Nov 28, 2008

queen cleopatra

My sister gave us a treasure trove of kids' books at the weekend, and we have been having a great time exploring them this week.

Miss4's current favourite is a book produced by the British National Museum all about Beauty Secrets of Egyptian Queens. It's an activity book with pop-out cardboard jewelery, lots of information about a whole range of Egyptian Queens, and suggested activities - like making an Egyptian style wig, how to make a long linen tunic and...
milk and rose petal bath to have a bath like Cleopatra - using milk powder instead of asses' milk, for convenience sake. Thankfully, since donkeys are in short supply in this suburb.

Miss4 has been switching between being Cleopatra and Elizabeth I this week. Sometimes she's both at the same time, which makes for interesting conversations among her toys. Read more...

Nov 24, 2008

You treat me like I'm your slave

So said Miss4. as she took some breakfast plates through to the kitchen.

Our wonderful big girl is taking off reading, and has just discovered where I have hidden all of my graphic books. No, not like that silly. Asterix, Dilbert, Calvin and Hobbes and The Farside. The latter three are impenetrable due to their heavy use of irony, which is beyond her at present ("Calvin is a naughty naughty boy").

But she can and does devour Asterix, which has lead to a number of interesting questions about Romans, punching people, slaves, and of course, falling into the magic potion.

We now have the kinda good problem where she just goes and hides for long stretches of the time and we find her sitting on the toilet or in her room reading. Jobs take a distinct second place, which is why we have to be firm, which is why apparently we treat her like a slave.

Which is why we have to explain to her.....


Nov 20, 2008

advent conspiracy

Spend less. Give more. Be free.

Nov 19, 2008

shower caps

Miss4 and Miss1 in their new shower caps

Thanks to this very easy to use tutorial at Sew Delish our girls now have new shower caps.

Miss4 had been protesting about having a shower in the evenings because she doesn't like having her hair combed out and then dried (it's very tuggy). So we thought we'd give a shower cap a try.

I used a large plastic postage bag for the plastic layer and some old cotton sheeting for the blue layer. The only thing I had to buy was the bias binding - and at 99c a metre these are economical shower caps.

The tutorial says to use a circle 55 to 66 centimetres diameter, and I made mine 51cm, due to plastic bag size constraints, but this is a fine size for a child's head. If I were to make one again I would use a lighter type of plastic - perhaps rubbish bag weight.

Both girls have been wearing the caps as 'casual day wear' around the house since I finished them yesterday. And the shower this evening went very well, with no hair-drying required.

All in all a very successful project.

Nov 16, 2008

Young Tory of the Year

From 1995. The more things change the more they stay the same.
From "A Bit of Fry and Laurie" UK comedy show. Read more...

Nov 15, 2008

Life Without School

Life Without School is a 'community blog' which I check regularly. There are a range of contributors, with a new article posted roughly weekly.

I've been inspired and reassured by the articles - each written by a home educator sharing an insight or tip or general musings on life. The contributors follow the "inquiry-based, learner driven approach" (the swanky phrase I've recently adopted because 'unschooling' makes people nervous).

Highly recommended for a bit of inspiration.

Nov 14, 2008

homemade tortillas

Mixing the oil into the flour

I tried making my own wheatflour tortillas the other night. We had leftovers, and not many of them, and I needed some way to make the same dinner over again look like a completely different dinner. Solution? Wrap it in a tortilla!

Personally I don't know how people roll them thinly enough to make them look like shop bought tortillas - mine ended up looking a lot more like naan bread once they were cooked. But that is not a bad thing. Naan is in fact very good.

Since it was my first attempt, I stuck to the recipe exactly - next time I'll use butter instead of oil and at least some wholemeal/wheatmeal flour in with it, perhaps up to 50/50.

As for the tools to use, you can use anything to mix the oil in - you don't have to use the nifty pastry cutter (or blender) that you see in my photo. I like to use it because it was my Mum's. It also spreads the oil through really evenly. I don't use it to mix the water in though - it just gets clogged up. That's when I switch to my wooden spoon.

I don't think I used quite enough water - they were not really soft enough to roll out easily. But be careful not to add too much. Soggy dough is a bit harder to correct.

Apparently these freeze well, but I'd probably need to triple the recipe to have any left to freeze.


2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons oil
about 3/4 cup warm water

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl (or food processor), add the oil and then slowly add enough warm water to form a soft dough. Knead on a floured board for about 5 minutes then allow the dough to rest.
Divide dough into 10 or so small balls and roll out thinly.
Cook them quickly in a greased, moderately hot pan for half a minute or so, until they bubble and start to brown. Turn and cook the other side.
Keep them in a damp tea-towel to keep soft and reheat in aluminium foil in the oven. Read more...

Nov 12, 2008

building community

I cannot surpass the two posts I'll link to in a minute. The suggestions are excellent, the approach is hope-filled, and the goals are admirable.

In North and South this week I read a prediction for the economic downturn. The man is Bruce Sheppard. The words are as follows
"...We're all going to have to reflect on the kind of society we want to become. We're going to need to learn to be charitable and show decency and respect towards one another again..."
And if we don't? "We will descend into anarchy because there won't be enough cash flowing around to make everyone a winner. We'll be staring at a South African-style future." Rampant violent crime and home invasions."
North and South, December 2008

Perhaps not coincidentally our vicar at church has been talking about the transforming power of hope within communities - and for communities to adapt to doing things in new ways.

Over at Green Bean Dreams there is an excellent post on building community.

Please do go and read the post. But just in case the link breaks (as they do), here are a few choice snippets. Green Bean says;
There are a million ways to do it. Sign up with a local green group. Join a church or, if you already belong, attend an event or volunteer to be on a committee. Put together an email list for the neighborhood. Plant a garden in your front yard. Set up a cocktail table in a cul de sac. Ask other parents at your child's school about carpooling. Ask a neighbor to borrow an egg or a cup of sugar. The ways to build community are as simple and as limitless as can be.

But here's the catch.

Building community is hard. It will tug you out of your comfort zone. It will force you to interact with others - particularly, others whom you do not know well or at all. That is, after all, the point.

In many ways, it is easier to make your own yogurt, plant an edible garden, make jam in a silent kitchen. That is more comfortable for most of us and certainly for myself. I don't have to talk to anyone when I harvest lettuce or stir in the yogurt culture. I can sit in the quiet cocoon of my own home and reach out only through wires and cables. I don't have to look at anyone's face. Or struggle for something to say. Or wonder afterwards if what I said sounded stupid. If I talked too much or too little.
This is true. Christ did not tell us to go live holy lives in isolation - He was all about community and bringing hope to the world. And that means the community of people around us.

The other good post is the one which tipped me to Green Bean's blog. Melinda at One Green Generation uses Green Bean's post as a starting point and then expands on it from her own experiences. All a community group really needs is a few friends sitting around deciding to do stuff and inviting others to join in. Be brave and actually get out there and join in with them!

Hattip to the Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op for having Melinda write for them too :) Read more...

Nov 10, 2008

something i didn't know about flies

caution, not for those with weak stomachs

Flesh fly. Sarcophaga spp. Image from wiki entry

Miss4 was on a fly hunt today. The warmer weather has brought a few of them inside and she is an excellent fly swatter (what passes for hand-eye-coordination training around here).

Today, she swatted a fly and decided to do a little investigating. After all, we do encourage an 'enquiry based, learner directed approach' donchernow, so despite my own qualms about the grossness I remained silent as she proceeded.

Taking a wooden block, she carefully squished the fly on the windowsill to see what she would see.

What she saw was live young! How cool is that?? I didn't know that flies could lay live maggots - I thought they all laid eggs that went through the usual egg, larvae, pupae, fly process.

After ascertaining for certain that we were indeed seeing what we were seeing, I sent her off to thoroughly wash her hands and the wooden block while I got rid of the fly and maggots.

I've just done some investigating online and found that it must have been a flesh fly. Some species of flesh fly lay live young (try saying that 6 times fast) and thus are useful to forensic entomologists (people who look at the insect colonisation of dead bodies to determine time of death etc). I like their scientific name Sarcophagidae - meaning 'flesh eater'.

There's a you-tube of someone doing the exact same thing if you really want to see it. Some people will put anything on youtube, won't they? I didn't watch the whole thing, it was too gross to see twice...


Nov 9, 2008

farewell helen - post election reflections

I will miss you, Helen Clark, farewell and enjoy your retirement.

The NZ election results came in on Saturday night, with a clear government able to be formed by National and Act.

(for anyone not familiar with New Zealand's voting system, we have multiple parties, elected based on their overall percentage of the votes, who then get to negotiate with each other to try and form a majority group who can be the 'government' - it's actually more complicated than that, but that's close enough - for more info, see the MMP wiki)

So. A swing to the Right.

Which is not the way I voted :) I did reconsider my vote for the Greens in the end - I ended up ticking the Progressive's box, whom I decided actually more closely aligned with my ideals.

I totally support the Greens' environmental policies, and I love their insulation scheme for poor peoples' homes, but I was uncomfortable with some of their other private member's bills that were passed in the last few years. A little too much of the government legislating how you behave in the privacy of your own home/private premises etc (like the anti-smacking bill, and the anti-smoking legislation - both of which I agreed with the aims of - but felt that the legislation was sloppy and rushed, and consequently had unlooked for consequences - like what a CYFs caseworker might now do when a neighbour reports a smack, or Returned Servicemen not being able to smoke in their own RSA clubs).

So. To the future. Some of my friends have said that they would plan to leave the country if Helen were re-elected (to which I always replied "and go where??"), and today my bro said that some of his friends were now planning to leave the country. Go figure. I still reply "and go where??" The whole world is having an economic meltdown. OK, sure, the last time New Zealand had a Right Wing government in power during a recession, they retrenched (causing massive job losses - the government and its infrastructure projects being a major source of employment), set a target of 10% unemployment (i.e. always to have at least 10% of people unemployed), slashed welfare to 'make people want to get a job' (while actively planning not to have jobs for everyone), got rid of state-housing, sold off or deregulated state assets like the railways and power companies (so the railway system was sucked dry and left a wasted worthless husk, while we now have power companies raising consumer fees by 10% 'because of the hard times' while giving their execs 100% pay raises).

But they wouldn't be stupid enough to do that all over again. Would they??

Despite the fact that many of those very same people are likely to have cabinet positions.

And Roger Douglas, of Rogernomics fame, likely to return to cabinet.


But even so, NZ is still an awesome place to live. I can't think of a place I would rather be.

My hope is that people will come together to help each other out during the coming hard times, just as they did last time. That the church will respond with compassion and grace and practical help to those who are desperate - as it did with the Hikoi of Hope in 1998. And we will remember that no government, no political system, no leader with a charismatic smile can ever rescue us.

Neither can the church - a bunch of people mostly doing their best to follow Christ each day, some days better than others, mostly fairly averagely.

Only Christ himself.

And even then, to be honest, sometimes the divine 'rescue' initially looks like a worse option than staying with what you have. I'm sure the thought crossed Jesus' mind on his way to his execution. In fact, scripture says it did (Luke 32:39-44).

It's late and I'm rambling (and making lots of typos which I'm having to go back and correct), but I guess what I'm saying is that even though I am less than stoked about our election result, I am confident in God's sovereignty, confident in his goodness, and hopeful to see what good he will create from the situation. There is always goodness - and every good and perfect thing is from God (even if our vew of God is too small to make the connection obvious). Read more...

Nov 6, 2008

I have a secret - a merl post

And it is this: Today is the sixth day of Movember. It's a great opportunity for the women in your life to develop character.

The rules: Have a bare lip on October the 31st, and then compete with other guys at work to grow the best moustache (something which you have almost no control over). All in a good cause.

This year it's even more exciting than usual because Miss4 and I have decided to keep my Moustache growing a 'secret' from the wif.

Comments from Miss4 in the last week:
Won't she be so surprised? But don't tell her. It's our secret.

It's so soft and warm (stroking what is essentially three day old stubble).

You should stop talking to mummy and tell her not to talk to you. That way she won't find out you're growing a moustache.

and then today: snow

Yes, truly, snow. And hail.

Remember what the weather was like a couple of days ago?

Well, we woke this morning to snow on the hills. The weather at springtime in a temperate, coastal climate in the pacific ocean is completely mental.

We embraced the moment and, taking morning tea with us in the car, went driving looking for some snow to play in. And we found some! It was fairly sub-par, as snow goes, but it was good for a wee snow fight. It was Miss1's first experience of snow and she wasn't that stoked. She was far more interested in stomping in the muddy puddles and after about 10 minutes was trying to open the car doors to get back in the warmth (or perhaps to get access to the biscuits/cookies we brought with us).

So after a couple more snow balls we called it a day. We climbed out of our wet snow clothes, and warmed up with some hot chocolate from the thermos (fair trade hot chocolate, of course!) before heading back home.

One more thing we wouldn't be able to do if Miss4 was at school next year! Read more...

Nov 4, 2008

an afternoon in the sun

Afternoon tea on the lawn with Princess Clarey (the bear in the dress).

Yesterday was a beautiful day - not so hot that you'd burn, but nice and warm while lying in the sun. This photo was taken in the late afternoon, with Miss1 having her catch-up afternoon tea after her long afternoon nap. Miss4 and I had already had ours, sitting on a rug in the shade. Very civilised.

I've decided it's a good thing the election is this weekend, because I'm done with politics for now :) I occasionally get a rush of blood to the head about things, but I'm over it now. I figure that both the major parties are self-serving politicos, and the smaller parties are more or less forced into extreme positions just to make themselves visible to the media.

I was going to put a quote here to express and validate my cynicism, but it turns out I'd mis-remembered it. Perhaps this is better - it is inspirational and optimistic, if only we can find the party to vote for that reflects what we consider to be "high ideals and heroism"

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you
to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Desiderata, by Max Ehrmann


Nov 1, 2008

helen clark - eminem parody video

We thought this was funny.

I'm coming to the conclusion that I don't want either National or Labour to win the election. This rather hampers my strategical voting powers...

By the way, there's a good intro to NZ politics and MMP here, explaining the system etc for an Australian audience, if you're a foreigner and interested in our upcoming election. Or even if you're a kiwi and need a reminder.

Saw the other day that some of our kiwi school kids here reckoned they wanted Obama to win the NZ election, the odds are fairly low... Read more...
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