Thursday, September 29, 2011

Love thy neighbour...

I love our neighbours today, even though the toddler (I assume) has buried my parsley plant in soil - as if the slugs/snails, cats and caterpillars weren't doing enough damage in the garden already :-(

The reason I love our neighbours is that they let us borrow their vacuum cleaner. Ours broke a few weeks ago so the carpet's been looking more than a little sorry. Now it's looking so clean! I got the flatmate to take them over a jar of our homemade kiwifruit jam to say thanks.

I've been thinking that it's nice that we get along with our neighbours and actually know who they are - it's so easy in the city to live in your own little bubble. Ours may be a little rough around the edges, what with their parties every week (but at least their singing to 10 guitars at 6am is in tune) but they are always really friendly and give free Maori lessons too. The kids are a lot of fun (when the toddler's not digging up my plants he helps me out with the watering can) and we steal borrow their cat from time to time as well.

It was a good job the floor finally got vacuumed because a couple of old friends came around for tea. We polished off a couple of bottles of some very good wine (Stoneleigh pinot gris and Mt Difficulty pinot noir), a fair amount of roast beef with all the trimmings, and chocolate cake with berry coulis. Delicious! It was such a great evening - I think we'll have to do it more often.

When we do roasts we do a separate tray of veges that don't touch the meat and also yorkshire puddings and a nut roast to make it just as exciting for our vegetarian flatmate - not that she was home this evening anyway.

Her nut roast (like a meatloaf shaped giant stuffing) recipe is pretty tasty but tonight we were down a couple of ingredients and it turned out to be one of those times where the 'thrown-together-bits-we-had-in-the-pantry' tasted even better than the real deal. Even carnivores like it served as a side dish.

  • First boil one cup of dried pearl barley for around 10 minutes until softened. 
  • In a food processor blend 1 cup mixed nuts, 1 onion, 2 slices bread, 2 eggs, salt/pepper, and dried herbs.
  • Add the barley, 2 grated carrots and 1/2 cup of grated cheese. 
  • Put it all in a loaf tin and put it in the oven with the roast to cook for one hour.
  • Voila, something to serve to that awkward vegetarian that comes over for dinner (or that awkward vegetarian you live with 7 days a week, 365 days a year haha).

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Soy argentino, es un sentimiento no puedo parar...

Well Sunday was a day I've been hanging out for for quite some time. It was the day of the Pumas versus Scotland game, and we had tickets!

We started off having a couple of Quilmes and fernet and cokes while painting on our faces. How awesome is it that you can buy Argentine beer and spirits right here in Wellington?! Three cheers for Moore Wilsons!

Then it was off to the stadium for a very close game. We moved seats to be amongst all the Argentine fans. Not that you needed seats as we were standing up chanting, yelling, hugging the people around us when we finally got a try etc etc. Pumas supporters are the most passionate I've ever seen. It was amazing to be a part of. 

I painted a sign on a pillow case and hung it down the front in the hopes my grandparents in Argentina might spot it on the telly, and low and behold apparently it did indeed appear for a split second 18 minutes into the game. How cool is that?!

Once the game was won nobody wanted to leave the stadium. They were all dancing and chanting (with drums even). My friend dragged me right into the thick of it. The stadium floor was moving up and down with all the people dancing. It was truely awesome!

From there it was off to the hotel they were staying at to await players' arrival. That was an experience in itself.

Later in the evening (or early morning by this time) we hung out in the same pub as the players. I met a few including Felipe, the bald goal kicker and Lucas, who scored the winning try.

What a night! I'm so excited to be going to Palmerston North (probably the only time I'll ever say that!) to see them play again this weekend. I won't, however, be repeating Monday's hangover! I remember why now I don't drink like that anymore. Fuerza Argentina!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Happy birthday little sis

Two birthdays in two days - no wonder I'm always skint at this time of year :)

Happy birthday to my favourite little sister. I actually bought you a present this year but I've got to admit, I had a bit more fun organizing last year's.

It sounds like I missed a good party though. 

You should be so proud of everything you've achieved in your 22 years. I admire how driven you are and how well you do at everything you attempt. (So please don't get too good at this backpacking business - I need at least something I can outshine you in, right?!). I am in awe of how much you seem to pack into your busy life, oh and of how glamorous you always look too :-)

It's hard to know what to write. In some ways it doesn't seem that long ago that we were sharing a room (and the same hair cuts with matching jerseys and dungarees - thanks mum!) but in other ways it's like that was a lifetime ago!

Most of my memories of you revolve around us running wild on the farm - making huts, riding cows or training our calves, trying not to get caught jumping on the bailage, climbing trees...

Or doing dance routines to Five, sneakily watching Catdog on the telly when mum was out, using an upturned trampoline as a gymnastics apparatus, making "Fish and Chips" out of slices of bread, arguing that my guinea pig should get chucked down the offal hole since that's the burial yours got (hehe)...

When we were older at boarding school, walking up the hill and having the other girls laugh at how we bounced when we walked, our pony tails swinging side to side...

Trying to catch fish with plastic bags at Cooks Beach (remember when you dropped your rod off the wharf?), camping at Ruatiti, swimming with the dolphins...

Watching your running events - especially that North Island one in Taupo when you kicked some serious ass...

I remember some of your birthdays;
the one when you got a Petrol station/car park for the matchbox cars,
the one where we went to the Kiwi House and another to Hamilton Zoo,
one when you caved and let me bake a cake but only if it had no icing on it,
your 10th birthday when your friend ended up in tears after grabbing the electric fence and not letting go,
and one when you had a Mooloo cake.

I hope you spoil yourself today.
Happy birthday again and see you next weekend for the rugby game.

Lot's of love, your favourite, second-biggest sister. XO

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Happy birthday Sproglet!

To my favourite niece,
It's hard to believe that you are already 9.
I remember like it was yesterday waiting at the hospital to see you. You were the cutest wee thing, even though you only had one eye open for weeks! That made me laugh. 
So did the way you 'walked' on your knees for ages; when asked as a toddler who you liked better Spike or Angel, replied "Spike, because he's a bad boy"; and more recently sent me this photo with message saying that my cat was jealous of me posing with a dressed up alpaca. 

I love how much you love your food and cooking - just like me. I remember when you'd just turned three helping me to make Japanese dumplings, folding them and pressing around the edges with a fork like a professional. We make a good team in the kitchen. 
I was so proud of you when you won that cake competition and the feijoa loaf you made this year was so darn tasty! 
It's cool that now we can order two plates at a restaurant and halve each because we like the same things. How many other kids your age would go to a restaurant and split the wild rabbit hotpot and cheese souffle? Probably just as many as 3 year olds that get excited over having goat casserole for dinner...

I have so many memories of us just mucking around being silly together. 

I think this was when you were only 5. We drew on our whiskers and then danced to High School Musical for an hour. I still haven't replaced the eye liner we ruined that day. 
Even though we are silly most of the time, I like that you'll do as I tell you to as well- but only if I ask in spanish! Por favor, senorita. 
I love it when you come to visit me in Wellington. I don't know anyone else who gets as excited about going to Te Papa or the zoo as we do. I even forgive you for telling mum that my house was really messy the time you visited on your own :)

Happy birthday S-Catt. Have a fantastic day. I hope both you and Rococoko like the present. Lots of love, hugs and butterfly kisses, J-Dogg. 
P.S. This time next year we can both jump off a bridge with a bungy cord tied around our ankles if you're still game. My shout. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Afternoon tea

Cup of tea + fresh bread + big dollop of homemade plum jam (thanks to pommy flatmate) = one happy mumsie

Nearly the weekend

Whew. 12.40am and I've finally hopped into bed with a cup of tea. 

It's a nice feeling, though, to have knocked off most of my weekly chores this evening. I gave the kitchen a proper tidy, made a pasta bake for tomorrow's dinner (and popped an extra one in the freezer for a friend with a new baby), have bread rising to bake first thing, made yoghurt, whipped up a roast veg and spinach salad for lunch and got my 30+ minutes of exercise walking home from school. 

That just leaves room tidying and homework for this evening, and mopping and cleaning the fish tank for tomorrow - leaving me a housework free weekend and no guilt about my plans to go to the cinema to see The Help in the morning. 

This weekend is going to be super busy with Samoan class, work, watching the All Blacks, more work and donning my face paint again to see Argentina whip some Scottish butts at the stadium on Sunday night. I cannot wait. 

My Argentine workmate has scribbled down a chant for me to learn so I can cheer with the best of them. I should probably put memorising this on the to-do list too! 


Thursday, September 22, 2011

New Year's resolutions

Today I stumbled across my resolutions for this year.
  1. Shave my hair off for a cancer charity. Tick.
  2. Take Samoan classes. Tick.
  3. Make a baked Alaska. 
2/3 isn't half bad. I'm quite excited to tackle the final one too. Better summon some troops for a dinner party next month. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fried eggs and green bananas

Multi-tasking. I think I've proven today that I am just as adept at this as any other woman.
  • I drank a cup of tea while drying my hair and running late for uni. 
  • I weighed up the pros and cons of borrowing a couple of lemons off a tree from a garden down the street while crossing the road without being struck by a car. (And no, I'm doing going to steal their fruit, even under the cover of darkness, though it's awfully tempting). 
  • I cooked dinner while setting off the smoke alarm.
  • And right now I'm typing a blog entry while watching a cheesy romantic comedy, drinking a Pisco sour, staring at the pile of washing I should be folding and putting off doing the washing up.
Speaking of Pisco sours, if there's a better way of using raw egg white, I haven't discovered it yet. 
On that note, the bottle's just about empty so if anyone knows where I can find Pisco in New Zealand, I'm all ears. 

I cooked a typical Peruvian meal tonight hence the Pisco sour for afters. Rice, fried green bananas and egg makes a simple and substantial meal that is sold in most cheap restaurants in Peru and better yet is normally the most budget friendly item on the menu. 

To jazz up the rice you can make tacu tacu instead. It's rice fried with beans and served in a pattie-shaped mound on the plate. In Peru it's one of the many ways of serving up the same chicken and rice but with a different name. 

There were no white beans in the pantry so I used chickpeas. I also switched out yellow chili sauce for chili powder. 

Here's the recipe:

  • Boil white rice then drain it. 
  • Fry one diced onion in a generous splosh of oil. Add the chili powder. 
  • Add the cooked rice and beans to the pan. Stir fry on a high heat until it starts to get a bit of a brown skin. 
  • While that's cooking in another pan fry chopped green banana in oil (one per person).
  • Dish up the rice mixture (the tacu tacu) - like a big pancake-like pattie. Put the green banana on the side. 
  • Quickly fry up one or two eggs per person and pile them on top.
  • Enjoy.

Mine doesn't look all that pretty or taste as authentic as the real deal from a cheap roadside diner but it's filling and tasty enough. 

The proper recipe is in this great Peruvian cookbook The Food & Cooking of Peru by Flor Arcaya de Deliot that I plan to slowly cook my way through - a bit of a Julie Powell style challenge. It might take me a while to pluck up the courage to cook the tripe dishes though!

typical breakfast of spicy sausage and patacones
(fried banana) in Tarapoto, Peru
tacu tacu with chicken in Huanchaco, Peru

A square for Christchurch

Just because I have a million and one projects on the go already, doesn't mean I can't cast on another, right?!

I'm about to start knitting a square. Oooh a square - how exciting does that sound? Well this one square is going to be part of a cosy big enough to cover a SHIPPING CONTAINER which makes it just a little bit more bad ass. 

Down in Christchurch they've had to put a line of shipping containers at the bottom of a hillside to protect people and property from further rockfall due to the earthquakes. Some clever person saw these in all their ugliness and though, hey why don't we jazz it up a bit and knit it a cosy?. As far as ideas go, I think this one is pretty darn awesome. 

They need squares of any pattern and colour - they just have to be 30x30cm. The details are on their Facebook page. (Hopefully that link works - otherwise just search container love on Facebook). 

Right I'd better get cracking if I want to get this square started before I have to hit the hay.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sassy snapper

There are not many meals I enjoy more than beer battered snapper. 
Normally I use a lager but I had sassy red in the fridge and it so sassy it was.
Served with cheesy pea mash.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lazy dinners

What do you do on those nights when you just can't be bothered cooking? Takeaways? Beans on toast? Or throw together something incredibly simple with ingredients you always have on hand?

Tonight's been one of those nights for me. Therefore dinner is one of the simplest meals in my repertoire - spag bol, the meatless kind.

Serves around 4 people

Put 2 pots of water on the stove top to boil. In one, boil 1 1/2 cups red lentils for 8-10 minutes. The other is for the pasta (used 1/2 bag budget spaghetti - that's 30 whole cents worth).

Chop a couple of cloves of garlic and one onion. Fry in a little oil. Then add the lentils, a can of tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, soy sauce, vegetable stock, worchestershire sauce, salt & pepper, dried herbs and either a little water or red wine. Chuck in any vegetables sitting in the fridge or freezer - tonight's had capsicum, frozen veges  and handful of baby spinach stirred through at the end. Top with cheese and voila, a cheap, easy and healthy meal that took bugger all time to prepare.

It's just missing the meat, really. The original recipe can be found on the Healthy Food Guide website. It was in the first issue I ever bought which has been well thumbed as it tells you all about how to cook pulses and beans  which saves a bundle being able to buy them dry rather than in a tin.

One flag + one scared cat = one bottle of chili sauce

It's quite difficult to hold a cat in one hand and take a photo with the other... all in pursuit of getting a picture to win a bottle of Hot! Samoan Boys Chili Sauce. Don't worry mum, I haven't bought a cat, I've just stolen the neighbours'.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A freak hailstorm to break the monotony of a quiet day at work

Lucky I had my camera stashed in my bag today, because this is the view I had from the kitchen at work. So much hail, it nearly looks like snow! It was such a quiet day that we nipped outside to take some photos and back in again without neglecting any customers, or burning anything! 
I also booked myself in for a haircut (and blonde highlights) this Friday. It's actually been nearly 2 years since I paid for a haircut and my gosh, did it always cost so much?! $130 (more than a weeks rent - eek!) and no student discounts either. Ah well, this week it is 6 months since I shaved my head to raise funds for a cancer charity and let me tell you, 6 months of hair growth = mini mullet. It will be money well spent! 


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Postcard from Wellington: Te Papa Tongarewa

Well there is a new exhibition at Te Papa and it is AWESOME! 

Early encounters

I was lucky enough to head along for free the other night after going to a (also free) lecture series where I learnt all about chicken DNA and all sorts of other interesting things linking Polynesians to South America - in a 'they sailed there in their boats, dropping off some chooks and bringing back a few baskets of kumara' kind of way. So interesting. I'll see if I can find a link to post to some of the research being done; it's been on the news a bit recently. It's a new frontier of Pacific research which was what the themes of the lectures were all about. 

Anyway the Oceania exhibition is wonderful. The pieces on display are beautiful, interesting, amazing, thought-provoking (in a how-the-heck-do-they-weave-that-massive-ie-toga-1mm-thin sense)..... 
I particularly loved the warrior body armour from Kiribati complete with puffer fish helmet. 

The plan for this weekend is to see the sister exhibition at the City Gallery and perhaps hit the Frank Kitts market if I can keep my wallet in my pocket, and only stroke and fawn over the yarny goodness on display. Actually, probably best to leave my wallet at home. I have no self-restraint when it comes to knitting yarn and way too big of a stash already!

Hmm I believe it's grown since these photos were taken about 6 weeks ago. Whoops! Bring on November and uni-free knitting time.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dreaming of warmer, sunnier places :-)

Today I had a sick day and so spent the day in bed with my laptop. After exhausting the news websites I found myself on travel websites (yet again). I thought I might like to see Fiji next year. Two things on my travel bucket list are visiting as many different Pacific countries as I can and going diving somewhere at least once per year. I really wanted to spend my 25th birthday diving with sharks and Fiji's the place to do it apparently.

However despite a lot of google searching, I just can't seem to find what I'm looking for there. I'm sure it's there somewhere, hidden behind the countless resorts that all look much the same, with their included breakfast and probably extortionately priced other meals, and loads of families and honeymooners. I'm after something a little more low key and I like to spread my dollar (the little that I take with me) around the community. I'm a big believer in tourism being the key to development in the Pacific Region.

I'm also a fan of lists. Here's my current top 10 things I'd like to see in our Pacific backyard - it's ever evolving the more I learn (and there's a lot of learning about these places at school at the moment in my Pacific Studies paper).
  1. Kiribati (pronounced Kiribaas) - both Kiritimati Island which is supposedly stunning, a direct flight from Fiji and the island the country is promoting as its tourism jewel. I'd also love to visit the densely populated and polluted Tarawa which is rich in World War Two history and to see the other side of life in the Pacific. The side with sky high rates of domestic violence, unemployment and a per kilometre population density as great or greater than the likes of Singapore - the side you don't see in the tourist brochures.
  2. Diving with whales in the Ha'apai and Va'vau Island groups of Tonga. The whales rock up in late July and leave in October. Tonga's also renown for it's excellent drift diving. I might have heard a rumour about a family run restaurant in Tongatapu dishing up authentic cuisine on woven plates as well.
  3. Rapanui/Isla Pascua/Easter Island  - self explanatory really. Who wouldn't want to visit?!
  4. Belau/Palau - have you seen photos of this place? Forested islands plunging steeply out of the ocean, a pond of jellyfish and apparently some of the best diving you can find. Still a little expensive to get there having to go via Asia I think...
  5. The Solomon Islands - the must sees here are Tetepare Island. We watched a doco in class about the destructive logging that's happened across the archipelago. When the doco was filmed the local villagers were tossing up opening Tetepare, an uninhabited, unspoilt island up to logging too. Thankfully I've discovered they've instead set up an eco resort, basically camping with only a handful of people allowed there at a time. People also seem to overlook a lot of the accomplishments Pacific peoples achieved back in the day - it wasn't all grass huts and hula skirts. They even built and island from scratch. That is something I'd like to see.
  6. Dendroglyph in Chatham Island Forest. Photo: Ross Giblin.The Chatham Islands - for its Moriori history particularly the carvings done on living trees, Pitt Island with its rare birds and you can even get into a cage to dive with great white sharks - fun!
  7. Vanuatu - an independent republic with an intriguing language, a mix of french, english and pidgin. On Tanna you can see an active volcano spewing lava at night, and it's the birthplace of bungy jumping (but with vines strapped around your ankles) and the happiest people on earth. I've heard the food at the market is to die for!
  8. New Caledonia - to visit Xapita where you can still find Lapita pottery scattered on the beach and for the French influence (especially on its food) and modern capital. It's also on the front line of the ongoing decolonisation of the Pacific with a referendum due on independence coming up in the next few years and a strong movement pushing for it.
  9. American Samoa - it's cheap enough to take the 5-8 hour ferry over from Independent Samoa and so I'll probably go not next time I'm in Sa this November, but the time after that. It's got some stunning scenery but I'd like to see for myself just how American it is.
  10. Ooooh toss up for final spot. I'd like to head back to Samoa and somehow arrange to go to Apolima Island. But, the lines of the Pacific are arbitrary so I'd like to redraw them and include East Timor. I would love love love to go here. Yes, the diving is good but there seems a lot else to see as well and to get a feel for a country so touched by conflict.
So that's my top 10. For next year I am leaning heavily toward Vanuatu. This kind of accommodation is my kind of style, similar to the fales in Samoa.
And there are dugongs to be seen and wrecks to be dived. It just looks stunning, the culture(s) are intriguing and it doesn't cost an arm and a leg to get there either.

Game on

Well the rugby world cup has kicked off and there are three teams in particular I'm supporting...

  • The All Blacks - that's a given. And the two Richard/Richies in particular, for their sporting prowess of course, not just for their amazingly good looks. I missed the ABs first game working and am not a huge fan of Sonny Bill Williams, but let's just say, I won't be complaining if he removes his shirt again.
dug this shot out of retirement - ABs vs Ireland in 2008
  • The Pumas. Fuerza Argentina!
watching the game last night at the waterfront FanZone
  • Oh and Samoa of course in the pool of death. Poor sods have to play South Africa, Wales and Fiji. But, you know, anything's possible!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

One year ago

Fruit salad with cheese at the San Gil market

It's the 11th September and all the news media seems to be reflecting on the anniversary of the terror attacks. Me, I was wondering what I was doing on this day just last year. I knew I was somewhere in Colombia because I remember waking up to the news of the Christchurch earthquake in a hostel in San Gil. Facebook tells me that 5 days later I hadn't moved on - the fruit salad at the market for breakfast, shared dinners with new Dutch friends and its claim to fame as Colombia's adventure sport capital meant I found it exceptionally hard to move on.

Tasty dinner of ants...yeah right! Could feel ant legs stuck in my teeth for hours afterwards. Ew!

This day one year ago I was underneath an upturned raft in the middle of a class 5 rapid. Today I slept in (a fair few ciders were downed last night while watching the Pumas play), cooked breakfast for the flatmates, did the weekly Pak n Save dash and made fish pie of peace a la Cheryl West. How times have changed. My feet are itching to hit the road again, but another (but smaller) part of me is happy in our cosy flat, doing much the same thing week to week. I am very much looking foward to a taste of freedom in exactly 10 weeks time - back to Samoa again for 5 nights. And I've opened another account to start accumulating some funds for next year's holiday(s) too.

Gorgeous view over the tobacco plantation

bus ride back to town, on the back of a truck

If only I won Lotto... if you did, where would you go? I'd head straight back to South America but fly via Tahiti - Easter Island - Santiago - Chile's vineyards. Although the new flight route that's just opened between New Caledonia and Reunion in the Indian Ocean would be equally exciting. Imagine the kind of around-the-world trip you could do with the Bank of Lotto. Sometimes it is fun to daydream!

the nearby village of Barichara

Friday, September 9, 2011

Postcard from Auckland: In pictures

During the uni break I headed home to the farm for a couple of days. Somehow amongst the knitting, making empanadas, playing with the bunny, sneaking the cat inside at night and going out for a yummy dinner of wild rabbit hot pot and cheese souffle at Huhu, I forgot to take any photos.

I flew back via Auckland so I could go to the Otara Market and guess what?! I was so busy stuffing my face with pork buns, watching Winston Peters trying to drum up votes and keeping my eyes peeled for the elusive breadfruit that I didn't take any photos there either!

What I do have photos of are the Buddist Temple, the just-reopened-that-day art gallery and most importantly, the All Blacks. And because it's gone half midnight and I have a busy day of watching Bro Town tomorrow (it's for homework, I swear) that is all you are going to get. So...enjoy

Here's one I took 2 years earlier (more hair)

cute wee calfies