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.
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.

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


Amy Templeman

Monday, June 16, 2008


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.

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
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
(chicken or vegetable stock optional)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil or butter

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.

1 ripe avocado
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
green peppers
green onion
lime juice

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. :)