Monday, October 31, 2011

Giving blood

I had a lot of errands planned for today starting with donating blood first thing. The day's half over and apart from the blood donating and a spot of gardening (harvested our first cauliflower), I've achieved next to nothing.

I was at the blood donation centre WAY longer than I expected. It was my 13th donation and for the first time ever I managed to faint whilst sitting down on the donation chair in the five minutes or so after they'd finished draining me. It was so embarrassing! I came to with three nurses fussing over me, my chair tilted back so my feet were higher than my head, a fan on and cold flannels being dabbed over my forehead. As soon as I regained some colour I was apologising and thinking about how my flatmate wouldn't let me forget this after I mocked her for feeling dizzy after a blood test. So anyway after that I had to sit for ages and forced to eat bikkies and drink lots of cordial before they finally let me leave the building.

One of the best things about donating blood (other than knowing that it might be you or someone you know needing blood products one day) is getting a free iron test every time you donate, so every 3 months. I was very anemic as a teenager but managed to build up my iron levels through my diet so that I could ditch the supplements. Coming back from Argentina and all that meat last December my iron was the highest it had ever been at 132. Now it's down to 123 which is only just over the cut off point to be allowed to donate. It's so helpful knowing that as now I can eat a bit more steak and stop having a cup of tea with my daily dose of spinach, beans or legumes and in 3 months time I can see if it's made a difference.

Coming back from travelling I also got a malaria and chagas disease blood test through them. Chagas disease which you get from a biting insect in rural Latin America, has no outward symptoms, it just enlarges your heart until you suffer a heart attack 20 years down the line, so it's nice to know I haven't got it!

Now I'm feeling better it's time for lunch and then off to Pak n Save to attempt to bring 10kg of flour home on the bus along with the rest of the groceries. Wish me luck! I may have to do two trips. And I need to pop into the TAB to put some money on the Melbourne Cup. I'm yet to pick a winning horse so here's hoping for better luck this time around.

A ponytail

This weekend I tied my hair up in a ponytail for the first time since I shaved it all off in April. It was the tiniest of ponytails, like the little tufts you see on babies, and I needed about 30 bobby pins and hairspray to hold it in place, but it was a ponytail nonetheless! I looked in the mirror and I actually looked like me for the first time in ages (rather than a stranger with an ugly fringe).

It has been 6 1/2 very, very long months for me with short hair. I am a naturally lazy person and short hair requires a lot of effort. Over the winter I could wear a beanie almost 24/7 to cover up my unruly tresses but now the sun's been out more often, it's a little too warm for headgear. Because I'd rather sleep in than allow time for a date with the hair dyer and styling product every morning I've looked a frightful mess for the past wee while.

So hooray for the beginnings of being able to chuck a hair tie in and head out the door. I am hanging out for the day I can once again french braid my hair but until then I will happily watch as week by week my pony tail grows longer and I need fewer and fewer pins to hold it all in place.

I can say right now that it will take something very special for me to ever shave my hair off again, even if it was for a good cause! And so I have huge respect for a blogging friend Lea who is shaving her hair off for the fourth time to raise money for the Child Cancer Foundation. You can sponsor her by clicking on this link. It's on my to-do list for this week. Such a worthy cause :-)

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Coincidence. I posted today about Peru and mentioned Ica, the city with the sand dunes and sand boarding. It's also Peru's major wine region putting out some impressive roses.

I got home tonight to see on the new websites that that an earthquake struck there today. No reports of fatalities but there were many injuries and collapsed houses. It's just down the road from Pisco, which suffered a devastating quake in 2007, and a few hours up the road from Nazca and its famous lines. So tonight I'll be sparing a thought for the people there as well as those affected by the quake in Turkey.

It's a good reminder for me that I have to get cracking on getting our survival kit up to par. So far we have the water, radio and plastic bags for toileting purposes sussed but the torches don't have batteries and no first aid supplies apart from band aids, food stashed or anything to cook on. Very slack of me but it is more than the non-existent emergency supplies we had before the Christchurch quake in February gave us a big wake up call.

Tenuously related, I found a photo today of me in the Pisco region of Peru on my first trip there back in 2004. I look so young (I was only 16)! I need to get around to scanning all my pictures from that trip on to my laptop as that was in the days before I owned a digital camera. I think I ended up having to develop around 20 films after a 3 week holiday - almost more expensive than the holiday itself! 

One year ago in Peru

One year ago I was wrapping up my time in Peru with a whirlwind final weekend. I did a final blog entry at the airport that you can read here, but because internet was expensive in the terminal and I was very sick with a flu-like illness (but trooping on, sick days are a waste when travelling), I didn't get a chance to write up everything.

On my final Friday in Huanchaco I packed the last of my things and headed off to school with the other volunteers on the collectivo (small van) with a bag of goodies for the children. Like every other day we banged on the big metal door to be let into the school compound and were greeted by the Padre's dog, and then by a chorus of "Buenos dias, Senorita Yesica" as I walked into my classroom and took a seat at the tiny table next to the profesora's desk. 

I copied the handwriting practice into all 40+ exercise books, copying from a small piece of paper the teacher gave me because my cursive has never been great and I didn't want an entire class of first graders to pick up my bad habits.

Next I would have pasted worksheets into the books being very careful not to waste a speck of glue. Resources are very tight at CEP school. When we did art class I had to put a blob of glue onto a jar lid (which each child had to bring from home) so that the kids wouldn't go overboard with the gluing.
While I was doing this the kids would be copying the maths problems off the board and then taking turns coming up to the blackboard two at a time, to write up an answer to a problem before passing the chalk to another child for them to take their turn.

At some stage during the morning I would rip off one piece of toilet paper for each of the girls and then they would line up at the door ready for me to escort them to the bathroom. After me saying "firmes, descanso, atencion" we set off past the other classrooms to the toilets. They were supposed to march but one or two always wanted to hold my hand - something that was encouraged by the school as the kids want to feel loved. They went to the bathroom four at a time so while we waited we'd play hand games or I might say hello to the mums doing the cooking on a fire in the vegetable patch, often breastfeeding a small baby at the same time. Once I returned the girls to the classroom, it was time to take the boys. 

A couple of times in that last week I had to go find spare clothes for one of the girls who wet her pants and help her clean herself up. If any child did a poo they had to tell me so I could get a bucket of water and pour it into the bowl as the plumbing hadn't been hooked up yet. 

Because it was my final day the principal (Padre), a catholic priest, came into the classroom to present me with a certificate. I handed out some small goodies like stickers, pencils and erasers to each of the children, and a bigger bag of goodies for the school - art supplies and some cash thanks to a few family and friends who sponsored me to eat a chicken foot kebab. One by one they hugged me goodbye. I had tears in my eyes. I wished I could have stayed longer and made more of a difference.

All the teachers and volunteers had a shared lunch. I'd had my final surf lesson the day before (I am the worst surfer who ever graced this earth - standing up more than once or twice after six hours of lessons would've been a start, it was a lot of fun though!). With an afternoon free I jumped on the bus to Trujillo and from there took another collectivo out to some of the most stunning ruins in Peru, about half an hour out of town. 

The Huacas (pyramids) de Sol y Luna (of the sun and the moon) are huge, beautiful, interesting...I'd run out of adjectives trying to describe them, so instead will just post a couple of photos. Built by the Moche hundreds of years ago it is the largest pre-colombian structure in the Americas and the Huaca del Sol is estimated to be made of 140 million adobe bricks!

Then after going back to the volunteer house and double checking everything was ready to go, I headed out for dinner with some of the other volunteers. We didn't go to a restaurant but to Burger lady, who is a bit of a legend amongst the backpacker crowd in Huanchaco. This very old lady has a bbq set up in the doorway off her house a couple of streets back from the main drag. For 2 soles (NZ$1) you get a burger with a meat patty (of questionable origin) with lettuce, tomato, cheese, a fried egg and potato chippies. Then she piles on your choice of sauces - tomato, mustard, mayo or olive. We took a seat on the plastic chairs provided and tucked into our burgers as she watched with a big grin on her face, giggling like a school girl every now and then for no apparent reason. Best burger ever!

Then it was off to the bus station for the 9 hour ride down to Lima. When I arrived there I decided to jump on another bus straight away to Ica, about 5 hours further south. Arriving there in the afternoon I jumped into a mototaxi and set off for Huacachina, an oasis in the middle of the desert to indulge in a spot of sandboarding and dune buggy ride. Now THIS was fun! 

Unlike surfing I could actually stand on my board and get most of the way down a dune before falling over. The buggy ride was quite a thrill, driving through the desert up and down dunes at reckless speed. The tour ended with us watching the sun set. I find deserts to be so beautiful. Probably because nothing like that exists in New Zealand. 

After a dinner of Lomo Saltado (beef stir fried with fries, tomatoes and red onion) I took a bus back to Lima arriving in the middle of the night, exhausted, and sick but having had a great end of my stay in Peru. It's only a matter of when, not if, I'll be back!

If you are interested, I volunteered through this agency - Otra Cosa. It's much cheaper than many others, absolutely fantastic location and projects and come very highly recommended by me! They are a not for profit and you can donate to many awesome projects in Northern Peru through them - my favourite is of course C.E.P school which provides free education to children aged 3 - secondary school. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

English muffins

The bread stocks have been run down to next to nothing and it's still 4 days until shopping day so tonight I had to bake bread. I say had to but really for me breadmaking isn't a chore. I love kneading it. The only part I don't like is trying to get the bench clean after the kneading!

I made my usual wholemeal loaves which are on their second rising right at this moment, ready to be popped into the oven when I wake up. To mix things up a bit I also made Sophie Gray's english breakfast muffins. I LOVE english muffins but they are quite pricey. These ones taste even better than shop bought and were so easy to make (just a little time consuming if you don't start making them until 10.30pm). 

I'm so looking forward to breakfast in a few hours time when I can top one with fresh spinach from my garden and a poached egg. All that's missing is the hollandaise sauce!
There's also baking in the tin for lunches tomorrow. We ran out of butter so I made a carrot cake - no cream cheese icing though or icing at all for that matter. If I get a chance in the morning I might quickly do a batch of anzac bikkies to tide us over until grocery day. The only other snack food in the house is fresh fruit (getting low at this end of the week) or popcorn therefore baking is more of an essential than a treat (at least that's what I tell myself). 

We've been slightly naughty this week and had peach upside-down cake with custard and strawberry souffles for dessert. How my flatmates stay so skinny I do not know, haha.

When I bake bread I'm reminded of how easy it is to do and that there isn't really any reason why we should buy sliced bread at all. At $4 a loaf vogels is delicious, but expensive. If we put our bread budget towards raw ingredients like grains, dried fruits and nuts to make our breads interesting, I bet we wouldn't miss sliced bread at all. I'd just have to allocate an evening a week to do a whole lot and freeze it. Perhaps bagels for next week...

The other thing we've been thinking about is not buying fresh milk anymore and making it all up from powder. I don't taste the difference and it only takes less than 2 minutes to make up a litre or two and would save us a few dollars each fortnight. We're going to trial that idea next week.

One more thing I've been sneakily doing is topping the juice up with a bit of water once it's half drunk. Nobody has said anything to me yet so maybe they haven't noticed... when we have run out, I've chucked whatever fruit is lying around into the blender with some water. No wasted fruit and one delicious glass of goodness for breakfast. My favourite so far is pineapple/kiwifruit. Yum!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

On the needles: tea cosy

I had a request for a tea cosy and so last night I cast it on. The only criteria was the colour - blue and brown. A few solid hours of knitting (I'm still SO slow) and it's almost done. All that's left to do is to sew on the icing and decorate it with some buttons. Urgh, sewing up, my least favourite part of knitting.

I'm pretty pleased with the way it's turning out so far. Hopefully the finished product looks almost delicious enough to eat! Here's the link to the pattern. It hasn't used up much yarn at all so a good project for any leftovers.

Now I'm all inspired to make a new tea cosy for myself. Of course mine will have to have matching egg cosies :-)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Victory parade (and the last rugby post for a long while)

Today has been wet, cold and windy. The kind of day where you should venture outdoors for as short a time as possible. However it was also the day that the All Blacks were going to roll through town on the back of trucks with their hard won, shiny trophy and so I, along with all of Wellington, headed into the CBD.

Here's the photos.

Time for me to go and shovel down some fish pie. I think I've earned it after getting completely drenching biking home in the rain!

Our unwelcome house guest

Every once in a while I spot a wee mouse scurrying across the kitchen floor between the hot water cylinder and the oven. We first met back in March and that same day I popped out to buy two mouse traps. Months later he continues to elude me, despite me trying to tempt him into the trap with an array of foods - jam, peanut butter, apple, chocolate cake...

I was just saying to my flatmates the other day that I haven't noticed him hanging around lately (when he is about he kindly leaves us small deposits in the water cupboard). Murphy's law. I was sitting on the couch tonight, not spending hours trawling through patterns on ravelry, when I saw Mr or Mrs Mouse not even scurrying, but dawdling, across the kitchen. Cheeky git!

So I set the traps again and went to bed. A few minutes ago I heard one of the traps go off and ran out there to find....NO MOUSE. He's nowhere to be seen (although I imagine he's having a good laugh in a dark corner, licking peanut butter off his chin). I think we'll have to start calling him Houdini.

If it wasn't so amusing I'd be quite annoyed. Any tips on catching pesky little mice? I'm scared that if I put out poison it will curl up and die someplace inconvenient and start to stink.

So that's my life at the moment, fighting battles on two fronts. If it's not cats lobbing missiles and mischief at me, it's mice. My latest cat-fighting technique, spraying cider vinegar over the garden seems to be working so far. Might save us having to dress salads with vinaigrette this Summer too.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Owl puffs

I found the cutest knitting pattern on ravelry last night for these little knitted owls - owl puffs. They are so incredibly cute. I had a slightly crazy idea of decorating my Christmas tree this year with a whole lot of them, so I've cast on my hot pink!

Back in June I did Belinda Too's sock knitting class at Handmade. We practiced by making super tiny socks and I still have the pattern lying around so I might whip up some of those as well for the tree.

Is anyone else thinking of Christmas already? It's still a way off but as I intend to do handmade presents for everyone this year I'm going to make a start this week.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tortillas from scratch

Tortillas are one of those things that although you know you could make them from scratch yourself, we always end up buying. No more. My flatmate whipped up a batch from the Edmonds cookbook on Saturday night and although they were not all that pretty, they tasted good. 

Like most things that taste good, they didn't hang around very long. Last night we had to whip up something quick and easy for dinner so we could head out to watch the game. Tortillas once again. This time Sophie Gray's "frugal flour tortillas". They looked a bit more like naan than tortillas but boy are they delicious. Even better one batch uses only 2 2/2 cups flour, a small amount of oil, baking powder, salt and water. Much cheaper than buying them ready made!

The dinner tortillas we filled with a chili mixture made with kidney beans from the freezer, a tin of tomatoes, a couple of tablespoons of red lentils and the usual seasonings (a couple of fresh chilis, coriander from the garden etc). We bulked them up with lots of veges - tomatoes, avocado (only 50c each at the moment!), capsicum - and the first of the cos lettuce from my garden. It's growing like crazy. Lunch today was tuna tortillas. 

I think we have a new favourite bread for lunch! And it's so much cheaper than vogels too :-)

 The kitchen's been temporarily taken over by a flatmate and her friends testing out a fancy camera by filming their chili making attempts. I'm so looking forward to dinner tonight! Need to quickly whip something up for dessert though. No idea what to make...

 They've moved the kitchen table into the middle of the room. I'm liking it there. We just need a couple more dining room chairs though.

P.S. I just discovered the most amazing blog of a woman cooking her way through the Edmond's cookbook. What a legend! Here's the link -

All Blacks...what else?!

Like the rest of New Zealand, I am so insanely happy tonight!!!!
Finally, the world cup is ours. Like the last four world cups, a game of footy has brought me to tears, but this time they were tears of the good kind (and a few tears of the oh my gosh this is so intense I can hardly bear to watch it kind too). 
The atmosphere at Embassy Theatre, where we watched it, was incredible. More than 700 people stood and sang the national anthem and yelled and screamed at the screen for the entire game. There was chanting and biting of nails, and drinking of wine to calm the nerves. What a crowd! 
And being a big Stephen Donald fan, I'm extremely happy he got that kick over. Chuffed that our try was scored by a prop too. How cool is that?!
I'm proud to be a kiwi every day but even more so today. Let's all take the day off, shall we? Public holiday! 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mumsie vs Cat

I went to water the back garden today and found it dug up with little paw prints all over the place. Those darn cats!!!! This is the new garden that I planted seeds in lovely straight rows last week and then tied string across to keep the cats out. Obviously that worked a treat!

Fortunately the Get growing weekly newsletter arrived in my inbox this week courtesy of mum with lots of reader tips about how to keep our feline friends away from the vege patch. Soaking tea bags in citronella and placing them around the garden sounds promising. We probably produce AT LEAST 10 used tea bags every day (and that's a slow day) at our house. Time to put them to good use. Now to scout out citronella oil at the local shops this week. In the meantime they also suggested leaving slices of lemon or spraying cider vinegar around the garden box so I'll see if we have any luck with that.

Neigbourhood cats. I declare war!

Random cookies and a parliament of owls

Work tonight seemed to go on forever. That's what happens when you've had barely any sleep and then go straight to your job from a three hour exam. I am exhausted! 

The highlight of my shift was sitting down with a nice cup of tea and bikkies, homebaked by my flatmate. She unexpectedly popped into work bearing gingerbread cookies. They weren't just any gingerbread either. We only own one cookie cutter and it's in the shape of a dog. That could get kind of boring so she cut out shapes herself with a knife. Mine were an owl (I love owls - actually I got a new owl doorstop the other day, I'll post a picture below because he's too cute!) and a ninja bread man doing kung fu type moves. Of course I didn't have my camera on me to take photos and they were too tempting not to eat them right away. 

 The owl on the left is from the little gift shop out the back of Empire Cinema in Island Bay. Apparently a group of local mums have been making them to raise money for their daughters' school trip to Europe. I couldn't go home without him. 
The wee owl on the right I got from a craft market in Hamilton. I also have owl pyjamas, a hat and hot water bottle cover. I foresee more owls in my future as the owl cable is my favourite knitting design - owl coffee mug cosy, owl fingerless mittens, and perhaps one day this beautiful owl sweater...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Prettying up the house for free...

Tonight I wandered up the street with a pair of scissors to procure some free flowers to pretty up the kitchen. One block up from us there's a huge lavender hedge that has spilled over a fence and now takes up most of the footpath. Add to it from olive branches from the front yard and voila, a gorgeous smelling splash of colour. 
I'm planning to experiment a bit with lavender this summer, maybe adding it to some shortbread, drying it, making soap... any ideas are very welcome :-)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Our garden box...

It all started back around March when I decided my little garden of pots on the front porch wasn't big enough to house everything we wanted to grow. I do most of the gardening at our house but occasionally the girls help and chip in money, mostly from our groceries account if there's a bit of surplus. It's grown a lot in the past 6 months or so and here's the photos to prove it...

One garden box off trademe + soil from ZooDoo (they deliver)
= one garden ready to plant seeds in

It worked, the seeds started to grow. But issues with neigbourhood cats spread them all over the place
And so the string garden was born to keep the cats out
It grew
And grew, and survived the hail and snow...
This is it 2 weeks ago when we ate the last of the silverbeet and planted new lettuces and pak choy (the toilet rolls are to scare the cat away from the radishes. Everything grew except the caulis it seemed, they were just all leaves
Until today when the english flatty had a look and look what she found!!! Now she knows for sure that caulis grow above the ground which is something she has learnt this year. Bless.
We were all so excited and ran out to see for ourselves (that is me in the foreground with 6 months worth of hair. Yay!)
So very excited that we took a photo of all three of us with our bountiful garden
Then my very kind friend took time off from playing with his gorgeous baby to go out for lunch and take me to Bunnings to spend up on new soil. We've planted purple beans, peas, spinach, radishes and lettuces and taken a pre-emptive strike against neigbourhood cats by raiding all the water bottles out of the survival least if there's an earthquake and the house collapses our water is safe outside...
I also got more strawberry plants but was too cheap to buy another planter...and I found a tomatillo (cape horn gooseberry plant for sale. squee!)
And made the tough choice between buying a purple basil plant or chocolate mint
After all that gardening it was time for afternoon tea. I made the louise slice with pommy flatmate's homemade plum jam (half it went to the friend that chauffered me this afternoon to say thanks). It tastes prettier than it looks haha.
While jafa flatmate and I were busy gardening, pommy flatmate spent her day in the kitchen making rolls and fruit bread and tonight's dinner of egg plant and tomato pasta sauce... please Immigration don't deport her otherwise I'll have to bake all the bread myself! :-)