Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas and the Amazon

Just a quick post as I'm not entirely sober after attending a Boxing Day potluck dinner. Everything was so delicious (I made a pav) and it was a fun evening sitting out in the sun, sipping a pims cup and doing a lot of laughing.

Yesterday we had a lovely, quiet Christmas Day. We did an orphans Christmas - just my flatmates and I. Basically we ate our way through far too much food, opened some presents and spent the afternoon relaxing in the backyard with drinks.

What did I get? Julia Child's The Art of French Cooking, a bottle of torrontes, one of pisco and some plant seeds. My flatmates know me so well.

I managed to read almost an entire book (I'm itching to go to bed and finish it now but maybe just another bowl of trifle first...). I made it my goal to read a book a month. Last month I read The Help. This month I'm reading about the first guy to walk along the Amazon in its entirety. Epic and just a little mad. What guts that'd take!

I hope you had a great Christmas too. I'll leave you with a few of my favourite pictures from the Amazon (although I explored it from the relative comfort of a ferry and a guided jungle tour - although we did paddle our own dugout canoe and catch our own dinner of piranha). I have so much respect for this crazy dude.  No Christmas snaps yet as I'm borrowing my flatty's mac computer and it is so confusing. I'm going to bed...

eating breakfast of fish and banana at our campsite in the jungle

paddling down an Amazon tributary in a dugout canoe

my first piranha

sunrise on the Amazon from the ferry

It is hot in the Amazon - look at how sweaty we are after 5 mins of walking

Shaman perfoming a ceremony to rid me of my tummy ailment

Friday, December 23, 2011

Pictures of our tubby bunny

A quick post before I get ready for work. I managed to get most of my christmas shopping done between training in the morning and my official shift in the afternoon yesterday and went out for lunch too so I'm feeling much more organised. I slept in this morning too (a whopping 7 hours of sleep!) and all of us were home so we got the bunny out of his hutch and had lunch together while he ran around the lounge. And I've got a red wine and aubegine lasagne in the oven and a vege crumble in the fridge so we are set for lunches and dinners for both before and after Christmas which is one less thing to worry about. Yay.

Buquebus' latest cute thing is playing in a box we brought him home from work which he uses as a tunnel. If he keeps up the eating he might not fit through it for much longer though. Also at 2am I shredded a huge pile of documents so we are all set for bunny bedding material for a while (and it was free!). Right now both he and the neigbours' cat are stretched out in the sun looking oh so cute. They get along with the wire mesh between them.

On the gardening front our peas have pods! The tomatillo (Cape Horn gooseberry) is also starting to get some fruit and the first courgettes are about ready to eat. Hopefully after my holiday they'll all still be alive.

Anyway better go. Here are a couple of pictures of Buque. Enjoy.

His favourite hiding spot - under the cabinet. He
also stands up against it and tries to eat the mail.

Exploring the lounge

Pommy flatmate works LONG hours so here she is
snatching a few moments with Buque - eating breakfast with him.

Cloudy Bum and Buquebus

Note his cute food bowl. I've continued my red spot colour theme outdoors too.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


On Monday afternoon (having spent the whole morning in bed after not leaving our work xmas function until 5.30am a bit worse for wear) I headed down to the SPCA to pick up a bunny.

The hutch arrived Sunday and I have to say, this bunny has it good! The hutch is nearly the size of my bedroom. It's a good thing too as Buquebus is massive! And he's such a glutton.

We went with the second bunny in the end, formally known as Sedgwick. Malakai was there and so gorgeous and friendly but not due to be desexed until the end of the month (and he's so cute and personable I'm sure he'll get chosen fast). We got in there just in time too as all the bunnies are moving out to Waikanae where they have better hutches. So if you know anyone looking to adopt a bunny that's where to go. I really hope Malakai finds a good home.

We are all completely smitten with Buquebus. He's getting more used to us. We chilled out on the couch together watching telly last night and he had free run of the lounge. The only pictures I've taken so far have all been on my phone but I'll get some good ones and post them this weekend.

My only day off is Christmas Day so until then I'm going to be pretty busy. Tomorrow I get to start work at 9.45am and won't leave until close (maybe 2am?). We just spent a small fortune at Pak n Save so I'd better start on baking some Christmas goodies. It looks like Christmas day dessert is going to be baked alaska and a plum frangipane tart, BBQ and salads for lunch and cream cheese and bacon bagels for breakfast. Cheeses (including port salud, my favourite) and homemade dips to graze on all day too.

I've got another Xmas dinner to go to on Boxing day so I'll need to make a pav for that at some point and need to bake some presents. I have knitting to finish as well and I have barely started on buying gifts. Hopefully I can find time to fit it all in between shifts at work. I am hanging out for 10pm on the 28th when I am flying home for a weeks holiday. I really cannot wait.

How are your Christmas preparations going?

Friday, December 16, 2011


My summer job when I was 18 (and probably the coolest job I've ever had)
was shearing angora bunnies in Waitomo Caves (the village, not in the actual caves themselves).
Towards the start of the year we joked about getting a pet rabbit if my flatmate managed to stave off deportation this December. Somewhere along the line this became less a joke and we started to seriously think about it. In the meantime we bought fish. I started to have doubts about the bunny because only once has somebody other than me actually cleaned out the fish tank (and that one time a fish ended up getting carpet burn) and so I was a little worried that rabbit hutch cleaning would be added to my list of chores along with kitchen cleaning, bathroom cleaning, fish tank cleaning and 99% of the gardening.

However a couple of nights ago we went out to the pet store to get our fish a little something for Christmas - something they could swim through or hide behind but it turns out all those sorts of things are decidedly ugly! I got distracted by the tiny bunnies and oh my gosh, they were all so adorable. I nearly took one home right then and there. 

I went home giddy with excitement over the soft, fluffy cuteness of the little creatures which seemed to be contagious so now our whole flat is hell bent on getting a little bunny to love. I've had a few bunnies and a guinea pig in my time and mostly it hasn't turned out too well, what with farm dogs and predatory pet cats... (sad face). 

I'd love to get a kitten but my heart is with my lovely cat that lives at my parents. Also, cats last way too long. My cat is 13 and still as healthy as anything. Bunnies last more around the 5-10 year mark. Still, that's quite a long term investment for someone who likes to travel. So rather than get a cute baby bunny with its whole life ahead of it, we decided to pop down to the SPCA and see what they had. 

It made for a fun morning. All of the bunnies were too cute. I'd quite like to take the ugliest one/one that has been there longest, home. But one bunny in particular was just so gorgeous and friendly that we've put in a request for him. If that doesn't work out then this one is my second choice

My flatmate is forking out for a hutch (around $300 including delivery) - expensive, but it is big enough and tall enough for the bunny to be happy outside while we are at work. I need to track down a litter box, water and food bowls,  food,  toys and something to block off our lounge before next week when the hutch arrives and soon after something fluffy and cute to live in it. 

We have a tiled kitchen floor so he'll have lots of space to run around inside (hopefully it won't take long to toilet train him) but I'm thinking the tea trolley will have to find a home in the lounge to avoid it getting gnawed. Also I need to keep an eye on trademe for some of those baby barriers to keep it from exploring the rest of the house. 

We are so incredibly excited. We may not have our bunny yet but it already has a name - BUQUEBUS. I can't wait to show you pictures next week. 

He's named after the ferry that goes between Argentina and Uruguay. When my flatmate and I were travelling there last year we tried to tell my grandmother we were taking the Buquebus to Uruguay. We completely failed to pronounce it properly so she told us "You Kiwis, you can't pronounce anything. It's not buquebus, it's BOO-KEY-BOOOOS. And not Uruguay. EWWW-ROO-GOO-AI." She then made us repeat it until we got it right and it became a bit of a running joke. Somehow the rabbit's ended up with it for a name. I think we'll call it Buque for short.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wow, I am tired but I have a mountain of dishes to do before going to bed. Today I spent a lot of time in the kitchen and managed to make quite a few things - toasted tropical muesli, two loaves of delicious white bread, rhubarb and ginger muffins, orange muffins and a eggplant and fresh tomato pasta dish to take into work for dinner. All that food wasn't just for me either. The muffins were for my colleagues as we've had a very busy week!

The bread, my usual recipe off the healthy food guide website, turned out amazing. Much more amazing than it usually does. Normally I try to make it healthier by using wholemeal flour and adding a few seeds and such. Not today. Today we had plain old white. I also used my new (secondhand from my mum) cake mixer with the dough hook on instead of kneading it too. It came out sky high and absolutely divine. In fact I might sneak another piece now...

The other thing I made was salad. We are eating salad a minimum of once a day because the lettuce and radishes in the garden are growing like crazy. It's hard to keep up with it. Recipe ideas for lettuce will be gratefully accepted.

Work was also quite fun tonight although tomorrow when it's the first night doing the new menu might be a different story :-S

I don't normally like to blog about my job but I might just have to share a couple of pictures this weekend as the just-opened-today downstairs area is looking pretty darn impressive. Actually we made the paper today (I haven't had any run ins with ghosts lately though...).

Right enough procrastinating. Dishes time!

Handmade 2012

How happy was I to get up this morning, log onto facebook and find this link from my sister.

I am so excited for Handmade 2012. In fact I think I'll apply for leave for that weekend, this week because there are so many classes I'd like to do, I'll be making a weekend of it.

Last year I did the sock knitting class which was a lot of fun. Next year my timetable might look something like this...

Day 1
Crocheted garland or cushions
Spinning with a drop spindle
2 handed stranded knitting or tapa cloth dying
Lynda Hallinan self-sufficiency on a shoestring masterclass

Day 2
Cupcake decorating or Ruth Pretty masterclass or Fabric Baskets or from Plots to Plate
Beaded knitting or wine tasting
Sock owls or Martin Bosley masterclass

So many choices!

And completely unrelated, we just had another earthquake. It freaked me out a little because I heard it coming before the house actually shook. Creepy!

Time for a cup of tea I think!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas Tree

We all met up at the Warehouse after I finished work today to buy a Christmas tree and decorations. We had more than a little fun picking them out. A kiwi Christmas theme won out in the end so there's lots of blue and red, stars and later this week tree biscuits in the shape of kiwis will be added to the mix. Maybe we'll be a little naughty and pinch a few pohutakawa blossoms. The question is will the edible decorations all last until Christmas day?

It was too good of an opportunity not to take the mickey out of the traditional American Christmas card by snapping a few 'family' shots of our own. So an early Merry Christmas from us and our four goldfish who have surpassed all expectations and are all still alive several months after we bought them.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Reading and xmas ideas

Well I came back from Samoa (very, very reluctantly) and almost immediately after stepping off the plane started to feel pretty ill. Three days later I've slept off the aches and headache so I'll be back at work tomorrow (and daydreaming of Samoa). 

Yesterday in between naps, I knocked off the first of 12 books I'm going to read in the next year as part of my things to do before my 25th birthday. I never saw the movie The Help, but the book was fantastic. It is about black domestics working in white households in America back in the 1960s. I could barely put it down. I love the way the author captured the voices of the different characters. Now I'm on the lookout for my next book to read.

I'm also on the lookout for Christmas present ideas. I'm trying to give everyone something thoughtful and with some handmade element this year. We'll see how that goes. I stumbled across this idea today and thought it might be perfect for my 9 year old niece. 

cookie dough mixture in a jar

I also came home with a bag of lemons from mum's tree so lemon curd will be featuring in some peoples' presents this Christmas too. 

This is the latest I've left sorting out Christmas gifts actually. Most years I've bought everything by the end of November. Normally I'm quite lazy and do everything from one shop - one year it was Lush, another Whitcoulls. Last year everyone just got souvenirs from South America. Whoops. This year however I'm actually going to be at the farm with the family only a few days after Christmas so I do need to prepare some sort of presents that are easy to fly up there with. 

My Samoa holiday blog post is still to come - I have some nice photos to share - maybe tomorrow...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

25 things to do before I'm 25...

It's my birthday today - I've automated this post to pop up because I spending my birthday in beautiful (hopefully not rainy) Samoa. I've written a list of things I want to do before my next birthday which will be the milestone 25. Lea did something similar on her blog earlier in the year, which is where I pinched the idea from!

So here they are (in no particular order):
  1. Read one book a month
  2. Learn to crochet
  3. Take a course in sign language
  4. Volunteer
  5. Travel to a different Pacific Island (so not Rarotonga or Samoa)
  6. Do at least 2 dives
  7. Do a fun run
  8. Knit myself a pair of socks
  9. Cook a recipe I haven't used before once a week
  10. Cook a dish using tripe (that's scary!)
  11. Go six weeks without booze
  12. Do an overnight tramp
  13. Try a wine variety I've never tasted before
  14. Do my first ocean swim race (300m)
  15. Drop a dress size
  16. Go for high tea at Martha's pantry
  17. Enter a jam making competition
  18. Bring my niece to Wellington for a holiday by herself
  19. Do handmade presents for Xmas
  20. Buy something for the food bank every fortnight
  21. Take a midwinter dip in the ocean
  22. Print off photos and actually put them in albums
  23. Climb Mt Kau Kau
  24. Find a gorgeous Samoan husband get my full driver's licence (it's about time!)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Garden update

Very quick post as we have to leave to pick my niece up from school in 5 minutes and then I'm off up to Auckland to fly out to Samoa.

Here's some pictures I took of my garden yesterday including everything I harvested - strawberries, carrots, caulis, silverbeet, pak choy and 3 types of lettuces. Yum!

And here are some pictures of my parent's garden. I planted a few seeds in there and did a little weeding. I have total garden envy!

Lucy with the giant lettuces

Tequila curled up in the pile of smelly farm laundry

berry garden including blueberries

tomato, courgette and potato patch overlooking the farm

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy birthday Lucy!

This little cutie is turning 13 this week! I got her from the pet shop when she was just 10 weeks old, with money my grandfather gave me for my 11th birthday. 

Now I know everyone loves their cat, but Lucy really is the most laid back and friendly cat I've ever met. She'll sit on your hip like a baby, jumps up on her hind legs when you click your fingers and loves cheese except when there's a worm tablet hidden inside it. When she's happy she dribbles EVERYWHERE. I wish she could live with me but I don't think I could afford the food bill (she likes the fancy bikkies).

I'll actually be seeing her tomorrow so I'll be sure to sneak her into my room once mum's gone to bed and perhaps spoil her a bit with some tasty kitty treats. 

Happy birthday Lucy Ramona!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

This is what I achieved today...

I am very, very ready for a holiday! The only menu I want to be looking at in the next week is a wine list! In between doing a whole lot of paperwork, I managed to do some trial runs/taste testing today. Would you pay to eat these? I sure hope somebody will! Otherwise I might be out of a job :-)


Broccoli and Bechamel empanadas with salsa verde

Cheap Tuesday

Wow Tuesday is nearly over already but there's still time for a budget tip.

Heading overseas? Have a stopover? You could fork out for a hotel or you could do as I'm going to do this Thursday night and sleep in an airport. There's actually a whole website dedicated to this topic - you can place and/or read reviews. Apparently Auckland is one of the better airports in the world to spend a night (apart from the bedbugs) but the one I'd really like to crash in (in a sleeping, not a plane nose-diving into the tarmac, sense) is Singapore. That airport sounds amazing!

Sleeping in an airport isn't the only way to save money on a night's accommodation. While I was backpacking I did a fair few overnight bus trips. It also saves the daylight hours for sightseeing rather than getting from a to b...of course some panoramas deserve to be seen in the light of day and in Southern Colombia in particular it's wise not to travel after dark, but for the most part, nighttime travel is a fantastic thing.

After this mini holiday to Samoa I'll be busing back to Wellington on the overnight bus. $28 versus $100 for a flight - it's simple economics. My number one tip though if you're going to do this often is to buy a travel pillow. Those things are a godsend on New Zealand buses in particular. This photo will show you why they're really not that necessary in Peru.

A blanket, pillow, free wifi, bingo, movies, hot meals and only got better in Argentina where on one bus ride I had a glass of bubbly as I boarded, a glass of red wine with dinner and then a whisky nightcap.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Domestic dispute

I was about to leave the house this afternoon when I heard a massive ruckus next door. Our houses are joined with a very thin wall separating them so when voices are raised, I can hear every word. 

It was such a heated argument that I actually started to worry. I worried that the kids were home and would get caught up in it. I worried that it would escalate into violence. And I wondered, what the heck am I supposed to do in this situation? 

I decided to stand there in the safety of my own house monitoring the situation through the wall. If it got bad, I'd call the police. From what I could hear the woman had the man bailed up against the wall. She possibly hit him once or twice from what I could hear. He kept repeating "let me go, let me go, let me go so we can talk". Eventually he stormed out and the door slammed. 

I peeked through the curtain to check he wasn't still there and then heard a car pull up and heard the two kids (toddler and baby). So I headed outside to ask if everything was ok. The baby was crying and trying to climb down the stairs to her mum who was talking to a friend in a car on the road. So I said hi to the kids, held the baby's hand so she didn't fall on the concrete steps and checked again that everything was ok. The woman apologized and I just said not to worry, I'm only concerned to see everything's fine. 

So that was my excitement for the afternoon. What would you have done? Just leave the shades drawn and ignore it? 

I feel lucky that I'm on first name and friendly chat terms with the neighbours - both the adults and the little ones - so I'm comfortable enough to go and approach them. If it was one of our other neighbours fighting, it might take a little more guts. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Right now I have samoan music playing via Youtube and I'm going to start packing my bag just as soon as I'm done with this post. I love the days leading up to a trip away, even a trip as short as this one. 

When I have a moment to daydream I'm thinking about what I'll pack, where I might stay, should we hire a car or stick to the cheap and cheerful (but less flexible) wooden buses, will my friends fall in love with Samoa as I have? Most importantly I am daydreaming about the food - poke, oka, luau, palusami, fresh coconut water, baked pawpaw, pineapple pies...? I'm putting on weight just thinking about it.

Back in June/July I spent 10 days over there and only got around to blogging about day one. Fail. Here's the highlights of the rest of the trip - I'll be visiting a couple of these places again next week as well as places I went to way back in 2009 and hopefully some new ones too. 

I'll have to keep it brief with lots of pictures because I have crippling RSI in my wrist at the moment that not even an ice pack and copious amounts of nurofen can rid of the pain, so typing = not a lot of fun. It's even keeping me from my knitting :-(

The night spent in my overwater fale was rather interesting in a it's-very-windy-so-the-chalet-is-rocking-quite-a-lot-and-the-waves-lapping-at-the-poles-feel-rather-large, kind of way. I set my alarm early to watch the sunrise before sleeping in a little more and then indulging in french toast for breakfast (included). The morning I whiled away on the deck, slipping into the water every now and then to cool off and check out the fish. The snorkeling isn't great here at Lusia's Lagoon Chalets but the view of the ferries going past is nice, the swimming is lovely and they have kayaks for guest's use. That's the best part of holidaying by yourself with no cell phone, no computer and not even a watch - the chance to utterly relax.
By midday it was time for me to hit the road and by hit the road I mean amble 5 minutes up the road to the local market. I bought a lavalava (you should really wear them when swimming near a village), a coconut and pineapple pies. Then it was onto a bus for the hour-ish ride up to Manase. 

I based myself in Manase for 5 nights or so in a fale at Vacations. There were 2 reasons for this. Firstly, in 2009 we stayed there for only one night and I remember thinking to myself, this is the beach I want to come back to for a week. Secondly, the only dive outfit on the island is 5 minutes down the road and I wanted to dive my first shipwreck. 


In the end I did 3 dives. The shipwreck was fantastic. It's a wooden ship that sunk on the reef back in the late 19th century. It's sitting in only 20m of water at its deepest. Part of it is sitting in only 5m so you can actually see it while snorkeling. 

The other dive was in the coral gardens. Here we watched a massive turtle feeding for a good 5 or 10 minutes. It was so graceful and beautiful. That image will be in my head forever. 

The next night we returned to the wreck to dive it at night. Under the water at night is a whole other world. I spotted some creatures - moray eels, lobsters, lion fish etc. Mostly I was making sure I didn't turn around to find my buddy's light was no longer right next to me. 

So all in all the diving was great. They aren't the best dive sites having been damaged by a hurricane not too long ago but there's plenty of fish and corals to look at. For me just the feeling of being so far under the water (the warm water - 28 degrees! It's like a bath) and having that feeling of weightlessness as you achieve neutral boyancy  - being able to rise or descend just by inhaling or exhaling - that is the part of diving I love. 

What else did I get up to in Manase? After watching the sunrise every morning I read a book before breakfast. By my third day I was onto my second book - lucky they had a bookshelf you could borrow from so Marian Keyes kept me company on the beach. I whiled away hours sitting on the beach or in the water, sipping a cool vailima or wine, knitting or chatting to the locals. 

I took the bus to Safune to cool off in the pool where a famous Samoan legend is set - Sina and the eel. There's two pools actually - one each for men and women. I started to walk back which gave kids finishing school a chance to chat with the lone palagi and then hitched a ride the rest of the way with some Australian tourists I'd met the day before. 

On Sunday I went to church. All of the women were dressed in white and wore hats. The singing was amazing. I tried to understand the sermon but mostly picked up the words for of the father, of the mother, quite a few times. I had to scramble for change when the tithing plate got passed around. Communion was red cordial and round wine biscuits. After the service the pastor thanked me for coming and I got to try out some of my more polite vocab on him. 

Sunday lunch was a highlight - a buffet of breadfruit, taro, corned beef, chop suey, mutton flaps, fresh fish, chicken and much more. I squeezed in seconds and then had to have a siesta in the shade. 

My final day there I headed off before it got too hot and walked the 10km to the lava fields via feeding turtles (amazing, even when they mistook my toe for a tasty hunk of papaya), the church where the first bible was translated into Samoan, and past heaps of locals, mostly kids, that wanted to stop and chat. 

After visiting the churches destroyed in the eruption around 1905 I had to wait about an hour for the bus. Some kids came to join me so we ate oranges together and they sang me some songs. I got so distracted I missed the last bus to Lano. I started walking and then hitched a ride with a lovely mormon man. Finally I got to Lano - Jolean's fales. My gosh, this place is beautiful, the people so friendly, the meals fantastic and the price, dirt cheap. 50 tala per night with 3 meals a day included. 

I spent the evening drinking vodka with a Beatles-loving German backpacker named Sven. We polished off a full bottle of Samoan-made coconut vodka, no mixers, just straight. My head hurt the next morning but it still didn't stop me from watching the sunrise. 

The next morning a local came over to tell me there was a tsunami alert out - apparently there was an earthquake somewhere near New Zealand. "What time is it expected to hit?" I asked. "Ten", he replied. I checked the time. It was eleven. No tsunami for us then, thank goodness, but everyone in Apia apparently had to evacuate up the hill. When I was there in 2009 there was a warning out too that I didn't hear about until afterwards - the wave ended up being only 20 centimetres but only 6 months later the big one hit. 

As much as I wanted to stay longer at Jolean's, I had only 2 nights left and really wanted to see Manono Island this time around. 

Alright, my hand needs rest. I'll fill in the final 3 days of Manono and Apia tomorrow. I hope you enjoyed the pictures. I'm leaning towards Niue for a holiday next year but if I find cheap enough flights I wouldn't mind spending a week lying on the beach at Joelean's with a good book or 3.