Wednesday, 31 December 2008

A Very Happy 2009



Wishing my visitors / lurkers / regular "stoppers by" a great 2009

Monday, 29 December 2008

It's a blank.

We’ve all heard that saying, “If you remember the ‘60s, you weren’t there”. I would dispute that. I lived through nine years of the 1960’s, but was of course too young to be smoking illegal substances. I just remember my birthday parties with paper hats, balloons and cute little cakes.

In the future, if you ask me the question, “What were you doing on 29th December 2008?” I won’t be able to recall part of it. This morning at 4.45am I woke up in tears, the pain in my throat was so awful. I have been experiencing the feeling of swallowing thumb tacks for the last two days, but just put it down to a bad sore throat and have been taking pain killers. I could take it no longer. My better half took me to the local “out of hours” clinic at 5am and the doctor diagnosed a bad case of tonsillitis.

“Don’t worry, we’ll soon have you fixed up and feeling great”. I think I looked at him as if he had lost the plot, but I my head, ears and throat were screaming so hard, I suspect the muscles in my face weren’t terribly coordinated.

The doctor prescribed an IV to re-hydrate me and a cocktail of no fewer than 7 drugs, one of which was opiate based. He was right, the pain vanished and aside from the discomfort of a needle in the back of my hand, I felt suddenly as fit as a flea. The relief of finally being able to swallow was gargantuan. This lasted approximately two seconds.

I won’t try to convey what happened when I stood up to go home. “Stoned” really doesn’t cover it. For me, normally half the dosage of the average painkiller is enough to get rid of a migraine. I had just imbibed enough drugs to knock out a Shire Horse.

So, no I really don’t remember much between 5.30am and 11am this morning; December 29th will remain a drug induced enigma

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Death of a Star

I was saddened to hear yesterday of the death of Eartha Kitt. I found her the most magnetising entertainer. I met her thirty five years ago, backstage on the set of a play she was starring in with David Kosoff. I was twelve at the time, and totally mesmerised by this gloriously talented lady.

I just wonder, where are the upcoming stars of her calibre these days? When you look at the lightweights in Hollywood who have had charmed (or perhaps cursed?) lives.

I think part of Eartha's weight as a actress/singer/comedienne was that she had triumphed over the rough beginnings she had as a child and young woman. Proof, if we needed it, that it is through the difficult times that our characters are formed.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Lazy Hazy Days of Summer

A highlight of the last few days has been planning what to plant in the newly dug out and weeded areas of the garden. I aspire to yards and yards of lavender, in the hope that our wee patch of paradise can become the “stop off of choice” for the nation’s bees. We bought two varieties today from the garden centre, so I trust it won’t be long before Foxglove Hollow becomes Lavender Hill.

Returning recently from a wedding in the north, we flew over our house on the approach to the capital’s airport. I could certainly spot our street, but not our property, as it is hidden between two clusters of native trees. If the bees fly on the same flight path as Air Zealand, soon they should be able to smell our garden; a lavender patch bed and breakfast.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Things that go bump

On Friday I received what I thought was a “wrong call” at work on my mobile. I picked up, and the caller said “Terracotta or glazed?” I recognised my better half’s voice, but was perplexed by the question.
“Depends what for?”
“A bird bath” came the reply.
In spite of protestations that I didn’t want a birthday present, he insisted. My joyful hobby of garden bird watching was going to have a new addition.

By the time I got home, it was elegantly parked on a bit of sloped garden near the kitchen window, for good viewing.

“I bet Otto will be drinking from it first” I quipped. Our large tom cat loves lapping water in the various bowls I have scattered around the garden.

Then I realised that the basin part of the bath was only balanced on its pedestal. Not going to work with 6kg of klutz jumping on it. He would be brained within seconds.

I notice on my husband’[s grocery shopping list for today, in between yoghurt and soap powder is “Cement”.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Birds of a Feather

Yesterday morning as I hopped off the train at the main terminus, I was greeted by an unusual sight. Well, I should say I heard something unusual before I saw it. On the main concourse was a group of about 50 women chattering away, like a group of migrating starlings. I started to play the guessing game; Greek, Russian Orthodox, Serbian? I overheard a language I couldn’t translate, as the musical chatter ebbed and flowed.
Most of them were dressed in black, some were elderly, some were wearing headscarves over their grey hair, some looked like trendy grand-daughters wearing black leggings and sporting ipods and earphones.

What was unusual? Well, not one of them could have boasted of being 5’ tall. In fact they were all the same height – though I noticed some of the iPod babes were wearing heels.

I have heard the average height of a Kiwi lady is 5’5”, so I already have 4 inches on the average, but I felt like a giant next to this crowd. I quipped with one of the young women “This looks quite an outing, which train are you taking?” She replied that they were all family and going on a picnic to a local beauty spot.

FAMILY!!!!?

I guess Christmas in that community will be quite an event.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Not doing but being

I am an animal lover. If it has four legs and will stand still, I will talk to it and befriend it (vicious dogs excepted). One of my joys as I dabble in the garden is getting know the native birds and insects. However, this year, I have been conscious of how few bees we have had visiting our lavender and other flowers. In the light of the world wide problem with Colony Collapse Disorder, this has been very disturbing. This summer I have seen the grand total of three bees in our garden.

In my humble opinion, there is no creature on earth as fascinating as the honey bee. If I had a coat of arms, the bee would need to be part of it. I can find no greater evidence of a Divine Creator than this tiny insect. It is hard working, intelligent and our entire life system depends on it. No honey bee, no pollination, no food. Simple.

When I first heard about CCD, and how the scientific community is baffled and alarmed by it, I decided to take action. Every time I saw a bee, or thought there should be a bee around – say when the flowers started to blossom, I prayed for them. OK, I realise at this point you may have hung a loony tag around my neck, but stick with me.

Tonight I experienced a miracle; as I walked through our newly mown garden, I found I was being followed by a bee. I stopped to greet it and cartoon like it froze mid air then butted me on the forehead. Between myself and my cat, this is a normal greeting of affection. She will sit for ages next to my keyboard and wait to be greeted with a head but.

But with a bee?

I guess the prayers are just appreciated.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

One man went to mow..........

After four months of building work on our property, half of the lawn has been chewed into muddy channels where machinery has trundled, dug and dragged 5 meter posts and buried drains. I had wondered if we’d ever be able to look out over that area again without cringing.

We haven’t cut the lawn from probably three months, and now it is summer a miracle has taken place. In exchange for a neatly mown, one in three gradient lawn we have a meadow. It is really extraordinary. There are dandelions, daisies and buttercups, about twenty varieties of grass and lots of tiny ground level flowers and mosses. The birds have a marvellous grass seed takeaway and the cats pretend to be miniature lions in the savannah.

Soon there will be bees and butterflies humming and fluttering. P

Perhaps we should leave it be.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Pass me the quill and inkpot

I work all day with technology, so find it rather disheartening to come home to it too. My computer is dying a slow and painful death, but it will be a while before I can replace it.

Last night, I spent nearly two hours writing an “End of Year” letter, and longing for the bad old days when I would hand write one, photo copy it and stuff in envelopes with pretty stamps. It took far too long to try and find photos and import them into a document that insisted it would be 13MB regardless of how I edited the photos.

I finally thought I’d cracked the problem, emailed out about 200 electronic compilations of the year, only to find out this morning that the photos hadn’t appeared on the email at all.

Next year, I’m buying stamps.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Catching Snowflakes




Whilst clearing files off an old laptop, I came across this cartoon. I have no idea where it came from, but thought it might make a few of you in the N. Hemisphere smile the next time it snows.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Mumbai

In October 1993 I moved for four months to India. I rented a flat with two other ladies in the heart of Mumbai. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The Indian people are some of the most charming, helpful, humble and gracious people I have ever met. I would return at the drop of a hat.

The girls and I would go on Saturdays to drink lassi in the wonderful ground floor café at the Taj Hotel. It was as much to enjoy the air conditioning (which our flat lacked) as it was to wallow in the opulence of an hour lazing over a cool yoghurt drink. We would then spend another hour in the bookshop and then stroll in our saris back to the train station and head home.

It has broken my heart to experience, at a distance, the last 48 hours with the people of Mumbai. I know how brave they will have been and helpful and self sacrificing. Bless them, each and every one. Heartfelt condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one during this terrible time.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

The fragrance of generosity

A vignette from my train journey home this evening.

I managed to get a seat with plenty of room for me to knit. The chap to my right was Maori, wearing dark sunglasses, work clothes and with a sitting position which spoke loudly “don’t talk to me bro.” The chap to my left was an older Samoan, carrying a ukelele in a special carry bag. The young woman opposite was trying to control a very active toddler. He was enjoying throwing his bottle at the gent with the ukelele, who very obligingly humoured him by giving it back. Mr Ukelele told me he used the instrument to play worship songs in his church.
The guard/conductor was my favourite, Jim, who always has a cheeky word for everyone. The mum opposite had a family ticket (two adults and up to 4 kids), so when it came time for Mr Dark Glasses to pay, Jim pipes up to the Mum, “Alright if he travels on your family ticket?” She grinned “Yeah, no problem.” So Mr Dark Glasses got a free ride. When it was time for him to get off, he pushed a $10 note in the Mum’s hand (twice what his ticket would have cost) and grinned “Get something for the baby”, and shambled off. She beamed, Mr Ukelele beamed and I wanted to cry.
When I got off at my station, the first smell to hit me was the sweetness of the jasmine growing next to the stream. The scent summed up the sweetness of the last 15 minutes.
I really love Kiwis.

Monday, 24 November 2008

The Band

There aren't many "feel good" movies around these days, but this one, if you can get to see it, is a must. If you have ever visited Israel, the humour and sadness will resonate very deeply. Here's the blurb from the local movie house.

On an ordinary day, the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra arrives in Israel from Egypt for a cultural event, only find there is no delegation to meet them, nor any arrangements to get to their destination of Petah Tiqva. When they find their own ride, they arrive instead at the remote town of Beit Hatikva. Stuck there until the next morning's bus, the band, lead by the repressed Tawfiq Zacharaya, gets help from the worldly, Dina, who offers to put them up for the night. As the band settles in as best it can, each of the members attempts to get along with the natives in their own way. What follows is a special night of quiet happenings and confessions as the band makes its own impact on the town and the town on them. Winner of over 30 International Film Awards, THE BAND'S VISIT has captivated audiences and critcs around the world

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Finding your way home

Crazy weeks often produce desperate measures to survive. This included doing a big supermarket shop early this morning, with a hacking cough and temperature. I’d got up at 6am feeling terrible, but couldn’t face another day without fruit in the house – not to mention all the other edible essentials.

Driving home, feeling like Death Warmed Up, without the “Warmed Up” stage, I saw a sight to make me giggle. Driving through the outer suburb, I spotted an interesting “personage” waiting for a bus. Actually, if a bus had arrived at the bus shelter, this passenger would have missed it, as it was snoozing, Sunday style, with its beak under its wing.

The last time I looked, there weren’t any direct services from our little town in New Zealand to the Canadian Arctic, so this Canada Goose may consider becoming a permanent Kiwi resident.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Meet you in the air

A snippet from our local rag this morning

Flying coffins a booming business for NI airline

Airline air2there is gliding through the turbulence of economic slowdown through a booming casket transfer business which it calls air2thereafter.

Air2thereafter owner Richard Baldwin said the coffin transfer service provided steady business and back-up to its normal commuter flights between Nelson, Blenheim and Wellington.

The Kapiti company's regular business had been quieter this year, but Baldwin said the air2thereafter service was steady. The living are not required to travel with coffins on board as the flights are run separately.

However, because some people "could get a bit bloody leery about travelling in an aircraft which not so long before had a casket in it", steps are taken to cleanse the aircraft using protocols from local iwi.

"That is especially important to Maori and Pacific Island people."

The company had flown the dead as far south as Invercargill and as far north as Kerikeri and did not charge family members for any seats remaining once the casket was in place.

"In the past we have seen these sorts of things get tossed in small aircraft in all sorts of undignified ways, so we thought we would see how it ought to be done properly."

They spent six months getting it right, he said, before launching the service about three years ago. Dealing mainly with funeral directors rather than families, parties of up to 10 family members had travelled with coffins on their 14-seater planes.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Money makes the world go around

My husband is an economist, and a very good one. He has tried to explain some of the craziness of the last month or so to me, but it has been difficult for me to get my head around. Here is the “bullet point” version, which I still find difficult to digest. The reality is, there is no easy explanation for what has happened, or analysis of what might happen next. However, here followeth something to really put you off your cornflakes.

Posted Nov 12, 2008 10:16am EST by Aaron Task in Newsmakers, Recession, Banking

Yes, $3.45 trillion has already been spent, as Bailoutsleuth.com details:

$2T Emergency Fed Loans (the ones the Fed won't discuss, as detailed here)
$700B TARP (designed to buy bad debt, the fund is rapidly transforming as we'll discuss in an upcoming segment)
$300B Hope Now (the government's year-old attempt at mortgage workouts)
$200B Fannie/Freddie
$140B Tax Breaks for Banks (WaPo has the details)
$110B: AIG (with it's new deal this week, the big insurer got $40B of TARP money, plus $110B in other relief)
Tallying up the "true" cost of the bailout is difficult, and won't be known for months if not years. But considering $3.5 trillion is about 25% of the U.S. economy ($13.8 trillion in 2007) and the U.S. deficit may hit $1 trillion in fiscal 2009, hyperinflation and/or sharply higher interest rates seem likely outcomes down the road.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Remembering Times Past

Yesterday my boss called me down from the office to the store. “We are commemorating the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh year”. I was touched because the Kiwis usually commemorate Remembrance Day on ANZAC day in April.

As we stood in silence in the high tech store, I remembered that there is now only one living soldier from World War One, a man who is 110.

Later I was discussing this with my husband. I remember as a child being introduced to someone who had served in the Boer War. That person could have easily known someone during their lifetime who fought in the Crimean War. So the collective consciousness of my war “memory” in 2008 actually could stretch back to the 1840s and the time of Florence Nightingale.

Now I feel old!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

You are invited to afternoon tea




My friend Jan is an ace hostess, and served this cake for dessert a few weekends ago. I borrowed the recipe (see below). It is a knockout to impress your friends.

Anyone like to come and join us?

Apple Custard Tea Cake

PREPARATION TIME: 25 minutes COOKING TIME:1 hour 20 minutes SERVES: 8

200g butter, softened CUSTARD
½ cup (110g) caster sugar 2 tablespoons custard powder
2 eggs ¼ cup (55g) caster sugar
1 ¼ cups (185g) self-raising flour 1 cup (250ml) milk
1/3 cup (40g) custard powder 20g butter
2 medium green apples (300g),
peeled, sliced thinly 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon butter, melted
2 tablespoons caster sugar, extra
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 Preheat oven to moderate (180C/160C fan-forced). Grease deep 22cm-round cake pan; line base with baking paper.

2 Make custard.

3 Beat butter and sugar in small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions. Stir in sifted flour and custard powder.

4 Spread half of the cake mixture into pan; top with custard. Top custard with spoonfuls of the remaining cake mixture; gently spread with spatula to completely cover custard. Arrange apples on top; brush with melted butter then sprinkle with combined extra sugar and cinnamon. Bake, uncovered, 1 ¼ hours : cool in pan.

CUSTARD Combine custard powder and sugar in small saucepan; gradually add milk, stir over heat until mixture thickens. Remove from heat; stir in butter and extract. Press plastic wrap over surface of custard; cool. Whisk until smooth just before using.

PER SERVING 27.5g total fat (17.5g saturated); 1952kj (467 cal); 49.3g carbohydrate; 5.3g protein; 1.4g fibre.

Kiwi Quirks

Yesterday, my husband voted locally in the National elections. Now, as kid, I was used to the local school being used as a poling station. Sometimes even the library.

In our neighbourhood, one of the options was a garage. Not the kind that sells petrol, but someone's garage, small, and complete with the usual garage junk lying around.

It's a New Zealand thing:-)

Thursday, 6 November 2008

The 44th President

I never expected I would see the election of an African American to the White House. I heard about Barak Obama’s victory late last night. My husband sent me a text at work, and I passed my phone around to my busy work colleagues. The response was fascinating. Some pumped the air with their fists, some grinned. There was general jubilation. I wish I could have shared it.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is marvellous that 50 years on from the Civil Rights movement, “The Dream” has become a reality. However, I shudder at the mess Obama is walking into and his lack of experience to deal with it. I worry that his slick election oratory has bewitched Americans into thinking he will solve the problems of the world. I have listened very carefully to what he hasn’t said; there has been a lot. His approach to the Middle East situation is what alarms me most.

I really hope my “doom and gloom” response is proved wrong, I do.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Happy Elections

To my American readers and friends, I wish you the best of the candidates for your country. Neither of them will have an enviable task taking the seat.

We have our elections on Saturday and likely we will not have a clear "winner". Then the Maori Party will be courted to bring extra numbers into the ruling government, but this will take time due to the tribal ways of making decisions. Sigh. We might have a government by the end of the year. It could be worse I suppose. I could be Belgian.

For those of you out there who believe prayer works, I would appreciate any spare prayers for my parents today. My Dad is in hospital having a lung biopsy. He is a cancer survivor (Non Hodgkins Lymphoma). Mum is 83, he is 77, and I'm the only child, and only around the corner in the planetary sense!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

The other election

It may have escaped my reader's notice, but there is another exciting election happening just after the US one. New Zealand will elect its new government. I saw this quote posted in the window of our local community centre, 6 days before our national elections.

"A politician is someone who will double cross that bridge when he comes to it."

Dried fruit alchemy



Great Grandma's jamming pan came out to play today. I suddenly had an urge to make mincemeat. I tweaked a Country Living recipe, adding cranberries and cardamom as well as the usual fruit and spices. The kitchen smells heavenly.

But that's a heck of a lot of mince pies to make.........still, it's only November.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Smaller than a harvest mouse



Last weekend I spent a happy couple of hours at the National Miniatures Convention. I will post some of the works of art over several days.

Miniature Aunty Betty



My great aunt used to be the housekeeper in one of Britain's stately homes. This so reminded me of her.

Wishing I was 3 inches high

Life in miniature

Friday, 31 October 2008

A lifetime away

Strange how certain stimulae will throw you back immediately into your childhood. I had such an event two nights ago.

I fell into bed, completely exhausted at about 8pm. Because we are heading into a S. Hemisphere summer, it was still light. Several birds were still making their presence felt – a fantail was flapping about in the cabbage tree, and our resident song thrush was singing a cheerful ditty from the neighbour’s tv ariel.

I was seven years old again, tracing the pattern of pink sweet peas on the white curtains in my tiny bedroom. I could smell newly mown grass from the back lawn and my parents chatting in the garden of the bungalow where I grew up. Dad would be checking the rose bushes for greenfly and mum would be telling him about the parent/teacher’s association meeting.

Mostly, I fell asleep dreaming about the seaside and our caravan on the moors and the wide open spaces of the countryside where we spent our weekends. Forty years on, I will probably be strolling along the dramatic coastline and remembering the shell seeking weekends of my childhood. Wonderful how things do come full circle.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

In Extremis

Extremities are funny things. I have a problem with my hand. At the end of last year, I discovered a small tumour on the right palm. Now the end of my little finger adjacent to the “much reduced in size tumour” is constantly sore. It makes knitting and typing painful.

I always have a freezing cold nose – if it were damp too, I’d be a Labrador. The only way to warm it up is to nuzzle the deep fur of our very patient cat.

I have rheumatism in several of my toes, and if I get stressed or embarrassed, my ears burn bright red. Aside from the colour issue, the ears work quite well, but the feet now tap at tango speed rather than pogo.

My ears are perhaps the most multi functional of my extremities. When the neon light in the garage blew, it would have been possible to see in the dark by the light of my ears. At night, the cat knows to crawl into bed by my shoulder, possibly because my glowing red ears guide her there. Heat seeking missiles could be led off course if I waggled my ears.

That’s it, I knew I had a destiny; as an artillery decoy.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Orchard of Pomegranates

A woman of Valour - Shalom of Safed

Celebration


Today is Simchat Torah, when we celebrate the giving of the Scriptures and the richness we find there. For generations, the artistic community of Israel has revelled in the inspiration the Torah has given them.

For the last 60 years, since the establishment of the state of Israel, its artistic community has flourished and prospered. Nowhere more so than in the Galilee. There is such a high concentration of artists, textile artists, sculptors, jewellers, photographers and musical instrument makers in this tiny region that a hefty book has been published about their work. Many are hidden away on the kibbutzim which dot the region. The artistic expression is as diverse as the countries the artists originate from; whether Ashkenazim, Sephardim or Mizrahim.

The tiny town of Safed, high on a hill overlooking the Jordan valley, boasts an enviable artistic community. Shalom of Safed is perhaps its most well known “son”. By the time of his death, aged 93, his paintings, tapestries and lithographs had been exhibited all over the world. His topics focussed on the religious and family life and the Scriptures. Just a few examples.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Bad reception and creaky joints

Yesterday I caved in – over a digital TV.

The one we had not only wasn’t digital, but it had dents in it - from when it was kicked by a giraffe in the ark.

We watch TV about once a week and five minutes each night for the news headlines. Hence I felt a bit daft buying such a flashy item, albeit in a sale.

However, I’m a convert. It is BEAUTIFUL to look at – even when it’s turned off. Oh yes, and DVDs will now be viewable in the right width.

Ms Apple Cookie is sulking, as we have now switched from a satellite box, big enough and warm enough for arthritic Ms to snooze on, to a small free view receiver, large enough for a geriatric hamster.

I don’t think a hot water bottle every night in place of the satbox is going to cut it for Ms. I was punished last night by her stretching languorously on my side of the bed. Hubby and I and iPud had to share the other half.

So alas, the new TV is responsible for a bad night’s sleep.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Lifesaving sandwiches

If I had the energy, which I don't, I would write an ode to the humble sandwich.

For the last three days of insanity at my new job, I have been kept upright by a square plastic box containing a two slices of bread and some cheese. There has been so much to learn and do, I've had just enough time to open my mouth and chew.

By the time I've collapsed at the dinner table, I haven't had the energy to lift food to my face.

So, I'm sending out a plea for toasted sandwich ideas. What can I take to put in bread and toast in a sandwich maker. Needs to be healthy, energy inducing and capable of being eaten in around 45 seconds?

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Random associations

........the similarity between some vacuum bags and colostomy bags.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Shopping for Dummies

Our local super cheap supermarket recently underwent a big renovation. It is now much larger and smarter, and can stock more products. The trolleys are new, so for the moment can be pushed in a straight line.

The size of the store has several disadvantages.

Firstly, I never know where to find items when I’m in a hurry. You have to traverse several levels of purgatory before you can locate deodorant or shredded coconut.

Second, I didn’t realise how vital it was to have a choice between thirty types of tuna. It used to be simple. Tuna was either in oil or brine. Now it is in soy oil, vegetable oil, olive oil, and spring water. It comes with chillies, onions, curry flavoured or Thai flavoured. It is dolphin friendly (obviously not tuna friendly) and kosher.

Nuts occupy four different aisles – loose in a bin, organic, snack packets or bulk in a sack.

I can NEVER find baker’s yeast or frozen pastry, but I can’t escape the rows and rows and rows of chocolate – there are chocolate ambushes everywhere, even at the end of the laundry powder aisle.

Marmite is on the top shelf like an Adult rated magazine, but Vegemite is at eye level. It is a conspiracy.

Anyone else out there nostalgic for the corner greengrocer selling one type of corn beef, one make of baked beans and freshly sliced pale pink baloney sausage?

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Cheesefly?

A question. Does anyone know if butterflies are also attracted to objects by smell as well as colour?

As we had lunch on our sunny deck today, we had a Monarch butterfly strutting and fluttering VERY close to our block of Stilton cheese.

There has to be a children’s story in there somewhere.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Moving swiftly on.......

I have had a breathtaking few days, which have resulted in a new job. If I said that the occupants of our house have now been renamed iDoc (husband), iPud (boy cat) and Apple Cookie (lady cat), you might gather that the job isn’t with Microsoft.

Bill and Melinda didn’t suit the cats anyway.

I start on Wednesday. Eek! Excited and terrified every alternate 20 seconds. Will someone please pour me a g & t (or send me some calories via Facebook)

Monday, 6 October 2008

TV or not TV

We have just dished our satellite TV subscription. The channels are a complete waste of money, nothing but repeats and cheap American sitcoms. Quality news reporting is easier to find online. An unexpected bonus is I have realised how much more time I have now I don’t flop in front of the box at the end of a busy day.

So, advertising for the new high tech screens and entering the digital TV age has been somewhat lost on us.

A tangential thought. Simultaneous with dumping the TV, I am using my reading glasses more. I have a pair to keep by the bed – the other pair always accompany me with my book to cafes; hubby reads the paper, I indulge in a tome or two. A few days ago I left my glasses on whilst eating at a café. I nearly fell over. My food was so interesting. I could see the dates in the scone, I could see the cocoa on the moccachino – a whole new world has opened up to me through fine tuned prescription glasses.

This afternoon I could see the pattern on my husband’s ice cream cone! Wow, I love my reading glasses.

From now on, I want my dessert digital, not analog!

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Shana Tova!

Today I want to wish my Jewish friends and visitors to this blog “Shana Tova”. Today we celebrate the Head “Rosh” of the Year “Hashanah”. It is a festival which is both serious and joyful; serious because it is the day of judgement and happy because if the meaning of the day is understood and used properly then the Jewish people receive a favourable judgement. On Rosh Hashanah humanity and free will is celebrated. Rosh Hashanah is celebrated as the “birthday of the world”, as according to the Torah it is on this day that God created man. Each year on this day, the Jewish people proclaim God as their one and true King.

The Torah states that we are made in the image of God and this means that human beings possess free will (our actions not being predetermined but chosen by us). We are responsible for the consequences of our actions.

The food associated with this Festival are apples and honey. The apples are dipped in honey which symbolise our desire for a sweet and happy year.

On the first night of Rosh HaShanah (tonight), after prayer services, a special greeting is used, which is only said on this night "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year."

Amen

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Spice girl

If I said I was recovering from eating 10 curries in the last 24 hours, I doubt I would get much sympathy from anyone.

If I said that 9 out of the 10 curries were “table spoon size” and that it was a competition to raise funds for charity, I’m guessing you may be more charitable about my overstuffed state.

Curry number 10 however was nothing short of a pig out. Today, we were fed to bursting point by some retired friends who live “up the coast” from the capital. Dinner was an amazing curry followed by an apple cake fit for angels. As there were no angels in the vicinity, we didn’t hold back, and found just a bit of space for a largish slice, after curry number 10.

I plan to wash my whiskers for the next couple of hours. I may, however, need the assistance of a crane to get off the sofa.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Flowers that bloom in the spring tra la

As with most other major “trends”, our country tends to be a bit slow in catching the wave. When someone sneezes in New York, it is three years before we catch the cold.

Not so with the recent economic crash. Yesterday, one of our largest Australian owned banks announced a significant number of redundancies. Only six weeks off from a national election here, there are a lot of white knuckled politicians and bureaucrats stalking the corridors of power.

And here follows a BBC link:

A few years ago, I remember a friend telling me that when they worked in a major stock trading office in the City of London, they were always being accused of “Prairie Dogging”. This is the action many in open plan offices perform on a regular basis – popping their heads above their computer monitors to talk to the person opposite. I suppose if you are African, you would have to call it “Meercatting”.

A lovely example today at our local zoo. The architect of the zoo cleverly parked the meercat enclosure right next to the café, with only a pane of glass between the latte sippers and the twitching whiskers. Every few minutes, the guy on guard duty changes, and runs up a log high enough to peer down into the nearest moccachino.

And for fans of “Foxglove Hollow” shots from yesterday; blue flowers, and cats playing tail tag.




Mere Cats


Meercatting


Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Something in the water?

Last night, I thought I would burst with pride in my adopted homeland.

We live in a small valley, north of a city. It has a well known school in the town, with a reputation for an excellent music department. Their school choir has travelled worldwide, and several of the barber shop quartets it has produced have won medals on the International stage. Last night, the main concert hall in the city (home of the Symphony Orchestra), was taken over by 700 people from the valley. That wasn’t the audience, that was made up of the choirs, musicians and dancers!

We have about 13,000 people in the valley. The musical director, her daughter and the producer managed to rehearse eight schools and random adult singers and an orchestra (all from the valley) with twenty four musical pieces in total.

New Zealand has talent! Our small town has a disproportionate share of it. And no, you can’t ask where it is, because we want it to remain the best kept secret in the S. Hemisphere!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Good News from Israel

Today, yet another incident of innocent bystanders being killed in Jerusalem – and the media is in a frenzy pointing the finger of blame.

But, just in case you think it is all bad news in the City of Gold, here is another side, just to address the balance for a change.

In January, I had the privilege to volunteer with an organisation helping children from Iraq who have major heart defects. All of them are brought to Israel, free of charge to have life saving surgery. The organisation funds, transports the child and their carers, houses them (often for months post surgery), and supports them emotionally through the difficult weeks of the surgery and recovery period. The main hospital used, the Wolfson Medical Centre in Holon, gives the services of its medical staff free of charge.

What is truly unique is this organisation it is run by Christians, to serve Muslims, who are being served by Jewish medics. In 1994, they started to bring children from Gaza for heart surgery. Word spread, and soon they were being contacted from Iraq for help. I am struck by the beautiful way these children are treated.

After you have read this blog, please go and check out their website (www.shevet.org). They always need funds to help the latest group of children, and you can donate safely online. The European Union recently stopped funding surgery in Israel for children from Gaza, and consequently the Wolfson Medical Centre is struggling to keep up with the amounts of requests for surgery, when there is no financial support from outside.

You may be able to help Shevet Achim financially to redress this.

Thanks

Sunday, 21 September 2008

A "What if?" from 1607

Do you ever get a nagging feeling accompanied by a memory of person you have lost contact with? I get them frequently, and find myself meandering down a lane, remembering conversations, smells, laughter, music, all sorts; then feeling the gap because that person is no longer a part of my present.

Today, I reconnected with several people via Facebook. A bit of sleuthing via two or three degrees of separation, et voila! Whichever genius invented this site, thank you.

But then I got to thinking of who in history really missed out.

In 1608 Samuel de Champlain, founder of Quebec City could have written to the new Bushmills Distillery in Ireland for a consignment of whiskey
In 1708 Peter the Great could have written to JS Bach to boast about defeating the Swedes
In 1808 – Beethoven could have written about the first performance of his Fifth Symphony to Thomas Jefferson
In 1908 - Baden Powell could have written to Henri Matisse about founding his new scout movement and Mrs Grappelli may have written about her new born Stephane to Mrs de Beauvoir about her daughter Simone.

All those missed emails!

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Sugar, no honey honey

OK, accountability time.

In the last week I have been to the gym three times and gone on a long walk with my good friend Ngaire. I have not eaten biscuits, although on Saturday I ate a muffin and two chocolates. I have not grazed and have stopped eating a two course breakfast (I usually eat muesli AND toast).

All three occasions in the gym were excruciatingly wonderful, as my muscles started to tone up and sing the Hallelujah Chorus. My feet, however, are another story. The melody issuing from them was “The song of the Volga Boatmen”. Collapsed arches don’t do well with rowing machines.

By the time I sit on a Cathay Pacific flight in March, I want to be able to rattle around in the seat made for a petite Asian derriere.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Along came a spider....


I’m still getting the hang of the wildlife in the garden.

This morning, whilst sieving soil, I saw the biggest spider I’ve seen since arriving here. Not very impressive by African standards, but the body was the size of my thumb nail.

Cookie was rummaging around in the garden at the same time. She came and sat by the wheelbarrow and caught the movement of Ms Spider. Immediately she shot into “hunt mode” until she saw the size of it, and quickly backed off.

For Ms Muffet not to take advantage of morning tea was indicative of the size. Normally I can call her and shout “snack Cookie” and she will dispatch spiders, daddy long legs, flies, you name it.

This coffee coloured arachnid lived to weave another web. It is the Nursery Spider.


Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Outer Mongolia

A quarter of a century ago, I made friends from what was then known as the People’s Republic of Mongolia. Each year the government sent students to do post graduate courses in English at my university. Through a post grad friend I met a number of these government officials and their “minder”.

We took them out on trips to the cold windy beaches of our county, invited them for meals (on a miniscule student grant, I dread to think what I cooked for them) and generally had a fine old time sharing late nights, fun, poetry and the traumas of the English language.

Fast forward twenty five years. Today, I sat on our sunny deck with a young Mongolian, feeding him brunch and catching up on mutual friends. He had come to NZ for delicate ear surgery, and I had the honour of collecting him from the airport, before sending him on his way north to the place where he would receive treatment.

I could never have imagined that the Mongolian thread of my life would follow me down to latitude 41, stretching through into to my middle age. What a pleasure. I can’t help wondering how different life would have been if I’d taken up that scholarship at the University of Ulan Baator.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

A village kid of the '60s

I grew up in the UK when milk was still delivered to the door in a glass bottle covered with tin foil. In winter you had to leave a cup for the milkman to put over the top of the bottle, to stop the blue tits pecking their way through to the cream. The only skimmed milk was what was left after the blue tits had had their fill!

We also had milk provided by the school at break time. It came in a miniature milk bottle. In the summer was luke warm to drink, in the winter the cream froze and popped through the tin cap. Ergh!!

We would wash and save the tin foil caps and thread them on a long piece of string. Dad would then take it to his allotment and tie it over the strawberry patch. It was supposed to scare away the birds, but the beggars would perch on it and enjoy the tinny tinkle it made when they bounced up and down.

Our local grocery shop sold salmon paste by the ounce and you took it home wrapped in greased proof paper. You could also buy a slab of ice cream in a cardboard box (two flavours on offer, vanilla and Neopolitan). The fish and chip shop was allowed to sell all items wrapped in yesterday’s newspaper.

The village had a telephone box with two coin slots, A and B. I don’t remember what you were supposed to do with each, but then I was only just tall enough to see the slots.

We had a village fete each year on the cricket field complete with pretend jousting tournaments, donkey rides, potato sack races and egg and spoon races. Coconut shies were banned when one of the organisers nearly got brained one year.

When it was the 1900th anniversary of our city the Queen paid us a visit with some of the Household Cavalry. I got to queue by the road to see her. My mum asked me to guess what colour she would be wearing. I guessed yellow and mum said lime green. Mum was right.

On bonfire night, there would be competition between all the dads in the street to see who could make the best bonfire. Mums would make toffee apples (great for the dentists), and we’d have hot dogs beside the fire. We locked our pets indoors, because the Catherine Wheels and rockets made such a clatter. Everyone had sparklers to wave and you had to spell out your name with them in the air. The mantra of evening was “Light the touch paper and retire quickly”. No one was ever hurt and we’d get a thrashing if we went anywhere near the Roman candles stuck in the soil at the bottom of the garden near the compost heap.

Ah, the good old days.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Warlike confectionery

Not being a Kiwi born and bred, there are a number of things here that still puzzle me. Take café food as an example. The locals make a marvellous biscuit from cornflakes and cocoa. It is usually flat, the size of a small saucer, with a blob of chocolate butter cream and a walnut in the middle.

It’s name – an Afghan. Anyone out there know why?

The only connection I can make is it looks alarmingly like a landmine.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

You just can't get good staff these days

A regular but unintentional source of amusement here in the capital is the “Job Vacancies” section of the city’s rag. It provides mirth twice weekly.

This week’s blooper (at least I hope it was a typo) was a catering company requesting someone who was “contentious”.

I think they meant conscientious.

But hey, if you want to argue over chocolate cake, or even throw a few around each day, go ahead. I’m not paying your salary.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Tin Man, Woman and Tin Kitties

As the sun was shining today, I decided to fossick around in our basement, to sort out our emergency food supplies stored there. In 2005 when we moved here, we stored about a week’s supply of tinned fruit, meat, fish, vegetables, water and cat food underneath the house. It wasn’t until 2006 we realised we’d forgot to put a tin opener there too!

Unlike my northern hemisphere brethren, this is not in the event of a nuclear attack (NZ is non-nuclear), but in case we have a major earthquake.

I have brought six of the items upstairs, as the outside of the tins are looking rather mangy. If they are “frot” inside, I’d rather find out now than when we really need the stuff.

Of course, the usefulness of the supplies very much depends on our ability to access that area of the house. It has just been super duper earthquake proofed by engineers, so in theory it should be the most robust part of the property. However, knowing my luck, on the day of the “Big One”, I won’t be able to find the key to the basement door.

I might start a second store in the walk in closet, just in case.

Monday, 8 September 2008


Coffee, quilts and Russkies

This morning, en route to a late start at work, I went to the annual Wellington Quilt Exhibition. It is held in an art gallery, a building that used to be part of the Port Authority in the capital.

Every year I come away inspired to start quilting again. Between last year and this year, I have hand templated and hand stitched several hundred hexagons, but the progress is slow, and as I only use second hand material, I wait until I have enough of the right colours to start stitching again.

I am always impressed by the variety and ingenuity of the quilters, but sad that most of them are made on machine. For me the romance and charm of a quilt is that you imagine the ladies sitting around quilting together.

This year’s challenge to the city’s quilters was to make a quilt based on a playing card. Here are some of the results. The other quilts are general exhibits from the City Quilter’s Guild.

Oh, and lest you think we are a bit boring, being on the end of the planet, I attach a photo of my favourite café in the city – the bust of Lenin is not the only Russian artefact it contains – there are what look to be pre-Soviet chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and one of the best bistro menus in town.







Sunday, 7 September 2008

Ahhhh, Sundays!

Yesterday, courtesy of a discount voucher from our local Book Temple, I purchased a book “To Heal a Fractured World”. What intrigued me was its subtitle “the ethics of responsibility”. Being responsible and accountable are not popular or fashionable concepts in today’s “it’s all about me” culture. And lest you are tempted to think I have suddenly gone intellectual, fear not. The book is written by the eminently readable Dr Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the UK. What an extraordinarily gifted thinker, but more importantly “doer” of what he writes about. I am challenged at every sentence.

As I tried to read a few pages this morning, accompanied by a welcome cup of Earl Grey, Ms Fidget Paws was wriggling and making herself comfortable inside the bed, where she had been most of the night. I can’t say I blame her, as there is a hoar frost this morning. After giving up on reading, we had an enjoyable few moments playing tag under the sheets. She soon got bored, jumped out and demanded breakfast.

Since then, it’s been all go – lamb shanks in the oven for dinner and a tropical fruit salad for afternoon tea (shredded coconut, pineapple chunks, dates, bananas and a slug of brandy).

Happy weekend!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

1961

Inspired by Treppenwitz's post today "Does your era define you?" http://bogieworks.blogs.com/treppenwitz/, I decided to throw out there this version of a meme,

Year I was born – 1961
Generation – Baby Boomer
Political figures of the day – JFK, David Ben Gurion, Krushchev, Harold MacMillan,
Other big names of the day – Martin Luther King, Yuri Gagarin, Rudolf Nureyev,
Headlines – Nureyev defects, Berlin Wall erected, invasion of The Bay of Pigs, The farthing ceases to be legal tender in the UK (after 600 years of usage), the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. S. Africa withdraws from the Commonwealth of Nations. A military coup in Syria ends the Arab Republic, the Soviet Union detonates a hydrogen bomb (it is the largest ever man made explosion). The Vietnam War officially begins. The Marshall Plan expires.

Famous births - Diana, Princess of Wales, George Clooney, Enya, Barack Obama, Peter Jackson, Nadia Comaneci

Famous deaths - George Formby, Sir Thomas Beecham, King of Albania, Gary Cooper. Ernest Hemingway, Chico Marx

Music - Beatles, Supremes, Sinatra, Elvis, Pavarotti makes his operatic debut, Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall, Ella Fitzgerald, Joan Baez, Johnny Cash,

Top hits “Stand by me”, “Let’s twist again”, “Runaway”

Sounds I was raised on - Mario Lanza, The Spinners, Julie Felix, The Beach Boys

Earliest memories - “Yellow Submarine” playing on the radio at a pre school birthday party. Jimmy Clitheroe on the TV after the Saturday football results, Ena Sharples and her friend Minnie in Coronation Street. “Flying saucers”, “Parma Violets” and Walnut Whips from the sweet shop.

Thanks Trep for sending me down memory lane!

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Yes, we have no bananas

Tonight I rapped myself metaphorically over the knuckles.

At 5pm, I was standing in a major supermarket, figuring out which vegetables I could afford to buy (or rather I could bring myself to buy, given the prices).

Later as I was cooking, I muttered to my husband about the scandalous prices, but in the same moment understanding why. We have had twice the annual rainfall and it is only September. Growers up and down the country are suffering terribly. Their crops are rotting or simply haven’t survived the deluges. We are an agricultural economy. In normal circumstances our food prices are outrageous in comparison to our salaries - we pay export prices, and now the weather is adding to the cost at the checkout. In some cases prices have doubled in the last few months.

Fast forward a couple of hours, and a dear friend and I are discussing Zimbabwe and the trials the people there have endured for so long. I suddenly felt so ashamed of my grumbling earlier in the evening. At least I have money to buy groceries. At least there is food to buy. At least I don’t have to fear for my life when I queue for the basics of life.

God, please forgive me for being so self-centred.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Wake up call

I have just watched a TV programme about how the western world is eating itself to death. Jamie Oliver has challenged a group of overweight/obese/morbidly obese people to get to grips with why their diet is killing them.

As part of the programme, they dissected a 25 stone male corpse to show how he died. All his internal organs were either clogged by fat or moved to the wrong part of the body because they were displaced by other fat covered organs.

It was horrific.

I am overweight. I don't exercise. I hate myself for it. I have to do something.

My biggest challenge is getting exercise. I don't eat junk food, but I do love to cook and bake and I have a sedentary lifestyle. I am a bookworm and I live in a cold climate, so the comfortable option is to stay indoors, curled on the sofa with a good book.

After tonight, I have set myself what I think is a realistic goal, 8kg loss by the end of the year.

Another 12 kg in 2009.

I intend to blog and report back. Wish me well.

Monday, 1 September 2008

What to be seen dead in

My husband has become familiar with a little ditty that I have started to sing this winter inside our walk-in closet. It is resembles a certain Monty Python song to do with lumberjacks. The focus of my rendition concerns thermal underwear.

This winter I couldn’t have lived without my thermal leggings and long sleeved undershirt. There is an amazing company in NZ called Kathmandu, which produces every kind of thermal accoutrement imaginable (not boxers or thongs – sorry!).

So I have developed an early morning ice dance around the closet singing “I love my blue Kathmandus, Kathmandus, Kathmandus, Kathmandus!”

It’s not a sight for the faint-hearted.

This morning I declared from the wardrobe. “Sweetie, just so you know, I want to be buried in my Kathmandus!”

Clothes to die for……….

Friday, 29 August 2008

Skirting Board Strategy Meeting

Courtesty of "Two Bad Mice" greetings cards

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Time of Capture 1703 GMT + 12

Day three of “Mouse under Siege”.

Just as I was about to dish up a pasta dinner this evening, I noticed Madam staring at the kitchen cupboard in “pounce mode”. I got the kitchen colander at the ready. A split second later, out popped Millicent, Cookie grabbed her and we got her to drop the mouse and down came the colander.

She was duly deposited outside in an area not normally frequented by the cats. She paused, twitched her whiskers and sauntered off, apparently none the worse for wear.

Cookie is still looking for her and muttering.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Rodent Rodeo

Ms Mouse, who will be hitherto dubbed Millicent, made an appearance this evening with Cookie. We were peacefully watching a BBC video when both were seen streaking across the dining room. There followed a scene resembling the Keystone Cops, with hubby and I armed with empty rubbish bins / cloths and various things to try to catch her, all to no avail. If a cat was able to “Herumph!”, Cookie “Herumphed”. We are seriously in her bad books for spoiling her fun.

Millicent is the sweetest creature. I don’t want to set a trap. I want the cat to catch her and then I will do the heroic rescue and relocate her to the compost heap.

Madam is banned from the bedroom tonight. I don’t want her crawling under the covers with Milly Mouse taking refuge in my pyjamas.

Things that go bump....

Last night, at 2.30pm I was woken up by a primeval howling. Thinking that our female cat was sick, I shot out of bed.

Somewhat bleery eyed, I flicked the light in the living room, to find madam playing with a live mouse. A great deal of scurrying (mine and hers) took place before the mouse outwitted us and disappeared through a hole I didn’t know we had behind the kitchen cabinets.

It explains why madam has been staring for hours at the space under our fridge.

Rewind several days ago. I watched, fascinated as Mr Tom Cat Sofa Dweller dozed (seemingly) on the middle of the driveway. Then without warning he jumped up and raced head first to our retaining wall. My initial thought was “He’s finally lost the plot, he is mentally deranged”. Oh, no, he managed to catch a mouse. I called my husband and we watched him dangle the wee thing out of his mouth. But then came the funny part. He stopped and looked at us myopically, then trotted around the outside of the house several times. “He’s not sure what to do.” I told hubby. “He has surprised even himself, and now after the victory parade, he’s figuring out what is step two”.

As we were on the way out, we had to leave him to it. We hadn’t figured on him bringing the mouse inside for further entertainment. In fact, when we returned, he had that “full” look that a cat has after eating something forbidden. So we teased him for a day or two.

So, it transpires he brought the mouse to his sister to ask her what to do with it.

Dear me. A moose loose in the hoose.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Somewhat tied up

I now have evidence that blue blood runs in my husband’s veins. His lineage on his grandmother’s side is the Hungarian aristocracy, but after this morning’s small incident, I have a theory that he may be related to the Queen of England.

We recently bought a new chest of drawers, which gave me a great excuse to sort out the old one. I was presented with a plastic box from my husband’s part of the drawers to sort out. It contained a very large supply of shoelaces – old, new, odd, matching. You name your type, we have it Guv’nor.

A small problem; my better half only owns one pair of shoes with laces. He has been squirreling away an entire generation’s worth of tie ups.
I have it on good authority that Her Majesty also collects string. She and my husband would make a fearsome pair of hoarders.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Cannelloni Tube Dot Com

Yesterday, I discovered the BEST way to relax. I bought a box of cannelloni a couple of days ago, and for the first time in 46 years, I had the pleasure of mucking about with this seriously amazing form of pasta.

It is such fun poking meatball sauce down a pasta tube. You think I’m joking? It is the culinary equivalent of stroking a cat.

What puzzles me though, is how did the Italians come up with this little gem? I have a theory: A housewife in Pompeii one afternoon started to roll up a piece of Lasagne – because it looked cuter than when it was flat, then Vesuvius blew. The heat sealed the lasagne into a tube. An archaelogist found it next to a Pompeii cookbook and a new dish was born.

Whatever and however, it is now my favourite food and is actually less fiddly to make than Lasagne. I made the meat version. Any veggie variations, feel free to send me your recipes at the email address on my profile.
Whether it is cars, fashion, food, coffee or simply La Dolce Vita, boy have the Italians got it right.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Jerusalem Sparrow

A friend in the US decided I needed cheering up. She sent me this photo, knowing my love of sparrows. It was taken by the Jerusalem based photographer Jennifer Allen. Check out her site for more www.holylandpix.com

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Yellow harvest

After a rough start to the day (aching head - again), I took a short walk around our garden. I came back minutes later with four lemons and four daffodils, each a different variety.

Yellow is such a happy colour and the tooting horns of the daffies acted as a pain relief all day.

After the fall

On Tuesday I had a CT scan of my head.

The sound it made helped my to sympathise with the crockery inside my dishwasher.

I guess this means I have been medically brainwashed.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Foodie Fads

I'm a kid of the '60s and remember when prawn cocktail or melon balls were considered the height of culinary sophistication. It's actually very funny looking at cookery books from the 1960s and 1970s. I remember being stunned by Chicken Kiev the first time I ate it (though I have a suspicion that no self respecting Ukrainian would serve it). The Red Army would not be able to march on that Comrade!

My pet hate is greenery on a plate with the dessert. I don’t want mint/dill or cabbage leaves served with my crème caramel THANK YOU! Also, which celeb chef came up with the idea to dribble or wave perfectly good chocolate or raspberry sauce over the pud? If you want me to love you, give me a proper dollop of the stuff on the side, don’t sketch a Matisse outline with it –it’s harder to wash the plate afterwards.

Anyone remember Pavlovas when they first arrived in the UK from Down Under (and where Down Under is still a matter of bloodthirsty debate in this bit of the planet)? With all due respect to my adopted country, I’ve never understood the excitement over this pud. It is too fresh airy for me. A pud should have substance – enough to make you want to curl up and wash your whiskers for several hours afterwards. This doesn’t even deserve a cat lick.

Thank heavens that Nouvelle Cuisine has moved on. Who really enjoyed the coaster sized piece of steak with an ice cream scoop of fancy potato? We are designed to eat REAL food, not meccano constructions of pickled cabbage balanced on a soupcon of salmon.

OK, a straw poll. Given the choice between a fish pie made with a variety of fish and heaps of spring veggies followed by a treacle pud and hot custard or half a ducks breast with a glaze of sauce and three peas, which would you choose?

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Today is cancelled

Three out of our four person household (the cats think they qualify) are down and out. Hubby spent part of the night in the bathroom with Beijing Belly, Cookie the Calico threw up all over the living room this evening, and I’m dozing with painkillers.

Otto is in charge, paws in the air, from the sofa.

Tomorrow he’s on cooking and cleaning duty, but I’m hiding the car keys from him. He has absolutely no road sense.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Beijing Gold Medals - a perspective

So far, the Chinese have a gold medal for every 49 .2 million people

The USA has a gold medal for every 18 million people

Australia has a gold medal for every 3 million people

New Zealand has a gold medal for every 2 million people.

Kind of puts things in perspective doesn't it?

Friday, 15 August 2008

1499 pieces to go

We would like it to be known that our Tom Cat is a dab paw at jigsaws. He was ably assisted by a senior economist, who took no less than three days to finish it. He claims that Otto kept shuffling the pieces.

Please collect your lost property

It would appear that the three armed butler is related to the Norse god Thor, who has been hitting our suburb with thunder and lightning for the last 12 hours.

All I can say is, I surrender. He can have his three rubber gloves back, but please enough of rapid thunder claps and electric strikes. I've had it!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Housework - Star Trek Style

This morning I treated myself to new rubber gloves to wash up with (yes, I know, I lead a sad existence!).

I was delighted when I opened the pack to find three gloves, all for one hand.

Anyone out there have an alien butler with three right arms? If so, have I got a deal for you!

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Dwelling with coathangers

Cookie has a new nest, in the wardrobe. She has found a nook between my box of greetings cards and my IKEA five drawer storage box. She managed to snuggle under the hanging clothes so that only her nose and a dainty paw were showing. Because we have an open plan walk in closet, I was actually directly in her eyeline all night.

I was kept awake, on and off, by torrential rain, thunder and the occasional lightning flash. I am so heartily sick of listening to the torrents coursing down our metal roof (we've had the wettest winter in ten years). The walk in closet is almost sound proof because of the clothes and the boxfiles lining the shelves next to the ceiling.

Humph, if it rains tonight, Cookie can have the bed – I’m having the space between the boxes under the row of shirts.

Monday, 11 August 2008

In Memoriam

It’s been a difficult week. A long standing friend of my husband’s died suddenly, five weeks after he got married. We had attended his wedding, which was so special. It was a first time marriage for him and his bride.

He was a delightful man, very shy but with a droll sense of humour. He was the legal brain behind a significant block of our country’s legislation. At the funeral some of the senior public figures in the country spoke about him. They brought out his humour, his generosity and his community work, which had been recognised by the Governor General.

For me, I remember his kindness. I landed in this country four years ago, knowing only one person other than my fiance. At our engagement party, I was totally overwhelmed by the 89 people present; I had only met two of them before. He sensed it and it was his warm, shy welcome which endeared him so much to me. In the twinkly eyes there was a phrase hanging; “Gosh, this must be such hard work – but keep going, you’re doing ok”.

Today, I wept through the service. His bride of five weeks gave the most extraordinary testimony of him and how God was sustaining her. He has left a gap much larger than his 5’5” frame occupied.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Beijing Opening Ceremony

Ok, so we get it, the 4 great Chinese inventions were paper, the printing block, gunpowder and the compass.

One serious omission – the Takeaway.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Sending out an SOS

For once, I found a paragraph in our local newspaper that was good news. I will quote in full:

“A millionaire yachties’ radio call for help in the Coral Sea was picked up by Taupo Maritime Radio, nearly 4000kms away in New Zealand. Radio Taupo picked up a Mayday message about 4am on Sunday after two Britons ran aground on an uncharted reef. Mr Turner said that they had to abandon his $2.2 million yacht for a life raft after hitting the reef about 500km off Cairns. Queensland search and rescue crews were alerted by NZ’s rescue coordination centre and the pair were lifted off the life raft by helicopter”

Whoever was manning that radio at 4am, I salute you!

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Feathered visitors

I think I am just a few feathers short of being a twitcher. I love birds, and NZ has its fair share of amusing ones.

This morning I had a Kereru sighting. I may have mentioned this chappie before; he is our native wood pigeon. They were hunted almost to the verge of extinction by the Maori, on account of their rather tasty meat. It didn’t hurt that they were very slow and cumbersome and therefore easily caught.
We have an organisation in the city which keeps track of Kereru sightings. I will record our friend on their website later. I think he is the same “local” I spotted about 8 months ago. I suspect he enjoys the peace and quiet of our street and the abundance of telegraph wires to sag on. In fact, it’s a pretty good way of detecting a Kereru neighbourhood. Check out how many electricity or telephone wires dip heavily in the middle. Chances are that ten ton Charlie has been perched there for the afternoon.

Illustration courtesy Buller, Walter Lawry, Birds of New Zealand, 1873.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Normal Service Will Be Resumed

Not to the blog, but to my brain.
The doctor's verdict was "significant" concussion. I could have a hairline fracture on the skull, but as these are difficult to detect on Xrays and heal on their own, the doc wasn't too concerned. I have been told to rest and take painkillers when I need to for the headache. But I am definitely on the mend in spite of going to work as normal and doing my usual rushing around at home!
Some lessons learned: 1) You don't have to pass out to have serious concussion 2) When you land on your head, you can get whiplash 3) Good idea to go to hospital straight away and not just to carry on as normal (Duh!)
Other news. Our city has had 20 landslides in the last few days due to heavy rain. Families have lost homes - it's pretty serious.
We continue to be very grateful for our waterproofed home and I for my numb/tough skull.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Houston we have a problem

For some reason I can post to this site, but I currently can't view it - a problem with Internet Explorer.

If any of you other blogger.com folk out there are having this problem, please could you email me (as per email on my profile). Thanks.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Concussion talk

A dear friend called me today to find out how I was doing. She had seen me on Sunday, two days after I intimately acquainted myself with the concrete on our drive. She very diplomatically told me I definitely had all the symptoms of concussion then, which included not talking like my normal self.
Today our next-door neighbour told me, via my husband, that I really should get checked out with the doctor. But it’s Friday. Everyone gets sick close to the weekend. No appointments, not even emergency ones. So I took myself off to a local accident clinic on the off chance that everyone in a 30 mile radius had decided in the last 24 hours to stay healthy and safe. Not a hope. After waiting there for four hours (which included curling up on a bench and sleeping for 40 minutes), I gave up and went home. I now have to wait until Monday for a doctor’s appointment. I have to work tomorrow, so hope I don’t get a rush of customers with difficult questions. Parts of my brain are still rather slow to communicate with my mouth, and what comes out of my mouth occasionally doesn’t link up with conversations in time and space.
My eye has almost returned to its normal colour, but there appears to be a lot of furniture rearranging going on inside my head. I hope that it all fits back together soon and that no one has stolen the sofa or the bookcase.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

That's a lot of matchsticks

A tree felled by the storm in Nelson, NZ. Photo Steve Hussey

The question that arises is, "How come the dovecot is still standing and the tree isn't?"

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Thames by name, Thames by nature

The road outside Thames, Photo IAIN MCGREGOR/Waikato Times

Storm lower North Island

Civic hall about half an hours drive from where we live. Photo Mitch Lewandowski

Second Storm hits country

Jetskier along road in the Coromandel Peninsula. Photo Joanne Churcher.

We are in the midst of a storm which has brought down power lines, blown off roofs, and swept people to their death in the north of the north island. There is worse to come.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Face makeover

It took me a while to realise it, but my fall and black eye took a big toll on my husband. Both of us have been completely wiped out and exhausted for three days; I suspect suffering from shock. He has watched me like a hawk ever since it happened, constantly asking whether I am feeling OK, can I see OK, do I have a headache. I have felt so, so sleepy over the weekend, but I can honestly say, I haven’t felt ill – until I’ve looked at myself in the mirror. It has really been a horrible mess.

Something more disturbing than the looks I was getting in public were the looks my poor husband was getting. I could see the unspoken question; “Did he do that to you?” I wanted to wear a tee shirt with “I am a klutz, I fell over my own feet carrying shopping.”
Or as a humorous friend commented “Well, its great to see that you saved your hands by falling on your head.” My beautiful ski jump nose and my buck teeth are preserved, so all is not lost.

Thank goodness my face isn’t my fortune.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Surfing the storm



Photo courtesy Shaun Walburn http://www.stuff.co.nz/

Auckland Yacht and Scout hut gets hit

Photo courtesty Trevor Whelan www.stuff.co.nz

Sea scapes

Near Mount Maunganui - Photo Shaun Walburn www.stuff.co.nz

Weather Bomb Update


According to today’s rag, three people have been lost at sea in the latest storm, over 2000 skiers were on Mount Ruapehu when the severe weather hit and 60,000 homes were without electricity.

Today it is sunny and mild in our suburb, but everything turns to custard tomorrow. Photo above courtesy of the Met Service, showing deep depression over NZ

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Weather Bomb

A storm has just hit the top of the north island. There are 50,000 homes without electricity in Auckland, our biggest city. At Mount Ruapehu in the centre of the north island the ski fields were hit by 200 km blasts. A human chain had to be formed to get people safely out of the ski lifts into the hostels nearby.

Rivers are flooding and it is predicted this will be the worst weather system in a decade. It is known as a weather bomb.

Friends of ours just moved to the S. Island from the USA. Welcome to your new home and we hope you packed your snow boots, snow chains and hot water bottles.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Muscle head

I love standing in checkout queues. It’s a great place to people watch, and make friends with small people sitting in shopping trolleys.

This afternoon, I was in front of a Pasifika gentleman carrying a large bag of frozen mussels.

Me “How do you cook mussels? We tend only to see them in vinegar in the UK”

I got a big smile (I think he was Fijian)

“Well, I put them in the microwave, then cook noodles and a few vegetables”

The guy behind him (Maori) shook his head.

“No, no, the best way is with a few cooked onions and cream.”

By this time the Chinese cashier chipped in,

“I’d take the noodle recipe!”

Fifteen minutes later I was unloading the shopping from the car and missed my footing walking up the drive (I tripped against one of the newly installed grates). I fell heavily against concrete and used my skull to cushion the fall.

I am now sporting a black and swollen eye. If only I’d had that bag of frozen mussels instead of tins of cat food in the shopping bag, I could have iced my face before my husband came to scrape me up off the floor.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

From the other side of youth

Having never had the blessing of children of my own, I have always been somewhat awestruck by the way other women have raised theirs. I am convinced I would never have been able to take on this task, but am so appreciative of the “finished results” of others.

Our lodger was a case in point. A great guy. I even got the chance to tell his mother that (in my very bad Spanish to her Portuguese). He had two great friends, ladies, and outside their parents, I think I’m their biggest fan. “Well done” to their parents too.

It is such an easy thing to knock the youth of today. When you are middle aged, you can be less tolerant, impatient, critical and cynical. But to be honest, I am encouraged by so many in their teens and twenties. They face challenges I never had to, sometimes they fall over, but it’s not my business to kick them when they’re down.

Thanks to all our recent visitors in the capital. You know who you are. I salute you, and even though I had just a few hours / days in your company, I can honestly say, I’m the better for it.

Conquer the world. I am happy to support you do it. Look at my mistakes, and try not to repeat them. You will make your own, but I won’t condemn you. Don’t be discouraged, the Maker of the Universe is actually on the side of the righteous and the holy. He wants you to succeed is not waiting for you to fail.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Nifty tips

I bought a book at the weekend with some really ingenious tips. A few examples:

How to keep your counter tops "cat free"
Put down double sided sticky tape. Kitty will hate how it feels on her paws and won't repeat the experiment. Or, assemble empty tin cans and aluminium cookware near the edge. All the clatter when it falls to the floor will give her a start. Again, not to be repeated for noise sensitive ears.

De-mineralise your shower head.

Fill a plastic sandwich bag with vinegar and wrap it around the head so it is completely immersed in vinegar. Secure with an elastic band. Leave to soak overnight and use old toothbrush or some tooth picks to clean the holes.

Unstick gum with egg whites

Use a toothbrush to scrub away the gum with egg white. Leave for 15 minutes, then wipe away remaining traces and launder as usual.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

In Memoriam

This week I did something I have never had to do before; delete a friend from my email address book because they had died.

I had lost contact with this friend. The last time we had met was a week before I married in 2004. We had sailed together and as our lives continued on different bits of the planet, we had literally drifted apart. But in July 2004, she was sailing with her family in Scotland, and I was "home" in the UK briefly for my wedding. We met up, and the intervening years melted away as we laughed over old sea stories.

For a couple of years I got the family "round robin" at Christmas, the last one with news that she and her husband were moving to Nigeria (she was a doctor). I had assumed that the lack of news after that was because of the challenge of living in Nigeria.

Then last week I had dinner with a mutual friend and he dropped the bombshell. Cancer.

My friend had three small children, the eldest her own biologically, the youngest two adopted.

Rest in Peace Lisa. I won't forget you.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Gone to pieces

I don’t remember a Saturday where I have done nothing. However, after two solid weeks of entertaining people, I decided today was a day to truly relax.
Out came a jigsaw I bought about a month ago at a charity shop. It must be thirty years since I did one. Even my better half was hooked. Does anyone know if there is such a thing as jigsaw addiction?
750 pieces later, I'm feeling truly relaxed.

Friday, 18 July 2008

All blacks

New Zealand can claim to be blessed with more coastline per capita than any other nation in the world. The other blessing is that we host some pretty amazing seabirds.

Take the variable oystercatcher. It’s a funny little fella and relatively rare, so we are privileged to watch it waddle amongst the pebbles.

Today, we were driving by the shore, which was strangely empty of its normal population of oystercatchers. I happened to glance to the other side of the road, only to see over fifty of the birds digging for worms on a community field. The tide was in, so their breakfast was being sourced amongst the worms on the flooded rugby pitch.
How appropriate that the new occupants of the field were also “all blacks”.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

An early spring

A friend brought me flowers from her garden on Monday evening. The weather doesn't know what to do with itself and bulbs are totally confused. We have daffys sprouting everywhere!
Hey guys, it's still winter!

Reindeer out of retirement

I have amazing parents; allow me to brag. Mum will be 84 this year, Dad 77. Dad has a heart condition, non Hodgkins Lymphoma (in remission) and very severe oesteo arthritis. Mum’s sight and hearing aren’t great and she suffers with a frozen shoulder and tinitus.

Ok, so, they have reasons to “take it easy”. Not likely. They recently started visiting a small home for mentally disabled adults. This week they were invited to the birthday party of one of the residents. In the course of the conversation, my Dad asked the manager if Father Christmas ever came to visit the home. The reply was that they couldn’t afford to hire one. My Dad has offered to brush off his outfit (stored for the last 7 years), and do his Father Christmas routine for the eight residents at Christmas. He did this for fifty years on the trot, but then felt it was time to pack the boots and outfit away.

So, the corridors will once again be ringing with “Ho Ho Hoing”. I suspect mum will get busy with presents for the sack too, as she’s always fitted the role of Mother Christmas perfectly!

Honestly, there are some folk you simply can’t tie down. I’m thrilled.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

The Sassenach breakfast

I had one of those “my goodness, that doesn’t happen any more” moments this morning. Oh dear, the world has changed, and no one asked my permission before they rearranged the furniture!

It was a small incident. Last night we had another dinner party, and there was some single cream left over from dessert. As a treat I made porridge (it’s that kind of weather here), and thought “mmm, a slosh of cream for the top”. As a child growing up in the north of England, we had milk delivered to our doorstep in a tall bottle. It always had at least two inches of cream at the top. My mum would ask me every morning, “would you like the cream from the top on your porridge?”
In the era of skimmed/lite/no fat/low fat milk in PLASTIC containers, the delight of eating high calorie oats is but a distant memory.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Cupboard Love

Our beloved Tom Cat, Otto never misses a trick. We rearranged some furniture to allow for a big gathering on Shabbat. Within a nanosecond, he'd discovered the missing drawer and was about to make himself comfortable.

Alarm bells

A few weeks ago, my mobile phone skidded out of my handbag when I put it on the floor. It appears I damaged it, but it worked normally until this week, when the speaker on it died. It means the phone doesn’t make any sounds so I don’t know that folk are calling or texting me. It seems it is unrepairable, which is a pity as this model phone is no longer available and I really like it. What is worse is the alarm no longer works, and that was vital to getting me out of bed. That is, until this morning.

Living where we do, we have on average ten earthquakes a day nationally – most are too deep to feel at surface level. Our town is on a fault line, so when the earth trembles in either the north or south Island, we often get the tail end of shiver. A bit like being on an old fashioned party line – one telephone line, several voices chattering.

This morning, at approximately the time my alarm would normally ring, Hanmer Springs had a very shallow 4.1 quake.

Sorry folks, but even Nokia doesn’t wake me up that efficiently.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Technoklutznik

Allow me a two minute boast. I’m amazed how far I’ve come technically for someone who failed maths at school and had no interest in any scientific discipline. I am a complete klutz in anything to do with DIY, I simply don’t have the talents to problem solve when it comes to things physical.
In 1985 I used a computer for the first time. I have been using them daily ever since. I have no interest in all the whirly gig things they are capable of, or the languages the programmes are written in. I love them because I can type fast and get ideas out quickly. My computer is my window on the world and the way I have cups of tea online with friends far flung.
A few days ago, I decided to try set myself up with a new blog. The format and way to add things was completely different to Blogger, but I cracked a number of problems and figured my way around some HTML code which was proving difficult.
This from someone who doesn’t know how to operate the DVD or Video and is still navigating buttons on her mobile phone.
More about the new blog later.