The best laid plans of mice and men…

… and husbands and wives.

Husband and I had decided that this month’s date, we would take advantage of Academy Cinemas’ $5-Wednesday deals and go to see a movie (Birdman, to be precise).  Going out to a movie has become prohibitively expensive here in Auckland, it’s ridiculous.  It’s certainly a treat rather than an often-times thing, so when I discovered that every Wednesday you can pay $5 to see the latest films, I was so there.

However, I did make the silly mistake of thinking that being a small, out-of-the-way cinema, no one else knew about this, and so I went straight after work to get tickets… only to find it had already sold out.  Damn.  Plan out the window.  The only movie they still had seats for was American Propaganda *cough* I mean Sniper, and I wasn’t particularly enthralled about seeing.

So, with nothing in mind to do on this particularly hot and sunny evening, I picked up my husband from work, and we wandered down to  find somewhere for a cold drink.  We stopped in at Stark’s with husband getting a tall cold beer, and myself an icy Blue Lagoon.  We sat in the closed foyer entrance to the Civic and watched people go by, trying to decide what to do with our evening.  We  can’t go anywhere we have to walk a long way – I’ve prepared for an evening of sitting, and have my sky-high heels on.  Pool?  Maybe.  Art Galley? Closes at 5 (side note – what kind of major metropolitan city has an art gallery that closes at 5?). Theatre? Nothing in particular on.  To which point I exclaim “Why aren’t there any other movie theatres in central Auckland?!”  and my husband says, “There’s one right next door.  In the Metro Building.”…….. “Oh yeah,” I say sheepishly.

We decide to wander up and see what’s on, and find that The Imitation Game starts in about 20 minutes.  Hurrah!  We both wanted to see this.  So we buy tickets, grab a quick coffee to keep ourselves awake, and settle in.  The movie was fantastic, Benedict Cumberbatch (best. name. ever.) did a wonderful job of playing the genius Alan Turing.

After the movie finished, we decided we were hungry enough to have a small meal (we’d both had large, late lunches) and headed down to Elliott Stables, one of my favourite places in Auckland.  Given we only wanted something small, we went into El Faro and grabbed a few tapas plates to share.  It was absolutely delicious and exactly the right proportions for what we needed.

We headed home, happy with our spontaneous evening, and back by 9pm ready for an early night, even better!

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Writing goals, ahoy!

A couple of weeks ago I entered my very first short story competition.  I didn’t know about it until a couple of days before the deadline, so it was quite hurried, but it was fun!  I’d never written a short story before really, and it was a lot harder than I expected!

I didn’t place anywhere, but I got some really useful and encouraging feedback.  I belong to a critique website (which the competition was run through) which has probably done the most for my writing besides ACTUALLY writing – the people are really helpful, specific and encouraging, but also give it to you straight when it sucks.

I hope to keep writing short stories and practicing, because it’s a great art form and would seem to really hone your writing skills without the drain of having to write a whole novel!

2 more goals down!

New recipes to add to the collection!

Having a list of countries that you have to learn to cook some kind of dish from certainly helps provide inspiration for dinner!  When you don’t know what to cook next, or what to do with that meat you got out, it’s very helpful to look at what’s next and then go to Google.

This is exactly what I did last night! “Hmm… what am I going to do with this fish?” *check list*  “Algeria….” *google Algeria fish dish*  “Algerian fish tagine!”.  Yay for geography lessons too because, if I’m being honest, I probably could not have told you where in the world Algeria was.  I think I was getting it mixed up with Albania.

But!  Knowing that Algeria is right beside Morocco made tagine make complete sense! And boy, do husband and I like us some tagine!  The marinating fish smelled absolutely incredible, and made me want to just gobble it all down before it was finished cooking.  I may have added a few too many olives (if there is such a thing), but man it was absolutely DELICIOUS!  Definitely one to add to the permanent rotation.

My darling  mother also sent me a contribution to my goal list – a recipe for Chicken Pho, a traditional Vietnamese street food.  It was SO incredibly easy and quick, and another stunningly delicious meal, so that one is going into permanent rotation too.  Thanks Mum!

Lastly, I also did some fascinating history wikipedia-ing on a previously unheard of country/territory – Akrotiri.  Akrotiri is officially “The Soverign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia”, and is a British Overseas Territory on the island of Cyprus.  They have remained part of UK territory even through the 1974 military coup and violent protests in 2001 regarding the UK’s plan to upgrade communication masts there.

According to some Googling, a dish that comes from the area is “skordalia”, a hummus-like dip that is made from potatoes, olive oil and garlic.  It sounded amazing to me, so I thought I’d give it a go.  On the whole, it was fine… but the consistency was more gluey than I expected from photos I saw, so perhaps I need to try a different recipe.  One to try again at another date perhaps?

Aunty-ing

One of the most awesome thing about having brothers is they make beautiful nieces and nephews to hang out with.  Okay, there’s plenty of other things that are great about them too, but I love me some niece and nephew time.  I have 2 wonderful nieces and 3 gorgeous nephews in total and they are all so much fun!  So when I saw an opportunity to be awesome-aunty for the day, I took it!

MOTAT has heaps of kid-oriented experiences throughout the year, and last Sunday was Children’s Day across the country, so they had a bunch of fun stuff on.  I asked my brother if I could take my beautiful 3-year-old niece, G, out for the day and he readily agreed.  G is heaps of fun to hang out with, she’s really well-behaved and chatters away non-stop, we can hang out for hours and she STILL wants more!

So after my brother dropped her off and she had raided my rubber duck collection, off we went to MOTAT.  Prior to getting there, she had been telling everyone that she was going to get her face painted as a butterfly – and that I would too!  I was totally keen, but once we got there, it was a BIG line, so my face-painting went right out the window.  G was totally good about it though, half an hour in the baking sun, she just found some shade, took a couple of pieces of fruit, and entertained herself.  Once we got to the front, there were 2 boards of different face-painting styles to choose from – one boys and one girls, of course (cue eye rolling).  To my surprise, she avoided the butterflies altogether, and pointed to the steampunk cogs!  I’ve never been so proud in all my life 😀  A girl after my own heart!Motat9

After the face-painting (the main attraction for G), we ate an icecream in the shade, played on some of the cool contraptions, petted animals at the petting zoo, and even made our own lollipop!

G’s favourite thing at the moment is diggers (again, so proud!), so every time we spotted a digger, we had to yell “diggah!”.  At the moment, there are a bunch of roadworks outside MOTAT so we had lots of fun “diggah!” moments 😀

As soon as we got in the car to go home, G was out like a light.  She’d been such a trooper in the hot sun all day, we had such awesome fun.

Can’t wait to take my beautiful niece out again soon!

Chipping away…

Woops!  It’s been a while.  I’ve been neglecting my duties!  Not that I haven’t continued with my goal list, I just haven’t been updating.  Life gets hectic sometimes, huh? (and yet, I still want to squeeze in 101 things in 1001 days???)

A lot of my time is spent working on my current novel, the one I wish to eventually send off to publishers in the next… 957 days.  (It doesn’t seem like long when I say it like that).  I am really happy with it though, and excited!  I feel like this is a ‘good’ novel, whatever that means, certainly more structured, interesting and well-written than my last.  Perhaps I’ll post a chapter or two up here when I feel like it’s ready for other people’s consumption – would people like that?

Last Sunday, I combined two of my goals into one – establish a new tradition and my second girlfriend date!  My beautiful girlfriends – and colleagues – Jess and Clara came out for brunch at Cafe Massimo on a gorgeously hot and sunny day to join me for “Gal-entine’s Day”.  Now, I’m aware that I have blatantly ripped off the wonderful show, Parks and Recreation, in my naming of this event, but the focus was entirely different.  In Parks and Recreation, the woman get together and talk about romance; our Gal-entine’s Day was far more about celebrating our female relationships and ourselves as women!

We took a table in the sun which, with my skin, proved to be a bad idea.  Luckily, I had a cardigan in my bag, so although I was hot, I was sunproofed!  We each ordered something different – scrambled eggs with smoked salmon for Clara, eggs benedict for Jess, creamy mushrooms for me – and they all looked fantastic.  It was very busy at the cafe with lots of people having finished the Colour Run (and sitting on their plastic ponchos).  It inspired me for next year, it looked like everyone had a blast!  My creamy mushrooms were amazing – the creamy sauce not too rich, with juicy, perfectly cooked mushrooms and crispy sourdough.  Thoroughly recommended!

After a lot of talking and catching up, and our bellies full (and caffiene fixes hit!), there was a firm pledge to do this again next year!

 

 

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!

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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.

NOM
NOM

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!
Sushi3