Sunday, December 28, 2008

New Flickr Account


Auckland at Night
Originally uploaded by tkw954
I have a new flickr account (thanks Mom and Dad), which has hundreds of new photos and old favourites. Some aren't tagged yet, but if you leave a comment I'll prioritize that photo.

http://flickr.com/traviswiens

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Travis and Amy - Christmas Morning

We got up late-ish this morning, ate some wifesaver and opened some gifts. Travis's parents gave us money to buy things we wouldn't normally buy - they recommended canvas printing a photo or something. Thank you so much!!! I think I know what picture I want enlarged... the nice beach one that I sent in a Christmas email. Anyway, there was that, and a book that won the Giller prize this year, and a gorgeous quilted bag that Sharon made. She made Travis a quilted wall hanging that is the scene looking out their bay window at the farm! It's really cute.

Steph got me the "Souvenir of Canada" book by Douglas Coupland, that I asked for. I'll spend a lot of time sifting through that one, that's for sure.

Travis got me a beautiful shirt (that I picked out) - it's very beachy. He also got me a popcorn popper and the Dexter Omnibus (all 3 Dexter books in one), by Jeff Lindsay. (the TV show is based on the books). I've read the first one already.

Paul and Caoilinn got us a carved wooden bowl with an elephant-shaped handle. It is so lovely - already has its spot on the kitchen table. We needed a proper table bowl.

We had a lovely meal on the beach - Regan and Kim went all out bringing their BBQ out - mussels as an appetizer, baked salmon and tandoori chicken as a main, Caoilinn made parsnips and I brought 4 different salads. The strawberry spinach salad was a hit. We have a bunch left over, so we'll take that sailing tomorrow. Trifle and pavlova for dessert. Then we played a game of football on the beach until the tide came in and took away part of our field. It wasn't so much that our field was being encroached upon, but that the beach shrunk in size, so people were walking on our field and making it more and more difficult to play. Then it was swimming time - none of the Kiwis went in the water. It was only the Crazy Canucks and the Northern Atlanticians who braved the water. It wasn't cold at all. It was only 20 degrees outside, though, and not very sunny. but we had fun. I displayed my synchronized swimming ability, and everyone had a good laugh. I still have sea water in my sinuses.

So, Travis and I are home now. I think we've planned to do something with Regan and Kim for New Year's Eve, since we didn't have any previous plans. We're going to eat popcorn and watch Corner Gas. (Travis got season 5 sent to him from his parents, and fortunately, just finished downloading season 4 last night.) Both of us are really sleepy. It's only 7:15pm. :( haha. Another busy day tomorrow with Sailing...

More Stop-Motion

Here's some more stop-motion video. This time it is of Amy's flowers opening.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Stop Motion

Here are some stop motion videos I shot this week. The first is the opening of a Pōhutukawa flower. This is from a flowering tree endemic to New Zealand. Their bright red flowers are everywhere this time of year, so Kiwis associate them with Christmas. You'll have to excuse the choppiness, this was filmed over a number of days and my camera's batteries needed to be charged periodically.


The next is a video of a sunset from our front balcony.

I didn't sign up for fleas!


I don't know where it came from, but it ate Travis last night. Both Travis and I were up in the night scratching various body parts. I was up at 5am soaking my ankles in vinegar and water and, while I was up, I asked Travis if he wanted some itch relief, too. So, I vinegared him up, then we went back to sleep.

This morning I put more vinegar on my ankles (I have something called SOOV Bite, but it hadn't worked well lately and my friend said vinegar works well for bites, and it does). I asked Travis again if he wanted some vinegar on his arm. He lifted his arm and I yelled, "OH MY GOD TRAVIS!!!" Then I proceeded to count. I stopped counting at 21... I think there were a few more... but he had more than 21 bites between his elbow and shoulder of his left arm. Then we started to panic.

Where did he get these bites from?

It had to be something in the bed. So, right then and there we stripped the bed, tipped it, vacuumed the room and the bed, washed the sheets and everything else that was on the floor in that room. Actually, we have two more loads of laundry (after 4 loads already today). Ya, there were a lot of clothes on the floor. ;)

After doing some research we came to the conclusion that, even though there weren't tell-tale small red dots in the middle of Travis's bites (characteristic with flea bites), it wasn't bedbugs. We didn't find any traces of bedbugs - and bedbugs are WAY big. But I did find one thing that looked like a flea, and it jumped out of my fingers. Little bugger...

Hopefully we got rid of it. I'd like to keep my ankles itch-free for a little while. We've got bug spray for the beach. I don't want to use it when we go to bed, though.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Guests Have Come and Gone





I had a great time visiting with Janci and Jared. It was much too short of a visit, though. They had a wonderful time touring the south island, however that took up most of their 20 day visit. Travis and I only got to see them for 8 days, and that includes 2 partial traveling days.

Since they got back from Christchurch last Saturday we went to the Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park, to Herne Bay Beach Reserve so Jared could swim in salt water for the first time (and I taught him how to snorkel, even though there wasn't a lot to see in Herne Bay), to Karekare Beach for Jared to swim in the real ocean for the first time.

I'm going to stop there.

Karekare is beautiful. It is a very dangerous beach. Four or five lifeguards were on duty the day we went out there (Monday) and there were a total of 8 people in the water in the 3 hours we were there. We made up 4 of the 8 people. The undercurrent is very strong, so the lifeguard told us to keep our feet on the ground or else we'd get washed away. The waves were awesome for a first-timer to play in. I consider myself a beginner when it comes to waves because I have never really played in huge waves - just body boarding waves in Tofino, and pissy little waves in Surfer's Paradise. These were definitely waves to write home about. We probably played out there for 30-40 minutes, jumping and twisting and spitting out salt water. The drive to Karekare (from the main Piha Rd) is one lane. It's not a popular beach because of the bad road and the treacherous beach, but I would take going there over going to Piha any time. It is much more secluded and quiet, but retains the beauty of the rest of the more popular west coast beaches.

Janci and Jared got to fit in visits with a bunch of Janci's old friends. They also got a chance to meet a few of our friends and play some sports with us. Tuesday was football in Auckland Domain, and Thursday was netball with our netball team, the Nomads. Janci and Jared were natural netball players, even though Janci found the game really difficult to play (because of the lack of contact with the other players, and the fact that she forgot she wasn't playing basketball).

I'll miss them.

Our house doesn't fit 4 people that well, so we will enjoy having the space again.

Today is the last day of spring - and after a week of gorgeous weather, the rain is back. I've been told it's time to go for dinner. Mmmmm dinner on Ponsonby Road. I feel so posh. :)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Google Street View



The unveiling of Street View this week is pretty cool. Travis and I even saw one of the street view vans last week just down the street from our place. It wasn't taking pictures - just parked.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

3 Weeks

So much to talk about, so little time.

Goat Island Marine Reserve

It's the summertime now. The weather is beautiful and I want to be outside. Travis and I taught a few of our friends how to play "American Football" yesterday. All we heard today was "THAT WAS SO MUCH FUN!! WE HAVE TO DO THAT AGAIN!!" It WAS a lot of fun, and I can't wait to do it again. We will because the weather is so damn awesome right now.

We're playing netball again - we still suck, but at least we look a bit better. We lost tonight 35 - 17. But we got 17!!! WOW! Travis and Sarah were on fire! I even got a goal/basket/scorie thingy. The other teams hate playing us because we suck so bad. Oh well...

What else is new? Trav and I went on an awesome hike a few weeks ago in the Waitakere Ranges. I bought Travis a 3/4 length wetsuit for a graduation present (and one for myself) so we could extend our swimming season here. We went snorkeling at Goat Island again 2 weekends ago. It was really weird - it was like snorkeling through jelly. We're not sure if they were jellyfish or fish eggs, but either way it was kind of gross swimming through millions of little clear floaty things. They almost obstructed the view of the rays we saw close to shore. I had only seen sting rays and eagle rays behind glass in aquariums. I was within 10 feet of 3 different rays, snorkeling right over top. (who knows - they might have been the same one ;)) I was completely freaked out for about a second. It was pretty close to the coolest thing I've ever seen underwater. We still don't know whether they are eagle rays or stingrays. I read that eagle rays live in open water. These were definitely bottom dwelling close to shore.

I lost two pairs of sunglasses in 2 weeks. :( Sarah bought me a new pair for Christmas/Birthday. Thanks Sarah!

Travis and I went to the Santa Parade last Sunday. Trav has a few photos, but the battery in his camera died before the good floats came by. Crap.

Janci and Jared arrived on Monday! Then they left again on Tuesday. Off they went to tour the islands, and I've heard that Jared already bungee jumped *somewhere*. When they come back up to Auckland we're going to take them boogie boarding and have parties and play football and just do stuff. I don't know if we can fit it all into 7 days, but we'll try. Thanks mom for the chapstick, Cheezies, maple syrup, and Christmas presents. The Cheezies are almost gone. I'm hiding the rest for Christmas time.


Corner of K'Road and Ponsonby Road. Anti-nuclear murals.

Nothing else is really new or interesting here - I'm trying to keep up with the political happenings back home. I'm all in favour of shaking up politics in Canada, and it makes for interesting (and infuriating) reading. I have found that I can't read comments on news websites anymore because too many ignorant people comment on those sites and it makes me angry.

It's past my bedtime. I just figured I should write because I just saw Arianna Huffington on The Daily Show, and she told me to blog. ;)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Caving

Here's more photos... however, this post is not about photos.

I should have written my caving adventure as soon as I got home. Right now it doesn't seem like it was a mentally and physically demanding excursion.

Travis, Andrew, Rachelle and I went on a 5-hour caving adventure in the Waitomo Caves. Our guides were awesome. We started off by getting outfitted in some heavy-duty wetsuits. Double-layered, kevlar patched wetsuits, with booties and boots. Rachelle and I also had to wear balaclavas to keep our hair from getting caught in the abseiling device.


Then we were taught how to use the abseiling equipment, and needed to practice before heading down into the cave.




This is Travis and I as we're hanging 8 storeys (or 37m) above the ground.




So, we slid down the rope (I was quite anxious about it, so I went really slow. I'd like another few times to practice so I get good and fast at it). Then we went for a little walk, and the next thing you knew we were at a "flying fox" (or a zipline). Remember, this is all underground with only the light of our helmets and the glow worms to light the way. I would have enjoyed the ziplining much more if Alan (one of our guides) had let me know WHEN he was letting me go so I could have enjoyed all 4 seconds of the zipline rather than freaking out for 2 seconds and then going "wow, this is awesome" for 2 seconds... and being jolted to a halt at the bottom.

Then we walked a bit more, and ended up in a cavernous area with a stream beside us. They asked us to sit on the edge of this 3m high cliff, and the water was below us. We ate our awesomely decadent snack on the edge of this cliff, like construction workers perched on their beams in the old photos of New York.



Andrew and Travis jumped off the cliff into the water below, clutching their inner tubes to their butts. You couldn't have paid me enough... okay, I probably would have done it for $200... but I didn't know how deep the water was there! I was only jumping into water that was WAY over my head, and they weren't giving us a definitive answer as to how deep the water was, so I opted to go for the lame-o route.... jumping backwards .5m into the inner tube. Then we floated. There was a lot of screeching due to the chilly water temperature. I loved it. The only thing that was really cold was when I laid back completely and floated my head in the water. My wetsuit would then scoop up water and it'd go down my back. I giggled like a little girl - yes, it was cold. But, the wetsuits warmed up the water quite quickly. We floated along, looking at the roof of the cave and all the lovely glow worms. Stewart, our other guide, was trying to gross us out by telling us that the beautiful glow worms were nothing but assless maggots with glowing shit. That didn't really bother us. I had already read that description on their website. ;)

Continuing on, we then got rid of our innertubes and were thrown (well, ya, thrown) backwards down a waterfall (slide). There was a slide on the waterfall. Stewart was trying to be sneaky by telling us to turn around while he pushed us down the slide individually. Like I mentioned earlier, I much prefer being told what's about to happen, or what I'm going to experience so I will actually enjoy myself. I've found that if I'm kept in the dark about what I'm supposed to be doing, I will be a lot more belligerent, which takes us to later in the expedition.

Stewart said he was going to have a nap, and that we'd have fun going through a little hole in the cave. He began by asking if any of us were claustrophobic. My hand shot through the air. He asked, "Well, how claustrophobic?" How do you answer that? I panic when I can't get my sweater off? I'm not bothered in elevators. He asked, "If you were in a wardrobe, would you freak out?" I replied, "How big is it? Am I locked in there? Is it full of clothes? There's a lot of factors to be being freaked out." So we began our trip. Andrew, Rachelle, and Travis entered the cave first. We're talking a pretty tight squeeze. I walked into the cave... sorry. I CROUCHED down to enter the hole in the wall, and I heard Rachelle say, "I'm coming out." I said, "Are you serious? If you're not going, I better not go." She decided to persevere, so I thought I'd give it a go.

I have to explain the tunnel we went through. The bottom was clay. Slimy, thick, red clay. There weren't a lot of sharp edges for us to hurt ourselves on - it was mostly clay. If we encountered sharp-ish rock, the kevlar suits kept us pain-free. Travis mentioned later his arms were sore from pulling himself through on his belly. So, he just slid through. The top of the tunnel, though, was more rocky, and only high enough to allow you to be on your hands and knees. This is when we were grateful to have helmets on. My story continues...

I got 3 meters into the cave and said, "Nope. Not gonna do it." Stewart woke from his 3 second nap and said, "Really? No, we're going to do this." Travis, Andrew and Rachelle reached their destination. Stewart followed behind me and encouraged me through the tight squeezes. He said, "You'll be fine. It's all in your head. This is just problem solving - you have to find the best way through." So whenever I started to panic, which coincidentally happened whenever my chest was getting squished, I had to close my eyes and breathe deeply, and wiggle my big butt through the clay-filled tunnel. Travis and Andrew and Rachelle were encouraging me from the "cathedral" where they had stopped to wait for me. There were promises of space, plain nachos and 1 litre containers of salsa. None of that waited for me. The "cathedral" where they were waiting for me was not large at all. It barely fit 4 people. And then I said, "Well, shit, now I've gotta do that all over again." Because we had traveled this tunnel before, the way out was much quicker. I heard Stewart coaching Andrew and Rachelle through the twisty, tricky parts of the tunnel. I heard him say, "Go head first, go head first. Wiggle through like a dolphin." Rachelle had already gone feet first, so she was afraid of getting stuck. I followed Stewart's advice and went head first, squirming through like a dolphin. I described the experience as "like being birthed". (or, at least, how I imagine being birthed would feel like.) It was fun - I stuck out my hands like I was diving, and basically slid down a c-shaped decline. We're close to the exit... I managed to crawl under a ledge that, on the way in, I had tried to climb over and nearly got stuck. Crawling under was the way to go. When we got out, I jumped up and down and yelled, "I DID IT!!!!" and unzipped my wetsuit. I could breathe again. Lots of hugs and high-fives. But, we had to wait for our photo-op before we could clean the clay off ourselves.

Floating, washing, laughing in the water, we continued on our way. Walking through 3 inches to 3 feet of water down "Drunken Alley", we found ourselves at the edge of a cliff with a rope hanging down. It seemed like an easy maneuver. This is where I became belligerent. Stewart wouldn't explain to me what I was supposed to be doing. All he said was "straighten your legs." It didn't make any sense to me why I needed them to be straight. I could see the ground, he was standing on it! All I needed to do was go off the cliff holding onto the rope. He kept yelling. I just wanted to get down, and I was trying to do it my own way. He grabbed my legs, yanked them down, and I proceeded to slide down the rope burning my hands. It was at this point that I started to fume. I was SO angry I walked away from where we were and tried to stifle the tears. Who does that? Really!!!! I would have been perfectly fine had he just said, hold onto the rope, you're only 5 feet off the ground, just come down slowly. But, instead, all he did was yell, "Straighten your legs!" and pulled me down the rope. Not impressed.

We still had about an hour left of our trip. We climbed up into a different part of the caves where other "walking" tours go. Climbing the stalagmites was a bit tricky because we weren't supposed to be touching them.




Here's another photo-op, just as we were ending our trip.


We climbed up a few waterfalls (Rachelle HATED climbing up the waterfalls. I quite enjoyed it), watched Stewart play with an eel, then followed Stewart's instructions of "left, left, don't fall in the hole, right, left". It makes no sense until you actually went left, left, saw the hole and didn't fall in it, right, left, and voila! one more waterfall to climb up, and we could see daylight!




We hiked back to the van, found that it had a flat tire, so Stewart changed the tire while we all watched. We just wanted to get back to shower off and head to the hotel in Rotorua, which was still a 2-hour drive away. That gong-show of a story is for another day...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

More photos

Me and my new camera

OOOH! Now that I have a camera, I just can't stop taking pictures. Click on the photo above to check out my photos on Flickr. Remember, I just got the camera 3 days ago, so I haven't had a chance to go anywhere interesting yet.

Love,
Amy

Monday, November 3, 2008

New Camera!

I've been bitching for a while that I didn't have a camera. What kind of person who says they have a degree in photography (okay, I don't have a degree in photography, but it's the closest thing I had to a studio major) doesn't have a camera? Well, I had my camera when I left Saskatoon on Feb 21, and when I got to Auckland on March 1, I didn't have a camera anymore. Where did it go? I don't know. It's not in Vancouver, and it's not in my stuff. I purposefully didn't take it to Fiji with us. The only thing I can think of is that it was stolen out of my bag in the Fiji Airport Luggage Storage. grrrrr. Did I claim it under some insurance policy? No. Why? Because I didn't think of it until it was too late.

Anyway, due to some unforseen circumstances, I ended up with some extra money the other day. (Thank you Grandma!) I mentioned to her what my plan was, and I said, "I need a camera, and I've been doing extensive research on cameras in the last little while, and that's what I want to do. Buy a new camera." She was so excited, she said, "Go wake up Travis right now and go buy a camera!" Well, I waited for 5 hours, but we did end up going to Camera & Camera on Queen Street.


I got a Sony A200. I was really apprehensive about buying a Sony since they're the "new kids" on the block when it comes to DSLRs. The dude who was selling it to me said, "If you want, I can just call it a Minolta, since you're more familiar with them. It's just rebranding." I am more familiar with Minolta, since my film SLR is a Minolta X9 (their last in the X series), and my Uncle Richard had two Minolta X700s that I used in my first photography class. I have quite an affinity for them.

I originally wanted to get the Nikon D60. It just felt more natural and intuitive. However, I wasn't prepared to spend an extra $400 on "intuitive." The pros of the Sony range outweighed the intuitive buttons and dials and the fact that it felt like an extension of my hand. Price was a big factor, but not the only one. Longer battery life, two kit lenses (18-70mm/75-300mm vs 18-50mm/55-200mm), image stabilization in the body of the camera, rather than in the lens (like every other system). Plus it's won awards and crap. I dunno. It was considerably cheaper than the other ones I was looking at.

While playing with it last night, it doesn't do macro very well. Maybe it was the low-light situation. I'll look into some old Minolta Maxxum lenses - see if there are any cheapish macro lenses I can find to add to my big bag o'lenses.

I think I can safely say I now collect cameras. 2 Brownies, an old Olympus from the 70s, Vivitar point and click (my very first camera), Minolta X9, my various pinhole cameras, and a new Sony DSLR. Unfortunately they're not in one convenient location. :(

When I take photos of things more interesting that cutlery and laundry soap, I might post some. ;)

In other news, I went to my first kickboxing class last Thursday. Man, that was a busy 3 hours. My class started at 6pm, the second free class started at 6:45pm, and my netball game started at 7:50pm. I left the kickboxing gym at 7:50, ran to Newmarket to netball (with my backpack on - it took about 15 minutes), and got there in time to watch the 3rd quarter, and play the 4th quarter. I jinxed the team, though. When I got there, our team was tied!! We were Tied in the 3rd quarter! Best game ever!!! But within 2 minutes of me being there, they lost that stronghold, and we ended up losing 20-something to 10-something. Booerns.

The next two weeks are going to be exciting. Our first visitors from Canada are arriving on Wednesday! We don't know where we'll put them yet, but the spare bedroom is looking good. ;) Trav and I have a list of places to take them.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Photo Update

I've been lazy with photos.

I don't have a camera. Travis has a camera. Mine got lost en route to Auckland. Sad, sad Amy.

There are photos on Travis's hard drive that I have just recently found - some of them dating from May 30. I did not have these on MY computer, hence, did not post them on the blog. Now I've got some... I'm still missing quite a few, but here's a start to tide you over.


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

First Camping Weekend in New Zealand

We took off on Friday, Oct 10 to Urititi Campground.

It was great.

There were no fire pits or bbqs... it was good that we had a camp stove so we could cook our food. And cook we did!

Our tent is huge - just the right size for us. ;) The air mattress also works great. Sleeping bags were good, too. I started off being too hot, but then, as always, got too cold. The next night I started off wearing my new wool sweater and socks, and I was much better throughout the night.

We were about 35m from the beach, on the other side of a sand dune. SO AWESOME. We were smack-dab in the middle of a 5km long beach. We would walk about 2.5km of sand in either direction. And we did. In bare feet. My feet got sand flea bites ALL over them. (Today is Oct 27, and they're not itchy anymore, but there are scars where I was bitten).

Hopefully we'll be able to go camping for a night next weekend after Travis returns from China. He probably won't want to go anywhere, though.

(I don't have photos from this weekend on my computer - they're on Trav's hard drive that he took with him to China. Those will get posted at a later date).

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Aotearoa Music

Travis and I watched the NZ Music Awards last night. I had heard of all of the nominees, which was a bonus. I had even heard most of the music. I'm especially loving Anika Moa right now. There are a list of albums I need to buy in the next little while. Here's a short list of some NZ artists you might want to check out: Tiki Taane, Liam Finn, Shapeshifter, Kora, Katchafire, Salmonella Dub, Cut off Your Hands, OpShop, Scribe, Savage (and Decepticons), Shihad, Flight of the Conchords (obviously), Anika Moa, Julia Deans, and Straitjacket Fits (think Pixies, R.E.M., Sonic Youth, Nirvana, you know, late 80s stuff - AWESOME).

The highlight of the night, for me, was the opening of the show and the performance by Tiki Taane. I don't think there's a youtube video up yet of last night's performance, but here's the album version of the song TANGAROA - god of the sea.



Enjoy. Check out all the other Tiki videos, and Straitjacket Fits, too. :)

Monday, October 6, 2008

One, Two, Skip a Few, What Happened to September?

I managed to skip the month of September. September has never been a good month for me. VERY strange memories of September. I can pretend I have a good September memory, but it is usually trumped by a bad one. September of 2008 felt different than any other I have ever experienced, due to the fact that I am in New Zealand, and school does not begin in September. (all of my bad memories are school/university related)

September 2008 was full of parties, friends, loneliness, running, running, hurting, netball, significant netball losses, last cast glass class, Skype, recurrence of painful skin problems, and planning for this spring season. Travis was away for the month of September, and came home on the 28th, so there wasn't any exploring with him. However, I did get to see more of the country without him: Bethells Beach one weekend with Sarah and Dragana, and hiking The Pinnacles with Paul and Caoilinn.

Travis and I went on an adventure on Saturday as a warm-up for springtime camping. We drove around the Firth of Thames, ate some fish & chips, stopped to walk around at Karangahake Gorge, and ended up at Waihi Beach. It's a really long beach. I'd love to go back when it's not cloudy.

This weekend, weather permitting, we will be heading north of Auckland (somewhere) to test our our new camping gear. We bought two sleeping bags and a 4-man tent online last week. They're not really "hiking" gear... more like "car camping" gear. Conveniently, we have a car to carry our gear around. Inconveniently, our car isn't as good on gas as we hoped. It's good we don't use the car to get around the city that often - everything we need is within walking distance. I drive to get a large load of groceries once a week (since the Lim Chhour across the street usually has dodgy, picked over crap and a null selection of western-style food. Excellent selection of Asian food, though!) Back on topic - camping. I'm really excited to head out of the city for an entire weekend of outdoor bliss. I really hope the weather cooperates.

Future posting with more regularity - I promise.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cast Glass Class 2.0




This is my second glass piece I've made. It's not quite done yet since I'd like to sand it down a bit more. I spent nearly an hour getting it out of the plaster, and almost 2 hours grinding and sanding it down to get it to the point it is right now.

I'm very surprised it's actually purple - last night it looked very grey under fluorescent light.

I love this entire process of creating these pieces. Just like photography, I love all the different stages of making the artwork. Wax, sculpting, plaster, de-plaster, sanding, grinding, finishing... it's so much fun!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Revolution WILL be Televised

Watch the video. I'm surprised I'd never heard this song before - just heard it on GeorgeFM and I HAVE to hear it again. Funny and poignant, and a reaction to Gil Scott Heron's poem "The Revolution Will Not be Televised". Watch that one, too.

Enjoy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Will I Ever Have a Home?




I'd actually like people to comment on this post because I'd like to hear peoples' thoughts on this matter.

When does a house become a home? When do YOU feel comfortable in new surroundings? Do you put up pictures and artwork to make somewhere feel more homey?

How about feeling settled in a new city... when do you feel like you're a part of the scene?

I've been asking myself this question a lot over the past few months. This morning I realized that I haven't felt settled since highschool. I've felt "at home" in a few places, like when I moved in with mom and dad after university, but I didn't feel settled at all.

I think I'm afraid of settling in somewhere in the event that I will have to move. I know that I will be moving again, therefore I don't want to accumulate the regular "stuff" that people accumulate when they've found a home. In the past 10 years I have moved 13 times. That isn't a very good record, so I can understand feeling slightly unsettled.

'What should I do to feel more settled in my surroundings?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Enough with the Eggs Already!


I don't understand the phenomenon of adding a fried egg to a perfectly good burger (or ham sandwich, or chili, etc), but that's often what you'll find on a sandwich in New Zealand.

Take, for instance, the Kiwi Burger at McDonalds. Beetroot, fried egg, and a beef patty. And, of course, other "salads" (which is Kiwi-speak for onion, lettuce, tomato... or anything that would go INTO a salad).

Also, the beetroot phenomenon - also added to burgers and sandwiches as part of the "salad" on the sandwich. Take a look at the menu from Burger Fuel. Terrific burger recipes... too bad they don't taste as good as they sound.

I will have to do a bit more research to find out why eggs are added to burgers. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, August 18, 2008

New Obsession


This was me in May sprinting across the finish line of the women's duathlon.

I will decide next week whether I think my body will be able to handle a half marathon. Emma has asked if I want to run in the Auckland Marathon... and at first I said "Yes?". Then I did some reading, did a bit of research, went for a couple of runs, and checked out the running program that they've got online. If I follow that, I should be good to go by the time the Marathon rolls around on November 2. However, this doesn't take into account my poor little legs and the pain they endure when I run more than twice a week. That's why I'm giving myself until next week to see how I feel.

There is a Quarter Marathon option that I think I will participate if I don't think I can handle the Half.

Other weekend obsessions: The Olympics. I am cheering for Canada and New Zealand. Isn't that nice of me. However, as of this post Canada is beating New Zealand in the medal standings 7 medals to 5!!!! (I thought NZ was still beating us 5-3!)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Daily Obsessions


My first cast glass piece. I like the colours.

I've noticed over the past few weeks I've started obsessing over things. Little things. For very short periods of time. Ideas, people, books, movies, arts, crafts, designs, you name it, I've obsessed over it.

Most recently I have obsessed over the following:

Thursday, August 7 - The Princess Bride 30th Edition novel. Goldman is a genius.

Friday - Art, and in particular, visual communications. Got 2 books from the library. AND the Olympics opening ceremonies. This obsession carried over until Saturday.

Saturday - Art - making crafts and arty things. I bought fabric (I'm going to make a merino wool dress when I find someone with a sewing machine). Then we went out and bought outdoor solar lights and jars and made Sun Jars.

Sunday, Monday - Dexter - the TV show, the book, the character, and the actor (Michael C. Hall). I read the book in 2 days. Wonderfully written, but I like the show better, I think because I think Michael C. Hall is dreamy and creepy at the same time. Sub-obsession: running (I didn't actually go running, but found myself running programs online that I could actually follow - but I haven't yet. Then I felt bad for not going running. The weather was beautiful... what was my issue?).

Tuesday - Test The Nation - Canadian Trivia, Eh? on the CBC website. I realized I didn't know as much weird obscure Canadian trivia as I thought. Andrew and I successfully found the answers to all the questions we didn't know the answers to. Sub-obsession: Beaker (from the Muppet Show).

Wednesday - Shortland Street (NZ TV show - this is my most common obsession lately, because I can easily get my SS fix online)

Thursday - Batman, and more particularly, Christian Bale. He's always dreamy. Sub-obsession: The Littlest Hobo.

It's weird. I research, I read, I watch videos, and I think about this obsession constantly for a few hours, then I completely forget about it. I am beginning to self-analyze, and this makes perfect sense to why I can never finish what I start.

I can even predict what my next obsessions will be (not in any particular order or intensity):


  • Shortland Street

  • Painting

  • Gardening, herbs and strawberries in particular

  • Holidays

  • Money and budgets

  • Websites

  • Friends' lives

  • Food

  • Dieting

  • Exercise and sports

  • Freaky news events

  • Festivals

  • Eddie Izzard and transvestites

  • My new Honda Civic



The list could go on. I must go back to being obsessed over work and colour schemes. Right now, I'm working on the AREVA website doing another designy-type thing (based off a previous designy-type thing) and I'm obsessing over how colour schemes work. You might not call this an obsession, but I've got a collection of colour-scheme websites that I have recently bookmarked. Very interesting stuff to me at this moment in time....

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Trailer Park Boys - Rickyisms

I am a fan of Trailer Park Boys. This fall I watched all the episodes from every season Travis had available. This show features hilarious writing (or, perhaps, improving) to get these great mixed metaphors... or phrases that are just plain wrong. Either way, it's freakin hilarious.

(note: there is some language that isn't appropriate for all audiences... but, whatev).

This Land is Our Land

This is a great idea.

Long Weekend

Pretty uneventful for a long weekend. Yummy food and beer, jogging as a result of yummy food and beer, cookie baking, bread baking, the food show, dehydration, headache, new 30th Anniversary edition of The Princess Bride (book), shopping, laundry, laundry, and humidity.

Friday was pretty eventful. I went to Helen's house early to bake cookies and bread. It was an almost failed attempt at the cookies, probably because we were using whole wheat flour instead of white flour. And they were really sweet. I'm not sure what sort of cookie recipe doesn't have eggs, but uses sweetened condensed milk... they were AWER#@$SA$@#AS WAAAZAA SHAZAM!!! sweet.

From Helen's, Travis picked me up and we went to the Horse & Trap for my half-birthday dinner. I am now officially 28.5, and celebrated with their Monteith's Pairing Special: One Capital Bird

Pork, kawakawa & horopito-coated ostrich, pastry wrapped & baked, bush vegetables & rich reduction.

Matched with: Monteith's Celtic

WOW. Decadent. We also ordered the worst calamari I've ever had. It was so chewy that we were afraid of flinging it on each other when we ate it.

However, the atmosphere was nice, the (other) food was divine, the beer was great, and we just had a lovely time.

(Then we went home, Travis went straight to bed, and I finished up the work I didn't do in the afternoon when I was baking cookies).

The next day required me to go for an hour-long jog. My whole trip was 7.1km, but I probably ran for 5k. My goal is to run 7km non-stop in 2 weeks. Can I do it? I don't know. I'll have to actually go running again. Today looks like a fine day to go for a jog. Jogging up to the top of Mt. Eden is lovely because from there you can see for up to 50km in every direction on a clear day. It's gorgeous. And I can run to the top of it in about 25 minutes from my house. Oh yes, that was an aside.

The rest of Saturday was pretty crap. Travis doesn't want me to re-live it because he said I look "not my best" when I crinkle up my face in a scowl. Saturday afternoon was a definite scowl day. I thought, "A lovely day to wander around the mall." Except I couldn't get to the mall because there was nowhere to park at St. Luke's. Pshhaaah. After driving around that area for 20 minutes, I decided that I'd just go to Pak N Save for groceries since it was just a little further down New North Road. I ended up always being in the wrong lane and turning the opposite way I wanted to. I ended up at Pak N Save (after blocking pedestrian traffic because I couldn't turn right into their parking lot since it was full as well. I FINALLY got in. And once I was in, the traffic inside the grocery store was worse than in the parking lot. I thought I was going to lose it. I didn't get half the items I wanted because I suck at manovering myself with my giant shopping cart through the throngs of people, kids, old people, and all of their shopping carts, too. I'm getting worked up just thinking about it. I shopped, I paid, I left, I got home (talked to Malcolm on the street at an intersection - it's fun running into people I know randomly in the street!), and could not for the life of me get into the car park. Our remote died. This was the icing on the cake. I lost it. I must commend Travis for how he handled the situation (ie: ME). Now that all the whining and scowly faces are over, and he made a few calls, and calmed me down, we have a new remote for the car park. SIGH.

Sunday was the food show. Lots of little bits of food. I learned how to properly pour a perfect Stella Artois beer. Helen and I ended up in an amateur Stella Pouring competition. Don't ask me how that happened. It was our first time pouring beer. My first time pouring beer from a tap EVER, so I think I did pretty well. But the Stella pouring regime is very particular, and there are pouring competitions all over the world. I ruined one step - the pouring step. HHAHA I ended up with too much head (3 fingers instead of 2). But Helen had slightly more than me, and I ended up winning. What did I win? My beer. Helen got her beer, too. And Malcolm got the tester that the bartenders made when showing us (once) how to make it. It was very fun.

I began reading my 30th Anniversary Edition of The Princess Bride by William Goldman. I've already read the book about 6 or 7 times. I've written (at least one) book report on it in highschool, and used phrases for it for my voice class, and used the character names to name my computer and its hard drives. I've seen the movie more times than I can count. This edition of the book includes the first chapter of the story of "Buttercup's Baby"... (as did the 25th anniversary edition), but this book builds on that as well. In Goldman's original "retelling" he uses his son as a character in the book. In this edition, he uses his grandson. It is his grandson's 10th birthday, and his wish is to visit Florin. Goldman and his grandson, Willy, go to Florin - the birthplace of S. Morgenstern. They go to the Morgenstern Museum so Goldman can do research for the "good parts" version of Buttercup's Baby (also supposedly written by S. Morgenstern). He makes reference to Stephen King, and says that he is of Florinese decent and is on a first-name basis with the curator of the Morgenstern Museum. (That is as far as I've gotten so far, because I ended up reading Buttercup's Baby first.) I love the fact that with every edition of this book, Goldman adds more to the story. I'm really looking forward to finishing the intro to this book. :)

Today I will go to my third Cast Glass Class. :) My first cast glass attempt looks something like what a 6-year-old makes out of clay. I'm not quite sure why I keep fooling myself into thinking I'm a creative person when I continually make "art" that has no creativity involved and looks quite juvenile. I think I like it because it's fun and I learn new things. The outcome, for me, seems to be irrelevant. That's beside the point. I have one completed cast glass piece, and it is beautiful. It is blue and green. It was holding my earrings (at one point), and now (for some reason) is sitting on the arm of the chair behind me. Lovely place for a large hunk of glass, I'd say. Last week we "finished" our first glass pieces (sanded bits down), and then we got to play with clay and wax. We learned how to make initial wax sculptures - we'll use the wax pieces to eventually turn them into our glass pieces.

Tomorrow the plan is to go see The Dark Knight at the IMAX. Sarah and I are very excited. Travis isn't convinced that the movie is going to be any good despite all reviews of the movie being AWESOME.

I have to finish working this morning, and go for a jog. I did buy some weights so I can properly do my in-house workouts. I'm looking forward to that, too.

Hopefully I can find USB thingy so I can get the pictures off Travis's camera... I haven't added pictures in MONTHS. Bad Amy. ;)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Forgotten Weeks

I've been slacking when it comes to blog posts lately. Here's a run-down of the past weeks' adventures:


  1. Attended BarCamp Auckland 2 on Saturday, July 12. It's a mini, one-day web conference for web geeks. No, it's not a LAN party, like some of my friends thought. That's just WAY too geeky.

  2. Went to 2 films at the Auckland Film Festival - Be Kind Rewind with Jack Black and Mos Def, and Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. Be Kind Rewind was awesome, Gonzo wasn't as good as we had hoped.

  3. We started playing netball - we're called The Nomads. We play on Thursday evenings. We're crap, but it's fun. Lost both games so far. Oh well.

  4. I started my Cast Glass Class on Tuesday. It's really fun. When I get my first casting out of the kiln, I'll definitely post pictures.

  5. I've lost a total of 2kg since the end of May. Not fast enough of my liking since I have another 10kg to go. REALLY looking forward to summer. I've been doing Jillian Michaels 30-Day Shred workout video. I'm FINALLY on level 3, but it's kicked my ass pretty good. It's a 25 minute work out, but holy crap it's a good one. (3 workouts, one video)

  6. Bought a white 1992 Honda Civic last Sunday. It's cute. It smells inside, but I'm trying to solve that problem with baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, and anything else I can get my hands on. Anyone have solutions to a smelly car problem?

  7. Went for a hike at Muriwai Beach one Sunday afternoon. That was GORGEOUS even though we were only there an hour.

  8. Today is supposed to be the storm of the century.... but Travis thinks they're crying wolf. It's rained for about 5 hours straight so far, but there aren't 100km winds like they were predicting. However, in the 10 minutes since I wrote that last sentence, the wind has picked up SIGNIFICANTLY, and there have been gusts up to, I'd say, about 50-60km/hr. Just gusts, though... I guess one gust is all you need to uproot a tree and knock out a power line.

  9. Travis attended a Pohiri at the Marae on Wednesday. He would have to explain what that is because I wasn't there and don't know what was involved.

  10. Travis started his own blog for his research projects.

  11. Both of us got new, spiffy business cards

  12. I tried a herbal detox cleanse... you know, kidney, liver, bowel cleanse with pills and powders and crap. Well, I detoxed myself right into a nasty cold, and I'm still getting over the cold. I did 5 days of the cleanse.... then I stopped. I'll do the other 2 days some other time, when I've recovered from my icky cold.


Things to look forward to in the next few weeks:

  • More cast glass class

  • More netball games

  • More jogging/working out for Amy to lose another 10kg

  • Travis going back to Canada for a month :(

  • Watching The Dark Knight at the IMAX

Monday, July 7, 2008

SO COLD



Right now it's 8 degrees and raining outside, and it's about 13 degrees inside. BOO. Travis has the space heater at his office, still. A lot of good it does there when I'm freezing my ass off in here. I'm wearing a toque, wool socks, BIG wool sock/slippers, tank top, wool sweater with hood, scarf and jeans. And two blankets (I'm working on the couch). Brrrrrrrrrr.



I'm working in town today - at the "Upper Queen Residence", and I've attempted to block out the draft with our draft-blocker thingy.... long plush lion. Anywhoo, I just received my merino wool hand/arm warmers in the mail today - I ordered them online - and it's so much more comfortable to work. I've gotta break them in, yet. I don't quite have the keyboard span I used to without them on. Oh well. My hands are warmer.

The Christmas party was a success, in my opinion. Lots of food, lots of drink, lots of laughs, and lots of really disgusting conversation. We kept coming back to really hideous topics... but we played games and opened gifts and a good time was had by all... at least that's what they told the hostess. ;)

Travis is busy working today after some busy days last week and a fairly relaxing weekend. I'm also busy working, but taking a break to write this post to describe how stupidly freezing I am.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Weekend full of Baking and Stuff

I made food for our upcoming Christmas in July party. Saturday was the shopping day, and Sunday was the "prepare the food" day.

I made the following:
Perogies (potato, cheese and onion, of course)
Inhaler Buns (grandma's recipe)
Cinnamon Buns
Nanaimo Bars

Just call me Baba Amy


Perogies. The first batch I made on Saturday weren't very good - I didn't add enough salt to the potato mix... tasted really blah. The batch I made on Sunday were excellent - I added more salt and grated "tasty" (aged cheddar) cheese rather than mostly cream cheese. Hopefully they cook up well.

Inhaler Buns. The outcome was WAY better than I had anticipated. I thought that I had ruined the buns due to an issue with the yeast - I used "Surebake Yeast", and I had to double the quantity as called for in the recipe due to it's unique makeup. I thought I had killed it, but no. It worked out just great! The buns were really damn close to the way grandma's taste, so I guess I did good! YAY! My cinnamon buns didn't work as well, only because I stuffed too many of them in the pan. Oops. Travis calls them cinnamon bun roll-ups - they furiously unravel themselves. I'll have to make another small batch of those.

Nanaimo bars. The ones I made on Sunday were pretty close to the ones that Sarah and I made on Wednesday night. I was a bit too impatient and put the chocolate on top while it was still too warm, so it's quite thin. Oh well. I'm sure they'll taste just fine, even when I had to use crushed Arrowroot cookies instead of graham cracker crumbs. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, graham crackers don't exist outside of North America, so I had to do some research to find a suitable substitute.

THIS JUST IN!
I just put some brownies in the oven. Hopefully they're good.

And a thank you to Sarah for giving me my first apron. Awwww...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Black Keys in Auckland


Last night, The Black Keys rocked the Powerstation in Auckland. I don't think I've heard so much sound from such a small band since Bob Log III. They also had a giant inflatable tire (made in Akron, Ohio), which was too tall for the building. The bands were also punctual, with The Vietnam War going on at 8:59 and the Black Keys starting their set at 10:00 sharp. Very professional. Someone should tell Amigo's.


Sorry about the image quality, but it was hard to find a surface that wasn't vibrating. This video might be better.

Wild Parrots



Here are a pair of parrots (or parrot-type things) that visited us in Titirangi last week. I don't know if they are native or feral, but they didn't seem to mind the hail that was falling.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Item of the Week: Individually Powered Electrical Outlets



This is a lovely idea. Easily turn the power off to your appliances by turning off the power to the device, rather than unplugging it.

Here's a link to the wikipedia article (for the electrical geeks) explaining what it's all about.

I don't feel like doing too much more research on these power plug-ins... I just think they're great. Here's one more link about power in NZ.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

No Graham Crackers Here!

Well crap. No wonder you can't get Nanaimo bars in New Zealand. They don't have Graham Crackers, graham cracker crumbs, graham flour.... nothin'. I've been doing some research. Apparently it's a North American thing. Who knew?!

I wonder what they make cheesecake crust out of?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunrise, Sunset


Now that the longest night of the year is over, I feel it's time for some accounting. Since we moved to Auckland, Saskatoon has had 366.1 hours more sunshine than here. That's 15 and a quarter days. And by the time the equinox rolls around, we'll have lost 762.2 hours of daylight.
WHO'S TO BLAME? SOMEONE MUST PAY!
A whole extra month of darkness.
The graph above shows the number of daylight hours per day through the year in Auckland and Saskatoon. The shaded area shows the time that we've lived in NZ. If you want to do these calculations yourself for your own part of the world, I've uploaded the code to Matlab File Exchange. It should be available shortly.

Friday, June 20, 2008

NZ Driving Oddities



Again, not odd, but there are just some things I have problems getting used to.

Now that Travis and I are driving more often (read: have access to car and live far out of town for another 6 weeks) I have found a few strange things about New Zealand driving habits.

Car driving oddities:
1. No one has daytime running lights. For a place that is overcast and rainy a lot, you'd think you'd naturally turn your "lights on for life." But no one turns their lights on. And lights aren't automatic when you put your car in gear. I think daytime running lights are the best invention ever.

2. Stop signs. People pull out almost into the intersection at a stop sign. Maybe it's not a stop sign - maybe it's a "Give Way", but still. It freaks me out when there's somebody's car hood in my lane and I have to swerve to avoid a collision.

3. Winding curves to get to any beach. Yes, it is a mountainous country. I understand that. It takes over half an hour do drive 20 km due to the windingness. And makes me extremely ill and jumpy, especially when Travis tries to prove to me that a 70km speed limit can be achieved, even when the recommended speed around the corner is 15km/h.

4. Driving lanes are VERY narrow. I'm glad we have a small car.

5. Driveways/lanes are also very narrow, and usually very steep. Also very scary when these lanes back out onto the windy roads to the beach.

6. Slippery when wet. I don't know what they make their roads out of, but when they're wet, they're VERY slippery. I wondered why people slowed down on the roads on rainy days - it's because they have to.

7. Most intersections are on a hill. I'm kind of exaggerating... but kind of not. I have had to learn how to correctly use the e-brake when starting on a hill. Not easy, especially in the rain (read #6).

That's all for now.

My Letter to KiwiFM

I've been listening to KiwiFM in the mornings. They've been talking about Kyle Macdonald, the Red Paperclip, and Kipling. One of the morning show hosts mentioned she'd trade her job for the house in Kipling. There have been lots of emails talking about what Saskatchewan is like. I had to throw my two cents in - so I emailed them this morning. Here is my email.... it was then read on the air about 10 minutes ago. However, they called me Amy Templeton. Twice.




Girl from Saskatchewan, now in Auckland. 2 cents about Kipling.

Hey guys,
I've been listening to you talk about Kipling the last couple of days.
I am from Saskatchewan. My boyfriend is from Kipling. I've seen the
paper clip. It's not as big as you'd think.

There is no comparing Kipling (or any small towns in Saskatchewan for
that matter) to anywhere in New Zealand. There are a lot of lakes in
Saskatchewan, but nowhere to go surfing or snorkeling. There are ski
hills (yes - hills - but they're actually just river valleys) - but to
get to the Rocky mountains you would have to drive for 8 hours.
http://www.sasktourism.com/

As for turning Kyle's house into a Backpackers? No one travels through
Kipling. It's not on a main highway. I think there are 3 backpackers
in all of Saskatchewan.

I love Saskatchewan - it's my home - but there's a reason I'm
currently living in New Zealand - one reason being the weather. It's
true - the average winter temperature is -20 deg. Celcius.

The people in Saskatchewan are lovely - and that's probably why the
people stay there despite not having any scenery. I'd say Saskatchewan
isn't the prettiest girl at the party, but definitely has a great
personality and that's what makes her attractive.

I'm not going to say either way whether you should seriously consider
moving to Kipling. Just wanted to throw my 2 cents in... :) It's
always fun when you hear about your hometown when you're in another
country.

Thanks!

Amy Templeman

Monday, June 16, 2008

CANADIANS - PLEASE READ!!!

After months of hesitation, Industry Minister Jim Prentice has finally revealed his re-write of Canada's rules of copyright. As expected, the bill contains major concessions to the American entertainment industry. Prentice's bill forbids Canadians from engaging in ordinary practices such as ripping DVDs onto video iPods, unlocking digital phones for use with a competitor’s services, and paves the road for US-style consumer lawsuits for file-sharing. Tell your MP to represent you in the forthcoming copyright debate, and stop Prentice from steamrolling a bill that's worse than America's DMCA through Parliament without listening to Canadian voices.
- http://www.copyrightforcanadians.ca/action/firstlook/






Please read and send to your MP. I did. Please do anything. Don't sit idle.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

One of THOSE Days

I'm not crying, or whining, or doing anything at all, except working. But it is one of those days where I feel weird. You know, those days when you ask yourself why you're here. It starts out by thinking about why you're sitting in the house working. And then why you're in this city in this part of the world. And why you're in this part of the world and feeling the way you do - which is a little uneasy, and for no good reason. Maybe because it's overcast and you can't see the blue sky. Who knows.

I really do love it here, though. I should mention that. I think everyone I know and miss back in Canada should come live in New Zealand. They don't have to live in Auckland - but just close enough that I can visit. And, if I'm going out on a limb and talking about what a more perfect world would be, I would be an expert at driving on the left side of the road and feel comfortable with it. Last night was a night that I don't want to repeat. Nothing happened, but it was one of the times in my life when I REALLY REALLY didn't want to drive. It was a state of mind - I might be over it. (This is after I decided it would be REALLY selfish of me to want the entire country of New Zealand to drive on the right side with left-hand drive cars.)

I just have a heavy heart, and maybe working will help me get over it instead of wallowing. That's what I'm doing - wallowing. Wallowing and listening to Blind Melon.

On a more positive note, Travis took me to a movie last night. It was a movie where the whole theatre sat up in their seats in anticipation, even though it was a documentary of events that took place about 40 years ago, and everyone in the theatre already knew the outcome. In the Shadow of the Moon was an excellent documentary, directed by Ron Howard. The interviews with the astronauts was very enlightening and entertaining, particularly of Mike Collins, the 3rd man in the Apollo 11 mission, the pilot of the command module. He never stepped foot on the moon. His accounts of his role in the Apollo program, and his time on his mission in particular, were very humble and human.

I admit that before I saw this I didn't know an awful lot about the space program, or the moon landing. I also admit that I still have a hard time believing that the human race actually made it to the moon. I'm one of those who think it's a hoax. And, funny enough, the astronauts make reference to that while the credits are rolling. And I think they almost have me convinced that they actually were up there.

Whether you think they made it up there or not, this is an excellent movie - and especially great to see on the big screen. (The movie has been out on video for months - that doesn't mean anything here in Aotearoa.) We saw it at the Rialto Cinemas in Newmarket (I highly recommend anyone watch a movie in this theatre).

I think I've cheered myself up sufficiently to continue on with my day. I have a lot yet to learn about myself on this mission of mine...

I guess I just wanted to mention to everyone back in Canada that I do miss you all very much and I'm thinking of you always. :)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

More Auckland Oddities

Okay, so maybe it's not odd that in the city of Auckland you can find paddocks with sheep or cattle grazing on them... but to me it does seem a little bit out of the ordinary.

I should keep my notebook handy so whenever Travis and I explore a new park in Auckland I can write down what farm animals I find grazing there.

So far, this is what I've found.

Mount Eden Domain - cattle
One Tree Hill/Cornwall Park - cattle, sheep, roosters (didn't see chickens)
Ambury Park - cattle, horses, sheep

We have not found farm animals at the following parks:
Monte Cecilia Park - initially looking for the Disc Golf course, but unable to locate a proper course. It does look/feel like pasture land.
Auckland Domain - home to many ducks and other birds, but I haven't seen any cattle.

I'll post more when I discover them.

Mexcian Fiesta

I love Mexican food. Travis loves Mexican food. I love cooking it, and I love eating it. Therefore I will post some of my favourite Mexican recipes - I don't know if you'd say I perfected them, but I use these recipes ALL THE TIME. One little tidbit I found in the couple years I've taught myself to make burritos and enchiladas from scratch is the defining spice in the recipes is not chilies, hot peppers, or anything hot and spicy - it's cumin. You can't make Mexican food taste right without cumin. Try it. It'll taste like yuck.

I should mention, making all these dishes takes all afternoon (and, for refried beans, soaking beans overnight), so if you decide you want to make Mexican food at 4pm, be prepared to eat at 8 or 9pm. Believe me - I've done this before. I even decided to make the corn tortillas from scratch (which are AWESOME). Take it from me - start early afternoon with the chopping and boiling, and assembly of enchiladas and cooking the rice comes at the end.

This is our meal tonight:

Lamb Enchiladas with Mole Sauce
Refried Beans
Mexican Rice
Pico de Gallo
Guacamole
tortilla chips


Lamb Enchiladas
(recipe can be used with beef, pork, or lamb. We bought cubed lamb - didn't work like the recipe says, so follow the recipe instead - also the recipes are in metric. Good luck)
680 g beef chuck roast
30 mL water
180 mL beef broth
20 mL red wine vinegar
8 g chili powder
3 g ground cumin (I always add more - like 1-2 tsp)

1/2 large onion, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers
4 g all-purpose flour
230 g sour cream
170 g shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided (or Cheddar, or "Tasty" cheese)
5 8" corn tortillas (or flour tortillas are fine if no corn tortillas can be found)

Place roast in large sauce pan with a tight fitting lid (or crock pot). Pour in water, cover, simmer on low for 30 minutes. Increase heat and brown roast on all sides, then when all the water boils away, pour in beef broth, vinegar, chili powder and cumin. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 1.5-2 hours or until the meat falls apart. Shred using 2 forks. Place beef back in the pan with the juices and let cool.

In a large skillet, saute the onion until just soft, not browned. Mix in flour and green chilies. Stir constantly for 2 minutes to cook the flour taste out. Stir in sour cream and 2 cups of Monterey Jack cheese. Cook on low for 10 minutes, stirring often, until the cheese is all melted and mixed. Set aside and let cool.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Spread 4 tablespoons of sour cream mixture down the center of the tortilla. Top with about the same amount of beef. Roll up and place seam side down in one or two 8x11 inch baking dish. Repeat for each tortilla. Continue until you are out of the filling.

Top with Mole Sauce. Sprinkle with remaining Monterey Jack cheese.

Bake in a pre-heated oven for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbling.


Mole Sauce
2 tbsp oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp chili powder
1 small can tomato paste
1 cup water
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garlic
1 tbsp cocoa powder

Heat oil in pan - saute onion. Add flour and chili powder - and keep stirring to prevent burning. On medium heat, add tomato paste, and slowly add water while stirring constantly. Add rest of the spices except cocoa powder. Stir continuously to prevent burning. Sift in cocoa powder to prevent lumps (I had to strain my sauce today to get out the cocoa lumps - a lot easier to do just the cocoa powder, believe me).

Also this is to be prepared while the beef/pork is cooking. :)


Refried Beans
(sorry for the lack of measurements - I never measure this stuff)
black or pinto beans
water
(chicken or vegetable stock optional)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil or butter
water
salt
cheese

Soak beans overnight in lots of water. Discard water.
In pot, boil beans until soft - this'll take over an hour. (If you want, cook the beans in chicken or vegetable stock for more flavour. Not necessary)
Optional Step
You may reserve part of the water the beans were cooked in, or you can discard it as well. You'll just have to put more water back in them, so you might want to save the water. Put in food processor and puree.

Saute the onions in the butter or oil - add the beans. (If the beans have been pureed, skip this step.) Mash the beans with a potato masher, and continue cooking. Add salt for flavour. Keep beans from drying out - add water if necessary. Add cheese to add flavour, as well.

Serve hot.

(here's a good website where I kinda got my instructions.)


Mexican Rice

185 g long grain white rice (jasmine or basmati adds a lovely flavour. :))
15 mL oil (1 tbsp)
355 mL chicken broth
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 cube chicken bullion
salt and pepper
10 g ground cumin
25 g chopped cilantro (or parsley, if you don't like cilantro)
1 clove garlic.

In saucepan, cook rice in oil over medium heat for 3 minutes. Pour in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add onion, green pepper, jalapeno, and diced tomato. Season with bullion cube, salt and pepper, cumin, cilantro, and garlic. Boil, cover, reduce heat, and cook for 20 minutes. YUMMY.


Guacamole
1 ripe avocado
garlic
chilis
lemon juice

Pit and peel avocado - slice or scoop into bowl. Mash with spoon. Add flavourings to taste, and mix together. Let sit 15-20 minutes for flavours to mix. Serve with tortillas. :) Again, we don't measure for Guacamole - it's a new flavour sensation every time!

Oh ya, this is a new enchilada recipe I'm trying tonight - haven't made it yet, so I'll have to rate this later. I'll add my other enchilada recipe (spinach and cottage cheese) another time.


Pico de Gallo
tomatoes
green peppers
jalapeno
green onion
garlic
lime juice
parsley

Chop all into 1cm x 1cm cubes (approx). Crush garlic. Mix together in bowl with lime juice.

Here's a recipe I found online for inspiration. Again, I don't use cilantro. To me it smells like stinky feet. I use parsley. If you like cilantro, go ahead. :)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Work

It feels much better getting ready for work in the morning - sometimes even getting spiffy - and working, rather than lounging around in my PJs until 7pm, which I did yesterday. Although, days like that are good for me, too. But today I just feel spiffy. It's definitely the lipstick.

I'm looking forward to dying my hair, too. I'm going to Henna it up in the next few days. Hopefully it'll take the black (read: indigo) henna. It'll be more of an experiment than anything.

In the meantime, here's me at work.



Last weekend's trip: Shootin' guns at the Auckland Pistol Club.
This weekend's trip: Rotorua.

More pictures to come.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

New Pics!

Enjoy.


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Duathalete? Runner of duathlons? whatever...

I'm officially a duathlete. I don't know how to spell that, or if it's even a word.

I ran a duathlon with Helen on Sunday morning. 3.5km run, 10km bike, 1.5km run. I set a goal for myself - I wanted to be in the top 1/4. In the back of my head, I wanted to be in the top 100 to cross the finish line, but I wasn't sure if that was possible without having trained more than going to one spin class and jogging a week ahead of time - so I set a more realistic goal, and I totally did it. My result? I was in the top 1/5! YAY! I was #183 to cross the finish line out of about 982.

REAL Duathlon website

I did it, and I'll probably do it again - maybe even a triathlon. I need to get a bike, and I need to get out of the house a bit more often. Today was a "I'm not leaving the house" day. Hopefully I don't have too many more of those.

Ambury Regional Park is where we ran the thing. It was really nice. Afterwards, Travis and I watched some sheep shearing and pet a huge 22 year old clydesdale horse. For a girl who doesn't like horses, I could have that horse as a pet. :)

Like always, pics to come...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Item of the Week - Towel Heater

I'm sure these items are found in other parts of the world, but I'm not sure what I would do without my towel heater.

The mildewy smell is not very pleasant if your towels don't properly dry. I remember this smell from the last time I was in Auckland visiting my sister. Imagine, if you can, a day in Saskatchewan when your towel couldn't dry on the bar overnight. You can't imagine? How about if your hang-dry laundry couldn't dry in 10 hours. No? I'm on day 3 of some of my laundry. Thank goodness we have our own water heater closet. This water heater closet houses the water heater and vacuum cleaner. It also is very useful to dry damp clothes, like jeans, cargo pants, or hiking boots.

Between the water heater closet and the towel heater, our "drying of articles" takes less time. Yay!

You may wonder why we don't put our clothes in the drier. We don't have a drier. Many people don't. Requires too much electricity and too much space. Our washing machine is actually a "washer/drier combo", but it's a useless piece of junk in the drying aspect. It doesn't so much "dry" as it does "warm up." It tumbles the clothes, but it's not air drying... no hot air is pumped in.... and there's no vent going out. It's much easier to just take out the wet clothes and hang them about the house.

This became a rant about drying clothes. That's unfortunate. Stay tuned for new pictures from the last month. I've been very lazy.