Monday, December 24, 2007

Te Papa

On the final day for the year I took Isla and Cara (and Sophie and Rowena) to Te Papa.

With little kids, getting there is half the fun, we have morning tea and a play, and then we choose one thing to explore. On this day we spent out time in the Pacific Islands Discovery Centre, which has been updated since I saw it last.

Cara and Sophie had a wonderful time with the felt board where you could play with Tivaevae patterns. They both spent a long time companionably arranging there, and you can see that they didn't get in each others' way at all.

Isla (and Cara earlier) spent her time carrying and sorting the plastic fruit, veges and seafood. She certainly has a feast spread out around her!

Connie's Christmas Cake

This is the Christmas cake I have made this year. The recipe comes from my Aunty Connie in Whangarei.

Mum was talking to her one day in early December. She got the recipe, and rang me at 9am on a Monday morning, saying she had just put her cake in the oven, and it looked like it would be a good recipe.

By midday I have my cake mixed up and in the oven (I happened to have just bought some fruit mix), and my sister Rae, in Dunedin, had had a similar phone call and also made the recipe that same day. In the evening mum was able to ring Connie and report on the three cakes that had been produced around the country during the day.

Connie's Dargaville Christmas Cake

3/4 cup sugar
100g butter
1 Tbls. golden syrup
¾ cup milk
1t almond ess.
1t vanilla ess.
1T marmalade
1 kg. mixed fruit
2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup plain flour
2t mixed spice
1t baking powder
2 no. 7 eggs
¼ cup brandy

Heat sugar, butter, golden syrup, milk, essence and marmalade till butter is melted.
Add fruit, then sifted dry ingredients. Lastly add
beaten egg.
Pat top of cake with wet hand and then drop cake on the floor (or bench) to release air bubbles.

Bake in middle of oven at 125 degrees C for 3 hours without opening oven door.

I made mine in a 9" square tin, which was a good size, though if you like a taller cake, use an 8" tin. I also put the brandy over the cooked cake (2T on the top, then cover closely with foil, then 2T on the bottom when the cake is cold and you turn it out, then cover tightly again). This is what I usually do, and the recipe didn't say otherwise.

If you haven't made a Christmas cake before, you should line the bottom of the tin with a piece of butter paper so it comes out easily. Greasing the sides of the tin is not necessary, as you can run a knife around before turning the cake out. (You should ideally leave a Christmas cake in the tin until it is cool - at least let it stand in the tin for a while.)

A bigger cake, which cooked for longer, would also have the tin lined with one or two layers of brown paper, extending above the level of the tin at the sides. In theory this gives the sides (which cook first) some protection from overcooking while the centre finishes cooking.

I iced my cake with Brandy Butter icing, made with 2T softened butter, about 2 cups sifted icing sugar, mixed to a spreadable consistancy with brandy, a bit at a time. I cut the cake only a week after I made it at the Christmas party, and it cut very nicely, with no crumbling, and very moist.

It is probably a bit late for Christmas day if anyone reading hasn't made their cake (!!), but New Year is a good excuse for a fruity cake too.

End of year afternoon tea

I am seriously behind in blogging, having the circular problem of being so busy at this time of year doing interesting things that there doesn't seem time to blog them....! (Apologies to my regular reader.) But I'll try to have a little catch-up.

On Wednesday 12 December we had the end of year afternoon tea party for the little kids and families. It was a nice afternoon, so the children were able to get outside in the sandpit, and it was great to see all the families represented.

This was actually the week before my final week for the year, as Grace's family and also Carley (the programme manager) were going away early on holiday.

This end of year party is a good excuse to cut my Christmas cake. In fact, it's a good excuse to make sure I've got a Christmas cake done before Christmas! This year I used a new recipe of my Aunty Connie's, which I will post next.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Impact end of year dinner

We have just come back from the Impact end of year dinner. Impact is the youth group at our church, which is for college age kids and some older ones stay on as leaders. Both Katie and Rowena have been attending numerous events during the year, as well as meeting in small groups during the week, and on Sundays.

The end of year dinner is for the parents and other family members, and is to wrap up the year and celebrate what they have been getting up to.

We had a bit of a surprise tonight. We were randomly assigned to dinner tables (to mix people up), and randomly assigned a 'physical impairment', which we had to maintain during the main course.

My impairment was 'no arms', so I had my wrists tied together behind my back. Elanor had the same impairment. Bern had 'stiff arms' - splints tied to his elbows so he couldn't bend his arms. Katie was 'blind' - blindfolded. Sophie had one arm only and Rowena had no arms as well. Other impairments were no hands (hands bandaged into fists) and one leg.

Now just try to imagine for a minute how you would eat curry and rice, lasagna, salad and vegetables with each of those impairments.

Done that?

How about if you knew you also had to go up to a buffet table and serve your meal, and carry it back to your table?


I paired up with a 'blind' lady to get our meals. Mary was able to carry two plates, and I was able to see what the food was and ask someone to serve us. I also guided her very carefully back to the table so she wouldn't 'lose' our dinners!

It turned out that the people with stiff arms were reasonable at feeding others, but had to be fed themselves. The blind people needed guidance to get the food, but could eat just fine - but they all reported feeling very lonely unless people were talking to them all the time. The 'no hands' people did a reasonable amount of cheating, slipping cutlery into their stumps. And the 'armless' people could eat a bit off the plate, but being fed was much quicker (and less messy).

The whole point, of course, was lots of cooperation. Apparently the kids ate a meal in this way earlier in the year at camp, and it really was good fun. Everyone at our table got their dinner eaten eventually. We were allowed to take our bandages off for dessert.

We were also entertained with some songs, a dance (which Rowena was in), paintings which some of the kids had done displayed (including one by Katie) and a quiz.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

New Crayons

There's nothing like being the first to use brand new crayons. I bought a new bundle of crayons last week, and Katie asked if she could use them first. I said she could as long as she sat on the floor with the little girls and they all drew together.

They mostly all drew their own pictures, but not too worried about a bit of collaboration! I did drawing too, and working on the floor saves the problem of retrieving dropped crayons. The texture in the lino also made interesting impressions in the drawings which I hadn't considered ahead of time.

The shot is a bit crowded. We started in an area of floor with more room around, but it's uncanny how kids always seem to position their most involved play where they are most in the way of through traffic!

But I do like the way they are all focused on one point, and the reflection of light off the lino gives a slightly ethereal effect to the picture.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Sophie and I went camping this weekend

We have been having some lovely weather recently - day after day of fine, sunny weather, and less wind than usual for Spring.

Yesterday, Sophie and I decided it was the right weather for a camping holiday. (This was at least partly because we were both reading outside, and needed some shade!)

We put the tent up, and then lay around in it reading our novels (which is what you do on holiday).

It was Bern's day to cook dinner, and we all ate outside on the grass.

Later in the evening Sophie and I set up our sleeping bags, and stayed the night in the tent.

It's not that robust a tent, and I don't think I'd like to have to rely on it in a rain storm. But it's fine for back yard camping for two. (Or three if the 3rd one is small.)

(What I hadn't realised until last night is that there is a dog somewhere down the road who likes to bark for ages from 10pm. Hmmm.)

Next time I'll make sure we have the camping lantern down from the roof space (forgot it until bedtime), and maybe we can cook our breakfast saussies on the barbie!

(ps, Bern and Elanor have gone camping tonight.)