Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A sweet story

Thought I'd give fudge-making a whirl yesterday, continuing in my spurt of baking. Rachel and Kurt were here doing the tiling in the afternoon, but I had the kitchen back to myself in the evening. I had visions of turning out a perfect batch of fudge, cutting it into neat little one-inch squares using a wooden ruler as a guide as my dad used to do when we were growing up. Fudge is kind of a Salzwedel tradition - my dad is still a regular at it, and my middle brother has been known to produce it from time to time. The recipe has been in the family for at least three generations. The end result of my efforts was a sad sludge, like wet sea-sand only better tasting. But much less fun for castle-building because of the stickiness. I gave up on it setting last night and put the pan in the fridge; this morning I had cold, wet sea-sand. I managed to cut it all neatly but only because it had been in the fridge. After I had scraped it out of the baking tray it ran back together as any self-healing granulary Fudgeblob would do. Felt bad about binning the whole lot, but as the only way to eat it was with a spoon (and there was that whole sand thing going on), it didn't seem like a fun thing to have it sitting in the cupboard for ages, mocking me from its ice-cream tub sanctuary. As a compromise, I used some of it as a middle layer in a batch of millionaire shortbread which was a moderate success. Kurt and Rachel were back to finish the tiling today, so the kitchen is now done - they did an excellent job and it all looks very neat and complete.
But back to the baking part of the story...I made a batch of coconut ice which is horribly messy to make but pretty difficult to mess up, so that turned out well. Nick cut it and away went my neat little squares idea which was to be implemented on that set of confectionary. They're little rectangles of all sizes, but they are neat. I had to skip bible study again as Nick has been dealing with matters related to marriage, not appropriate for the boys. Tackled the fudge recipe again, taking ages to bring it to a slow boil over moderate heat, and it seems to have worked this time. It's still cooling down so my elation might be premature, but I think I will sleep easier tonight knowing that I do, after all, still have Salzwedel in my roots.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Granola, take 1 and 2

Hooray, we have a fully functioning kitchen again, including a fridge...what a blessing to have it all back to normal and usable again. I also have the laundry back, so don't have to squeeze washing in through the tiny gap the fridge was allowing the door to open (did that sentence make sense?). We had another very chilled day yesterday, with church morning and afternoon and time at home before and after. We did take ourselves to Mcdonalds for lunch though because we left church fairly late and I didn't have any lunch plan cooked up. It was cold and the skies were grey, perfect weather for tweaking a take-away. I baked a batch of granola bars in the afternoon, getting them out of the oven just before leaving for church again. They were moderately successful but I tried them again after lunch today, modifying the recipe slightly with a better result. Here is the recipe:
• 2 cups rolled oats
• 1 cup shredded coconut
• 1 cup sliced almonds or chopped peanuts
• ½ cup seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame etc)
• 1 cup chopped fruit (raisins, dried apricots, cranberries, dates etc)
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
• 1/4 cup (55 grams) Demerara or light brown sugar
• 2/3 cup (160 ml) honey
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Turn oven on to 180 degrees and place the rack in the center of the oven. Grease AND line a cookie sheet with spray and baking paper.
In a large bowl mix together the rolled oats, coconut and nuts. Transfer to the baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes while the oven is heating, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and transfer the oat mixture back to the mixing bowl, discarding the baking paper. Stir in the seeds, fruit, salt, and cinnamon.
Melt the butter, brown sugar, honey, and vanilla in a small saucepan, placed over medium heat. Once the sugar mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for a couple of minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour over the oat mixture. With a large spoon or spatula, stir the granola, making sure all the dry ingredients are completely coated with the butter mixture. Pour the granola into the greased pan and, with damp hands, lightly press the granola evenly into the pan.
Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until light golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 20 minutes before cutting into bars, fingers or squares. (Note: The granola bars will be soft when they are removed from the oven but will firm up as they cool.) Can be stored at room temperature for several days.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Clan

Managed to round up the gang for an updated family photo - no small feat to get everyone enthusiastic and co-operative! We took ourselves to the Botanical Gardens, a beautiful location but oh so cold. Everyone was wonderfully accommodating though and we good a few good shots. Nothing exciting and certainly nothing that would shout "wow, I want that girl to do MY photos" - for that one would have to have a seriously photo-happy family. After the shoot we went to the Warehouse, where everybody gets a bargain, as we didn't have anything else particularly planned for the day. Spent ages wandering around but managed not to spend a whole lot - just bought slippers for Nick, cars for the boys, and a couple of DVDs seriously marked down. Had a late lunch, spent the afternoon at home working on music for church, and Bronwyn came by for a quick practice. All in all a very chilled (and chilly) Saturday.Anyone want to provide a caption for this photo?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Floating around

We left the Camerons fairly early and came back to our place for Nick to apply the final coat of polyu. He and Matt did the second coat after tea on Thursday night. The floor looks amazing!! The coating has really brought out the colours in the wood as well as darkening it. We are all thrilled with the result. Did some school with the boys around the diningroom table, and then finished off at the church when Nick had finished varnishing. Once again we were happy to be out of the house and into some fresh air. Bought hot chips for lunch which we had at the church, kiwi-style...squeezing sauces straight onto the large sheets of paper which house the chips, bypassing any form of cutlery and crockery. In the evening we were back at the Camerons for tea. The water in the kitchen was disconnected when the dishwasher got moved out on Wednesday night, and with the oven up on bricks it would have been problematic preparing a meal. The fridge has been in the laundry for most of the week - things have been a little inconvenient, but nothing too major.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

House unusable again

...which involved big power tools, plenty of dust and heaps of noise. We had the sanders in the kitchen in the morning, who did in two or three hours what we could never have achieved in two or three days. The wooden floor felt like glass when they were done and was unmarked and beautiful. We were scared to walk on it in case we made an impression! Rachel came after lunch to start the next phase of the kitchen, applying polyurethane to the floor. We had to vacate the living side of the house and wait in the diningroom until she and Nick had finished the first coat, after which Rachel left and the boys and I went out to do the grocery shopping. Nick suffered through the fumes and stayed home to continue his prep. We had tea with the Camerons and then spent the night there, which was fortuitous timing as we could get up at 2 am for the soccer! (We don't have a telly, by choice, so have had to watch any Fifa games elsewhere). Like the rest of NZ, we were ambivalent over the result of the match...proud that the All Whites are undefeated, but disappointed that they are out of the cup.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Kitchen unusable again

Had a normal school day, other than playing around on the Mac - we are all feeling much better although all still have snotty noses and mild coughs. We were especially thankful to God for answered prayer in Caleb not getting as sick as he usually does - he had only one bad night of coughing, and no problems with his respiratory system. In the afternoon I cleaned out the fridge and helped the boys sort out their room properly, once and for all - it helps when there is enough storage space for everything to have a proper home. I bought a few mini-crates which sit neatly in their cubes, labelled and organized. Matt and Richard came long after tea to move the stove and dishwasher in preparation for Thursday morning's kitchening...

A bit of silliness

video
So there we were, quite innocently doing school. Had a break, then this just sort of happened before we tucked in again.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cold, colds

Following the afternoon service on Sunday, we had the Kempfs (junior) around to a snack-style tea. Bronwyn brought a huge pot of potato and leek soup, and I made potato wedges with peanut butter sauce and vegetables with dip. We sat around the diningroom table for ages, laughing and being silly over the meal. Then Nick and Rene needed to practice a song; the boys all played hide and seek around the house (hats off to Jesse for arranging himself rather tightly behind a sleeper couch - he nearly got stuck but it took a long time for him to be found!), and us girls were left to chat and look at photos in my room.On Monday we were all down with colds. Pretty yuck to be sick in winter when it's already cold and grisly outside...feeling grotty on top of that does not make for a happy me. Managed to get through the day but cancelled school. The boys spent most of the day reading books, one after another. I am so pleased that they both love to read! Rene came by in the morning to practice with Nick again, which they 'performed' for an elderly outreach meeting at a local Baptist church today. We were back at school this morning but with a late start and radically diminished schedule. Hopefully tomorrow we will be going all out again. I've had a meal on the go in the slow-cooker today...apricot chicken.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

More home stuff

The much anticipated Saturday-morning-sleep-in...I've always been an early bird, rising with the sun. I guess it's no different then if I'm getting up at 8 am with the dawn! Admittedly, this morning we simply lazed around in a very slothful fashion and were finally ready to take on the day at around 10 am!!! We had nothing particular planned for the morning so it was just very chilled and homeish. After lunch the Camerons came to sand the kitchen floor and fix doors - after the carpets were put in we discovered that cupboard and entrance doors no longer swung freely, what with the thick underlays. It has been severely annoying to heave a door open and closed...small things can make such a big difference! About half an hour into the sanding we realized that it was going to take a lot more effort and time than the four of us adults could give it, so we phoned a sander and left it there. The sanding-dudes will come on Thursday morning to give it a proper go-over, and then we can polyurethane the whole thing. Meanwhile, we moved the fridge out into the laundry. One step forward, one step back...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sunrise at midday

Nick wanted to take the boys to the skate park this morning - he had a break in his work and thought it best to get this in early before the hordes arrived. We rushed through our schoolwork and got most of it done by 10, so after a quick snack we set off. The clouds were hanging over the sky like an unmade bed, letting light in at the edges and through gaps in the otherwise heavy blanket...perfect conditions for photography. Nick was happy to stay with the boys while I wandered to the beach with my camera. It was really cold but what a pleasure to use the light. We were home for lunch, finished off school, and then spent the afternoon gathered in the diningroom where the potbelly kept us cosy. The boys and Nick read; I sewed. In the late afternoon we had a gathering of children as Hilary came for a guitar lesson and Caleb and Josh stayed here while Matt and Rachel went to a meeting. Nick taught the kids how to play Uno with a whole new set of hilarious and odd rules, a-la-Pretoria-young-adults. Ignoring the huge space on top of the diningroom table, they chose to play the game UNDER the table, on the carpet - very uncomfortably, but I guess it had a tent-like feel to it. I made two huge pizzas for tea and the Camerons stayed on for the evening.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

School, school and school

Thursday...my regular bible-in-schools lesson which was a hands-on bible lesson, about the bible. I had brought in about 8 bibles from home, and I divided them into groups so there were about three to a bible. I showed them the contents page and how to navigate around a bible, and pointed out that the bible is like a library containing history books, letters, laws, poems, etc. It was a helpful lesson, I thought, and the kids got a real kick out of paging through the bibles. Back home to continue with the boys' school, and at 1 pm we all went to the Timaru Christian School for Nick to do a talk during their assembly. Nick is becoming a well-known feature there now, having done three or four assemblies. He taught them a new song and did a short talk on William Carey, along the theme "Rags to Riches". It seems there will be oppportunities for Nick and I both to get involved with volunteer work with the school - Nick with guitar and me with photography. Not sure exactly what the outcome will be, but looking forward to being useful however I can.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Viva (or vuvu) la Soccer!

It's not that I was up earlier than usual this morning; my alarm was set only ten minutes earlier. But I'm not normally dressed and out the door by 6.15 for breakfast and soccer spectating, which is what happened this morning at the Kempf's house. We got together with Rene, Bronwyn and the fam for the NZ/Slovakia match which was played at some unearthly middle-0f-the-night hour, our time. Rene kindly recorded it to save us the agony of a broken night's sleep, so we gathered early to watch before their three had to get to school. Public opinion says the match was boring, but that last goal scored by Winston Reid in the last minute bringing the match to a draw made it totally worthwhile for me. We thought Slovakia had it in the bag but NZ snatched it away (um...fellow South Africans, we feel the liberty of rooting for our country of residence, but loyalties might be divided if SA plays NZ!). We had breakfast of cereal, yoghurt and fruit during half time, and after the match headed directly home to continue the day. The boys needed several reminders that school requires diligence and brain function and not so much audio function, but we had a good time together. This term has been really long but after pushing through the "I'mexhaustedwhenisitholidaytime" phase we have knitted together quite satisfactorily. The rest of the day was the fairly run of the mill at home stuff.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tuesday's text

Yesterday and today’s school were pretty good...the boys are working more quickly and independently, so I can get a lot of other stuff done while they are working, like hanging up washing, cleaning the kitchen, and so on. Joan and I had our last weekly Monday meeting in which we have been working through John Newton’s book on Communion with God. We were specifically reading through the section on communion with the Holy Spirit which has been excellent and very informative and helpful. Perhaps in the future we can take it up again in a different section of the book - it's been great to get together with this very godly lady and get her input and teaching! Today I had a pot of beef and vegetable soup going in the slow cooker. In a separate pot I cooked potatoes and a yellow vegetable (pumpkin, I think) which I blended and added to the mix. The potato tends to make the soup sticky though so I won’t do that again. At 2.30 we had a visit with Les and Marg, mostly to say goodbye and pray with them before they fly out to the UK on Thursday for an 8-week holiday with their children – their son Mark was a pastor on St Helena long before Nick. The boys took their skateboards along and while there Caleb bumped his wounded finger and drew blood, and then Aaron came in with bleeding fingers a little later, also with a skateboarding accident. These poor boys. I just get all weak-kneed. At 5 pm Nick had a guitar lesson. Waldo, his pupil, and his dad Wikus attend our services. Since there was plenty of soup, we invited them to stay for tea and they were happy to accept. I made a foccacia bread to go with it, and toasted several crusts of bread as well - now five men around the table instead of the usual three! It was good to just chat over tea as we got to know them both a bit better. They left shortly before 7; the boys went to bed and then I made a batch of fridge cookies. Sunday was good as well. After the morning service, with nothing planned for the day, we went home to left-overs for lunch. We were just busy with pudding when the Camerons arrived, wanting to see the paint jobs I did on Saturday and also with an invite for tea after the afternoon service. They stayed for a cup of tea and then left; we spent the rest of the afternoon at home and then it was church again. Both services were excellent. Afterwards we went to the Camerons for a roast chicken, roast potatoes and butternut, beans and gravy. Matt made a microwave apple scone sort of thing for pudding, with ice-cream. Good visit which ended suitably early considering four boys had to attend school in the morning.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Hills call in

Slept late this morning - I'm not feeling so bad about getting up after 8 on a Saturday as it's only just getting light then! Yesterday afternoon I answered the telephone and the caller identified herself as Annette...the voice was familiar but out of place until I tied it to my brother's mother-in-law who lives in SA...Annette and her husband Graham are in NZ on a holiday with a view to relocating next year. I had no idea they were here so it was a marvellous surprise. They had been staying with friends here in Timaru and wanted to call on this morning to visit, which they did. We had a wonderful time together, catching up on family news and general NZ/SA stuff - unfortunately they couldn't stay long as Graham was wanting to find some snow, so they were headed to Lake Tekapo for the day. I commented to Nick afterward that on St Helena we never had friends and relations from overseas just pop in for a cup of tea! In the afternoon I was back in my painting rags, getting the odd kitchen doors painted to match the rest of the cream cupboard doors as per Rachel's instruction (Rachel says to inform blog readers that she is not an ogre and does not have a whip to crack). Nick took off the folding pantry doors which made the job way easier, but it took ages and much frustration to get them back on afterwards, and several greasy fingerprints which had to be painted over! So, we're another step closer to finishing the renovations...the kitchen floor still needs sanding and varnishing, and we need to do something with the strip of missing tiling.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Blitzed

(I've heard of wanting one's name in lights...Caleb is satisfied with pretzels and raisins). Another beautiful day today, but without the frost this morning so the temperatures were higher. The kitchen guy came back today to finish off the back of two cupboards which created an extra cupboard on the diningroom side. The boys and I did a science experiment involving eggs, salt, water density and buoyancy, and Aaron discovered what happens to eggs when they fall on the floor. Fortunately I could salvage the yolk which I used later. I took myself on a solo photowalk in the afternoon but did not get any particularly good shots, having had something rather specific in mind which I could not get largely because there was a car parked in the way and its occupants took ages to leave. At 4 pm Nick had the first of his two guitar pupils and I started cooking. We had the Kempf family over for tea which was a fruity and colourful affair: Bobotie with yellow raisin rice, beetroot and peas, and blackboy peaches, apricots and orange ice-cream with passion fruit curd for dessert...followed by Dutch Blitz in the lounge which was great for getting the blood pumping and the competition going. We just couldn't seem to end it..."just one more" until it was 10.30 and they really had to leave to go home. Nick grabbed a few hours' sleep on the couch and then left at 1.45 am to join Rene, Jesse and Sam to watch the opening match of the World Cup. He said it was a good game despite being a draw.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cold weather is for the birds!

It was Grocery Shop Day today...I genuinely look forward to doing the fortnightly shopping. Part of the fun is to see how many legitimate products I can buy on special, and part is to see how little I can spend. Today I did not achieve highly in my personal challenge but it was good anyway. When I got home a package was waiting for me, which had travelled from Pennsylvania in the States all the way here: a birthday present of a hand-crafted polymer clay bracelet and kimono hairclips from my friend Genevieve. What a beautiful surprise! Genevieve is a trained silversmith who has extended her skillset into the polymer arts as well with great success.We heard somewhere that the temperature was supposed to drop to -4 this morning. We were not surprised - yesterday and today have been the coldest we've experienced so far. Apparently this is fairly typical Timaru weather - clear blue skies with frosts overnight. In the morning the ground is covered in tiny shiny crystals, treacherous on our wooden deck if you're unaware! We were amazed to even find an icicle growing in a plastic lid in the back yard. Its formation sparked some debate...how ever did it grow diagonally upwards like that? The birds are bright and chirpy in the crisp early mornings as I discovered yesterday morning when examining the frost. They do not seem bothered by the cold - so wonderfully has God designed them that they can fluff up to three times their size (or so it seems on this model) and insulate themselves with air!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Museum for holiday, carpets and finger

Yesterday was a public holiday; the Queen’s Birthday was the reason. We did school although only the bare minimum and had finished by 10 am, thus still having a holiday. It was raining the entire day though so the boys couldn’t play outside – they get a bit silly when confined to the house innards. I vacuumed a blanket until all the dog or cat hair was off – this was one of the three wool blankets we bought at a garage sale several weeks ago, which had been waiting in the laundry for just such an occasion as the Queen’s Birthday to get dehaired. Then I sanded a wooden door so it’s ready for painting. That took us up to lunch, after which it was time to move furniture and pull up carpets. We had pretty much finished taking up the carpets by the time the Camerons arrived at 2 pm, so all they had to help with was getting tacks out of the floor. I was going to be taking all four boys to the Museum while the carpet removal was happening, but since we got it all done so quickly there was no need to get the boys out the house for any length of time. Instead, Nick and I took them all a bit later - better to have a male presence with four boys on the loose. The Museum is quite small, not much bigger than St Helena’s one, but very nicely put together. I was so busy photographing that I barely read any of the information but it was an interesting excursion nonetheless. The boys built huge floor puzzles; completion earned them a penny to play in an antique slot game. It had been raining when we arrived so Nick had dropped us off and gone to park the car, but when we came out there was just a mild drizzle so we all walked (ran) back. It was quite some distance away though and it was bitterly cold outside!!The house was also freezing last night with the carpets up and the interleading doors to the cold rooms removed. Thankfully it only had to be for one night and will be a lot warmer this evening with a thick underlay and carpet. A lot of cold comes from the floor – the house is raised off the ground and there is insulation underneath it, but without carpet the cold just comes right through; part of the motivation for not leaving the beautiful wooden floors in the rest of the house during Phase I of renovations as plain wood was the lack of insulation. Anyway, that’s what’s happened today - the Carpet Guy came shortly after 8 am and got stuck in with the diningroom and Nick's office. He was finished well before lunch time and it really looks great. That is the last of the major renovations now - the next step which will involve some juggling will be the varnishing of the kitchen floor. I'll post photos when the diningroom is all back together, as one thing finishing sometimes means another one starting - this afternoon I slapped an undercoat on the bookshelf Nick made. While I was painting in the garage I heard wails from down the road. I had just been thinking about the fact that I was not with the boys to watch over them, and how great it is that they are old enough for a bit of independence on their bikes and inside the house etc, when Aaron came running up the road to say that Caleb had nearly lost a finger. Turns out it wasn't quite as bad as his dramatization implied, but Caleb is missing half a finger nail which is somewhere on the pavement or under a skateboard wheel. Gross. He was in much pain after it happened but during the afternoon he perked up and does not seem to be too much bothered by it, pain-wise anyway (the expression in this photo is posed...)

Sunday, June 06, 2010

In which I tell of the weekend

Yesterday, being Saturday, we had plans to plan all kinds of stuff, like watching sports matches and socializing and Getting Stuff Done. But by 9.30 when we were all still in our pyjamas and had not been able to hook up with anyone, we could see that some of those plans were not going to come to fruition. Instead, we spent the day at home working on the Stuff plan. Lots got done so in all it was a rewarding day.
Today we had our monthly church lunch which is always a good affair. A few of our families are away for the Queen's Birthday weekend, and a couple of people are ill so we were expecting a small congregation, therefore all the more pleased and surprised by the influx of visitors. We had to put out more chairs at the back, praise the Lord! The Phillipsies joined us for a cup of tea later in the afternoon (yay, had been trying to connect with them for ages) and then it was afternoon church time again. The early service (4.30 pm) is a great invention for not getting home late on a winter's eve!(Sorry girls about the unflattering photo...I did warn them that I was taking a photo and gave them a three-count, but pictured here we have Shut-Eye, Nibbly, Smiley and Munchie).

Friday, June 04, 2010

Skate on, dude

Nick has been wanting to take the boys to the skate park for a few days now, and this afternoon there was a gap between his prep and a meeting. We tried to pick a time when there would be no other kids there so the boys don't embarrass themselves and thought that after lunch would be great - were very surprised at how many boys were already there though! Justifiably, there was a small school contingent with a teacher who had earned a reward (I learned this because the teacher questioned me when she saw the camera come out). We sat watching for a while, and then when the numbers had dwindled and the park was empty, the boys pulled out their skateboards and had a go. They had heaps of fun going up and down ramps and things. I expressed surprise that Caleb knows a few moves, but he was like "I can actually do it, Mom". Like hey, whatever dude. Several of the action photos I took had to be censorally deleted...these boys really should consider that belts are a practical fashion accessory, or at least wear pants that do not fall down over their boxer shorts. But like hey, whatever dude. Tea was our Fridaynightpizza...I love how the sun comes in the east-facing kitchen window in the mornings, then makes its way through the northern sliding front door in the late afternoon. The house has been cleverly built to make as much use of the sun as possible.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

How great is our God!

My Bible-in-Schools class this morning was AWESOME!! I taught the lesson of Joshua leading the people in defeating the Canaanites in the battle of Jericho, with the emphasis being on God's power and faithfulness, and the people's trust in Him. I've always known the story; I guess the wonder of the bible stories sometimes get lost on those of us who have handled them so often. For most of these kids, this was their first hearing thereof and their response was fantastic. Even the boys were wide-mouthed in amazement at the miraculous falling of the walls, especially as I smashed the cardboard visual aid I had brought along. It's great to see how these kids are 'getting' it - learning of God's love and care and greatness.
The skies were blue today after a week or more of rain and grey gloom. I have to train my brain that sunshine does not equal warmth as it did in SA and on St Helena, and dress appropriately for the winter temperatures. Today I did not get it right and have been shivering most of the day. We took a short drive out to see the icing-sugared mountains which is a beautiful sight. They are just capped with snow and quite spectacular. Came up alongside a field with three goats, hoping to photograph them in their natural habitat with the mountains in the background, but the goats fancied themselves real people-goats and came running. I'm sure one of them would have followed us home had she been able to climb through or over the fence, so strong were her affections. She caught me unawares while I was photographing her companion and nearly gave the camera a nuzzle!Aaron has been reading "The House at Pooh Corner" and occasionally reads lines to us for our enjoyment. I am more convinced all the time that A A Milne always intended his books to be read by grown-ups as well:
"And a Pooh is simply poohing
Like a bird".