Sunday, November 29, 2009

Shopping - Samoan style!

Let's face it: You don't go to Samoa to shop. Or to use the Internet. Or check emails. Which is just as well, because apart from a zillion different lava lavas, there isn't a lot to buy. And the internet doesn't appear to work for most of the time.
Which is actually great, because with the time and money you save, you can enjoy a few cocktails.
Anyway, I still did my bit to support the local economy, and couldn't resist a little retail therapy.
A bar in Apia
One of the markets ... The stalls basically all sold the same things for about the same prices. Die-hard bargain-hunters can bargain a little, but not too much, as everything is cheap to start with. Usually, they will give a discount if you buy a few things from them, but I couldn't bring myself to try it on. It must be a hard way to make a dollar. Or Tala. (We are in Samoa after all). One local, a tour guide, told us his weekly wage was 100 Tala, and a decent bag of rice costs about the same - so you can work out how hard many Samoans have to work to support their families.

Some interesting flavours of crisps/chips.

In the deodorant aisle of a supermarket

More chippies (Octopus and cuttlefish flavour. Yummy)
Or perhaps you'd prefer to snack on Mr Bean?

Missy searching for an elusive, child-sized lava-lava. (We didn't find one. Sizes and styles of everything were limited. At one supermarket, they sold not one diet softdrink in the entire store. Husband must have diet, since he's diabetic.)

Market shopping. The in-season fruits were divine! And cheap!

Local transport. Jump in the back of a mate's car ...

Or grab a bus. Open-air (air-conditioned, and the locals sit on each other's laps to make room for spoiled tourists. Though one man told us he preferred the busy buses, so he could get pretty girls to sit on his lap!)

A must-purchase - Vailima beer. $5.80 tala for 750 ml in the supermarket; $12 in the resort.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Paradise found!

I was amazed at how well I coped without social media in Samoa.
Okay, so the internet was slow and unreliable at best ... we had to go into Apia at one stage to get an emailed document printed out because we couldn't do it at our hotel!
Honestly, I thought I'd get twitchy fingers not being to update regularly. Instead, I found it easy to chill out - reading books by the pool, treating myself to a massage, walking the beach, feeding fish with the kids, and just being in the moment.

Rush hour at Aggie Grey's Lagoon Beach Resort and Spa ... we're off for drinks and the evening torch ceremony, then dinner.

Catching crabs. No really!

Miss 6 loved the tropical attire

Male bonding

Chilling out and wondering what to do next. Pool? Kid's Club? Feeding the fish? It's a tough life!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Aussies in ... Samoa

If I've been a bit slack about blogging lately, it's because, well, I've been slack. In holiday in fact, in beautiful Samoa!
We had an awesome holiday, and created loads of amazing family memories. The people were so friendly and gracious, and I've become rather used to being treated like a Princess, I must say.
Who is going to bring me cocktails, and give me coconut milk massages now?
It was an unwelcome return to reality this morning, when Husband and ruggies both forgot my birthday. Hmm ... I'll let them off this time, but only because we only arrived home last night and after all, I have enjoyed plenty of treats over the past couple of weeks.
More posts and details to come ... and I warn you, I will bore you to tears with happy holiday snaps.
But in the meantime, here are a few images to get you started...

Just another morning in paradise...

Mmm ... young coconut milk. Freshly husked and opened with the bare hands of a handsome young warrior, Samoa Joe
The water was deliciously warm - and full of fish and other marine life. Plus a few humans!

Missy relaxing after a hard day, er, relaxing

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A taste of France

When Nana came to stay recently we asked her if she had any requests, in regard to sightseeing. Her immediate reply, after reading my blogs (Tourism New Zealand, you really should start kicking back...) was to visit a few markets I've written about.
So off we went to one of the nicest markets we've come across in Auckland - La Cigale in Parnell.. Even though it was probably the least friendly. At least on our first visit.
On our first visit, we couldn't get near the cheese-tasting area, and a nasty man whipped a chair out from beneath Husband's bottom as he was about to sit down. People pushed in and rushed past, and almost knocked over the kids who got rather upset.
But still - the food and produce - was lovely.
So we tried again.
This time we went early, and the market was a lovely experience. People were friendly and laid-back. Tastings were available and the kids got loads of attention, much to their pleasure. Many stall-holders had brought their very friendly dogs, and there was room for everyone. (Except at the cheese-tasting stall.)
We enjoyed a few nice coffees, breakfast, and picked up plenty of produce to enjoy back home.
Ham on the bone ... sandwich, anyone?
You can buy pretty much anything here!
Handsome young man

Missy enjoys her first chocolate eclair.


Mmm ... eclairs
Husband's sausage with emmental cheese in a fresh baguette

Mr 8 loves raclette and potatoes!

Mmm...raclette

Sweets anyone?
Paella being prepared

Yummy asparagus
Mr 8 - loving the salmon and tuna

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Karma anyone?

New Zealanders can be funny buggers.
One of my favourite things is trawling through www.trademe.co.nz - kind of like a Kiwi version of ebay, but more human.
Regular readers will remember my delight in seeing kiwi-shaped feijoas and penis-shaped oranges for sale - and actually being sold too!
Which sparked a frenzied, but short-lived obsession for fruit and vegie fondling, as I tried vainly to find my own money-making unusual-shaped produce.
Anyway, this week, an enterprizing Kiwi dude is selling ... karma. And not just any karma, but Good Karma! (You can never have too much Good Karma).
The owner claims he's been secretly storing up karma over the past two years by doing good deeds. Things like paying for lunch with friends (sometimes even with his own credit card), and helping old ladies across the road (whether they want to go or not!)
Anyway, this extremely virtuous citizen has so much Good Karma, he has no need for the excess and is offering it to cashed-up peeps in need. The starting bid is NZ$20. Go here to check it out.
The Good Karma comes with an original letter of authenticity.
You've got to love Kiwi Ingenuitity!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Unwanted visitors!

As Husband guest-posted recently, something always happens when he is away for work.
Sometimes, it's myself or the kids getting sick. Another time, I broke my thumb and dislocated a finger. More recently, we sold our house!
On this occasion, some @#$% losers decided to break into our home in Auckland.
It's okay. We're fine.
This place is like Fort Knox once it's locked up - and those who know me, know I am anal about always keeping the doors locked.
But still it really shook up Miss 6 - okay, and me!
I'd put the kids to bed - Mr 8 upstairs, Miss 6 downstairs, and myself on the middle floor, watching telly, checking out Facebook updates, and making sure neither of them were sneaking out of their rooms.
Mr 8 - thankfully - was asleep, when Miss 6 came up and told me someone was trying to get in and yelling about drugs and alcohol.
"Don't be silly," I began, thinking she'd had a bad dream or was wanting some extra Mummy time.
But then I looked into those wide, frightened eyes and realised she was serious.
Sure enough, as I walked downstairs, the door handle was moving wildly, and someone was thumping on the door. (We don't have a doorbell and if you are upstairs with tv/music/cooking blaring, you can't hear when someone is at the door).
They were opening the letterbox and shouting things like: "Let us in! Come on, we've got the drugs, everything you want."
My immediate reaction was to tell them to bug off. In slightly ruder language.
They just laughed and continued yelling and thumping.
I told them I would call the cops, and they continued opening the letterbox and shouting. And mocked me. "She's calling the cops .... hahahaha!" So I did.
While I was on the phone, of course the would-be visitors scampered off. Real big men they were to scare a mum and six-year-old, who I must say, was being very brave.
Anyway, 111 (it's 111 here, not 000 or 911 or 999), were great. I told them the thugs had left, and expected that would be the end of it.
I crawled into bed to comfort Miss 6 who was now sobbing quietly. She had almost gone to sleep when the thumping on the door resumed.
With a sinking heart, I went downstairs and asked who was there.
"Police!" came a manly voice.
"Is it really?" I asked, peering through the curtains to see a police car right outside.
But it really was.
Despite the danger passing, two officers had come by to investigate the call. I estimate it was within about 20 minutes of my initial phone call to 111.
How awesome was that?
They were kind, polite, and thorough. They checked that everyone in the household was safe, and reassured Miss 6 that everything was okay.
They promised they would hang around for a while and patrol the area.
That they could even take the time to respond - and quickly - to my phone call was wonderful. That they could immediately calm a nervous six-year-old - okay and her Mum - was also nice.
To know they would keep an eye on the place? Awesome.
Some of my friends are cops, and I know just who and what they have to deal with sometimes.
It was a reminder of how lucky we are as a community to have brave guys and girls looking out for us like this.
For the record? We are all okay, nothing stolen or damaged.
And for that, I know we are lucky!
Miss 6 was still teary this morning, but she's also proud of how brave she was. Mr 8, I think, is annoyed he missed out on all the excitement. (Apparently, he would have kicked their butts).
The building manager managed to find some footage of the losers on the security camera, and we are pretty sure they were either high or drunk - or both - and had mistaken our door for someone else's.
It's reassuring to know it was probably a case of mistaken identity that brought them to our door.
But rest assured, tonight I will be locking all doors and checking them twice - and giving the kids an extra kiss as well!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

We're famous (well kind of)!

Here it is... the story in last weekend's Canvas magazine, in the New Zealand Herald.
And if you're interested, you can read it online here.
The photo is courtesy of another Mummy Blogger featured in the story, Faery Sarah whose blog is www.bobbyrobin.co.nz
Meanwhile, back in Auckland, it's been a busy time with Nana visiting from Brisbane.
The kids have enjoyed having some special Nana time, and catching up on cuddles.
Each day, in-between finishing work and school run time, G. and I usually hit the shops.
We found a really cool fashion store on Manukau Road, Epsom, called T'da which sells, and I quote, "fabulous clothes for curvaceous women".
I was loving the size guide:

In nearby Mt Eden, we found Antique Alley, an Aladdin's Cave of old jewellery, chinaware, coins, and pretty much anything you could think of. Seriously, I was scared to move lest I send the whole lot tumbling down in the style of a Russian forklift driver! And G. was thrilled to be able to pick up a few bargains to add to her collection back home.

The shelves were packed!

In fact, pretty much all available space was taken up with beautiful old things.

Another antique shop, this time Yvonne Sanders Antiques, back on Maukau Road, Epsom.
Nana found a few more beautiful pieces here too.
Does anyone else have any fabulous shops they want to share?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The hills are alive ...

The hills around Auckland are alive with the sound of ... fireworks!
Yes, today is Guy Fawkes Day! Technically, that's celebrated tonight, with fireworks and friendly gatherings. In Auckland, however, Guy Fawkes seem to involve fireworks being let off at random times and places for days - and nights -beforehand.
Also, there are dudes selling fireworks from their sheds, garages and even the back of their cars.
Even weirder, you can buy them at the supermarket, along with other essential home items, like eggs, bread and milk. What The?
And today, to my great delight, quite a few bangers went off from a guy's van, just up the road from the post office. A few of them shot, smoking, out into the middle of the road.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: There is always something happening in Auckland!
Speaking of which, the other day a young woman walked up Queens Street, dressed in black and - wearing her hot pink undies over the top of her clothes. If only I'd had my camera!

Fancy a few fireworks with your food? (Apologies for my poor photography skills. That is why I am a journalist and not a photographer)!


Delights of the World anyone?
Seriously, I do pity the animals though, and parents of small children. Keep them safe tonight!

Monday, November 2, 2009

I want candy!

It's been even busier than usual for the Aussies in Auckland.
First, Husband's Mum arrived for a visit from sunny Queensland. The kids got an early mark off school so they could pick her up from the airport, much to their pleasure.
We spent a very pleasant weekend, eating and drinking far too much! The kids have also enjoyed showing off their swimming, reading, and gymnastics skills.
Of course, Saturday night was Halloween, and after experiencing their first in Auckland last year, our own little monsters were raring to go!
Later, we ended up at our local pub, The Drake, for dinner. It's a relaxed kind of place, and best of all, it's within walking distance (although poor Nana regretted not wearing a jacket!)
Finally, Miss 6 and I were greeted like minor celebrities when we arrived at school on Monday.
Why? I'd been featured in a story about Mummy Bloggers in the New Zealand Herald's Canvas magazine over the weekend, and H. was in the photo with me. (Mr 8 could have been too, but the publicity-shy one declined).
As a journalist, it's not a big deal for me to feature in the media (after all, if I expect other people to do it, I have to be prepared to join in too). But it was cute to see how impressed H.'s little friends were.
Look out! There's another media diva in the making!

Missy eating chips and aioli at The Drake

My pan seared salmon with asparagus and capers

C. happy with his adult portion of gunard and chips - no kids' meals for him!

Husband's cottage pie and chips - the ultimate in comfort food!

A platter of yummies to share

Nana gets some kiddie love!

The kids knocked high and low in their search for Halloween lollies.

Miss 6 was a princess, and Mr 8 was a monster

Miss 6: You don't have to be evil on Halloween

Mr 8: What's the point if you can't be evil?