Saturday, July 30, 2011

Links of the Week: July 30

Amazing Animals:  The Christchurch Goldfish at NZ Herald
I saw this on the news last night and thought it was so cool.  It's great to see a story come from Christchurch that is about something good happening, and apparently this story has been picked up world-wide.  See?  People do like happy news!

Libraries:  Paying Kids to Read?  At TVNZ
The happy news continues!  In an effort to enable kids to continue using the library, New York Public Library has decided to wipe $1 worth of fines from a child's account for every 15 minutes of reading they do.  They say that this will help 'in these hard economic times' (why isn't there an acronym for that yet?  ITHET?), which is good, but I'm pretty sure not fining them at all would be an alternative.  Like our library!

Music:  Noel Gallagher's New Song at
When Oasis split, half of me burst into tears and the other half said "it won't last, you know how crazy those two are".  Now each of the brothers have released music with their own bands, and I still have that voice saying Oasis isn't over forever.  So, while I continue thinking that, here's Noel's new song :-)

Craft:  Solid Perfume Pocketwatch at Design*Sponge
This is such a great idea!  I love how the author introduces the post with a statement about her lack of feminine beauty.  I looked around the rest of her site and am surprised, because her site is so beautiful.  I love when people are oxymorons.  But I digress; I really would love to make this, I think the fragrance would be just as pretty as its presentation.  So that's going on the 'one day' to do list!

Recipe:  Risotto Balls at World Kitchen
We don't like mushrooms in our house, but I tried a risotto ball for the first time at a friend's party not long ago and am desperate to try to make some myself (the party was catered, so I can't ask my friend).   I love World Kitchen, and am so glad I found the show shortly after I came back to NZ in 2009.  Mum and I agree that a lot of the appeal is the attitude and smile of the presenter.  She is always keen to try anything - whether it be eating a snail, or trying to make baklava - and no matter the outcome she laughs and has fun.  A great example to live up to!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Links of the Week: X

Somehow this list became the "it's almost my birthday" links of the week...  a full month and a half before my birthday!

Art:  Art Deco Firefly Prints at  QMX Online
Gorgeous posters you can buy me.  I really like the trend of making superheros and characters from television and movies into art deco pictures.  I want these on my wall.

Jewelry:  Gem Sprouts on etsy
These are really really cool - living plants inside pendant necklaces.  Adding this to my want list too.

Fashion:  Stay S'mored on Snorg Tees
I love Ghostbusters, so this makes me grin.  I also like s'mores (though I've never had a REAL s'more with graham crackers as they're not sold in NZ).  At the end of Ghostbusters, I always wonder what they do with all of the marshmallow that explodes all over the city.  I know I'd be eating any that fell on me!

Geek:  Wil Wheaton Tee at Sharkslope
Hehehe, I know all of these references.

Food:  Cook's Thesaurus at Food Subs
Thought I had better include at least one non-shopping item!  This is a great website I found while searching for the required cooking time of yellow lentils.  It's like any other thesaurus; it provides alternates or substitutes for what you know.  For example, I learned that you can substitute brown or pink lentils for yellow.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Natural/Homemade Cleaning Products

I am obsessed with baking soda.  Yes, that is weird, I am well aware of the fact.  But it awesome.  I had to switch to hypoallergenic washing powder a while ago because the smell was getting to me and making me sneeze.  It's funny to me that these washing powder scents just keep getting stronger and noone else seems to have a problem with it.  I was also getting sick of discolouration on my white clothes, and remembered that baking soda can help.  I added some to the water and *pop* the white looked much cleaner.  So I looked about online to see if there was anything else I could use it for.  Lo and behold, vinegar and baking soda (with a little water) makes a great pre-treatment for your clothes and can also be used to clean just about anything (including the wet patch my fully-grown and litter-box-trained cat made on the floor last week!).  I'm thinking of finishing this box of washing powder and relying completely on this combination.

After baking one day I had some lemon halves left, and remembered that lemon juice is good for washing dishes.  I tried it on our stainless steel grater that...  was covered in stains (you know how hard they are to wash!).  I grated the lemon along the sides and then let it sit for a few minutes while I washed other items, then gave it a bit of a scrub and it shone!

So, based on these experiences, and on some things I have just read in Edwardian Farm (which I will review soon), I am convinced that I can replace all of the house's chemical cleaners with natural things, or at least home made things.  Does anyone have any suggestions?  Do you have a favourite home remedy for cleaning?  Let me know, share the sparkle!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Africa - Another Canvas

Now that my friend has received her birthday/going-away present and has gone-away, I'm going to share with you the canvas I made for her (thanks to her for the first picture, that I stole from Facebook without asking :-).  It's another long post people, so if you're not interested in step-by-step pretties, just admire the first photo.

This one is a bit bigger than the one I made for Mum's birthday a few months ago, but it ended up taking about the same amount of time to stitch.  The time drain was in the painting.  In Mum's canvas there was little to paint other than a background of pretty colours and some leaves.  This time, I was ambitious - I painted a sunset scene of an African plain with Mt Kilimanjaro in the background.  I don't claim to be a great painter, which is why I use photos to trace an outline onto the canvas, and also use fabric and embroidery to make it more special.

In this picture you can see that I painted the map of Africa, despite the fact that it would eventually be covered with fabric.  When I made Mum's canvas, I found that I had to make a set of butterfly wings bigger to cover the space that I hadn't painted, and although it looks fine, it's something I wish I hadn't had to do (for one thing it was another thing to do when I was rushing to get it finished, and for another it meant a waste of material as I had to throw away the first set of wings that didn't fit).

I also wanted to make sure that no white showed through the material I used, and thought the green was a natural choice.  In the end, I could see little places around the edge of the material where the sky colours had gone over the lines, so I was glad I'd painted the rest green (though I doubt anyone else would notice).

Then I found a nice font online, typed, printed, and pinned AFRICA to some bright red felt, and sewed it on.  You may be able to see just how bright the red is in the FRICA, but how the thread colours used to stitch it on have toned it down.

Then I transferred (using the same technique I talked about for Mum's canvas) a map of Africa with all of its borders onto some awesome material I found at Spotlight, but before I cut it out, I realised it was going to fray horribly.  I have no idea where I heard it, but I remembered hearing that spraying fabric with hairspray can stop this.  It worked!  Although it didn't stop the fraying completely, it did stop the material from fraying just by being brushed as I sewed it.

It did, however, change the colour of the fabric slightly (something I didn't mind, but just keep it in mind if you try it).

I sewed the outline and French knot islands (that you can't see in this picture unless you know they're there) in a variagated yellow-brown-yellow thread, the internal borders in different shades of green, and the lakes that form some of the borders in a vibrant blue.  The lettering at the top was in green and beige.

Next I sewed on the silhouettes of the animals.  This is the part of the project I like the least in the finished article.  I find the animals, simply cut out of black felt from a picture found online, looked a little as though they're simply floating in the foreground.

If I had had the time or realised earlier, I may have been able to do something to fix it, but I'm not sure how.  I managed to darken the paint a little below them in hopes of giving them ground to walk on, but I think perhaps I needed something 3D to make it really look right.  But my friend likes them, so I'm happy.

The last thing I did was cover the back.  From doing Mum's canvas, I figured out that covering the back with black felt (the cheaper stuff, not the same as I used for the animals) would stop light showing through the needle holes in the canvas caused when stitching.  These holes don't show through with regular material, but because canvas is quite rigid, it doesn't readjust itself around the thread.

You're basically poking tiny holes in it and if the thread doesn't quite fill the holes, some light shows through.  I glued the edges of that down so it wouldn't shift over time, and then tacked another piece of awesome fabric to the back frame to cover everything, and to hold the ribbon hanger.

As I've said before, I am quite fond of (what I will call) my invention (until I find someone who invented it first!), because it combines some things that I'm not all that great at but really enjoy - painting (which I doubt I'll ever be good at), and embroidery (which I'm going to start working on) - and creates a whole lot of colour and impact in a relatively short amount of time.

So, if you ever see pictures that you think might look cool done in this way, let me know!  Line drawings are best, but since using the photo for Mt Kilimanjaro, I realise one needn't be limited to them.  If you would like one, I'm sure I can make one for you, but I don't think I can send them overseas as the canvas frames are wood.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cooking Red Kidney Beans

When I made the chicken burritos, they were delicious, but I had a killer headache the next day.  In my household, the first thing we think of when we wake up with a headache is "what did I eat last night?".  Other than the kidney beans, all of the ingredients in the burritos were normal, every-day things like corn, tomatoes, and chicken.  So, I decided to try avoiding tinned kidney beans next time I needed them, and to instead use dried.

Dried kidney beans take much more effort than their tinned brothers.  They must be soaked, either for a few hours or overnight (but no more than 12 hours, I believe), and then rinsed, and cooked on the stove for 1-1½ hours (first bring to the boil, boil for 15 minutes, then simmer) until the beans are soft and will squish between your fingers (mind you don't burn yourself!).  They also stick, so it's not like a lot of things that take a long time on a low heat that you can go back to check every 15 mins; no you need to stir them at least every 5 mins.

So what's my verdict?  Well, I didn't have a headache after eating the muffins (but comparing muffins to burritos is not all that useful), and we have some dried beans left, which I'll cook up, eventually.  But I'm going to try the tinned variety again, rinsing them very very well.  If I get a headache again, I'll settle on dried.  They keep well in the fridge, and I wonder if you can freeze them.  If so, I'll cook up a large batch to freeze.

 I felt like I was stirring a couldron for a spell...

Mexican Muffins

I am terrible at making muffins, but I keep trying.  I don't know what it is, but usually end up with bouncy-balls.  But these turned out much better, they're actually quite yummy!  I pinched the base recipe from here.  I know, it seems odd to put kidney beans in muffins, but trust me, you just have to.  If you find that the amount of spice paste listed here isn't flavourful enough for you, play around to find the right balance for you (Mum's not one for strong flavours, so I think the amount below will be just right for her).

Mexican Muffins 

½ t minced chilli (from a jar)
1 t minced garlic (from a jar)
1-2 t each of:  ground cumin seeds, paprika (hot or mild), dried oragano
¼ t salt
1 T caster sugar

2 c flour
3 t baking powder
1 c frozen corn kernels
1 c prepared kidney beans, well drained (either rinsed tinned or soaked and cooked dried)
1/3 c coarsely grated cheese of your choice (plus a little more for on top)
1/4 c milk
1/2 c flavourless oil (like rice bran)
2 eggs
1/2 c tin tomatoes left to drain in a sieve (or tomato salsa as in the original recipe)
1 T sour cream (optional)

First make the spice paste by mixing the herbs and spices and salt and sugar together in a small bowl (be sure to taste the paste before adding the sugar to make sure the balance is right).  Then sift flour and bp into a large bowl, and add the corn, kidney beans, and cheese.  Add the remaining ingredients to the spice paste and mix thoroughly to combine.  Add the wet mixture to the flour and vegetable mixture, and stir until just combined.

Oil and flour a muffin tray, and fill each with the mixture.  Because the muffins don't rise a lot (despite them being really soft when done), you can feel safe in over filling the pots.  Grate a little cheese on top, and then bake for 12-15 minutes at 200°.  Leave in the tray for 5 minutes, then turn out on a wire rack.  Serve warm (preferably) or at room temperature.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Links of the Week IX

Star Trek Geek:  PADD app at the iTunes store
This is the only reason I want an iPad.  It needs no explanation, this is pure awesome.

Writing:  Mignon Fogarty on Writing A Little Every Day at Writers Rainbow
I love the Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips podcast.  It's a short and entertaining look at a different grammar, language, or writing tip every week.  This short and entertaining post by the Grammar Girl, Mignon Fogerty, shows that there are different styles of writing.  I want to write a book.  But, unfortunately, 'want' and 'can' are totally different concepts.

Baking:  Edmond's Cook Book 1914 Challenge at Nicolas Steenhout's blog
I have already signed up for this, it's such a great idea!  I love making scones, more so than even eating them, and what better than to try different versions of the same thing?  It really inspires me to think that maybe Granny Shand (that's Mum's grandmother) may have used the same recipe.  I will post about it when it's all done.

Amazing Animals:  Fish Tool Use at Io9
Last week it was a primate posing for a camera, this week it's a fish using a rock to open its yummy clam dinner.  What's so special about this?  Well, it was once thought that tool use was the divider between human intelligence and animal intelligence (or, in an historical context, determining the emergence of modern human behaviour).  Then chimpanzees were seen using tools, then crows and other birds, then other primates (like these ones washing potatoes), and otters...  Now a fish!  So, now they have to find something else that divides us from everyone else (why can't we all just get along?).

Awesome Spaces:  Propeller Island City Lodge at Propeller Island
This link is to my favourite of the rooms, but you can look at the others by clicking on the numbers.  What an awesome idea to decorate each room in a theme, but even more awesome is that they do not seem to have limited themselves to a consistent size or shape of room.  Some are two storied, some are oddly shaped, some are small, and some are large.  Special mention to rooms 22, 31, and 33.  I love how Room 15 has a warning "Caution:  Very sexy", lol.

Space:  Voyager's Last Mission at Io9


Yesterday Mum and I had a hectic day.  Last week we had planned for her to take today off and we would go to the city, get my thesis printed for the last time, and then send it off (through the Auckland University library) to be bound.  However, I was asked to the first round of interviews for a job I had applied for (oh my gosh, so excited!!  It was my first interview in years!), so Mum changed her day off and came in to meet me after the interview.

The interview went really well, I think.  I would be disappointed if they didn't ask me for a second interview, because I feel like I did really well.  After that we went down to Warehouse Stationary, had the thesis printed (with dramas), then went back up to the library to get it sent off.  Now that doesn't sound like much drama, but I met Mum at about ten past 11, and we didn't get the thesis sent off until after 2.  But it's off and done and I'm pleased.  Then I looked at the bus timetable, read it wrong, and we ended up catching a bus that didn't come past our house (there are two different local routes), so Mum had the great idea to hop off that one and hop on the one that she usually gets home from work.  So it was a long day!

Now today...  I think I'll do nothing much, housework, maybe some crochet.  Oh!  I forgot to mention; while waiting for the thesis to be printed, we found that the wool shop that we both remember from 20 years ago is still in Downtown Shopping Centre (it's between the food court and the overbridge), so we popped in for a look.  We ended up asking the lovely lady behind the counter about crochet patterns because, for some reason, they're quite tricky to find, compared to knitting patterns.  She agreed and said that despite the fact that it's coming back into fashion, the patterns haven't caught up.  And, here's the great thing, she said she liked my scarf!  Someone who looks at wool crafts all day admired my very first crochet project.  How proud am I?!  Very.

So, what's been happening with you?  Any new projects to share?  Do tell!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Kaylee Again

You know how I love Kaylee?  Well, this.  Want.

Webcomics/Graphic Novels

I discovered FreakAngels by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield not long after it started in 2007, and I was devastated to hear from Warren's twitter a few months ago that it was coming to an end.  So now I have to find some kind of replacement.  Here are some of the webcomics I have had recommended through others' blogs and twitter feeds that have taken second place to keeping up with FreakAngels.  By the way, go back and read FreakAngels now!  It's amazing, trust me.  By the time you've finished with the archive, the last episode will probably have posted, so you don't even need patience to find out what happens!


Wonderella is awesome!  I do keep up with this comic because it is a one-page, once a week comic.  Wonderella is a superheroine who seems to wish she wasn't...  She'd be much happier to use her powers to acquire more cocktails and to change channels on the tv without a remote.  She's also VERY funny.

This comic is about a group of postgraduate students and the dramas and comedy that happens when you pursue higher education.  It's very funny, but it's even funnier when you have experience in this world, because you can see yourself in the characters even if the specific situations haven't happened to you personally.

This is totally different to the other comics listed here in style of artwork, format, and updating schedule (in that there doesn't seem to be any).  The story is about a little boy who, with his Dad, goes to his grandmother's for Summer.  That's pretty much it so far, but I keep checking back because the artwork is so gorgeous, and there's something quite compelling about even the tiny hints the work so far has for the rest of the story.

Lastly and most likely to take over the mantel; Girl Genius.  Agatha is a Spark, which means she can do just about anything with machines and mechanical things.  But she doesn't know that.  An amulet given to her when she was very small keeps this talent suppressed.  Until the this story begins.  As you can see, the artwork is fantastic, and it's a 'gaslamp fantasy' (which is closely akin to Steampunk, but without any focus on historical accuracy), which I love.  There is a huge archive, and as the authors stress, it's a continuing story so it's best to start from the beginning.  Which I am...  I'm only up to volume 5 so far, which was put online in 2005.  But at least I wont suddenly find out there are only a dozen episodes left (seriously Warren Ellis, you break my heart!)

Do you follow any webcomics?  What about print comics or graphic novels?  I'd love to hear about them, particularly if you look at the comics listed above and think we might just have similar tastes!

As usual, I have posted these because I like them and I'm not affiliated with or paid by anyone to do so.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Shell Lace Crochet Scarf (With Free Pattern)

Ages ago I posted that I had finished two projects.  One of them still hasn't been given to the person it's intended for, so I still can't post about it, but the other is my crocheted scarf.  Yesterday morning I made myself sit down with Stitch'N Bitch Crochet - The Happy Hooker, which explains how to sew in the ends (hey, I'm new at this!  None of the other beginner's crochet books tell you how to do this, by the way, so yay Debbie Stoller!), and actually do it.  I'm convinced I'm going to get a hairball from threading the needle, but it's done.

Isn't it pretty?  I'm really proud of this because it's my first project and it went so well and I can actually use it.  I taught myself to crochet about a week before I started this, and it only took me a week of evenings to finish it (and about three weeks to get around to sewing in the ends).  It has a base chain of 31 st, and is ~ 18cm by 184cm.

The pattern is really simple:
V:  1tr, 2ch, 1tr
Shell:  5tr

Multiple of 5st + 4
(add 2 for base chain)
Row 1:  V into 8th ch from hook.  *3ch, skip 4ch, V, repeat from *, ending in 2ch, skip 2ch, 1tr into last ch, turn.
Row 2:  3ch, *Shell into 2ch sp of next V, repeat from * ending in 1tr into 5th of 7 ch at beginning of previous row, turn.
Row 3:  5ch, V into middle tr of first Shell.  *3ch, V into middle tr of next Shell, repeat from *, ending in 2ch, 1tr into 3rd of 3ch at beginning of precious row, turn.
Row 4:  3ch, *Shell into 2ch sp of next V, repeat from * ending in 1tr into 3rd of 5ch at beginning of previous row, turn.
Repeat rows 3 and 4 until desired length is achieved.

Sorry about the quality of the chart, I did it myself on a piece of refill and scanned it in because I couldn't find a program on the internet that makes crochet charts (for free).  If you know of any, let me know and I'll redo it!

I found a variation of this pattern in Basic Crochet Stitches by Erika Knight*, where you alternate Shells and Vs on a row, then carry on Shell-ing into Vs and V-ing into Shells.  It's denser because it needs fewer ch (the Shell becomes the ch between two Vs):

(Click on the image for a bigger version)

*The entry on Mighty Ape for this book has a different cover picture to the one I'm looking at, so I'm not 100% sure it's the right book.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Links of the Week VIII

I have tried posting this several times in the last few minutes, and each time there has been a formatting error that I didn't make.  Hopefully it will be better this time.  *Fingers crossed*

Steampunk Craft:   Cephalopodia at Corvus Tristis
I thought to myself "I wonder if there are any free embroidery patterns for cuttlefish, to pay tribute to Jules Verne" (as you do on a sunny Saturday morning).  And looky see, the first google search result lead me here.  SO cool.  Reminds me, I must get to and do those trilobites...  I could make them all a set of cool under the sea pretties.

This is such a great idea!  So simple, but I bet it makes a difference.  Must find time to do this myself.

Cute Animals:  Cheeky Monkey at The Telegraph
Animals can be really really awesome.  I wish they had more pictures up, but the story is cool enough.  See what happens when a monkey steals your camera and starts to make a family album!

Just days after mentioning both Jewel and Supernatural on the blog, this makes me so happy!  I will likely watch anything with Jewel Staite in it (it's just a pity that most of that stuff doesn't show on free tv in NZ).  Now I know why I had that strong urge to re/watch Supernatural from the beginning - it's called a premonition, I think :-P

Craft Inspiration:  Butterflies at Cirrus Image
My Mum loves butterflies, as I may have mentioned when I posted about her birthday present.  I am keen to make some more butterfly art for her room, and so I did a search for butterflies of the world to see if the picture of butterflies as an endlessly variable colour palette I have in my head is anything like reality.  Seems it is!  :-)

Craft:  Crochet Wall Art at Pinterest

Talk Talk Talk

I thought I had already mentioned this, but I must have just gushed on twitter about it.  Darren Hayes' new album is coming out soon and I am so excited.  I love Darren Hayes, and his last album, This Delicate Thing We've Made, is my deserted island soundtrack.  I try really hard to not listen to it too often, because every time I put it on I hear something new in it and don't get anything done; just sitting there (or dancing around the room), actively listening.  His new single, Talk Talk Talk, came out a week or more ago, and a live performance from Australian tv has just popped up on youtube.  It's an awesome song, and it makes me even more excited for the album, if that's even possible!  Listen to it twice and if you're not smiling and singing along, I'll give a full refund.

The Official Video

The Live Performance

See?  He's awesome.  No need to thank me, just go out and buy all of his albums if you haven't already.

PS:  He twice replied to me on twitter!  This makes him even cooler (and thus me cool by association).

(The second message is because I basically went all teenage fan girl on twitter about how he replied to my question)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

What's Your Book?

My Mum emailed me this link a few weeks ago, and it made me think about the place libraries hold in communities, and what they mean to people.  I've been thinking about it ever since, so in an effort to get it out of my head, I thought I would post about it.

In the introduction to Podcastle episode 116:  Paper Cuts Scissors by Holly Black, Anna Schwind talked about a set of laws she learned in library school - Ranganathan's 5 laws.

Ranganathan's 5 Laws of Library Science:
      1. Books are for use
      2. Every reader his [or her] book
      3. Every book its reader
      4. Save the time of the reader
      5. The library is a growing organism

She explained the second law as meaning that there is one book out there that belongs to each reader, that this is the book that, though you have a copy, you will buy it from a second hand book shop because you're so sad that someone sold it.  The third law also struck a chord with her, and it does with me too.  This is why I think libraries are awesome, and will only buy a book if it's for school or something I will use over and over and over (that means most likely not a novel as I am not much of a rereader).  Libraries are there to facilitate you finding your book, and your book finding you.

So, what's your book?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Home Theatre System

This is my current home theatre system (the speakers are from a c1999 Gateway computer, but are still pretty decent).

And that's the 20 year old 12" that's filling in for our tv after it blew up.

And that's my current crochet project - Mum's scarf.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Book Review - Farthing by Jo Walton

This is another book that I read for the Women in Science Fiction book club, now housed at Calico Reaction, and though not as long as my review for Connie Willis' Doomsday Book, it is a pretty long post, and it does contain spoilers, despite my best intentions. When I wrote that review, I don't think I mentioned how few of the books for this book club I've actually finished. It's nothing to do with the club itself, I have just found that the books have not been to my taste. I finished Elizabeth Bear's Dust, and was sorely disappointed. What looked to be a great adventure story set on a generational space ship, ended up being an exposé of gender issues and fanaticism (or was that only my interpretation?) and the incestuous relationships creeped me out. These are the three books I have finished, and I plan to attempt only one more, based on its synopsis. Although I didn't love this book in the way that I loved Doomsday Book, I didn't dislike it like I did Dust.  As usual, click on the picture below to read the review.

Overall, I think this is an intelligent book that is aimed at making the reader think about the 'small' injustices that occur, and a warning of how these can lead to extremes such as Nazism. This wasn't the novel I had expected, especially as the science fictional elements were completely nonexistent (there wasn't even a time machine in this one!), and if I'd known, I wouldn't have picked it up. That being said, I'm glad I did. After writing this review, thinking about the themes of the book, and realising why some plot devices were used, I find I am wholly satisfied with the story, though, while reading it, I didn't feel this way. It makes me quite angry in the way that watching the news often does, and I'm glad this was set in an alternate 1949, as it allowed some distance from the events that illustrated the themes. However, it would take very little effort to translate Jew to, for example, Muslim, and apply the same themes. When looking up the book on wikipedia, I found out that there are two sequels. I don't plan on reading them, simply because, for me, the story is finished, the point is made.

If I've inspired you to buy Farthing by Jo Walton, click here to buy it from Mighty Ape.  If you do, I get credit so I can buy more pretty things to tell you about!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Chicken Burritos

A few weeks ago, I caught some of Rachael Ray (whose show I used to really enjoy, but she's become more yelly and less cooky) and she had some women on who were competing for the best slow cooker dish.  I don't remember who won, but two women used their crock pot to make burrito filling.  I thought this was a great idea, and went about replicating it (without actually using their recipes - I don't trust Rachael Ray recipes since the infamous lemon chicken disaster), and this is what I found.

Crock Pot Chicken Taco Filling (adapted from this recipe)
½ t minced chilli (from a jar)
1 t minced garlic (from a jar)
2 onions, chopped
1-2 t each of:  ground cumin seeds, paprika (hot or mild, not smoked), dried oragano
½ t sugar
¼ t salt
2 free-range chicken breasts, cut into bite sized chunks
1 tin chopped tomatoes (don't get flavoured ones just so you don't have to use the spices, that's just cheating!)
1 tin red kidney beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 capsicum (I like green), cut into strips

When you put all of the ingredients into the crock pot, be sure to put the carrot on the bottom so that it cooks through and softens.  Whenever you put vegetables into a crock pot, this is what you should do. Also, I mixed the powders and pastes, and then mixed some of the tomatoes in with them so that they didn't just sit on top of everything.  Other than that, just put everything in, and set it to high for about 4-5 hours, or low for 8.  Give it a bit of a stir when you get home before leaving it until dinner time, to make sure the chicken is falling apart, and there's not too much liquid.  If there is a lot of liquid, try taking the lid off and putting the crock pot on high.  It doesn't really matter, if you don't mind getting juice all down your arm (which happened to us).

To serve, take the crock to the table, heat up tortillas in the frying pan, oven, or microwave, and let everyone make their own, with cheese, lettuce or your favourite green leaf mix, and a little sour cream.  Or a lot.  I like a lot.

I have no photo because we ate them far too quickly.  But I'm sure you will trust me when I say they were yummy.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Links of the Week VII

I know, I'm far too late to call this last week's links of the week.  But I will anyway!  So there!

Just imagine you're living your life when one day aliens from the future suddenly hover overhead in fantastical flying things.  I wonder if this is how these people will feel.  I'm not being patronising, I'm just trying to imagine what I would feel like if I were in their situation.  It'd be exciting, but I wonder how long it would take me to want to go back to before I knew.  Would you take the blue or the red pill - remain uncontacted, or become part of the 'modern world'?

Craft:  Summer School at the Floss Box
This link that I found on Feeling Stitchy looks like a lot of fun.  I love the idea of a new stitch every week, and a tutorial with such clear instructions and pictures.  I have already subscribed to the RSS.  The first three stitches are up already - Wheat Ear stitch, the Colonial Knot, and the Raised Chain Band - so get stitching!

Competition:  Tandoori Palace prize at Healthy Food Guide
I love Indian food, though I am kind of stuck in a rut at home with the same recipe - that is, I throw a little of all of the spices I like into a pan with chicken and yoghurt and veges.  It tastes great, even if I say so myself, but I'm a bit bored of it.  So, this competition appeals to me, with its collection of curries (that you can use to make the recipes given here) and that electric wok.  My electric frying pan is far too big for just two people, so it's hardly ever used.  I love the fact that almost everything you need is supplied, beer included!

Craft:  July Stitch-along at Feeling Stitchy
I love gnomes; I'm of the age that I watched David the Gnome on tv, and thought he was fantastic.  I really really want the dvds* of all of his adventures, and the remaining books (we were told that there were no more books, but I have since discovered there are lots more to collect!).  Until then, I will settle for having the time (I may have nothing to do all day, but I am definitely very busy doing that!) and patience to stitch this guy.  It may not happen this month, but it will happen.

Movies:  Harryhausen Geekery at Io9
I LOVE Ray Harryhausen movies.  I have Mysterious Island, Clash of the Titans, and Jason and the Argonauts, as well as the documentary and short films dvd.  I am desperate to get the Sinbad movies, but if they're ever in stock, they always seem so expensive, especially when you need to make a case for buying them to the person with the credit card.

StarTrek:  Kirk V Kirk at TrekMovie

*this link is to Amazon, because doing a search for David the Gnome on Mighty Ape brings up a whole lot of David Bowie albums.  I thought that was amusing enough to share!

Supernatural Re/Watch

Before the tv blew up last night (and by blew up, I mean it went PING and now we only get certain colours - we could see Hilary Barry's suit jacket but not her face on the news last night!), I had been watching Supernatural season one on dvd.  I have only one disk left, so I'll just watch the remaining episodes on the computer.  When Supernatural first came out, I liked it, but I'm not really good with scary stuff, so I only lasted a few episodes, and from then I've watched an episode here and there.  So this rewatch includes a lot of episodes that I've not seen.

I had hoped that in six years the stories and effects of the first season would have dated to become less scary, like old horror movies have (Boris Karloff is cool...  but so far, I've not found him scary).  However, I found that this wasn't the case, and was glad I was watching them in the daylight.  My favourite episode so far (remember I have three or four episodes left on the last disk) is also the one I found most scary - Bloody Mary.  After I watched that episode I avoided mirrors until Mum got home, which was annoying as I was getting ready to go out to dinner.  I don't think I have a least favourite episode because they all have positive aspects that outweigh any negative, and even episodes that are a little slow moving are enhanced by a focus on the brotherly relationship.

I was impressed by the lack of special effects, or that they blended in so well (especially when I looked up the season synopsis and found that the shapeshifting in Skin used makeup and prosthetics, not a computer), and for me, nothing is creepier than not seeing the bad guy coming.  Well, that and scary children.  Nothing scarier in this world than scary children (see the episode Provenance).  Lastly, I really liked that part way through the series they added a case that ended up not being supernatural at all.  I think it was refreshing, almost like I was building up a tolerance to the scary, and they made it real again.

If I've inspired you to buy Supernatural on DVD, click on the picture to buy it from Mighty Ape.  If you do, I get credit so I can buy more pretty things to tell you about!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Next Project

You may recall my mentioning (well, I believe I mentioned it...) that I was working on a gift for a friend who was leaving (and has now left) for Africa for four months and would be celebrating her 30th birthday over there.  Well, Thursday night was her going-away/birthday dinner (which was fabulous by the way, but I'll come back to that) and I had aimed to finish the project by then, however, as is usual for me, I was overly ambitious, and had to text her on Wednesday to ask for an extra day.  So I finished yesterday.  This is why I haven't been around much (now I know I have mentioned this project, in the same breath as 'sorry for not posting!'), and I will post about that tomorrow.

But for now, I thought I would post about my next project.  I know I shouldn't be taking on yet another project when I still have my scarf to finish (ie sew in the ends), Mum's scarf to finish (that I haven't mentioned yet, but will post about shortly), a canvas for myself (finally), and one that Mum's going to attempt to sew (that I will doubtless have to help her with - read 'help' more as 'force to work on and not put off' [do as I say not as I do]).  However, I have cold hands.  So I am looking around on the internet for a free crochet pattern for fingerless gloves.  Gloves with fingers don't allow for ease of typing/sewing/etc, and mittens freak me out (don't ask), so fingerless gloves are the way to go.  And, as we all know, I can't finish a knitting project to save my life.

To make a short story long, I just can't seem to find any patterns for what I want.  There are so many lovely fingerless mittens/mittens/glove patterns in crochet out there, but until I found these it looked like I was out of luck.  I don't like the button or the gap on top of the hand (that is, the dorsal aspect), but I'm hoping to combine it with this pattern (or something like it) to get the hand and lower arm right.

I blame the fact that I'm still tired, or re-tired, from the sewing, and the fact that I've been listening to story podcasts end-to-end all week while I've been sewing, for my being overly verbose about a very simple semi-complaint that has no pictures...  Perhaps this should mark bed time?

To make up for it, here's a cute, be it very grainy, picture of Kashka, demon Russian (but not really) kitten (cat):


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