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 tea...it 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. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I'll never let go...

A conundrum. To show this side of myself or not show this side of myself on the internet...the thing is with blogging is that you don't really know who is reading. 

Dare I admit on the world wide web that I am secretly really looking forward to something that comes out in April next year?? 

Do I let you all in on the big secret that in my heart I am a big fan of a certain blockbuster movie starring a certain good looking man and a very large ship? 

Do I share with you that after 5 years of piano lessons as a child the only song I can still play is "My heart will go on" by Celine Dion? 

Titanic. In 3D. Sigh. Doesn't Leo rock those braces? 

Maybe if they knew back then that they'd be putting it out in 3D one day they might have filmed the scene where they are spitting over the side from a different angle. Just imagine sitting in the audience and a wad of spit comes shooting out of the screen...

I remember going to watch it with mum and my sister way back when it first came out. In the late 90s, right? We also owned the VCR which I confess I've watched quite a few times although sometimes we fast forwarded to the part when the ship starts to sink.

And without fail a little tear slips out every time I see Jack slip under the water (the only other movies that get me every time are the Lion King and the Notebook - don't laugh!). 

Back to that song by Celine Dion - I was going to chuck an iceberg the next time I heard them playing it in Peru. It's practically their anthem. Don't get me wrong, I love all things Peruvian except the fact that this song is played on repeat in practically every restaurant and bus, and by every I mean EVERY! I've heard it played on panpipes, on clarinet, on guitar, dubbed into Spanish...you name it, I've heard it. They love it.  

When I got to Colombia I went nearly a full two weeks without hearing that song until one fateful night out enjoying a meal of red wine and cheese fondue with a lovely Dutch woman. While we sipped on our wine and waited for the fondue to arrive a man set up his instrument ready to play to the diners...and from those first notes I knew we were in for yet another Celine Dion rendition only moments after I'd been describing to my friend how crazy they are for that song in Peru and how lovely it was to not hear it thus far in Colombia. 

Grr, seriously! The Celine Dion faux pass was almost forgiven when I got to Uruguay to find them playing kiwi music in one of the cafes - Fat Freddy's. 

Still, even if that song has become my nails on a blackboard I'm extremely happy that we're going to have a chance to see this film again on the big screen! 

P.S. I always wanted to get my hands on a copy of that violin music they play when the ship is sinking and play it during a very rough crossing of the Cook Strait when I worked on a ship. Although I thought better of it thinking some of the punters might not have shared my sense of humour. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I heart ox heart

I'm putting off leaving the house today - it is pouring down! I had my day off all planned out...a spot of gardening, coffee at Lyall Bay, perhaps a dip in the ocean and then home to prepare dinner as I'm having a couple of friends around tonight. Instead the weather's grotty, I'm getting an awful cold and am delaying going down to the shop to buy a bulb of garlic.

The garlic's the final ingredient in a marinade. The rest is already in the fridge and the beef soaking in it. It's wine vinegar, tumeric, sweet paprika (pimenton dulce) and chilli. Notice the lack of soy sauce, tomato, ginger...the usual things I'd marinate meat in. This is a Peruvian recipe for anticuchos or kebabs made from ox heart. The supermarket trimmed most of the heart up for me so it wasn't hard to dice up, dodging any arteries. Still, it's my first time cooking heart (I ate it nearly daily in Peru though) and I'm a bit nervous serving it up to friends (I don't think I'll tell them what it is until after we're done eating hehe). 

However if it doesn't taste good there's plenty of other food. Homemade walnut pate and pumpkin hummus with a cheeseboard to start; a Peruvian spread of empanadas, quinoa with vegetables, tuna stuffed potato and salad in the middle; and a giant lemon curd, strawberry and cream filled profiterole to finish. It's a bit of an odd assortment with no real theme but I'm sure it'll all taste yummy which is what matters. 

Wish me luck.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Get Growing

I've got a lot of unexpected free time today after the wine tasting training course work was sending me on, was cancelled. So right now I'm sitting in bed with a cup of tea and rewatching episodes of Get Growing.

I'm really getting into this gardening business and although I thought I was going into it a complete novice, I must have managed to pick up quite a bit of knowledge by osmosis during my childhood (my parents always had a garden and I watched that show with Maggie Barry hehe). I knew the basics - roughly what is in season, when; how to plant out seeds and seedlings; that plants need water... a lot I'm learning from trial and error, and the rest from the books, my mum and the internet.

One of the best (and most engaging) sources I've found is Get Growing. The show aired on Prime last year I think, but I missed it. All the episodes are available here. I recently acquired the book  'One Magic Square' all about everything you can grow in just one square metre - although this week I've graduated to around 3 square metres plus pots!

I have this memory of cooking a roast dinner as a teenager. I took the roasting pan up to the wool shed where dad popped a leg he'd just cut off the sheep carcass into it. Then we went out to the garden and dug up potatoes to roast. So fresh and so yum!

We also had chooks. That's something I'd love to have one day, especially at the rate we eat eggs. Somehow I don't think that will happen anytime soon (I can just see the landlord's face!), although we are allowed pets. Fingers crossed pommy flatmate isn't deported next month. If she isn't, we want to adopt a rabbit from the SPCA or somebody's unwanted one off trademe - we have lots of vege scraps for it to eat!

The episode I've been watching has just ending so that must be my cue to get out of bead, cook up some spinach on toast and head out to Bunnings and Pak n Save via a walk along the beach.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

War on slugs

Slugs 8
Caterpillars 1

That's how many I squashed last night when I took my torch spotlighting in the vege patch. Despite liberal sprinkling of slug bait I have been waking up to neatly chomped holes in some lettuces and particularly the pak choy. I'm told putting a bowl of beer out there might help but although I like beer, I'd much rather spend money on wine for myself and not shout the neighbourhood slugs a round. I have been taking used coffee grounds home from work and putting it on the garden to ward off both cats and my small slippery friends which has had some success. I reckon adding a few minutes of night time manual pest control to the mix can't hurt either.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pottering in the garden

It's not just the strawberries lapping up the sunshine
One thing I love about working in the evenings instead of the day is that I get to enjoy the sunshine while pottering around the garden. Not that getting home after dark has ever stopped me gardening by moonlight...

Yesterday I planted lots of seeds. All but one cauliflower has a head on it now and being impatient and craving salads in this weather I sowed plenty of mesclun, rocket and purple basil seeds underneath them. Once the caulis are ready the plan is to just chop them of at the stalk rather than pull up the roots.

I bought another square garden off trademe today ($50 including delivery) and ordered lots of compost from Zoo Doo ($32 for 160 litres, free delivery). My pay comes in tonight so the first day I have free next week I'll head out to the big Bunnings by the airport to stock up on courgettes, cucumber, chili plants and perhaps a capsicum. The landlord better let us renew the lease in January otherwise I have no idea how I'm going to move all this gardening stuff!

There's nothing better than going out to water the garden and coming back into the house with something to cook up. Yesterday I came in with 2 largish carrots, cos and red oakhill lettuce. I added to it capsicum, cucumber and a bit of balsamic vinegar and it was so good! I'm holding off picking more oakhill until next week as I have friends coming around for dinner and what better to serve up than a fresh salad from the garden?!

I'm on budget lock down until I go on holiday (not that the holiday itself is that expensive - taking more than a week's unpaid leave from work is) so I'm not allowing myself to buy food there. It's so tempting working a cafe, especially while slaving away in the kitchen making things like boysenberry muffins, to buy the finished product. To get around this I'm trying to bring something really tasty from home, better than a toasted panini! Tonight it is rice with stirfry - the cauliflower, mustard, coriander and pak choy we grew ourselves. By the end of summer hopefully we can whip a stirfry using only homegrown ingredients!

Alright, enough blogging. I'm going to go out and enjoy the sunshine before work. Here's some photos I took of the garden today, enjoy.

I can't wait for these to ripen!
Making the kitchen pretty with flowers from the backyard
and flax from over the road

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Knittin' a mitten

Wow, it's 1.30am already! I should be in bed as I have work tomorrow. I got home from work just before 10pm and sat on the couch with my flatmate, drinking tea, watching An Idiot Abroad (love Karl Pilkington!) and knitting. I'm just about finished my first arm warmer. It's a fingerless glove made from alpaca but it stretches right up to my elbow. It's going to be so cosy and snug come Winter! Actually I'm wearing it as I type this; so at least one arm out of two is toasty. That's the worst thing about gloves - you have this great sense of accomplishment until you remember you have to make the same thing all over again. I'll post a picture once it's cast off.

I bought the yarn from a alpaca farm on the outskirts of Otorohanga in May. They have a small shop that they'll open up if anyone pops in and a mill which they gave us a tour through. It was really interesting to see all the machinery it takes to turn fibre off an animal's back into gorgeous knitting yarn. If you aren't familiar with Otorohanga it's about 40 minutes south of Hamilton and has a kiwi house and bird park, a kiwiana theme throughout the town and is just down the road from Waitomo Caves. It is also where my cat lives which is a pretty big drawcard in itself.

My cat. For some reason the neighbour's cat isn't as fond of sitting on my hip :-)
The alpacas that provided the gorgeous yarn I'm knitting
Kiwiana walkway in Otorohanga - Footrot Flats
I loved this recipe!
Pommy flatmate having some fun with the sign
The public toilets
Speaking of pairs of gloves, we rearranged our lounge last night. By rearranging I mean we kind of flipped everything around like a mirror image because it's so narrow and has so many doors coming off it, you are very limited in what you can put where. Anyway as I was moving the couch I found a mitten hiding under it. The same mitten my flatmate knitted me and I proceeded to lose the first time I wore it way back in May! And then today at work I found my angora Hermione hat and a merino cardigan I'd misplaced a couple of months ago. So this week has been a very good week for finding things. If only a $20 note or bottle of wine I didn't know I had would pop up somewhere too.

Boy am I glad to have this hat back! I love the mix of cables and lace.