Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Everything is illuminated

The annual Chinese Lantern Festival makes Christchurch feel quite exotic. Sunday night in Victoria Park was beautiful. This is Mel and a flamingo, on the banks of the Avon:

It's not often you catch a glimpse of the urban Christchurch hippopotami, especially not at full illumination. I have Mel to thank for her expert advice which resulted in all of these photos turning out, especially this one of my favourite lanterns:

For all its flaws, there are moments that I love this city to bits.

Monday, February 16, 2009

If I had an office door, I would like this sign on it

And Punky would like this one for his:

With the postscript "He will disapprove".

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Section 92 of the Copyright Amendment Act assumes Guilt Upon Accusation

I've just become aware of some major proposed changes in NZ law that will have a huge impact on artists, businesses and general members of the public: basically anyone that uses the internet.

Section 92 of the Copyright Amendment Act assumes Guilt Upon Accusation and forces the termination of internet connections and websites without evidence, without a fair trial and without punishment for any false accusations of copyright infringement. We should speak out against injustices like Guilt Upon Accusation being done in the name of artists and protecting creativity.

The countdown is on: we have until 28 February 2009 to influence government.

An organisation called the Creative Freedom Foundation has been set up to specifically represent artists' voices on these issues. Check out their website, creativefreedom.org.nz, sign up and help our MPs make an informed decision about S92!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Peas and the rogue nasturtium

As part of my 29 things to do before I'm 30 list (as yet unfinished and unpublished... watch this space) during my summer break I finally got around to planting out my pots.

I'm quite attached to one pot in particular. In a square terracotta pot I sowed peas – a mixture of edible peas and sweet peas – and made them a nice bamboo tripod to climb up (I know, a tripod in a square pot, it makes no sense!), watered them and waited. Just over a week later little shoots popped up, and after a couple of days they looked like this:

Aren't they cute?

Several days later, I got my camera out to record their progress and discovered a rogue nasturtium lurking in the background, trying to pass itself off as a pea!

I didn't have the heart to remove the wee thing, despite my pea pot now feeling more like a cuckoo's nest.

Three weeks later, the peas are flourishing and starting to flower, the nasturtium is holding its own, and every time I walk past, One of These Things starts playing in my head.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Making pasta makes me happy

A few weeks back I was inspired to dig out my pasta machine and make some modifications so it would clamp adequately onto the bench in my parents' kitchen. It's been ages since I made fresh pasta, and it's a lovely way to pass the time. Like most crafts, it's hell frustrating when you're starting out and still getting a feel for it, but very rewarding when you finally learn how to get the right dough consistency and how not to get it all bunched up and stuck in the rollers.

The dough is just flour and eggs, and a little goes a long way. I made this batch for three people and used two eggs and a couple of cups of flour.

So this is my fettucini, which I made by rolling out long sheets of dough, a little thicker than you'd use for stuffed pasta, letting them dry for about ten minutes, and then rolling them through the cutter attachment. Letting the sheets dry a bit first helps prevent the strands from sticking together once they're cut.

My fabulous pasta drying rack was a birthday present from my flatmates at Selwyn Street, after Helen and I rigged up an inventive but slightly inefficient wooden spoon contraption to hang the pasta on.

It's very satisfying cooking fresh spaghetti or fettucini in the biggest pot you have. It also stops it sticking together, but as far as I'm concerned that's the secondary reason.

The sauce for this batch was very simple to make, but quite decadent in these days of expensive cheese and 99% fat free. For three people, it was made by heating 50g of butter in a pan over a low heat, then adding around 150mls of cream and three quarters of a cup of grated Parmesan. Once it's brought to the boil and seasoned with salt and pepper and a few tablespoons of chopped parsley, you add it to the pasta. It's very tasty.

Handmade fresh pasta is quite different to dried pasta – it's softer and has a smooth, silky texture and I think it holds the sauce more evenly. It's also surprisingly quick to make, once you get the hang of it – like bread, it's one of those things you make in phases and go off and do something else in between steps.

My next challenge is drying spaghetti in nests for future use. Done properly and stored in an air-tight container, it can apparently be kept indefinitely. Perhaps in a simple glass jar it would make a nice gift – what do you think?