31.5.09

It’s just never easy with me.

Well, it’s been a bit, um, challenging lately at Wellington Road. Our new windows, and trying to settle in again at playcentre and get some alone time.

I wrote another rant, but instead, I’ll share with you, Internet, My Five Dorky Crushes.

  1. Paul Henry. It's too bad about that moustache comment. I had been admiring his acerbic wit for years. He used to do an advice show with Charlotte Dawson, and he was always telling people how stupid they were. Very refreshing.

  2. Mike Hoskings. He's a wanker. He was terrible on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. But I used to like his shameless banter with the very hot Kate Hawkesby. And he shared his mid-life crisis with the whole of New Zealand.

  3. Marc Peard, ZM’s New Hot Guy. For a couple of years, I was swooning over his accent. Now I’ve seen his photo, and I’m over it. Sorry, dreadlocks just don’t do it for me any more.

  4. Rhys Darby. You know, from Flight of the Conchords. Present.

  5. John Campbell. There’s no question about it. He’s a dork.

  6. My husband. He totally made me add him to this list. Because he doesn't have crushes. Right.
--
Edited to add. I didn't mean to imply that my husband is a dork. Because he's not. I think I'm a dork (my husband disagrees, bless him).

29.5.09

Something’s gotta give.

Yesterday the weather was beautiful, but I was in a foul mood.

The child's demands are incessant. He just won't let me play on the computer all day.

And he doesn’t want to get dropped off at playcentre. So playcentre is annoying me too.

The husband has a terrible man cold*.

I'm dying for some ALONE TIME.

At some place other than the supermarket. Some place with a broadband connection.


*Thanks to the Bloggess for sharing this very funny link.

--
Edited to add. My husband finally read my blog, and he pointed out that this post was a little misleading. He didn't lie on the couch with his man cold. He soldiered on. As we parents do. Yeah, remember the days before children, when we could camp out on the couch with a cold, and just watch telly? Oh, the memories. My point is that men are so very pathetic when they have a cold. Sorry, it's sad.

26.5.09

Remembering Memorial Day.

Holidays make me remember that I’m living in a remote, little country on the other side of the world.

Not so much Christmas and Easter. Although they’re different down under too. Come to think of it, they drive home the very same point--my family is ten thousand miles away.

I just don’t celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, or July Fourth any more.

Okay, I admit it. I’ve tried to encourage Halloween, but I feel a bit silly, cackling in my witch costume, when all the flowers are blooming, and we are like the only house handing out lollies.

Every year, I have fantasies about a Thanksgiving dinner, but everyone is at work. By the time the weekend rolls around, I realize I should be Christmas shopping.

We do have an American flag hanging up at our house. And it may surprise you to know, it was up during the Bush years.

No parades for us on Memorial Day. No picnics. And it’s definitely not the beginning of summer.

But I won’t forget. Thank you to those who served.

A Yank lives here.

22.5.09

If I were on Survivor, I would lose the fire-building challenge.

When we first moved into our house, there was an open fire. We replaced it with a wood burner that we found on TradeMe (NZ's eBay). It's not certified, but it's much more efficient. The smoke actually goes up the chimney. And it heats our open plan kitchen, lounge and office quite nicely.

I know, I know. The emissions. But wood fires are so very romantic.

Of course, there’s an art to building a good fire. Which I still haven’t quite mastered.

Chopping wood and splitting kindling? Isn't that what husbands are for?

21.5.09

National wants our houses to be cold.

When I arrived in New Zealand, I complained about being cold.

I heard lots of harden up. And put on another wool-y jumper.

Houses in New Zealand are cold and damp. Most houses do not have insulation or forced-air heating.

The NZ Labour party is still trying to pass legislation to encourage homeowners to put insulation in their houses.

I guess our landlords put in double-glazed windows because they pretty much had to.

20.5.09

Chicken stock.

When the weather gets cold, for Sunday dinner, we like to roast a chicken. Then I use the carcass to make chicken stock.

Chicken stock is such a staple. Homemade stock makes soups and curries sing with flavour.

And it's so cheap and easy to make. I like to make chicken stock in my slow cooker. I just toss everything in, turn it on, and forget about it.

The child helps chop the vegetables. But not with the big knife.

I have adapted the following recipe from Joan Bishop’s excellent New Zealand Crockpot and Slow Cooker Cookbook.

Chicken Stock
1-2 chicken carcasses
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely sliced
2 tsp salt
Large sprig thyme
2 bay leaves
Boiling water to cover

Pre-heat the cooker for 20 minutes. Put all the ingredients in your crockpot or slow cooker, cover with lid, and cook on High for 5-6 hours. Cool, and strain the stock through a sieve.


Chicken gizzard? Throw it in the pot.

19.5.09

Okay, I admit it. I love our new windows.

When we first moved into our house, there were French doors. I liked them.

But in winter, the wind blasted into the house, through not-so-charming cracks under and around the doors.

Charming French doors. So retro.

Last November, the night that Pres. Obama was elected, there was a gale. Up the coast, we have gales all the time, and we think nothing of it.

But this gale was special. It ripped the latch from the bottom of a French door, whipped the door open, and two panes of glass broke.

We were going to fix the door ourselves, but the door was buggered.

The husband boarded up the broken windows with plywood, and we lived with the windows like that for SIX MONTHS while our landlords tried to sort out a solution.

Hurricane windows. Ghetto chic.

Yes, we are the kind of tenants that landlords dream about.

A week after we returned from America, holes were chopped in the house, in the rain and cold, and at last new windows were put in.

The French doors were replaced, and we got a totally unnecessary new side door and new windows in the kitchen, the lounge and two in the bedroom. Double-glazed windows. Six of them!

The windows look great from here, right?

The job was a bit rough. And the landlords were disappointed with my efforts to feign gratefulness. I'm such a terrible actress.

So the husband has been hired on to clean up the frames and paint and such. We still have all the old glass and old frames scattered about the property. The husband insists all the rubbish might come in handy for something. Kiwis!

It still looks like a building site. And we're using a slip cover for a curtain.

But over the last few days, when the wind has picked up, it hasn't been blasting through the house. And we haven't had to close the curtains at night. Because, hey! The windows are double-glazed.

Double-glazed windows. All kinds of awesome.

18.5.09

Eh?

I remember when I finally broke the language barrier in New Zealand.

It was 2004. I had been living in New Zealand for a year or two.

I was sitting in my new office. A workmate said something, and I didn’t understand him.

I still wasn’t the quickest at deciphering the New Zealand accent.

And it was possible it was important.

What? I asked.

He didn’t respond.

Eh? I tried again.

It was magic. He repeated what he had said.

For the rest of the day, I kept asking, eh?

Before I knew it, I was putting an eh in most of my sentences. Such a handy little word.

I’ll just bowl over, eh?

Then people started asking if I'm Canadian. Just blame Canada.

15.5.09

Chicken and chick pea curry.

Tonight is a Big Night Out at the playcentre. We're having a potluck dinner and showing the kids a movie. I'm bringing the child's favourite dinner, and hopefully he will eat it.

Chicken and chick pea curry
400g stir fry chicken
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp curry powder
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground cardamom
1 cup chicken stock, heated
1/2 can coconut cream
2 tsp arrowroot
½ cauliflower
2 zucchinis/courgettes or asparagus
1 can chick peas

Brown chicken. Remove from pan. In same pan add oil and onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add spices and cook for 1-2 minutes. Then add chick peas, chicken and vegetables. Stir until coated with spices. Sprinkle over arrowroot. Then add chicken stock and coconut cream. Then simmer until thickened and vegetables are tender, 20-30 minutes. Serve over basmati or jasmine rice. If you like it hot, like I do, sprinkle chili powder on top, or add some spicy pickle on the side.

The child just eats the chick peas. Oh well.

14.5.09

Allergy-free hummus.

The child is allergic to sesame seeds, so we make our hummus without tahini.

I love to eat hummus as a dip with carrots, celery, or potato chips. I also love it on sausages, and of course with pitas and falafel.

Hummus
1 can chick peas
juice of 1-2 lemons
1 clove garlic, crushed
3/4 tsp to 1 tsp salt
about 3/4 cup olive or canola oil, or a combination of the two

Put chick peas, lemon juice, garlic, salt and about half the oil in a blender. Whiz the mixture until it is smooth. Add the remaining oil slowly, then add extra seasoning if necessary. Refrigerate until needed (up to a week).

The trick is to get the chick peas in the blender before the child eats them all.

13.5.09

I heart the new village deli.

Of course I'm all about convenience and quality speciality items at reasonable prices.

I love the deli's luxurious ham slices and gourmet sausages, local olives, and dolmas and little savoury quiches and sweet slices. Also, amazing Parmesan and Edam and soft goats' cheeses. They have lots of fresh breads and pantry items like pasta and mustards and olive oil.

The deli is such a pleasant little spot. The service is cheerful and accommodating. They have a wood-fired oven to make pizzas. I’ve heard they even will make you a coffee.

12.5.09

I'm still looking for a cafe.

I had dropped the child off at the playcentre, and it was raining buckets.

Since I was disappointed with the village cafe, I decided to try the pub cafe.

It was 11:06. I tried the door, but it was locked. Someone looked out the window, but she didn't wave or motion for me to come in.

Then I saw someone go in a side door, and I thought, maybe I'm supposed to use that door.

I was wrong. There were no customers in the pub cafe.

When I asked for a coffee, I was told that the pub doesn’t open until eleven. And they were opening late.

I was given my coffee, and then the pub owner came over to chat with me. He was surprised to find out that I’m local and I’ve been living in the village for years.

I hardly ever go to the pub, I said stupidly.

Locals, he sighed.

He said the pub has been busy. People come from up and down the line. And the pub has lots going on, with quiz nights and karaoke and art.

I promised to pop in one night for a wine, and then he unlocked the door so I could leave.

It was now 11:30 a.m. and apparently, the pub cafe still wasn’t open.

9.5.09

I need a new cafe.

This week there were major renovations going on at our house, and I was forced to escape to the cafe in the village.

The cafe is under new management and I think they’re still moving in. There were boxes stacked up in the old fish pond.

There was a strange light standing by the pastry cases. It looked like a garage sale find. And there's no longer a place to plug in your phone or your laptop.

My scone was a bit off. I felt like I had stumbled into a stranger’s lounge. But maybe I’m expecting too much. I never felt that welcome at the old cafe either.

Who puts in new windows in the rain? We do.

4.5.09

Cuppa tea, love?

When I first arrived in New Zealand, I had such big drawl that people had trouble understanding me. No one had ever heard anything like it.

I was surprised, since there’s so much America on telly.

I talked too slowly. And I had a nasty habit of pronouncing the “r” at the end of a word, like dollar. Kiwis say, dol-lah.

I’ve tried to stay true to my accent. Besides, I'm a horrible mimic.

And I don’t want to be like my mother’s cousin, who went to England and came back to Ohio with a British accent. So pretentious!

But I guess, after six or seven years in New Zealand, it’s not too affected to use a few local idioms and colloquial phrases.

Here are a few things that I find myself saying:
  1. Yeah, no. This all-purpose goodie is used to answer questions. It’s a non-committal way of agreeing or disagreeing with someone. Kiwis love to use lots of words when just one will do.
  2. Mate. I usually only call kids “mate.” It still feels weird to call a friend “mate.” But I love it when my friends call me mate. So affirming and chummy, in a colonial sort of way.
  3. Cuppa. Even with a Starbucks on every corner, there is a serious lack of hot drinks in American culture. It’s so civilized to be having a cuppa at all times of the day. Every time I get home or someone pops in, I put the kettle on. And electric kettles? So much better than boiling water in the microwave.
  4. Tea. Another word for dinner. Okay, I admit it. I feel a bit silly when I ask, “What’s for tea?”
  5. Tomato sauce. The Kiwi version of ketchup. I try to say toe-may-toe, but sometimes toe-mah-toe slips out.

That’s right. I’m still all Ohio, with maybe just a little Kiwi polish.

The amazing electric kettle.

3.5.09

The last laugh.

Remember our broken remote control?

We used it like this for months.

The cable provider wanted to bill us for a replacement. For twice as much as it costs to buy a universal remote from the electronics shop.

Our new remote. Fancy.

After the cable provider billed us for the new remote, apparently they received our old remote.

Eventually the courier remembered to pick it up.

And then the cable provider surprised us. Without being prodded, they removed the charge for the new remote control from our bill.

In the end we sent them an old remote control from before The Switch to digital.

We like to imagine the cable provider was all, duh, of course this remote control didn’t work.

Us – 2. Cable provider – 0.

1.5.09

Advice that is just plain wrong.

Here’s another misleading health story.

In the study that is cited, children with eczema were bathed in water or in a bleach solution. And the study found that the children who bathed in the bleach solution “had big improvements”.

Oh lord.

If you have eczema, your skin does not retain moisture. So you need to use an emulsifying ointment.

The old thinking was not to bathe at all. People believed that baths dried out the skin.

Nowadays the advice is to bathe in tepid water, with emulsifying ointment. The emulsifying ointment helps the skin absorb and retain moisture.

Sometimes if your child’s eczema flares up, he will scratch, and sometimes his skin will be broken. The study found that a bath in a weak bleach solution could help prevent infection.

No surprise to the eczema community. We have known about this household remedy for years. Bleach is a much better choice than continually using antibiotics. Duh.

But bleach will also dry out the skin. There needs to be an emulsifier in the bath.

I'm concerned that the results of the study might lead parents to think that they should bathe their itchy kids in a bleach solution.

What about the emulsifying ointment? It's never mentioned.

Unfortunately there was no place to comment on the story. Hence bloggy rant.

Emulsifying ointment, people. That is all.