Friday, 30 September 2011

Delete cookies

A smile for your Friday. :-)

Monday, 26 September 2011

Daily deal overload

I used to be quite a fan of daily deal sites. They certainly help deal to my fear and loathing for shopping. There are dozens of them around and more springing up as we speak. Each new site launches with a hiss and a roar, offering great bargains on products or deals for restaurants that I actually use with the sole intention of filling up my inbox each morning. Yes, I know there are sites which syndicate all of New Zealand's daily deals in one place, and you can also follow a whole bunch of them on Twitter. My point is that after the initial fireworks they inevitably settle into a rut of canvas photo blocks, dental checkups and bikini waxes. That's not to mention all the sites that recycle their same deals (or try to repackage them in weekend 'marathons') or offer a 'last chance' for four days in Phuket every day of the week ... enough already!

Today, I unsubscribed from most of my daily deal email subscriptions. A few which I use regularly (and have had great service from) remain, but the rest have gone. Disappeared. Vanished! I notice that one sale site I unsubscribed on Saturday is still sending me notifications; I hope that stops today.

Here's to a zen inbox!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Sarah's Key

A colleague and I were talking about movies recently and she told me the story of Sarah's Key (2010). This adaptation of a French novel follows an American journalist, Julia, as she investigates the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup of 1942 in which a massive Nazi decreed raid of more than 13,000 Jews were arrested and rounded up in the veledrome before being sent off to Auschwitz by train.

A young girl, Sarah, attempts to defy the authorities carrying out the raid by hiding her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment. Promising to return in a few days to retrieve him, Sarah's family are irrevocably torn apart and the next part of the movie shows Sarah's plight to escape her concentration camp and return home to retrieve her brother.

(It's actually quite hard to write about this movie without revealing spoilers.)

Throughout the course of her investigation, Julia uncovers a direct link to her inlaws' family apartment in Paris, something that makes her distinctly uncomfortable.

I found this movie truly moving and woke up this morning still thinking about it. Sarah's Key tells of a lesser known but extraordinarily horrifying part of the Holocaust and shows how human nature will always attempt to triumph over evil. Very highly recommended.

Here is the theatrical trailer for Sarah's Key.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Happy Friday

Some days are great days, just because. Today has been one of them. Nothing has been particularly spectacular, but the sun is shining on yet another lovely spring day and lots of little things have happened to make today and great one.

Here's what makes today a great day for me:
  • Someone randomly coming into our office offering us baked treats - a chocolate box or a sugared doughnut. Chocolate for breakfast? Don't mind if I do!
  • Having my new career (finally) confirmed in writing. Contract: signed, sealed, delivered.
  • Our manager bringing us home made chocolate cake that was left over from a meeting. We polished it off in two sittings. (Mental note: I must get myself invited to meetings that have chocolate cake at them.)
  • Coffee made by a superb barista. How we miss her when she is away.
  • Cheese Scone Friday with a colleague. As we sat down to enjoy our coffee and scones, we also conveniently managed to solve the problems of the world. Isn't the world lucky?
  • Lots of sunshine on a lovely spring day.
  • Our team winning our social petanque match during pool play at lunch time.
  • More chocolate cake for afternoon tea.
  • Feeling like I am actually getting somewhere at work.
  • It's Friday - and it has been all day. The only thing that can top that is Saturday and Sunday. Speaking of which ... it's time to go home and get the weekend started. :-)
Happy Friday, folks! How has it been for you?

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Things I love about spring

A few weeks ago, I set up a Pinterest account. It seemed like half the people I follow on Twitter and a big pile of Facebook friends were all jumping on the Pinterest bandwagon so I thought I'd go along for the ride. I imagined myself tagging to my heart's content and creating endless pretty boards of all my favourite things. *sigh*

To be honest, I don't really 'get' Pinterest. I know it's about tagging images you like and keeping them as a kind of online record, but I'm more inclined to think in terms of bigger concepts or websites than images which represent these. Yes, I understand it could be a handy tool if you are planning a wedding or something (which I'm not). Other than that, I'm at a loss. Can anyone enlighten me?

I do, however, have favourite things that I'd love to share, so here's a blog post à la Pinterest style. The theme is Things I love about spring - there is so much to enjoy right now. :-)
freshly mown lawns
apple blossom
daylight savings and sunsets
cherry blossom
What do you love about spring?

* These images are not mine and I'm not claiming them as my own. Used without permission.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Sultana cake

This recipe for standard sultana cake is one that I have been baking for years. It is very simple to make and I just mix it all up in a big pot - no creaming or mixing required. I throw it all into a square silicone pan and notice that it takes less time to cook than it does in metal cake tins but the result is similar. Serve it uniced. This cake is especially delicious when fresh out of the oven - just leave it to cool in the pan for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. It also stores well in an airtight container.

Sultana cake

  • 340 g sultanas
  • 225 g butter
  • 3 eggs
  • almond or vanilla essence
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  1. Boil sultanas in water for 8 minutes. Drain, then melt in the butter using the heat from the sultanas. Stir well.
  2. Beat eggs in a bowl with a fork. Beat in a few drops of almond or vanilla essence, then add sugar, flour and baking powder.
  3. Add sultanas.
  4. Pour into a greased square cake tin.
  5. Bake 180°C for 40-50 minutes until golden brown and cooked in the middle.
    Sultana cake

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

All-TIME 100 best nonfiction books

I'm a self-confessed bibliophile, even if I have substantially less time to read for pleasure these days. I occasionally attack some of my ever-growing TBR list and can't pass a library display without grabbing at least one book, which will most likely end up unread and due back before I've even had a chance to open it. In my ideal reading world (and at my reading prime), I would alternate each novel with a nonfiction title, usually a biography of some sort. However, it's been a while since I've managed anything even remotely like that.

The All-TIME 100 best nonfiction books list according to Time Magazine started doing the rounds today. The list covers a range of nonfiction titles published in various genre since 1923, the year that Time began. Time also has lists of the top 100 fiction books, movies and other categories.

I perused the nonfiction book list, going further and further into each section and searching for something I'd read. I'm surprised (and slightly ashamed) to note that I have actually only read one complete book from this list, On Writing by Stephen King, and started (but not completed) another one several times, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I nodded my head at a few more, but this list largely remains uncharted territory for me.

I now have a substantial TBR nonfiction list to start chipping away at. :-D

How about you? Have you read any books from this list? Do you have any recommendations? Are there any nonfiction books you'd add (or subtract) from this list?

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Grease - the singalong version

I think I might have discovered the ultimate girls' night out: Grease - the singalong version. I'd seen this event advertised and lamented the fact that my best friend, another huge Grease (1978) fan, lives in Auckland. I couldn't think of anyone else I'd ask to go with me (you can imagine what my sweetie's response would have been) so let it pass. Yesterday, I was chatting with a friend at work when she said, "I've got something really random to ask you, and don't take this the wrong way, but would you be interested in going to the singalong version of Grease at the Embassy tonight?" She saw my face light up and was relieved to realise she'd asked exactly the right person.

My friend had no clue what a die hard Grease fan I actually am. Others think they are, too, but they didn't measure up last night; out of a theatre full of wannabe Sandys and pink wigs, very few seemed to know the script, the songs playing on the jukebox, the dance moves ... am I being too fanatical? Perhaps, but that's what happens when you've watched your favourite movie several hundred times since you were 8. I didn't understand most of what was they were saying or doing for several years, even though I could recite almost every line, but loved every minute of it. Ahh, the age of innocence.

After about 15 minutes, I realised that I'd never actually seen Grease on the big screen, and here I was watching a karaoke version with hundreds of people swigging Pink Lady slushies (strawberry syrup, rum and lime) and T-Bird cocktails from plastic Martini glasses. The audience cheered loudly as each character appeared on screen for the first time and ohhed when they saw Kenickie, as Jeff Conaway died in May. They whooped and whistled every time Danny and Sandy kissed and booed disapprovingly when Cha Cha DiGregorio ransacked Danny to take out the dance off trophy at the prom.

One of my favourite songs from the movie is today's tune spinning on Café Chick's Jukebox - check out (and sing) the awesome Summer Nights.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Random Acts of Kindness Day 2011

It's 1 September, which means that it's the first day of spring! Daffodils, lambies, and apple blossom are our rewards for surviving winter and promise us that sunshine and warmer weather is on the way. We'll have baby duckies visiting us at work within the next few months and Tulip Sunday is just around the corner. *contented sigh*

It is also Random Acts of Kindness Day here in New Zealand, which I was reminded of via Twitter this morning. Two years ago, I popped some baking into a few letter boxes. (I don't know what I was up to this time last year - somehow the day just passed me by.)

This morning, as I went to buy my regular coffee, I paid for another and asked for my barista to not tell the lucky recipient who the gift was from but to just give them this "You've been RAKed" card. "Ah, it's Random Acts of Kindness Day!" she said. "I wondered if we'd get any of these."

It was a quiet morning in the cafeteria but I hung around discretely for a few minutes to see the reaction of the next person (I couldn't help myself). A very good friend walked in ... I watched ... and she only ordered food - sooooo close! I have no idea if anyone will 'pass it on' but my goal of randomly brightening someone else's day has hopefully been achieved. I'm sure the barista will fill me in tomorrow on where my RAK ended up.

Did you RAK someone (or were you RAKed yourself)?