Connie the Tyrannosaurus Rex and other adventures

I love my friends.  They’re amazing people.  They make me feel inspired, loved, happy, contented.  Moving as much as I have done over my life, it’s been difficult to sustain friendships I’ve made over the years in different cities, even through social media.  Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.  Most people I talk to say the same thing, that friends come and go from their life and, as you get older, people’s priorities shift to their work, families, relationships etc, and it becomes harder to find time for friends.

I’m in Auckland now for the foreseeable future, with my husband at university and me about to start a new job.  Whether that’s for better or for worse remains to be seen, but for now, it just is, so we’ll deal with extraneous impacts.  What’s nice is that I’ve made some great friends, people I feel are in the same kind of position in their lives, that hold similar values to me, and that share my sense of humour and interests.  Hanging out with these people is easy, like good friendships should be. A lot of my friendship time seems to be spent in couples or groups – my husband and I will go together to meet up with another couple, or a group of people for dinner/parties, whatever.  But something that gets neglected is me spending time with my girlfriends, just fostering my close friendships.  So just as I intend to have husband dates every month, I also made a goal to have girlfriend dates every month.

Last week, I had a date with my wonderful girlfriend, Annalise, who I met about 3 years ago in a community French class.  Husband and I have become fast friends with Annalise and her partner since then, often having dinner or going out for drinks.  Hanging out with Annalise last night was everything that a girlfriend date should be – we laughed until tears ran down our faces, we had deep and meaningful conversations about our pasts and our futures, we explored new places, and most of all it was easy.  We had a conversation at some point in the evening about how some friends in your lives can easily be “transitory”, and it becomes harder as an adult to connect deeply with friends to the point where you feel okay about falling asleep on their couch and snoring when you visit them.  I could definitely fall asleep at Annalise’s house, and I’d probably just take compromising photos of her instead of feeling awkward if she fell asleep at mine.

So what did we do?  We wandered High Street, pretending to be aloof hipsters while browsing the shops, I successfully resisted buying EVERYTHING from Unity Books (but did buy this, which is freaking awesome fun).  We then went and had dinner at No. 1 Dumpling (who gave us so much food we were still full hours later – I seriously recommend it for cheap dining), and wandered across to play mini golf.

2I LOVE mini golf, and watching Annalise slam the ball around like she was on a driving range was hilarious.  She was constantly paranoid that she’d get in trouble from watching cameras, but she managed to play on until the final hole (in which the attendant’s booth was hit by her errant ball, and a startled “HEY!” was yelled in her general direction, and we both sniggered under our breath).  The thing I loved most about Lost in Time was that its name was extremely fitting – although it is meant to show a “history of New Zealand” it seemed to have no apparent order or progression, beginning with the World Wars and ending with dinosaurs.  There were a number of interesting courses, including the one above, which looked unfortunately like the (w)hole tackle…

10Of course, Annalise and I had totally come for the dinosaurs and I was not disappointed.  Here is Connie the T-Rex (we named all the dinosaurs), and although she looks harmless, I can assure you that standing in front of her while her head and tail move around and she roars at you is actually slightly intimidating…

Finding our sides hurting from laughter, and our egos slightly bruised from high scores, we moved on to end the evening at Orleans.  We intended to have a glass of wine, but the alcoholic ice cream sodas on Little Sazerac’s menu were too good to pass up!  Annalise had the root beer/vanilla/bourbon, and I the Dr Pepper/dark cherry/rum.  And, oh my word, were they amazing.  I shall definitely be returning!


All in all, a fantastic night, and a goal I recommend to any girl with amazing girlfriends!


The one in which I’m a little overenthusiastic about alligator pears…

I mentioned in my first post that I had asked my husband for some suggestions for my to-do list. He suggested making sushi, something I used to do often enough in my 20s, but haven’t since I met him – a shame, since he is in love with anything Japanese. I studied Japanese right through high school and some of university, and went on a 3-week school exchange to Japan when I was 15. It’s a culture I love, and their food is incredible! So on Sunday afternoon, I went and got all the things I needed and made some beautiful fresh salmon and avocado sushi!

Sushi1I like to be super-prepared when I cook and lay out everything I need in advance.  Looks impressive, no?

I forgot how damn fiddly making sushi is.  The rice needs to be super-sticky, and it was sticking to everything it possibly could.  (I discovered more rice on the back of my hand after completing it.  And in several places on the bench after I’d already wiped it down.)

I started putting everything together, and rolled my sushi up into a pretty roll with my wonderful sushi rolling mat.

Sushi2It’s at this point I realised that I was little overenthusiastic with my avocado chopping and I’ve prepared waaaaay too much.  Of course, when you start with an avocado you, unfortunately, have to ear the whole thing so it doesn’t go brown (in a *dramatic-hand-on-forehead* “Oh no, I have to eat the WHOLE thing!” kind of way).  So while my sushi was chillin’ in the fridge (imagine little sunglasses,  one arm loosely slung over the cucumber – “How YOU doin’?), I whip up some of my famous guacamole.


Sushi chilled sufficiently, I sliced it up and served it for dinner with pickled ginger, soy sauce, and  a ridiculously hot wasabit that kept my husband and I’s eyes watering! (and we LOVE hot stuff).  Another of the 101 ticked off the list!

Making time

Today’s world is fast-paced and full.  As evidenced by me thinking I have time for 101 things in 1001 days, we try to squeeze so much into our days, that we leave little room for just us, or for our relationships with others others.

I’ve been thinking about this more and more, especially in my married life, of recent times.  My husband is a full-time university student, and he works FREAKING hard (way harder than I ever did in my university days).  I think this is one of the benefits of being an ‘adult student’ – you discover something you are passionate about, and working late into the evenings on your assignments becomes a pleasure rather than a chore.  Because he is so passionate about what he’s doing, he’s also entering (and winning, I might add) competitions, and has secured an internship alongside his study for this year.  All of this adds up to a lot of time, and although it’s amazing to see him doing so well at something he loves, it leaves little time for us to hang out.  It’s not all him of course – my own dedication to novel-writing in the last two years sucks up much of my evening time too.

We’ve both committed to making sure our time together is more quality and more focused on each other this year.  We’ve stopped eating dinner in front of the TV and actually talk across the dinner table (what a novel idea!), we go for walks or cycles (as evidenced by last week’s post), we hang out.  One of the ways I wanted to keep our romance and fun alive through my 101 in 1001 project, was to schedule time each month for a husband date night (or day!).  So, on Friday night, we piled the car with blankets and camping chairs and headed off for Silo Park.

Silo1We love the Silo Markets, they’re so vibrant and alive, thrumming with colour and noise and smells and tastes.  What a wonderful way to spend an evening, especially after the end of the working week!  It was an absolutely stunningly hot afternoon, and we wandered around the new park developments down there (with husband-assisted commentary on the landscape architecture) hand-in-hand and laughing.  We stopped for a cold beer in the shade at one of the many lovely Wynyard Quarter restaurants, and watched the multitudes of boats bobbing back and forth on the white-tipped aqua waters of the Hauraki Gulf.  Later, we ate far too much food from the food trucks (tacos, pretzels, burgers) and then settled into a good spot for the movie.

Silo2It was so nice to snuggle beneath a blanket together and chill out.  I love the way that watching the movie at Silo Park feels like it’s just you on your couch, even though you are surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands (it was utterly packed this time around!), of people.  At the end of the movie, the whole crowd applauded, reminding me that this was a lovely community event, and sure accolades for a brilliant movie.  We had such a lovely time, and we’re already looking forward to our next date!

In other news, I’m making progress with my latest novel.  This is the one I think I’ll work on as my goal novel to complete and send to publishers, and I’m super happy about how it’s going.  My heart hammers as I write it, so I hope it does the same for my readers!

If you fail to prepare…

… prepare to fail.  Right?  Or something like that.

Anyway, I realised a bunch of stuff on my 101 in 1001 list is a little out of my league right now, and will take some preparation/warm-up.  For the running ones (Run a 5k, Do the Colour Run), I at least have another challenge to warm up for those (Complete Couch to 5k app).

I will admit that I am not the fittest person in the world.  In the earlier part of last year, I cycled a lot to work, which I loved.  I do love being outside, getting moving in beautiful surroundings for entertainment… but I’m easily dissuaded from regular exercise for exercise’s sake.  Once the weather turned poo (and boy did it turn poo and stay poo for a large part of last year), I was off the bike and into the car.  It would have been okay if it was just cold, but biking on New Zealand roads is dangerous enough at the best of times, let alone in the rain and fog.  So in order for me to be able to do some of the lengthier activities on my list (all-day and overnight hikes, the Milford Track – which has been on my bucket list for a long, long time! -, the Otago Rail Trail), I realised I would have to put in the hard yards to work up my fitness.

So instead of doing boring walks/runs/cycles to build it up, I may as well enjoy it, right?  So that’s what this week has been about, and my husband has been joining in too!  We are super lucky to live in a beautiful part of NZ that really caters to outdoor explorers, and we’ve been making the most of it.

First of all, we took the bikes out to a beautiful walk/cycleway around the area we live.  It was such a gorgeous day, and lots of people had the same idea.  It was nice to see lots of kids paddling in the water and running about on the grass.  It wasn’t a long ride, but it was nice to get out and about and breath some fresh, clean air!

The next day we went out in the evening to do one of the many, many Waitakere Ranges walks.  We decided to do one that wasn’t too long (so it didn’t damage our poor, neglected bodies too much!), but long enough to make it worth the drive out there.  We settled on the Upper Nihotupu Dam walk, which is about 4.4k, and takes around 30-40 mins each way.  It was absolutely gorgeous down there as you can see below!

Nihotupu1 Nihotupu2 Nihotupu3

I’ve also managed to add a couple more recipes to the list for my hefty goal of learning how to cook something from every country – Vegetarian Black Bean Chili (Mexico) and Balti Beef Curry (India).  Yum!

1 recipe down… 256 to go????

I love to cook, as any of my former flatmates will tell you, and discovering new recipes is pretty exciting stuff to me.  Especially exotic flavours from different countries.  I feel like I’m pretty lucky to live in a country where we’re “new” in terms of history of the modern world, so instead of having established, traditional fare, we absorb cultures and ideas from everywhere else.  This has given us a lot of access to fantastic cuisine from across the globe, and you can find almost any type of fare in the major cities of New Zealand.  Indeed one of my favourite restaurants in Auckland is a wee Ethiopian place in Mount Roskill, a place you can share meals with friends and are expected to eat with your hands.

So I thought learning to cook a dish from every country in the world would be a fun way to extend both my knowledge of different countries and my culinary skills.  I thought it only fair to include “contested” countries as well.  Just because they’re not “officially recognised” by the powers that be, doesn’t mean that they don’t have their own traditions, cultures, and delicious, delicious food.  Only… it turns out that including contested countries means that it pumps the total number of recipes I need to make to *drum roll please*… 257.  Ouch.  Methinks I may have to include some dishes I already know how to make… that counts right?  We’ll see how I go with this challenge…

Enough despair, it’s early in the piece, I still have 998 days to go!  So onto the very first dish.

I thought I’d start in alphabetical order, the very first on the list, Afghanistan.  I used trusty ol’ Google to find some traditional Afghani dishes and, to my delight, found Qabuli Pulao, a rice pilaf dish with lamb, carrots and raisins.  “Hurrah!” I thought.  “I have everything for this in my kitchen, I only have to buy the lamb!”  Easy peasy start to this challenge.  I prepared all the chopped vegetables and rice the night before to make the experiment easier when I returned home from work the next day.

Afghan1The dish was fairly straight forward to prepare for someone who does a lot of cooking – it did require a bit of timing and several different pans and pots on the go at once that you all heap in at the end.  I wondered if the recipe left something out though, when it said to add the “spiced carrots”, and all I had was them cooked in sugar and water, as per the recipe.

The verdict?  It was fantastic.  I’d probably cook it with less oil next time, it came out a bit drenched with this recipe, but it was , reasonably simple, cheap ingredients, filling, and delicious!!!  When my husband says “Next time you cook this…”, you know you’re onto a winner.    First step on the challenge ladder done, and new recipe added to the book!


101 things in 1001 days – a crazy idea

On the 5th of January 2015, I read a blog post on one of my all-time favourite blogs and was inspired by a link contained therein.  A fellow OBE’r (Offbeat Empire) mentioned a challenge called “101 things in 1001 days”, a challenge run through Day Zero Project runs a kind of “virtual bucket list” if you will, but more flexible.  Although you can use this website however you like, and create as many “lists” as you like, I was inspired by the 101 things in 1001 days challenge mentioned in the original Offbeat Empire article.

As with most people, there have been things that I talk about doing for years and years that just sit on the backburner.  Either I forget about them, don’t make them a priority, put them off, or am scared to pursue them for one reason or another.  Sometimes life just gets in the way, or I get stuck in the monotonous drone of work-home-work-home-veg out for the weekend, rinse and repeat.  This probably sounds familiar for a lot of people.  How often have you caught yourself saying “Yeah, I’d like to do that some day”?

101 in 1001 inspired me for three reasons:
1) It was a place to keep a record of those “some day” things.  Those things that pop up in your memory then fade to the background, only to pop up again when you’ve just made other plans, or spent the money you had on something else.  With a list of all my “some day”s, I can plan!  When I need a new project or savings target, or something fun to do this weekend, I can go to my list and say “What’s next?”.
2) To-do lists.  I love to-do lists.  Oh MAN, do I freaking love me some to-do lists.  Just ask my husband.  Or my workmates.  Or the post-it notes on my fridge.  If it’s not on my to-do list, it’s unlikely to get done.  Sometimes I’ll put things on my to-do list right before I do them, just for the satisfaction of being able to tick them off afterwards.  “Oh yeeeeeeeeeah,” I’ll say in my head.  “I completed the HELL out of the task.”  Sad?  Maybe.  But we all need to know and use what works for us in terms of motivation, and being able to click “Done” and see my percentage of tasks completed go up is hugely motivating for me.
3) Deadlines.  Stuff this “some day” crap.  I might be hit by a bus tomorrow.  As well as giving me a to-do list, give me a deadline and I’ll smack it out of the park.  They didn’t call me “Miss Efficiency” at my last job for nothing.  It’s for this reason NaNoWriMo works extremely well for me as a writer and I have been able to write the first draft of 2 novels in 2 years after putting it off for 30 years.  Give me a to-do (1667 words per day in the case of NaNo) and a deadline (30 days) and watch me fly.  So 1001 days seemed like a great amount of time.  It works out to just over 2.5 years, so it gives you time to spread things out, save, plan, let life get in the way, and drone on at times when needed.

So, on 5/1/15, I started making my list.  It was a lot harder than I thought it would be.  Suddenly all those “some day”s flew right out of my head.  I had to ask my husband for help – “What do I always talk about doing, but never do?”  He gave me a few ideas which I promptly added to my slowly growing list.  The nice thing about Day Zero Project is you can browse other people’s lists for inspiration as well as the Project’s own compiled lists by theme, the top 101 goals overall, and browse by country for places to visit or things to do.

Over two days of much contemplation and browsing, I finally came up with a list of 101 things to do in 1001 days.  You can see my list here.

I feel like it’s a good mix of achievable things, some minor, some major, some travel, some local things.  Some things challenge fears I have, some things will hopefully increase my consciousness of those around me, some things push me to make more of an effort in relationships I already have and value.  I hope every single one helps to become a better, more educated, more considerate, more confident, more well-rounded, more ME person than I ever have been.  I hope to come out the other end with some wisdom, some achievement, and some confidence in my abilities to accomplish anything I put my mind to.

I started this blog not only as a way of connecting with other people and talking about living life instead of sitting on the sidelines, but to document for myself a reminder of my achievements and the fun I have when I make a decision to really follow my dreams, no matter how small or huge they might be.

Join me on my adventure (perhaps make your own list!), as I try my darndest to achieve 101 things in 1001 days.  Comment on my posts, talk with me about your own achievements and goals.  I would love to hear other people’s stories of inspiration!

Let the countdown begin!