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


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 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