Month: July 2010

Hilarious spam!

This was in my spam today – it isn’t quite the complete version, it had to be edited because it was offering enlargement of male body parts which I deemed inappropriate. I did, however admire the creativity.

“HELP! I’m currently being held prisoner by the Russian mafia and being forced to post spam comments on blogs and forum! If you don’t approve this they will kill me.  They’re coming back now. Please send help! “

Now that I have stopped giggling I will send help for you immediately, to the pharmaceutical company which supplies the products you seem to be selling.

Lemon Curd – golden goodness

Lemon Curd is one of the most delicious and useful things you can make, not only that but the sense of satisfaction you get when you make this yummy stuff is huge.

Use it in a pavlova, in the centre of muffins, in cupcakes, on toast and on pancakes, actually just slather it on anything you find or stick a teaspoon in the jar and suck the curd off (repeat often).

I made Annabel Langbein’s recipe from her book Assemble.  It is a great book, she has a system, she gives you a basic recipe and then she gives you variations on the theme.  It works really well.  I bought this book for Lesley for Christmas but it is currently having a small holiday at my place.  I promise to return it, but I keep finding new things I want to make in it, so it might be a while yet.  It is a brilliant book, I really recommend it.  Here is her recipe:

1.5 cups caster sugar, 220g butter, 300 ml lemon juice (about 6 juicy lemons – it took more for me) strained, zest from one of the lemons, 6 eggs, lightly beaten with a whisk.

Place sugar, butter, lemon juice and zest in a pot (use a double boiler if you don’t have a thermometer).  Heat over medium – low heat until butter has melted.  Take off heat and strain eggs into the mixture.  Reurn to heat with a thermometer attached and cook, stirring constantly, until temp reaches 75 degrees C.  Or cook in a double boiler until mixture thickens to coat the back of a spoon.  REMOVE from heat immediately and stir a little to prevent mixture overheating on base.  Bottle while hot in hot, steralized jars and seal with pop-top seals or store in a sealed container in the fridge.  Makes just over 1 litre.  (In my case enough for two decent sized jars.)  Storage:  Lemon curd will keep several weeks in the fridge.

She also suggests you make a Lemon Parfait.  2 cups chilled cream, 1 tsp vanilla, 3/4 cup lemon curd, chilled, 4 meringues, roughly crushed and garnished with 1/4 cup coconut threads.  Whip the cream with the vanilla, fold in lemon curd and meringues so mixture retains some swirls of the lemon curd.  Spoon into serving bowls and chill until ready to serve, garnish with the coconut.

Old Spice Ads @ the library

The tears are streaming down my face with laughter!  I have to share this.  So, you have to have seen the Old Spice Ads they look like this – there are many and a Facebook page  (I’ve linked to the one where he answers the questions of the fans, more chortling with laughter here)  but below is one of the early ones.  Watch, then head on down the page.

So, then the parodys start!  This is one with a  library theme – cos that is how I roll!  I do understand if it isn’t as amusing to others as it was to me – actually that is a lie, this is so funny and you’d better be laughing along I tell ya! Link via CMIS Fiction Focus blog

Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

During the holidays I had a bit of a thing with some graphic novels.  I’ve always liked them but I find them really slow to read.  I have to concentrate really hard to make good headway in them and, I guess it is just what I am used to, but they take me so much longer than a normal text book to read.  However then I met Skim!

It is the story of a 16 year old girl called Skim, her actual name is Kim, but nobody calls her that.  She and her best friend are Wicca and tending towards Goth but nothing hard core.  They sneak out of school and smoke down in the bushes, they are isolated and the outsiders of their class at a Catholic Secondary school.  When the boyfriend of one of the ‘cool’ girls kills himself it sparks off a series of events  leading to further isolation, and eventually leading to troubles in the friendship of the two girls.  Kim falls for her English teacher and becomes totally obsessed in the way that schoolgirls do. Lots of people around the blogs think this is a lesbian graphic novel.  I didn’t think so, there are lots of girls who get a ‘thing’ for a teacher and who aren’t lesbian.

I loved the depiction of the girls, the art is fabulous and the story engrossing.  I would have loved it when I was a teenager if it had been around then.  Excellent read.

Queenstown – cold but lovely

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I’m just back from a lovely weekend away with my partner in Queenstown and surrounds.  What a treat.  We did not much, but what we did do was very relaxing and we had a good time.  Queenstown has much to recommend it.  The scenery is totally gorgeous, high rocky towering mountains, big tree covered hills right in the middle of town.  Yes, there are heaps of tourists and I know that turns off lots of people but for me they add to the feeling that you are in a gorgeous place, they wouldn’t come in their droves if it wasn’t good would they?

If you don’t have much money there are some fanblimmintastic things you can do in Queenstown and here are some:

1.  Go to the Salvation Army Shop on Lower Shotover Street.  They have second hand designer clothes at fantastic prices.  It truly is a great place.  The staff are friendly, it is warm and you will come out with something lovely.  For me a great black jumper and for Lesley Doosh pants and a Country Road shirt.  Nice shopping for $30.00.

2. Take yourself on a lovely walk along the shores of Lake Wakatipu on the Kelvin Heights side.  The sun shines on that side of the lake hours after it has finished on the Queenstown side, all those magnificent hills have a big drawback when it comes to sunshine hours!  The walk is lovely, there are fantastic crabapple trees and the views of the amazing houses on the lakefront are pretty stellar, well you are actually walking in their front gardens.  It’s nice, the people are friendly, the sun warm if a little watery and you can hear bellbirds and fantails in the trees.  Nice.

3.  Go driving and look at the houses – I mean seriously, these are some houses.  It is interesting to drive around and look at the total luxury of these places.  Some of them aren’t even lived in for large chunks of the year.  They are architects dreams and it is staggering to think that so much money has been poured into somewhere that you want to have for a few weeks a year.

4.  Go to Arrowtown and browse the shops.  More on that in another post.

5.  Sit around in your luxurious unit, use someones electricity to heat it up cosy and warm, watch movies on Sky TV that you wouldn’t have paid to go to, have a spa bath while your partner watches the rugby and read three books.  Well that’s what we did.  Bit of browsing in the shops, lovely sale at D.T.Carter for Lesley (only the scarves they sell fit me!) a lovely shop with truly lustworthy knitwear and stylings.

6.  Wander around town, check out the rich people.  Spot the celebrities, look at the enormous number of junk food outlets and pubs and sporting goods shops.  Wander up, wander down.  Notice the people on the hire Segways (that is pretty cool).

7.  Lounge around and read lots of books in an exotic location.  Good times.

Under the dome by Stephen King

It is a very very long time since I have read a book this incredibly big.  It is close to 900 pages and it has taken me nearly two weeks to read the thing!  I picked it up thinking I would have a look, see if I thought I’d like it and within 5 pages was completely hooked.  I have only read three Stephen King’s and have really enjoyed all of them, my particular fave is The girl who loved Tom Gordon, which is an old one but well worth reading if you can find it.  It sits nicely for teenagers who enjoyed Hatchet by Gary Paulsen when they were younger.

Under the dome is the story of a small American town which is cut off from the world at 10am one Saturday morning when a large dome descends upon it and cuts it off from the rest of humanity.  The dome is impenetrable and so life in the town becomes a dog eat dog survival story.  The boss of the town is the Second Selectman Jim Rennie and he rules with an iron fist, the other two Selectmen are merely puppets doing his bidding.  Jim is not a good man.  Are small towns in America really run with just a couple of people making all the decisions on everything from the hospitals to the footpath?  Wasn’t sure about this.  There are a bunch of characters and many of them are recognisable characters from any small town.  There are lots of funny moments and lots of typical small town politics and megalomania.

Stephen King is a great writer, he hooks you in, he keeps the pace up so that you have to keep on finding out what is going on, the chapters are a decent length and within each chapter he keeps changing the angle of the story.  I particularly like his snarky sense of humour and the way every now and then he does an overview section where he takes a look at all the different situations and gives a run down of what is going on, kind of an eye of God sort of thing.  It is great for keeping you up to speed with all the characters – and there are a lot of them – and for reminding you of where you are in the timeframe of the story.  I like the way he makes characters who are minor players come into their own when you aren’t expecting them to, and he gives you gentle hints that although this particular thing you are reading about might not be important now it will be in the end.  Great storytelling.  Get a copy, sit yourself down and spend time under the dome.  And stay off the wikipedia site for this book because it gives you the ending in the first couple of lines and that is very downright annoying when you are within 200 pages of the end.  Loved it!  Check out the book trailer and I fully expect to see a movie of this book eventually, they’d be crazy not to make one.

Beef, Bacon and Mushroom Ragu

This is simmering in my oven right now, filling my house with the smell of a rich meaty, winey, herby aroma.  It is a freezing day here, snow is forecast for the hills and I’m here trying to keep my power bill at a minimum and yet be comfortably warm.  At 4.30 in the afternoon the curtains are pulled and Radio New Zealand National blaring away with the Panel on, today featuring Rosemary McLeod who I think is wonderful.  I have a friend coming for dinner and we are going to have this casserole (or ragu) with some spinach salad and foccacia.  Desert will be lemony because I am still dealing with the lemon glut.  The quince paste glut will be slightly dealt to in the casserole as I will add it instead of the Redcurrent jelly I am supposed to add.

Recipe is from Dinner in a Basket by Judith Cullen.  I make lots of the dishes in this book.  Judith is a Dunedin institution.  She runs cooking classes from her house which are great fun and you get to eat the food at the end.  A great thing to do for an evening out.  I have tinkered with Judith’s recipe for tonight a little.  I’ll tell you how as we go.

2kg beef (shinbeef with bone removed or cross-cut blade – I used chuck and less than 2 kg, you decide)

250g thick sliced bacon diced

2 onions diced or 10 pickling onions

250 g mushrooms sliced or halved

1 tblsp chopped fresh rosemary

3 – 4 tblsp oil

3 tblsp flour

1 cup red wine

1 tblsp redcurrant jelly (I’m using the quince paste)

2 tblsp parsley, chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a heavy based saucepan, saute the bacon in oil until crisp. Drain on paper towels.  Cut the beef into 1cm cubes use the flour to coat it.  Saute in batches until browned on all sides.  Remove.  Add the onions to the saucepan, saute till soft.  Stir in the sliced mushrooms.  Return the bacon and beef to the onion mixture.  Add wine, stock (I used a can of crushed tomatoes because I didn’t have any tomato paste and some extra wine) tomato paste and the rosemary.  Bring to the boil.  Transfer to a casserole dish.  Bake at 160 degrees until the meat is tender, about 2 hours.  Just before serving add redcurrent jelly (or quince paste if you are me) and chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Death by Powerpoint – alive and well

This comes from Cathy Nelson who is a library luminary, she writes Cathy Nelson’s Professional Thoughts.  In a recent post she cites Michael Zimmer’s 25 page guide to presenting in PowerPoint.  Check his presentation website here.   This comes on the heels of a discussion at lunchtime today with a friend and my partner, about the perils of PowerPoint.  Our staff were tortured at a PD session on Friday by three typical presentations where the presenters read the slides, which were bullet point ridden and full of text.  Each of the three presenters is well respected in their field and one works for the Ministry of Education and is on the research team of John Hattie, educational researcher of great import.  So, why where their presentations boring.  At this point I should probably confess to not actually being there for these presentations but having heard about them from several different people who were there.  Why are people still presenting – and especially to fairly IT savvy audiences in such a boring and uninteractive way?  As Cathy Nelson would say  ‘Sit ‘n get’ presentations, i.e. you are going to sit and get my presentation delivered to you.

On Monday my friend Miriam Tuohy, library goddess  (she of the marvelous Roasting Dish Chocolate Cake), presented a Prezi to a bunch of teachers as part of an ICTPD Cluster Meeting.  The difference between the presentations is very marked. Miriam’s presentation engaged the brain, augmented the talk she was giving and was a tool to promote discussion.  It was not a sit in your seat while I read the bullet points on the screen to you kind of talk.

Earlier this year our school had Tony Ryan speak to us as part of our school’s ICT PD, who presented in PowerPoint but with nary a bullet point to be seen, and he managed to hold a bunch of skeptics attention for an hour, the difference between his and the normal presentation in this format was that his presentation used photographs as hooks for his important points.  So, it is possible to be engaging in a presentation using PowerPoint, but please don’t torture your audience by a) reading the slides and b) not engaging in discussion or being prepared to discuss the issues that your slides or talk raise.  If you are going to raise a point you have to be prepared to talk about it.

I spoke in Hamilton on advocacy for your school library earlier this year, and although I did try to avoid the bullet points, I know there were plenty in there.  So in the ‘note to self section’, the next time I am asked to present somewhere – should the occasion arise – I am going to note the points raised by Cathy Nelson and take note of Tony Ryan and Miriam and do a better job.  For starters I’m going to have a go at moving my current advocacy presentation into Prezi and tweaking it a little and see if that helps avoid the bullet point problem.

Here is Cathy Nelson’s video post about presenting.

Hey Marseilles – music for free!

This band are from Seattle, the coolest city in the U.S.A. I think, if you don’t count San Francisco, and indeed when you consider that there are plenty of U.S. cities I have never been to!  Fans of the Barenaked Ladies (of which I am one) will probably really like this music.  On their website you can sign up for a free download of their latest  album.  Which indeed I have just done and golly it works!  Even here in NZ.  But for a limited time.  Get onto it quickly is my advice if you like the sound of the vid below.

Lemon Surplus

I have a massive (2 big net bags full) oversupply of lemons.  This is my beloved son Nick’s fault.  He is doing chemistry and needed to do titrations to measure the loss of vitamin C in little containers of lemon juice which were placed all over the house including in front of the heater – not the most convenient place I have to say.  They have been on window sills, making pulling of curtains interesting, on cabinets, in the spare room and in a vast array of other locations.

I was at the  school musical after-party (a glass of wine for the staff) the other night and received an urgent txt asking me to go to the supermarket and buy more lemons of the exact same variety as the ones I have been buying for him, stat!  So off I trotted, purchased a lot more lemons in the only supermarket in Dunedin that is open late at night only to find out when I got home, that he really only needed two more.  Sigh.  The upshot of this is that I now have rather a lot of lemons.

I like lemon flavoured baking more than almost any other flavour, a good thing when there is a surplus of this proportion.  I like the tartness of them.  Lemon honey mmm.  Lemon merangue pie mmm, I could go on.  So, I had a bit of a trawl through the elderly Alison Holst cookbooks my Mum has given me and in one called Simply Delicious I found this recipe for a Lemon Loaf.  That is a very mediocre title for this recipe Alison, this is a crunchy moist loaf that is easy to make and fills the house with lovely lemony scents when it is baking.  The topping is one of the best bits.  Try it, its grand.

Alison Holst’s Lemon Loaf

100g butter, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 lemon grated rind and juice, 2 eggs, 1.1/2 cups of flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 cup milk.  (Alison thinks you should add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or raisins or saltanas – I don’t) extra 1/4 cup sugar

Cream the butter and sugar.  Grate in lemon rind then add the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions.  Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, then add them alternatively with the milk to the creamed mixture.  Stir in the nuts or raisins if you want to use them.  Put mixture into a loaf tin, a smallish one please.  In the loaf tin you need to have baking paper which goes up over the top of the tin so that you can lift it out easily at the end.  Bake at 180 degrees for about an hour, or until the sides of the loaf are pulling away from the side of the tin and a skewer in the middle of the loaf comes out clean.

While it is cooking mix the 1/4 cup of sugar with the lemon juice and when it is cooked soon it over the loaf.  Put the loaf back into the oven for 1 minute then remove, lift onto a rack and leave to cool.  Slice when cold, (at this point Alison suggests you wait til the next day to slice it but, seriously that is just an unreasonable demand in my opinion.)