Archive for May, 2008

You can hardly talk to anyone these days without the price of food coming up in conversation.

Here’s a solution from back in the day: butter essence! Simply replace the butter in your recipe with dripping or lard, or margarine, and add a few drops of Hansell’s Imitation Butter Food Flavouring.

The advertorial above, and the ad here, were amongst some papers and things belonging to my grandmother

The ad here is from 1944 and the article is undated but likely to be the same.

I actually would not be surprised if butter essence made another appearance on the supermarket shelves. There are plenty of people experimenting with replacing butter with vegetable oil or generic ‘spread’ in their baking. It might come in handy.


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I made a quick batch of playdough for Beetle this morning, which she used to make a small forest.

I get bored with rolling pins and helping lever out wonky cookie-cutter shapes, so I like to give Beetle a bowl full of bits and pieces to play with.  Lately, I’ve been going through my ‘whole spices’ box, and she has a great time with those – bay leaves, whole cloves,  and cinnamon sticks.  They make excellent tree trunks, legs, wings and eyes, and smell lovely while she’s playing.  (I gave her the ones that had been sitting around in open packets and gone past their expiry date, but they are available inexpensively at Asian food shops too)  She also likes popsicle sticks that have a little smiley face drawn on one end; they make the bodies of butterflies.  And cut up straws, coloured matchsticks etc.  All these bits stay in a little bowl and outlive the playdough.

Fast Playdough Recipe

This makes a nice small batch of playdough, and doesn’t require cooking, which makes the whole process faster and cleaner.  Also, it’s ready to be played with immediately since it’s not boiling hot.  (Keep it in a bag in the fridge in between uses. I haven’t noticed any difference in how long it keeps to the cooked sort, mostly because we keep forgetting to put it away)

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 T oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • your choice of food colouring
  1. Mix flour, salt and oil together in a bowl.
  2. Add colouring to water.
  3. Add half of the coloured water to the flour mixture and stir in. Add additional water if required to make a dough of the right consistency.

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We tried to order Hell Pizza the other night only to hear the voicemail message saying that “the fires of hell have been quenched” at Northcross, our local shop.  It seems the franchisee who owned Northcross, Great North Rd, and Forrest Hill, Birkenhead closed them down early this month

Which is a dreadful pity because I did like having pizza delivered when Bear had a work dinner.

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The ruckus continues about the chicken cull in Kell Park.

They sent gunmen out to shoot chickens. Again. With appalling timing – during the school holidays, and again this week on the same morning as the preschooler’s Rhymetime at the library. Accompanying the gunmen were police – depending on which Herald article you read, these were either to prevent a breach of the peace occurring (gonna be bringing placards and banjo WAR SONGS on their ass) or to allay any public concerns about the shooting (because when you see a guy with a gun in the park you don’t think “council worker”, you think “running, hiding and calling for the armed offenders squad”)

The whole premise of the chicken cull is a load of (chicken) crap. It’s the same intolerant nonsense from people who move into character, location-based apartments and then pack a sad about the conditions that have always been there – yes, there are roosters in Albany. You saw them on the way in. They crow. That’s what roosters DO. What did you expect? Even the toddlers at the Albany Library rhymetime crow along loudly to the appropriate verse of Old McDonald Had a Farm. It’s the same thing as the people who bought apartments in Hurstmere Road, Takapuna, then got upset at the nightclubs that had been there for years.

And that, I think, is at the heart of the chicken cull. The SPCA has been called in, but I’ve never seen any of the atrocities alleged to be committed upon the ambient chooks. For that matter, around the streets of Torbay there are dozens of roaming, wild ducks. The population goes up and down, and springtime brings lots of expectant mother ducks who trundle around, soon followed by an ever-decreasing row of ducklings. The poor little buggers have a habit of falling down drains, getting run over, and probably getting eaten by suburban cats. The duckies who survive babyhood hang around and reproduce the next year. Down at Waiake reserve, kids chase them around, feed them non-nutritious fish and chips and white bread, and they probably get woofed at by walking dogs. (Same goes for the seagulls at the beach, come to think of it)

But I have never heard of the SPCA prosecuting the Torbay Business Association for not protecting the ducks in the area, or coming to re-home the ambient ducks. Or the seagulls. The Bird Lady would be overwhelmed if we did. Neither does North Shore City Council send in gunmen (god forbid) to take care of them.

They take care of themselves, after a fashion.

So what is the difference here? It must be all the crowing going on.


PS: CHICKENGATE.CO.NZ is launching on Monday for more chicken cull controversy than you can poke a stick at.

PPS: Why don’t any of the news articles mention the stupid geese?

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Buildin’ Stuff

Beetle used the construction area of kindy for the first time yesterday, after two whole terms. It tends to be monopolised by the boys, so I was very excited to see her proudly holding her wooden creation when I arrived at mat time.

Wooden handbag

Yep, she broke through the gender lines at the building table to make herself… a handbag.

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We had a lovely lunch today for Mothers Day. My sister and I had briefly considered taking Mum to the special High Tea at the Langham Hotel, but the discovery that it was $49 a head put a sharp stop to that, since it would have cost $200 to take just Mum, my brother, sister and I, and that would have excluded everybody else, including my girls. Hardly fair.

So we had a very delightful lunch at home instead, with little sandwiches, lovely fluffy scones, ginger crunch, and I made lamingtons. Not from first principles, I didn’t bake the sponge cake or anything, but it was lots of fun and they were very good. Amy brought more cakes and ‘sparagus rolls, and the Boy brought some lovely fruit.

I highly recommend Afternoon Tea served as Lunch.

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I’m quite fond of my Flybuys card. Earning points while doing my regular shopping is fine, but the best part by far is imagining the cool stuff I could use those points for.

Therefore, I was filled with excitement when I saw the lovely animated Flybuys advertisement on TV – one of the dreamed-of products was something I had coveted long, long ago: a Francis Francis espresso machine.

I went straight to their website and there it was, gleaming away in the homepage header graphic. Dream a little, encouraged the tagline beside it, in its wistful, wistful blue.


And I dreamt. It was ten years since I first saw a Francis Francis and imagined having one of my own, in bright fire-engine red with all those little knobs and dials. I had long since forgotten but those strong emotions came rushing back.

I wanted that machine. I needed it. Or at least to know how many thousand points I needed to collect in order to make it mine.

With trembling fingers I entered the magic words in the website search field: Francis Francis.

I was taken aback, but not yet crushed. I have the google powers and you know, they probably just didn’t enter good keywords or something. I tried again, entering ‘espresso’ this time.

Search results

What the hell just happened? Only a minute ago, I was gazing lovingly at a charmingly illustrated Francis Francis machine in the header. And yet the search results are some stupid blankets, and some crappily generic and thoroughly ordinary coffee machines.

Shaken, I paused to have a cup of instant coffee, which hardly consoled me.

I pulled myself together for a moment to compare the picture in the header with the real deal.

Yes, it was a Francis Francis, or something very like it, but it is NOT THERE.

They encouraged me to dream a little by tempting me with items that are not even available in the flybuys reward catalog!

Thwarted in my desires, I stopped to consider the images in the header bar that appeared on the other tabs of the navigation. Like the Francis Francis, there are items available as rewards that are sort of, but not exactly, as the image suggests.

I filled in their contact form:

I got very excited the other day when I visited your website and saw
an image of an espresso machine that looks almost exactly like the
iconic 'Francis Francis' machines

I was very disappointed when I realised that the espresso machines
that are actually available as rewards do not include the Francis

I note that the other graphics in your headers on the different tabs
of the website also show items that are not available in that form.
Eg, you have a graphic header showing a white ipod and a set of white
ipod speakers, but the only reward that is similar is a black ipod
speaker set - and no ipod.

I would guess that the images are supposed to be generic enough that
as your rewards catalog changes, the images do not have to be updated.
Unfortunately, several of the images you have loaded up there are of
particularly iconic products (playstation console, ipod, francis
francis) that do nothing to discourage the idea that those particular
products are available in the rewards store, leaving customers open
to disappointment if they try and find them.

The images in the advertisement fare even worse, but it is clearer that they are simply dreams, rather than realities. But in the context of a website such as this, I would expect to be able to click on an image of a product in a header graphic like that and be taken directly to the page from which it can be ordered.

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