Saturday, 31 January 2009

Twice-icle as nice-icle

Quoting a story from our local newspaper today

With Wellington set for a scorcher this weekend, our zoo animals are being offered new ways to cool down.
"Mousesicles", frozen whole mice, will be on the menu for Wellington Zoo's servals medium-sized African wild cats.
The city is heading for a high of 26C today, before cooling down a little to 23C tomorrow. It's likely to be even warmer in Wairarapa and Hawke's Bay.
Masterton can expect to hit 32C today, while Napier will hover around 29.
MetService forecaster Heath Gullery said the hot temperatures would be concentrated in eastern areas.
To prepare for the heat, Wellington Zoo staff have set up some enticing summer treats for their servals.
Today they get to play in a paddling pool complete with floating oranges that they will be able to fish out. "In the wild, servals are keen fishers and will wade into water, hooking fish with their long legs and claws," zoo spokeswoman Stephanie Gray said.
And when fishing gets too hot they will be able to wrap their paws around a "bloodsicle" a diluted blood ice-block.
Keepers will also put up hammocks for the servals and Malaysian sun bears to lounge on. The interesting menu and other extras are dubbed "enrichment activities" and designed to break the routine of zoo life for the wild cats.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Where the wild things are

Snoozing in the Savannah

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

A statement of fact

Planning a trip to Middle Earth

Believe it or not, it takes as long to get from our home to our friends home on the S. Island as it does to fly from Singapore to London.

That's part of the fun.

Plane, followed by long distance bus, followed by minivan.

I did offer to rent a donkey, but I'm not sure there are any strong enough to take my Viking frame.

More about this trip in March.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Spa and cafe open for business

This morning we had our first visitor to the bird bath – the year old thrush from the territory next door. In typical teenager fashion, he had a quick lick and promise, threw back a mouthful of refreshment and then flew off to check out the local talent from the security of the apple tree next door.
This is the same bird who a year ago experienced his first Kiwi shower and alternately soaked his baby body on the fence under the full force of the downpour, then went back to the apple tree to preen himself.
We had quite a stare at each other through the kitchen window. Mercifully, Ms Lady Cat and occasional hunter was sunning herself at the other side of the house. I gave Mr T a bit of a talking to “NEVER turn your back on the garden, always be watchful behind the cabbage tree, and make brief but meaningful sorties to the bath. Do NOT dry off at garden level – please use the tree as the “finish off” zone. When in doubt, shriek and I will come as fast as I can to your rescue.”
Note to self: “Overfeed calico cat so that she can only waddle and not chase”.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Cheese and the meaning of the universe

Today I was reminded of a conversation I had with a local baker of German extraction. Occasionally we buy pastries or rye bread from him. The conversation concerned Quark. That is quark singular, not the plural sub atomic particle variety.
New Zealand is famous for the quality of its milk, it being the home of happy cows which graze on pastures rather than on feed or straw. It is one of the reasons we have the best coffee on the planet……..but, I digress.
Quark is an essential ingredient for most Central European pastries, whether cheesecakes, schnecken or other amazing confections.
The baker and I got chatting about cheese. New Zealand produces a lot of it, but there is only a small percentage of the production which I would consider premium. The Blue Ribbon quality is made by immigrant Greeks, French and Israelis. Amazing, considering the quality of the raw product. The baker and I are both immigrants and bemoaned the absence of many varieties of cheese we are used to from the N. Hemisphere. This baker claims to purchase the biggest volume of quark in the country, but its only producer didn’t make it to his exacting standards, so he flew his pastry baker to the S. Island to teach him how to do it.
Now what set off this train of thought? Well, our large tom cat has a Central European name. This lunchtime, he decided to join us for lunch in our back garden and snack on the leftovers of cottage cheese. He loved it and kept coming back for more. We may have to change his name back to the one he came with when we adopted him. Kiwi Terence fits at cottage cheese eating cat far better than Herr Otto Richter von Fuenf.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

All the President's Menu

For the second year, in January, I have had a random collision with a US President and food.
Last year, I was in Jerusalem when George W hit town. It happened to be a night when I’d arrived back late from the hospital where I was volunteering. Due to security, all main artery roads into the capital were either blocked off, diverted, jammed, or having an attack of Jerusalem Chaos.
The upshot was that when I “dialled a kosher Pizza” it took an hour and forty minutes for it to arrive, by which time it tasted like Second Temple matza.
Fast forward to this evening – the day of the Presidential Inauguration. My better half had taken me out for an Italian supper after work. In his haste to clear up the kitchen before he left home, he’d put a number of things back into the fridge, without really seeing where he had stacked them.
The upshot was that a dish of Doris plums with juice had spilled all over the fridge, including a defrosting chicken.
The dish I will cook tomorrow will be called “Inauguration Chicken with Plum al Obama” I wonder if it will catch on?

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Fine Wines

I am proud to live in a country which produces some of the best wines on the planet. But I do have to laugh at some of the names the boutique wine makers come up with.

Today I lost it in the wine aisle at the local supermarket. I'm a Sauvignon Blanc girl and was drawn, at a distance, to a bright green label.

The name? "Cat Pee on a Gooseberry Bush". Hmmm, swirl that one around your mouth.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

The sneezing dessert

This is my first attempt at Tiramisu.

The name reminds me of that children's nursery rhyme, "Here we go round the mulberry bush"

"Tiramisu, tiramisu, we all fall down"

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Relatives vs friends

I have just done an interesting exercise; transferring all my email addresses from my old PC to my new iMac. Now I am sure there is a very FAST way of doing this, but I decided to do it manually. The main reason was so that I could sort out and group the addresses and sift out some chaff along the way.

I decided to group them according to places I'd lived and family members. What is interesting is that out of the 542 entries only 20 of these are relatives. Out of those twenty, four are very distant relatives who we discovered as a result of my Dad's genealogical research.

Yes, I have a small family, but it appears I must come from a long line of Luddites. Come on guys, get with it. Buy a computer and get an email address!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

How to waste some time

.....whilst simultaneously cheering yourself up - just in case that is required.

Thanks to David Bogner at Treppenwitz, I have spent a very happy time at the following website

You can download themes from your favourite TV programmes, or just listen to them, as an amble down memory lane.

WARNING. Do not go to this site unless you have at least half an hour to recline with some memories.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Heaven, I'm in Heaven

and my heart beats so that I can hardly speak,
and I seem to find the happiness I seek,
as my new iMac and I dance cheek to cheek

Muesli thief

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Not doing too well

Sorry to moan, but I am battling a bit. Yesterday I discovered what seemed to be hundreds of insect bites appear on my upper legs. Today they have spread. I was warned I could have side effects to the two strong courses of antibiotics.... And of course now it is the weekend, so no doctors. And I have to go to work today.


Could be radio silence for a while.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Quatam physicals

I just returned from watching the latest Bond movie. I have been looking forward to it since the closing scenes of Casino Royale (surely the best Bond ever.) Daniel Craig has to be the most magnetic bloke on the planet, so I was steeling myself to become a transfixed bunny in the headlights of an oncoming truck.

Well, the most delicious scene in the entire film was a fleeting nano second. I found myself coveting………..M’s bath. I leaned over to my better half; “I want that bath, I want those towels, I want that room with that bath. I want that pure silk dressing gown………”

I think I must have been really ill, to be coveting an old lady’s bathroom.

Dear Barbara Brocolli, Next time, no shots of M’s bath. It is more than my exhausted mind and body can handle.

Yours, requiring a different kind of solace.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Yours sartorially

I love cookbooks. I collect them, I read them like novels.

I can’t get enough of the recent phenomena of combining recipes with arty travel photos and stories that the chef has collected along the way. Recently, I picked up a huge coffee table book for a song at a book sale; “New Zealand, Food, Wine and Art”. It takes each region of the country and puts together a nice pastiche of the culinary and artistic flavours of the region, with a great recipe or two by the local notable restaurateurs.

A photo of one of the delicately assembled meat dishes suddenly had me in stitches laughing. For ages I have been trying to think what the little “final flourish” on top of the meat / vegetable / potato stack reminds me of. You know the thing I mean. It is usually tiny curly strips of cucumber or carrot or beetroot, and resembles a pile of wool all scrunched up.

Or, the Queen Mother’s hat.

That’s it. The green and delicate “joosh” toppings which balance precariously on those five star creations remind me of the outrageous hats the darling Queen Mum would wear to Ascot or her daughter’s garden party. There were ornamental cabbages, Waldorf salads, fruit compotes and spun sugar confections. All perched on 4’11” of majesty.

So that’s it, I’ve been eating the Queen Mother’s hat.

Gotta love Yorkshire

An uplifting story for the beginning of the year, as reported in our local newspaper today.

"A British shopkeeper who left an honesty box at his DIY store for customers to serve themselves on Boxing Day returned to find nearly A$400 and nothing stolen.

Tom Algie sold £187.66 worth of goods when he left his shop, called Practically Everything, open and unattended in Settle, North Yorkshire, on Boxing Day.

"I wanted to spend the holidays with my family but thought it would be quite nice to open the shop," Algie told Friday's edition of the Daily Mirror.

"I didn't think twice. Settle is a lovely, quiet, rural town and there's never any trouble here."

Algie left a note on the honesty box saying: "Yes, I have given everyone the day off, including me, so please choose the items you want and place the right money inside."

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Cats and Trees

A question. How many cat owners have endless fun at Christmas with the following equation:

Cat x Cat + Christmas Tree = (Ornaments) squared and scattered all over the house.

Last year, the first time I had ever had a tree, the cats ignored it. Just another weird bit of furniture the old lady dragged in.

This year, it was theme park central. Big Boy turned into Mohammed Ali. He practised for hours with the gold coloured bauble. Slowly, the tree became top heavy with all the ornaments I wanted to protect. It warranted an explanation to visitors. “Yes, it’s the first time we’ve had a tree” and “Yes, I do know that the decorations are supposed to go ALL the way down and not leave the bottom three layers bare as brisket”

Lady cat tried chewing the lights whilst they were turned on. Several times she missed being turned into a calico with curly fur.

Oh, the endless amusement………

Thursday, 1 January 2009

High and Low Lights of 2008

Being stranded in Singapore for 24 hours over New Year last year. Still, a five star hotel is a great place to do this in.

Being in Jerusalem at the same time as George W Bush. It was a nightmare, the city was gridlocked for two solid days. Being stuck in a blizzard on the way to Tel Aviv airport. SCARY.

Meeting some amazing, brave Iraqi families with sick children in Israel. They were being treated for free by a charity called Shevet Achim.

Having a crazy, wonderful Brazilian lodger for 4 months, and two “daughters” from S. Africa and the US at the same time. Great fun.

The Great Wall and Mammoth Drain project on our property. We lived with mud and chaos for four months.

Having concussion and a recovery period for 6 weeks.

Getting a new job, which nearly fried me after two months. It got better.

Having friends stay with us from all over the world.

Fundraising for Shevet Achim.

Having acute tonsillitis over the Christmas Holidays.

Looking forward to what 2009 will bring.