Thursday, November 27, 2008

Murder Burger - and birthdays

So I turned 21 again today (not), and The Princess made sure everyone at school knew about it. Including my real age. Cringe.
I'd already been given my present - a lovely landscape painting Husband saw me admiring at a recent art show. But he also plumped for a fab video/camera which is winging its way to me from Hong Kong as I type this. The fab new thingy will allow me to post videos as well as photos apparently.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
I got loads of lovely homemade cards and cuddles from the kids, and they really tried to be on their best behaviour (read between the lines there. They Tried.)
With my lovely mother-in-law arriving tomorrow, and a big weekend planned, I gallantly informed the family I didn't want to go out for my birthday. 'Cos I figure we'll be doing enough (and spending enough) over the next few days. And having craved really nice fish and chips for, oh, about three months, Husband decided we'd try the local takeaway.
But on the way to the fisho, the Princess spotted Murder Burger. Or as she says it: Murger Burder.
We've spotted this everytime we've driven along Ponsonby Road. (Which is a lot). With the image of a white, red-eyed kitty, Murder Burger always makes the kids crack up.
So we decided to go there instead.
Yes, I know. In the old days, pre kids, I would have preferred champagne and silver service. But Murder Burger, with it's funny slogans and fab, honest food, was divine.
The food is organic and healthy, yet cost just a fraction more than we would have paid at somewhere like KFC.
For that we got:
An organic grilled chicken, cheese and salad burger for me
An organic BBQ beef, bacon. cheese burger for him
Chips and sauce for the Princess
Crumbed chicken tenderloins, with garlic mayo dip for the Dude.
Organic preservative-free cola and juices for drinks.
Missy loved swigging from a bottle! C. tucked into his meal with relish, but refused to be photographed.
Friendly service. From people who spoke English! And delivered exactly what we ordered.
It was lovely.
Their marketing team has a sense of humour that really appeals to me too. For example: Meat will make you happy lonely abandoned Nanna/freelance web designer/unmarried 39 year old feature as some of their ads.
Afterwards, I opened a bottle of bubbly at home, while settling down to watch my fave soap here, Shortland Street. It is absolute crap, with bad storylines, wooden acting, wincing, grimacing, and more ... but I am getting slowly addicted.
The best present of all? The kids have gone to sleep in their own beds, without a fuss.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fancy a Highland Fling?

This weekend, thanks to a tip-off from BigHoneyDog (http://www.bighoneydog.com/) and a Scottish mate of Husband's we checked out Auckland's annual Highland Games.
Organised by the local Scottish population (duh), events included hammer tossing, stone throwing, and Haggis hurling (throwing -not throwing up).








Making friends










Sack races













The kids got to hurl fake Haggis's into gumboots for prizes of Scottish shortbread and chips.









Lunch time!


Forget about Time Out. Where can I get me one of these for home?








Thursday, November 20, 2008

Kitties, parties, and upset tummies - it's all just another week in Auckland

As you know, we miss our pets desperately.
So when we spotted a GORGEOUS kitten being chased by some kids after school the other day, we just had to rescue it. Said kitty was a Bengal Cat – very valuable, smart and friendly – so we knew it wasn’t just a stray, despite the fact that it had no collar and was covered in burrs.
No one knew who it belonged to, so we picked it up and brought it home for safekeeping before it was hit by a car or something.
Living close to the supermarket, I zipped across to pick up some cat food and kitty litter, while K. and the kids got him a drink of water. Poor thing was so hungry and thirsty.
Anyway, the kitty soon made himself at home. Within an hour, he’d cleaned his own fur, was fed, watered, had used his kitty toilet, and was enjoying plenty of love and attention. He followed us around the house, played fetch (told you Bengals are smart), and was basically the perfect houseguest.
It was all too soon before we found his very grateful owner, but we enjoyed having a pet around the place for a few days.
We won’t be rushing to get a permanent pet any time soon though. I’d forgotten how much extra work pets are, and even the kids agree that we’d hate leaving a pet home alone during our forays around New Zealand.
The kids are lucky that there is a resident rabbit at school called Lola May. She belongs to one of the teachers, who brings her to class each day. She’s gorgeous and very well-behaved.
And we’re lucky, that there are loads of pets in our neighbourhood to fuss over.
Speaking of which, it was a sunny Auckland morning today, so we walked to school.
Walking with kids always takes a little longer, since we have to stop to:
Smell the roses (literally)
Make wishes with Father Christmases
Talk to anyone walking a dog
Pat said dog
Pat any cats we come across (and there are quite a few)
Wave to drivers who stop for us
Pick wildflowers
Today was a little different, as, having set the alarm to get a start on work early, I was able to take some time out to attend school assembly.
It was really informal and fun. The kids walk into assembly to the sounds of RESPECT, which they all groove along to. Then during the assembly, the business side of things was interspersed by the whole school breaking into song. This week it was I Can Believe I Can Fly and We’re All In This Together (High School Musical), which sparked plenty of seated dance moves. Even C. got into the spirit of things.
Their enthusiasm was infectious, and I smiled all the way home.
In other news, we recently attended a fab birthday party at an indoor playground here. (Thanks G!)
The kids had a ball. But what was funny was seeing how all the little girls gathered around to try the make-up G. had received as one of her presents. The boys were too busy playing!
And in case you're wondering, here's how the mussels turned out the other night. I’d like to say they were a hit, but I was the only one who ate them – and I ended up with a really upset tummy. I’m not sure if it was the mussels or the rich sauce, but I won’t be repeating the experiment!
And finally, instead of the Wine of the Week, it’s the Sign of the Week (It's clucking good!):

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Date Night

The Husband and I went on a Date last night.
Now, as newcomers to Auckland, that’s a bigger deal than you might think. We’ve had no babysitters on standby (or Nanas for that matter) since we left Australia, so we’ve been sorely in need of some Couple Time.
Yes, kids are great, but every parent knows there are times when it’s nice to travel in a car without fighting and name-calling going on in the back, eat a meal without ending up with half of it on the floor, or have a conversation without being interrupted.
So when a lovely young French girl called J. approached me as we were leaving the pool the other day, I was pretty pleased to see her.
Despite the fact that H. was throwing a massive tantie (I’d ended the swim because she and her brother weren’t listening to me), J. had kindly put her name and number on a card, and asked me to phone her if I needed a babysitter.
Considering the noise and fury that the Small One was producing, I thought she was pretty brave. And bravery should be rewarded.
So last night, J. arrived promptly, just as the kids were tucking into their nachos.
They were thrilled at a new audience for the mischief and mayhem, so we legged it before the novelty wore off!
Despite the fact that the first half-hour or so involved another infamous Auckland traffic jam, we felt more relaxed than we had in ages.
We found a table at a restaurant overlooking gorgeous Mission Bay, and enjoyed a lovely Italian meal. Afterwards, we shared a gelati while walking along the beach.
It was all very romantic.
Except for the part where I tripped while crossing the road and rather unceremoniously landed on my knees. Damn high heels strike again!
Yes, in honour of the occasion, I had worn heels, wedges admittedly, even though my track record wearing them hasn’t been good lately. As always, my dodgy balance, honed since pregnancy, had struck again.
Shaking his head, K. hauled me to my feet as a passing woman said: “Don’t worry, I did the same thing on Saturday night!”
I escaped with a skinned knee and hurt pride, but was otherwise fine.
On our return home, all was quiet and the kids were in bed. I’d like to say they were sleeping peacefully, but hey, you can’t have everything.
The important thing was that the kids were happy, we were happy, and J. thought the kids were really well-behaved.
(Give them time…)
Anyway, now we’ve found a nice babysitter, we’re hoping to have Date Night at least once a month – at least if the budget allows.
But next time I might have to swap the high heels for sensible shoes.
Shudder.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Shopping, Starbucks and Cider


Everyone loved my blog about shopping, so I thought I’d take you to the supermarket with me again this week.
Here’s what a typical shopping visit ends up like here.
Please note the cup holder in the trolley – no need to wrestle coffee and wonky trolleys at the same time in NZ!
No, it's all very civilised, because they thoughtfully provide a place to rest your coffee while you shop.
I actually bought my first Starbucks coffee in Auckland, just so you could see the cup-holder in action.
Yep, there is a Starbucks at our local supermarket, and unlike in Australia, they do a roaring trade. Kiwis love their take-away coffee, and every day we see an army of office workers, parents and even school-kids, clutching their cappucinos and hot chocolates, as they make their way to school and work.
Normally, I prefer to make my own cappucino at home, but this time I splashed out on a dark cherry mocha (a nod to the pending arrival of the Fat Man In Red). There may have even been some coffee in there! It was cherry delicious actually, though at $NZ5.20 for the small one (though they call it Tall!), I won’t be rushing back for more.
Of course, I only went in to pick up a few bottles of soda water and some bread, but I ended up spending $NZ60. So what did that buy me?
Supposedly healthy mixed grain snacks for the kids (though they look suspiciously like chips to me), frozen vegies (a stir-fry mix of broccoli, carrots, baby corn, capsicum and, er, pinapple), bread, wine (oh well, it’s almost the weekend), mini scotch eggs for the kids to try, Manuka-smoked leg ham, cheese, fruit, real eggs, and some fresh green-tipped mussels.
I’ve never cooked them before, but I’m serving them tonight in a creamy wine and garlic sauce (see, I needed the wine to cook with!) A splash for the mussels and a splash for me …
The kids have grown quite adventurous with food since we arrived here, but I might do some pasta too, just in case.
Oh, I grabbed the paper as well, the New Zealand Herald. It’s not quite the Courier Mail, but I like to get it on Friday and the weekends so I know if anything interesting is going to be on.
Finally, the Wine Of The Week moves aside in a one-off tribute to Cider Of The Week. Cider is really popular here, and Husband, in particular, has taken a shine to it.
Out shopping, it’s fairly common to be offered tastes of wine, cider and beer as you browse the aisles, which is how we discovered this one. Apparently it comes from the Hawkes Bay region, and it’s dangerously lovely. K. actually prefers it to beer at the moment. And hey, it contains apples, so it’s got to be good for him.
The label says: “We took your Grandmother, stole her apples, and pinched her recipe. Now we give them back to you without shame!”
Love it!




Monday, November 10, 2008

Our weekend at home (not away)



With our beach weekend cancelled, due to illness, the challenge was to entertain the kids while keeping the Princess quiet. Because she had asthma, that meant no pool or spa, although we did go to the park a few times. (Though keeping her from racing around was a challenge).
On Sunday morning, the kids and I woke early after H. had a coughing fit. Unable to get back to sleep, we got up and put on the DVD we had planned to watch in the car on the way to the beach. It was one the Little Dude had chosen at K-Mart when he was splashing around his pocket money the other day - E. T.
Now, I haven't seen E. T. since it first came out, and I'd forgotten what a great film it is. Despite the relatively old-fashioned special effects, we all enjoyed it. The kids were spellbound. So great to see films (and music and books) which span generations.
After that, H. and I. had a cooking fest. I usually make snacks for their lunchboxes, for several reasons - it's cheaper and healthier than pre-packaged, high sugar, high fat muesli bars and other snacks. But also, because of C's nut allergy, it's really hard finding snacks that are safe (and yummy-enough) for him to eat.
This weekend, it was vanilla cupcakes, chocolate weet-bix slice, and cranberry and date loaf.
K. finished off the weekend by cooking our now-traditional Sunday Roast. This time it was New Zealand lamb, Yorkshire Pudding, gravy, roast vegetables and all the trimmings.

And finally, the Wine Of The Week, goes to an oldie but a goodie (much like E. T.)




Little bubbles of love that dance on your tongue!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Guy Fawkes


Big girl ... drinking.

Hot on the heels of Halloween, along came Guy Fawkes Night.
Yes, Guy Fawkes is another tradition kiwis have taken to with Gusto. You could even buy Fireworks alongside the newspapers and ready-made meals at our local supermarket!
Visions of Fireworks Nights in our Wondai backyard as a little girl (before they were banned) danced in my head. However, Kyle refused to put on a family fireworks display, and with good reason - a family friend lost an eye during a fireworks mishap many years ago.
So we absteined, though the ban didn't mean we missed out entirely. Thanks to our proximity to the park, we were able to watch all sorts of displays as they went off throughout the evening, all from the comfort of home (with all eyes intact).
In other news since our move here, the Little Princess - who previously insisted on having her morning hot chocolate through a plastic lidded cup - has graduated to a grown-up mug. "I'm a big girl now," she says proudly.
And C's reading has progressed in leaps and bounds. Best of all, he's really interested in reading for the first time, and will actually pick up books and try to read them. We're really proud of him.
Sadly, both H. and K. have come down with flu again this week. K. struggled into work, but the little miss is home in the warmth with me. It means I've had to cancel our weekend away to the Coromandel Peninsula, to give them time to recover before another week begins.
Pictures from our neighbourhood


This car is shagadelic baby!



Footpath advertising


With no pets of our own, we make do with furry friends around the neighbourhood.
This one lives near school and regularly comes out for a pat and a fuss.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween mayhem!

H. with her haul ... She was a dinosaur witch for trick or treat night.

Our first Halloween was definitely a success.
Following the kids' dress-up day at school, we went trick or treating with a few of the neighbourhood kids that evening.
For once, Husband’s plane was early rather than late (Qantas, I may have misjudged you). The Friday night traffic was kind too, and so he arrived home, to squeals of delight, just in time to join us.
Never having celebrated Halloween before, I really wasn’t sure how many of the neighbours would participate and kept reminding the kids not to get their hopes up.
But the kids ended up with a huge haul of lollies, lollipops, soft-drink, muffins, biscuits and even money! Yes, a couple of people who had forgotten insisted on giving our little horrors money for their troubles. I was amazed at their generosity!
Wanting to do our part, Kyle quickly doubled back to ensure there were no disappointed ghouls and ghosts on our doorstep this year, while I continued on with the kids.
We were careful to ration how much sugar they ate, but even so, they bounced off the walls for a good hour after bedtime.
The next day we went to a Halloween party in the park at Essex Reserve. A pity they didn’t notice that some wag had removed an E and an S before the hoardes of kids arrived!


Sunday loomed warm and sunny, in time for the Auckland Marathon, which I ran in a personal best time of 2 hours, 45 minutes.
Oh, okay, I didn’t!

But I did take the kids across to the park to see the finish line and all the associated after-partying.
Finally, in the interests of keeping you all informed, you understand, and not because I particularly enjoy imbibing, I tried another New Zealand wine this week.
This one was K’s choice, and a cheeky little number it was too – just like him come to think of it!




(Crikey - it looks like I had a couple when I took this. I didn't - it was days later I swear!)