Saturday, December 31, 2011

Can't Blog, Dragon-Slaying

Well, it's certainly been quiet around here lately, hasn't it?  The last time there was a lull in like this was when Dragon Age II came out, and astute readers may have noticed that this lull coincides with the release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.  I'll be honest: this is the first Elder Scrolls game I've really gotten in to, and I love it.  185 hours since 11/11/11 (release) so far, according to Steam.  So it's clearly taking up the majority of my spare time, for which I am unashamedly unapologetic.  In the mean time, have a variety of Skyrim-themed lolcats and videos!


Skyrim is all about fighting dragons, and the setting is Nordic-themed.

sci fi fantasy Doctor Who - It's Much Too Violent

It's also a rather violent game, probably not suitable for young kittens.

sci fi fantasy Skyrim - Must Have Been Unbearable

All of the NPCs (non-player-characters, the general population of the game, for those of you who don't play games) have random environmental chatter.  One of the things a guard can say when you walk past is "I used to be an adventurer like you...Then I took an arrow to the knee."

My current iPhone wallpaper.  So cute!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

OOTD: The Race That Stops The Nation

Today was Melbourne Cup Day in Australia.  This is a public holiday in Victoria and a non-official public holiday for many other places.  Our office basically closes for the afternoon and other offices have at least a lunch or something.  Most offices have a sweepstakes draw as well.  Our office dress code is very casual - jeans, shorts, t-shirts - and so for Melbourne Cup we usually dress up.  Even the boys dress up.  I bought a couple of dresses from ASOS a few months ago that I haven't worn yet and was planning on wearing one of those, but unfortunately they don't fit properly so I need to get them taken in at the back or something.  So I had to switch to my back-up plan.

Shoes: Hush Puppies
Bracelet: Handmade
Necklace: Store on Mt Tamborine

I love this dress and I've featured it here before.  I feel like it has shrunk vertically a little bit - it seems shorter than it was the first time I wore it - but I still think it looks great.

More pics of my accessories after the jump!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

OOTD: Scarlet Woman

A couple of my friends from New Zealand were in Brisbane for the weekend so on Sunday I went up to meet them and we shopped 'til we dropped.  I accidentally bought a new skirt from Autograph so I really wanted to wear it today, as you do when you buy new clothes.  I also had a pair of tights from my last We Love Colors order that I hadn't worn yet so I figured I would pair them up.

T-shirt: Mr Vintage
Skirt: Autograph
Tights: We Love Colors (Scarlet Red)

I'd been looking for a new shorter-length skirt for a while but it was difficult to find one that wasn't too frumpy or had horrendously expensive shipping, so when I spotted this one in Autograph on sale for $20 I knew I had to snap it up.  The tights are much, much brighter than they look in the pic: really vivid red.  Dave tried to get a couple of pictures of them but they really don't show the brightness:

I've featured this t-shirt before and it's fast become my favourite Mr Vintage t-shirt.  I easily wear it once a week.  I love the print and it's just a little bit dressier than some of my other t-shirts.  I love all my Mr Vintage t-shirts and they are all in high rotation but this one in particular gets worn more than the others.

The skirt is super comfortable - the waist is elasticated at the back, there's no zip or anything - and it wore pretty well.  The viscose fabric does have a little tendency to crumple but I thought it did pretty well.  The colour goes with pretty much anything.  It will get plenty of wear because it will be light and cool in summer and goes well with all my tights for winter.  It's nearly too warm for tights here now so I'll have to say farewell to all my We Love Colors tights until next year.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Today my dog, Phoebe, had surgery to remove a lump on her leg.  Phoebe is over 10 years old now and this is her first major health issue so I've been very lucky really.

It started a week and a half ago when I notice a really big lump on her right foreleg.  She has a few little fatty lumps so we usually keep a close eye on her various lumps and bumps, and she spends most of her time inside with us so we notice changes quite quickly.  But this was a new lump neither of us had seen before and was already about the size of a chicken's egg which was quite frightening.  I called the after hours vet and they said that as long as it wasn't bleeding, she was still eating and drinking, and didn't seem to be in pain or bothered by it we could wait until our own vet opened.  So I did that and called our regular vet the next day and made an appointment for Monday to have her regular check-up and shots which she was due for anyway, and to check the lump out at the same time.

On Monday I took Phoebe to the vet and saw a different vet than my regular one.  She was lovely though and Phoebe was very well-behaved which was good.  She checked her over and said her lymph nodes weren't swollen which was a good sign.  Then she gave Phoebe her two injections and took a sample from the leg.  She checked the sample while I waited and said that it did appear to be cancer and that we should bring her back as soon as possible to remove the lump, to be safe, and that it would cost around $1000.  So I booked Phoebe in for surgery for today.

I dropped her off this morning before work and called at 3pm to check that she was okay to come home, then picked her up at 5:30pm.  Her leg is bandaged from right up near her body down to her toes.  She had another little bandage where the IV had been (which I removed when we got home), and had been given a cute bandanna.  She's hobbling around and putting some weight on the leg, kind of hopping every third step or so, and is quite perky.  The vet said she may not be interested in dinner, but of course she was!  She had something to eat and drink and is now resting.

The vet said that it looks like the lump was a spindle cell tumor which was malignant and quite aggressive.  He thinks he got it all but he won't know until the lab reviews it - we should find out on Monday.  It was very close to a major vein and some nerves on one side.  He had to cut one of the nerves, which apparently just controls surface sensation and shouldn't affect the working of the leg.  Because of the size of the lump and its location, there wasn't enough skin to close the hole properly, so there's quite a big open wound and she is going to have a nasty scar.  We have to get the bandage changed every couple of days because of the open wound - it will be quite weepy until it closes up.  Her general health is really good - they did a blood screen to check her kidney and liver and so on and they are very pleased with her health and weight overall so that should help her to have a swift recovery.

I really hope they did manage to get the whole lump, because if they didn't and it comes back then the options are radiation therapy or removing the leg, neither of which are going to be cheap and both are quite scary.  There is a third option, of course - one which one person has already suggested we consider: euthanasia.  While I fully support euthanising an animal that is in significant, incurable pain (a decision I have had to make personally on one occasion and have been involved in on several others), I am not going to choose that option simply because it's too expensive to treat her.  Phoebe is my daughter.  She's been with me longer than anyone and we've been through a lot together.  I know she's getting old and one day she won't be with me any more but fingers crossed she has a lot longer to go just yet.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Postcrossing: Russia

At first glance, when I looked at this postcard I was expecting it to be from Egypt - but no, it's from Russia!  I would never have expected to find a monument like this in Russia.  Apparently it is in Leningrad.

On the back:
Hi! I see you love baking and this is good, because I love too.  I can endlessly is our national dish - the pancakes.  "Basketball - not sex, where both win." Good luck and love! Max =)
I didn't realise pancakes were the national dish of Russia!  But of course they are not called pancakes - they are called blini.  I like the quote too but I'm not sure where it is from.

The stamp is a painting of what I think is the Kremlin.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

OOTD: Purple People Eater

Top & Cardi: Jay Jays
Mini: Torrid
Tights: We Love Colors 
(Lavender Plus Size White Striped Tights)

I received my latest order of We Love Colors tights last week and was very excited, as usual.  I probably won't order any more for a while - it's coming into warmer weather here so I'll probably wait and see if they offer free shipping to Oz/NZ again next year before I buy any more.  I hadn't bought the striped tights before and I was a little disappointed when I pulled them out of the bag - the material is different from their nylon/lycra tights and is a bit scratchy, not nice and silky.  Then when I was putting them on this morning I was almost worried they were too small - they were quite tight.  But once I had them on I fell in love immediately.  I'm not sure why, but they just made me feel happy!

I also got lots of compliments from my friends at work, which was nice.  All day I kept looking down at my legs and smiling.  It was the perfect outfit for my "Monday"!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Postcrossing: USA

This is my first advertising card, but I don't mind, because it is baking-related!  It is from a bakery called The Buttery, in Santa Cruz, California.

On the back:
Greetings from Northern California.  We recently went to Santa Cruz and found this nice little restaurant.  It all smelled so good.
The stamps  are 5 more American Clocks, another stamp from the same "American Design" series showing American Toleware (a painted jug), and one promoting the "Go Green" initiative showing a cartoon man checking the air in his car tyres with the message "maintain tire pressure".

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Postcrossing: China

Pandas! So cute.  I remember when Auckland Zoo had pandas visiting, they were so popular.

On the back:
Greetings from China:
I wish you'll like the panda card and these stamps.  I like Koala and kangaroo in your country =D  Happy Postcrossing!
The stamps are beautiful paintings of Chinese architecture and are just exquisite.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Dance With Dragons

This post is going to be totally spoilerific if you haven't read A Dance With Dragons.  You have been warned!

I don't really want to do a review but I did want to mention a couple of things, and also get on record my prediction so in 10 years when the series is finally finished I can turn around and say, "Nailed it."

Firstly, the trend of introducing buckets of new POVs and giving them random stylish names instead of just using their own names has continued from A Feast for Crows, which I didn't like.  I remember when A Storm of Swords was up and coming, George R. R. Martin released teasers of who would be new POVs and it was exciting trying to figure out who was being introduced.  Now, so many people have had a POV it's becoming a little confusing.  Also, I don't understand why they can't just have their name.  I could let Theon/Reek slide for example as Theon is confused about his name himself...same with Sansa becoming Elayne in aFfC.  But Asha?  Barristan?  Quentyn?  Just use their name, for goodness' sake!

Also, while I certainly appreciate that this book's timeline extends beyond the previous one, so the story has advanced, there's still so many holes.  We only briefly see Brienne appear, give Jaime a story the we know is certainly not true, then disappear with him in tow.  We see nothing at all of Sansa or Littlefinger or the Vale in general.  We see nothing of Rickon and Osha and Shaggydog.  We get plenty of new characters, including a random woman we've never heard of before declaring she was supposed to marry Brandon Stark (Ned's brother) and that she bears a grudge against the Starks for that not coming to pass.  Quentyn Martell appears to carry out his father's decades-long plan, then promptly becomes dragon fodder.  It starts becoming difficult to keep track of everyone, especially when each House has a tradition of similar and reused names.

It''s not all bad, don't get me wrong - I still loved the book, although it took me longer to read than I thought it would.  I was dragging it out I think, because finishing it meant that I would have another long wait for the next one.  I loved Tyrion's chapters, as always.  I liked finding out more about what I presume is the Faceless Men, through Arya (although that also left many questions unanswered, and she was another victim of Random Name Changes).  Cersei got her comeuppance and seems on the brink of change for the good, although events in the Epilogue could change that.

Anyway, enough blathering, let's get to my prediction.  Dany keeps reminiscing on the words of Mirri Maz Duur and thinking that it means she will never have another child.  But this is the passage from A Game of Thrones:
"This is not life, for one who was as Drogo was.  His life was laughter, and meat roasting over a firepit, and a horse between his legs.  His life was an arakh in his hand and his bells ringing in his hair as he rode to meet an enemy.  His life was his bloodriders, and me, and the son I was to give him."
Mirri Maz Duur made no reply. 
"When will he be as he was?"  Dany demanded.
"When the sun rises in the west and sets in the east," said Mirri Maz Duur.  "When the seas go dry and mountains blow in the wind like leaves.  When your womb quickens again, and you bear a living child.  Then he will return, and not before."
Mirri Maz Duur is talking about Drogo returning, not about Dany having another child.  Just because three of the conditions seem impossible, that doesn't mean the fourth and fifth are also impossible (note that I'm splitting "When your womb quickens again, and you bear a living child" into two separate conditions).  And in her final chapter, when she is confused about her "moon blood", it seems that she might be miscarrying.  Let's break down the prophecy one condition at a time.

When the sun rises in the west and sets in the east: House Martell is represented by the sun, and in A Dance With Dragons Quentyn Martell is called "the sun's son" by Quaithe.  The Martell power is rising in the west, while Quentyn dies in the east.  This could be taken to fulfill this part of the prophecy.

When the seas go dry...: In her final chapter, Dany is walking through the Dothraki Sea and thinks to herself that the grass is drying up and dying off due to the change of seasons.  The Dothraki Sea drying out could fulfill this part of the prophecy.

...and mountains blow in the wind like leaves: This could be the hill Drogon makes his lair in, turning to ash as he burns it; or the pyramids that Rhaegal and Viserion collapsed and used for their own lairs; or another event I haven't thought of or that hasn't happened yet.

When your womb quickens again...: If Dany is in fact miscarrying in her final chapter, then her womb has quickened and this part of the prophecy has been met.

...and you bear a living child: this part of the prophecy has clearly not been met, unless you count the dragons, which seems unlikely.

So, three or four of the conditions of the prophecy have been met.  My prediction, then, is this: Dany will bear a living child, and he will be Drogo reborn.  Now I just need to print this out and stick it in one of the books so later on I can refer back to it!

Friday, August 5, 2011

OOTD: Mr Vintage Week: National Parks

According to the Mr Vintage site, the logo on this National Parks t-shirt was last used in 1987, before the Department of Conservation was created.  I like the neutral brown colour and the stylised, retro print.  The fabric is also really soft and comfortable.

T-shirt: Mr Vintage
Cardi: Jay Jays
Mini: Torrid
Tights: We Love Colors (Hunter Green)

This cardi is the lighter grey twin of the cardi from Wednesday's outfit.  I love the colour of these tights, one of my friends pointed out they are quite Christmasy and I might wear them at Christmas with my red Christmas dress.  Don't forget the We Love Colors free shipping to NZ and Oz as well, as I mentioned in Wednesday's post linked before.  I'm really liking the mini-tights-boots look right now and I think I need some more minis for variety!

Here endeth Mr Vintage week.  I do have a few other Mr Vintage t-shirts, including the first one I ever got which was a present from my sister, but I might do another event like this in future, so I need some reserves up my sleeve.

Postcrossing: Spain

Unfortunately another postcard with very little information about what the picture is of. The sender mentions on the back that is modernism art.  Gaudí is presumably Antoni Gaudí, a Spanish architect, and I'm assuming this fountain is from one of his buildings.  If you know more, let me know in the comments!

On the back:
Dear Jennifer!  Hi! How are you? Fine I hope so!  I'm Lluna a Spanish woman who lives in Barcelona city.  And here I sent you a pic of our modernism art.  Hope you like it.  Saludos desde España.
My rudimentary Spanish (the benefits of working in a heavily multilingual office!) tells me that the Spanish sign-off means "greetings from Spain".

There are two stamps: one is a stamp commemorating renewable energy and depicting the process of creating geothermal energy in a colourful diagram (yes, really).   The other is of an unnamed dude, who looks vaguely familiar but I'm not sure who he is.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

OOTD: Mr Vintage Week: O For Awesome

This O For Awesome t-shirt probably doesn't make much sense to non-Kiwis, or even a younger generation of Kiwis.  It refers to the legendary NZ boxer David Tua's appearance on Wheel of Fortune, when he asked for an "O for Awesome".  Over the years, there's been much controversy over whether he was actually asking for an A, or whether he said "Ocean" or "Olsen" or something else...But "O for Awesome" entered the Kiwi lexicon, and there it stayed.  I love the bright blue of this shirt - it's a really electric blue and this pic doesn't really do it justice.

T-shirt: Mr Vintage
Jeans: JeansWest
Sneakers: Converse at Platypus

At least I'm standing up straight in this photo.  I always stand the same way though.  I need to come up with some poses or something.  I'm not really a camera lover.

The Converse sneakers make another appearance!  They're so comfortable.  I'd never had a pair before but I wanted an alternative casual work shoe to my Dr. Martens boots, so I picked these up from the same store I got the boots from.  They fit my long, narrow feet perfectly and even though they have quite thin soles, they don't feel flimsy.  I think I need another pair!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

OOTD: Mr Vintage Week: Tea For Tui

I saw this t-shirt when it first appeared on the Mr Vintage site a few weeks ago and knew I must have it immediately.  It's called Tea For Tui and the print is a beautiful one of a Tui perched in a tree with an old-fashioned tea cup.  Tui are native NZ birds and have the most beautiful and unusual call - no two are alike and they are excellent mimics.  Their colours are beautifully iridescent and impossible to do justice in a picture, but the print does a pretty good job of showing the sheen on the wings and tail.

T-shirt: Mr Vintage
Cardi: Jay Jays
Mini: Torrid
Leggings: We Love Colors (Rubine)

Why can I never stand straight?  I realised after I had put this outfit together that I'm channeling the style of my friend Sonja, which is awesome because she is fabulous and quirky.  I think I need to get some more minis to wear over leggings.

I picked up two of these hooded cardis at Jay Jays a couple of weeks ago on special (one dark grey, one light grey) and I've barely been out of one or the other since.  They go with everything and are super soft and comfortable, and the perfect weight for the mild Gold Coast Winter.

Don't forget We Love Colors still has free shipping to NZ and Oz for orders over $30 until the end of August!  Just enter the code WELOVENZAUS at checkout.  I saw a few months ago that they had introduced leggings to their range, but looking at the size chart I didn't think they would fit me.  Then I read a post from Lesley at Two Whole Cakes (which I now can't find) where she mentioned she had got some, so I decided to give it a shot.  I'm so glad I did, because I love them - the fabric is smooth and thick and super-comfortable, the colour is as vivid as their tights, and they feel really high quality.  I'm going to order some more before the free shipping runs out!

Postcrossing: Portugal

My second card from Portugal, and very different from the first.  I love the vivid colours of the flowers and the beautiful butterfly.  Unfortunately, the card doesn't include any information such as the name of the plant or the butterfly.  If you know, please share with me in the comments!

This was also my second card in an envelope, although it didn't come with a big long letter.  The message is written on the back of the card as normal.

On the back:
Hi Jennifer! I am Maria and I am from Portugal.  I also love to read and learn new things.  Here's a quote I particularly like from Shakespeare: "Love all.  Trust a few.  Do wrong to none."  Hope you like it! Oh...And cuddle your fur babies for me!  I have 3 dogs and 5 cats - just love them!
Happy postcrossing! Adeus! (Bye!) Maria
5 cats!  Wow!  I recognised the quote but couldn't place it, so I'm ashamed to admit I had to Google it (and I call myself an English major).  It's from All's Well That Ends Well.

The stamp is of a hummingbird and flower and, if my rudimentary Portuguese is correct, seems to be commemorating the International Year of Biodiversity.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

OOTD: Mr Vintage Week: Mr Whippy

I ordered another trio of t-shirts from Mr Vintage last week and they arrived yesterday, so I decided to do a Mr Vintage-themed week of outfits!  My normal work outfit is jeans and a t-shirt so I will try to mix it up a little bit, but I thought it would also be interesting to show my regular outfits instead of just the fancy ones.

Today's t-shirt, which you've seen before, features the classic Mr Whippy ice cream truck.  We used to get Mr Whippy coming down our little cul-de-sac all the time, and we would always rush out to get an ice cream when we heard the music.  It reminds me of my childhood and the t-shirt is on high rotation in my wardrobe.

Also, new hair!  It's not quite the colour I was going for, which was more red and less orange, but I'm still happy with the result.  It ended up being very close to my Daddy's natural hair colour.

T-shirt: Mr Vintage
Jeans: JeansWest
Sneakers: Converse at Platypus

I look pretty uncomfortable in the photos.  I wasn't really feeling it today, but I'm determined to get through my mini-challenge of a t-shirt post a day!

Postcrossing: USA

I'm not sure why, but for some reason the scan cut out the line that is displayed on the top of the card, which said "I've learned that..."

I adore this card.  The quote is beautifully inspirational.  It is credited as from Live and Learn and Pass It On by H, Jackson Brown, Jr.

On the back:
"Have a heart that never hardens, a temper that never tires, a touch that never hurts."  Charles Dickens
Bonus quote!  Another inspirational one.  This was exactly what I needed today, and the thing I am loving most about Postcrossing: I can have a terrible day, then come home to a little ray of sunshine in my mailbox.

There are five stamps on the card:  the American Clock one I've received a few times now, a butterfly, a red and white star, a Tiffany lamp, and a portrait of George Washington.

Monday, August 1, 2011

New Recipe Monday: Chicken and Chickpea Pilaff

A little while ago we got iPhones, and one of the first apps I got for mine was the Nigella Quick Collection recipe app.  It contains recipes by Nigella Lawson that are quick and easy, ranging from snacks and baking to meals for a group.  I've used several recipes out of it so far and they've all been fabulous.

Chicken and Chickpea Pilaff
Serves 6-8

4tsp      garlic oil
4         spring onions, finely sliced
12 (900g) chicken thigh fillets, each cut into 4 bite-sized pieces
1tsp      ground turmeric
1tsp      dried dill
2 1/2C    basmati rice
2 cans    chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3C        hot chicken stock
chopped parsley, chives, dill or cilantro (coriander) to garnish, optional

Pour the garlic oil into a wide, heavy-bottomed pan that comes with a lid and put on the heat.

Add the spring onions and stir for a couple of minutes before adding the bite-sized pieces of chicken.

Turn the chicken in the heat, then add the turmeric and dried dill and cook for another couple of minutes.

Add the rice and stir well, so that the chicken and rice are combined, before adding the chickpeas and stock.  Give another good stir before bringing to a bubble.

Clamp on the lid, then turn down the heat and leave for 20 minutes, by which time the chicken will be cooked through and the turmeric-tinted, golden-hued rice will have absorbed all the liquid.

Season to taste and fluff up with a fork before serving.


I guess chicken thighs are much bigger in Australia, because we bought 12 and it was nearly 2kg, so we only used 6 and had to cut them into 8 pieces to make them bite-sized.  We made this in our Chasseur casserole dish.  We didn't have any herbs so left off the garnish.  This was quick and simple and delicious, and gave us a couple of days worth of leftovers to boot.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Postcrossing: Finland

The birds on this card are golden eagles.  They are so beautiful and majestic.  I'm really loving the bird cards I've been receiving.

On the back:

Hello Jennifer!
I'm 18 years old girl from Southern Finland.  My favourite quote is from a movie "Millions" and it sounds like this: "Money is just a thing, and things change".  It reminds me not to be worried!  Happy PC!! Wishes, Laura.
The movie she mentions, Millions,  sounds really interesting, so I think I'll have to track it down and watch it.  The quote is a good reminder that money isn't everything.

The stamp is of a little raspberry cake, surrounded by raspberries, and is applicable to me as raspberries are my favourite!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Face of Terror

(Image via Full Fat Milk)

On Friday, Anders Behring Breivik (the man on the left in the above picture) committed two terrorist attacks in Norway.  He planted a bomb in Oslo and then went to an island where a youth camp for the ruling Labor political party was being held, shooting over 80 people before giving himself up.  Nearly 100 people dead, in total.

These were acts of terror.  But the war on terror has really been the war on other - and other in the West is non-white, non-Christian, non-civilised.  A white Christian man from Norway, one of the most civilised countries in the world, surely wouldn't commit an act of terror?  He's one lone guy.  He's not working in a group.  He doesn't represent every blonde Caucasian male.

He must have some motivation other than terror.  Never mind that he appears to be behind a 1500-page manifesto full of anti-Muslim sentiment.  Never mind that he posted a video along the same lines.  He's one of us, he can't be a terrorist!

It turns out that Anders Breivik also happened to enjoy video games.  He played World of Warcraft, and Modern Warfare 2, and Dragon Age 2.  A-ha! Now that is a story.  He's not a terrorist, he's just a gamer influenced by violent games!  Because, as everyone knows, violent video games cause people to act violently.  This angle was covered by The Australian, and also very strongly pushed in The Post Chronicle (NOTE: Massive spoiler for Dragon Age 2 in that article, and the next paragraph in this post - skip if you don't want the spoiler).

I have no idea what sort of "news" outlet the Post Chronicle is.  I'd never heard of them until today, when the story linked above was posted on Twitter.  Their reasoning, which is iron-clad, is as follows: Anders Breivik played Dragon Age 2.  There is a character in Dragon Age 2 who is also white and blonde and named Anders.  The Dragon Age 2 Anders blew up a "political" building (I would say "religious", but this is the Post Chronicle's party).  Anders Breivik also blew up a political building.  Therefore, Dragon Age 2 is responsible for the Norway attacks!  Fantastic investigative journalism there, Post Chronicle.

Look.  I'm about the same age as Anders Breivik.  I played World of Warcraft for years, and have logged hundreds of hours in Dragon Age 2 - I suspect far more than he has.  I never played Modern Warfare 2, but I've played plenty of other violent games.  You don't see me going about killing people, do you?  There are millions of gamers all over the world.  There are over 2 million people online in Steam as I write this, and this is at the lowest point of their activity cycle, as it's the middle of the night in the US.  Blaming his love of video games, while overlooking his massive Islamophobia, fundamentalist Christian beliefs, and military training, is simply creating a scapegoat and reinforcing the idea that terrorists are not like us.

But they are.  Terrorists are people, just like the rest of us.  They might have different religious beliefs, or similar.  They might be the a different ethnicity, or the same.  They might be from another country, or from our country.  They might have opposing political views, or similar.  The only thing they share is a desire to incite terror in the hearts of others.  I'm a gamer, but I'm no terrorist.  The two don't always go hand-in-hand.

Postcrossing: USA

My second card of the week from the Great Smoky Mountains, and another very beautiful one.  I love the ethereal colours, and the interesting facts about the area.

This was the first card I have received that was in an envelope, with a letter included.  I've seen quite a few users have specifically requested NOT to receive cards in this way, but I actually quite liked it - he sent me quite a long letter, talking about his university and his hometown, the places he's travelled, things he likes to do, and so on.  It was fascinating to me to receive so much detail about a complete stranger.  It's also good for people who like to collect stamps, because then you can cut the stamps off the envelope without ruining the lovely postcard.  The stamps on this one are another American clock, like my last US postcard, a Kansas stamp showing windmills and the year Kansas entered the Union (1861), and an abstract stamp on the theme of "love" - all very pretty.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Postcrossing: Great Britain

Puffins!  They are such strange-looking birds, to me they always look as if they are about to cry, but they are very cute birds.

On the back:
Hi Jennifer,
One of my most favourite quotes is as follows:
"Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." F. Nietzsche
Scary, isn't it?
I really love this Nietzsche quote too, so it was cool that she included it.  The stamp is of a great crested grebe.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Postcrossing: Germany

It was Postcrossing's 6th birthday last week, and to mark the occasion they allowed all users to send an extra 6 postcards.  It seems that an awful lot of people took advantage of this, because on the day that promotion was running their site was very slow.  Then today I received FOUR postcards!  A veritable torrent!  This is the first (and cutest): I'll spread the others over the next few days.

Kittens!  Squee!  They remind me of Bubbles when she was a kitten.  This card is from another child, so once again I won't publish what she wrote, but I will share the quote she shared with me:
Glück ist Liebe.  Wer lieben kann, ist glücklich.
The quote is from Herman Hesse, and translates as "Happiness is love.  Someone who can love is happy."  Thanks to @blauerpunto for the translation!

The sender also put some very cute matryoshka-style stickers on the back of the card in bright colours.  The stamp is of a Ballonblume, a type of aster flower.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Postcrossing: USA

This card is absolutely chock-full of wildlife: I keep finding new animals hidden in the trees.  It's so beautiful!  The card is also the first one I have received from a child, so for his privacy I'm not going to publish what he wrote on the back.  He did ask me to send him a card back, which I thought was sweet. I realised that my Penguin book cover cards might not be the best ones for children, so I ordered the complementary Puffin cook cover post card set today as well, in case I need to send more cards to children in future.  I'll have to go and find a card for him tomorrow, perhaps at the post office!

The stamps are also lovely, of the Liberty Bell and an American Design stamp showing an American clock.

I'm still really enjoying Postcrossing.  I get genuinely excited about checking my mailbox!  I love that there is such a wide range of people involved, from so many places - I'm learning and seeing so much.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Postcrossing: Romania

The castles on this card are so beautiful.  Yet another beautiful, historic European country I would love to visit.

On the back:

Greetings from Romania!
Acestea sunt câteva obiective turistice din tara mea. Sunt castele ale vechior domnitori.
Happy Postcrossing!
Using the wonders of Google Translate, I deciphered the message as follows:
These are some sights in my country.  They are the castles of the old rulers.
I was very excited to receive another card written in another language.  I stated on my profile that I don't mind if the sender doesn't write in English, and it was fun to work out what they were saying.  Because Romanian is a Romance language, some of the words were familiar enough that I could guess a little bit.

The stamps are two beautiful antique jugs.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Postcrossing: Russia

Saint Petersburg is so flat!  The island in the foreground is the Peter and Paul Fortress, the original citadel of Saint Petersburg, and the cathedral is the Peter and Paul Cathedral.  According to Wikipedia, the bell tower is over 123m high, and the figure on the top is a gilded angel.

On the back:
Hello, I hope you enjoy view city on postcard.
We are all sitting in the gutter but some people still look at the stars (Wilde Oscar)
For Jennifer
P.S. Nastya from Russia
The Oscar Wilde quote she actually wrote in Russian in Cyrillic script as well, which I loved.  This is one of my favourite Oscar Wilde quotes and I think it's awesome that she took a suggestion from my profile page of sharing a quote, and gave it to me in her language.

There are 5 stamps on the postcard: 3 showing the Kremlin, one fox and one hare, all brightly-coloured.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Postcrossing: Portugual

My first postcard from a dude!  I love that, while this is a "city view" card, it's of an ordinary street and shows ordinary people.  Quite unusual.

On the back:
Hello Jennifer! There's a typical street of Portugal capital, Lisboa.  Cool you are from New Zealand, I always wanted to visit it.  I've friends in Christchurch city!  I hope you like the postcard!  Greetings from Portugal! Joáo
The stamp is of a brightly-coloured circus clown and is very cute.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 3

Your Favourite Series

Man, this is a hard one.  My favourite genre is fantasy, which lends itself to epic series-spanning stories.  The majority of fantasy books are part of a series, or at the very least, part of a shared universe.  So it was incredibly difficult for me to choose just one series as my favourite.

In the end, I really had to settle for the Harry Potter series.  It's easily my most re-read series on my bookshelf.  Each time a new book came out, I devoured it in one sitting in one day.  I always re-read the entire series before each new book and each new movie, meaning that the early books I can just about recite from memory.

I love the series because, even though the books are aimed at teenagers, they never patronise or dumb things down.  And there are so many tiny details - everything is important, everything is connected.  Every time I do a re-read I discover something new.  The characters have a depth and relatability that is lacking in many other popular books.  Her female characters are strong and independent and have inherent self-worth that is not tied to a male character.  Rowling's writing style is tight and not flamboyant, and her ability to coin new words to fit her invented universe is amazing.  There are certain scenes throughout the series that never fail to make me weep, and others that never fail to bring a smile to my face.

I admit I was a late convert to Harry Potter.  I think it was when Book 3 (Prisoner of Azkaban) came out that a friend finally convinced me to start reading.  But from that moment, I was hooked, and I've never looked back.

The 8th and final movie based on the series opens this week.  It really is the end of an era.  I'm excited for the movie, but also sad, because it means there is no more Harry Potter.  But I'm also glad that Rowling stuck with her plan of 7 books and didn't drag out the series or get bogged down.  She had a plan right from the start, and it shows.

Of course, I don't think anyone would be surprised if Rowling writes more books in the universe.  She certainly could, if she choose to.  But I personally hope she doesn't.  I think the story stands on its own.  It's a story I hope to one day share with my own children.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Postcrossing: Finland

How cute is this card?  It's so sweet!

On the back:
Hello Jennifer and many wonderful greetings for you from here Finland :)  My name's Marika and I'm 29 years old.  I'm happily married and have many lovely pets <3  I wish that some day I could travel to NZ or Australia!
The stamps are weirdly shaped, not rectangular - one is a rounded cross and one is a kind of wonky pentagon, which I'd never seen before.  I've had a pretty rough day, so getting this card in the mail today when I got home was lovely.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Postcrossing: Taiwan

Another very wide card.  Apparently this lake is called the Big Pond, and it's seasonal - it dries out and fills up periodically with the weather.

On the back:
Greetings from Taiwan, and this is [Postcrossing Card ID].  The postcard pictures a small island near Taiwan, hope you would like it!  I have been to NZ once and stayed near Auckland, it is a beautiful place!  Take care and enjoy Postcrossing!
The stamps are of fruit and flowers.  My boss is from Taiwan, so it was exciting to get a card from her home country!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Postcrossing: Germany

On the back:
Dear Jennifer, you are the 3rd person I write a card to! I hope to get a card back soon, maybe from the UK, I like London!  My name is Lena, I'm 26 and from Germany.  I like to bake as well, but at the moment I'm on a diet, so no cake for me! :)  It's very rainy at the mom in Germany, I hope the weather at your place is better!  Have a nice week, hug, Lena
The stamps are of the Deutsche Post Tower in Bonn, which is apparently a famous skyscraper, and  Schloss Bellevue, the official residence of the President of Germany.  Her handwriting style is very enthusiastic.  I remember waiting for my first card too!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Postcrossing: USA

This card is actually holographic ("lenticular" is what the sender calls it), so it didn't scan too well.  You can just make out the ghost of the second image where the bear has caught the fish.  On the back:
Hi Jennifer.  I hope you like this lenticular postcard.  I love them, especially this one, with the bear munching on a fish.  We are on a cruise to Alaska, and having a wonderful time.  No bears sighted yet, but I hope if I do, I see the bear before it sees me.  Best wishes - Shannah.
She also drew a little smiley face.  The stamp is a Christmas-themed one.  I love that she is on holiday from another part of the USA but still was keeping up with her Postcrossing!

So far, all 4 of the postcards I have received are from women.  Of the 13 I've sent, only 3 have been to men.  It seems to be more popular amongst women for some reason, although I'm not sure why.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Postcrossing: France

This was the first card I received that was specifically something I had mentioned in my Postcrossing profile: I had asked for cards about baking, so this is what I got!  I absolutely love it, my clear favourite so far.  The pastries are just so French.  To eat macarons in Paris is one of my goals in life.  I loved the cute, slightly cartoonish feel of the card.

On the back:
I hesitated between a book and a pastries card, but as I've been baking several cakes for my kids parties today, here are some pastries! I understand you miss New Zealand, I went there while living in Japan and loved it.  We did a lot of hiking (Tongariro, Abel Tasman, Wanaka area, Milford track, Mount Cook area...), it was fabulous!!
I really appreciated that she had read my profile and taken some time to write about things I had said, as well as choosing a card I had asked for.  I'm loving receiving any cards, but this one was extra special to me.  The stamp is a beautiful abstract painting by Jean Bazaine.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Postcrossing: Belarus

This was an unusual card in that it's quite wide.  It's a shame the information on the back about the pictures is written in Cyrillic script, because I would love to know what this structure is.  Some kind of stadium? A train station?  I don't really know much about Belarus so it was very interesting to receive a card from there - it prompted me to do some reading.

On the back:
My name is Olga.  I live in the city of Vitebsk in Belarus.  I'm 23 years.  I'm a microbiologist.  I have two cats Klepa and Pushka.
I love to travel, the next country where I want it to go Australia.
I wish you good luck!
Happy Postcrossing! :) 
She put a regular smiley face and also drew a little face.  The stamps are gorgeous, they are of hares.  If you know what is shown in the picture, feel free to fill me in!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Postcrossing: Germany

*NOTE: Due to an issue with Blogger not letting me upload pictures, my posts about my postcards have been delayed.  This post was originally written on 22 June.  I've updated and edited it to make it less confusing.

A few weeks ago I joined Postcrossing.  I'd been meaning to do so for ages and just never got around to it.  But after I saw the fabulous postcards one of my favourite bloggers, GnomeAngel, was getting from around the world, I finally joined.

I've sent 13 cards so far: one each to Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, and USA; two each to Finland and Taiwan; and three to Germany.  I had been buying them individually, the tourist-style ones from post offices and so on, but I decided to buy a box of 100 Penguin book cover postcards from Fishpond that will keep me going for a while!

I've been eagerly checking my mailbox every day for my first postcard, and it finally arrived on my birthday, no less!

On the back:
Greetings from my birth- and work town Berlin, the capital of Germany.  I live in a suburb, I am married, have an adult daughter, a dog and my profession is midwife.  Take care, Helwyne. 
She wrote her messsage sideways, which I thought was cute and unusual.  The stamp is a picture of a cathedral.  I would love to visit Berlin and see the Brandenburg Gate so I was thrilled this was my first card!

P.S. Sorry for all the edits, but I think I finally have this post right now!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sunday Baking: Fudgy Earl Grey Chocolate Cupcakes

Earl Grey has long been my favourite tea.  I love the delicate flowery taste, and it's perfect with just about anything sweet.  So when this recipe appeared in my Tumblr feed, courtesy of gastrogirl again, it sounded just perfect.  I'd never thought to put Earl Grey tea in a cake, let alone a chocolate cake, let alone a chocolate cupcake!  I spent a week trolling delis, health food shops, and  chocolate supply shops looking for lavender extract, but it seemed impossible to find.  Finally, I discovered the online baking supply store Baking Pleasures (to Dave's trepidation), and there I found my lavender essence.

The Earl Grey I used is Earl Grey Blue Flower from The Tea Centre.  This my favourite Earl Grey tea.  It's so beautiful and the flavour is smooth and not overpowering.  I was very excited to use it in my cupcakes!  You will also need 24 foil cupcake cases - the foil helps to insulate each cupcake and stops them from rising too fast and spreading all over the top of your tins (yes, I'm speaking from experience).  Because the surface of the cupcakes is quite delicate, I recommend piping the icing rather than spreading it with a knife.

My recipe is adapted from Semisweetie's recipe, who in turn adapted it from What We're Eating's recipe.  My icing recipe is from The Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook, by Jennifer Graham.  Enjoy!

Fudgy Earl Grey Chocolate Cupcakes With Lavender Icing
Makes 24

15g      Earl Grey tea leaves (about 6tsp/6 bags)
125g     butter
1 1/4C   plain flour
3/4C     cocoa powder
1 1/2C   dark brown sugar (packed)
1 1/2tsp baking soda
2 1/2tsp baking powder
1/2tsp   salt
3        eggs
2C       buttermilk

200g     butter, softened
1/2C     milk
1tbsp    vanilla extract
8C       icing sugar, sifted
3drops   culinary lavender essence
2drops   blue food colouring
1drop    red food colouring

Preheat oven to 160C.  Line 2 12-hole muffin tins with paper and foil cases.

Grind the tea leaves into a fine powder using a spice mill or coffee grinder, or a mortar and pestle (what I used).  Place butter and tea powder in a small saucepan over low heat.  Cook, stirring, until the butter is melted and the tea is infused into the butter.  Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the flour, cocoa powder, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.  Stir until evenly combined.

In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs and buttermilk.  Add buttermilk mixture and the cooled butter mixture to the dry ingredients.  Whisk or beat until just combined - the batter will be slightly lumpy.

Divide the batter evenly between the holes of the muffin tins.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until a skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Cool in tins for 10 minutes before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely before icing.  The cakes will be slightly sticky and soft, not dense.

Cream the butter for 1-2 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add the milk, vanilla extract, and half the sifted icing sugar, and beat for at least 3 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Add the remaining icing sugar and beat for a further 3 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy and of a spreadable consistency.  Add extra milk if the mixture is too dry, or extra icing sugar if the mixture is too wet.  Add the lavender essence and the food colouring and beat until evenly mixed.

Pipe the icing onto the cupcakes in whatever pattern you wish.

Friday, June 17, 2011

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 2

A Book That You've Read More Than Three Times

I have read a LOT of books more than three times.  My favourite books I read over and over, returning to them like old friends.  If I picked a book at random from one of my four overflowing bookshelves, chances are it would fall into this category.

In the end, I settled on Sophie's World, by Jostein Gaarder.  I was first given a copy of this book in my first year of university by my boyfriend at the time, whom I met through a shared philosophy class.  So Sophie's World, an introduction to Western philosophy, was an appropriate gift.

Whenever I'm feeling confused about my place in the world, or overly jaded and cynical, I read this book.  It always reminds me that the most important thing we should do is to cultivate our sense of wonder.  The world is an amazing place, truly amazing, and we are amazing too.  As noted in the book, we, too, are stardust.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sunday Baking: Spotty Ginger Buttermilk Cakes

My friend @agentK is visiting for work this week, so @BiscottiFairy had to do some baking to welcome him to the Gold Coast.  On today's agenda was a batch of Spotty Ginger Buttermilk Cakes.  Tomorrow will be Apple and Ginger Biscuits.  When I chose the two recipes I didn't connect that they both feature ginger.  Oh well, I like ginger!

Spotty Ginger Buttermilk Cakes
Makes 9 (but doubled to make 18 fine)
From Classic Cupcakes, in The Australian Women's Weekly collection

You will need: a 12-hole (1/3C) muffin pan; paper cases; an 8cm cookie cutter; and a 2cm cookie cutter.

1/2C   firmly packed light brown sugar (I used dark)
1/2C   plain (all-purpose) flour
1/2C   self-raising flour
1/4tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1tsp   ground ginger
1/2tsp ground cinnamon
1/2tsp ground nutmeg
90g    butter, softened
1      egg
1/4C   buttermilk
1tbsp  golden syrup or treacle (I used treacle)

250g ready-made white icing
     yellow food colouring
1/3C apricot jam, warmed and strained (I didn't strain)

Preheat oven to 170C.  Line 9 holes of the muffin pan with paper cases.

Sift dry ingredients into a bowl (I sifted the sugar too), add remaining ingredients; beat mixture with electric mixer on low speed until combined.  Increase speed to medium; beat until mixture has changed to a paler colour.

Drop 1/4 cups of mixture into paper cases (don't worry about smoothing - they will level as they cook).  Bake about 35 minutes.  Stand cakes in pan 5 minutes before turning, top-side up, onto wire rack to cool.

Divide ready-made white icing in half.  Tint one portion yellow (you only need a few drops), leave remaining portion white.  Roll each colour, one at a time, between sheets of baking paper until 5mm thick.  Using 2cm cutter, cut 2cm rounds, quite close together, from both pieces of icing.  Place white rounds in the wholes left in the yellow icing, and the yellow rounds in the holes left in the white icing.  Re-roll both pieces of icing between sheets of baking paper to ensure the rounds are in place.

Brush cold cakes with a little jam.  Using 8cm cutter, cut rounds from each piece of icing; position rounds on cakes.

I couldn't find a tiny 2cm cutter anywhere.  I have set of round cutters, but the smallest was 4cm.  In the end, I used the base of a piping bag nozzle, which worked just fine.  Once I'd rolled out the two sheets of icing, I only had enough to cut about 13 rounds before I had to re-roll the remaining icing - but to keep the spots, I'd have had to painstakingly remove each one and then do the process again.  That was far too much work, so I just kneaded all the remaining icing together until it was evenly yellow, and iced the remaining cakes with plain yellow icing.

The cakes were a tiny bit dry and could probably have done with slightly less cooking time.  They rose nicely but flatly so I didn't have to worry about levelling them or anything - I could just ice them.  If you don't have apricot jam to stick the icing to the cakes you could use another mild flavour (marmalade perhaps), or just make a sugar syrup (which is what the icing packet recommended).

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 1

The Best Book You Read Last Year

Well, last year was a while ago now, so I had to think long and hard about what I read.  In the end, I settled on The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins.  The book was given to my by my in-laws for my birthday: I gave them a list of books I wanted and they chose this one.

I'm a bit of a fan of Richard Dawkins.  Not a raving fan, but I enjoy his books.  He can come across as aggressive, but I can understand his pain: when you are trying to convince people that they are wrong, no matter how many facts you have people are going to push back.  No one likes to admit they are wrong.  When what is being discussed is something as personal as religion, it can be even more frustrating.

The first book of Dawkins' that I read was The God Delusion.  It really opened my eyes, and hatched me from an agnostic to a full-fledged atheist.  I've read several more of his books since then.  The Greatest Show on Earth was the most recent of his that I've read.

The Greatest Show on Earth discusses why evolution is classed as a "theory", then goes on to describe the evidence for evolution in detail.  The book was released in 2009, 200 years after Charles Darwin was born and 150 years after he published On the Origin of Species.  There was a flurry of evolution-oriented publishing at this time, but it was Dawkins' book that was most interesting to me.  Sometimes Dawkins can be a little obtuse, but he does try to make his books accessible for people with little background in the subject.

While I'm fairly protective of my books, Dawkins is one of the few authors that I happily lend to others, simply because I find his books so influential and I want to share them.  I already have this book lined up to lend to someone soon, but if you ask nicely, I might lend it to you when he is done with it!

The 30 Day Book Challenge

The lovely @missRBit today gave me a link to a 30 Day Book Challenge.  I'm not sure where she found it, and it isn't a blog I've read before, but the challenge certainly sounded like it was right up my alley.  I'm not going to pressure myself into doing it in 30 days, however - I'd just like to get through the 30 posts!

Here is the list of topics:

Day 1: The Best Book You Read Last Year
Day 2: A Book That You’ve Read More Than Three Times
Day 3: Your Favourite Series
Day 4: Favourite Book Of Your Favourite Series
Day 5: A Book That Makes You Happy
Day 6: A Book That Makes You Sad
Day 7: Most Underrated Book
Day 8: Most Overrated Book
Day 9: A Book You Thought You Wouldn’t Like But Ended Up Loving
Day 10: A Book You Wish You Could Live In
Day 11: A Book From Your Favourite Author
Day 12: A Book That Is Most Like Your Life
Day 13: A Book Whose Main Character Is Most Like You
Day 14: A Book Whose Main Character You Want To Marry
Day 15: The Longest Book You’ve Read
Day 16: The Shortest Book You’ve Read
Day 17: The Book You’re Most Embarrassed To Say You Like
Day 18: Your Favourite Book Turned Into A Movie
Day 19: A Book That Turned You On
Day 20: Favourite Book From Your Childhood
Day 21: The Best Book You Read At School
Day 22: A Book You Wanted To Read For A Long Time But Still Haven’t
Day 23: A Book You Tell People You’ve Read, But Haven’t (Or Haven’t Actually Finished)
Day 24: A Book That You Wish More People Would’ve Read
Day 25: Your Favourite Non-Fiction Book
Day 26: A Book Everyone Hated But You Liked
Day 27: Your Favourite Title
Day 28: The Last Book You Read
Day 29: The Book You’re Currently Reading
Day 30: Your Favourite Book Of All Time

Feel free to join in if you also love your books!  Let's get started, shall we?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

OOTD: It's Not Easy Being Green

(The title is a lie, I found it quite easy, but how could I resist a Kermit reference when I'm wearing a green-toned outfit?)

Cardi: Ezibuy
Tank & Mini: Torrid
Tights: We Love Colors (Mint Green)

I should also mention that We Love Colors has free shipping to NZ and Oz on all orders over USD$30 until 31 August 2011.  Just use the gift code WELOVENZAUS when ordering!  I've gone back and updated my previous OOTD posts that featured We Love Colors tights with the colour of each pair, if people are curious.

Another day, another outfit with my Docs.  They are, of course, the most-worn shoes in my wardrobe now.  I have them mostly worn in - I still wear tape on my heels to guard against blisters but I think I'm nearly at the point where I can stop doing that.  Today I didn't even wear socks, just the tape and tights, and my feet held up just fine.

I know this is going to sound corny, but when I wear my Docs, I really feel like a different person.  I feel stronger, more empowered and confident.  I feel like nobody can screw with me and that probably comes across in my posture and attitude.  I love my Docs.  I'm going to leave you with a song dedicated to Dr. Martens Boots.

Monday, June 6, 2011

New Recipe Monday: Banoffee Cheesecake

After we bought the MiNDFOOD Christmas issue and scored some delicious recipes out of it, I signed up for their daily recipe email.  The recipes seem to be whatever is featured in that month's magazine, and so far I had been a little disappointed - the recipes were, well, a little poncy.  But when a recipe for Banoffee Cheesecake landed in my inbox last week, I knew I had to make it, as soon as possible!  So we decided to make it this weekend - not for any special reason, just because we could.  And it turned out absolutely divine.

Banoffee Cheesecake

250g  packet plain sweet biscuits (such as Nice biscuits)
125g  butter, melted and cooled
750g  cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4C  caster sugar
2tsp  vanilla extract
2tbsp plain flour
3     eggs
1     egg yolk, extra
300ml carton sour cream
300ml carton pure cream
125g  white chocolate melts
1/2C  Caramel Top'n'Fill
2     small bananas, sliced

Grease and line the base of a 22cm springform pan with baking paper. Process biscuits in a food processor until fine crumbs form. Add butter; process until combined. Press mixture over base and sides of prepared pan, finishing 1.5cm from top of pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 160C. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until combined. Add flour; beat to combine. Add eggs, 1 at a time, plus extra yolk; beat after each addition. Stir in the sour cream.

Pour mixture into prepared shell. Place cake pan on baking tray and bake for 50 minutes or until the outer 3cm of cake feels quite firm and the centre is wobbly like custard. Cool in oven with door ajar. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Combine 1/4C cream and chocolate melts in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (don't let bowl touch water). Stir until smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in caramel. Cover and refrigerate for 25 minutes or until thickened. Spread caramel mixture over cheesecake. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Whip remaining cream and dollop over top of cheesecake. Place slices of banana over cream and serve.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

OOTD: Geek Punk

(This is actually Friday's outfit, but Blogger was down.)

For Christmas I wanted a pair of Dr. Martens boots.  I decided that months before Christmas, but Docs are a lot of money.  Christmas came and went, and I kept putting off the purchase.  About a month ago, I decided to check if the store I was going to buy them from (Platypus Shoes in Robina) would do layby.  They did!  So I went in and chose my Docs: 1460 Black Worn 8-up boots.  I put them on 6-week layby and started paying them off.  But the weather here has been getting colder and colder and I really needed a pair of winter shoes.  I'd been wearing Dave's Rivers shoes, but I discovered on Thursday that the soles of both shoes had cracked all the way through in two places.  So I had to finalise my layby and pick up my Docs a fortnight early!

For their debut I went with a bit of geek punk - skinny black jeans and a geeky t-shirt:

Jeans: JeansWest
Hoodie: Mambo
T-shirt: ThinkGeek

The "Worn" collection is supposedly pre-broken-in, so they're supposed to be more comfortable straight out of the box.  Now, it's been a very long time since I broke in a pair of Docs, but I'm fairly certain these were just as painful the first day wearing them.  The thing with Docs is that, once they're broken in, they're the most comfortable boots you can own...But breaking them in is a pain in, well, the foot!  By the end of the day I had a blister on each heel and a ring of bruises above each ankle.  But I'll persevere.  I know they'll last me a long time.

Let's take a closer look at my t-shirt:

"Schrödinger's Cat" is a thought experiment.  For those of you who are Big Bang Theory fans, you'll recognise it from the Season 1 finale (although you probably knew what it was already, you nerd you).  For those of you who don't get it, feel free to refer to this helpful summary from ThinkGeek.  Nerds rule!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sunday Baking: Margarita Brownies

My blog seems to be nothing but recipes recently, huh?  Probably because that's mainly what I do with my spare time!  A recipe for Extra-Dark Brownies with Sea Salt & Lime popped up in my Tumblr feed courtesy of gastrogirl.  I thought to myself, "Sea salt and lime? Why not add tequila and call them Margarita Brownies?" So that's exactly what I did!

Margarita Brownies
Makes 16
Adapted from the kitchn's Extra-Dark Brownies with Sea Salt & Lime

150g   unsalted butter
100g   Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa chocolate PLUS
20g    Lindt Excellence 85% Cocoa chocolate, broken into squares
1C     sugar
3/4C   plain flour
1/4C   cocoa powder
2      eggs, beaten
1tsp   vanilla
1/4tsp salt
1      lime
60g    Lindt Excellence 85% Cocoa chocolate, finely chopped
1tbsp  tequila
3/4tsp flaky sea salt

Preheat oven to 160C.  Line a baking pan with 2 layers of foil, leaving long overhangs, and spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Melt the butter and the 100g + 20g chocolate over low heat in a large saucepan, stirring constantly until smooth.

Remove from heat and add sugar, flour, cocoa powder, eggs, vanilla and salt.  Mix until combined.  Then zest and juice the lime into the saucepan and add the tequila.  Mix until just combined.  Pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle the flaky sea salt on top.

Bake for 25-35 minutes until the brownies are done - a skewer should come out with some mixture clinging to it but shouldn't be sticky.  Cool in the pan for 15 minutes before lifting from pan, removing foil and cooling on a wire rack.


I found it quite hard to find the unsweetened chocolate the original recipe called for.  Because the Lindt Excellence chocolate comes in 100g blocks, I decided the easiest way to get the required chocolate was to buy one block of 70% Cocoa and one block of 85% Cocoa.  Each square is 10g.  Following my recipe gives you 2 squares of 85% Cocoa to nibble on while you bake!

I added a shotglass of tequila which made the recipe too wet, so I had to add a bit of extra flour.  Even 1tbsp might be too much.  You can omit the tequila and the recipe should still work out fine.  My brownie pan is 12x11in, bigger than the 8in square one suggested in the original recipe.  After 20 minutes my brownies seemed cooked but the tequila had risen to the top and was still evaporating off, so I left them for 5 more minutes to let the tequila finish evaporating.  They turned out moist and slightly bitter and very rich.  Yum!