Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I am moving!

I am moving house!!!

This was entirely un-looked for as I have been almost completely in love with the 100 year old cottage I have been living in for the past 6 years. It has some pretty horrible parts, like the most migraine-inducing linoleum in the bathroom that I have ever seen.
Didn't believe me, did you?

The carpet is a heavily pattered Axminster from the  70's, though fortunately in the colour tones that I prefer. But the pattern makes choosing furnishings somewhat challenging!

And if I tried to swing a cat (figuratively speaking) in my kitchen it would hit it's head on each of the four walls because the kitchen is so small.

I have an absentee landlord, living in Australia, who doesn't spend a cent on maintenance. He has authorised the property manager to fix broken things only. Subsequently, the red paint is badly peeled from the iron roof and the exterior stucco is sadly in need of a paint job and some superficial cracks filled. The wiring is so ancient that the electrician who came to do a repair job simply stood there laughing for 5 minutes and shaking his head.

But the cottage is located on a quiet rear section in one of the most desirable residential streets, has great flow between the rooms, two double and one single bedroom (which takes a double bed easily too), 12' studs which makes for a cool, airy and spacious house in the summer heat, and - perhaps most importantly to me - a large back garden for my dog and two cats and a landlord who allowed me to have them here. It is hard to find decent rentals in New Zealand that allow dogs in particular.

I love the way Otter likes to just sit in the sun and doze off.

You can see the side wall (with the power box) of my new home over the fence. There is more space between the fence and the house than it appears in this photo

This has been my home, rather than just a house, and I have loved living here. I wasn't looking to move, but on Saturday afternoon my neighbour knocked on my door and asked me to please rent her 3-year old townhouse which is NEXT DOOR. It is on the rear section next to mine, she is happy for me to take the animals, and SHE is going to get the lawns mowed and said she is happy to help with the garden!!! What's not to like about this deal?

So, it will be with a tinge of sadness that I say goodbye to the house that has some great memories of parties and gatherings and dinners. My daughter celebrated her 16th and 18th birthdays here with all her friends.
The second bedroom as a spare bedroom, it has since become my daughter's bedroom and has all her furniture in it

I have always loved this wide hallway and the front doors. They open out to a deep, shady porch where I have an abundance of potted plants

The sitting room gets morning sun, firstly through the windows behind the sofa, and then it swings around and comes through another window

My daughter's 21st birthday, in just 3 weeks' time, will be celebrated in our new home, probably amidst chaos since we will have only just moved it.

With luck, rather than good management, I hope to have the new house straight by Christmas.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Apologies and Excuses

I am full of apologies and excuses for not updating my blog for so long. Apologies - self-explanatory. Excuses - well personally I think they are reasonable ones. You judge.

My daughter has moved home now. The moving of her was one thing. The sorting out of our home to accommodate her and her belongings has been quite a different matter. A lot of belongings have needed to be culled. Some of it I felt a pang to see it go. Other stuff felt good to have a valid excuse for getting rid of it.

One month later and the house is (almost) restored to order. Or, at least, it was until one week ago. I think the restored order also restored my ability to think about things other than the house, and one of those things was my professional portfolio which my profession demands in a short version with no rewards as part of its annual practising certificate.

My employer, however, requests a much lengthier and in depth version which requires much researching, cross-matching of information, and hard evidence that I have, in fact, actually done what I state I have done. And since it is so time-consuming and stressful an exercise, my employer is willing to financially reward those who decide to undertake the challenge.

Now, normal people would do this over a period of perhaps a month or so. Because I have never been considered quite normal by either family or friends, I decided a week ago that I was going to complete the mission in one week.


I have worked 6 out of 7 days of the past week. I didn't factor that into my plan.

3 of those shifts were night shifts. I didn't factor that in either.

So, for 4 days I was getting up early, working on the stuff I could do at home, then going to work and working my 8hr shift, then staying at work until 1 or 2 a.m. photocopying hard evidence of professional development, then going home and collating until maybe 3 a.m.
Then for 3 days I was working my night shifts, coming home and working for an hour, waking up in my usual zombie-like state, and pretty much working until going to work again at night.

However, believe it or not, I did it. I ran it past one of the assessors briefly. She gave me some pointers for areas that needed enlarging upon, which I did last night. And now it is ready to hand in when I arrive at work this afternoon.

And this is what it was all about. The green folder is my presentation folder which I will submit. The second is the "originals" file, since we are not permitted to submit original copies in case they get lost. Each and every piece of paper initialled by another person who can verify that each piece of evidence is legitimate.

And now I am exhausted through a week of not enough sleep, but relieved I made my own deadline.

Now, fingers crossed it gets approved please.

Monday, October 18, 2010


I just found out I am working NIGHT SHIFT on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. 

I must have really pissed someone off :-(

Added on 25 November: Just found out I am also working night shift through New Year too.
Double :-(

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Topsy-turvey is how I feel at the moment. I have been busy moving my daughter home from the city where she has been living for the past two years. My poor little 1490cc car has done several round trips - 1,000km each time, and fully laden on the return journey.

The furniture removal truck I had ordered would only take 20 cartons in addition to the furniture, you see, hence my having to transport everything else :-(

The final trip was last Monday. Bearing in mind it is late spring (almost summer, in fact) I was horrified to encounter this on the long mountainous and winding and climbing stretch of road that traverses two mountain ranges:

I was not best pleased at this development. However, the timing was good because the snow plough and grit truck had not long been through, so the road itself wasn't too bad. Lucky for me since I didn't have chains and would have had to turn back otherwise.

The return journey was also harrowing. The snow had gone, only to be replaced with gale-force winds. By the time I arrived home my arms were aching and tired from fighting the steering wheel for 4 hours straight. I was very glad to have a fully-laden car for that trip as the extra weight helped combat the winds.

What seemed like a thousand cardboard boxes were flattened and put out for the recycling truck today, and suddenly the house seems to be returning to order. There is still a lot to do, but just getting rid of the boxes has had an enormous visual impact.

Oh, and by the way, my daughter brought these with her:

Her baby rats, Heidi and Audrina.
And daughter is making her presence known to the poor, long suffering dog too:

Poor, poor Otter. So humiliating.

On a brighter note, I have my bed to myself again since daughter's cat has abandoned me and returned to sleeping on her bed.

Sweet, sweet LEG ROOM again!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cold Day Comfort Food

Ugh! Night shifts. I really, really, really, really hate them. They come around about every 3 weeks, and I have just finished them until next time. Tasha was so happy to see me when I got home at 7.45 this morning. She was asleep on the bed when I left last night, but I always crack a secure window as an escape route for the cats if they are still inside when I go out. The trouble is, once out they can't get back in. Hence an extremely ecstatic cat when I got home.

Yes, straight up onto the boot of the car wanting smooches.

Sophie -  Happy to see me but stand-offish as usual.

The light was pretty this morning so, since I was holding my camera, I snapped a couple of things before heading inside.

Mexican Orange Blossom, with large leaved Puka behind it, and a glimpse of the lemon tree

The lemon tree, with my artistically aged tin fence, and chicken wire for contrast. I'm afraid that side of the garden, the cold damp side that I hardly ever go round, rarely sees me. Yes there is sun in this picture, but five minutes after this picture was taken the sun is gone completely from that side until it's five minutes of glory the next day at the same time.

Common old jasmine - its scent greets everyone who walks up my drive way and me when I get out of my car

Arum lilies and ladder fern. Both inherited when I moved into this house. I've tried getting rid of these 'weeds', and now I have resigned myself to co-existing with them. Nothing short of a direct nuclear hit will stop these things from growing. I guess they have their own charm. They are green all year round, and grow in this area that is damp and shady throughout winter, and dry and shady throughout summer.

I have an "Apple Blossom" flower carpet rose to go in this problem spot. I'm scratching my head over why I have a dead stripe in the lawn. Very strange.

New Zealand has been in the grip of a low worthy of mid winter. It has been cold. It has been raining and hailing and gale-ing today in Napier, starting not long after I took the above pictures. Other parts of New Zealand have suffered snow in quantities that have made rooves collapse beneath the weight!!!

And if there is one thing about winter-like weather it is that it makes me want to comfort eat.

Ive never been much of a sausage fan, however I saw these in the deli section of my local supermarket.

I was suss. My last experience of vegetarian sausages was many years ago. I think those were TVP-based. They tasted funny, and they literally left layers behind in the pan where they stuck no matter how much I tried to keep them moving. In short, they were disgusting.

I decided to give these new vegetarian sausages a go. They were pricey, at over $NZ7.00 for 6. But when I divide that by 3 (the number of meals I will get from them), it's not so bad.

The main ingredients: Tofu, Onions, Wheat gluten, Roasted red onion, Cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, Parsley.

I gently fried them, and ate them with a fried egg, baked beans, and poached tomatoes. And the verdict? They were delicious and filling and didn't stick to the pan at all. A true winter comfort food meal!!!

Tomorrow's adventure is to finally overcome my fear of Tofu. I have bought a block, watched a very informative video on how to press it to extract all the excess fluid, and found this recipe  which is for Penne With Heirloom Tomato Sauce and Roasted Tofu.

***I ended up cooking the tofu in a honey/ginger/chilli stir fry. The recipe called for marinating the tofu in the above mixture for "1 hour to overnight". Kind of a big difference. The mixture seemed strong and I was short on time so I went for the 1 hour option. It was okay, just very bland. I will do this recipe again but I will definitely marinate it overnight next time.

Live and learn. And now I have cooked using tofu for the first time so am not terrified of it anymore heh heh

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Sad Farewell to the Wonga Wonga

I have loved the beautiful Wonga Wonga vine that I planted as a baby only five years ago. I planted it where I thought it would get knocked back by the frosts each year as it is an Australian native and therefore (according to the blurb) frost tender. I know how big these things get unchecked, hence deliberately sabotaging its growth.

Unfortunately, the vine decided that it likes the climate here - frost or no frost - and has grown to the point where it's thick woody growth is now threatening to tear apart the shed hidden behind it (you can catch just a glimps of the red through parts of the vine).

It is now in full flower, and sadly it will be the last time for this vine. I will then become an axe murderer and end it's reign of beauty, as pruning only makes it grow faster and stronger.

Just beginning to flower

Half open

In full splendour . Clover is starting to dominate in my lawn, I see. The lawn that is starting to resemble a paddock. It is only one week since it was mowed - it grows fast at this time of year.

Such pretty cream bells with soft yellow throats

Now I will have to get used to looking at the particularly ugly tin fence that it has been doing such a beautiful job of hiding, while I wait for something else to grow in its place.

It's been such a long, dreary and WET winter that my garden is looking horribly neglected. I think it has rained on every day off that I have had for months. With the sudden onset of milder temperatures, the grass has suddenly started growing at twice its normal rate. Unfortunately, so have the weeds.

The feijoa bush has lots of new growth which will provide lots of fruit

The new leaves on the Indigo Bush, another Australian native which I thought I had lost when it dropped all its leaves with the first winter frost. You can barely see them against the WEEDS!

Red spring growth on the gaura, one of my favourite plants

Unnamed Chinese Lantern hybrid

I can't remember the name of this weed, but it is incredibly invasive and grows very fast. This wasn't there a week ago.

Borage - the bane of my life. I planted one plant several years ago and I've been pulling out seedlings ever since.

More borage, muscling in next to the budding "Cherry Pie" heliotrope

I'd love to know how those freesias got into the pot with the succulent, because I didn't put them in there. (And can you see more sneaky borage?)

I desperately need to get out into the garden and pull some of those weeds (and borage). I will try tomorrow, but the forecast is for - you guessed it - more rain, this time with strong winds thrown in for good measure.

Maybe I will stay inside and start re-organising the house instead. My daughter has decided to return home to live from the city where she has been for the past two years. I had filled the gaps she had left, and now have to create new gaps. This will involve an awful lot of work. I am also trying to get quotes and organise a furniture carrier and dates and her packing from a distance of 500 kilometers. All in little windows of time between my job and sleeping. I'm feeling overwhelmed and under-motivated right at this moment.

Maybe I will have a piece of Jim Beam fudge. This and a box of Ferrero Roche chocolates are gifts that were given to me last Christmas. They have been patiently waiting for me to be in the right mood for them. Well, tonight is definitely a Jim Beam Fudge night.

And yes, my monitor is sitting on a pathophysiology book and a book on horse breeds. Doesn't everyones'?

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Not-too-fishy Kedgeree

A few weeks ago I came across a recipe in a magazine. Unfortunately the magazine was in the waiting area where I was treating myself to a gourmet vegetarian pizza. Undeterred, and probably a little brashly, I asked if I could rip the page out. They seemed remarkably uncaring whether I did or not. So...
White lettering on a brown woodgrain pattern. If I'd realised how hard it would be to find my place quickly while in the process of cooking, I would have written it out by hand first. Live and learn.

This turned out to be super-tasty and not too fishy, this being my biggest worry as I only like very mild flavoured fish, such as gurnard.

Cardamom seeds turned out to be an unexpected pleasure.

I've been having difficulty sourcing cardomom pods (which are called for in a lot of the recipes I've been using). I've been using the ground cardamom, but yesterday  finally managed to find some pods. I nearly didn't buy them, thinking that the flavour would be the same as the ground version. How wrong could I be? I followed the instructions to break open the pods and remove the whole seeds.

As I was eating the kedgeree one of these tiny seeds would get crushed and my mouth would fill with a beautiful and flavoursome sweetness. I think this is a big breakthrough somehow.

Now I understand.

I used sultanas rather than raisins, but only because I don't like raisins or currants.
I used half a cup of chopped onion and half a cup of chopped sweet red bell pepper, rather than a whole  chopped onion, (but this was only because I happened to have these two half cups sitting in the fridge surplus to the failed baked layered tortilla stack I made last night. The top burnt, there was too much chilli and yes I did follow the recipe, and it totally fell apart when I tried to cut it into slices. Under the top burnt tortilla the unsightly mess it fell into on the plate tasted fine but it is, nonetheless, a recipe I put into the paper recycling bin).
I also used vegetable stock rather than fish stock because I didn't want it to be too fishy.
I also halved the quantities since there is only me, and I had a very hearty meal (and went back and had a little more), and there is enough for me to take to work for the next two days to reheat.
Those were the only changes I made.

This is the recipe with the original ingredients and quantities.


4 eggs, hardboiled and quartered
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups jasmine rice
1/4 tsp chilli powder
3 tsp curry powder
6 cardamom pods, seeds extracted
1 cup fish stock
2 1/2 cups water
salt and freshly ground pepper
500-600g smoked white fish, taken off the bones
             (I used a 300g can smoked fish fillets)
1/2 cup raisins
2 Tbsp snipped chives
3 Tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

1. Sautee onion in butter for about 10 minutes without browning.

2. Add rice and spices and cook gently for about 5 minutes.

3. Add stock and water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook uncovered for approx 12 minutes, or until rice is just tender. If it dries out add a little boiling water from the kettle (I just added a bit of leftover stock).

4. Add a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper, then taste and add more if required (must admit I didn't add that much salt).

5. Lower heat, then stir in fish, raisins and herbs. Half bury eggs in the rice. Heat through. Serve immediately.

After adding the spices.

After adding the stock

After the water has reduced, the rice bite tender, and the sultanas added

And with the fish and egg added

And, because I'm a drongo, I totally forgot to take any more photos because by then all I wanted to do was...

Nom Nom Nom

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Napier has been experiencing earthquakes since my last post. Four in the past few days. This afternoon's was 5.2.

Not happy.
Not happy at all.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The 1931 Earthquake in Napier, New Zealand

As New Zealand comes to terms with the earthquake on Saturday which hit Canterbury and one of our four main cities, Christchurch, I can't help but reflect back on the "big one" that hit Napier, my home town, in 1931. It registered 7.8 on the Richter Scale, and cost 258 lives.

This was one of the main streets in the CBD before the earthquake.

This is the same street after the earthquake

This picture shows the nurses' hostel where some nurses had been asleep after night shift.

Lying at anchor in the bay was the HMS Veronica. The earthquake raised the seabed and left the small British warship temporarily grounded.

In the following days the crew of this ship became our heroes. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, all outside communication on shore was cut off. HMS Veronica provided outside communication and alerted the rest of New Zealand to the disaster and enabled other naval ships to arrive the following day laden with supplies, doctors and nurses.

While waiting for this relief, the sailors of the HMS Veronica stepped into the breach. Within 10 minutes sailors were helping with rescue work. Over the next several days they worked tirelessly to scour the city for food, bedding and clothing for emergency camps and hospitals. They established a food depot and cooked meals for 2,000 people. They searched for survivors, moved patients from the shattered hospital, demolished buildings, and patrolled the streets. They sheltered many refugees aboard the HMS Veronica itself. They also helped to fight the many fires which broke out and which raged for several days.  Their presence is credited with preventing panic from breaking out among the population.

The crew of the HMS Veronica will never be forgotten in Napier, even though it was almost 80 years ago. A beautiful sunbay, aptly named the Veronica Sunbay, was built on our Marine Parade.

In 2005 we honoured them with a commemoration service held in front of the Veronica Sunbay. In the background you can see the Veronica Bell, saved from the ship before she was scrapped in 1935.

Napier's memorial to the earthquake which changed our city forever.

And some images of Napier as it is now.

The Veronica Sunbay is just visible to the far left.

Napier literally rose from the ashes and Christchurch and the surrounding areas will too. In the meantime, God Bless all those providing assistance. We in Napier know how much this is worth.