finally got official word of what I'd long suspected, viz., I'm not getting a job interview. Which is a shame because recent events have been putting me into quite a "Must stage a coup and fix everything now!" mood. But it was a long shot and I lost out on it for the reason I expected to be a major problem so I'm not disappointed so much as wistful. Also on the bright side my application seems to have made them think, "Uh oh, she's getting ambitious and we don't want her going somewhere else, we'd better give her awesome leadership training opportunities." So that sounds cool if intimidating. (It's not that I want to be a leader. It's just that I want to fix everything.)

So (chronologically, not consequently) now I'm on a two-week holiday, in which I plan to do as little as possible. Yesterday I was going to do some cooking, but I don't have a cooking icon so I did some gardening instead. (Or possibly I had a nap instead, and then woke up and did some gardening; I forget. The sun is wonderful this weekend, due to yesterday being Show Day.) I pruned a bazillion roses and looked sad at a gazillion aphids. And weeded and pruned more and weeded more.

And! I discovered my baby grape vine (grown from a sprout weeded from my parents' garden) has tiny baby grapes! Each bunch is about the size of a large raspberry. They're so adorable! But I'm probably supposed to prune them off to allow the vine to grow more and because they're unlikely to be very good the first year anyway. :-( But tiny baby grapes! What to do??!

What I did then was, despite the lack of a cooking icon, I cooked anyway, because [personal profile] rushthatspeaks posted a wartime recipe for potato truffles and how can one resist trying something like that? It's so ridiculous that it's got to work.

So, I boiled potatoes without salt, and mashed without milk or butter, and mixed in cocoa and sugar. And then I tasted it and thought, "...Hum. This has a texture remarkably similar to mashed potato."

Adding in some butter helped a little but not much, so I reported it as something of a failure.

However! Having rolled the mixture into balls I left them sitting in the fridge overnight, and this morning they actually seemed better. Possibly I was just hungrier, but possibly the delay had given the moisture time to soften some of the powderiness of the texture.

Also it occurred to me that chopped nuts and sultanas mixed in could help distract from said texture. So I added these, remoulded the truffles, rolled them in dessicated coconut, and brought them this evening to my family who knew nothing of the recipe.

Beta-taster #1 thought they were a bit soft and not very sweet.
Beta-taster #2 thought they were fine.
Beta-taster #3 thought they needed something which, on mature consideration, turned out to be rum.

So here's my revised recipe:

Peel, chop and boil a potato. (Salt is probably still unnecessary.)
Mash potato with milk and butter.
Mix together:
  • 4 tablespoons potato
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (or more for folks with a sweet tooth)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped sultanas or other dried fruit
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped nuts if there's no fear of nut allergies, otherwise substitute more dried fruit
  • either more vanilla essence than I put in, or rum essence
Mould into balls, roll in dessicated coconut (or chocolate sprinkles as per the original), and put in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

I wouldn't serve them at a fancy party, but for a children's party while the adults at the big table get the proper stuff, sure.
zeborah: Zebra with stripes shaking (earthquake)
First she jumped up on my bed for scritches, then she jumped down to prowl a bit. She's done this a certain amount over the last few weeks. Then she investigated the wardrobe but decided she wasn't interested in sleeping there tonight. Nor was she interested in the beanbag (which she sometimes finds cozy in winter).

She jumped back on the bed, got more scritches and settled down for about two minutes before jumping down again.

After some more prowling, she jumped back on the bed again and settled down (sans scritches this time because I was closer to sleep) for about one minute before jumping down.

But a bit after I drifted to sleep, she came back, and curled up by my legs, and slept there all night.

And there weren't any aftershocks at all.

So that makes me very happy.

Also she's discovered that, while I'm having my shower, instead of waiting in the hall for me to open the door and give her breakfast, she can wait on the fence for me to open the curtains, at which point we have the following conversation:

Boots: Miaow!
Zeborah: Agh, stalker kitty!
Boots: Miaow?
Zeborah: Oh, it's you. Okay, then.

And I let her in the window and then open the door and give her breakfast.

Leaving chronological order for a while, I would like to mention that I made ginger muesli bars yesterday and they're quite awesome. I looked up recipes online and half of them said "Stir rolled oats and stuff into melted butter and honey, then bake", and the other half said "Bake rolled oats and stuff, then stir into melted butter and honey". I decided on the former.

The precise recipe I followed was 50grams butter with an equal amount honey, stirred to the boil as one does - the original recipes included extra brown sugar and such but that seemed unnecessarily sweet so I didn't. I just threw in rolled oats and roughly chopped peanuts and sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds and dessicated coconut and chopped crystallised ginger. This is the precise recipe I used, okay? I just threw stuff in and mixed it until it looked a) like raw muesli bar and b) like I couldn't fit any more stuff in. Then I baked it until it looked like cooked muesli bar, and cut it while hot and still soft.

Next time I might try baking the stuff first and then stirring into the liquid, just for a point of comparison.
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
On the way to the busstop today I found myself crying for no particular reason so decided to turn around, take a mental health day, and go back to bed.

When I woke up at noon or so (from a dream of teaching Twitter to 17 eager students) I felt a lot better and decided to tackle the fridge. There I discovered many things which are now in the rubbish where they probably should have gone some time ago, and also a nearly-full can of coconut cream that needed using up.

So I made pancakes for lunch with coconut cream instead of milk (and halfway through added a squirt of lemon juice because I couldn't remember if the baking powder needed lactic acid to bubble properly) and lo, they were good, and I had half a can of coconut cream that needed using up.

So then I made a marinade for some chicken for dinner, using about equal volumes coconut cream and lime juice, plus paprika and half a chopped dried red chilli and garlic powder and whatever else seemed like a good idea at the time. Once it was nearly cooked I threw in some frozen peas (saving one of course for Boots). When it was fully cooked I ate it with rice and discovered that
  1. it probably only needed about half as much lime juice as coconut cream, unless one really likes lime, but it was quite edible anyway; and
  2. I still have a quarter of a can of coconut cream that needs using up.
I wonder if it'd go with muesli for breakfast tomorrow?
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
I'm baking a fruitcake for the Midwinter Christmas we're probably going to celebrate at work. This is a couple months away yet, so it's a good time to bake the cake. I started... well, on my birthday in December, when my parents gave me some jars full of dried pineapple, mango, and papaya and I thought "Ooh!" Since then I've been gathering other dried fruits that don't normally go in Christmas cakes: apricots and cranberries, and a couple of weeks ago some guava.

A few days ago I added in some sultanas to make it up to 1.5kg(1), and then I soaked it in rather a lot of brandy.

Today I figured it was probably sufficiently sozzled, plus I'm going back to work tomorrow, so I recopied the recipe from Mum, made up the batter, lifted the gladwrap off the brandy-soaked fruit, took a whiff and promptly became quite happy indeed, mixed the lot together and put it in the (butter-paper)-and-(corrugated-cardboard)-lined tin.

(Boots helped by sitting on one of the pieces of butter-paper but fortunately Mum had given me sufficient spares. I'm not sure where she's gone off to put her buttery butt now though.)

It's now in the oven where it will cook for several hours and then get another dose of brandy. I hope this will contribute significantly to the Christmas Spirit at the party at work (and also that there are leftovers, but we're a small team and it's going to be a very solid cake).

(1) Actually I think the recipe should read "Take 1.6kg of dried fruit. Soak in brandy overnight / for a few days. Mix the batter, then add the 1.5kg of fruit."
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Stressed)
My new Pyrex glassware says that it must be used in a preheated oven only.

My new Marinex glassware says that it must not be used in a preheated oven under any circumstances.

a) How on earth am I going to remember which is which, and
b) WHY?

[In shinier news, the New Zealand government has agreed to delay the implementation of guilt-upon-accusation in the new Copyright Amendment Act. "[T]he Creative Freedom Foundation's high-volume "blackout" campaign [...] will now go down in history as the first viral internet campaign to stop - or at least delay - a law." This is rocksome on many levels.]
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
I seem to be talking a lot lately. I'm sure I'll go back to silent mode soon enough.

Generally every four weeks I go to the library, return four books (mostly unread) and borrow four books (mostly not to be read). This time I grabbed a pile of mostly YA stuff in the hope that I'd read some of them.

So this weekend I've read:
  • Encyclopedia Brown Cracks the Case (a childhood favourite)
  • A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park (set in 13th century Korea, written well and researched well. The only thing that made me blink was the description of spicy kimchi; though various spices were used, hot pepper wasn't introduced for centuries. But the description of celadon-making was wonderful. Celadon is simply beautiful; when I was in Korea I hunted for months to find a piece to bring back home. Linda Sue Park has written more books set in Korea; I'd like to read them.)
  • The Five Ancestors: Tiger by Jeff Stone (formulaic crap about a group of five orphans schooled by secret monks in leet animal-style kung fu, apparently with super talking-to-animal powers thrown in)
I've also read pretty much everything from this list of posts about the cultural appropriation debate than inspired my earlier rant.

I've read a few stories from Expanded Horizons which aims to not be Whitey McWhite in Whiteland (and which rejected one of my stories belatedly but politely and now I see why it's not really their thing). I want to read more. Also read 'Poison', an award-winning sf story by a Henrietta Rose-Innes of South Africa.

I'm going to want to read everything linking to this idea of reclaiming one's own myths.

I've also finished reading 50-pages of a thread on a forum covering an epic 7-month long bait involving about 20 baiters making a 419-scammer's life a misery. I've taken up baiting because it combines fiction-writing, my (not-in-this-context-sexual) mindgames kink, and doing good in the world. Many 419 scammers are in Nigeria and nearby countries eg Burkina Faso. (Many others are in Thailand, Spain, Ireland, Norway, the UK, the USA, Australia... but Nigeria and Burkina Faso are really big ones.) It makes sense to me that if I'm doing this anyway, and if I want to research some part of Africa for the purposes of basing some story there, then that area would be a good one. Particularly since being ignorant about a place is just ignorance, but deliberately letting my mind be filled with only the negative things about a place is stupid.


In other news, it looked like rain this morning so I didn't do laundry. Then the sun came out with a vengeance so I did laundry. As soon as the laundry was ready it started raining. A while later I noticed it hadn't rained much and was now well past, so I put the laundry out anyway. As I was doing this it started raining again, and since I stubbornly left the clothes on the line it's now thundering.

In other news again, I have a bazillion of plums. And that's just the windfall. Aside from giving them away, I'm pondering whether I can do a quick-and-dirty preserving job by just cramming them whole into jars and pouring hot sugar syrup over.

(Wow, that's quite some impressive thunder.)
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
I dyed these on Sunday afternoon and was too lazy to keep them in the dye long enough to make them properly red, but some of them came out quite nicely:

Easter Eggs! )
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
And I didn't even follow a recipe. Well, I did, sort of: actually I followed several recipes at once so it's kind of like "Copying from one is plagiarism, copying from many is research".

The ingredients were all the green cherry tomatoes from my cherry tomato plants at the time I got bored waiting for them to ripen, and a few red ones; and onions; and... um, I guess vinegar and sugar and salt and whatever spices I felt like at the time. And I'm eating them with bread and margarine, and they actually taste good.

This is somehow even more wondrous than when, last weekend, I couldn't be bothered finding a recipe for biscuits (of the cookie variety) so started with the memory of previous recipes involving as much butter as sugar, and everything just goes on from there. I cleverly waited until the butter had cooled before adding the requisite egg (I have been known to forget to do that), and although I accidentally put in milo instead of cocoa (when I figured out why it wasn't turning properly brown I added cocoa too) and then added the chocolate chips before the mixture had quite finished cooling (when it had finished cooling I sprinkled yet more chips on top) they turned out pretty much like biscuits.

I still have a couple kilos of the kind of onion that's halfway between pearl onions and normal onions. Anyone have a recipe for pickling them that doesn't involve things I don't have like alum?

<licks spoon> And possibly slightly less vinegar. I'm not a pickle afficionada, really, it's just that the Kangaroo Story protagonist is, and I suffer mildly from excessive empathy with my protags; when another protag was suffering sleep deprivation I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn't the one who was exhausted. So sweet pickles are best for me while I educate myself.


zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)

September 2017

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