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Archive for November, 2010

Yummy in my tummy

Woo hoo! It’s getting awfully exciting down the veg shop ūüôā

New Zealand is very seasonal in terms of fresh produce. Unlike the UK where you pop into Tesco’s and find a bag of apples at the same price regardless of the month, we have bonus months when we can pick up yummy stuff for not much at all. This is particularly true if, like me, you shop in the veg shops rather than the supermarkets. So, what’s on the menu this month…..?

Yippee – we’re dining on strawberries like they’re going out of fashion! Strawberries on their own, with ice cream, in milkshakes, with breakfast cereal….nom nom chompy chomp! I can buy 3 punnets (or chips as they say over here) of beautiful, ripe, sweet, NZ strawberries for $5 and it is getting cheaper all the time. By Christmas the kids will probably be tiring of them.

 

 

Hosebergines are now just 99c each whereas in winter they are about $3.99. Because we entertain a bit, we eat quite a lot of crisps and dips. The mucho cheapo aubergines are particularly exciting as this weekend we intend to try making our favourite dip РBabaganoush. Babaganoush is made with roasted aubergine, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Sometimes you can add chilli and cumin etc too. If our recipe works and aubergines stay this cheap, we may end up bathing in it.

 

One of our favourite snacks at the moment is fresh pineapple and they are currently around $2.99 each. I eat it a lot with my cereal and the girls just yum it up at any hour, especially after a hot afternoon on the beach. It tastes so unlike that tinned stuff. Interestingly, pineapple goes particularly well with beef – skewer cubes of beef and pineapple alternately and throw on the BBQ.

 

 

Now this is mainly for Steve and I since the kids will eat it but don’t go bonkers over it like we do. It was definitely a forbidden fruit in England as it seemed far too decadent and expensive. At the moment I get two bunches for somewhere between $2 and $3. We love it just thrown on the BBQ but happily chomp away on it as a side veg or with pasta, risotto, quiches etc.

 

We’re having a romantic affair with avocado’s (or avo’s as they are sometimes called here). I’m now buying three for $1.99 and am throwing them in salads willy-nilly. For a quick side salad, you can’t beat roughly mashed avo with de-seeded and chopped tomato, a twist of salt and squeeze of lemon juice or lime juice. If there’s more time I tweak it further to make a home made guacamole by packing it with coriander (only about 99c a bunch), chilli and a load of garlic. Both Steve and I really did not like avocado in the UK, now we just love it and so do the kids which is fab because it is really good for you.

 

As well as all this yummy stuff, I’m enjoying playing with home made coleslaws to add more variety to our frequent BBQ meals. So there is a culinary tour of our fridge at the moment. It won’t be long before we get to chomp our way through ridiculously cheap water melons and corn on the cob but that will mean bye bye to cheap and plentiful strawberries, avocado, pineapple, aubergines and asparagus for another 10 months. Still, swings and roundabouts and all that.

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A Chapter Concludes

I’m not sure when we first heard about the Auckland Harbour crossing. ¬†Last year when we arrived I could swim a length or two of breast stroke and not even a ¬†length of freestyle. ¬†After an evening with our friends Carl and Nick, Josie committed to doing a 10k run and I arranged with Nick to start learning how to swim with more confidence. ¬†This is the ¬†blog post from September 2009 of that evening.

Nick got me started with lessons on technique just the Monday after and I started swimming regularly.  The aim was always to be a more confident swimmer to look after my girls on the beach.  In the back of my mind though I had a goal that symbolised the completion of the journey and that goal is the swim across the harbour.

The build up has been steady and I signed up for the race as soon as the entry system was open a few months ago.

A couple of months ago I started to get a pain in my shoulder which at first I thought was just because I’d be swimming hard. ¬†I started to realise that it wasn’t normal so rested it for a week. ¬†It didn’t go away. ¬†With the swim approaching I got some advice from a friend who is ¬†a physio and he diagnosed a mild irritation to the muscled that stabilise the shoulder in it’s joint (the rotator cuff). ¬† Luckily it’s really early and nothing’s damaged so far. ¬†Good to catch these things early. ¬† So left with a week before the harbour swim I did some simple exercises to stabilise the muscles and it made an enormous difference. ¬†Cheers Dermot!

So this morning Josie and I got up at 5am and pottered around before leaving at six O’clock with the girls freshly plucked from their beds. ¬†The conditions were not looking promising. ¬†It was raining although not too windy.

When we arrived there were cars everywhere. ¬†It was so busy with people donning wetsuits and wandering back and forth with umbrellas. ¬†We decided that since it was raining hard I’d get dressed then they would shoot off straight away.

The briefing was not in the best of conditions. ¬†We hard hard rain driving sideways into our faces. ¬†Whilst we don’t really mind about being wet – we’ll be getting wet soon enough, it does potentially make navigating very difficult. ¬†The rain causes spray on the surface and it’s really tricky to see the marker buoys in the distance.

Incredibly the rain halted the moment we got into the water then held off for the entire swim. ¬†We were started in four waves, I was in the third wave based on my predicted time. ¬†The going got trickier once we were out in the main channel as the swell got up and there was a stiff breeze blowing. ¬†The recent swims in the sea all helped though and I wasn’t too worried about the conditions. ¬†It did slow me down though and despite doing the distance in the pool in exactly an hour, it was closer to one hour and a half on the day. ¬†The cramp held off. ¬†I thought I might be getting it in my calves near the end but managed to hold it off until I climbed the finish ladder! ¬†Who thought of putting a ladder at the end of a 2.8km swimming race?

There was no running at the end, I didn’t want to fall over or slip on the wet pontoon. ¬†There at the finish were my lovely girls cheering me home! ¬†Emily had a lovely big gold medal to present me and that was the best prize I could have.

 

ūüôā

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It’s been a funny old couple of weeks.

In a drive to reduce my reliance on physio appointments, I’ve started my personal training plan and am therefore aching most days. It is a fascinating experience identifying just how uneven my strength is. The side with all the hip problems is basically a right old mess but lots of stretching and lots of different strength exercises should sort it out eventually. I’m going three times a week to trainer Stuart who has a gym at his house and Lucy can therefore roam free, often popping up next to me on the bike or Swiss ball. In return for my personal training, I am sorting out the marketing of his business and that of his wife who is a sports massage therapist. I’m liking this¬†reciprocal¬†thing very much ūüôā And the big news of the day is that I can actually touch my toes – clever me!

The school gala was on Friday night and it was a super event. Everyone was given a cake box to fill with cake / muffins / biscuits to sell; we donated clothes, books, toys etc; spent a fortune at the BBQ and strawberry stall; let the kids loose on bouncy castles; and, generally had a good old family fete experience. It was ace.

On Sunday morning Emily and I ran 2.09km to the ice cream shop in Browns Bay. She ran for 1.2km before I had to do some serious encouragement but she did it and we are all utterly stoked. She’s all puffed up and proud of herself, particularly after I told her there are lots of grown ups who couldn’t run that.

Steve had a swim in the sea on Sunday with Carl as Nick and I played with the kids on the beach before a BBQ at ours. Steve made some terrific burgers – we’re getting much more adventurous with our salads and BBQ antics although I still reckon I need some salad lessons from some proper native Kiwi’s!

The weather is definitely hotting up – I’ve been in shorts or skirts for nearly a month already and the humidity is rising. Thankfully the cicadas aren’t awake yet so we get some sleep although the little birdies in the nest next to our bedroom have had a few insults hurled their way over the last couple of weeks!!!!!

So, the lows ūüė¶

Our house in York was not left in good condition by the tenants who have recently had to leave the UK because their visa’s weren’t being renewed. I really just don’t understand how a carpet gets replaced without us knowing about it; how cupboard doors get so damaged they need to be replaced; why towel rails disappear; how cupboard doors get pulled off hinges; why every room needs re-painting; and why there is another ton of stuff on the list sent by the letting agent. It made us sad and very anxious – it took four years to do up our house and we did almost all of it ourselves – plumbing, electrics, fitting the bathroom, you name it. We have also had to drop the rent because no-one had signed up and it is now standing empty.

Steve had a very calm but probing discussion with the letting agent last night and this morning we hear that they may have found a new tenant. Just waiting on references and credit checks but they sound good – family of four who are renting out their house in Leeds and he is working for ASDA at the head office in Leeds, just like Steve did. I hope the checks are ok, we need the income for a start but I also (in a bit of a girly way) hate to think of our little house all lonely and void of laughter.

New Zealand is also in the grip of an economic disaster. A few of the kiwi orchards have identified a destructive disease called PSA. Plants are being destroyed but it unfortunately looks as though the impact will be significant on the economy and livelihoods of many.

And for the in-between I shall briefly mention Christmas. I saw some men putting up Christmas decorations in the street in Browns Bay today as temperatures ventured into the 20’s and humidity exceeded 80%. The shops are full of tinsel and everyone is advertising seasonal presents. It still feels very bizarre and I find it very hard to engage in the whole process as it just feels like I should be sitting on the beach, not searching the shops for Christmas cards that don’t have snow scenes on them – I want Southern hemisphere cards personally!! Rather excitingly we’re thinking of building the kids some play structures in the garden for Christmas but is really depends on money. See, although we love our life in NZ, we still have to worry about dull things like paying bills ūüėČ

 

 

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Swimmy Swim Swim

Another milestone is completed in my swimming career and the preparations for the Harbour Crossing in two weeks.
This evening I entered the beach series at Takapuna.  It was a 1500m race this evening and I was flying solo without my support crew.  Emily was doing her athletics which overlaps so I had to do it without the cheer of my lovely girls.

The course was two laps of a triangular course and it was all a bit tricky. ¬†There was a fairly big swell rolling in picking me up and dropping me down, smashing into my face or suddenly leaving my in mid-air. ¬†I probably swam an extra few hundred meters with all the zigzagging I was doing! ¬†More practice navigating is a must. ¬†The entire first lap I was fighting against it and muttering in my head “ihateitIhateitIhateIt…” all the way round. Then right at the start of thesecond lap I dropped into a lovely rhythm and everything was easier. ¬†I crossed the line at around 45 minute mark – the official resuls weren’t in when I posted this. ¬†Hopefully soon.

Very proud of me I am.

 

ūüėČ

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I asked one of my developers (a young Argentinian) the other day if he was going to any fireworks displays. ¬†It was only meant to be a passing comment in the kitchen but it turned into an international history lesson as I had to explain exactly why there are fireworks and what the significance is. ¬†It all sounded a little strange once you explain it to someone who hasn’t grown up with the story of Guy Fawkes. ¬†I was telling the story from a background of cold winter evenings spent clutching a cup of hot Leek and Potato Soup, eating crispy-skinned baked potatoes and writing my name with sparklers. ¬†His context became clear when I got half-way through the story and he said “ohhh like the movie”. ¬†Still, all part of the service a rounded team leader provides. ¬†Motivation, support and historical education.

I was actually left wondering after this interaction how much Guy Fawkes night is celebrated over here. ¬†How important can the plot to destroy the seat of Government be in a different country? ¬†Obviously we were here last year for November the 5th – in fact it was the first time we got together with our lovely friends Jo and Jake. ¬†However, I somehow didn’t really pay much attention.

So yesterday Emily and I went down to the beach to meet up with some friends and watch some fireworks. ¬†It was quite an experience. ¬†One observation is that Fireworks night is in the summer so it doesn’t get dark until really late. ¬†Still, Em enjoyed staying up late and once it got dark we broke out the sparklers. ¬†She had one sparkler before suddenly developing an irrational fear of them and refusing to handle any more! ¬†My other observation is that in a land that comprises mostly wooden houses they are awfully fond of their explosive devices over here.

 

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Now in this era of accusatory reporting, one article caught our eye this week. It doesn’t lash out at troublesome teenagers, nor does it crucify the reputation of the school. It simply puts a smile on your face and offers a healthy reminder of the hilarity of teenage years. Enjoy!

Capers at school

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Bad Daddy

Just a few weeks until the Harbour Crossing and I was all set to do some practice swims in some of the events that are starting to run in the evenings now we approach summer.

Josie trawled half way across the city with the girls to come and watch and by the time we got to the start line the sea looked quite huge and bumpy. ¬†A really stiff on-shore wind had blown up and the chop was big. ¬†After some soul-searching I decided I wouldn’t go out today which unfortunately meant that the girls had a completely wasted journey. ¬†I feel very guilty and¬†disappointed¬†I didn’t get to swim.

However Рall is not lost.  Carl is buying a wetsuit and coming over on Sunday to do a proper big swim in the sea.  Excitingly Nick might be getting one as well!  Then we could have a little team swim!  Hurrah!

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Race report

After a sleepless night I gave up and got out of bed at 4am. I ate my usual pre-race breakfast of pikelets, banana, raisins and a drizzle of maple syrup, donned my running shorts, favourite socks, most comfortable top and slipped on my trusty running shoes. I was ready to do battle.

I met Eve at the end of the road at 445am and we drove up to the bus station to catch the 5am bus to Devonport and the start of the marathon. When we arrived there were lots of people – some looking nervous, some looking pumped with adrenalin and some looking half asleep. It was still very dark and as everyone did final preparation a huge passenger liner sailed past and into central Auckland with all its lights on. It was very pretty.

We saw a few friends and waved them all off on their marathon. Then it was our turn to go to the loo, stash our bags on the lorries and make our way to the half marathon start along with the other 7300 people. I was very nervous. I had no idea if my legs were up to this.

The gun went and after a couple of minutes we got to the start line and started running. It felt very comfortable. I was in a sea of runners, bobbing up and down in unison. I ran past clappers, trumpeters, people in costume, people in pyjamas, boys sitting on roofs, girls waving flags. Because it is much smaller, it isn’t like the London Marathon, but the discrete peppering of supporters was most uplifting.

The first 16km flew-by on undulating hills. I was enjoying the sunshine and was amazed at how well my legs were holding up. Running over the Harbour Bridge was awesome. The only way you can cross on foot is by running the marathon so it is a pretty big deal. The view is great and psychologically it is amazing as you know you are now on the right side of the harbour to finish the race. The last 3 km were the worst. I lost concentration and found the flat running very tiresome. I think by this time my hip and gone out of position again and my form was suffering.

But suddenly I could see the finish line and I ran as fast as I could, eager to see Steve and the girls. There they were, just before the finish chute, faces alight as their mummy threw herself at the finish line. I finished in 2 hrs 3 mins and 6 secs.

I am pleased I stuck with it and have had some very lovely comments from people impressed by my determination to keep going. I’ve had the highs of achieving in the face of adversity and I’ve had the lows of only improving my time by 40 seconds over 3 months of training, and of missing that sub-2 hr target.

You can see some pictures from the day here

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