9/29/2009

Too much 'loyalty'

The saddest thing happened to Otterboy the other night.

He has this friend, I will call Trouble, that has been his great buddy for many years--beginning long before the divorce. Even before they moved to our hometown. Otterboy is always talking about him and he often spends the night when O is at his mom's house. Well, I have never met him and, since school break started this week, I asked if he'd like Trouble to spend the night at our house.

O was excited to call to see if he wasn't grounded (which apparently happens quite often, hence the name) and ask him to spend the night  sometime soon. When Otterboy came back into the living room lounge, he had the strangest, puzzled look on his face.

Upon gentle questioning, it was discovered that Trouble's mom had said 'yes' to the overnight, but when she found out it was at our house instead of him mom's, she said 'no.'

Isn't that the saddest thing ever?

9/28/2009

'The Cult' - new NZ series

'The Cult' is a New Zealand series that has a great NZ cast and is set in the beautiful northlands of the country. You can read a bit more about it here.

I recorded the first episode of the series and watched it earlier this week. It has 'big' names, as far as NZ actors go. I know the scenery will continue to be terrific. And, as far as the plot goes, I think it has a lot of potential for entertaining television.

The only thing that makes me curiously frustrated is the 'leader' of this cult. He is the only one in the cast with an American accent.

I assume that's because NZers believe that the 'only Americans' have such things as cults. Then, again, being politically correct is not a strong point here. Stay tuned.

9/25/2009

It's Australia's fault!

It's been raining for several days now and our pond is full to overflowing. But when I looked at the pond today, it looked a bit strange. It was slightly murky. Just slightly. But thoroughly murky. That never happened before, as far as I can remember.

Come to find out, New Zealanders all over are having the same problem with ponds and pools. It looks like the Australian dust storm made it across the Tasman and has settled in New Zealand.

Strangest thing I have ever seen!

9/23/2009

cream cheese cookies


Cream Cheese Cookies


·         1 cup butter
·         8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
·         1 cup granulated sugar
·         1/4 teaspoon salt
·         1 teaspoon vanilla
·         1 egg
·         2 cups all-purpose flour
·         1/2 cup toasted coconut*
·         pecan halves or halved candied cherries
Preparation:
Cream together the butter, cream cheese, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Add egg; beat well. Stir in the flour and toasted coconut. Drop cookie batter from teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheet then press a pecan half or cherry half into the top of each. Bake at 325° for 18 to 20 minutes. Remove cookies to a rack to cool.
Makes about 5 dozen cream cheese cookies.
*To toast coconut in the oven, spread coconut on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake at 325°, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Then and now

This is just a portion of our pond last spring.



This is the pond this spring.



It may not look like much, but at least I will get to grow some water lilies this year without the ducks eating them before they can sprout!! Today we had to shoo away two wild mamas with babies, but it's a far cry from last year!

Ice Cream Bread

2 cups ice cream, any flavor
1 1/2 c self-rising flour

Mix, bake at 350F (175C) for about 45 minutes.

If you don't have self-rising flour, use 2 cups flour with 1 1/2 t baking powder and about 1/4 t salt.

Caramel Popcorn

4 T vegetable oil
2 cups unpopped popcorn
1/4 cup butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 t vanilla

Add 3 kernels of popcorn to 2 T oil in a large saucepan and heat over high heat. When kernels pop, add 1 cup of popping corn. Keep pan moving gently until popping slows and stops. Remove from heat. Pour into very large bowl or pan (I use a roasting pan) and repeat.

In a medium saucepan, combine butter, sugar and corn syrup. Stir well and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir in condensed milk; simmer, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes and stir in vanilla.

Pour over popcorn and stir with wooden spoon to coat. Spread in one layer on waxed/cooking paper or butter hands and shape into 3.5-inch balls. Allow to set before storing in plastic bags.

Betty's Pound Cake

1 c butter, softened
1 c sugar
3 t flavoring, your choice
4 eggs
3 c flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 c sour cream
Powdered/Icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 325F (160C). Grease and flour 10-inch bundt cake pan.

Cream together sugar, butter and flavorings. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

Combine dry ingredients and add to butter mixture, alternately with sour cream.

You can stop there for a delicious plain cake or you can add a cup of chocolate chips, raising, nuts, dried fruit, coconut or whatever you like.

Bake 70-80 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes, Remove and cool completely. Dust with powdered/icing sugar.

Serve plain or with fruit or ice cream.

Lightning Fast Peanut Butter Fudge

Maybe not lightning fast, but really quick!

1 can condensed milk
1/2 c peanut butter
12 ounces (400g) white chocolate bits
3/4 c chopped nuts
1 t vanilla

Heat milk and peanut butter in saucepan until bubbly.Remove from heat and stir in white chocolate bits. Stir until smooth. Add nuts and vanilla.

Spread into waxed/cooking paper lined 8-inch pan. Cool. Cover and chill for 2 hours, until firm. Turn fudge onto cutting board, peel off paper. Sprinkle with additional nuts, if desired. Cut into squares. Store leftovers in fridge.

Recipe stolen taken from Eaglebrand.com

Banana Bread

1 c butter, softened
2 c sugar
7 large bananas, mashed
1-1/2 t vanilla
4 eggs, slightly beaten
3 c flour
1/2 t salt
2 t baking soda

Cream butter and sugar. Blend in bananas, vanilla and eggs.
Whisk together dry ingredients and add to banana mixture, just until combined.
Pour into two greased 9 X 5 loaf pans.
Bake at 350F (180C) for about 45 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.
Cool bread in pan for 10 minutes, then cool completely on wire rack.

Fruit Cocktail Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

1-1/2 c sugar

2 eggs
1/2 t salt
2 c flour
2 t baking soda
2 c fruit cocktail/fruit salad, including juice
1/2 c chopped pecans or walnuts, if desired

Mix all ingredients, except nuts. Pour into ungreased pan and sprinkle nuts on top.
Bake at 350F (180C) for 50-60 minutes.

(I double the recipe for a 9 X 13 pan.)


Frost with cream cheese icing, as follows.

8 ounces cream cheese
1 t vanilla
1 t orange flavoring
1 T grated orange rind
2 c powdered sugar, enough to make spreadable

Mix together, ice cake, enjoy!

No Bake Chocolate Crunchies

2 c chocolate chips
1/2 c butter
10 T golden syrup/honey/half each
6 c rice cereal or rolled oats

Melt chocolate and butter together over low heat.
Remove from heat and stir in syrup/honey, then cereal; mix well.

Drop by spoonfuls onto baking/waxed paper and refrigerate about 45 minutes.

Hairy Hot Dogs

Poke uncooked spaghetti through hot dogs or sausages and boil until the spaghetti is done. Serve as regular hot dogs!

Chewy Granola Bars

4-1/2 c rolled oats
1 c flour
1 t baking soda
1 t vanilla
2/3 c butter or margarine, softened
1/2 c honey or syrup
1/3 c brown sugar
2 cups of whatever you want to add-in: chips, raisins, nuts, candy pieces, chopped dried fruit, sunflower seeds, etc


Heat oven to 325F (165C). Lightly grease 9 X 13 pan.

Combine first 7 ingredients. (I use my hands.) Add your add-ins.

Lightly press mixture into pan. bake 20-30 minutes, until golden brown.

Let cool for 10 minutes, then cut into bars. Cool completely in pan before removing.

Apricot Bites

2 c shredded coconut
1/2 c chopped, dried apricots
1/2 c chocolate chips
2 T flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 T custard powder (Sometimes I use 1 T cream of tartar)
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Combine first 7 ingredients. Mix well. Stir in milk until combined.

Roll level teaspoons of mixture into balls. (I just press the spoonful against the side of the bowl.)

Place on baking/waxed-paper lined tray, 2 cm (3/4 in) apart.

Bake at 180C (350F) for about 15 minutes. Transfer liner to counter for 5 minutes, then transfer bites to platter.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing

1/2 c butter, softened
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 c melted chocolate chips
dash of salt
6 c confectioners'/icing sugar
2 t vanilla

Cream butter and cream cheese. Add remaining ingredients, one at a a time. Beat until smooth and spreadable.

This recipe makes enough to ice a three layer cake.

Chocolatey Moist Cake

1 cup sugar
1-1/2 T cocoa
1 t baking soda
1-1/2 t baking powder
1-1/2 c flour
pinch salt
1/2 c melted butter
2 eggs
1/2 c milk
1 t vanilla
1/2 t instant coffee in 1 c boiling water

Mix dry ingredients together. Add cooled butter. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add milk. Mix well. Make coffee and add. Mix well.

Pour into sprayed 8-inch baking dishes and bake at 180C (350F) for 40 minutes.

Recipe can be doubled.

Oatmeal Bread


Heat 3 cups of water in the microwave for two minutes.

Add 2 c oatmeal (not instant)
      1/2 c honey
      2 T salt
      2 T oil

Stir  and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, mix 2 T yeast
                      1 t sugar
                      1-14 c warm water 

Allow to begin to froth.

Combine the two mixtures and add about 10 c flour, enough to make a firm dough. Knead for about 2 minutes; put into buttered dish, turn, cover and allow to double in size.

Make loaves or buns and place in buttered dish to double again.

Bake at 325F (150C) for about 35 minutes or until browned.

Otterboy's Chicken Breadsticks

Written out for me by Otterboy



Ingredients-
  • 50g of butter
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of chicken stock powder 
  • bread
Preheat oven to 180C (bake). Soften butter (do not melt). Add chicken stock, mix together, spread on bread and cut into 6 strips. Bake until golden brown. Recipe can be increased.

9/22/2009

Nameless?

I found these growing with some lilies but have no idea what they are. Can anybody help me with a name, please?

"Lily of the Nile"/Agapanthus seems to be correct, thanks to Connie!






9/21/2009

No-bake Chocolate Crunchies

This is a wonderful recipe that the kids can help make!

It contains 'golden syrup' which I could not find in the States, but I'm sure corn syrup would do just fine. I accidentally found that honey gives these crunchies a really nice flavor, too, so experiment a little to find what your family likes best.


No-bake Chocolate Crunchies


2 Cups chocolate chips/morsels
1/2 cup butter
10 Tablespoons golden syrup or honey or both
6 cups rice cereal


Melt chocolate and butter together over a low/med heat.
Remove from heat and stir in syrup/honey, then cereal. Mix well.


Drop by spoonfuls onto baking parchment/waxed paper and refrigerate about 45 minutes, until set.

9/16/2009

Spooky.....

No, that's not his name, but it should be!







This is Bubba (don't ask!) and he freaks me out quite frequently. Our 'front' door (which is in the kitchen) is made of panes of frosted glass, but it's in an alcove, of sorts, so it's weirdly shadowy most of the time. And at night, you can't see much at all. This is the door of choice for Bubba.

When he wants in, sometimes he just sits and meows until someone lets him in. But other times...whoa, that's when it gets spooky. And it only happens to me. I can be walking past the door into the laundry room and think psychicly feel sometimes I just 'know' that he is sitting outside, waiting to get in. But he doesn't make a sound. And I look really hard, but I can't even get a glimpse of an outline of him. He is just there. And I just know he is.

Hubby told me that there are undocumented explanations of this...this, whatever it is. Apparently, there are those out there that believe that cats emit ultra-high frequency sounds that humans cannot hear, but rather, they 'feel'. And, apparently, this sound is only felt by the ones that they want to open the door. Personally, I find that very plausible!

Hmmm....have I mentioned lately that I'm really a dog person?

9/15/2009

Blogger hints 4

Did you ever wonder how bloggers make those cutsie symbols?
[Sorry Mac users, this only works for PCs]

It's easy!  Just hold down the 'alt' (alternate) key, type a number using the keypad, not the numbers at the top, then release the alt key.


☺ =alt +1
☻ =alt +2
♥ =alt +3
♦ =alt +4
♣ =alt +5
♠ = alt+6
• = alt+7
◘ = alt+8
○ = alt +9
◙ = alt +10

♂♀♪♫☺☼►◄↕‼     These are 'alt' + 11-20

¶§▬↨↑↓→←∟↔     These are 'alt' + 21-30

▲▼ !"#$%&'(       These are 'alt' + 31-40

)*+,-./012           These are 'alt' + 41-50

9/13/2009

Random thoughts

If you think about it, the pencil was the first computer. It had 'print' at one end and 'delete' at the other.

Any situation looks different when you ask yourself, "Will this be important in six months?"

It's OK to be mad at God. He can handle it.

Nothing sucks more than the moment during an argument that you realize you are wrong.

You can't be late until you show up.

Forgive yourself. You deserve it.

Do you ever feel like you are diagonally parked in a parallel universe?

Think of giving not as a duty but as a privilege.

Let your children see you cry. It shows you are human.

There is definitely a need for a 'sarcasm' font.

Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

What other people think of you is none of your business.

Freezers deserve lights.

Two wrongs don't make a right, but three rights make a left.

If ovens can clean themselves, microwaves should ,too.

Why is there that little pang of terror when your computer asks if you want to save your edits, and you know you haven't made any?

9/11/2009

A kid, a cake and fake poo

Otterboy, who is 13, has a weekly project for school. This week it was to find a recipe, bake a cake and bring some into the classroom, if you could. 


Now, I must say that Otterboy and Missy are both fine cooks and bakers. And with Hubby being the world's best source for 'creative' ideas, it wasn't long before the discussion of this week's project ended up being about a "Kitty Litter Cake" that Hubby had come across a while back.


We didn't even bother to find the recipe on the internet before Otterboy was creating his very own version.  He decided on a carrot cake base and we put a streusel topping on it after it was baked, hoping it would give the cake a 'real' look.


Of course, the most talked about part was the fake poo. It was discussed in decadent detail, as I'm sure you can imagine *shudder* That ended up being made out of fudge, using the recipe I posted.

The glorious result is below.




We love it when a plan comes together!

9/08/2009

Where are the Kiwis?2

I have blogged before about the lack of Kiwi participation in the Scouts movement in our area. It has now come down to 5 English, 1 American and 1 Kiwi  persons that get the job done every week for the kids plus manning the Committee which is essential to have a group.

The committee has been functioning on a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants premise for two years because we have not had any of the management of the area or Zone tell us what was expected or how to find the 'rules' that we should be following. We have turned in minutes of our meetings to our Zone Leader who has replied that we are doing a fine job, so we figure we are doing ok.

Until the last few meetings, this 'kinda formal' approach has been acceptable to everyone.

Except one.

The lone Kiwi.

That I refer to as the Pompous One (PO).

Who apparently is the group leader appointed for us. Did I mention that the Committee was never informed or this in any way?  To tell the truth, I was wondering why the ($&% she was there.

Apparently, she is the ultimate permission person who was put in this position after she quit being the Kea (6-7 year olds) group leader. And, it's very apparent that this is the only person in the group who thinks she's still dealing with that age group.


It is much more than just apparent that she is one of those people who enjoy having power. because the last few meetings, she has taken giggly delight in smacking us on the proverbial hand and saying, "No, noooo" to things that have been done in the past. According to the PO any emails to the Zone Leader  (her immediate superior) as well as any purchasing for the group are now to be sent through her.

When this nay-saying began, I asked for a copy of the rules that we are breaking since, obviously they are written down somewhere, if she is to be correct in her corrections. The other committee members chimed in with approval of this suggestion, obviously as tired as I am of being treated like unruly schoolkids. That was two months ago.

What we got at the last meeting was a letter from the Zone Leader stating the powers of the PO. Oh, yes, and a smirky apology that she left 'the folder' (the information we wanted) at home.

Now, I will be the first to tell you that I know nothing about Parliamentary Procedure, though I have heard the phrase since childhood. And I try to be a laid-back sort taking things in stride.

But after the minutes were typed up a few days after the meeting, the PO actually emailed us all that some changes needed to be made and she was actually moving 'to accept' some reports and asking for seconds to the motions in cyberspace!! I was gobsmacked! (I love that word!)

I told her that I felt that was unethical and we should do any corrections at the next meeting. She proceeded to argue with me that "Actually, yes we can" (She always starts sentences with 'actually'--you can imagine how annoying that is) and blamed the Chairperson for not doing things right.

**at this point, please, refer back to where I said 
we were never given any guidelines**


Well, let's just say that this squabble lead to the Zone Leader calling a meeting for us all to sort this out! AND, apparently...the day after that, PO "found" a copy of the rules and regs,what we had been asking for all along!

I know a lot of Kiwis that I would have preferred to have on the Committee. How sad that this one turns out to be such a PO.

9/05/2009

Fruit Cocktail Cake

I like to bake. I love pound cake. But, I know that the family deserves a bit of variety, so I have been experimenting with new recipes. I found this one that has no butter or oil in it. It is super-easy and it turned out great!

Fruit Cocktail Cake

1-1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups fruit cocktail, including juice (it's called fruit salad here)
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, if desired

Mix all ingredients, except nuts, well.
Pour into ungreased pan.
Sprinkle nuts on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40-60 minutes, depending on oven.


I doubled the recipe for an 9 x 13 inch pan.




I frosted this cake with my own cream cheese icing concoction.

8 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla icing
1 teaspoon orange flavoring
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
2 cups powdered sugar (or enough to make icing spreadable)

Mix together, ice cake. Enjoy!

9/01/2009

Blogger hints 3

It used to be that you could really mess things up if you didn't know what you were doing, but NO MORE!! I promise that the world of computers is so simple that you really have to try if you want to mess things up!

If you ever get to a place where your computer won't do anything at all, there are several things that you can do.


1. Press down--all at the same time--'Ctrl' (control), 'Alt' (Alternate) and Delete. You will get a screen with a list of programs that are currently running (the 'applications' tab). Click the one that is not 'running' to highlight it, then go to the bottom and click 'End Task'. That should turn off the problem program and resume normal function.

2. Just hit the
Esc (escape) button.

3. If none of the keys change the screen, simply turn your computer off, wait about 30 seconds and turn it back on.


Be sure to use Disk Clean Up daily and Disk Defragmenter at least every other week. To find them, click:

  • start
  • all programs
  • accessories
  • system tools
You can put shortcuts on your desktop by 'right clicking' then click 'send to' and click 'Desktop (create shortcut).



There are lots of programs out there that can help you do great things with your photos. Many have asked about making collages and that's very simple!


'Page' is the program that does the collages. There are lots and lots of different combinations that you can use (all listed down the right-hand side). Select one and just drag the photos you want into it. [Just a note: there is no 'click for large picture' when you post them to your blog.]


The 'editor' is really nice and you can do a lot of different things like removing 'red eye' and adding text and speech bubbles and fun things like that.


You can 'animate' between a few photos,


Use 'combine' for several side by side row or a vertical row.  

 Just play with it and see what you can do!


Another great program is Autostitch-click here. This one will take several landscape photos and make them into one picture! It's very cool if you want to show what a view really looks like!


Other hints are here and here.

If you have specific questions, feel free to email me.