Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Stuck in a Rut

Living by myself means that my cat often eats better than I do. Take last night for example – Basil had Pate with Duck Liver and Chicken last night. I had lamb salad. Admittedly that’s not so bad. But duck it ain’t.
I have a repertoire of dishes that I have on about a 2 week rota, that I have been rolling out since flatting days at Uni. These are:

Spaghetti Bolognaise – made from scratch thanks, no Dolmio grins here.
Thai green curry – with pork or chicken, using the Asian Home Gourmet spice paste, which is the only one with any heat in it. The Gregg’s one is just green flour paste. Don’t buy it.
Steak, with 3 veg. Boring, but boy do I love steak.
Rack of lamb, with roasties and broccoli. My sister gives me shit about how many times I eat this meal…I’m pretty sure she’d never turn it down though.
Crumbed schnitzel with buttered noodles and corn on the cob. Everyone goes WTF? when they hear about this meal. Mum used to make it for me on my birthday. I never cook it for other people, although Dad reminisced about Mum’s schnitzel the other day. I think it’s what he misses most!
Devilled sausages with mash and peas. My step-dad's favourite also.
Stir fried veg with beef and rice. Most of my friends got so sick of me cooking this Every Monday Night at Uni (to cancel out the Macca's and Beer weekend) that they still now refuse to eat stir-fries.

Boring huh. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE to cook. When Rich is coming over I’ll be more adventurous, and will do some long and drawn-out concoction in the weekends, but my week day meals are just blah.

This week I decided to be really out there, and cook things from Monday to Thursday that I would never normally do, either because I hate them, or it’s completely the wrong season. Hence the lamb salad last night. Lettuce has never been my favourite thing – what’s the point of it, you burn more calories chewing it than it puts in – and eating icy leaves is not part of my winter comfort food plan. But, the fresh crispy capsicum, carrots, lemon squeezes and garlic and rosemary lamb strips quickly fried was totally delicious. I had some for lunch today also and am feeling bright eyed instead of my usual afternoon blah. The rest of the week is as follows:

Cottage cheese and spinach canneloni. I hate hate hate spinach, and we used to get this every Tuesday for lunch at school. The pasta was always undercooked, the onions crunchy and the tomato sauce burned onto the tubes. I have refused to touch it ever since, but looking at my above list, I eat way too much meat, and this may be a good vegetarian meal for me to include. Plus I am a better cook than the crones we used to have in our dining hall. Pizza with tinned spaghetti and chowchow anyone?
Chicken paella. I’m doing a really dumbed down version of this, because I don’t like seafood and I can’t afford the proper ingredients, but it looks pretty easy. I used to make risottos a fair bit but got bored with the blandness.
Fish in filo pastry. I really don’t eat enough fish, and when I do, I usually crumb it and slather with tomato sauce. So good. But kinda cancels out the nutritive value. My flatmate in Dunedin used to make this so I emailed her in the UK to get the recipe. She said “wrap fish in filo, and bake”. I think I can handle that. I might make up a tartare sauce to tart (I know) it up.

So let’s see how we go. I had an interesting lunchtime conversation with a few workmates about the cooking routines they have with their partners or flatties, and it was really enlightening. Things that had never occurred to me yet were so simple, like pizzas, or fish burgers. I thought we should all share our routines and pick and choose from each others. There’s almost a book in there somewhere….or a blog. Hey I could even do a recipe sharing website! Oh…it’s been done?

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Back from the dead......

I have no idea if anyone will read this because no doubt you’ve all given up on me….I would have if I was reading me. You suck! I would be saying, and turning to more pictures of cats with funny captions, or totallylookslike.com. Posh Spice and Falcor had me laughing for days.

But please have mercy. You are no doubt well aware that I am always whingeing about something and this month the whingeing was about my job. Not the job itself, but that the work it entailed took over my life for 6 weeks, due to this new Thing we are doing, and only today – today! – have I had time to breathe. I’m not going to bore you with the details of what we were doing….the mere mention of “going live with new system” glazes the eyes of even my closest friends, and Basil rolls his eyes and puts his paws over his ears.

So anyhoodle. Where have I been and what have I been doing! Well.

Firstly was the trip to Fiji in May. God it was beautiful. I loooove Fiji, and Fijians, and Fiji Gold beer, and stonkingly strong cocktails made by gorgeous Fijians. We went as a family group of 13 to Treasure Island, which is about a 40 minute boat ride from Denarau. The entire island is the one resort and you can walk around it in 15 minutes, apparently. That sentence there shows how active I was on this holiday, unless you count dragging the deckchair around on a point to get the most sun.

My feet.

I spent most of my days lying on the beach reading books – I got through 3 including Marian Keyes’ latest and Gordon Ramsay’s autobiography – and snorkelling.
Prepare to be jealous with this little anecdote: I’m off snorkelling with my brother in law Ben – Amelie’s Dad – and we’ve got fistfuls of bread snaked from the breakfast table. Over in the distance I see a big blur heading towards us. I clutch Ben’s arm and we stop. Turns out the blur is this ENORMOUS big school of the most beautiful yellow fish, each about the size of my hand. I hold my bread out and am surrounded by this cloud of yellow. I can feel them nibbling my legs and arms and one ducks down my togs to get at the rest of the bread I’ve stored there. I’m laughing out loud, and Ben decides to dive right into the middle of them. They immediately divide into 2 big beautiful swirls and swim away. We turn around and cruise over some more reefs, when I get the sense we’ve being watched. I look behind us, and faithfully following us along is an enormous big school of yellow fish. We feed them some more and they follow us around for the rest of our snorkel. It was incredible.
Oh yeah, and I saw a shark but APPARENTLY IT WOULD HAVE PRETTY MUCH SHAKEN MY HAND they’re so friendly, but I was scared, so there. 2 dead grey eyes and those awful gills made me walk on water to get out, that’s for sure. *shudder*.
Mum and I having a giggle and enjoying the sunset.

Each night the staff would do a beautiful singalong and it was wonderful to watch, drinking $70 a bottle wine, that if we had bought in the supermarket back home, would have been $11. Luckily, they were doing up the pool complex while we were there, and we all got $300 credit on our rooms. Even with $70 a bottle wines, we didn’t go over our credits, so we almost made a profit on the holiday. Now that’s service.
Where was I. Oh yes the singing. They were all beautiful singers and dancers, except for this one guy, who we called Easter Island guy because his face was an exact match to those spooky rock statues. He was our firm favourite and we cheered him on as he clapped in the wrong places and mumbled the words. Brilliant.
Easter Island guy in the yellow lavalava. I'm clapping...why aren't you?

Amelie was a perfect angel on her trip and gave her Mum and Dad some time to relax even. Here she is cruising around in her cute little romper suit. The staff adored her and she was high-fiving everyone who would stop.
Loving the hammocks that were dotted around everywhere.

The whole crew.

So it was 6 weeks ago now, and Winter hadn’t really started when we left to be fully able to appreciate the heat, and lack of clothes. It bloody has now though, and I look at my photos and get some sense of the caressing warm breeze and silken cool water. Ahhhh. Luckily I’ve been so busy with work that I haven’t really noticed the mornings being darker and the nights coming earlier. Last week though we had 4 frosts in a row – Tauranga doesn’t get frosts so this was serious news people – stop sniggering if you’re the owner of a snow plough. My hibiscus and tamarillo tree were severely damaged and the leaves all frost burned so I’ve mulched them and patted them lovingly and here’s hoping they stage a comeback come Spring…only 5 more weeks! Weee!

In other news, the house is 90% there. I was all gung-ho about painting, and even managed to get through the spare room, the office and the hallway, which LOOK OKAY if you squint and pull the blinds. However due to work being CRAP and winter nearly over, Mum came to the rescue and organised a painter guy to finish it off. 4 days later, zip zap zip, and he’s done. Looks AMAZING. A few days after that, the carpet goes down. I haven’t sat on my couch all week. The carpet makes the house so much warmer and smarter. I know, you’re DYING to see photos because other people’s reno pics are always fascinating – but the curtains are going in early August and I’ll take pics then.

I have been doing some really fun art stuff for the house, using old family stuff. Dad had a big coin collection he’d amassed when he did his OE back in the sixties, so I polished those up and am going to do a big design with them and frame them. Not sure what the design will be yet. One was a Queen Vic penny from 1897 which was out of it. I don't think NZ even HAD money then. It was all about the muskets and the blankets. He also had a massive stamp collection going mouldy in his wardrobe, so I liberated that also, and found some Hungarian stamps celebrating the first man on the moon, and Romania celebrating the Innsbruck Winter Olympics and so on. They’re gorgeous and bright, so have put into square white frames. Will post pics next time. Also have framed this jigsaw of lolly jars that my sister and I used to to when we were very young, so it’s nostalgic AND cute to look at. Am very proud of myself as I am not a very creative person.

For those of you who are Basil fans: cute things he has done lately.
I have my goldfish back from a friend who was looking after him – long story – and he’s in a lovely glass bowl on my coffee table. When I got home from work one day I noticed paw prints on the coffee table, and Basil sitting on his favourite arm chair, laser eyes locked onto the bowl. Leaving the room, I hear a thud, and Basil’s jumped back onto the coffee table and is DRINKING THE FISH WATER. I could put the bowl in a high place or with a mat over it but he doesn’t seem that interested in catching the fish – just watching it. Which no doubt makes the fish really un-stressed out. His name’s Hot Dog by the way….a lovely wee goldfish with a very pretty floaty tail.
Basil also loves the new carpet – so much so that he is now sleeping on the floor instead of my bed. He lay on it while the carpet guys were trying to lay it, which was cute. Well I thought it was. He’s very fluffy and round at the moment, due to massive bikkie bowls and Terrine of Duck, and a big thick winter coat. He’s really very sweet.

So anyway, longest post in the world, that is what I’ve been doing for the past 6 weeks – what about you?