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Saturday, August 28, 2010

wellington cookies

Tomorrow, I am visiting our nation's capital, Wellington, for two nights. I'm presenting a paper at a conference there, something I still have trouble saying without feeling like an immature impostor.

My big brother used to live in Wellington when I was a girl, and I would go up to visit him and his wife, upon occasion. I remember, the first time I went up by myself, baking some peanut butter cookies which he really, really loved, and so the second time I went, I baked the same cookies.

Yesterday, I was thinking, 'hm, I really should do some baking to take up to Wellington with me so I don't go and buy junk food' - and without realising it, my mind leaped immediately to the peanut butter cookie recipe which I still have. Only just noticed this now, and so I am rechristening these cookies for all time : 'Going to Wellington cookies' they shall be.

It is a really yummy recipe and I fully recommend it:

150g self-raising flour (5 oz)
125g sugar (4 oz)
125g soft butter (4 oz)
125g crunchy peanut butter (4 oz)
125g brown sugar (4 oz)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F and lightly grease a baking tray or two.

Cream together in a large mixing bowl the butter and peanut butter until they are light and fluffy. Combine the sugar and the brown sugar, and add gradually to the butter mixture. Beat in the egg and the vanilla. Sift in the flour, mixing in well.

Flour your hands lightly and roll the dough into small balls. Place on the baking tray about 5cm apart, and flatten each ball with a fork. Bake for 10-12 minutes, and cool on a wire rack.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I was lucky enough to visit the Mass Observation Archive at the University of Sussex last year. Mass Observation is a very cool movement from the late thirties and forties that records what someone overheard in a pub, or what someone asked people on the street, and so on. There were a number of little things that I came across that I noted down simply because they were so cool and not because they were relevant at all, and today I'm going to share a couple with you. These come from the Worktown Collection, which is a study of one town, Bolton. They are all from late 1939/early 1940, so the second World War had just started, and England was beginning to feel the effects of rationing, pacifism, etc.

Armistice Day, Bolton, 10.11.39
A good-looking girl in twenties, selling poppies,
“We had an argument with some people selling the Daily Worker, no, not the Daily Worker, the Peace News. They were unpleasant. They said, ‘Shouldn’t have thought people would touch the things,” and so on. But it’s still easier to sell poppies than Alexandra roses and things. You get refused rudely with them, people are still polite in refusing these.”

Photography in War-Time, Bolton, 6.11.39.
Photographer, aged 36
(Q) Have people had their photographs taken more lately?
Yes, you bet.
(Q) Since War started?
Yes, and are we pleased!

Newspapers. Girl in restaurant, aged 27. MC.
“Oh it has been a nuisance. The newsagent can’t get my paper, the Telegraph, you know. It doesn’t come until the afternoon he says, and I have to have the Express (tone of utter contempt).”

Poster week 10th-16th December 39
Outside Unitarian Church

War atmosphere, Bolton, 22.1.40
At the Duckworths, Tommy aged two came into the conversation as disliking his gas-mask. Sheila got it out to show. They had only had it on him once, and that success was achieved by giving him a penny. “He’s very fond of money,” said Mrs Duckworth, “so we gave him a penny to hold in his hand while he put it on.” This time Tommy wouldn’t be persuaded, though Sheila put hers on and he got as far as putting his face to the mask. Sheila likes to have hers on. “We were sitting here on Sunday,” said Mrs Duckworth, “when Sheila turned round and said, “let’s sit here with our masks on, mummy.”

(This series has been one of uncited excerpts so far, but I actually need to acknowledge this one since I signed a thing saying I would. Thanks to the trustees of the Mass Observation Archive, University of Sussex. These quotes were taken from the Worktown Collection, Box 52: Observations in Bolton in the early months of the war, 1939-40.)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

four years later...

Four years ago, I was a 20-year-old girl lining up with my friend Katie, my sister, and two brothers-in-law, and with thousands of other concert-goers, overwhelmingly excited, in the throes of a U2 obsession. (You can tell I was obsessed by the photo art I attempted below, merging Katie's and my faces with a concert photo.) It was the first big concert I'd ever been to, and we queued for almost the whole day, finally finding a spot right at the front, almost close enough to reach out and touch a band member, in the rain. 'Catch me if I swoon,' I told my brother-in-law who was standing behind me.

I wrote possibly one of my longest blog posts ever afterwards, including every single detail I could remember, with the catchy little title: U2 U2 U2 U2 U2 U2 U2 U2 U2 U2 U2 U2 U2 U2 U2.

I'm not the same girl anymore and I'm not obsessed with U2 in the same way, but I am thrilled to hear that they will be returning to New Zealand this November. I just know that one of those tickets has my name written on it and it is incredibly nice to find out that some things are not once-in-a-lifetime opportunities but more-than-once-etc-opportunities.

My sister who came along last time is due to have a baby two weeks before the concert and she is investing in a pair of baby earmuffs. That's dedication.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

apple and lemon muffins

Last night in a fit of procrastibaking I made my favourite, favourite muffins. (I'm not always a muffin-fan but these are WONDERFUL and fairly healthy given that they are a sweet treat.)

They are also very quick, which slightly undermines the 'procrasti' element of the procrastibaking. 10-15 minutes to get them ready, 15-20 minutes to cook.

Start by preheating your oven to 220*C (430*F).

Mix in a bowl 2 cups of flour, half a cup of sugar, 4 teaspoons of baking powder, and one apple that you have peeled and chopped up into small pieces.

Melt 75 grams of butter (this is about 2-3oz). Mix into this 1 cup of milk, 2 eggs, and the zest of two lemons.
(The recipe I use says 1 lemon, but I find 2 lemons give it a better flavour. I am a lemonophile.)

Combine the two mixtures, and spoon into a muffin tray. Mix up a small amount of cinnamon with some sugar, and scatter over each muffin. Into the oven, cook for about 20 minutes - easy-peasy.

And very yummy. This recipe makes muffins that taste very, very good, but they also taste fresh and subtle and light.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

are you lonesome?

Lifebuoy Toilet Soap may answer all your problems!

[Apologies for my stony silence on anything other than random snippets from 1930s newspapers. My life is just blah right now. I cannot think of anything to write about that you would want to read.]