Thursday, January 29, 2009

A bump in the night

It had to happen.
We knew all those stairs would get one of us before long. I’ve had a few near-misses, and the kids have skidded down a few of them here and there, and landed in a heap. But so far, so uninjured.
Until this week.
Missy Moo was having a nightmare and Gallant Husband, who is wrapped around her tiny little finger, decided to bring her downstairs to our bed. When suddenly, he missed a step, and came tumbling down the steepest flight of stairs (yep - the ones above), like so many sacks of sand.
Somehow, he managed to hold on to Missy, who escaped with a scratch on her knee. But because he couldn’t put a hand out to save himself, Husband landed pretty heavily on his hip.
Consequently, he is bruised and battered and incredibly sore. But nothing was broken, and Missy – to her credit – didn’t make a fuss. She was more concerned about Dadda than herself. She’s sweet like that.
It’s funny though, because with my track record, we all expected that I’d be the one to take a tumble first.
Because K. was sore and sorry for himself, it was my turn to cook last night, and for once, the kids didn’t cry when I presented them with a version of a Dadda favourite – Japanese curry. Hey, there is hope for me yet!
And finally, due to popular demand, a return to Wine of the Week. This one’s a natty little number that Husband bought back from a work conference, which apparently involved lots of wine tasting. It went down very nicely with his Sunday roast.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Eight is enough

Australia Day? Auckland Anniversary Day? Pah! The real celebration in our household this week, was C’s eighth birthday.
His day started at 5 am, though to give him credit, he grudgingly gave us another hour’s sleep-in before finally dragging us out of bed to watch him open his presents.
Electronic games seemed the order of the day, though he was well-pleased with a watch, clothes, and a long wished-for computer of his own. (It’s K’s old laptop, but still, it’s for his use now – no more begging to ‘have a turn’ on mine when I’m working. Okay, Facebooking or Twittering!)
Because it was a holiday here too, we spent a pleasant morning at Mission Bay, where there was a cool market, delicious food, and gorgeous views of the regatta across the water.
Then it was home to enjoy some of the birthday presents, while H. and I made a cake according to C’s instructions – strawberry flavoured with vanilla icing. To my horror, it came out pretty flat, but the kids loved it and it tasted okay. But clearly, Nigella Lawson is under no threat. (Mind you, I don’t lounge around the kitchen licking my fingers suggestively and making double entrendes about ordinary food like onions and pudding either. “My empty vessels are ready to be loaded” – she purred the other day. Er, she was talking about potato skins.)
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the not-so-little Dude’s birthday
One of our family traditions, is that the birthday boy or girl gets to choose what we have for dinner. C., with his love of Kiwi seafood, chose fish and chips. We found an excellent little place just down the road from us at the Auckland Fish Market.
It was cheap, cheerful, and served up probably the best snapper and chips we’ve ever tasted. Seafood in NZ seems to get better every time we try it!
The phone ran hot all day with well-wishers from afar, and there were even a few emails.
It was a great, but exhausting day and guess what? We get to do it all again in a few weeks when the Little Princess turns 6. Apparently, that’s when she can officially call herself a ‘Big Girl”.

French crepes for breakfast

Can't talk, drinking

Missy not impressed that it's time to leave

Playing his character on his own computer

Making aliens out of gloop

Time to cut the cake

The proof is in the eating ....

Saturday, January 24, 2009

We saw food - and ate it!

Our first week back home, has flown by.
I was back to work each morning from the home office, while the kids played and watched telly. It mostly worked out fine, although there were a few moments when I had to feed or water them, admire drawings, or occasionally, break up a brawl.
C. actually asked to go to YMCA Vacation Care for a couple of days, and it worked out well. Apart from playing games like basketball and soccer, they went to mini-golf one day, and the highlight, fishing from the old Mangere Bridge on another.
Husband and I had visions of our Little Dude ending up in the drink, but apparently, he was well behaved, and even caught, gutted, and cooked a fish himself. (And ate it. His verdict: Sweet, a bit salty, and kind of fishy. No surprises there then.) He came home exhausted but happy (and just a little bit stinky!)
H. and I took the opportunity for a little quality girl time on those days, having lunch with K. in the city – one of the benefits of living so close to work – and doing some shopping for the birthday boy, who can you believe it, turns 8 on January 26?
Not content with getting a holiday for his birthday each year because it falls on Australia Day, C. was chuffed to discover he’d get one in Auckland too – due to Auckland Anniversary day.
Speaking of which, it’s a weekend of celebration here, and Husband and I took the opportunity to check out the Auckland Seafood Festival, which we’d been looking forward to for weeks. The festival involves much tasting of fresh New Zealand seafood, plus the wines and beers to accompany it. Plus there are cooking demonstrations, and competitions like fish racing, oyster eating, and kina shucking.
We left the kids happy in the expert care of our French babysitter Jeane, who soon had them making and eating French crepes, washing up, and frolicking in the pool.
The Viaduct was full of strolling entertainers, as well as fabulous yachts and other boats in time for Monday’s Auckland Regatta. The sun was shining, the sea was a gorgeous mirror of green, and the atmosphere was great.
However, at the entry to the seafood festival, we found a seething mass of humanity clamouring to be let in. And the queues weren’t moving.
Realising we’d probably spend half our child-free time queuing in the hot sun, and the other half being jostled and elbowed by the crowds, we decided to abandon the festival idea and find a nice, civilised restaurant instead.
This time, we chose Imperial, which was cool, relaxing and friendly, and had great views of the marina. Apparently, it was the world's first Heineken bar, and is also the first and last place in the Viaduct to see the sun each day.
And as it happened, we got our seafood anyway. After a platter of dips and breads (yummy), Husband enjoyed soft shell crab and Mediterranean risotto, which was to die for. My tastebuds were tantalised by nori-tempura fish and prawns, with a ginger cucumber salad. Oh my goodness, I’ve enjoyed a lot of delicious meals in New Zealand, but this was probably the best ever. It was divine! Husband, who ended up sharing my meal, agreed. Washed down with a glass of - what else? - Heineken, it was certainly a meal to remember and I can't wait to go back.
Today, we took the kids to see Bolt, as an early birthday treat for C. We loved the movie, though I had a squirming little girl on my lap for most of it!
It was lunch at the St Luke's foodcourt after that.
Tonight, Husband is doing the traditional Sunday roast, and I'm charged with making a strawberry and banana cake for the birthday boy.
Just another weekend in Auckland!

A glorious Auckland day - if only it was always like this!

Lunch at the Imperial
Breads and dips - mmm
Husband's soft shell crab risotto
Nori-tempura fish, prawns and cucumber and pickled ginger salad - the combination of flavours was divine!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Aussies in ... Australia

The Aussies in Auckland have actually spent most of January OUT of Auckland, after Husband spotted some excellent airfares to Brisbane with Pacific Blue.
Pacific Blue is part of the Virgin Blue group, who we’ve always found fantastic to fly with, so booking the flights was a no-brainer. Virgin staff always seem happier and more helpful than staff at more expensive airlines, and are great with the kids. Once, they took C. up the back of the plane and painted his face, another time they took then baby H. for a walk around the plane while we had our meal.
Pacific Blue staff were just as great, and we made it into Brisbane in time to spend New Year’s Eve with Husband’s family.
The next few days were filled with doing all the things we’ve missed while living in Auckland – eating bugs, demolishing mangoes, over-indulging in Peking Duck at our favourite little restaurant in Darra, playing with pets, and catching up with family and friends, often over a barbecue. The kids knocked themselves out (not literally) playing in friends’ backyards – jumping on trampolines, and playing on swing sets. It made me realise how much they’ve missed having a garden to play in.
Poor hard-working Husband had to fly back to work after a week, but the kids and I stayed on to do the rounds with family, who opened their homes to us (and in some cases, pools and cars as well!) It was fabulous to see them all again.
There were loads of barbecues, and way too much eating and drinking. The kids picked up with their cousins as if they’d never been apart.
But all good things come to an end and we finally boarded the plane back to Auckland.
The kids were pretty good on the flight – I trialled Earplanes, special plugs which are meant to reduce ear discomfort – and they seemed to work. For the first time, H. didn’t cry as we descended into Auckland.
The toughest part was at the airport, where 6 other planes had landed. By then, the kids had had enough, thank you very much, and weren’t impressed at having to queue to get through customs and baggage screening.
Finally, we made it outside where K. was waiting. “Daddy!” the kids screamed and raced towards him where he scooped them up and gave them big hugs.
We knew we were back in Auckland, because, as if on queue, a smiling Asian man took a photo of the reunion. I don’t know why, but Asian people are always grabbing H. and C. for photos, particularly the little princess. Perhaps it is because of her blonde hair?
What was really interesting, was that it felt good to be back. This is only our fifth month in New Zealand, but it was great seeing all the now-familiar sites that were so new to us when we moved here – the volcanos, the green, the parks, and even our local supermarket.
C. summed it up best when he said to Husband: “It’s good to be home Daddy. I even missed you shouting at me!”

Our journey started with a quick bus trip to the airport

Random stranger grabs H. for a photo - so I take one of him!

H. enjoyed Auntie K's pasta so much, she ate the whole lot!

C. is favoured by Nana's notoriously choosy cat, Samantha

Waiting for the train to the Sunshine Coast

Happy cousins enjoy the spa - it's a tough life, but someone has to do it!

More happy cousins

Cubby-house picnic

Breakfast with cousins on Grandma and Pa-pa's deck

Clovelly Estate winery - cheeky!

One of the South Burnett's fabulous wineries

The kids were always well-behaved - not!

Can we take him home with us?

Home at last!

Fire and ice ...

You can take the Brissie girl out of New Zealand, but you can't take NZ out of the girl. Or something like that. What I mean is that al...