Wednesday, July 29, 2009

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehn, goodbye....or Haere rā in Maori

All good things come to an end, and this week our friends flew back to Brisbane.
Luckily, not before we had time to do some more eating, drinking and exploring!
On Sunday night, we walked to a popular local pub called The Drake, for their two-for-one Sunday night feeds.
The Drake apparently used to be waterfront in the old days, before the area was reclaimed for Victoria Park and surrounds.
They don't serve kids' meals, but the waitress immediately offered to split two adult serves of fish and chips between the kids. They tore into their meals without delay and pronounced the food: Lovely. High praise indeed from the picky Rugrats!
The adult boys took the opportunity to sample a selection of NZ beers and ales, while the grown-up girls were far more sedate and stuck to cider.
We shared a couple of platters, which contained mouthwatering morsels like char sui pork belly, filo prawn twisters, and crab bites. All delicious! The only problem was there wasn't enough of it. (We can be greedy like that!)
The following evening, R. took the opportunity to cook a huge roast dinner. Now R. is an extremely talented chef, so this was indeed a treat. I felt guilty, watching a typical Auckland sunset, chatting, and nursing a glass of wine, as R. wielded his magic in the kitchen. And the results were delicious: Pepper and garlic roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, roasted Kumara, potato, peas, corn, and gravy made from scratch. Sigh.
Later, we shared a box of naughty goodies which L. picked up at The Bakeshop in Ponsonby.
Did I mention, L. has regularly tidied and cleaned, and R. has watched the kids while we she and I have gone shopping? I wish they could have moved in and stayed permanently.
And so do the kids.
The day the family left, the kids were miserable, especially H. "My life is boring now I only have C. to play with," she wailed.
Luckily, their distress didn't last too long. Because when it was time to drop them at school, we were met at the gate by shivering teachers. hovering under umbrellas.
Builders (our school is growing every week) had accidentally blown up a mains fuse, and the school had no electricity - meaning no heating, lights or phones.
They were sending home as many students as possible, due to the extreme cold. And because I work from home (damn!) mine could come back with me.
But I honestly couldn't have had it on my conscience to leave them there. It was a typical Auckland morning, freezing and rainy, and we were all shivering by the time we made it back to the car.
An unexpected day off school is like winning the lottery when you're a kid, so a day at home helped ease the loss of their mates - at least a little bit.
And finally, Husband and I celebrated nine years of happily wedded bliss this week. Okay, not all of it was blissful - this is real life after all, and bringing up small humans, not to mention producing them, can be extremly painful. But we are very happy together, and I struck gold the day I met him (even if he does hog the duvet.)
We don't have a babysitter at the moment, so instead of dinner, I met Husband for a delicious seafood lunch in Ponsonby while the kids were at school. (Scampi linguini, caprese salade, and a glass of Marlborough Pinot Gris. Divine.)
Tonight, we enjoyed a quiet night in, but we're hoping to do something fun as a family to celebrate on the weekend.
After all, isn't that what you do if you're a couple of old marrieds?




Beer-tasting at The Drake









Cider












Platters to share















Another Auckland sunset











R. wielding his magic in the kitchen. Even more impressive, as the Sky Tower appears to be growing out of his back!









The kids tuck in


















Mmm ... Yorkshire puddings












Hungry anyone?















Dessert


















Cute bikkies for the kids.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A little bit fruity


What is it about Kiwis and their penchant for rude-shaped fruit, vegies and stones?
Hot on the heels of the penis stone and genital-shaped grapefruit, the latest ‘What The?’ item for sale on TradeMe is this delightfully-shaped Man Orange.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I go shopping, the fruit and vegies are always disappointingly normal. Maybe I’m just shopping in the wrong place?
Never mind, at least the selection of produce available here is always interesting.
The other day, we tried some Apricot Delight Yams. You can also buy Red Yams, and Mellow Yellow yams. I had to look up the Halfords website to find out how to cook them, and roasted them with honey and garlic. Next time, I’d leave out the honey, as they were quite sweet already. They’re crunchy and light, kind of like a savoury apple I guess. Would do well with other vegies as part of a Sunday Roast.
In other news, a neighbourhood cat has taken to visiting us. Since we can’t have pets of our own here, we’re quite okay with it. She walks past, meows, and if we open the door she comes inside and makes herself at home.
Sometimes she’ll stay for a sleep on H’s bed – much to her delight!
She’s never hungry and thirsty so is obviously well cared for – or maybe she has a host of families in the complex that she drops in on.
We don't mind. In the abscence of our own pet, we're quite happy to share!
Kitty visitor makes herself at home or H's bed
And our lounge

Roast yams

This is what they look like when they are raw

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Aussies in Auckland hit the road

Guess what?
After last week’s massive Fiordland earthquake, New Zealand is now closer to Australia!
Yes, the 7.8 magnitude earthquake was the country's largest shake for nearly 80 years, and caused hundreds of years worth of changes in just seconds. The result? Puysegur Point, at the southwest tip of the South Island, is now 300mm closer to Australia.
Te Anau moved 100mm, Bluff moved 30 millimetres, Alexandra, by 20mm, and Dunedin, by 10mm. Christchurch also has believed to have shifted towards Oz, but only slightly.
I wonder if that means a reduction in airfares are in order?
And finally, here are the photos from our recent sightseeing jaunt:


Waiwera, where a Southern Right Whale and her calf have been frolicking recently. Sadly, they weren't there, but it was beautiful anyway.
North Island scenery
C. cut his leg on some barnacles. Yes, it did hurt!

C. dramatically collapses in agony as a rain squall closes in...

Stepping stones at Goat Island Marine Reserve

Simply breathtaking. Goat Island Marine Reserve

No. 18, Leigh Fish and Chips. We thoroughly recommend it! Friendly service, comfy surroundings, excellent food!
They use cholesterol-free oils and use local ingredients wherever possible. The beer batter is made to an old family recipe, and they claim all the food is made with that unique ingredient - love.
Seaside takeaways were never like this...
H. and I shared snapper and chips. Okay, I ate the snapper and she scoffed the chips.

C. loved his fish burger with tartare sauce, washed down with L&P

Meat-lusting Husband chose a classic burger - complete with beef pattie, lettuce, beetroot, gherkin, tomato, onion, sauce and Swiss cheese.

Leigh Wharf. A group of boys showed us a bucket of fish they'd caught and were planning to smoke for dinner. A quirky Kiwi proudly showed us a fish he'd caught right off the wharf, which was almost as big as the boot of his car! Sadly, I wasn't quick enough with the camera!
C. at Matakana waterfall
You never know when there will be a photo opportunity in NZ. Here, the kids are taken by a hand dryer, where you plunge both hands in and they are blasted dry in 10 seconds. It removes 90 per cent of bacteria on the hands too - very Swine Flu Friendly.
Husband treated himself to a practical souvinir at Devonport - gloves made of Possumsilk. Possums may be well-loved in Australia, but in NZ the cute brushtail critters are an introduced pest and cause enormous dmage to native forests and rainforest. Hence, the makers of KORU Possumsilk garments claim that by buying their products, you are also helping to preserve New Zealand's unique and beautiful environment. They are made of 40% Possum, 50 % Merino, and 10% Silk. They are really soft and warm, but I don't know that I could go there. Apparently you can buy Possumsilk hats, gloves, and cardies too.

Brunch at Manuka in Devonport - potato rosti, wilted spinach, poached egg, avocado and tomato. The service was friendly and efficient, and the food was divine.
The kid's menu featured a very popular All Day Breakfast
Let's go over there ... H. holds forth at North Head, Devonport.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sightseeing and shopping in the Near-Nicky-Nude

We’ve enjoyed a busy few days since our friends from Brisbane arrived in Auckland for a holiday.
So far, they’ve taken in Devonport, Matakana, Otara markets (unfortunately pretty empty due to the weather), Goat Island Marine Reserve, Leigh, Omaha, and Pakiri Beach.
As usual, a key part of our sightseeing has involved sampling Kiwi Cuisine.
And so, the highlight of our trip to Devonport, was lunch at Manuka, a lovely restaurant in the main street. The service was faultless and the food was divine.
And on our trip to the coast, we had a fantastic lunch at the fish and chips shop at Leigh. The food was fresh and delicious, and even the kids devoured every scrap. And the service was friendly and efficient.
Unfortunately, both adult boys came down with a crashing case of Man Flu, so our sightseeing was curtailed a little, as we gave them time to rest and recover.
On Saturday afternoon, while our visitors were admiring the views from the Sky Tower, the kids and I went to the park and did some shopping to give K. some peace.
Imagine our surprise when we popped into New World to pick up some grocery essentials like, erm, ice-cream, when we saw several people parading around in the Near-Nicky-Nude!
To help publicise the NZBodyArt awards, a couple of leading body artists had painted ‘clothes’ on the near-naked bodies of several female and mail models. C’s eyes were like saucers. Near-nudity in the shopping aisles? This would never happen at home!
My camera has died – that will happen when you drop it umpteen times – so you’ll have to wait for photos. (Husband is going to help me put the photos into another camera and upload from there. Because I am technologically-challenged.)
But in the meantime, I’ll leave you with the latest funny item to sell on trademe (NZ’s answer to ebay): a penis-shaped stone. Perhaps it’s a gift for the person who has everything?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

We're free!

After nearly a week of quarantine for Oink Oink Flu, we're finally free.
Yes, after days of soup-making and eating, DVD-watching, reading, and messing about on computers, we finally have the all-clear to be out and about.
And just in time!
We were desperately in need of food and drink, not to mention fresh air.
It was bitterly cold when H. and I ventured out in search of provisions, but after her exile, she didn't wind a bit.
"Woo hoo!" she shrieked, as an icy gust of wind almost knocked her over. "I love it!"
I have to admit to feeling similarly elated this morning, when Husband was dispatched to work, and the kids to vacation care. Finally ... peace and quiet.
And to all who have asked, we still don't know if it actually was piggy flu or not. Would you believe it takes up to 10 days to get the results?
But the doctor said it didn't matter, as treatment and instructions to stay home would be the same anyway. I suppose so, but at least we'd know the trauma in the doctor's surgery had been worthwhile!
We worked our way through the contents of our fridge, freezer and pantry. Here, C. enjoys a healthy banana smoothie.

H. made pigs in blankets people
You wrap them up like this...

We knew she was feeling better the morning she woke up and asked for pancakes!

H. made an apple, lollipop-holder. As you do...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Soup and swine flu

We’ve been in Swine Flu Quarantine this week, after H. and I came down with sore throats, fevers, sneezing, headaches and the usual aches and pains.
Poor H. had a really high temperature, so together with all her other symptoms, she qualified to be tested for Oink Oink flu.
She was terrified!
I was swabbed a couple of months ago, but the test was much quicker and easier back then.
Now guidelines have changed, and H. basically had to have her nose swabbed with a really long cotton bud. And it hurt. In fact, I'm surprised you didn't hear her screams from here!
To make things worst, the doctor needed two swabs. And because H. wriggled and squirmed – and managed to give the doctor a good kick in the crotch – she had to have three swabs done (one of them didn’t work).
In the end, she had to be wrapped in a blanket, me holding her on my lap and another staff member helping to hold her down, while the doctor did the test. It was horrible!
The results still aren’t in, but because she’s been tested and the doctor suspected piggy flu, we were ordered home and told to stay there. We’re not to come out until at least 48 hours after her temperature goes back to normal.
H. still had a fever last night, so I’m really hoping it will come down soon and we’ll be allowed out during the weekend.
Luckily, the day before we got sick, I’d taken the kids to the DVD store, and bought a stack of ex-rental, $5 DVDs for the holidays. So at least they’ve been able to watch a few movies they haven't seen before, and we’ve also loosened the computer time restrictions to help keep them occupied.
I’d also already done a massive grocery shop for the week. Which was great, because we’re not even supposed to answer the door if someone knocks, and any deliveries are to be left on the doorstep!
Anyway, as we’ve been ill, I’ve been making restorative soups in a bid to keep us as healthy as possible.
The other day, I made Felicity Moore’s chicken noodle soup from scratch. The kids wouldn’t come near it – they prefer the Continental cup-a-soup variety. But I enjoyed it, and even Husband pronounced it acceptable.
And last night, I tried NotQuiteNigella’s recipe for spinach and white bean soup. It was so quick and easy to make and is delicious. We didn’t have any chorizo in the house, so I used bacon bits instead.
Delicious.

Spotted earlier in the week, before swine flu quarantine ... a seafood display at our local fish and chippery
White bean and spinach soup

Monday, July 6, 2009

Family night out, and a wonderful surprise

Auckland is awesome for foodies, and now the kids are getting older (and just slightly more manageable), we can actually eat out occasionally without it ending in tantrums and tears (and that’s just the adults…)
On Saturday evening, we took a trip up to Ponsonby. C. wanted pizza, H. wanted pasta, and Husband and I yearned for yummy grown-up food.
Luckily, we found GPK, a buzzing Ponsonby restaurant which has apparently been around for years.
While the kids guzzled happily on L&P, Husband and I shared a delicious Nelson Sauvignon Blanc, and actually got to enjoy a conversation.
Best of all, the menu catered for all of us. C. chose bacon and cheese pizza, H. gorged on spaghetti bolognaise (though she pronounced it: “Not as good as Daddy’s”.) Husband devoured his Angus steak, and I inhaled my linguine with seared scallops, asparagus, semi-dried tomato, peppers and basil.
The service was excellent – efficient, without being fussy – and the kids loved their ice-cream sundaes for dessert. (Husband was naughty and enjoyed a sinful steamed fig pudding. Okay, I was naughty too, because I finished the wine).
It was so great to go out as a family to a restaurant which catered to all of us!
Sunday involved a movie, and a couple of visits to the pool, and on Monday – the first official day of the school holidays – Missy Moo had a friend over to play.
Imagine my surprise when I opened the door to let her in, and found a gorgeous gift basket sitting there.
Had K. been overcome by a fit of romance? No, it was a thank-you from NZ celebrities Jay-Jay Feeney and Dom Harvey, whom I’d written about in this week’s New Zealand Women’s Weekly.
Jay-Jay and Dom host The Morning Madhouse at The Edge, New Zealand’s most popular morning radio show. But they also happen to be spectacularly lovely people, and have adopted Jay-Jay’s nephew Seven, because his parents can’t take care of him.
It was a lovely surprise. Over the years, I have interviewed many Aussie, UK, and American celebrities, but I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve been sent a thank-you. From "normal" people, yes, but not from celebs. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Kiwis Rock!

My surprise. Filled with Belgian chocolates, fruit, jelly, meringues and more!
Linguine with seared sea scallops from GPK

Angus sirloin fillet with gratin potatoes, green beans and bearnaise sauce

Mmm, pizza

Mmm ... spag bog

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Do the Hokey Pokey with C...

C. learned to make a New Zealand favourite at school this week – Hokey Pokey.
Kind of like our honeycomb but crisper, Hokey Pokey is an iconic sweet beloved by generations of Kiwi kids.
That afternoon, he rushed home to show off his new skills.
It was really too sweet for Husband and I (and probably the kids, for that matter), but his enthusiasm was infectious. And messy.
When K. got home that night, he took one look at our sweet-spattered kitchen and declared Hokey Pokey Making to be banned!
Speaking of school, the kids are officially on holidays as from this afternoon. They’re looking forward to a couple of weeks of play dates, swims, vacation care, and possibly a few trips and outings. (If they’re good!)
The last day of school each term is always great fun, with discos, games, videos and in C’s case, a shared lunch. I went all out making spaghetti muffins for his class, but predictably, he and H. declared them ‘gross’! (They were actually pretty nice. Honestly).
Anyway, C. went off quite happily with a Tupperware container full of mini pies, sausage rolls and quiches instead.
The kids have a special treat in school holiday time to look forward to: A visit to the school dentist! Yes, the dental van comes to the school during the break, rather than during school time as we’re used to.
C. has already had to go to another school’s dental clinic for an x-ray and a clean in preparation for the visit, and let me just say, I hope the mobile van is a little better equipped.
This one was like something out of my childhood, with daggy, old-fashioned chairs and equipment.
After the dentist scraped away the tarter and cleaned C’s teeth with that foul-tasting toothpaste they use, she gave him a glass to rinse with. He went to spit it out, like we do at the dentist at home …Except there was no sink like we’re used to! As C. looked around wildly, the dentist said calmly: “It’s okay, just drink it.” Eww.
I guess avoiding the dentist is another reason to consider limiting the making of and eating of Hokey Pokey at home!
And I couldn't leave without mentioning the ongoing Queenstown winter festival.
The latest attraction was a race where the participants wore their undies. As you do.
Check it out at http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/2557487/Eyebrows-up-blowup-dolls-down-in-Undy-500

Spotted in Grey Lynn...Are they actually selling S**t, or is the sale just crap? Hokey Pokey - reminds me a bit of the previous photo for some reason...


The Masterchef in action - with Mastereater about to pounce!

He's such a good stirrer ...