Wednesday, April 29, 2009

This post's a bit fruity ...

Kiwis are a quirky lot.

TradeMe is the NZ version of ebay. So far, we've bought a second-hand buggy for the Little Princess, a new bed, and a few other bits and pieces off TradeMe.

But here's something for the person who has everything - a Kiwi-shaped Feijoa!

Here's the sale pitch:

"The ultimate in traditional, natural and non-manufactured KIWIANA! This exceptional and unusual wee feijoa is perfection personified shaped as our own dear little KIWI icon. The adorable little "bird" fell from it's tree in our own back garden on Saturday 25th April - ANZAC Day. The most bizarre, natural phenomenon I've seen personally, especially since all the other feijoas off our tree have been large and regular shaped. But it quick and preserve it for posterity."

And best of all? At the time of blogging, it was going for NZ$12.50. A steal!

Or, the perfect gift for Mother's Day, apparently, is a lovely gift-wrapped box of Weta poo!

The seller trills: "Here are only a FEW reasons YOU should buy this item:

-Perfect gift for Mother's Day! (I bet Mum hasn't got one of these!)

-Totally original! (You don't see Paris Hilton carrying one of these in her bag!)

-Great little treat for miniature plants such as Bonsei Trees (little poo for little plant)

-A rarity! (When was the last time you saw a native weta poo at auction?)

-Take 'would-be insults' as a compliment... Person: "Your gift is a piece if SH*T!"You:"Thanks buddy!"

-Legitimate turd (I witnessed the journey from weta body to dining room table)-100% Biodegradable.-Comes in FREE pink gift box!"

Thankfully, the seller didn't post a photo of the actual poo.
And at last check, this, erm, unique gift, was going at the unbeatable price of NZ$11.50.

Maybe perfume and bath gel isn't such a bad option after all!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The week that was

My first story for New Zealand Woman's Weekly appeared last week.
Unlike the Australian Woman's Weekly, NZWW, as it's affectionately known, is actually a weekly magazine. However, they do have NZ versions of Woman's Day, New Idea, and the Australian Woman's Weekly.
NZWW is a much-loved Kiwi icon, because it features loads of stories on home-grown celebrities as well as real-life people, and of course, the usual mix of features.

My story on Fair Go host Kevin Milne. Kevin has hosted the same television show, Fair Go - a consumer television program which stands up for ripped off battlers -for 25 years! He also recently turned 60. He was really delightful to talk to, and I could have written realms!

In other news, there was great excitement, as Miss H. got her first wobbly tooth!
About a week later, it fell out, much to her delight. C. lost his 7th tooth recently, so they are a gappy pair!

During a wet weeked, H. enjoyed playing with her Baby Alive baby. We were out of nappies, so she improvised with a bowl for a toilet. So as Baby Alive ate and drank, she also pooed and wee'd into the 'toilet' at the same time. Something strangely disturbing about that. Also, should I be worried that the baby's name is "Bear"?

He won't admit it, but C. loves playing with Baby Alive too. Here's proof! (H. was saying: "You're a good father, C, for helping to feed my Baby Bear.")

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Time for the Penguathlon - only in NZ

Another day, another quirky Kiwi story or two.
This week, an Aussie man who runs a motel in New Zealand banned an entire town from staying there.
I am not making this up.
Some 16,000 residents of the Lower Hutt suburb of Wainuiomata have been told to stay away from the Palmerston North Supreme Motor Lodge, after loads of naughty behaviour from visiting sports teams.
Supreme's owner, Steve Donnelly, says sports teams from Wainuiomata have run amok during stays at his hotel, spitting, playing loud music, swearing and generally being unruly.
Not surprisingly, the town’s residents are outraged, with many of them threatening to descend on the motel in droves.
The fact that the owner is an Aussie just ads insult to injury!
And in other Kiwi news, can lollies be offensive?
A visiting Inuit woman from the Nunavut Territory in Canada claims a popular NZ sweet called an Eskimo, is an insult to her people.
The Cadbury/Pascall lollies are an iconic marshmallow treat here. They are pastel-coloured marshmallow sweets shaped like little people, and come in green, blue and yellow.
The traveller says the word Eskimo has racist overtones, and is an insult in her country.
Personally, I think Eskimos – the lollies – are insults to little tummies. They are so sweet even my sugar-loving kids won’t touch them.
Eskimo Pies though? The ice-blocks? They love ‘em!
Speaking of kids, C. lost another tooth the other day, and H. finally has a wobbly one of her own. She’s very proud of it too, and can’t wait for her first visit from the tooth fairy!
Poor C. came down with a head cold this week, but recovered quickly, as kids do. They were off to Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Adventure and Underwater World today with Vacation Care, to watch Penguathlon – where the penguins play soccer, surf, play Frisbee and swing ball, and compete in waddle races. Afterwards, the kids get to play their own penguin games on the ice, and of course, enjoy all the usual Kelly Tarlton attractions. School holidays were never so much when I was girl!
Here they are, all set for a day of fun and frolics

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Out to lunch

One of the great benefits of living in the city, is that I can occasionally meet Husband for lunch.
Eating out sans naughty kiddies is a rare treat, because since our babysitter went back to France, we don't really know anyone well-enough to trust them to look after the kids. And of course, the nearest relative is across the ditch! So that pretty much rules out Date Night for a while.
Luckily, Aucklanders are spoiled for choice when it comes to affordable, but delicious fare, so Husband and I often take the opportunity to meet up in the city for some child-free time while the kids are at school.
My Bento box from a hole-in-the-wall Japanese place, not far from Husband's work.

Teriyaki chicken, fried rice, tempura vegetables, sushi, edaname beans, and salad. There was also a miso soup, which I couldn't fit into the photo. How much for all this? NZ$10. And it was so fresh and delicious. Who would choose junk food, when you can eat this well?

Hungry husband splashed out and pay NZ$15 for his. He had everything I had, plus seafood.
Just delicious.
Oh and the company was pretty good too!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Don't hit me with your rhythm sticks...

Today, we decided to revisit one of our early discoveries after moving to Auckland - the Otara markets.
Billed as the largest Polynesian markets in the world, Otara is an experience like no other.
Every Saturday morning, Auckland's South Pacific and Polynesian community gather in the carpark of the Otara Shopping Centre.
It's really busy with crowds of people eating, drinking and shopping; and the first time we went, so many months ago, the kids had a meltdown. H. doesn't do crowds very well, and C. was cranky because he'd been naughty in the car, so we didn't give him any spending money!
These days, Miss Six is more comfortable with crowds, and they'd both been good so they had money burning holes in their pockets. That meant we spent a pleasant few hours browsing, and taking in the colour.
We picked up some great gear for the kids, including a gorgeous suede jacket for H. for just NZ$15. She looks very cute in it. C. got a warm Ben Ten top - NZ$10. Husband picked up a fab DJ-mixed CD ($10), and even I treated myself to a T-shirt ($5).
There were bargains everywhere we looked! C. had his first taste of bargaining - he got a $3 Ben Ten toy for $2.50, much to his delight.
The food options are among the reasons Otara is so much fun. There are takeaway hangis - Kiwi pork, sweet potato, potato, mussels and other treats for $12. (None of us could come at that at 9 in the morning though!)
Other foods include roast duck, Chinese pork buns, noodles, hot dogs on a stick (like our Dagwood dogs but with a pork sausage inside), whitebait fritters, souvlaki, Maori fried bread, and Puha and brisket (Puhu is a green, a little like watercress).
There are a treasure trove of items on sale - Maori bone and jade carvings, jewellery, lavalavas (like sarongs, worn by men), handwoven baskets and hats, funky T-shirts, fashion contact lenses, and even headstones!
Husband and I stocked up on fresh fruit, vegies and tofu, all at bargain prices. I couldn't even identify some of the products on offer!
The kids favourite purchase - some Polynesian rhthym sticks. C. has already had fun learning new tricks!
Having fun spending her own money

Gorgeous fabrics for sale

Breakfast time...

C. with his rhthym sticks!

Down they go...

And throw!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

An Easter in Auckland

Our first Easter in Auckland was certainly different to those we’ve experienced back home.
For a start, there were no lunches, dinners or catch-ups with family (well apart from our own little family). But there were loads of phone calls and emails, which helped to make up for that.
We decided not to book a break out of town, mainly because we’d been warned that everyone in Auckland would have the same idea, and the traffic would be horrendous. (After being trapped in a traffic jam last Thursday, as thousands of Aucklanders tried to leave the city, I was pleased we’d taken our friends’ advice!)
Instead, we booked a stay at SKYCITY, the Skytower hotel. Our kids are obsessed with the Skytower, so we knew they would love it. We got a great deal, and the bonus was that it was just up the road. So we got a holiday without the trauma of a long drive with antsy kids. They didn’t even get the chance to ask: Are we there yet?
The quick and easy trip meant more time for swimming, movies, and eating and drinking far too much. Also, the novelty of staying in a hotel again, complete with the attractions of room service and Sky television, was certainly a hit!
We were a bit mean and didn’t tell the kids our plans. Instead, we packed a bag in secret, and then told them to grab their teddies because we were going for a long drive. (They hate long drives!)
Imagine their surprise when we turned into the Skytower, just up the road, and stopped the car. They hadn’t even twigged there was a hotel there! H. almost wet herself with excitement when she found out we were staying there!
To be honest, the hotel itself wasn’t posh (there’s another called SKYCITY Grand, which is meant to be more luxurious), but we enjoyed a break from routine, and staying somewhere different took our minds off being away from home.
A bonus was being able to watch people leap off the tower as we relaxed by the outdoor heated pool – okay that’s a lie, the kids relaxed and made instant friends, while I shivered on the deck watching them. They also loved watching orange-clad people walk along the glass edge of the Skytower above us, like so many spiders.
Back home, there has been computer time, DVD time, and a whole lot of cooking. Not to mention chocolate consumption for the kids.
Easter Tuesday meant back to work, which is always tricky when you have kids home on school holidays. I’m lucky that I have a few days organised for them with vacation care, which is where they are today.
The holiday programs are great over here. The kids get to do fun things like ride the ferry, climb mountains, explore caves, visit attractions like underwater world and the zoo, go ice-skating, disco bowling and more.
They love it, and it gives me a chance to get my work done without constant cries of:

“I’m bored”
“Can I play on your computer?”
“Muuuum, C. hurt me/changed the channel/is being mean to me!” (And vice versa).
“It’s not fair you get to play on your computer!” (Yes, that’s what I’m doing. Playing.)
“I’m hungry/thirsty.”
“Can we go to the park/pool/movies?”
“When are you going to be finished?"

Praying for a fluffie and a muffin ...oh look, it worked!

Footy fans!

The buffet breakfast - all you could eat, and C. didn't stop until he was stuffed!

Street art and a safety message. It's to warn pedestrians not to step out into traffic without looking. Believe it or not they do it all the time! In Auckland, 70 per cent of pedestrian accidents are due to this.

Hanging out at the hotel

C. loved watching Sky television from the comfort of his bed

So did H.

My water baby!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Royal Easter Show

“Don’t do it,” said one Aucklander. “It’s crowded and expensive.”
“And you’re guaranteed to come home with a cold,” warned another.
But as newcomers to Auckland, the Rugrats had seen the television ads for the Royal Easter Show, and were keen to experience it for themselves.
With a Pupil Free Day coinciding with opening day, I figured a visit to the show was well worth the risk.
Whether it was because it was day one of the show, or the crappy Auckland weather – rainy one minute, windy the next – the crowds we’d been warned about failed to materialise.
Instead, we were able to make our way around the grounds with ease – too easily, in fact, because we were obvious targets for friendly carnies in the Carnival Area!
The kids had a ball emptying my purse, as they fished for ducks, threw darts, and shot at targets with abandon. They were rewarded with a selection of cheap soft toys, jewellery and cars, which they predictably loved and passed onto me to lug around.
After a stop for yummy donuts (for them) and a surprisingly good coffee (for me), we hit the Cadbury International Magic Show.
Finding front-row seats was a bonus, and the kids were thrilled when the MC announced he would be giving away Cadbury Easter Eggs for everyone after the show.
Billed as an “edge-of-your-seat performance guaranteed to leave you spellbound”, the rather amateurish performance was unintentionally hilarious, due to problems with curtains and the sound system.
Performers were regularly left dancing to non-existent music, and in its place, we could hear mutterings from support crew.
“They opened the curtains too early,” we heard at one stage. “Shit!”
And later: “Have they got any music? Oh for fuck’s sake!”
Think of the children, people. The children!
The illusions were pretty cool though.
At the end of the show, the promised eggs didn’t materialise. Eventually we were told eggs would be available at some stage during the day, outside the hall, and it would be a competition with the eggs as prizes, not giveaways. And despite passing by often throughout the day, we saw no sign of any competition.
Really not good enough Cadbury.
I also thought it was tacky that only the kids whose parents had shelled out for magic wands and swords ($10 each) were invited down to the front of the stage to ‘help’ the performers. Way to make Mumma feel guilty guys!
The ASB Farm Zone was a hit though, with cute piglets, baby lambs, and silly calves to admire. We were told not to pat them, but the kids did get to hold a fluffy chicken each, and milk a fake cow.
A tour of the marketplace was next, before H. dragged us back to the theatre for The Funky Monkeys.
The energy, talent and professionalism of these guys more than made up for the Cadbury show, and they soon had the kids (and oldies) up and moving in the aisles.
C. was thrilled when he won a prize for dancing, and the Monkeys all met their fans, signed autographs, and posed for photos after the show.
The pony ride and dodgem cars were also a hit, before the rain drove us back into the Farm Zone. I ended up shelling out on a few more rides in the Kids Zone, but the kids had fun and at least we stayed dry.
We wanted to stay for Chelsea and her star dogs, the circus, and a few other attractions, but by then we were cold, wet and tired. Plus, I was pretty much out of money (don’t tell my husband!)
Our verdict? It was expensive, but the Royal Easter Show was a fun family day out. And after all, it’s only once a year.
And we didn’t even catch a cold!
I've never been to Sydney's Royal Easter Show, but as a veteran Brisbane Ekka attendee, the comparisons were inevitable.
Here are some differences between the Auckland show, and our own back home:

  • At the Auckland Show, there were no showbags on sale. Unbelievable, but true. The kids were disappointed, but I was secretly pleased not to have to shell out big money for cheap crap.
  • They don't have Dagwood Dogs or Pluto Pups. They do have 'Hot Dogs', which are a battered meat sausage on a stick (not a battered frankfurt). American Hot Dogs are frankfurts in buns.
  • The carnies were really friendly and chatty, especially with the kids. One of them gave Harmonie several extra goes to allow her to get a prize.
  • And it's not Sideshow Alley. It's the Carnival Area.
  • There were no strawberry ice-creams. In fact, I don't think there was any iconic show food like there is at the Ekka.
  • There were wine and art categories, and ubiquitous animal exhibitions, but no cake icing competitions, baking, flowers, fruit and veg, or anything like that.
  • There were no queues for anything (though I'm told that's unusual).
  • There are no fireworks at night
  • Overall, the show was much smaller than we are used to, but on this occasion, was a much more enjoyable experience than the overcrowded, busy Ekka.
  • The main similarity? The expense. It cost us $30 just to get through the gates, and I shudder to think how much we spent on food, drink, rides and games. It was a fun day out though, and I'm glad we checked it out.
Milking a fake cow, with a fake udder. Something mildly disturbing about this one!

Kids Zone

Pony rides

Funkey monkeys

Laughing at their funny antics and songs

Our least favourite part of the day - the traffic as we drove home!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sushi, sheep, spas and skate shoes. Not to mention the Smallblacks!

You know it’s getting close to Easter when day spas start adding chocolate facials to their treatment menu.
The East Day Spa on the ground floor of Auckland’s Skycity Grand Hotel is offering busy Mums time out with one-hour of pampering including a bite of Valrhona chocolate. A snip at NZ$115 a pop. Now that would buy the kids a lot of chocolate!
In other news, the annual Running of the Sheep went awry on the weekend, when about 400 of the 1000 sheep involved panicked and ran amok.
It’s the North Island’s answer to Spain’s Running of the Bulls and clearly was never going to end well.
The terrified animals leapt over barriers, ran down the main street of Te Kuiti, and headed for the hills. One woman was knocked unconscious in the stampede.
With 7000 spectators, authorities were lucky the injury rates weren’t higher. And I wonder just how the poor sheep faired?
Back home, in a reversal of our usual Saturday morning routine, H. enjoyed some Daddy-Daughter shopping time on the weekend, while C. and I trawled up the hill to our local library.
In typical C. style, he was dying of thirst and hunger by the time we got there (even though he’d demolished a bacon, egg and cheese wrap and a cup of tea not long before)! Anyway, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and we dropped into the local sushi bar for an early lunch.
Now, the Little Dude has loved sushi for as long as I can remember as long as it’s one type – smoked salmon. Until New Zealand.
Thanks to the influence of his multicultural mates, C. has come to enjoy the delights of wasabi, picked ginger, soy sauce and salad. He polished off four pieces of salmon and avocado sushi, plus two helpings of tuna and avocado sushi, with all the trimmings.
As for Missy, she was happy when Husband treated her to her very own pair of skate shoes. C. has had some for a while now, and it wasn’t until now that H. felt brave enough to try her own. It’s early days yet, but she’s having fun learning!
I had to work in the afternoon, doing my first story for New Zealand Women’s Weekly, so K. gallantly took the kids off to see Monsters Vs Aliens. A great time was had by all!
Sunday was spent mainly in the park, with a spot of weekend television thrown in for good measure. The kids love Kiwi telly, and I enjoy snuggling up with them on the couch, twittering, reading or doing laundry while they crack up at cartoons and silly segments.
One of their Sunday morning treats is Small Blacks TV, where members of the All Blacks entertain with fitness tips, cooking, and more. Then it’s time for What’s Now TV, which lately has included a hilarious spoof of Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen called Foul’s Kitchen. It’s really silly, and again features NZ celebrities happily sending themselves up.
Despite our differences, I think Aussies and Kiwis share a similar sense of humour. Just another thing to love about NZ.

The local skate park. Not sure whether to be thrilled it's nearby or not..

Gorgeous trees in Victoria Park. C. is cracking himself up!

H., and her minions

More face-painting, this time at Victoria Park Markets (it was a bugger to get off!)

Mmmm, sushi...
See, you add a little bit of wasabi, just like this!

Friday, April 3, 2009

'I can clearly see you're nuts...'

We’ve been blessed by beautiful Autumn weather again here in Auckland.
The leaves are turning gorgeous shades of orange, brown and red, and the sky is blue and crystal clear. I know it’s not going to last forever, so we’re making the most of it while we can.
K’s busy at work, with more travelling coming up. One place he’ll be visiting is Whakatane, which, in the NZ way, is pronounced Fuck-a-tane. As you can imagine, the kids delight in innocently mentioning it as much as possible. There’s also a town called Whakapapa. (Pronounced with the ‘F’ sound rather than ‘Wh’, it sounds like … oh I’m leaving that one alone!) The kids are looking forward to their last few days of school before the Easter holidays. The final day of term has been dubbed Lazy Day, where the students are allowed to bring pillows, blankets and toys, and will spend the day playing games, watching movies, eating popcorn and relaxing. Something tells me that will be one morning I don’t have to nag them to get ready for school!
I’ve been lucky enough to pick up some freelance writing with the much-loved Kiwi magazine, New Zealand Women’s Weekly. I went in to meet the team at their Auckland offices during the week, and they seem like a really nice bunch of people. I’m really looking forward to it – guess I’ll have a reason to throw myself into more Kiwi television now (research purposes of course).
And as the Tastes Of New Zealand experience continues, this week we tried Feijoas for the first time. Also known as pineapple guava, they actually taste a bit like a tart strawberry, and are really lovely.
Unfortunately, not all our Kiwi Cuisine experiences have been positive. New Zealand is home to the world’s first purple sausage. (No I did not make that up!) Imaginatively named named ‘purplos’, they are like cheerios but purple. They’re made from beef, mutton and honey, with a purple casing. They’re supposed to be a perfect snack, and very popular with kids.
Not with my kids though, who pronounced them ‘’disgusting’. And K’s face when he tasted one was priceless. After such a damning verdict, I couldn’t even bring myself to try one.
Luckily, I’m more adventurous when it comes to wine.
The Wine Of The Week isn’t actually a NZ one this time, but with a label like this, how could I refuse?
It’s one of series of Punchline Wines, and comes from South Australia. It was seriously good too. Cheers!

We try Feijoas at last. They're popular in fruit juices and smoothies.

This is what they look like inside.
Purplos. Er ... What The?
Wine of the Week
Their motto is: Life's short. Eat well, drink well, have fun.
Couldn't have put it better myself!

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...