Sunday 29 November 2015

Christmas is coming!

The bleeding heart vine I was given last Christmas is growing back after it's winter hibernation and even has it's first few flowers:

Our advent wreath is standing ready for us to light the first candle this evening:

And Martin got his first real sunburn of the season yesterday!

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Bike polo on TV3 news

The recent national bike polo championships featured on TV3 news last night.  You can see the clip here: see if you can spot Martin!  He's on at about 30 seconds in - leaning on the far wall of the court keeping track of timing and the score on a laptop.

Monday 16 November 2015

Responding to the terrorist attacks in Paris

A friend posted on Facebook today:
The hard question is, if bombing them (etc) in retaliation isn't the answer, then what is?
Here's my response:
I think (recent) history makes it pretty clear that bombing will make things worse. Therefore, the least we can do is do nothing: at least that won't make stuff worse. It's not like we actually have to make an active response to everything that happens (or even that we do...), although doing nothing may not 'fly' very well politically in France right now.

In terms of things that would be actually positive, I think we need to show that we care about the people who are victims of the crazy wars going on in Yemen, Syria etc. at the moment.

At a political level, that means things like:
- spending money on feeding refugees in the countries around Syria (the World Food Programme has recently had to cut everyone's rations in recent weeks as governments - like ours - aren't giving them much money) and providing whatever else they need;
- actually allowing medical supplies in Yemen. There's a blockade of US and its allies (which is a bloc that has NZ's moral support, if not practical support in this case) so nothing can get in. At the same time that the Saudis are bombing the heck out of them. I heard a doctor speaking on the BBC about amputating kids limbs without anaesthetics.  It wasn't pretty.  He has to do that because our allies bombed those kids, then our other allies prevented the doctors having access to anaesthetics.

At a local level, that means things like:
- getting to know any obviously Muslim people that are in your daily lives (parents of kids at school, shopkeepers, whatever). As you get to know them, you'll probably start to care about them, and they'll realise that;
- resisting attempts to make Muslims unwelcome in your local community. To me a big one here is making sure Muslim women are welcome to wear the hijab in public places. If they're not, many devout Muslim women simply won't go to those places: to them, it'd feel just as immodest as being topless feels to your average Kiwi woman. Muslims need to know they're welcomed and part of the community in order to feel they have a stake in New Zealand.  Once they have such a stake, they're unlikely to want to destroy what's become their home.

I believe that ISIS has two recruitment strategies. One is 'if you don't join us, we'll kill you', but the other is 'look how much they (i.e. we) hate us (i.e. Muslim people) - you need to join us and destroy them before they destroy you'.

I don't have any bright ideas on how to combat the first, but the second would fall apart if the West actually showed they cared.

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Commercial Fair Trade ice cream comes to New Zealand!

It's been kind of a fun challenge trying to figure out how to make fair trade cookies and cream ice cream, but I'm super-excited that I'm not going to have to any more!  According to the Herald, Ben and Jerry's is coming to Auckland in January :-)  They're a US chain that uses only fair trade bananas, cocoa, vanilla, sugar and coffee in all their ice cream.  I've never had their stuff, but it's apparently also super-yum :-)

Of course, I may still have to make my own fair trade jelly tip ice creams, as that's such a Kiwi flavour I don't know if they'd stock it, but it's still very exciting news!

Sunday 8 November 2015

Cookies and cream ice cream

Martin's rather fond of cookies-and-cream ice cream, but we don't buy it because you can't get it fair trade.  The other day, I decided to see how hard it would be to make it.

I've always been put off, as it involves crushing oreo biscuits into vanilla ice cream: you can't get fair trade oreos, and surely they'd be hard to make?  The answer turns out to be 'not really'.  Especially as you're going to be crushing them anyway, so there's no need to stamp the dough out into circles or assemble them into sandwiches :-)

To be fair, Martin doesn't reckon the biscuits tasted much like oreos (I assembled one just for him), but the icecream worked out well all the same.

A slightly munted chocolate-dipped cookies and cream ice cream :-)


150g butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

75g butter, softened
4 tsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
pinch salt
2 cups icing sugar (may need up to 1/3 cup more)

2 litres vanilla icecream, softened (e.g. left for 30 min. at room temperature)


Combine the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl, and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until well incorporated, then mix in flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt with your hands.

Pop dough in a plastic bag and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

When the dough is chilled, preheat the oven to 170°C.  Line two baking trays with baking paper and set aside.

Divide dough in half.  Roll out one half at a time on a lightly floured surface to approx 2-3mm thick.  Transfer to baking tray (in pieces/sheets, just as it comes).

Put both trays in the oven and bake on fanbake for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Crumble into small pieces in a bowl with your hands (you shouldn't have any bits bigger than about 1cm across) and chill in freezer at least two hours.

Cookie filling:

Combine the butter, milk, vanilla and salt with 1/2 a cup of icing sugar and beat until combined.  Add the remaining icing sugar, approximately 1/2 cup at a time, until the filling comes together.  It should be quite stiff.

Spread thinly on a tray and chill in freezer.

Putting it together:

Cut filling into small squares with a sharp knife then transfer to a bowl with the cookie pieces.  Rub with your hands to distribute the filling evenly over the cookie pieces.  Mix as much of this as you want into the softened ice cream with a wooden spoon (probably around 3/4 of it) then chill in freezer at least 2 hours before serving - ideally leave overnight.

Sprinkle any remaining crushed biscuits onto other ice cream or just eat with a spoon :-)

Oreo recipe from here, and this recipe gave me an idea of what biscuit:ice cream ratio to start with.

The perfect treat for a lazy sunny afternoon!