Wednesday, May 30, 2012

More projects in the queue

Remember a little while ago when I posted about 10 knitting projects I wanted to accomplish this winter? Well, now I'm going to have to add a couple more to the list. I've just been commissioned to do some more baby knitting for twins due in July. It's a little scary as it's a gift from someone to someone else. I don't know the recipient. Which means I don't want to make mistakes! 

Because of my mistake-making-fear I will probably stick to the patterns I've made a few times already. Hopefully this means it'll also knit up fast. Having that deadline should push me to finish my current WIPs too,  because I'm going to need those needles! 

Speaking of knitting, I saw one of my knitting heroes this week at work - Tash from Holland Road Yarn Company. It seems I'm not the only one that enjoys whiling away the afternoon in a cafe with wine. I also saw Dan Carter at work this week too. 

Right, better get off the net as my house won't clean itself nor will my scarf knit itself, my bag sew itself or my mess of a skein of yarn unwind itself. 

What sort of gifts do you give new babies/parents? 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Or Tonga...?

If I don't end up going to Samoa again this Winter it will be because I end up going to Tonga instead. I've done a bit of research and it looks like it'll fit my week in the sun on a budget criteria quite nicely.

This is the type of accommodation I'd stay in. It's around $50 a night, so a little pricier than Samoa, with breakfast only included, but a kitchen for doing your own cooking. Apparently it's easy and cheap enough to explore some of the island on the local buses too.

Now I have to try to be patient and wait for a good flight special. That's my least favourite part, waiting! Right now a return flight is $420 which isn't bad...but cheaper is good :-)

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Brr it is so cold tonight! When it is cold like this I wish I could be somewhere other than Wellington. Somewhere warm. I didn't manage to go for a single swim in the sea this summer - well apart from when I went to Samoa in lovely and warm the water was there! 

And so I'm doing some thinking. I am trying to save money at the moment but would it be that bad if I spent, say, $800-$900 of it and headed to Samoa for a week in August? Having already been there 3 times before I wouldn't have to fork out for anything touristy. I'd want to spend an entire week in Lano, snorkeling, reading, eating and going to church on Sunday. I wonder just how cheaply I could do it...

Accommodation (including 2 large meals a day) = 50 tala x 6 nights = 300 tala
Ferry return to Savai'i = 24 tala
Departure tax = 40 tala
Transport (taxis and buses) = 60 tala
Spending money (for vailima, lunches etc) =150 tala 

= 574 tala (so round it up to 600 tala to be safe)

That's $330 NZ 

Now if I could find flights for under $450 return (preferably under $400), I might just have to book!

I often think I should explore somewhere new, but I know exactly how cheap it is (and how beautiful) so there's no risk of budget blow outs that could crop up if I went somewhere like Noumea. Also August will signal the end of film festival and I'll probably have worked nearly 3 weeks without a day off. A nice, relaxing week on the beach will be just the ticket!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Fantasy

Another person I know is planning a trip to Peru. One word. Jealous! 
I know I rattle on and on about that country but it is a seriously beautiful place with the best food in the world. So this week's Friday Fantasy is of going back there. This is less fantasy and more plan because I WILL be back there again. It's only a matter of time.

So here's a map of what planning goes on in my head. It's a big country and when you consider 1/3 is pretty much jungle and 1/3 the Andes, it's not the fastest to travel around. 

The pale pink is where I went the first time - nearly 3 weeks in 2004. We stayed a week in Huancayo and then did Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Lake Titicaca.

The purple is my most recent trip in 2010. I flew to Cusco, did the Sacred Valley, then to Arequipa, Nazca, Huaraz, Cajamarca, Chachapoyas, down the river to Iquitos via Tarapoto. Then I left Peru by boat for Colombia before coming back to Peru via a flight to Panama City. When back I travelled from Lima to Trujillo, Chiclayo, a side trip to Huancayo, back down to Ica and out of Lima. I covered a lot of ground but still didn't sate my appetite for the place. 

The red line is where I'd like to go next time. I definitely want to return to Iquitos by boat via Pucallpa. That's the path Che Guevara took. I'd like to travel along the central spine of the Andes from Ayacucho to Huancayo. I've heard Ayacucho has a fantastic guinea pig restaurant. Tingo Maria appeals because it was and still is a place that's a little dangerous - associated with drug dealing/coca growing - and for that it's a bit mysterious and also there's a cave nearby that looks amazing. 

The orange is a path I'd like to take. I've heard rumours that it is possible but am yet to meet someone who's done it. It's not in the guidebooks. It'd involve taking a series of small boats downstream to Pucallpa. A challenge. I like it.

The yellow is another road I've heard is theoretically possible. If you have the time and will. Sounds like me. 

The green's a road that my travel insurance wouldn't let me go down. It's right through the prime coca growing area. A bit of a no, no. I wonder what type of things could be found along the way?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

10 winter knits

This blog's a good way for me to put down my ideas and sometimes, just sometimes, inspires me to stick to things I've said. So tonight I'm going to put on (virtual) paper a road map of sorts for my winter of knitting. These are the things I want done before September ends. That seems a long time away but it's really only 4 months which is not a lot in knitting time (I'm not the fastest or most committed still).

  1. Winter scarf (Shepherd felted lambswool 12ply, beige) - only one ball to go!
  2. Cupcake mittlets (Rowan cashsoft 4ply held double, beige) - one mitten down, 3/4 of the 2nd to go
  3. Baby legwarmers (Knitsch 4ply, pink) - 1/3 of the way through the first leg
  4. Moss stitch baby booties with sheepskin sole (Shepherd 8ply merino, blue)
  5. Winter hat for me (Debbie Bliss Cashmerino chunky, black)
  6. Fingerless mittens (Dehaired angora 2 ply, green or Verandah 'Mr Darcy' 4ply)
  7. Hot water bottle cover (Organic 8ply wool, pink)
  8. A Xmas present for a family member (Cascade 10ply)
  9. Hermione hat - again, love that pattern (Cascade 10ply)
  10. Pom pom flowers (not really knitting but it's made of yarn!)
So that's 9 projects to finish in 18.5 weeks - one a fortnight. It can be done. Hopefully I'll get even more done that I hope. Likely I'll fall off the wagon and finish 10 completely different long as I have something toasty for my head, hands and neck, I'll be happy :-)

Monday, May 21, 2012

My knitting stash revealed

I cleaned my room tonight which is always a good excuse for 'tidying' my knitting crate. I pulled out everything and organised it into piles by ply. I feel a little guilty about how quickly my stash has grown in just 18 months but when you get it all out, squish it and think about what you can make with each ball, the guilt melts away. My stash makes me happy. Some of the yarns are so insanely beautiful. I couldn't not buy them at the time. 

I do have plans for some of the yarns. The merino silk laceweight from Spinning a Yarn will become a triangular lace scarf this summer. 

The pale green dehaired angora 2ply, fingerless gloves. 

The two balls of Debbie Bliss black cashmerino are going to become my winter hat. 

The prism pink organic 8ply is destined to become a hot water bottle cover for my niece, only a year late after I frogged the last attempt. 

There are a few skeins that I'm so in love with that I'll have to keep for myself - the Manos del Uruguay chunky, Spud and Chloe worsted, Hazel Knits Strawberry Lemonade sock yarn...the rest of the stash is fair game to shop in to make gifts. 

I left it too late last year but this year I'm going to do a handknitted Christmas. Family, be warned. Even though Christmas time in New Zealand isn't exactly Winter woolies weather, I'm sure I'll find something to make each of them. 

Here's a photo of it all put back in its place. I put the prettiest ones on top so I can see them while sitting in bed with a cup of tea. All that yarn, glorious yarn. There's still space, though, to stockpile some more lace, worsted and chunky I reckon!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Yay, a finished project...

2.30am again. These late nights are getting to be a bit of a theme. Still, I didn't get home from work until 9.30pm so I've really only had 5 hours of post work nana-dom. If I was a 9 to 5er it'd only be 10pm right now. 

I accidentally left my knitting bag at work tonight so I couldn't work on my scarf as planned. That left the baby handwarmers which I've now finished and I must say look super cute. Just have the ends to sew in and then they're done. 

With fingers eager to keep on knitting I went on ravelry and decided my next baby project would be legwarmers to match the fingerless mitts. I'm not sure I have enough pink left so I'm thinking of making it pink and blue stripes. I'm not entirely sure the colour is right though. Another option is white but the only 4ply white I have is acrylic and I don't really want to mix that with good quality merino. There is a teal too, or yellow. Hmm. I might see if I can go shopping in my flatmate's stash for her leftover soft yarn. 

So another knitting project ticked off and another disk and a half of Go Girls watched. I did also chuck some bread in the breadmaker ready for the morning. I really need to get busy in the kitchen on Sunday as I've been a bit slack this week - I think I've only made one proper meal. Lucky my flatmate does half the cooking and we have a big stash of soup in the freezer to tide me over on work days. 

Right, better get some sleep. Though I'd rather be knitting a few more rows...this knitsch yarn is amazing. I'm so inspired to knit myself some socks!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A nana-ry day off

I love days off. Even if the weather is miserable and it's freezing outside! I didn't get up to much at all, which is the best way to spend a day off really.

I baked orange cookies from the latest Healthy Food Guide this morning. Boy are they delicious. They use margarine instead of butter or oil which is really handy when it's monthly shop day and the fridge is pretty empty. That's been rectified now and I can report that is is possible to carry one month's worth of supermarket shopping on the bus by yourself...that's $180 worth of heavy stuff. That was my work out for the day. I may have rewarded myself with some rush munro feijoa icecream upon arriving home.

This morning I hung out with the cutest baby and her mum, drank tea and chatted about knitting. We tried the fingerless mitt on the little girl and it actually fitted perfectly. It looked completely hilarious in a very cute kind of way. I'm halfway through the second one so once that's done I should be able to get a picture of them on. On the cuteness theme we introduced the baby to the rabbit. She really liked patting him and he didn't seem to mind even when she grabbed a hold of his fur and pulled. So adorable.

Other than that I've been knitting, watching too much Go Girls and hibernating under my blanket. Samoan class was cancelled this week unfortunately (or fortunately as I didn't have to brave the rain to go). Back to work tomorrow. I'm hanging out until Sunday when I am free again. Conveniently that is also the day of the Sunday market so I can spend the day out buying fruit and then making jam. Oh the life of a mumsie.

An accidental new knitting project

This evening I got home from work and thought woohoo, day off tomorrow, I can knit some of my scarf. I was up until nearly 3am last night knitting it and I only have 3 balls to go... I actually picked it up and did a couple of rows but then I felt this urge to knit something else instead...

I remembered that I'm going around to a friend's place tomorrow to do some knitting with her and play with the baby and I couldn't go empty handed now, could I?! Somehow I found myself on ravelry and then digging through my stash to make something for the little girl. A few hours later and I have half of a present. I've now almost finished two seasons of Go Girls in just 3 days too. 

This knitting thing is possibly getting a bit ridiculous but now that I'm 18 months in to this hobby and not making anywhere near as many mistakes, it is so much fun! Plus, I could probably knit for a few hours a day for a couple of years and still not get right through my yarn stash.

Isn't it cute though? It's knitted in knitsch sock yarn. Pretty!

Monday, May 14, 2012

2am and a finished project

I'm so so tired at the moment. I've been burning the candle at both ends working and forgoing precious sleeping time to knit. I have my scarf and fingerless mittens to finish and I have been doing a few rows here and there, but this week I couldn't keep away from this hat. It's made from the rest of the angora ball I knitted my last pair of booties in and some alpaca from my stash. It's ridiculously soft and I'm really jealous of the baby that gets to wear it. 

The last time I do stripes for a while though as they are a right b***h to finish - so many ends to sew in! The brim has a false cable pattern. So simple but something different from rib for a change. 

I realised the other day that for all the hours I spend knitting, I don't have much to show for it. I've decided that I haven't been quite selfish enough lately - it's time I finished some lovely things for me to wear. Well that's the plan anyway. The thing with knitting is that you don't know what yarn or pattern will call most strongly to you next. 

Perhaps it will be that gorgeous green yarn in the photo above... I am so in love with it. I just need to find a project beautiful enough to show off the wool. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Blast from the past

The summer after I finished school I got a job as a rabbit shearer. It was a lot of fun. Most of the rabbits lived up on a farm but in Waitomo Caves Village there was a shop where we did shearing demonstrations for tourists and sold souvenirs and knitted goodies/yarn. My job involved a bit of everything - sales, cleaning the cages, shearing rabbits, clipping their toenails and doing commentary for the show. 

It's a shame that I wasn't a knitter back then because the angora yarn we were selling was and still is gorgeous. I've knitted up several balls of it in this past year and have another 3 sitting there just begging to be knit. Actually it's probably a good thing that I didn't knit as I'd have spent all my pay as minimum wage was only $8 back then...

Anyway the reason I mention it is that I got an email from my old boss today (as I had sent her some pictures of things I've knitted in her yarn lately) and she attached a couple of photos of me back when I worked there. They made me laugh so I thought I'd share them. Isn't the bunny cute?!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

To market, to market

Today was all about markets for me. I started my day with the weekly vege shop. The buy of the week was a monstrous bunch for parsley for Sir Buquebus. That done, it was time to head into the city to visit the Frank Kitts Market as today the theme was Wild and Wooly.

There was so much yarn! Temptation upon temptation upon temptation. I went with the resolve to not buy any sock yarn as I already have so much. I did stick to that. I bought two skeins of Spud and Chloe worsted in apple green instead. It's so deliciously snuggly. Made in Peru as well.

I couldn't go there and not pay the Stitchbird stand a visit. I needed to buy fabric for my cushion making class at Handmade. I came away with half a metre of a green owl print. It is insanely cute.

I then whiled away the afternoon watching Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. It was such a lovely film. Actually I might go see it again, just for Ewan McGregor's accent.

Today was also a great day for parcels. I received three - dresses from Max, angora yarn from the Shearing Shed and a book and the first two seasons of Go Girls from Mighty Ape. Bring on Wednesday and my day off to do a whole lot knitting!

Friday Fantasy

(Only a day late...)

My 26th birthday (at the end of next year) is the rough deadline I'm working towards to start my elongated OE. At the moment it's a jumble of ideas as new inspiration for places to travel to and things to see draw my attention. I think I'll probably spend the first year working somewhere in Australia to save money before heading off somewhere else, perhaps Canada, The UK or Norway - all places Kiwis are allowed to work for a year (or 2 in the case of the UK).

Most people I know that've lived and worked in the UK have done London. That's not the place that's calling to me. I've been dreaming of the Shetland Islands. That's not as random as it sounds as my family has links to the islands. My great grandfather emigrated from there to New Zealand. Of course that was a long, long time ago, but some of the family is still in touch.

My main reason for wanting to visit is because of knitting. I've improved a lot since I first picked up the needles again at the end of 2010. I've been trawling through Ravelry, looking at projects I wouldn't have dared to consider making only a while ago. Shetland is renown for its knitting. What better place to live a while and hopefully pick up some new skills?! Or even attempt to knit something in 1 ply or some fair isle!

Speaking of fair isle - check out this link to some adorable teddy bears made out of uprecycled fair isle jumpers -

I also want to visit for the puffins. I mean, come on, the tourism website has a live puffin cam. How cool is that?

The landscape also looks stunning and it's far enough north to have light all night long in the middle of summer.

It's the one place I've never been that's really drawing me to it right now. It's nagging at me to visit almost as badly as Peru is calling me to visit again. In the meantime I'll keep oogling those amazing shetland yarns and garments online. One day I will fulfill my very, very long term knitting goal of creating a shetland christening shawl. That will be some years down the line!

Right now my flatmate is calling me to come and eat breakfast - she's made eggs/spinach/mushrooms on vogels. Better go!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Knitting projects, finally completed

Today I finished off two projects that have been sitting, almost done, for quite some time. 

They look so cute as a set but are actually destined for two different babies. I'm really quite proud of my first attempt at a cardigan. It was actually really easy and knitted in the round, with the stitches around the sleeves picked up, meaning almost zero sewing. That is my kind of cardigan! It's made from undyed alpaca yarn from Flagstaff Alpacas in Dunedin. So soft! The booties are in fluffy white angora. They're the same pattern I've made a few times now but I did the leg in false cable instead of plain rib. 

Even with a lie in and a lot of faffing about on the computer until two in the afternoon, I managed to get some things done in the kitchen. I made quince paste, date and orange scones, macaroni cheese, quiche and have a vegetable soup bubbling away as I type. 

The quince paste doesn't look exactly like it does in the recipe but it is paste-like and very quincy too so I'm sure it'll be very edible with a hunk of cheese and some crackers. It made a huge mess while it was bubbling away. Somehow there is even quince stuck on the ceiling! 

In amongst that I made it to my first Samoan class of the year. It was a lot of fun and despite not really practicing since last August, I managed to translate a page of instructions about how to make a cup of coffee. When I walked into the classroom the first thing the teacher said to me was "Jessie, I thought you'd be married to a Samoan pastor by now". I replied "I'm still looking". She is really funny, our teacher. It makes trying to get your head around indefinite and definite articles so much more fun. In a class of 10 people there are actually three Jessies/Jesses. I'm the only girl. To differentiate she calls us old Jesse, young Jesse and I'm just Jessie. 

To wrap up here's a picture of the beautiful yarn my flatmate bought me. In real life the colours are more vibrant but my camera doesn't have enough battery to use the flash and I can't find the charger. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

She's back, with presents!

My flatmate is back from England, which is quite exciting in itself, as I was getting a little bored of having just the rabbit for company...he listens well, but doesn't add much to conversation.

She came back with a suitcase full of tea! We're on our third cup now and just had a breakfast of pancakes.

Even more exciting though is that she bought me a present while over there, from her local yarn store. It's Manos del Uruguay yarn and in the most amazing colour - kind of pinky burgundy... I'll post a picture later. I'm so in love with it. Now the fun part begins - it can sit in my stash a while while I think of what to knit with it. Right now I'm leaning towards a hat and matching mittens - there are two skeins.

She also brought me back some nice thick tights from Marks and Spencer - those will help me survive the winter. Can't wait to wear them.

Right, I still have a few hours before my first Samoan class of the year. I was going to walk out to the garden centre but the weather is pretty miserable. Instead I'm going to do some baking and knitting and then head into the city to try on winter coats.

Happy Wednesday!

A trip back through TV memory lane...

An hour ago I was feeling really happy to be home from work (with a day off tomorrow) and sitting down on the couch with a cup of tea to watch the season finale of Go Girls. Now I'm left with that empty feeling you get when a story doesn't end up the way you wanted it to. I don't want to give away any spoilers if anyone else watches it, but it'd be like Pride and Prejudice if Lizzie and Mr Darcy didn't get together in the end or if Friends had ended with Ross and Rachel going off with somebody else...

It also wrapped up in a way that I get the feeling there won't be another season - possibly a spin off which would be awful. Of course tomorrow I will be over this - it's just a TV show - but it's a shame when one you really like wraps up. That got me thinking about my favourite shows over the years.

When I was intermediate age it was all about Charmed and Dawson's Creek.
That was back when mum gave us little coupons to cash in and watch 1.5 hours of TV a week. I think we convinced her to up that to two hours as the shows I wanted to watch were both one hour long. 

The start of high school was all about Roswell. I was obsessed. I taped every episode so I could rewatch them, read the scripts over and over again online (back in the day when you couldn't watch TV episodes online), and even made a necklace in technology class in the shape of an alien symbol off the show. I wasn't the only obsessed one though - Roswell probably topped talking about boys as a topic of conversation at lunch time. 

At boarding school we were all addicted to Home and Away. I remember when America invaded Iraq they suddenly cut from the show 20 minutes into an episode to show footage of Baghdad. I was outraged. When they shifted the time slot to 5.30pm we were gutted as it clashed with dinner time. I had to watch the omnibus on Sundays instead. 

The rest of my high school years were spent following Mcleod's Daughters. I thought Tess was so cool and Nick, such a dish (did I really just use that word?). I was so jealous of Tess' pet alpacas - they were too cute.

The next show I got fixed on was Alias. I loved this show and especially Michael Vartan. It was one of those shows you watched with the hope the two would get together. Also a spy wearing all sorts of disguises, speaking a zillion languages and always kicking the bad guys' butts was pretty awesome. 

When I was 18 I discovered Grey's Anatomy and actually this was the first show I ever watched online before it came out in New Zealand. McDreamy was such a hottie. The music I listened to was very much shaped by the soundtrack on this show - The Fray and Snow Patrol were the coolest thing ever. I gave up on it after 3 seasons. I still do like those bands though.

After this came a short obsession with Kitchen Confidential. My favourite character was the mormon. Now he plays Sweets on Bones. Bones is one of the shows I still watch every week, 6 seasons on. 

In amongst all this I began my six year love affair with Outrageous Fortune. It has to be my all time favourite TV show. I own most of the seasons on DVD and rewatch them time and time again while knitting. My goldfish are actually called Van and Munter. Well actually, one died today, so now I only have Munter (I think - they looked very similar). One of the highlights of last year for me was going to the Outrageous Fortune exhibition and seeing the set. 

Actually Outrageous Fortune inspired my 7s outfit one year too. We went as Van and Aurora. There were so many people dressed as 'Tool Guys' that year...

A couple of years ago I saw Shane Cortese on the red carpet of The Lovely Bones and it was the most excited I've ever been about seeing someone famous (I had had several wines though). Hayden and Loretta would have to be my all time favourite TV couple too. 

Last year I started watching Nothing Trivial and really enjoyed it. Shane Cortese again, funny that.

Right now I'm a little obsessed with Go Girls, Offspring and New Girl. Love them all.

I probably still watch too much TV but I justify it by getting lots of knitting done in front of the telly. I can't knit and read at the same time, can I?

Watch shows do you regularly watch now? Do you remember any shows fondly from your youth?

*Interesting that of all these shows, 3 are Kiwi productions, 3 Australian and all the rest American telly. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cheap Tuesday

I haven't done a cheap Tuesday post in a while...maybe because I haven't been able to think of anything insightful, budget-wise. I've been racking my brain and drawing a blank when something small came to me. I guess it's all the very small things that together make a difference to living cheaply (or cheaper).

I'm typing this wearing my dressing gown as it's pretty darn chilly in my house. It's the one and the same dressing gown that I got from Ezibuy (paid for by my parents) when I was 14 or 15. It's lime green (faded a bit now) and after owning it for nearly a decade, I can't stand the sight of it. But, because it's in perfectly good condition I can't bring myself to fork out for a new one. So I guess that's a bit of a budget tip - sometimes it is best to push aside consumerist desires and make do with what you have. Of course I'm a complete hypocrite in  this area as I throw much more money than it'd cost me to buy a new dressing gown on inane purchases all the time :-)

The second lesson I can draw from sitting in a freezing house, rugged up, is that you can save a huge amount of money on your Winter power bill by not having any heating. Yes, it may be colder in the house than outside, but it's quite bearable if you wear multiple layers, spend as much time in bed as possible, drink copious amounts of tea to warm you from the inside out, and do as much cooking/baking/soup making as possible as the heat of the oven warms up the kitchen at least. A good, thick pair of bed socks helps too.

Holiday Day 6-10: Hamilton, Huntly, Auckland

Way back at the end of March/start of April I took leave and headed up north. I wrote about it here, here, here and here. I left off in Tauranga and have been meaning to finish off the posts ever since.

So here it is:

My final day at the farm, I spent pottering about and made some cucumber pickle with some of the many cucumbers in the garden. It came out tasting rather like Chow Chow. Yum! I also took the time to hunt out my great grandfather's pickle recipes and jot them down, ready to test out next year. 

In the evening we headed up to Hamilton to have dinner with my sister. We went for Mexican - it was more tex-mex really, but I did have some pretty good stuffed chillies and even empanadas. 

Saturday and Sunday I spent in Huntly, famous for its Deka sign and power station. It's also where one of my best friends (one of the few schoolmates I keep in regular contact with) lives and as she just bought a house I really wanted to go visit. We ripped out a whole lot of weeds (mostly mint) and created a vege garden. 

It seems we have the same taste in decor too - owls and red stuff in the kitchen. You know what they say about great minds...

Our Saturday night entertainment was going out to a pub in the wop wops to watch novelty shearing. That's a kind of sheep shearing competition but of the 'shearing-sheep-inside-the-pub-under-the-influence-of-multiple-bottles-of-Waikato-draught-variety'. It was a team event with one person shearing the sheep, the next drinking a handle with a straw, then someone eating a mince pie, and finally another handle drunk with a straw. One women was obviously so talented at shoving a pie down her throat that she ate for a couple of the teams. It was quite a laugh. Only in Huntly.

It was great spending some time with my friend. I think I about cleaned her out of tea though. 

On the Sunday night I headed up to Auckland, booking myself a room at the Rydges, one block from the sky tower. The room was pretty darn nice. The first thing I did (after putting the kettle on) was to run a bath. Then it was out to my friend's house for a Sunday roast. 

Later that evening we visited the casino, as I'd never set foot inside one before. We drank cocktails and people watched, mostly checking out the punters playing roulette. They were laying down some serious (for me) money. A trip to the casino wouldn't have been complete without a spot of gambling. I lost a grand total of $5 on the pokies. I put a few coins in one of those buckets too. Ever since I saw that Friends episode when they go to Vegas, I'd wanted to sit at a pokie machine with a bucket of coins, just once in my life. It was definitely a interesting, and eye opening experience. 

Bidding my friend farewell, I headed back to the hotel and spent a night in front of the telly sitting in a chair seemingly made for knitting, knitting my scarf. Something on the room service menu caught my attention but belly still full of roast, I couldn't order it. I will have a go at making it one night though - macaroni cheese with aged cheddar and truffle oil and panko breadcrumbs. 

The next morning I headed down to the ferry terminal and purchased a day pass for the ferries/bus for only $15. First stop was Devonport. I had one reason for going there. It wasn't for the view (although the view was lovely and the buildings, very cute); it was for the yarn store. 

It was not a wasted trip. The store was gorgeous and packed full of so many Rowan yarns I haven't seen anywhere else. I also came across a couple of bootie patterns with a sheepskin sole and vintage buttons on top. Of course I had to buy everything I needed to make them. I may have bought 2 balls of Rowan cashmere merino too that have almost been turned into my winter fingerless mitts.

Before I spent too much money, I headed back across on the ferry and went for a walk around the Viaduct. Lunch was at the Fish market - fresh fish and chips and a glass of rose. 

I had planned to spend the afternoon at the zoo but rain clouds were threatening so I headed out to the museum instead. I found some gollywogs out there in the childrens' toys exhibit, ancient Peruvian pottery from Paracas/Nazca and got shaken in the volcanic house. 

After a couple of hours I was done and jumped on another (or several buses) to find a yarn store out in One Tree Hill without a map. 

I found Mishi Yarns eventually and it was worth the trek. What a cute shop. It was very much like Holland Road Yarn Company out in Petone - very cosy and with so many gorgeous yarns. The whole shop was organised by ply. Everything was so pretty I had a hard time choosing what to bring home, finally settling on some dehaired angora lace weight and a fingerless mitten pattern. I can't wait to knit it. 

After faffing about with buses I discovered that just around the corner there was a bus route that would take me directly back to the sky tower. I know for next time! I had to catch a bus out to my aunty's house for the night and then the next day flew back to Wellington.

As always, it was much too short. Ah well, not too long until I go on another mini break to discover another part of New Zealand. I'm kind of glad those two yarn stores are so far away too - if I lived near them I would be permanently skint!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Happy Days in May

I'm joining in on a post-a-day project where you write a sentence each day about something that made you happy. You can read more about this here. Instead of posting something every day I've been saving them up to do a post a week for the month of May. So here's week one of happy moments.

1.       I woke up to a knock at my door and a courier delivering some yarn. Four balls of soft, squishy deliciousness.
2.       I cried with laughter watching The Five Year Engagement – the cookie monster/elmo scene was hilarious.
3.       I got my hands dirty weeding the vege patch which made me strangely happy.
4.       I got a letter from my friend who’s doing a 2 year mission in Brisbane. Reading it was just like hearing his voice. That made me really happy!
5.       As always going to the vege market made me happy – all those autumn colours. Also I went out for breakfast with my old flatmate (fried corned beef and poached egg on potato rosti) and managed to rope someone in to finishing my shift for me so I could go home early and sleep. Very happy, despite being sick.
6.       Taking half an hour to enjoy the sunshine at the market in the middle of my work day…best decision.
7.       I started training someone new at work and after day one I think they’ll fit right in with our team – fingers crossed. That made me happy. Also I ran a small training session where we got to make/taste everything on the menu – yum – a happy tummy!

Quince Jelly and Pilgrimages

I finally got around to making a start on quince jelly tonight. These are the quince I bought last weekend. I bought more today that is destined to become quince paste. 

I'm following this recipe. First you cut up the fruit, cover with water and simmer away until soft. I didn't read until afterwards that the fruit didn't need peeling - so 4/5 of the quince were peeled.

Then I had to fashion some sort of contraption to hang the jelly bag off to let the liquid drip through overnight. I raided my yarn stash for some wool as I couldn't find string. It seems to be working. Fingers crossed for no earthquakes tonight as that'd make quite a mess!

Tomorrow I just need to add sugar to whatever liquid ends up in the bowl and simmer it until it becomes jam. Apparently you can also freeze the liquid and turn it into jam at a later date. If only I had more fridge space!

I nipped down to the market to get quince on my lunch break today. It was such a gorgeous day so it was nice to get outside for a bit. I met a lovely lady there who was also buying quince. She asked what I was doing with mine and told me she tried something different last week. She made paste but with 1 quince, 7-8 feijoas, 1 whole lemon squeezed over, 1/2 packet gelatine and sugar. Apparently it tasted amazing. I'm keen to give it a go next week. That is one thing I love about shopping at the market - the human interaction. It was super busy down there today and I love that the whole community gets out there in the sun (or rain or wind, many weekends) to do their shopping - you just don't get that at a supermarket.

I also had a visit at work today from my old flatmate who stayed the weekend and she brought lunch with her. Haloumi salad! It was so yum. One of my Sunday cafe regulars, an elderly chap, was in today too for his latte. He has to be my favourite customer - we're on first name terms and he's always keen for a chat and then brings up his dishes. You can't ask for more than that. 

After work I had a wine at Tasting Room (Saddleback pinot noir, not bad) before watching a film, The Way. The film itself could've been a lot better I think, but still it was a beautiful story about walking the Camino de Santiago/The Way of St James in the north of Spain - something that's definitely on my bucket list. If you haven't heard of the walk, it's an 800km pilgrimage ending where the apostle Saint James was apparently buried. A lot of people do it for religious reasons, others for the adventure, scenery etc. 

It got me thinking about another very popular pilgrimage site I've visited. Now, I didn't walk there (only the last part) and I didn't go for religious reasons, but I did go quite far out of my way (I guess around 20 hours each way-ish) on a bus/taxis to reach this sanctuary on the Colombia/Ecuador border. It was the most beautiful church I've ever seen, cut into a gorge. The path down to the church was lined with thousands of plaques thanking the virgin for miracles people had prayed for there. I spent a few hours there soaking up the peace both inside the church and out in the grounds overlooking it. It was quite a magical place. 

So all in all I had a great day. My cold's died down a lot too (thanks to a 12 hour sleep last night and chicken noodle soup from the Malaysian takeaway). . Time for me to hit the hay now though. I have a busy night planned tomorrow after work - some knitting to finish off, jam to finish and I think a batch of scones may be in order so we have something to eat all this jam on! I hope your weekend was lovely too

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Ethical shopping

I find I'm getting much more picky with the products I buy these days. A couple of years ago the only real thought when buying things was cost and taste. Now it seems there are so many things that you should or shouldn't buy for various reasons - they're unsustainable, bad for the orangutans, full of chemicals or preservatives, the producers don't get a fair price, country of origin...etc, etc.

Some changes I've made in the past year or so have been:

  1. Getting rid of most cleaning products and using mostly vinegar, baking soda and Wendyl's natural cleaners.
  2. Buying most toiletries from Lush - chemical free. 
  3. Buying any make up from The Body Shop. I like that they use Samoan coconuts too. 
  4. Avoiding Cotton Soft/Kiwi Soft toilet paper even though it is the cheapest due to protected rainforest trees being found in the product.
  5. Buying free range eggs - from the market though. The supermarket free range eggs are still too pricey.
  6. Buying fresh produce from the market - it's nice paying half the price, eating in season and sometimes chatting with the growers/sellers (I got 3.5 free cauliflower from a grower last weekend).
  7. Most recently changing dish washing liquid brands after finding out my usual one contains palm oil.
  8. Buying fair trade coffee.
  9. If available, choosing fair trade bananas. There's not often that choice at the market though.
  10. New Zealand grown, not Chinese, garlic.
  11. Making our own jams/relishes and most other things from scratch. That way I know exactly what's gone into it (a lot of sugar, mostly!). 
They've all been small changes and not difficult to make. Two things I'd like to change next is to find out which brand of tuna is most sustainable, and to orangutan proof my shopping trolley using this guide.

I made a few of these decisions after reading something about it in the media (eg. about toilet paper) but to be honest, I found out about most things from my mum. Just this week she told me that some home brand milk powders use Auzzie milk - surely we produce enough of our own milk in NZ. Just as well we only use Anchor anyway. 

What's your primary consideration when choosing products? Are there any products you won't buy or try to always buy that aren't on my list?

Friday, May 4, 2012

On student loans and the May Budget

The May budget brings with it rise in the amount of compulsory student loan repayments. I'm not against this - I'd much rather pay off my loan faster and it's much easier to do if the money's gone before it even appears in my bank account. What I am against is the government taking away the incentive to make extra voluntary repayments. They were paying $100 off for you for every $1000 you voluntarily repaid on top of the 10% of your income you already pay.

Anyway an extra 2% doesn't seem much but when you add it all up I don't even see over a third of my pay - that's 4% kiwisaver, 12% student loan, around 20% tax right? I'd like to put more into kiwisaver but that'd take my take home pay down to 60% of my income. Take an hourly rate that is not much above minimum wage, add an expensive yarn/wine/travel habit and it explains why I'm shivering away in a house without heating :-) Actually I shouldn't complain too much - I could still be in the higher tax bracket and missing nearly half my pay check!

So many of my former schoolmates, colleagues and friends are now living across the ditch and doing really well for themselves. I never saw myself doing it long term - an extended OE yes, moving to Australia permanently, no. As I get older I'm starting to see the sense of it all...

Friday Fantasy

This is the travel destination I've been fantasizing about this week....Lima, Peru. Most people just stop overnight but this crazy city is a mecca for lover of food. I spent about 5 days there but barely scratched the surface of what there is to see. 

Astrid y Gaston, Lima's most famous eatery, yet again made the list of the world's top 50 restaurants. Then in my journey on the internet I stumbled across this article in Cuisine magazine. 

I'm salivating reading that. I'm definitely putting the ingredients for causa on this week's shopping list. 

The other half of me (the really cold half) is fantasizing about travelling here...


Boracay in the Phillipines.

I don't feel the pull to travel Asia that others do but the Phillipines and Palau are two places I would love to see. Someone I met backpacking has been posting lots of photos of this beautiful beach on facebook at the moment and gosh, it is making me more than a little jealous!

Even looking at pictures of this place makes me feel a little warmer. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pantry Basics

I've had a very lazy day. I called in sick to work after being struck down by another awful cold. It feels like I only just got over the last one. So I spent most of the day either sleeping or wiping my nose. By late afternoon though, I was getting really bored, so I took the time to compile a pantry basics list to make doing our shopping a lot easier.

We've gone from doing a weekly shop last year, to a fortnightly one, and recently I've attempted to make it a monthly chore. However I've found myself popping down to the store to pick up things I'd forgotten so hopefully this list will nip that in the bud. We don't tend to plan our meals out in advance, preferring to work with what's in the cupboard and with what vegetables are cheap at the market each week.

Both of us work 6 days a week and often each eat both lunch and dinner at work, so we tend to make basic meals that freeze well. Things like fish pie, luau, pasta bake, lasagne, bolognaise, vegetable crumble, quiche, soups and pizza. Stock standard fare that is easy but it can get a little boring and probably isn't the healthiest. This month I'm going to make more sushi and stir fries.

So here's the list. I'm going to print it out and have it on the fridge so I can circle what we're low on come shopping day.

Do you keep a list like this, write a shopping list or just wing it at the supermarket?

Pantry essentials

Dry Goods
Pasta – lasagne sheets, spaghetti, other
Rolled oats
Milk powder
Rice – brown, white
Easiyo yoghurt sachets
Lentils – brown, red
High grade flour
Standard flour
Kidney beans
Wholemeal flour
1kg block cheese
Corn flour
Baking powder
Fish food
Baking soda
Rabbit food
Cous cous
Dried fruit
Oxygen shell
Stir fry noodles
Icing sugar
Vege market
Bulk bin soup mix
Brown sugar
Vege stock powder
Tinned goods
Caster sugar
Baked beans
Seasonal fruit
Golden syrup
Seasonal veges
Smoked fish
Tomato puree/paste
Custard powder
Coconut cream/milk
Mixed spice
Tomato sauce
Blue cheese
Toilet paper
Soy sauce
Ricotta/cottage cheese
Sweet chilli sauce
Dishwashing liquid
Curry paste
Nori sheets
Wasabi paste
Dish cloths
Rice wine vinegar
Laundry powder
Mixed Herbs
Snaplock bags
Sundried tomatoes
Cayenne pepper
Baking paper
Curry Powder
HP sauce
Tooth paste
Chocolate chips
Tooth brush
Cooking oil
Roll on deodorant
Olive oil
Vogels/other bread
Cotton buds
Balsamic Vinegar
Corn chips
White vinegar
Condensed milk
Council rubbish bags
Malt vinegar
Evaporated milk
Wine vinegar
Dinosaur lollies
English breakfast tea bags
Minced ginger
Herbal tea
Lemon juice

Coffee (for plunger)
Lime juice

Chilli powder

Worchestershire sauce

Oyster sauce