Thursday 30 April 2020

Alert Level 3 - fingers are crossed!

Tuesday was our first day on Alert Level 3 and I gather that some people queued at McDonald's for hours to get one of their plastic breakfasts ... Why would you, I wonder? And BurgerFuel is in trouble for not having a sensible system to keep people in their cars and wait till texted to come and collect their burgers et al. Photos circulated on social media and news outlets of one franchise with heaps of (young) people waiting in a mass outside the shop. The police were called by a passerby, I gather. Please note, I have posted a comment for them asking them to get it sorted for the sake of the parents and grandparents of their customers and staff ...

For David and me and for most of the rest of the country, nothing much changes at AL3 - we are still required to maintain our bubbles but we can allow one more person into it if necessary, we are still required to stay home as much as possible, only going out for supermarket shopping, pharmacy and doctor's visits. We can shop on line or by phone and have deliveries or click and collect - but it all has to be contact-less.

About 400,000 people have gone back to work but need to maintain social distancing, safe work practices from a COVID-19 non-spreading pov, and any business they do with the public has to be contactless.

We are happy to stay at home - it's lovely here. And now that the frustration of the sourdough starter has been overcome, I am dead keen to keep making bread - we just aren't eating it fast enough!
The second loaf - even yummier than the first, but not as crusty because I hadn't put the oven tray in to drop it on to after the first 15 minutes or so.

Doesn't that look great?

I have discovered two ways that I love this bread though - both toasted: one with baked beans, and the other which I did on Tuesday, is with creamy mushrooms (garlic and mushrooms sauteed in butter until tender, then add a teaspoon or so of powdered vegetable stock, some chopped parsley and thyme, and a bit of salt; then add about 100ml of cream. I thickened the sauce with a couple of teaspoons of flour shaken up with water in the empty cream bottle. Yummo!! It was even healthy (almost), served with beetroot and carrot salad and a green salad.

Note to self: put mushrooms and cream on the supermarket list.

I have got rather brave - foolhardy perhaps - and gave my hair a trim with the clippers a week or so ago - only took off a 1/4 inch using the method of doing it a section at a time and holding the hair out between two fingers to just have the requisite 1/4 inch showing above my fingers and then trimming that off. Worked quite well and looked reasonable all round. Thanks to big Neil in Cornwall for sending me the youtube video on how to cut your own hair (if you're a guy ...)

Then on Saturday I decided that it needed doing again and I got a bit bold. I used the clippers with the 1" measuring comb on, and managed to take a bit much off on one side behind my ear ... It looks fine from the front and that is all that counts really ... And it's not like I'm going out anywhere, is it?

It's all in how you hold your mouth ...

Sally our gardener came on Tuesday and did a big weeding job (with appropriate social distancing) in the rose garden beside the driveway and from the side garden she took out a stack of liriope, planted some beside the trellis by the motorhome, handed some over the fence to Jillian and delivered some to my friend Jane on her way home. There is still a lot of it in situ... Rob planted it a few years ago as a border/skirt around the ponga, but the ponga died a couple of years ago when the summer was just too hot and it had no shade. Now the liriope skirts nothing but hosts lots of grass, bugger it. So it had to come out. I think I am going to fill that area with canna lilies, camellias and hydrangeas. And the camellias will get regular haircuts so they don't grow to 30 feet which they tend to do here in Waikanae!

While in lockdown, I have been re-reading my blogposts from when we first came here. I remember Grahame from over the fence telling me not to worry about pruning hard because he said everything grows madly here. He was so right! I have quite a bit of it to do as soon as I can get my arse into gear...
Those camellias had been trimmed down to below the level of the fence when Luke and Rob first attacked that piece of the garden. They now need another severe trim. The sapling on the front left with the big long leaves is a native fushcia - it is self sown and probably about a year old...

Not a single one of these shrubs was in situ when we arrived. The big tree was, and was much bigger and has been severely pruned - it's hardly pruning when it requires chainsaws and ropes though. This is the piece of garden that Rob and Luke cleared of 12 trees, multiple elephant lilies, 6 woolsacks of tradascanthia.  The rest of the big plants have been in place probably 3 or 4 years or so, apart from the grape vine (the yellow autumnal one on the left) which has been in a couple of years. The smaller ones were planted just before lockdown.
And I am not posting photos of the camellias in the front or the side garden as that will give you the idea that Waikanae is triffid country!

Wednesday 22 April 2020

Family stuff in lockdown

Our son Tim and his partner Dana are living on nb Waka Huia at the moment - they are at North Kilworth Marina which they tell us has the most wonderful facilities. They have planted some of the salad greens seeds I had left over in a drawer in the galley and they are coming up nicely in the warm spring sunshine. They have done a giant clean of the vinyl on the floor throughout the boat - I have always hated that vinyl: it is a woodgrain look and was laid cross ways so the ridges in it are across the narrows, so to speak. That makes it impossible to keep really clean unless you do it on hands and knees, which is exactly what Tim and Dana have done. I've done that once, but then decided that sterilising and bleaching the dirt was easier and less painful a process. But Tim is going to replace the vinyl for us which we are delighted about. I do need to see what he thinks I would be happy with though before he purchases! Got that, Tim?

For a while, until he went back to work as an essential worker, they had the boys with them. But a couple of weeks ago now, Tim took the boys back up to Dalry to their mum, Marta.

Even though both of the boys are very social animals and are separated by 5 years in age, they have kept busy quite happily together. I understand that they have been cooking meals, and when I saw Olek this morning on his bi-weekly maths session with David, he didn't look like he was malnourished ...

One day Olek apparently asked his mum if she needed the timber in the basement, because if not, he had an idea... Karol has long had the desire for a treehouse, and Olek thought they could make one. So a couple of phone calls for advice and to score some coach bolts, and away they went. Marta said it took 4 half days. As Marta described it: Olek had the idea, Karol had the desire and Marta had the materials. And the three of them did the planning and construction.
The first crossbar/support is up and Olek is clearing the branches that are in the way of construction.
Three crossbars are in place. Marta said the first one took a couple of hours but once they got the idea, the others went up much much faster. Olek still on trimming ...
Framing in place - look at that beautiful blue Scottish sky!!

Marta using the multi-tool to trim

The flooring is going on and Karol is going up to check it out. And Olek is off to fetch something else.

Karol carefully using the saw to cut the platform pieces - I am sure Marta was within a couple of feet to effect a rescue if required!

Platform on, support struts bolted in place, one happy boy. See how the branch comes through the platform?
I understand that a guard rail is the next step as Karol wants to be able to sleep out there on summer nights - rolling over could be disastrous. However they could reposition the trampoline, I guess...

What a great thing to do during lockdown!

David and I had a call with Marta and Karol after the construction project and somehow I managed to touch a function on the screen that allowed different faces to be attached to those on the call. I started out with a dragon face that breathed fire - excellent! But we didn't know how to do snapshots of it at that point. We did get these though ...

Marta and Karol at the top, David as Pizza face and me with the quiff (?!?) - it was in the morning for us and we were still in bed ...

On Friday last week David turned 71 - hard to believe but it's true.

I made this cake for him - banana with lemon cream cheese icing, sultanas and toasted pumpkin seeds. Very yummy!

Ann made a cake for his birthday too and they put up decorations! So we celebrated by FaceTime. Lovely friends. They had to eat the cake themselves though - Ann deliberately made it only half-sized to save them from themselves, sensible woman.

David and I had cake and bubbly with Bruce and Gary by FaceTime later that day.

The following day would have been David's dad's 93rd birthday.
Cake for breakfast to celebrate John's birthday on 18 April. This photo was for Ginny.
To save us from eating half a banana cake each in this time of social distancing with Cafe Rata closed, I did a swap with Bruce and Gary - a large chuck of the remaining cake for feijoas; plus I took a slice over to Kay. That just left a decent sized piece each for dessert.

Today I sampled the latest lot of tomato soup that I made a few days ago with the acid-free tomatoes delivered by Penray Gardens late last week. It was so yummy I rang to see if they still had some. Yes, they do, so 3 boxes are being delivered tomorrow and more soup and probably more chilli chutney and possibly some capsicum chutney will be made.

Life under lockdown is plenty active enough, I reckon, and there is still heaps I could do out in the garden when the desire to weed and trim and plant overtakes me - yeah, right! Like that'll ever happen!

Tuesday 21 April 2020

A science experiment - spoiler alert: better results than hydrochloroquine

As those of you who know me can attest, I am not a science nerd by any stretch of the imagination. I am married to a boffin and it is his role to be the one who investigates/trials/experiments.

My role is to be the action woman and just get things done.

However, in the climate of Alert Level 4 and being isolated in our bubble, as well as being pissed off at failing in the sourdough starter stakes, I got a bit caught up in chasing success.

Pip from nb Oleanna had suggested adding a red cabbage leaf to the starter. I did, and after a couple of days, success was mine!! I feel a bit like Billy Connolly - I should be proclaiming this loudly and with lots of swearing from a stage. But you will have to do as my audience. Of course, I have emailed photos to Bernice the Mean, and she has been suitably and kindly encouraging, providing me with much needed positive reinforcement. So I am in the process of changing her name by deed-poll to Bernice the Okay Really...
Very few bubbles
So back to the experiment:

A few nights ago (I am losing track of time), but quite late for me, I sent Bernice an email requesting urgent advice - the red cabbage leafed starter had expanded exponentially in its jar in the airing cupboard, so I needed to know if I could take it out of the cupboard and leave it overnight. Yes, she replied immediately (further changes to deed-poll application: Bernice the Prompt and Okay Really). So out it came and sat on one of the hall bookcases overnight.
A red cabbage leaf and lots of bubbles!! Yay!! Back on went its paper towel cover and it sat on the bookcase overnight.
Late the following morning, I decided to split the starter instead of discarding half of it before feeding. So I divided it roughly into 3 and fed each portion the same amount of flour and water, but two of them had room temperature water from our filter jug and one had tepid water from the tap. One of the two had a new cabbage leaf stuck in it. The others were autumnally deciduous.

The experiment is comprised of three starters all of which are labelled - good grief, I sound like David ... The bowl has the cabbage leaf in it.
Fast forward (but not really - nothing in this bloody bread-making process is fast...) about 28 hours, having checked a few hours before that all portions were active and rising, I pulled them out to do the float test. Yay!!! The first one was floaty-ish - the biggest part of the spoonful stayed on the top, but the strandy bits sank. But I counted that as success.

So on to the second portion - sank without protest to the bottom.

And then on to the third vegetated portion - AAARRRGGGHHH - I had left it too long, a skin had formed over the submerged part of the red cabbage leaf, and underneath it, the leaf colour had leached into the starter. Down the sink with that one, leaving two to be fed and watered again and back in to the airing cupboard for the night.

In the early afternoon of the following day (the next one after the one I wrote about - 4 paragraphs back) I checked again, and the one that had floated the previous day was even more floaty, so I decided I should be able to start making bread sometime in the next millenium. So I fed it, put it back in the airing cupboard thinking I would wait till the following day to make the leaven (poolish is what Chris Verburg calls it). But my patience was running out, so that evening, and quite late for me, I decided that the starter had foamed and bubbled enough in the few hours since I'd fed it for the umpteenth time, and so it was on to making the leaven.

I should not really do stuff late in the evening that I have never done before and that I am nervous about. I tend to hit the wall tiredness-wise and I get tetchy (OK, tetchier ...) and only able to focus on one thing. Being given instructions from the sidelines by someone who never uses the scales but apparently knows exactly how they work is not conducive to my completing the task with any degree of equanimity. Enough said. So a portion of the floaty starter into a bowl; flour weighed, water weighed and added and stirred to mix. Shower cap cover fixed on top and the whole thing put into the airing cupboard. The remaining starters fed again (I am hedging my bets and continuing the experiment in case the floaty one decides not to work); starters placed beside the hopefully-about-to- burgeon leaven.

An apology given to the scales expert and off to bed I go with a calming cup of chamomile.

Yesterday morning, I cautiously peered in to the airing cupboard to find that the leaven had really and truly done its thing in a big way, so on to the bread making I get - excited, but nervous. And I tell you it is difficult to do any kind of kitchen stuff with your fingers crossed! And the kitchen was a bit Piccadilly Circus-like yesterday as I had tomato and chilli relish (cooked the previous day) to reheat, blitz, then reheat and bottle; a huge amount of vegetables to chop and juice; and mushroom stroganoff to prepare (task assigned to David).

I decided that it was probably better if I printed out the sourdough instructions so that when David comes to use the laptop with the stroganoff recipe I am not also wanting it ...

So the next first of countless steps in the actual bread-making task is to mix in the carefully weighed flour and the carefully weighed (yes, weighed!) water that is at a specific temperature. So actually the first job is to find a thermometer. OK, found, but not that useful as below about 30 deg it just says Lo (without a w). Request follows to David to find the one he uses to register room temperatures. Yay, he finds it, once he knows what it is I am asking for - somehow my functioning use of language diminishes when I am in a hurry and his understanding reduces when I am in a hurry ... So the water is weighed and has its temperature taken.

The water is added to the leaven and stirred to mix, then the flour is added and squidged in with my hands, swapped in to a bigger bowl because I realise that if any expansion is to take place the smaller bowl will be overflowing, and the dough is turned and stretched a few times; shower cap put back on and into the airing cupboard.

There follows a process that is more demanding than a wakeful baby - wait for an hour to add the salt, turn, stretch and fold: turn, stretch and fold.  Then every half hour for 4 hours: turn, stretch and fold several times, replace the shower cap, place back in the airing cupboard. Then leave it for at least 30 minutes to relax - WTF??

Before we played cards with Ann and Salvi, the dough was ready to be shaped, so out it came on to a floured bench and I hoped that I was doing it right, having been taught a couple of years ago by Sarah and in October last year by Chris. You have to put your hands on the far side of the dough and then pull it gently towards you, repeatedly. It looked and felt pretty good, so back in a floured bowl I put it and left it to rise in the airing cupboard. Instructions said 2 - 3 hours or overnight.

After cards and yummy dinner, I checked the dough and it had risen hugely, so I decided to cook it even though it was getting late for me (see note above re me and hitting the wall...) I turned on the oven, put in the cast iron pot to heat for 30 minutes, and waited.

Then I realised that Chris uses baking paper in the pot, and I hadn't put baking paper in the shaping bowl - could I tip it on to baking paper before I put it into the pot? Quick email to Bernice (I must get her phone number!) and a quick reply yes I could. So I did, but bugger and deep depression: the dough sort of squoodged and lost its shape. But in a fit of "well, F*uck it if it doesn't work" I lifted it up and put it in the pot, sprayed it with a bit of water, put the lid on and grumpily closed the door.

Bernice's instructions say not to open the door for 15 minutes, so I followed that instruction then when the time went off I gingerly looked in. Yay!!! It had risen in the intense heat. Lid off, loaf taken out of the pot, a roasting tray with water in placed on the rack below the bread and the timer set for another 25 minutes.

And here is the result:
I didn't succeed in cutting clean slashes across the top once it was in the pot unfortunately, but who cares?

Once it had cooled on the rack, I cut a couple of slices for late night taste testing - verdict: very yummy indeed. This morning we had it toasted with baked beans - delicious.

I think sourdough bread making is a bit like giving birth in that you forget the pain (or it recedes in your mind) once your eyes light on the loaf or baby, whichever ...

I'll give it another go. And I am giving one of the starters to Bevan today - it'll be left in their letterbox along with a jar of chilli tomato relish when I get up and go for a walk.

Thursday 16 April 2020

Is this what friends are for, I ask??

Yesterday I received an email with the subject line: Just to annoy you. The content was this:
The caption under the photo in the email was: My starter this morning.
I emailed back: You are a bitch!

I will leave you to guess who sent the photo - she has a blog which is how she and I connected and how we came to invite them to come and stay on the boat with us, and how we taught them 5 Crowns, and took them on a jolly cruise down to the top of the Tardebigge Flight of locks and suggested they stay on the boat while we went off for David's eye operation in Birmingham.

And that is how she repays me! Talk about insensitive. As I said: bitch.

Here is how my starter has looked:
Quite lively after the first couple of days

Fed and it seemed happy enough to me
But then it did its flatlining thing.

Pip from nb Oleanna (she has a blog too) suggested putting in a red cabbage leaf. Did that yesterday afternoon, as noted in the previous post.

I sent Bernice (the mean one) this photo last night:
And I headed it: Still life with vegetables
You may note that the container behind the jar is magnesium capsules - of which I think I may need lots if this streak of failure continues...

PS Bernice (corrected the spelling, because that is a kind thing to do) has said that as soon as post shops open again, she will send me some of her starter, so she isn't totally mean, just mocking. 😈

Wednesday 15 April 2020

In went the red cabbage leaf

OK, this is its last chance! That bloody sourdough starter has been fed and watered, stirred, patted, checked on - it has had more attention than David has, and still it flatlines.

But today, a day earlier than expected, our vege market people have delivered the vegetables and fruit, and in one of the two boxes was a red cabbage.

Pip from nb Oleanna commented on the last post and suggested adding a red cabbage leaf to the starter. So I have.

Watch this space ...

Monday 13 April 2020

My patience is running out

No, not about being in lockdown - that is fine. What's not to like? We play cards with friends every day or so by FaceTime or WhatsApp; our supermarketing is done by our friend Wendy, and there is almost unlimited opportunity for blobbing and reading.

The busiest times of course are the afternoons when we need to watch the COVID-19 updates from Jacinda and/or Ashley Bloomfield or the Commissioner of Police or the CEO of Civil Defence or the Finance Minister, always followed by some good questioning and some crap questioning by the media reps.

For David in particular there is a clash at 1pm now because he likes to watch Rachel Maddow and that is when Jacinda is on ...

So, back to the topic: my patience is running out on developing a sourdough starter.

It is now 6 days since I faithfully followed Bernice's instructions and put the requisite flour and water in a  jar and squidged it around with my hands, covered it with a paper towel and left it on the bench. Each day I have checked it for bubble development, and there have been some, but never enough.

I consulted Bernice again, sending photos and asking questions. Ditch some of it and refresh it with more flour and water, she counselled, and be patient.

Instructions followed, hopes risen, but that's the only thing that rose - the sourdough starter has flatlined. Refresh again, stir again, wait again. Put a rubber band around the jar at the level it is when you have just refreshed it - mine was refreshed an hour ago and it is already a third bigger, she says. Well, bully for you, Bernice, mine is increasing marginally, if that. And it's probably just the bits on the side of jar using osmosis to settle next to friends.

It will be ready for use when a spoonful of it floats if dropped into lukewarm water, she says. Quite a few bubbles, so maybe it is ready, Nope, sank like a stone.

Yesterday I got another message from Bernice saying there is a woman on the radio who now has a baking blog, and her starter took 12 days to be ready for baking.

As I said to Bernice, I am going to have to give up soon, as my supply of white flour is going to run out - I only have about 15kg left!!

Bernice wanted to send me some of hers, but the post office is only delivering essential mail and I don't think a sourdough starter counts somehow!

I'll give it 12 days, just for the fun of it, but I have no expectation that it'll ever turn into a viable starter. Perhaps pessimism is the best response as I won't be disappointed ...

Update on Tuesday: Last night before coming to bed, I put an additional spoon of flour and water and stirred, as instructed. This morning, no growth, easter's promise has not been fulfilled, it has flatlined once more and there were absolutely no bubbles at all. So I emptied out a couple of spoonsful of it, put in a spoonful of flour and a spoonful of water, stirred and put the paper towel back over. No need to move the rubber band as no change ...


Sunday 12 April 2020

NZ's pandemic response

I posted this on fb just now in response to a comment about the science NZ is using in its response to the pandemic. It was too well thought out 😆😏😚😜 to languish on facebook so I thought I would post it here too so those of you not living in NZ can see what is occurring here and why it is working (so far, fingers and toes crossed).

We don't have it perfect, but the response here is a great example of what can be achieved with a great leader - thank you, Jacinda!!

I think there are a number of countries doing reasonably well by, as Jacinda said 'Going early, going hard' in locking down the borders, locking down movement within the country so people stay in their bubbles and only essential businesses remain open (effectively only supermarkets and pharmacies - there has been some loosening for a few companies' online sales of essentials, but not the full range of goods) and by making sure that people have certainty of income, not 100% of it but enough to cover costs, a variety of mortgage holidays, a freeze on rent increases and evictions, small business protection. In terms of income protection it is a high trust model the government is using, i.e. businesses have to commit to passing on the money for wages to staff and sign that their details can be made public. So when people report that they have not been paid, MBIE (Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment) investigates and business owners can be named and shamed ... In addition, the police have an increase in powers to arrest people who breach the social distancing/gatherings instructions. They are only doing so for repeat offenders. They are turning people back at roadblocks who were 'just out for a drive' and a number of people who thought they'd take their motorhomes away for Easter (not us, by the way) and sent them 300kms back home ...

Re the science, the NZ model is to eliminate the virus here, to have it naturally die out as the infected people recover and do not pass it on because they have stayed in their bubbles during lockdown. That will mean until a vaccine is available either the borders remain closed or the continuation of strict at least 14 day quarantine is imposed on people coming in (as it is now for returning NZers who are the only people allowed in - it's amazing how many NZers were overseas when this broke out about 40,000 returned in the first couple of weeks, were allowed onward travel to their homes and went into self isolation. Now that the number has slowed, people are accommodated in Auckland hotels at the government's cost and self isolating or quarantined, depending on whether they are asymptomatic or symptomatic. Re the 40,000 Jacinda was asked a few days ago why early returners weren't isolated or quarantined in Auckland and Christchurch, our international airports. Her response then was about the 40,000 and she explained that we don't have 40,000 hotel beds across the country let alone in those two cities, so that would have been impossible - and it was a risk that had to be managed in a different way.)

As we understand it, the government had a pandemic plan in place prior to this kicking off, and is taking advice from NZ's chief health scientists who are garnering information from across the globe, and constantly assessing it based on outcomes and modelling, etc. They are taking advice from the police, from physical and mental health professionals, educators, heads of government departments - the All of Government team who get input from all spheres of NZ society, from primary industries and businesses. So the planning is massive and all encompassing - but people's welfare is at the heart of the response.

I think one of the key things that has made a huge difference here is the quality of communication with the public - we have daily briefings from Jacinda (until Easter she fronted every day's press conference but has had a couple of days off) and the Director General of Health (Dr Ashley Bloomfield - we are on first name terms with him now ...) or the National Director of Health (to give Ashley a day or two off), plus the Police Commissioner and the CEO of Civil Defence, The Finance Minister was on most days at the beginning giving details of the financial aid packages being implemented, then the Minister of Education was on to set out the plan for providing the tools for home schooling. They have all been patiently and expansively answering questions (even the same ones every day ...), setting out the thinking, being encouraging, being straight, being compassionate and attending to everyone's needs, even those of kids with Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy being deemed essential workers. 

There was a mail-drop in the first days of the lockdown with a poster for every household setting out the Alert Levels and their conditions and the expectations of us (ours is on our fridge). There has been guidance for supermarkets on physical distancing, safety for staff ... Now, more than halfway through the minimum 4 week lockdown, guidance is being given for the conditions for moving from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3 - which businesses will be allowed to open, under what conditions, what do businesses need to be putting in place, how will they attend to the H&S needs of their staff, customers, supply chain, ...

The police are doing their job as upholders of the law and as well as that, making and posting funny videos, receiving and posting funny videos made by kids, visiting kids having birthdays with no presents, delivering groceries to the elderly. Their brief is to deal with the outliers who are sure the rules don't apply to them, while commending those abiding by the law and putting a human face to law enforcement.

So the science only goes so far, whatever the science is that is being attended to. (Check out
But the keys to success are:

* having a well thought through plan that addresses the priorities in risk order, and sticking with it
* making adjustments as required - in project management speak we call that 'eating the elephant one bite at a time' 

These two are achieved by:
* having an excellent team in place where everyone knows their role, is trusted to get on with it, and expected to deliver incrementally and overall
* having a gifted leader who picks the team, delegates appropriately and leads from the front, the side, behind - wherever is appropriate for the moment

Their job is:
* making sure people are protected and cared for, physically, financially, emotionally
* being honest with the public - and being firm, being clear
* making sure that all of us know we are stakeholders in this, engaging us and aligning us in the job of eliminating the virus
* being clear that there is a plan for coming out of the other side of this and putting the country back on its feet, and acknowledging that there will be some hard yards ahead
* communicate, communicate, communicate

So there you have it - my brief essay on NZ's response. I am very pleased to be here, in the capable hands of this government and its amazing leader. Thank you, Jacinda and team!

Tuesday 7 April 2020

Baking morning

Yesterday, while Jillian was out walking, I went over and picked some rhubarb from her garden - with permission of course. I have chopped it up and put it in the freezer, except for 1 cup of it which I am going to use in rhubarb and ginger muffins when I get out of bed ...

I feel a baking day (half morning ...) coming on - slowly obviously, given it's already 9.45am! So I think it'll be cheese scones, muffins and then BLATs for lunch.

Earlier this morning I typed the Edmonds Cookbook recipe for Anzac biscuits into my friend Wendi's fb page - we met Wendi at Campbell Park (Milton Keynes) last year.  So I will make some of them too, I reckon. Anzac Biscuits are the best!

I will even get brave and make a sourdough starter - last time I tried it was a dismal failure and I don't take that well.

More later when I have produced some results.

The Anzac biscuits ready for the oven - the recipe said it makes 36 but I only managed 34 ...

The rhubarb and ginger muffins just out of the oven, resting like all good muffins should so they let go of the tray!

The first load of washing up done. That is a container of feijoas behind the saucepan - delivered to our letterbox early today by Bruce, David's favourite.

Anzac biscuits out of the oven, looking good. Current count is now 33 as I was obliged to do a taste and texture test, as the cook. Self sacrificing indeed!
Rhubarb and ginger muffins released from captivity. Taste test not yet completed. I think David and I will have to share that big one just to make sure they are safe, don't you think?

Scones are out of the oven but I won't bore you with yet another photo of their extreme deliciousness.

Sourdough starter still to do. It's 11.58am, so apart from the starter I am on target for a morning delivery! I will do it before we watch Jacinda and Ashley at 1pm for our daily C-19 update.

Sunday 5 April 2020


Earrings in
I remembered that I used to dip the studs in antiseptic ointment to lubricate them and keep the holes healthy. It still works! And I have to straighten out the studs/hooks so they will go straight through now-floppy earlobes ...

Saturday 4 April 2020

My earlobes need botox

Did you realise that earlobes get floppier with age? Well, probably you did know that, but I didn't.

How have I discovered that interesting fact, you ask? Well, it was a scientific experiment. Not really, it was a desire to wear the earrings I used to wear.

Many years ago I had my ears pierced and, as the piercer used a curved needle I could often not easily get earrings through the non-straight hole. So I gave up wearing them and the holes grew over. So fast forward about 25 years or so, to about 7 weeks ago when I decided I would get my ears pierced again - I had an age-appropriate example: our friend Cheryl got hers pierced when she turned 70 last year. I'm only 69, so I thought I too could do it.

So now, 7 weeks after having them pierced, I thought I should be able to take out the piercing studs and insert earrings. Accordingly, I prepared well by cleaning the earrings I wanted to wear (silver and onyx, so out came the silver cleaner and then a wash in detergent and warm water). I got one stud out without a hassle and attempted to put in the earring.

Bugger! My earlobe was too floppy for the earring to go straight through and I couldn't hold my earlobe in any way that kept the hole straight. So then I put the stud back in - and even though it had just come out, I struggled to get it back in, dammit!!

So, I am now waiting until the end of staying in my bubble so that I can have someone who is willing to help me insert the earrings I want to wear. David, sensibly won't do it, as he would struggle to see the hole at the back of the ears, and anyway it would probably make him queasy.

Botox may be the only long term answer, but I cannot access that at the moment!

Roll on the end of social isolation - I need to try my earrings. Jacinda, don't you know what a crisis this is? Please hurry!!

Friday 3 April 2020

Will it be a plague of locusts next, I ask?

Over recent weeks, we have had numerous tiny insects appearing in the kitchen. I have found them in the pantry and had to throw out quite a few opened packets that they had crept their sneaky way into - even though I generally firmly fold down the tops of packets, folding is no defence against these little blighters! Frankly, I have no idea what they are - I have taken everything out of the bottom three shelves and swabbed them down, only to find more of the little buggers have hatched or awoken from hibernation, dammit! Where I find them in swarms now - well, at least 6 of them over the course of a day - is making their way across the kitchen floor. No idea where they are heading for, but when I see them, I pick them up and put them in the kitchen sink with the tap running: that'll teach them! They can go for a long dark swim!

Last photo opportunity before the long swim ... This beast is about 1.5 to 2mm long, taller than it is wide. I looked them up and I am fairly sure they are drugstore beetles: bloody typical that it's a beetle with an American name.

And then yesterday, we were inundated with bloody ants again! My bad, because I accidentally didn't put the lid of the golden syrup jar on properly - I'd brought in the jar from the motorhome and used it, replaced the lid but not tightly, and hey presto ants could be heard screaming "Don't jump in, Charlie, Angie, Peter, Dwight, Archie - it's quick syrup!! Feed from the lid only! Go back and tell the team to stay away from the edge! Hurry!!"

Anyway, they were everywhere. They are quite amazing really, as one day there's none and all of a sudden there are thousands of them marching marching marching.

Fortunately a week or so ago, Wendy bought some ant bait for us - she rang Kevin while he was meeting at our place with Sarah and me - pre-lockdown, I hasten to add. - so she got ant bait for us too as a precautionary measure.

It is now placed along their route in/out, and they are carrying it back to the nest/s. I replaced the baits this morning and yesterday morning and they are voraciously munching and marching again! When I did a speed test this morning, my micrometer indicated they are marching more slowly... 😆😏😜😉 But then during the day they sped up again!
At the bottom of the pantry. Bait is on a bit of cardboard and they are into it.
And making their way to and from the pantry

You can see them crossing the carpet edging ...

Behind the fridge and up the cupboard wall to the tiny gap below the bench (some of them), and along the bench to behind the microwave and around the corner to the windowsill and out between it and the bench (the rest of them) ...

 One bonus - I think the ant-bait is attracting and killing the other insects! Yay!!!

Thursday 2 April 2020

The kindness of friends

Amid all the scary stuff that is going on at the moment, it is the kindness of friends that lifts our spirits.

Wendy did our supermarket shopping on Tuesday. I made cheese scones for her to take home to the family, and I did make sure David put the money in her account before he had a wine...
I know you are bored with pictures of cheese scones but too bad! 8 for the Bryant family, 2 for Kay, the rest for David and me - at the time of writing there are still 2 left waiting to be toasted!
Wendy and I spoke from a distance of about 3 or 4 metres, and it was lovely to see her. She brought chardonnay (of course), chippies (both those latter two were her suggestions), mushrooms, a bit of fruit, cans of coconut milk, tuna and chickpeas - separate cans of course. What a godawful combination that would be! Now a pause to hunt for the vomiting emoji ...😱😰👎 Can't find it on Blogger, so you will have to imagine it.

Jillian came to the window on Monday to say hello as she went out for a walk. And on Wednesday she came and sprayed our roses and our lemon tree and I also collected some lemons from her tree before she sprayed it. (Today I am going to go over and pick lots of her rhubarb - she said I could. It is huge!! Almost tree-like!)

Other younger neighbours - yes we do have a few around here but not many - have offered to do shopping for us oldies, and Corinne found the delivery service being offered by a fruit and vegetable place in Otaki, because she said she knew that a number of us usually rely on the Waikanae Saturday market. We do, and it will be missed.

David and I saw a fair few teddies in windows around the neighbourhood on our walk the other day.
Mel and the owls are watching out for passing children ...
Corinne and Dave's house cannot be seen from the street, so they have a painted bear!

Some are harder to see, but they are there!

Some are very little ...

Others are not bears but even so they cause a smile and excited laugh as we heard from a mum and her 3 kids out on their bikes and coming along behind us!

Amazing how many people have teddies! Maybe people are wrong when they say that my brother in law is strange; although he does have about 120 bears all up. Well, far fewer now as he has given some to his grandkids.

Reflections obscure this one, sorry, but there he is in his sunny yellow T-shirt!
This bear is in Rhys's ute - the sun was shining very brightly so the reflections were impossible to avoid - sorry about that!
This is not a bear. This is David by the Waikanae River when we were out walking the other day. About 500metres from our place is the river and farmland. We are so lucky to have it all so close!
I made a mask for us each and David has modelled his here for your pleasure:
Wearing his dad's Belgian bargeman's cap (I think) - I reckon he looks like the bank robber in the children's book When the Wind Changed. Tim thought he needed a dark shirt to be more authentically in that character - so clearly, Tim remembers that book either from his own childhood or from reading it to his boys.

A more seasonally appropriate look, don't you think?
We have been playing a lot of 5 Crowns with friends on FaceTime and WhatsApp:

We have played with
  • Joy and Grahame (Waikanae), 
  • Salvi and Ann (Stoke), 
  • and latterly Salvi and Ann plus Chris and Ann (Stoke), 
  • and also Mick and Julia in Desborough, UK.
Must have been up to Queens given there are 12 cards in their hands ... David is clever and took a screen shot.
I made this fabulous looking vege curry and got carried away with the amount of chilli flakes so it's too hot for me - even with lots of yoghurt! David did not appear at all concerned that he would have to eat all of it.
Yesterday's lunch - ciabatta with grilled cheese as the basis of a deconstructed BLAT - must make it again.
This morning, for breakfast he had homemade tomato soup and toasted cheese scones

In NZ it appears most people are being very good about staying home and staying safe - and saving lives by not being out and about. The Police Commissioner said in a briefing a couple of days ago that they had arrested 3 people and released two of them, one was still being held because of 'other matters'. A phrase that always raises my curiosity ...

We have, as always, been keeping an eye on (for that, read: watching obsessively) the situation in the US - what a sh*tshow it is there!
Here I am in articulately and formidably assertive mode giving some severe feedback to someone who had written that the dumpster didn't say the things that he has been recorded/videoed as saying and that the Democrats should stop picking on him... AAARRRGGGHHH!!!

Mmm, I wonder who that could be about???

We are SO SO SO SO SO SO very very very lucky to have Jacinda and her team.

Here's a couple of other things that have come across my social media feeds:

That's it for the moment - but I have another post being written in my head already about bugs ...