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Tuesday, October 17th, 2017
Shortbread #recipe

Scotland immediately comes to mind when I think of shortbread, and my next thought is always Christmas. It’s said that shortbread developed from a medieval recipe, with the modernized recipe attributed to Mary, Queen of Scots. Over time the ingredients changed, with butter replacing the yeast. Butter was an expensive ingredient, which meant shortbread was only baked on special occasions. Butter has become very expensive down here in New Zealand, so nothing has changed in that respect!

I tend to bake shortbread at Christmas. It’s one of my favorite biscuits to eat, a trait I fear I inherited from my father because it’s his firm favorite too.

The recipe I use comes from Jo Seagar’s Easy-Peasy Summer Entertaining recipe book.

Shortbread

Shortbread

250 grams softened butter (1.1 cup American)
3/4 cup icing sugar/confectioners sugar
1/2 cornflour/cornstarch
1 1/2 cups flour

Beat the butter and icing sugar until creamy. Mix in the cornflour and flour. Roll into teaspoon size balls with your hands. Place on a tray lined with baking paper. Flatten and press with damp shortbread mold. Bake at 150C for 25-30 minutes until the shortbread is pale but crisp. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.

Shelley’s notes:

1. The original recipe says to roll out the dough and cut out star shapes. I’ve always found the dough too soft to do this–maybe because I tend to make this recipe during the heat of a New Zealand summer–and after experimenting I’ve found teaspoon size balls work best for me.

2. If I feel in the mood for a variation with bite I add 1 tablespoon of cocoa and 1 teaspoon of chili powder just before I add the flour and cornflour. Sometimes I’ll also add chocolate chips-the small kind.

3. If you don’t have a shortbread mold, press down with a fork. Dip the fork in a cup of cold water after flattening each biscuit to avoid sticking.

Chocolate Chilli Shortbread

Here’s a photo of the Chili Chocolate Shortbread.

Are you a shortbread fan?

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017
A Whale of a Tail #cute #animals #travel

Humpback Whale

This photo of a breaching humpback whale was taken in Alaska a few years ago. The humpback whales are amazing creatures and can be very curious, coming right up to the boat and doing lots of spyhopping to see what the strange humans are doing. I’ve been lucky enough to see them in the Southern hemisphere as well, and highly recommend the experience should you ever get a chance to go whale watching.

Saturday, September 30th, 2017
Devil Dog #cute #animals

We saw this dog while we were walking in Vava’u, Tonga. He craned his neck to see us and seemed to be guarding this partially built house. He looked a bit like a devil dog with his glowing eyes.

Devil Dog, Tonga

Friday, September 29th, 2017
The 99c Book Fair #sale #giveaway

Book Fair

Check out the 99c book fair. A genre for everyone plus a chance to win a $50 gift card.

Go to the book fair today

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017
My Curls Are Natural. It’s True, I’m Telling You! #cute #animals

I took this photo at the local A & P show. This fellow was a bit of a poser with his cute curls.

Angora Goat

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017
Shifters of the World ~ Grab a Bargain Today Only #paranormal #romance

Shifters of the World

Today only, tons of Authors are giving you the ultimate collection of reads featuring Shifters! Stop by and pick up a new favorite read!

Check out the Paranormal Bargains here

Sunday, September 24th, 2017
A New Middlemarch Shifters Release ~ My Blue Lady is out! #paranormal #romance #shifters

My Blue Lady, the latest addition to my Middlemarch Shifters series, is now available at Amazon. My Blue Lady is a return visit to Emily and Saber from the first book in the Middlemarch Shifters series. You can get a free copy if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber.

My Blue Lady

Here’s the blurb:

Middlemarch Mates, Book Fourteen

Saber and Emily Mitchell have been mates for years and happy until the tragic loss of their baby changes everything.

Feline shapeshifter, Saber is having a tough week with family and community problems. Worse, his beloved Emily has shut him out and is wallowing in depression. They inhabit the same house, but his loving mate has withdrawn. It’s time to up the ante because the growing rift is driving him to despair. Armed with a bag of sex toys and a tropical island setting, Saber is determined to seduce his mate to his way of thinking, to drive the blues away, and he won’t take no for an answer.

Grab Your Copy of My Blue Lady

Thursday, September 21st, 2017
Old St Pauls, Wellington, New Zealand #travel

Nestled in the heart of the commercial center of Wellington, not far from New Zealand’s parliament buildings, is an old church with a lot of history.

St Paul's, Wellington

Old St Paul’s is plain from the outside, a white building and dark spire, set in a large section and surrounded by giant pohutukawa trees. I wasn’t expecting much but the interior stole my breath. During my first visit, I stood inside the entrance, breathed in the rich, fragrant scent of the old wood from which the church is constructed, and fell in love with the place. It’s both peaceful and beautiful with the glowing colors of the aged timber. The ceiling curves above, looking like a timber rib cage and the light coming through the stained glass windows throws jewel-like patterns on the interior. Everyone speaks in hushed tones and the place feels special.

Old St Pauls, Wellington

 

Old St Paul's Wellington

Frederick Thatcher designed the church. He was also the first vicar and remained from 1861 – 1864. The style is gothic, and according to experts, it’s one of the finest examples of timber Gothic architecture in the world. The timbers used in the construction include rimu, totara, matai and kauri, some of New Zealand’s finest native wood. The pews are also made from timber and perfect to take a seat and soak in the atmosphere.

Old St Paul's, Wellington

Wander around on your own or listen to one of the guides who will point out all the highlights. The stained glass windows are famous and were added as memorials to several prominent members of the Wellington community. Originally most of the windows were plain frosted glass. The current bells and organ are also new additions, but the baptismal font is an original, made in England from white stone with a carved oak canopy.

Old St Pauls, Wellington

Funerals of former Prime Ministers were held here. The Maori land wars, which took place during the 1860s are remembered in memorials, as is the First World war. The relationship between American marines and the locals during the Second World war is also recognized.

A new church, also named St. Pauls, was built in 1964 to cater to larger numbers. Thankfully, locals fought to keep the old church, because it truly is beautiful and unique now that public buildings are no longer made from timber.

Old St Paul’s may not be a parish church now, but it’s still consecrated and a venue for weddings, funerals, christenings and other cultural events such as concerts. The building is maintained by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

The Facts

Opening hours:
Daily 9.30 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.
Closed Christmas Day, Good Friday, and for short periods during private functions.

Admission fee:
Entry is free. Hourly guided tours of Old St Paul’s: $5 per person.
Private group bookings (8 or more) $3 per person.
School groups: tours $3 per student.
Experience Old St Paul’s education programme: $8 per student.

Location:
34 Mulgrave Street
Wellington 6011
tel: + 64 4 473 6722
email: oldstpauls@historic.org.nz

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017
A Kick-Butt Alien and a Hunky Cop ~ Grab your FREE copy of Janaya today! #romance #aliens

Janaya, the first book in my Alien Encounter series is free for a limited time. Hinekiri (book 2) and Alexandre (book 3) are on sale for 99c.

Janaya, Alien Encounters #1

Start your Alien Encounter here!

Get the entire series (Hinekiri and Alexandre) for less than the price of a coffee.

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017
Dinosaur of the Insect World #travel #NewZealand

The weta – it’s a large and primitive insect, native to New Zealand. The reason I chose to write about wetas today is so more people know what they are. When I used a weta reference in my book Janaya, my editor didn’t know what I was talking about and I had to rewrite slightly to describe a weta as a prehistoric cricket-like insect.

Tree Weta, New Zealand

There are five broad groups of weta:

1. Tree weta
2. Ground weta
3. Cave weta
4. Giant weta
5. Tusked weta

Wetas are nocturnal and live in a variety of habitats including grassland, scrub land, forests and caves. They live under stones and in rotten logs or in pre-formed burrows in trees.

They are mainly herbivores in the wild but are known to eat other insects. They can bite but are not poisonous. Species of weta are still being discovered and several are endangered. In the wild, they were traditionally eaten by the tuatara (a prehistoric reptile native to NZ) but these days many are destroyed by rats, cats and dogs and of course, humans encroaching on their habitat.

The weta sheds its exoskeleton when moulting.

At 18 months the male weta selects a female and they spend time together in the male’s territory. (Romance in the insect world!)

At around two years old, the female will lay 100 – 300 eggs. The parents die before the weta eggs hatch 3 – 5 months later.

The Department of Conservation in New Zealand is currently involved in weta breeding programs and translocation to safe sites such as protected islands like Tiritiri Matangi and Little Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf. The weta respond well to a captive breeding program.

The following video is of a giant weta.

I’ve never seen a giant weta but have personal experience with both tree and cave wetas. We often find tree wetas in our garden and will return them to live in peace. They can nip and look creepy but I don’t mind them.

My experience with cave wetas is a bit more spooky. When I was a kid, my girlfriend lived on a farm with limestone caves. It was a favorite pastime to visit the caves and wander through them with a candle and maybe a torch to search for stalactites, stalagmites and glow worms. When I think about our cave visits now, I can see how dangerous it was, but for us it was an adventure – an hour or two of wandering through pristine caves. One day we discovered a new tunnel and were all set to charge into it to explore. I happened to shine the torch over the ceiling and it was covered with huge cave wetas! I let out a screech and dropped the torch, and we all decided to explore another part of the cave. I also took to checking my gumboots carefully and shaking vigorously before I put my feet in them. This lasted for a few weeks until the initial horror passed. I’ve never been bitten by a weta, but I’m always careful not to get too close either. I can appreciate them from a distance.

How are you with insects? Do you like them or hate them with a passion? Do you have any insect stories to tell? What do you think of New Zealand’s weta?