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Archive for August, 2010

Gastronononomy

What a fabulous day we’ve had.  After a couple of aimless weekends we decided that we needed to have a plan!

We shot into town this morning having had the increasingly traditional Saturday scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast.  We were planning to visit the Farmers market at he Britomart – which is the main public transport hub of the city.  It was a pretty small affair, but there were a few nice stalls.  I got to taste a smoked mussel – the last time we had these was in January when we stayed in the Coromandel.  Absolutely delicious.  So incredibly packed with flavour and a really nice meaty texture, not slimey at all.  We also bought some Sausage bread which (given it was 11am already) we tucked into for a morning snack.

Josie suggested we check the English shop for boasters to help with the great Boaster Quest, but they hadn’t got any.  We did buy some Lindt milk choc as a treat though which Emily coveted for the rest of the day.

After emerging Josie decided she fancied some gyoza.  These are steamed and fried Japanese dumplings and totally delicious, so no arguments from anyone.  We trundled up the hill to the food hall on Albert Street which I used to frequent for lunch when working.  The girls were so excited it was great.  The gyoza were lovely, but gone too quickly.  Lucy really loves any food served with a sauce or dip.  She calls it ‘saucy’ and insists on dipping before eating.

Having only just got the taste buds going we agreed that the next course was sushi.  So we mosied over to Queen Street and dropped into a proper sushi restaurant where the sushi arrives on little plates on a conveyor belt that passes up the middle of the diners!  Too exciting… >BOOM< that was my head exploding.

The Sushi Conveyor Belt

I ordered a green tea (because it was free) and they bough four green teas, two cooled right down with ice for the girls!  We decided that Em could have hers but Lucy had better not as it was still likley to have some caffeine in it.  Can you imagine.  Lucy… on caffeine…

As it was the girls were absolute angels.  Those who know us well, know that we are quite strict with manners and eating at the table, but days like today really make it all worth it.  The girls were delightful and we were able to completely relax and just have fun knowing that they wouldn’t be a problem.

We briefly toyed with the idea of washing the sushi down with pizza, but on reflection decided we’d had enough food for a while.

Having headed home, we finally tackled the downstairs area.  That’s not a euphamism for personal grooming, we actually set about tidying up the spare bedrooms.  I’m all set for another round of de-cluttering via TradeMe, car boot sale, charity shop or whatever…  we made some good progress and now have a list of jobs like fill the photo frames and hang them on the walls, put up coat hooks, etc.

To help our tidying quest we made a brief dive into Mitre 10 (B&Q for kiwis) for a few bits then back for dinner.

It feels great when you do loads of things in one day and they are all different.  It really feels like you’ve accomplished something.

I’ve included some photos from the last month.  A trip to Long Bay beach, Lucy after her second day at creche.  Emily’s trophy and a few other assortments.

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Expats

I read this article today. I thought it was interesting and applicable to some of the people we have heard about in NZ.

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Anyone there?

I bet you think we’ve disappeared. Still here. Lots of stuff going on. Firstly my back……. well it is much better. I had another session last Friday and she said I could start running again from Sunday which I did and have had some good, but very short and slow runs every morning. Clever me for doing good stretches. I had another session today and my pelvis has stayed in the right position – now we are sorting out my coccyx and sacrum.

However, I have had an extra two sessions at the physio this week because I managed to strain my neck whilst doing my back exercises!!! Crikey I was in all sorts of trouble on Monday with it. I couldn’t move my head at all!!! What am I like! I feel like a very old car that is starting to cost its owner a lot of cash 😉

Emily is speaking in assembly today. Steve is on his way home from work so he can see her say “Hello, my name is Emily. Welcome to room 6 and 7 assembly.” You can’t say he isn’t committed to this parenting business! We’re very over-excited about her 10 seconds of fame. She’ll be reading a poem on stage too so actually she’ll probably be in the limelight for about 20 seconds 🙂

Lucy started creche last week. I’ll post some pics of her later in the week and do a separate post all about creche here. She’s settled in well and has won over all the staff with her charmingly large personality.

Steve is working very hard. But that said, he is home by seven and doesn’t leave until about 740am so he sees the girls every day. He is also very much back in the pool and his swimming is going really well. He is managing to get out for two evenings a week for training and at least once at the weekend. I hope he doesn’t develop gills and a fin!

Ordered the new roof. Should be on next week. Rather looking forward to smartening up the place actually although watching the savings evaporate will not be quite so pleasant!

Oh and finally – 6 more days until the start of Spring. We have one tree covered in blossom and the tiny leaves are starting to appear. Soon we will be wrapped by the tree tops in our own, jungle-like cocoon. And Steve and I have already had a day of wearing tshirt and shorts. Winter has been kind to us 🙂

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Going Pear-Shaped

Got up early for a run on Monday with my personal trainer friend Stuart. We were doing a gentle one because he’d been in a race on Sunday and I have to take it easy after my back problems. Anyway, had a very gentle run but my leg was still sore. We were chatting about it and came to the conclusion I had a mechanical problem because despite the rest, something was still not right – it could be my legs, gait, the landing of my foot etc. When we finished the run he gave me a bit of a talking to. He felt very strongly that I should pull out of the marathon, that I wasn’t ready and that if I ran it might do some serious damage and make it impossible to do all the other runs I want to do over the next 12 months. He was not rude, just trying to get me to see sense.

So I came home in a grump. He’s right of course: if the marathon were easy, everyone would do it. It is not something the body can naturally do. My body has run itself into the ground. And most importantly I love to run so why risk a very serious injury on one enormous effort when I can just pull out and concentrate on doing all the other shorter races.

After a couple of hours of self-pity, I bumped into a physio friend at school and he said I really should just get a proper diagnosis. He gave me the number of one of his colleagues who is particularly good at pelvis and back problems. I went to see her that afternoon.

What clever people they are! She quickly diagnosed an alignment problem in my pelvis and lower back. She said it was a result of the fall I had when running back in mid-June. She had an amazing skill of poking and twisting stuff. Basically everything is in the wrong place and my muscles have spasmed around it to protect the joints. She gave me a load of exercises to do and I am going back on Friday. She said I’ll be running in no time, maybe even after Friday if I have done my exercises properly. Let’s hope so. I can’t transfer to the half marathon so I am going to do the full one. Just need to decide how!

When I grow up, I want to be a physiotherapist. Such a fascinating job. So clever.

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Silver Screen

It was another rainy day on Saturday and as we lay in bed with Peppa Pig books being bounced off our chins, Lucy sitting on our faces and Emily talking non-stop, I decided it was about time to take Emily to the cinema for the first time.

Steve and Lucy pottered around the shops and Em’s and I went to see Shrek 4 – splendid film and Em was wildly excited about popcorn, M&Ms and an enormous seat.

In the afternoon we had one of Em’s school friends round with her family. Also English, they’ve been here for a couple of years. They’re all very lovely people and the kids all play well together too (they have a 3yr old boy as well as a 5yr old girl).  I made a choccy cake and Steve made biscuits – all was good with the world.

On Sunday the weather was a little better. I decided to try going for a run – knocked out a slow 5.5km and whilst my back settled down during the run my left leg and glute started to hurt once I got home and gave me problems all day. We went and investigated the local car boot – cripes what a load of utter tat people try and sell here. There were loads of toys given free with McDonalds meals being sold, as well as the contents of peoples sheds, some of it was just appalling! So we ended up taking the girls to a toy shop and giving them a budget of $5.

In the afternoon we took a walk down to Long Bay beach, played in the sand, collected shells and pottered around rock pools. It was a lovely weekend of family stuff. We’ll post some pics soon.

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Mummy musings

Greetings – feels like an age since I last wrote. As you know, my back has crumbled and my marathon training has come to an abrupt stop. Gutting. That said I am trying to use my week off wisely – early nights, lots of extra protein, loads of stretching, some strengthening exercises, and, best of all, not getting up at 5:30am. I rather like getting up at dawn rather than when it is still very much dark. I’ll be trying to run again from Monday on a reduced programme of work with the aim of not making anything go ping before the end of October. I have another sports massage tomorrow – she found nothing specific on Saturday, just that my whole back was in spasm and my legs had a few knots to undo. That hopefully means I am not injured as such, just utterly burnt out.

Back on the mummy-side, I spent the morning poddling about with Lucy. We were just about organised enough to all walk to school today without the pushchair. I love wandering along with Lucy at my side as she sings the Teletubbies theme tune to herself and screeches “hello” closely followed by “shoes” to anyone within 30metres. She’s becoming rather well-known at school now – I can’t tell if the parents are smiling with joy at seeing her, or with sympathy for me! Rather than come straight home after depositing Em off at her class, we walked down to the beach for a play at the playground. On our way down the hill it occurred to me just how much I miss the great British pastime of pottering.

When browsing for an appropriate definition of pottering, I came across this utter gem of word-smithery. I chuckled extensively, recognising several people, particularly myself! Back to pottering. The thing is, there are no historic houses to roam around whilst sharing your rusty memories of history lessons with your fascinated off-spring. I really enjoyed dragging Emily round Beningbrough, The Treasurer’s House, York Minster etc. I also loved exploring Harlow Carr gardens throughout the seasons. Now of course they have gardens here, but I don’t know all the flowers and shrubs yet, nor can I point out the birds. I feel, in short, a bit uneducated in pottering Kiwi-style. Now the beach is fabulous. But I am sure Lucy would love to hear all about mansard roofs, the drapes around a four-poster bed and the art of pinching out your tomatoes. I do hope she will see me as someone who knows stuff, not just someone who feeds her, clothes her and spends a lot of time looking a bit pink in running shorts.

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Well we seem to be back into hyper-week speed.  It barely seems the blink of an eye since we did the last blog but it’s a full week.

So what’s gone on recently.  Well news of the hour is that there’s a wonky back in the house.  For once it’s not me.  Josie has sustained a mild running injury at the tops of one leg and this has put her back into spasm on the opposite side.  She’s been in a right old pickle.

It didn’t however stop us from keeping our social engagements.  Friday night was a nice night round at some friends just to grab some take-away and for the kids to play.  Em played herself into the ground and at about 9pm came forlornly over, grey-faced and droopy asking if she could go to bed.  Bless her.

Saturday was a worsening of the back and lots of rest.  Josie managed to get to see our lovely sports massage friend who gave her a right good shoeing.  In a sports massagey kind of way…  Unfortunately, as is often the way with treatment of this kind, it’s often a little bit worse for a short while afterwards and the pain levels went up and up.

This still didn’t deter Josie from making a cake and dancing to YMCA with the girls and then hoovering.  The pain afterwards will probably deter her from being that silly again mind.  The evening was a 70’s dinner party and it was fantastic.   Will try and post some photos but they were on someone elses camera – I’ll see what I can do.

Today was a day of bed rest for Josie to try and recover.  I took the girls to Brown’s Bay.  We bought Em some new running trousers.  Hers were age 3-4 and they sit just about the middle of her shins.  As she’s such  a giraffe I Go some with plenty of grow in them.  Splendidly they were on discount down to $10 a pop.  We had a play in the playground next to the beach and the blue skies made me think that the first proper beach session of the summer can’t be far away.

This evening saw Cookie batch 5 hit the cooling racks.  My minor tweaks to the type of sugar used, amount and type of flour and quantity of vanilla essence  used were all superseded by the fact that I completely forgot to put an egg in it.  This meant not enough liquid and less binding.  As a result it was a crumbly mess and I couldn’t work out why.  I used a splash of milk to bring it together and after it was in the fridge realised the egg faux-pas.  I decided to go with it because there was not a lot I could do about it really and I’m experimenting anyway.

Batch 5 is nice, much crunchier than batch 4 and more taste in the biscuit.  Probably too crunchy for my liking.  A bit too much snap rather than that perfect crumbly snap…

That’s about it really.   Oh – Lucy decided that waiting for the bath to finish and getting help with her clothes from Daddy was going to take too long so upended herself into the partially filled tub.  I heard the splash and covered about 10 metres in less than a second negotiating two doorways to find her standing in her new trainers in the bath, fully clothed and sodden to the skin, bawling her head off.  Her hair was dry so she’d kept her head above water.  Not sure what she was trying to achieve, but the recently (as in last couple of days) learned skill of opening closed doors is obviously something we need to start thinking ahead of.

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A Wad of Cookie Dough

What a great weekend.  For the first time in probably 10 years Josie has been out three evenings running!  A school quiz night on Friday, friends for dinner last night and then to a fantastic place called the RSA in Browns Bay.  Some of our new friends are members there and occasionally go on a Sunday evening.  RSA stands for Returning Services Association, so is obviously aimed at providing a place for ex-servicemen to go – a sort of  social club.  Anyone can join or indeed turn up with other members.  It’s great for families because a) it’s on the functional side rather than the swanky side; b) there is a huge selection of food and kids are charged at their age in dollars; c)  it’s open early, you pay up front and it’s a buffet so serve and eat at your own pace.  What could be better for two little ones?

The other notable activity of the weekend was the latest round of my cookie experiment.  I think I mentioned recently that I was trying to recreate the McVities Boaster in my home kitchen.  Starting with nothing more than the ingredients off the back of the pack (well off the back of a website actually) I combined several cookie recipes to come up with my own recipe and the game was on.  I’m now on my fourth recipe revision and I’m using a combination of research, skill, optimism, blind luck and the force to try and come up with my own version of that most special biscuit.

Batch 3 was a bit disappointing.  It was far to crunchy and crystalline.  This may have been for a number of reasons  – I melted the butter rather than softened it, I cooked them for too long and too high the moon was in the wrong quadrant of the sky…

So I decided before revising the recipe for batch four I’d actually find out what some of the ingredients I was using are there for.  First on the mystery list was cream of tartar and Bicarbonate of soda.  I had a fair idea that bicarb helped the thing rise and I actually didn’t want particularly puffy bikkies that spread whilst cooking.  I found out fascinating things about Cream of Tartar.  It is an acid so the addition of it breaks down the gluten bonds making the biscuits more likely to spread.  It also inhibits the formation of crystals, giving a softer feel rather than the extreme crunch I had of batch three.  I also found out that bicarb needs an acid to activate it.  So they go together.  Finally it is a salt – after the saltiness of batch two I’m avoiding adding too much salt taste – bleughh.  So I changed the ratio.  It sounded like I needed the properties of the Cream of Tartar so I added double that of bicarb.

The other significant change I made was to go back to a proper creamed butter/sugar mix to start with.  That made an enormous difference to the texture of the dough.

Anyway – batch four is a big success.  Extremely tasty and great texture.  Still not Boasters but a very edible biscuit.

Batch Four

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