Saturday, December 31, 2005

My Big Biscuit Day!

Finally the mailman has found my letterbox. I was beginning to think he didn't love me anymore.

First was a gorgeous Christmas card from Gail with a family photo. As always Gails card is perfection - I love it! And the photo is a treasure and now in a frame on my desk in a frame until I scrap it along with the other Birdie family photos which always warm the heart! It really is a big family we have going now. We are lucky indeed!

Second was this cheque from Australia! Only $20 but my FIRST payment for a layout! I submitted "The Boys" to one of my favourite sb magazines, Scrapbooking Memories, and although they didn't take it they are publishing it in their sister publication My Reflections. The silliest thing is I can't actually get that magazine here! LOL Instead I will have to beg dearest Ruth to find me a copy - Volume 4 No 1 - pretty please Ruth with sugar on top!

And I don't mean to skite but .... oh deary me .... its made me smile all day! A Big Biscuit Day indeed.

Friday, December 30, 2005

My Scrapdesk

I had trouble last night with pictures etc so had to delete the post, but here it is again..

OK So I Hate Cooking

but I do love reading recipe books! Dammit, I love food so why not!

One of our big supermarket chains puts out an occasional glossy food mag and I couldn't resist the Christmas edition when I was standing in the queue the other day. One of the features is is "You Asked For It" - if you taste something you love when you're out and want the recipe they contact the restaurant and beg for a copy. I loved the idea of these little bread pots (continuing the earlier theme of my gf's potted Christmas Cakes). Wouldn't they be cute if you've got friends over for a soup & bread lunch or something!

So with thanks to Foodtown Magazine & "The Bach" in Maraetai:

Bake in terracotta flower pots

6 cups flour
6 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
5 teaspoons active yeast granules
3 cups warm water, 30-35C
garlic-flavoured oil

Place the flour, sugar & salt into large warm bowl of a food mixer. Mix on slow speed to combine.
Dissolve the yeast in the water. When starting to froth, add to the dry ingredients to form a ball. Check the consistency. If it is too firm, add more water. Mix on slow speed until a dough forms. Then mix on medium speed for 10 minutes until smooth & glossy.
Cover the dough with plastic film. Rest for 30 minutes or until doubled in size. Punch the dough down until it is firm again then take of the bowl and divide into four balls.
Grease four terracotta flower pots & place the dough in them. Stand the pots in a warm place, until the dough has doubled in size.
Meanwhile preheat the over to 190C.
Bake the loaves for 20 minutes or until firm to the touch. Brush the tops with a lttle garlic oil while still hot.
(They suggest serving them with a selection of dips - smoked salmon and cream cheese, sundried tomato & feta, basil pesto.)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

And more...


Hey Quilters!!

So much for spring cleaning! I did start, its just that I found a whole stack of photo CD’s and thought I’d better label them all before the Mind-Mush takes over. Amongst them were all the shots from the recent Cultural Week at work and I’ve started organizing/editing them in the hope of burning off cd’s for all the girls in the office as a Happy New Year gift.

For those of you new to the world of the “Madcow” Cultural Week was a celebration of all the different cultures that make up our staff. The week started with Maori, then Indian, Tongan, Cook Island & Samoan. There were of course the usual whingers, ie, “Why isn’t there a pakeha (European) day??” Well get off your whiney-arse pakeha butts and organize it!! was the usual response from some short woman with a big mouth.

Of course my gf and I had already decided to find our up until now undiscovered Indian roots to help out our two friends that had been left in the lurch organizing India Day. Can’t imagine there are too many blonde Indians around but nobody seemed to notice!!

Anyway, (she finally gets to the point) amongst the photos were these shots of the Tivaevae Quilts that are one of my favourite bits of Cook Island culture along with my darling work mate Berta of course!

There are three main types of Tivaevae according to the Atiu Fibre Arts Studio website

Tivaevae taorei (pronounce tah-oray). A standard double bed cover is pieced together of approximately 15,000 to 32,000 fabric squares no bigger than 1" to 1.5" (2.5 cm to 3.75 cm) forming the most intricate and colourful mosaic patterns.

Tivaevae tataura (pronounce tah-taoo-rah) combines appliqué and hand embroidery. Mainly floral designs are richly decorated with an extraordinary variety of most intricate stitches and then applied on to a plain background.

Tivaevae manu (pronounce mah-nu) consist of 2 layers of differently coloured fabric. The top layer is folded in four or eight, cut out snowflake fashion and hand or machine stitched to the background.

The quilts that the girls brought into share with us were just beautiful – so vibrant. I thought especially our resident quilters, Anne, Patty & Linda, would enjoy them.

PS. Kip! Fountain of all knowledge! I’d really like Linda to be able to see these but she says she’s unable to access blogs from “down under” – mine and Ruth especially. What’s that about? Can she fix it?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

My Own Personal Howler!

My aunty Claire gave me this several years ago. She said, "I saw him and thought what a cheeky monkey and then I thought of you!" LOL Not quite sure what she was getting at!

She died a few years ago and since then Monkey sits on my dresser and never fails to make me smile. She was a wise woman indeed with a wonderful sense of humour. It was Claire who told me one day in all seriousness, "You know dear, if there's a choice between doing housework and reading a good book, always pick the book!"

So now with the wonderful new world of "Night Owls Monkey Chatter" (thanks Shar!), I thought it only fitting to share my personal little Howler. I suspect from his face he knows quite a few of my secrets!! LOL



Waffly Wednesday

One of the joys of my visits down to the farm is the abundance of native birds that visit the garden. For the past couple of years I've stalked them like the Hollywood paparazzi but to no avail. Clever things these birds, always managing to be just a foot out of lens range! I was reduced last visit to taking a series of shots of tree branches which I thought I'd scrap with the title "The Last Time Ever I Saw Your Branch..." or something similar! LOL

The last day though, victory was mine. The call of the Tui is quite distinctive and that morning they were really going to town. (Hopefully this link will work for your listening pleasure! ) I'd wandered down the road to have a last look at the river and coming back past the "Honey Paddock" heard that glorious sound. One lone Tui up in a tree, and it seemed to be so intent on calling to it's family in the bush above the sheds that it ignored me and my camera lurking underneath. I decided on a ladylike retreat when he decided to fly a little too close to the beehives but for 20 minutes there was just me and bird. There are much better photos in books/internet, but these are special to me. I think it would be difficult anyway to do justice to the colour of these birds when the sun glimmers on their plumage which at first looks black but is in reality an almost metalic green. And I love the way he fluffs up as he sings - like a rather dishevelled Pavarotti! LOL

I was quite satisfied with this memory to take home with me and carry me through the last of the city winter, but wait, there's more! About a fortnight later I looked out the lounge window here in Auckland and there on the Chinese Lantern tree was a Tui in all its glory about four feet from the house. We've had plenty of Silvereyes, Fantails, Doves, but never before a Tui. I rang the farm to tell them I thought my "friend" had followed me home and was surprised when I didn't get the ridicule I expected. Instead they were quite matter of fact about it.

My friends claim birds do follow you! Their proof being that when they lived on the other side of the valley at Kourarau the Welcome Swallows built their mudnests up high in one of the verandahs every year and "played" above their quarters every day. When they shifted back over to the farm my friend was for sometime a little unsettled by the change until one morning drinking her coffee out in the garden, the Swallows arrived and swirled and whirled above the house. She told me at that moment she knew she was "home". The Welcome Swallows told her so.

Today the Tui visited again, had its fill of nectar from the Lantern flowers, gave me a nod and flew off. Yes. Home.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Dammed Cats!

I am not a cat person. I understand other people adore them and I'm sure they are very nice (both cats and people). In fact I know Gail and Jules love cats and I love Gail & Jules, so you'd think it would follow but .... give me a dog any day!

Despite all this Black Cat & White Cat have come to visit. From where I really don't know. I suspect a neighbour has gone on holiday and just left them to fend for themselves, and BC & WC, with innate cat cunning, have spotted the one true sucker in the neighbourhood and have ensconced themselves in my garden. They sprawl over the carparts himself has kindly stored in the back corner of the garden - apparently a car bonnet warmed in the sun is a particularly cosy sunbed. They follow me down to the washing line to ensure that I have used all the right coloured pegs on our clothes. They stare mournfully through the ranch sliders as I go about my business.

Himself tells me White Cat is sad. How you can tell a cat is sad is beyond me but the Cat-Whisperer assures me she is. So far he has no opinion on Black Cats state of mind. He also tells me that they are hungry but I shouldn't feed them or they will never leave. Mmmm. Cat-Whisperer he may be. Mother he is not.

I did mutter under my breath that "I don't like cats" as I thawed the minced lamb from the freezer but White Cat & Black Cat didn't care one way or the other as long as I put the dish where they could reach it. The Cat-Whisperer just shook his head and said "It was only a matter of time ... sucker!" White Cat and Black Cat gave him one of those "be quiet boy!" looks and then continued eating.

I don't like cats.

The Weather Pixie

Try as I might, I cannot help but copy dear Kip in everything she does! LOL First the Blog, then the counter and now the Weather Pixie. What can I say? She is my inspiration!

The pixie gives the option of celcius or farenheit. At first I opted for celcius and then I thought that was a little silly. I know what the weather is here! You my dear friends are mostly in a farenheit world so why not let you have an easier window into my world! Pam and I will just have to keep converting - a good thing Pam. It will keep our minds supple I'm sure! LOL

The readings for the pixie are taken from Auckland Airport which is only about a 15 minute drive from my flat (motorway willing) so it really is quite "true".

Sunday, December 25, 2005


This should be the time of year to catch up on all my reading. Its not as if I don't have a great selection of new books to pick from.

"The Artist's Widow" by Shena Mackay
"Convent Girls" edited by Jackie Bennett and Rosemary Forgan
"The Captive Wife" by Fiona Kidman
"The Geometry of Desire" by Linda Niccol

Curiously though I'm reading "He-who-shall-not-be-named"s copies of "What Not to Drive" by Richard Hammond and "I Know You Got Soul" by Jeremy Clarkson. Bloke books! Bloke books about cars for goodness sake. But they have pictures and I don't have to even pretend to retain anything longer than the time it takes to turn a page. It matters not one iota that have no idea what they're talking about. Who seriously is ever going to ask me anything about torque (cake??) and turbos or expect me to have an opinion on the latest Mazda when I don't even know how to drive.

Instead I get to wear the 'Woman Reading a Book' disguise guaranteed to protect me from any
well intentioned attempts to include me in any activity that might mean moving my bottom from the comfort of the couch. My mind is mush and I am reduced to reading the adult equivalent of comics. Words of more than two syllables are banned. But hey, I'm reading for goodness sake! Don't disturb me!

And given that I have apparently left all powers of concentration in the top drawer of my desk at the office this newfound preoccupation with picture books is a good thing. I don't have to beat myself up for not being able to comprehend the politics of modifying our "Hate-Speech" laws or draw any insights from the essay on Ansel Adams life works in my latest copy of the Listener. No, I get to read the bitchy (and I say that in a good way!) little article by Denis Welch, "The Lying, The Rich & the Wardrobe Malfunction", summing up the political/public highs and lows of 2005 here in NZ which he helpfully wrote in very short little information-bytes.

My favourite excerpt:
"If Jesus came back today ...
Obviously he'd have to apply for refugee status; the SIS would run a thorough check on him. Any kind of rabble-rousing activity in the past would not be a good look. Overturning money-changer's tables is a federal offence in some countries. Stigmata would be considered potentially infectious, so at the very least you're talking about a long spell in quarantine - but frankly, a rootless religious activist of Middle Eastern appearance? Give me a break."

Yes, I could follow that. I think perhaps Denis was suffering a similar attack of Yuletide Indigestion as myself. Do you think he'd just finished watching "Elf" too?

Now I think I will go read the TV Guide. It has pictures. I could perhaps tuck it inside my copy of War & Peace. People will be impressed!

One of my favourite annual gifts!

I'm afraid I haven't really got a handle on this digital camera yet - I delete hundreds of the blasted frames on a regular basis. One of these days I might just have to read the manual! LOL Still I'm hoping these pics transfer ok as I really want to do justice to my dear gf's hard work.

Every year she buys small terracotta garden pots then bakes her special Christmas Cake in them. Some years they have almond & white icing with a holly and berry decoration on the top. Other years, like this one, they are decorated with nuts & glazed fruit.

They are just the perfect size for a small household like ours and she also delivers many of them to elderly friends. Not only does she bake a beautiful cake but you get a pot for the garden afterwards! They really are fun!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Heres the rest

in the last lot I forgot to say there was a pic of "mum". In this lot you will see perhaps a little shot of "he who shall not be named" with Bella the cat! LOL


lets see if we can post these pics this time!

Just gone 3pm on Christmas Day

so if you're worrying that your day may not be just "right", please don't worry! Christmas day was a beauty! See there are advantages of knowing someone in the Antipodes - you get advanced warning of how your day is going to be! LOL

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and Santa has been and is now wending his way towards your house!

Spent the morning with mum and "he who shall not be named". Brunch of croissants, cream cheese, bacon and hash browns plus the obligatory bubbles.

Adding to our joy today was news of the birth of my first "great-nephew" Khyler, born on Christmas Eve. His grandmother (one of my dearest friends) insists if she is to be called Granny then I must of course be known as Great Aunt Madcow! Of course she and I are in the unique postition of being the first 21 year olds to become Grandmother & Great Aunt! LOL

Here are some pics of a Kiwi Christmas including some of the Lutheran decorations mum made some ten years ago. Strangely enough the woman who taught her to make them was a Presbytarian Lay Minister but that quite 'fits' with mums family. Her mother Bessie was baptised in the Lutheran Church although she was the child of a devout Presbytarian. In the tiny settlement they lived in at the time there was only one church which was shared by all denominations. So if you needed a service of any kind you took "pot luck" as to who was the officiating minister and which religion you were "done" into! LOL.

Also included is one of mums nativity scene which I have always been very fond of. She puts it out each year and her small visitors delight in it. She being the indulgent woman she is around children, allows them to rearrange the setting at will. Past years the setting has included toy tractors and Kermit the Frog. This year however is rather more subtle. LOL

To finish off the panorama are some shots of her bourganvillia which is luscious this time of year, and the Christmas Lillies which grow rampant in her garden.

Wishing you all every good thing for you and yours these holidays!
Love & hugs to all


Himself on discovering today that I had a blog announced "Now you have a blog, you realise you no longer have a son, OK!"
And in the spirit of this new found shyness, "he who shall remain nameless" then proceeded to decorate the Green Pea in an effort not to draw attention to himself!! LOL Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Friday, December 23, 2005

I finally learnt how to add links!

I deserve a prize!

These will take you to visit with some of the most creative, talented, witty & joyous women I know. I am blessed every day by their company.

This email struck a chord....don't know why...I'm so young afterall!!

According to today’s regulators and bureaucrats, those of us who
Were kids in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s probably shouldn’t have survived.

Our baby cots were covered in brightly coloured lead-based paint, which was promptly chewed and licked. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, or latches on doors or cabinets and it was fine to play with pans. When we rode our bikes, we wore no helmets, just jandals and fluorescent ‘clackers ‘ on our wheels.
As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags, riding in the front passenger seat was a treat. We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle, it still tasted the same. We ate dripping sandwiches, bread and butter pudding and drank fizzy pop with sugar in it, but we were never overweight because we were always outside playing.
We shared one drink with four friends, from one bottle or can and no-one actually died from this. We would spend hours building go karts out of scraps and then went down the hill, only to find we forgot the brakes.after running into stinging nettles a few times, we learned to solve the problem. We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back before dark. No one was able to reach us all day and no one minded.
We did not have play stations, X boxes, no video games at all. No 99 channels on T.V., no videotaped movies, no surround sound, no mobile phones, no personal computers, no internet chat rooms. We had friends; we went outside and found them. We played elastics and street rounders, and sometimes that ball really hurt. We fell out of trees, got cut and broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits. There were accidents. We learnt not to do the same things again. We had fights, punched each other hard and got black and blue; we learned to get over it.
We walked to friends homes. We made up games with sticks and tennis balls, and ate live stuff and although we were told it would happen, we did not have many eyes poked out, nor did the live stuff live in us forever. We rode bikes in packs of 7 and wore coats only by the hood. Our actions were our own. Consequences were expected.
The idea of a parent bailing you out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law. Imagine that!.This generation has produced some of the best risk takers and problem solvers and inventors ever. The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility and we learned how to deal with it all. And your are one of them, congratulations.
Please pass this on to others who had the luck to grow up as real kids, before lawyers and government ruled our lives, for your own good.(If you aren’t old enough, though you might like to read about us)

Did I mention that I've finished work for the year??

How remiss of me not to let you know! LOL

My team mate Berta and I have been in a whirl all week trying to get every file filed, every order sealed and every little hearing over and done with. Sitting on the office couch at 5.30 tonight, glass of Duetz in hand and shoes kicked off, we looked at eachother with that "so this is it?" look. It all just seems a little flat somehow.

Even when we went to come home the traffic was all gone! Now whats that about? At lunchtime it took us the full hour to get through the lights to an appointment three blocks away. At 5.30 it was like the road version of the Marie Celeste!

Somehow I expect it all to be a little more exciting, a little more glittery. Instead I work in an "industry" where the office "Holiday Survival Kit" comprises of emergency contacts for Womens Refuge, Duty Solicitors and Care & Protection Services. Every second "client" comes to the counter reeking of alcohol and you just know that after the holidays they will return for protection orders or suchlike when the "partying" has all turned to custard. Takes the shine off it all surprisingly!

But tomorrow there will be no alarm clock buzzing, no need to get out of my jim-jams. I'll find a crappy movie to watch, pig out on my new favourite - Philadelphia Mango Chilli Philly - and squeeze the presents under the Christmas Cobweb. I might even paint my toenails. Now how girly is that!

Tomorrow I'll get my sparkle back I promise!!

Love & hugs to all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Musings over the chardonnay

Given all the furore over at CKMB I've spent many hours thinking about the nature of bullying etc. Every time there has been one of these incidents (and lately it seems to be on a weekly basis) there is a whole trail of comments of the "I say what I think and if people don't like it, well tough" ilk.
For some reason that kind of statement just rankles with me and I can't put my finger on exactly what it is. I seem to remember conversations with psychologist friends on this very subject but I suspect it may have been over copious amounts of wine and now my memory lets me down when I try to recall the conclusions we came to! LOL Still I'm sure we enjoyed the wine!
I did recall though some of the courses all us "70's Chicks" did on Assertiveness Training and did some searching. The text on the difference between Assertive and Agressive behaviour struck a chord.
Here are some highlights that I got from of all places

Assertive Behaviour:
Characteristics - Choose for self. Appropriately honest. Direct, self-respecting, self-expressing, straight-forward. Convert win-lose to win-win.
Your Own Feelings on the Exchange - Confident, self-respecting, goal-oriented, valued. Later: Accomplished.
Others' Feelings in the Exchange - Valued, respected.
Others' View of You in the Exchange - Respect, trust. Know where you stand.
Outcome - Outcome determined by above-board negotiation. Your and others' rights respected.
Underlying Belief System - I have a responsibility to protect my own rights: I respect others but not necessarily their behaviour.

Aggressive Behaviour:
Characteristics - Choose for others. Inappropriately honest (tactless). Direct, self- enhancing. Self-expressive, derogatory. Win-lose situation that you win.
Your Own Feelings on the Exchange - Righteous, superior,deprecatory, controlling. Later: possibly guilt.
Others' Feelings in the Exchange - Humiliated, defensive, resentful, hurt.
Others' View of You in the Exchange - Vengeful, angry, distrustful, fearful.
Outcome - You achieve your goal at others' expense. Your rights upheld; others' are violated.
Underlying Belief System - I have to put others down to protect myself.

Interesting isn't it! I could immediately visualise several of the trolls right down to the "guilt" later (how many times have we had to read how "god" told them they had been hasty and should apologise?).

Anyway, time to find where I hid the chardy and pour another glass. I still have a lot more thinking to do on the question of "do I go or do I stay". For now though love & hugs to all.