Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Experiment 1. Plants having a drink

Harry is now 6 and is busy planning a career. He wants to be a scientist when he grows up. Even though I used to be a scientist, I would like to say straight away that he didn't get this ambition from me. When he told me his plan, my mind started to launch into a diatribe about the pitfalls of being a scientist for a living. My brain was rattling on about how you think you're going to do something useful in the world but in the end you just end up compromising your ethics by working with big business, who don't give a toss about making the world a better place but only care about money. Thankfully my mouth ignored my brain and said "Yes I can see that you love to find out how things work, and that's what scientists do."
Anyway, he has been begging for science "tricks", so I'm aiming to do one a week or so, just for fun. You will all be tortured with the details, nyah ha ha!

Experiment 1. Plants having a drink.
Background: This is more of an observation than an experiment. It shows how plants drink water.
You will need: Some flowers- white flowers are best; Food colouring. We used blue, red, and yellow, and plain water as the 'control'; Some glasses or jars and some water.
1. Pick the flowers and put them in a glass with some water at the bottom. Add some food colouring to the water- I used quite a lot so that you can see the colours clearly in the petals.
2. Check back over the next couple of hours to see the coloured water start to move through the plants. These flowers had colour at the tips of the petals after only 1 hour. The colours deepened and spread over the following day.

We chatted about what we saw happening. Things that the kids noticed were that it was harder to see the yellow (so we talked about contrasting colours), that the colour was first visible at the tips of the petals (so they drink right up to the top Mum!), that the colours are in stripes (the veins are parallel in these flowers). We also noticed that some of the petals were barely coloured at all. Why is that? I'm guessing that these petals will be the first to fall off, and they didn't show the colour because the plant has already started shutting off those veins. I have no idea if I'm right about that or not. When we looked closely we noticed that the middle of the daisy was showing the colour too, right to the tops of the stamens. Rather pretty I thought.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009


Good morning, would you like an anzac biscuit?

I love anzacs. I feel very patriotic when I make them. The story goes that concerned Mums sent their lads tins of these biscuits during the first world war- does anyone know if that's actually true? I want to believe it.
Whatever their history, they are very delicious. I made a double batch yesterday so we could give some to a kind Mum at school who gave us their family's old spiderman dress-ups, and keep some for ourselves. The chocolate icing squiggle on the top of each one is a contemporary development, not part of the original recipe but everything's better with a little choc, don't you think?
I feel a recipe coming on:
ANZAC biscuits- a traditional NZ treat to be enjoyed with a cup of tea
1 C plain flour
1 C dessicated coconut
1 C rolled oats
2/3 C sugar
125 g butter
1/4 c golden syrup
1/2 t baking soda dissolved in 1 T boiling water
Mix together the dry ingredients. Melt the butter and golden syrup together, then add the baking soda dissolved in water. The mixture will fizz up straight away. Add to the dry ingredients and mix well. Place small balls on a baking tray, flatten them a little, then bake for 15 minutes at 180 degrees C until golden brown. Your entire house will have a delicious rolled oaty goldensyrupy hokey pokey biscuity smell, and this means they're ready. Ice when cold with chocolate icing, if that's your thang.
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Feelin gooooooood

Remember how I started knitting some socks a while back?

They were going to be my quick-knit project, a wee thing to kick off winter and get my knitting fingers nimble and quick again. They were going to be a fun project that got me some super duper practical knitwear for myself. As well, turning the heel was going to be the thing that flexed my knitting muscles and demonstrated some knitting prowess.
Well, they took longer than I thought. And, what's more, it soon became clear that the wool was roguishly knitting itself into a man's sock, not a woman's sock. Hurrumph. The heel turning was very difficult, but I am rather churlishly blaming the crappy instructions (Spotlight, I cuss at your sock-yarn knitting instructions!). I messed up the heel three times on each sock! Three times for goodness sakes!
Anyway, I left them in a heap of 4 needles for a couple of months, and then came back to them in time for Simon's birthday a week or two ago. Don't his feet look handsome?
Wanna see some more? Go on Simon, lift up those jeans a little and show us some leg! I mean some sock.
And now I am among the knitters who have knitted a pair of socks. It feels gooooooooood.
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Thursday, October 8, 2009


A recent score from one of the outbuildings on the farm: This knitted blankie.
It's a little larger than cot size, and is made from a series of knitted strips. There's so many things I love about this blanket; I love the colours in those bright stripes, I love the knitted texture and the handmade quality of it. Most of all, I love the resourcefulness that went into it. I suspect it was knitted from a heap of scraps. Some of those scraps must have been tiny- just look how small some of the stripes are, some of them are not even a row long.
There is a small hole, which I will repair. Through the hole there is a glimpse of an old blanket, to make this blanket warmer and give it some strength. Another thrilling re-use!

And the back of the blanket is this fantastic bark cloth. They just don't make them like this any more.

This blanket really got me thinking. Perhaps the person who made it really needed a blanket. Perhaps they really needed to use up those scraps. Who knows? But they spent hours and hours and hours making something out of things that most people would have sent to landfill. I love that.
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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Coffee Break

We are going home tomorrow, after a week-long coffee break here in the Maniototo.
Did you ever read "The wind in the willows"? Ratty's picnic hamper had coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrollscresssandwichespottedmeetgingerbeerlemonadesodawater and he was worried he didn't have enough. That's kind of like what life on the farm here is like. In the morning I get up to hot-coffee-with-farm-milk-homemade-bread-with-homemade-jam-of-any-flavour-homemade-peanut-butter-muesli-bottled-nectarines, and then continues on in that way all day. Oh, and when I say coffee, I mean COFFEE from this amazing contraption.

In these beautiful cups...

I didn't bring any projects down here with me, no books either. This has contributed to my week-long coffee break mentality. I read a couple of books I never would have read otherwise, did some mending for my sister, watched the telly, went for walks around the farm, checked out all the new paintings by my very talented brother-in-law, and generally enjoyed being bone idle. Oh, and I helped my sister start her very own blog.
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Friday, October 2, 2009

Country Life for One Week

This week we are on holiday in the Maniototo, where my sister lives on a farm. I love it here. The mountains are so beautiful, the sky feels so big, and everywhere you look it's like a landscape painting.

These grape hyacinths are also worthy of a photo because they are rather spectacular en masse.

Anyway, being rural is a lot of fun for a week. I love that there is nothing to spend money on and nowhere to spend it, even if you wanted to. My sister takes care of a huge garden here, and she is a wonderful cook, so we have amazing homecooked everything for breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner. Everything is homemade, just the way I like it.

Yesterday my sister threw a fantastic impromptu party for Sylvie, since it was her actual birthday. In my normal city life everyone goes to a lot of trouble over parties. They are fantastic and we have enjoyed each and every one of them, but the party my sister threw yesterday was so good and so inexpensive (about NZ $10 all up) I thought I'd blog about it, just to remind myself how good it was.

The formula for her instant party: A tablecloth (instant "special occasion"), two bottles of fizzy drink, pikelets with jam and cream, two bags of chippies, grapes, and a party game called "Don't eat Sam".

Don't Eat Sam- A Party Game.

You will need one bag of pebbles (smarties, M&Ms, or similar), one plate, and some children.

Arrange one of each colour pebble on a plate. Send one child out of the room. Choose one colour of pebble that will be "Sam". The child comes back into the room then begins to eat the pebbles off the plate one by one. When they pick up the pebble designated as "Sam" everyone shouts "DON'T EAT SAM". Then their turn is over and the next child gets sent out of the room. If the children are very little they get to keep the remaining pebbles because it's just too sad to lose the rest of the pebbles and there are tears. This is the voice of experience.

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