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Archive for the 'Home Front' Category

Is this the face of a murderer?

Bella

I was out for most of the day, and I arrived home with my spiffy-looking hair to find Bella waiting at the door for me to let her inside. That’s not unusual, but what was out-of-the-ordinary was the body lying beside her.

Now, I know Bella gets a little irked at the birds taking baths in her water bowl. She chases them away if she sees them splashing in her bowl, but did she catch this bird and swiftly dispatch it?

Shelley, the detective, did some detecting…

1. There were no feathers littering the scene of the crime. They were all still on the bird.

2. Bella hadn’t tried to snack on the body. It was fully intact.

3. When Mr Munro removed the body there was blood pooled beneath the body. Shelley refused to touch it!

Detective Shelley concluded that this is not the face of a murderer and the bird killed itself by flying into the window.

Ah, the relief. We’re not harboring a felon.

World War 1 and ANZAC Girls

This year marks the hundredth anniversary of World War 1.

Earlier this year, Mr Munro and I visited Flander’s Fields in Belgium. It was a sobering and emotional experience seeing Tyne Cot, the Commonwealth war cemetery, and also the Menin Gate Memorial. There are so many unmarked graves at Tyne Cot—all from Commonwealth countries. The Menin Gate memorial commemorates 55,000 men who died and do not have graves. So many names, many of them very young. Just heart-breaking.

MrMunro_TyneCot

Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium

Tyne Cot

A few of the many headstones. Some have names while others show the country with the name unknown.

TyneCot

The cemetery is beautifully kept.

Menin Gate

This is the Menin Gate memorial. The Last Post is played here every night and our guide said the crowds get bigger every year.

Menin Gate Top

Menin Gate again.

Menin Gat Interior

This is a shot of the interior of the gate and some of the 55000 names engraved into the walls.

Tonight we watched a new TV series called ANZAC Girls. It’s set during the time of the Gallipoli campaign. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to watch it, because I knew it would pull at the heartstrings. The series focuses on the nurses who traveled from Australia and New Zealand and who worked on hospital ships off Gallipoli or in Cairo. The show is based on fact and is fairly graphic and real when it comes to the medical scenes. I thought the first show was good and time will tell if I can make it through the entire series.

Recipe: Lavosh Crackers

Lavosh Crackers

I’ve been looking for a cracker recipe for ages – something to eat with cheese or to serve with a dip. This is one of Annabel Langbein’s recipes. I’ve made it several times now and the end result is always good. These are moreish! They’re also very easy to make.

Ingredients:

1 cup plain white flour

1/3 cup wholemeal flour

2 Tablespoons black sesame seeds

2 Tablespoons white sesame seeds

1 Tablespoon fresh oregano (chopped) or substitute dried and reduce amount to 1 teaspoon

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 cup water

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 165 C.

2. Place dry ingredients, seeds and herbs into a bowl.

3. Mix the oils and water together and add to dry ingredients. Mix to a dough.

4. Split dough into four and roll out each part as thin as possible.

5. Cut into strips and each strip into a cracker size.

6. Bake on a baking paper-covered tray until crisp and golden – about 15 – 18 minutes.

7. Cool and store in an airtight container.

 

Shelley’s notes:

1. I didn’t have any sesame oil and used all olive oil in my crackers.

2. I’ve substituted other herbs such as rosemary and other spices such as cumin seeds. Ms Langbein suggests chili or parmesan.

3. Hubby made this recipe and rolled the dough through the pasta machine to make it extra thin. I use the rolling pin. Winking smile

Seven Signs That Summer is Here

Pohutukawa tree

Signs that summer and Christmas are really on the way…

1. Some of our native pohutukawa trees have burst into flower. The trees growing near the sea have started to flower and the others closer to our home should start flowering soon. The pohutukawa tree is known as New Zealand’s Christmas tree.

2. Daylight saving has kicked in and our days are longer. We’re starting to take the puppy for a walk after dinner.

3. All the local malls have put up their Christmas decorations.

4. I heard Snoopy’s Christmas (one of my fave Christmas songs) for the first time today.

5. I received an email from one of my favorite cafes telling me I’ll receive a free muffin since it’s my birthday. My birthday is at the beginning of December and slap-dab in summer.

6. Some days it’s hot enough to wear shorts. Now all I have to do is make sure my legs are silky smooth!

6. The strawberries are ready to pick. Yum!

What is the first sign of summer for you? And if you’re in the Northern hemisphere – what is the first sign of winter for you?

The Glamorous Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet cake seems to be everywhere I look at the moment–at a friend’s birthday party, at one of the cafes I visit in order to write and on my favorite television cooking shows.

I’m a recent convert to the Red Velvet cake, and I remember where I sampled my first piece. It was at a California Kitchen in Los Angeles for my dessert. I enjoyed every mouthful.

I’ve been wanting to try making my own for ages and found a recipe on one of my favorite local sites Baking Makes Things Better. Yesterday was the day. The actual recipe was very easy, but my trials started when I looked through my cupboard for a suitable tin to bake my cake. I had a springform tin, but I learned my lesson last year. If your cake batter is runny, do not use one of these tins because the mixture will leak through the bottom and make a mess in the oven! Take this as a public service announcement and don’t repeat my mistake.

I ended up using two loaf tins in which to bake my cake.

Red Velvet Cake

Here’s the recipe:

Dry Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

Wet Ingredients:

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups oil

1 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

50ml red liquid food coloring (1 bottle)

Method:

1. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

2. Mix all the wet ingredients together in a different bowl.

3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.

4. Grease two tins (20 cm cake tin)

5. Place half the mixture in each tin.

6. Cook in oven preheated to 180C/360F for 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

7. Cool and frost.

Frosting:

250 grams cream cheese

200 grams butter (softened)

5 cups icing sugar (Confectioner’s sugar)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Combine all ingredients and frost cake.

Shelley’s notes:

1. The cake mixture is in-your-face red but it’s meant to look like that. I managed to get red cake mix everywhere. I think I had a bad day, but take care Smile

2. I didn’t have any buttermilk and used regular milk, which worked fine.

3. This cake is delicious!

A Lady’s Handbag

© Andres Rodriguez | Dreamstime Stock Photos

As my age advances, I’ve started on the road to a handbag obsession. I’m almost frightened to admit it, since Mr. Munro will read this blog and use my admission as evidence to hold against me at a later date.

I own four bags at present – a black Guess bag, a pink Guess bag, a small black clutch purchased from a local chain of stores called Collette and a black canvas briefcase that my husband received from his employer. I commandeered it and have used it so much the color has faded, but it’s perfect to tote around my laptop and iPad.

Now four handbags aren’t many in the scheme of things, but each time I go to the mall I visit Collette store and check out the new arrivals. There are so many pretty colors. I have to hold onto my credit card very tightly because it’s busy whispering seductively to me. “Let’s buy it,” my credit card is saying, but so far, I’ve remained strong.

So what do I carry around in my handbag?

At present, I’m doing a lot of writing and I’m mostly using my briefcase. It contains:

  • my wallet
  • my prescription sun glasses
  • my Kindle
  • my library card
  • a container of TicTacs
  • a small makeup bag with a comb, lipstick, lip gloss and tiny mirror
  • a couple of paper napkins
  • my netbook
  • my netbook charger
  • a backup thingie
  • an umbrella since it’s winter
  • some business cards
  • a pen
  • a small notebook
  • my cell phone
  • small spray of glasses cleaner

Quite a lot of stuff when I see it in a list. No wonder my bag is wearing out.

How many handbags do you own? What do you carry in them?

Red Rabbits

Rabbits

These red rabbits were part of the sculpture trail at the local Budhist temple. I loved the contrast of the red and green though I nearly fell over at the price. They wanted $700 for these little rabbits.

Later today, at 12:00 pm, I’m over at Coffee Thoughts Blog taking part in the Unusual Professions afternoon. I’m doing a contest, which goes live around 3:00 pm.

How was your weekend?

Z is for Zealandia

Z

Zealandia is a wildlife sanctuary in Wellington—an inland island where endangered native species are kept safe from predators in the hope of increasing dwindling populations. The 225 hectare site includes two dams that used to supply the city of Wellington with water. It was decided that the dams might crack or burst during an earthquake and a decision was made to lower the dams and use the area as an inland island. The first step was to fence the area with pest free fences.

Pest free fences, Karori Sanctuary

These fences stop possums, stoats, weasels, ferrets, rats and mice from entering the sanctuary. Once the fences were installed a pest-control plan was put in place. A year later all 13 major pests in the area were fully eradicated. Thousands of native trees were planted (the area was previously all in pine) and this planting continues. The long-term vision for the project is to return the area to its original undisturbed state and this will take around 500 years.

Native species such as brown teal ducks, the little spotted kiwi, giant wetas, tuatara, stitchbird, North Island saddleback, weka, North Island robin and bellbirds are some of the inhabitants.

On entry to the sanctuary, staff check bags for mice, cats, rats and other pests. Thankfully, my bag was found pest-free. I know I would have been more shocked than anyone if a mouse had jumped out. We explored some of the many paths, pausing to peer through the treetops for the elusive birds.

Old Resevior

This is the old reservoir.

Native Duck

Native New Zealand duck – the scaup. It’s the smallest of our native ducks. The scaup is a diving duck and disappears for long moments under the water.

Takahe

This is a takahe, one of our flightless birds. It was thought to be extinct after 1898 but was rediscovered in 1948. There are two takahe at Zealandia – a pair – although they are infertile so are not adding to the low population. They eat tussocks, grass, shoots and insects.

Kakariki

This is the kakariki parakeet, one of NZ’s natives. They have become endangered due to loss of their natural habitat.

The day of our visit was warm and sunny – the perfect weather to tempt the tuataras out of their burrows. Tuatara are rare reptiles that are found only in New Zealand. I’d never seen one before since they mostly live on off shore islands and at a few sanctuaries.

We saw their burrows and finally, much to our excitement we spotted a tuatara!

Tuatara in Disguise

Tuatara

I still get excited whenever I think about seeing them. We watched them for ages, not that they do much except sit there and soak in the heat from the sun. It was a real privilege to see such a rare creature.

Thanks so much for visiting my posts during the A-Z challenge. It’s been a blast meeting other bloggers and reading all the wonderful posts.

Today I have a guest post at Collette Cameron’s blog – Blue Rose Romance where I’m discussing mazes and labyrinths. I’m also doing a giveaway. I hope to see you there!

Y is for Yachts

Y

New Zealanders love their boats, and particularly those who live in Auckland, which is also known as the City of Sails. There are several marinas around the city, and we have some excellent boat builders who are based here. They make huge super yachts for wealthy people who like to sail around the world.

We have many champion sailors who have won medals at the Olympic Games and also world championships. At one time we held the Americas Cup. We contested for it last year, but unfortunately didn’t win.

Below are a few photos taken last year when hubby and I did a day trip from Auckland Harbor up the river to Riverhead.

Auckland Harbor Bridge Boats

This is one of the marinas. In the distance you can see the Auckland Harbor bridge.

Auckland Harbor Bridge

Yachts

Shelley CBD Sky Tower

And this is me with the main city center in the background, including the Sky Tower.

Trip to Riverhead

Yachts were even moored in the middle of the river when we cruised up to Riverhead.

Unattended Children

I have to admit that although I enjoy day trips on boats and I love cruising, I have no ambition to own a boat or yacht.

What about you?

X is for Xmas Tree

X

Xmas falls during summer for those of us down this end of the world. In late November through December, our native pohutukawa trees bloom. When early missionaries visited New Zealand and saw the trees with their scarlet flowers, they dubbed them New Zealand’s Christmas trees.

Pohutukawa trees often grow along the coast, which makes for a pretty picture during the summer. We have pohutukawas in our garden.

Pohutukawa Tauranga Pohutukawa

For me, it’s not summer until the New Zealand Xmas trees bloom.