Saturday, April 28, 2012

Well, maybe I won't miss Picnik too much after all

My neighbour has a dogwood tree that I covet.
Wouldn't you covet these deep pink blossoms if you had to look at them every time you went out your front door?

I'm trying out LunaPic, needing a new photo editor after the sad demise of Piknik.
What do you think? I haven't explored the subtleties of the programme yet, but I like these basic effects.

Colour bars
Christmas bulb
Photo spread
Lego Style
3D Cube
Colour pencil sketch

Tilt tile
Transitions animation. For some reason, it won't post as an extra-large picture, but I'm just impressed that I could post it at all!

There are lots of others, especially animations, which I hardly got into at all. This was what I did while having half-an-eye on New Tricks on PBS tonight. Don't ask me what the story was about!
I have high hopes for LunaPic.

In other news, everyone has gone home and Jeff and I are alone again.
Elsie never did warm up to me, but I suspect it was because her Mama was always in sight.
That's okay. I have a very strong sense of delayed gratification and I shall win this battle eventually.
Happy Sabbath to you all.
May you be surrounded by those who love you.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Happy Crazy Week

A certain Pirate lovingly berated me for being silent, so this is an appeasement for the people who read this blog because you love me.
If you come here for astounding recipes and fascinating opinion pieces, better come back next week.
If you already saw the one thousand-and-ninety-five photos I posted on facebook, likewise.

It has been a busy few days, but full of love and merriment.
Here are the two youngest babes, checking each other out. They weren't too impressed at first, but have become more interested as the days go by. They are both at the cooing and gurgling stage and are prime targets for motherese. 

Gabriel is a sweet soul. He is a wiggly baby, in contrast to Madelyn, who is very calm. 

Elsie mostly ignores me. I followed her around the garden one morning, trying to get a decent photo, and I didn't manage to get one picture of her looking at me and smiling.
The girl has attitude!

Here she is, trying on new clothes and finding unusual places to park her cute bottom.

Much food was consumed.

Much laughter was heard.

Dolly Parton dropped in for a visit.
Inside joke.

Some of us got to take naps.
And I don't mean Nana.

Charlie and Sam were here for less than three days and were continually surrounded by an entourage of adoring nieces and nephews.

On Monday, we watched soccer games. 
Josh was obviously excited by something.

Daniel got an impressive trophy and a cupcake.

Elsie got a cupcake.
She ate the frosting as Kenzie hovered over her. 
Elsie loves Kenzie more than she loves me.
Which is okay. 

Annie and Edwin are still here and the action continues, so now I'm going to bed to stock up on energy for tomorrow and try to think of a cunning plan to engage Elsie's affection.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

It's a surprise, stupid!

In a few days, these little darlings will be paying me a visit.

Um, okay, they're visiting Papa too. And Aunty Bethany and Aunty Jenny and maybe the uncles and all the cousins who dote on them as well.
Oh, and their mommy and daddy are coming along for the ride.

One day earlier, these little darlings will also arrive for the weekend.

They weren't going to come, but my motherly heart couldn't stand the thought of them not being here with the rest of us, so we bribed them with free tickets. 
Free to them, that is!

Now, the idea was that these 

would not know that these 

were coming.

Don't tell Annie, I told everyone. 
I wanted it to be a surprise.
I love surprising people.

One time, when my Mum came for a visit from New Zealand, she was expecting to arrive and then witness Annie's birth within a few days. Which, to be honest, I don't think she was anticipating with relish, but I thought it would be good for her. Only Annie came early, so Jeff and the kids went to pick Mum up at the airport and told her I was resting. We swore the kids to secrecy, a bit of a risky undertaking with a three-and a two-year-old. When she walked into the bedroom she didn't notice Annie in the crib and nearly had a heart attack when she saw I had no pregnant tummy.
True story.
The next time she came to visit, we had just moved into our house and didn't tell her. She couldn't figure out why we pulled into this nice new house instead of the crappy old rental. Annie was four at the time and was not happy about sharing her room with Nana. Of course, she wasn't happy about moving into the new house either. She used to cry and ask to go back to the "yellow house".
True story.
I love surprising people.

Last Sunday, Jonnie asked me why I wanted to surprise Annie.
Because I like surprising people! I exclaimed. Surprises are fun!

Some people just don't get it.

So today I was talking to Annie about a musical number our family will sing in church next week. Be Still My Soul, if you're interested. We were discussing who would sing which part, with Bethany on flute and me on piano. It leaves us a little short on girls voices. She said something like Well Sa.. and then stopped short.
What did you say?
What? Oh, I don't know, something about singing.
Who let the cat out of the bag?
What are you talking about? Did you get a cat?

And then the conversation just got stupid. I couldn't figure out how to nail Annie down without giving away the secret, if indeed she hadn't figured it out. As soon as I got off the phone with Annie I called Bethany.

Does Annie know about Charlie and Sam coming?
I don't think so, I haven't talked to her for a while.

I called Charlie, then Sam.
No answer came the stern reply.

I called Jon. 
Did you tell Annie about Charlie?
 He tried to act as if he didn't understand  what I was talking about, but then he was sheepish.
I talked to her a couple of hours ago and we were planning Saturday stuff and I said "Mum wants us to all go out to dinner while Charlie's still here". And then I remembered I wasn't supposed to tell.
After I lovingly berated him for being such a stupid son, he suggested that I not tell Annie that I know that she knows so that she can act all surprised.
I said that is just stupid and rejected the idea.

I called Annie back and told her that I know she knows. 
She said What? He told you? I told him not to tell you!

Good grief. 

It promises to be an intriguing week, don't you think?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Botanica exotica

It occurred to me yesterday, as I was creeping stealthily around my vegetable garden, hoping to catch my vegetables in the act of growing, that I do not grow many of your average horticulturals.
Sure, tomatoes take over a large part of the raised bed every summer, but right now, it's the unusual that rules the compost heap.

In their third year, the asparagus tips are springing up with abandon.

Blueberry flowers are gamely blooming in spite of the hail and rain. 
Everything in the garden is bedecked with droplets of intermittent precipitation.

Will this be the year that the kiwis finally give us fruit?
Oh, I hope so. Last year, the female flowered, so all we need now is for the male to do the same and we are in business.

The ruby red rhubarb plant has such pretty leaves this year and I just figured out why.
No slug holes.
Way to go, little rhubarb plant!

Now, as soon as temperatures warm up, maybe my milk-bottle seeds will have something to show.
Until then, happy gardening to you.
And may the odds be ever in your favour.

Sorry. Couldn't resist a little Hunger Games quote, for some reason!

Friday, April 13, 2012

My new cunning plan (shhhh, don't tell the kids!)

A couple of Sundays ago, after Jeff's birthday celebration (including the usual dinner and cake) and feeling quite exhausted, I nonchalantly said, Oh, it's Easter next Sunday. Who's hosting dinner?
Jon volunteered. 
So Sunday afternoon found us all at Jon and Jenny's house. 
I did not have to clean.
I made a few of the dishes, but Bethany has become roll-baker extraordinaire and Jon and Jenny took care of most of the dinner.
Here is Jenny, sauteeing sauteing (okay, that spelling was unexpected) cauliflower. 
In bacon fat. Yummmm.

Jon, adventurously stir-frying green beans and red peppers.
Not sure what the baleful look was about.
Notice Thomy at the piano in the background.

The little darling was tickling the ivories as we cooked. 

Squeaker was often to be found underfoot or being cuddled...

...or trying to nibble baby Madelyn's toes.
What is it with small dogs and their fascination with small people?

I love men in the kitchen, don't you?

Jon was suffering from sleep deprivation, as usual. 
I think he did smile a couple of times, but I never managed to catch it on camera.

Our angel's mother (who shall remain nameless at this time) forgot about the connection between sun exposure and sunburn and sunstroke. The unexpected sunshine on Saturday was the babe's undoing. Our fair skin has caused a case of sunstroke for almost every child at one time or another.

Jenny and Madelyn having a good conversation. This baby loves to babble.

Bethany and Chris managed the Easter egg hunt.
Chris was very innovative in his choices of hiding places.

I'm afraid that this has set a dangerous precedent.
Thanksgiving, anyone?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sue's Killer Bread

One of my favourite snacks, while growing up in New Zealand, was a slice of buttered Vogel's bread. It was a dense, grainy bread that went mouldy if it wasn't eaten within about three days, so you know it was pure. They still sell it, but like most things, the recipe has changed and it's not as good. Once in a while, by a lucky accident, one of my whole wheat loaves from my bread machine will turn out with a similar consistency, but I can never do it purposely.
Last night, I started the process of a recipe that I thought might be the one. 
It is a long process, but simple.
Being me, I changed the recipe so much that I think I can now call it my own.
And I'm sharing it with you.
It is so chock-full of healthy stuff that you can eat it without shame.
I stole the name from our local ex-con's bread line.
Don't tell him.
He might snuff me out while I sleep.

You need to start this bread about 12 or 13 hours (or longer) before you want to eat it. I started mine in the evening and baked it at lunchtime the next day.

Sue's Killer Bread

2 c white bread flour
2 1/2 c wheat flour
1 tsp chia seed
1/4 c flax meal
1/3 tsp yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tbs honey
2 1/3 c water
Mix all together in a bowl and cover with a wet cloth. Leave on the counter for at least 12 hours. It will be slightly risen and bubbly when ready.

In another bowl or pot, mix 3/4 c coarse grains with 1 c boiling water. I used a mixture of 10 grain cereal and grits, but you could use cracked wheat or oat groats, or any other grains. Cook for a couple of minutes till water is absorbed. Cover and leave for 12 hours.

After the waiting period, mix the two together (I usually do this with my hands) and add 1/4c rolled oats and 1/2 c of any other seeds that you like. Spray another bowl with oil and gently place the dough in it. Cover and leave for another two hours. When it is almost ready, put a Dutch oven (or other heavy, covered casserole dish) into the oven and preheat to 425 degrees. 

Take the dish out of the oven and remove the lid. Spray the heated dish with non-stick spray and gently ease the ball of dough into it and replace the lid. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, to brown the top. Tip onto a cooling rack, cover with a tea towel, and don't cut till cooled.
No matter how much you are tempted.
You don't want the steam to escape.


There it is, all crusty and brown.

The inside is chewy and moist, just how I like it.

A slice of heaven with butter on it.

Can't argue with that.

Some notes on the recipe:
The original recipe called for 2 tbs of gluten. I no longer add gluten to my bread; I prefer the texture of added chia. I think it would be okay without either.
The mixture of grains and seeds is purely preference. A few chopped nuts would be yummy too.
Next time, I might lower the temperature to 400 degrees, as the bottom crust was a tad too brown for me. Which hasn't stopped me from eating it.
And I am going to gradually increase the percentage of whole wheat flour, or other whole grain flours. Buckwheat may be in my future.

I'm on a kick, like so many of you, to eat more whole-and-healthy foods and less junk. This bread will be a regular at my house from now on. I hope it helps your cooking repertoire too.
Thanks for reading.
And don't judge me for the thick slathering of butter.
By Thursday, I need butter!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Farewell Piknik

Piknik is closing its doors in a couple of weeks. I haven't used it in a long time, so I thought I would have a little fun with some pictures I took of a hailstorm this afternoon.
Then Blogger got a little feisty with me and wouldn't let me upload the last photo. It kept telling me I had used up all of my free storage space in my Picasa Web album. Which I couldn't understand, because I don't use Picasa any more for that very reason. Too cheap to pay for web storage. It took me over an hour, but I finally beat Google, which now owns Picnik and made the decision to close it down.
The short story is that the first photo was originally cropped to a skinny 3494 x 1496 pixels. I thought it was lovely in its skinniness. But anything with dimensions under 2094 x 2094 pixels does not count towards the free 1G of storage space, so this lovely photo was putting me over the top.
Who knew? 

So here it is, my short tribute to Piknik.

And a couple of photos of the kiddos from last summer that I was playing around with.

Feel free to bow down to my awesomeness.