Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Fancy A Perky Nana?

One of the fun parts of living in a new country, is sampling all the different food and drinks on offer. And we’re certainly doing plenty of that in New Zealand!
I’ve blogged before about the delights – or otherwise – of Chicken In A Can, Hangi To Go, ready-made frozen mussel dinners, and kumara chips.
Recently, we’ve been enjoying the flood of seasonal fruit and vegies available at the supermarket.
There seems to be an emphasis on enjoying produce when it’s in season over here – none of that apples-stored-for-a-year-before-they-even-reach-the-shelves business that can go on back home. And the great thing is that the products go down in price when there are plenty of them available.
So lately I’ve been buying gourmet vine-ripened truss tomatos for NZ$2 a kg, and blueberries for NZ$2 a punnet. We’ve tried red pears, coconut ice peaches, and delightfully-named apples, like Rose, and Beauty.
And now there are these: Flattos!
A Flatto is like a squashed-looking peach (H. says they look like little bums! Actually, they are rather bottom-like! In looks, not taste. Not that I've eaten too many before. Flattos, not bums.)
Conveniently, Flattos are grown specially to fit into lunchboxes. Even better, they can be eaten crunchy, like an apple; or ripe, when they taste just like a normal peach. But with less acid. Apparently.
Then there are the drinks. Sparkling pomegranite drink, apple and feijoa juice (feijoa is pineapple guava), feijoa beer (with the goodness of a feijoa in every bottle), and of course, all the fabulous wines.
And finally, the kids’ favourites: Lollies, which they’ve steadily been munching their way through since we moved here. All for research purposes of course! Favourites include candy mushrooms, jelly alligators, and of course, the Perky Nana.
Being chocolate-coated banana-flavoured chew bars, they actually are meant to be pronounced ‘Nana’ as in Banana, but we pronounce them ‘Nana’ as in the grandmotherly variety.
Yep, nothing like a Perky Nana!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Chicks don't fart - and other New Zealand advertising campaigns

I love Kiwi humour.
Take, for example, this advertising billboard for Tui, an iconic beer ...

Then there's Ponsonby's Murder Burger, whose quirky menu and advertising really appeals to my sense of humour. A demented, red-eyed kitty is the mascot, and the staff wear T-shirts which say: Meat is Murder.
Here's an example of their advertising :

And here's their help wanted ad, which strangely enough, attracted hundreds of applicants!

And finally, it's not quite advertising, but here is a poster at a NZ hospital, aiming to encourage staff to take the stairs for exercise. Except the staff have dubbed it: Grope and go. For obvious reasons!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Just what the doctor ordered!

As predicted, the Back To School Bash actually turned out to be a fun night.
It turned out to be a chance to chat informally to teachers, and meet the kids’ friends’ parents, while the kids played sport, swam, and raced around excitedly.
The school committee certainly knows how to put on fundraising evenings in style. There are no overcooked sausages in bread, and milky cups of tea here (not that there’s anything wrong with that…)
The bar offered Pinot Gris, Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, three decent reds, with Heineken for the beer lovers. There was free cordial and ice-blocks for the kids, and organic gelati on sale for dessert.
The BBQ consisted of huge American-style hot dogs, gourmet sausages, or falafal and salad wraps … plus that NZ favourite, mussels. BBQ, garlic, spicy and plain, all in paper cups, ready to go, with a slice of lemon on top. As you can guess, I steered clear of those, but they seemed to go down a treat with everyone else.
Unfortunately, Auckland being Auckland, it did rain, and we couldn’t help but all get a little bit wet.
So in the morning, when Missy awoke with streaming nose, red eyes, aching bones, and a sore ‘neck’ (she meant throat), was I surprised? Of course not.
So our night out resulted in two days in bed (mostly) for H. and a busy couple of days for me, as I continued to try to work from home. Of course, it had to be when I had a story due too!
In other news, this morning C. visited an eye specialist.
Having previously complained bitterly about New Zealand’s strange health system (which I still don’t fully understand), I think it’s only fair to report a really positive experience.
When C. last visited our GP for asthma, I got the doctor to check out his right eye, which has had an inflammatory eye growth in it, off and on for years.
We had seen a specialist back in Australia, which involved:
- Ringing all the paediatric eye specialists in Brisbane before finding the only one who would take on new patients
- Waiting three months for our appointment
- Spending nearly a whole school day at the clinic having various tests, while the doctor saw other patients in-between
- In the end the doctor admitted she didn't know what it was, and kept us coming back every six months for more of the same.
Here, our GP wrote a name and number on a piece of paper and I assumed he meant I should give the specialist a ring to set up an appointment.
In my usual haphazard way, I hadn’t gotten around to phoning, because in all honesty, I figured we’d just see C’s usual specialist when we returned home for a holiday in May.
So imagine my surprise when this week, the specialist’s surgery phoned me (they phoned ME!) to say they had a spot for C. in three days. Three days! I was rapt.
So this morning, sick Missy toddled off to Daddy’s office for a couple of hours, while I took C. for his appointment. Thank Goodness for Husband's Family-Friendly workplace - one of the reasons he took the job.
At the clinic, there was plenty of (free) parking, and the waiting room was packed with toys. I almost fainted when they were on time!
Within 90 minutes, we’d seen the very friendly doctor, had the tests done which took all day back home, and been given a diagnosis. (Long story short: C’s eyesight isn’t at risk, and we’ll be keeping an eye on it. Sorry – couldn’t resist!)
Now, according to NZ Health’s website, a specialist visit is free when referred by a doctor. For some reason I was charged NZ$180. (It was like when I took Miss H. to the GP, before her 6th birthday. Kids under the age of 5 are supposed to be free, but I still had to cough up NZ$38. So obviously there's a trick I've yet to find out). But by Australian standards, I think the fee was perfectly reasonable, especially since the rest of the visit was relatively painless.
And about the very expensive prescriptions: The price mysteriously dropped after we’d been with the same doctor for three months. Some of the medicines are still more expensive than back home, especially those sold over the counter – but get this, the repeats are free! And the pharmacist will hang onto your prescription for you, so you only have to phone when you need it and go in and pick it up. It’s awesome!
So I have to give kudos where it’s deserved, and say I’m getting more impressed with the NZ health system as time goes by. Even though I still don’t really get how it works!

Mussels to go? I don't think so!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another month, another birthday ....

It’s been a busy few weeks, so I’ve been a bit slack about blogging.
With husband away, and school in full swing, non-work-related computer time has been a bit of a scarce commodity.
Thankfully, K. arrived homely safely on Sunday, after the kids and I had spent a fun day at the Auckland Museum. I’ll blog about that later because in the meantime …
The Little Princess turned 6 yesterday!
The morning started with presents, including some which had travelled all the way from Australia – thanks everyone.
After breakfast of sausages, beans and toast – Missy Moo loves sausages – it was time for school.
She skipped along happily, while I trailed behind, loaded down as I was with a huge pink lolly cake, just as requested, to share with her class.
In the afternoon, a special friend from school came home with her for afternoon birthday tea and a play. There was cupcake decorating, a tea party, and plenty of playing with dollies and ponies – much to C’s disgust (though he quite enjoyed the cupcakes!)
One of our family traditions is for the birthday girl or boy to choose what they would like to have for dinner. Last month, the Little Dude wanted fish and chips – and we had them, fresh off the boat, at the Auckland Fish Market. My choice, last year, was a very memorable meal at Murder Burger, a Ponsonby icon.
H. has more expensive tastes though (hmm, wonder who she takes after?), and chose a "grown-up" restaurant on the Viaduct. The food and view were wonderful – we watched the sun slowly setting over the ocean – but the kids were bored in minutes as they waited for their meals. K. and I found ourselves counting to 10 on more than one occasion as they squabbled, squirmed, and slurped their drinks.
But we all enjoyed our dinner – braised lamb shanks for K., tiger prawn and scallop fettucine for me, terahiki fish goujons and chips for C, and a ham and pineapple pizza – minus the ham – for Missy.
It was back to reality today though, with school again, and a Back To School Bash tonight for the whole family. Apparently, it’s something the school does every year to give parents, teachers, and kids the chance to meet and greet informally.
There will be a fundraising BBQ, bar (!), and sports and swimming for the kids.
Hmm, something tells me we may need the bar after all that!
Only kidding. The teachers are wonderful and the parents we've met are lovely too. Should be fun - as long as it doesn't rain!

Unwrapping presents ..."Look, it's real money Mumma!"

A DS game!

The cake. Doesn't look too pink here, but trust me, it was!

Making cupcakes. Better than baking brownies I guess!

C. made a Clown Cupcake
The proof is in the eating ...
(Mind you, that looks painful!)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Waitangi weekend

It's official - I'm no longer GPS-dependant!
While I still need our trusty sat-nav system to tell me how to get to anywhere new, I am proud to report that I can now find my way to the post office, shops, airport, and our favourite shopping centre without using the GPS.
And on Friday, a public holiday for Waitangi Day here in New Zealand, I took the kids over the bridge to Takapuna for lunch and the beach ... again without needing to be told how to get there.
How awesome is that? (Hey, it's only taken 5 1/2 months!)
Waitangi Day marks the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand's founding document, and like Australia's national day, is often celebrated on the beach.
When in Rome (or Auckland), and all that, so we decided to do the same. Thankfully, it was cooller on the beach than at home, thanks to sea breezes and massive trees along the seafront.
Yes, it's been hot here in Auckland - okay not by Queensland standards, but pretty stifling, particularly as our townhouse has no ceiling fans, let alone an air-conditioner.
To escape the heat, on Saturday we went to our favourite shopping centre, St Luke's, to see Hotel For Dogs. Didn't the kids laugh?! And I confess - I'm obviously still a bit Tired and Emotional because I ended up crying in the movie - twice. The kids laughed even harder at that, and C. gleefully annouced to the whole cinema "Hey everyone, my Mum's crying!"
Later we joined some friends at One Tree Hill for a late afternoon picnic.
One Tree Hill is one of Auckland's 48 volcanic peaks, and offers a huge expanse of green parkland and shady trees to picnic under.
The kids loved seeing the cows and sheep grazing nearby, and spent a couple of happy hours climbing trees, throwing balls around, and climbing the hill before rolling back down again.
It was a gorgeous way to spend an afternoon and I can't wait to take K. there.
With Husband away, I didn't attempt the famous Sunday Roast on the weekend, however the kids have been unusually complementary about my cooking this time ... mainly simple meals like bangers and mash, chicken kiev and vegies, and macaroni cheese (meals that even I can't mess up - much!)
Parenting is still tough when K. is away, but maybe there is hope for me yet!

H. on Takapuna Beach, with Rangitoto Island (another volcano) in the background.

My little monkey man

A "fairy home" in the tree

The kids thought this looked like an elephant. Hmm, any other thoughts?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Back to school

Sunday dawned, and with it a return to sole parenting as Husband took flight for work.
While he flew into a cyclone zone, our house quickly turned into one too.
You see, the Little Dude has taken on the mantle of being Man Of The House while Daddy is away very seriously.
So in addition to the usual household detritus of toys, colouring books, paints and discarded food wrappers littering our home, there have been nails and screws and bits of wood as C. put together not one, but two bookshelves for me
Awesome! Now if only I could get him to tidy his room…
In other news, the kids finally went back to school today. Yes, it’s been a long summer holiday, and while we’ve had fun, I think we’re all ready to get back into the routine of school again.
And unlike so many of our Aussie friends, who have apparently spent the past few weeks up to their elbows in contact and name tags, our relaxed Kiwi school staff have told us not to worry about it until this week, when we can pick up everything we need in a tidy little box. No contact or coverings required. Genius!
Their first day back started with a Powhiri, a traditional Maori welcoming ceremony for all the new students, teachers and parents. Many of the women wore colorful skirts or sarongs, and we all took our shoes off for the duration of the ceremony. Afterwards, parents, teachers and school officials greeted each other with a hongi - the rubbing of noses or a Maori kiss.
When it was time for me to go, there were a few tears from the Little Princess, who desperately wanted to come too. But one of her teachers took her by the hand and when I looked back to check, she was skipping alongside her.
Personally, I’ve had the hardest week I think since we moved here. I don’t know if it’s that the excitement of birthdays, Christmas, New Year, and our holiday in Oz has worn off, or a combination of all of them, but I’ve felt a bit flat. Of course, it doesn’t help that husband is away for a few weeks, and my arthritis has obligingly flared up.
It's times like these that the negatives of moving overseas really hits home. With our closest family across the ditch in Australia, together with a network of friends and neighbours, there's really no one I can call on if I need a break, especially when K. is away.
Luckily, we have a long weekend coming up with Waitangi Day on Friday, and Kyle’s boss’s family have asked the kids and I over to their place for fish and chips on Saturday. The rug rats are also twisting my arm to take them to the museum or the movies - or both! Hmm, that will depend if they sleep in their own beds tonight!
Anyway, hopefully I'll soon have booted the blues and be back to normal (well as normal as I'm going to get anyway!)
Can't talk, building. Missy lends a hand.
And below, the finished product (As you can see it was hot work - shirt came off)
A healthy breakfast for the big Grade 2 girl - though: 'It's not as good as Dadda's' she pronounced mournfully.
"Mum, do I really have to stay?"

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...