Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Ooo, out for dinner...then spoiled with dessert!

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
- The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

Things have been a tad busy and stressful of late round here. The long weekend was certainly no exception but that mad story will have to wait until later. Last week J took me out for dinner. We had planned to go to the Japanese restaurant of one of our first dates but alas, it appears to have closed down so we wandered further into town and found KuBick, another Japanese restaurant...but run by Koreans apparently. I ordered the tofu (BBQ style) salad and had got part way through eating it before J reminded me to take a photo. We also got tempura vegetables to share. The meal was HUGE so I had to doggy bag some of it for lunch the next day!

The following night J was clearly feeling like spoiling me rotten so he made us Feijoa, Banana and Toasted Coconut Crumble. I was very impressed! We eat a lot of crumble (generally made by me) but this was something else again...must have been that coconut!

Feijoa, Banana and Toasted Coconut Caramel Crumble (now that was a mouthful!)

3-4 large bananas
6-8 feijoas. peeled
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 Tbsp soft brown sugar
1 Tbsp vegan margarine (we use olivani)

for the crumble
1 cup shredded coconut strands (we used desicated coconut since that's all we had)
1 cup flour (it said white flour but we used 50/50 white/wholemeal 'cause it's more interesting)
1/2 cup soft bronwn sugar (the recipe called for excessive amounts of sugar: 1 cup soft brown sugar and 1 cup white sugar...seriously, is that an overkill or what?!)
1 cup rolled oats
75 g vegan mararine

Lightly grease the base of an ovenproof baking dish. Roughly chop the bananas and feijoas and mix together over the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle over the vanilla essence followed by the brown sugar. Cut the margarine into small pieces and dot over the fruit. Leave this aside while making the crumble to caramelise.

Place the coconut on a baking tray and toast in the oven for about 3 minutes on 180 C watching so that it doesn't burn. Let cool.

In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar and rolled oats. Add the toasted coconut, reserving a little to sprinkle on the top of the dish. Cut the margarine into little pieces and rub it into the dry mixture with your fingers until well mixed in (at this point, lick the crumbs off your fingers 'cause it's delicious!).

Crumble this mixture over the fruit in an even layer, then sprinkle the remaining toasted coconut over the top. Bake for about 20 minutes at 180 C. Let cool slightly before serving. It would taste delicious with soy ice cream or soy yoghurt but we didn't happen to have either of those things.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Lest we forget...

They shall not grow old,
As we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them,
Nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun,
And in the morning,
We will remember them.
We will remember them.

- The ANZAC Dedication:For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon

Not a book quote today but instead a poem that is read at every ANZAC service across the country each year. Tomorrow, April 25, is ANZAC day, the day we, as New Zealanders (and Australians) recognise and remember those soldiers from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who fought at Gallipoli during World War I. It is not only a time to remember these soldiers, but all soldiers who have fought in many of the wars across the world since then. Every year there will be dawn services across the country and on our shirts we will pin our red paper poppies. My grandfathers, both long gone, fought in World War II. They never told us stories of the war as was the case with many soldiers who kept their horrific experiences buried deep inside once they returned.

I won't be at any dawn services this year as I'll be travelling down country for more madness and mayhem but I did make some ANZAC biscuits for the day. These are fairly crisp biscuits characterised by rolled oats, coconut and golden syrup. The original recipe (probably quite different from the kinds of recipes we use today) was apparently created so that the biscuits would keep well during naval transportation to those soldiers fighting overseas.

ANZAC Biscuits

Not the greatest of ANZAC biscuit recipes and could probably be improved both taste and texture-wise with a mashed banana thrown in the mix but we didn't have any ripe enough.

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup wholemeal flour
1/4 cup plain flour
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp golden syrup
1/3 cup canola oil

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Place the oats, wholemeal and plain flour, coconut and sugar in a large bowl. Mix and set aside.

Place the baking soda, golden syrup, oil and egg in a small jug and whisk to combine. Add to the dry ingredients and stir well.

Roll teaspoonfuls of the mixture into 3cm balls. Place balls 4cm apart on the baking trays and flatten with a fork.

Bake for 15 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool on the trays then store the biscuits in an airtight container.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

The domestic girlfriend

Night was falling by the time Bastian came to the Water of Life and told his father how he had wanted to bring him some but had spilled it.
It was almost dark in the kitchen. His father sat motionless. Bastian stood up and switched on the light. And then he saw something he had never seen before.
He saw tears in his father's eyes.
And he knew that he had brought the Water of Life after all.
- The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

J was going to be a bit late home so I thought I'd clean out the fridge a bit and see what I could concoct. We had tempeh that needed using so I cut that in strips and marinated it with, well, whatever I could find...which wasn't a heck of a lot! There was also some courgettes and mushrooms so they got chopped and then chucked in the frypan along with the tempeh. To go with it I also attacked the useless blender and made spinach and almond pesto to go with the pasta (why is it that they recommend eating wholegrain pasta but then it's so difficult to buy?).

Naturally ('cause I'd be pissed if he wasn't), J was delighted to come home to the delicious smell of dinner about to be served (ow, aren't I sweet?!). And because I was feeling all rather domestic I made one of my usual apple crumbles to top it off. Ah yes, the best meal of the day...dessert!

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Notes from the forest

A head full of shadows. And all the sunlight in the world won't drive them away.
- Otherland: City of Golden Shadow by Tad Williams

It was the Auckland Orienteering Champs in the weekend and it was filled with the usual madness and mayhem I've come to expect. I also picked up a few tips along the way I thought I'd share with you all.

The Auckland Orienteering Club flag flying proudly.

Plantation Forest: Middle Distance Champs

  • it's dark in the forest as the trees have been planted close together and the lower branches have not been trimmed.
  • a distinctive tree in a thick bush is very difficult to see unless you stumble directly upon it.
  • blackberry growing along the steep banks of streams should be avoided at all costs.
  • a control site on a very steep re-entrant is not a good idea if there is the chance the terrain is going to send your runners slidding down the bank (directly towards those blackberry bushes I mentioned earlier) unable to stop.
  • the start triangle directly at the start is terribly unnerving and potentially embarrassing if you can't find the start triangle on the map.
  • 180s are never a good idea especially if you head down hill when you were supposed to be going up.
  • barbwire fences will tear your pants eventually, no matter how tight they are.

Waiuku South: Long Distance Champs

  • never trust the person at the start when they say all electric fences are off.
  • full body cover IS recommended unless you want to look like you've been slashed to pieces.
  • yes, cutty grass cuts do hurt, especially on the eye.
  • don't trust those green stripes on the map especially when the forest looked clearer there than in the bits of forest mapped white (but don't go near the dark green bits 'cause you might never make it out alive).
  • do some nimble footwork training before running on this map so you can dodge all the cuttings and fallen logs.
  • your compass is always right but you are not always right so you may think you're following your bearing correctly but chances are, you aren't.
  • if you can't find the control, keep going...it's probably only about 1 metre away but hidden by all that cutty grass.
  • you can try and make the map fit to the features around you but you're just kidding yourself (unless, of course, you ARE actually where you think you are).

Monday, 21 April 2008

In search of pizza

"Warmth is a state of mind."
"I know. I warmed the Firelord when he was cold."
"A state of mind."
It struck me, then. It was so simple, so clear, I laughed. The shock of my laugh jerked me backinto awareness. "Are you saying," I said, "that if I think about it hard enough, I can make myself warm?"
- Winter of Fire by Sherryl Jordan

Finding a place to get lunch while I'm at work (when I've been slack and not made my own) can be a little frustrating. I have my favourites but when my usual tofu wrap is all sold out or they haven't made it that day I have to go further afield. Lately I have been extremely lazy about making my own lunch (moving flats does that to you) so I have been doing some exploring.

Luckily Ponsonby has a few options, one being
Il Buco, an Italian pizza place not too far down the road from me.

You're not going to find soy cheese on any menu in New Zealand (okay, I could be wrong but since even buying soy cheese is pretty difficult and expensive I can't imagine it) but there are a couple of places that do damn fine pizza without cheese. Hell (a nationwide takeaway pizza place) is one and Il Buco is another. They always have at least 1 vegan option and sometimes up to 3 (the menu doesn't list all the pizzas they have). My favourites are the funghi (mushrooms, mushrooms and more mushrooms) and another one with a name I could never pronounce, let alone remember (long strips of capsicum, courgette, onion and more).

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Tears of sorrow

"She said, 'My good friend Portia (McPhail, who was in the group and also died) said we have got this little saying that says we are going to jump in puddles, Dad."
"She said, 'What I mean by that is even if it is bad, we are going to make the most of it'."
- Father: It's a tragedy for us...and the country from the New Zealand Herald (17/04/08)

No book quote today. Instead we have the words of one of the fathers of the school children that drowned in the Tongariro National Park on Tuesday. The whole nation was in shock yesterday as news of the 7 deaths surfaced.

6 young lives cut short. A budding young teacher taken. A school, a neighbourhood, a city, a country in mourning.

10 students, their teacher, and an instructor for the Outdoor Pursuits Centre course they were participating in were on a canyoning expedition up a gorge in the Tongariro National Park when they were hit by a flash flood. Only 5 made it out alive.

It is in moments like these that I am fiercely proud of our little country. We handle grief well (mostly...just not when it's sporting loses like the Rugby World Cup). Being small, stories like this shake us deeply. I mean, that school those kids were from is in my neighbourhood. I've been on that same Outdoor Pursuits Centre course several years ago just like those kids were doing. I know people who work for OPC. Mum teaches kids from that school.

Our family is no stranger to the cruelty of the outdoors. My eldest brother, a keen mountaineer in his 20s, lost several friends to the mountains as did my Dad and Uncle in their younger days. They were also part of search and rescue crews through out and I have heard some of the horrific stories they can tell. My Mum has also suffered several injuries deep in the wilderness and had to be winched out.

But knowing all this doesn't change the sorrow that I felt as we watched the news last night. The whole first 2 segments of the news (we're TV3 watchers) devoted to this story with more following that evening on Campbell Live. The papers filled with grief, disbelief and immense saddness. No one quite able to believe what had happened.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Happy Chocolate Birthdays

“So!” he cried. “Not an end, but the end of the beginning, eh? You progress, gunslinger! You progress! Oh, how I admire you!”
- the man in black from The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

No birthday is complete without cake. Our generation of New Zealand (and, I'm guessing, Australian) kids have grown up with delightful birthday cakes from the iconic Australian Women's Weekly children's birthday cake book (the original...not the new version). I've had robots, maypoles, pianos, dolly vardens, monsters, trains and more.

This cake was for my cousin's birthday. So, it's not anything cool like what we had as kids (well, sort of kids since I had the train cake for my 21st 'cause until then my parents always thought it was too tricky to attempt and required my brother's engineering skills to put it together) but it was just as delicious.

I think it's the Double Chocolate Cake from Sinfully Vegan (but I had to return the book to the library so I'm only guessing that's what it was called) with extra chopped chocolate in the batter and a chocolate tofu frosting from, well, some blog somewhere out there so I guess that really makes the cake a Triple Chocolate Cake! The health food store was out of soy cream cheese so I had to resort to good old silken tofu and Google.

Oh, and there's frosting, chopped banana and mixed berry jam in the center (don't know why I bothered since I couldn't taste the jam...probably should have used more).

Of course, the party itself was then postponed (I found out midway through making the frosting) until NEXT weekend 'cause my Aunty had a fall but cake needs eating so we indulged anyway!

Monday, 14 April 2008

Snap snap camera happy

I am and old man now, but then I was already past my prime when Arthur was crowned King. The years since then seem to me now more dim and faded than the earlier years, as if my life were a growing tree which burst into flower and leaf with him, and now has nothing more to do than yellow to the grave
- The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

I ate some food lately...it was tasty...

Vegan Angel Food cake from Harvest Wholefoods.

Hmmmm, yes the picture makes it look rather lovely but it was not nearly as tasty as it looks to be honest. A bit on the dry, not particularly flavourful side so I was rather disappointed as I was hungry.

Dagoba 100% pure, unsweetened dark chocolate...not for the faint hearted.

I have been looking out for this for AGES and finally Harvest Wholefoods starting stocking it. At first bite this had me reaching for a glass of water. Not exactly the most pleasant experience! But actually, I'm getting really used to it now!

Just an average dinner from stuff sourced in the pantry.

Round at my parents cooking Mum dinner. We have couscous with sultanas (or raisins...what ever it was that was in her pantry), your typical kind of salad (with stuff from her garden...okay, not everything is from there but lots of it is) and some random fritter things I made using chickpeas and creamed corn amongst other things. Don't ask me what or how...it just happens and they were VERY tasty. Oh, and the chutney on the fritters is one Mum made (ghubarb and ginger I think...and the rhubarb is from her garden).

Breakfast at work...

Homemade muesli (the BEST kind of muesli EVER), fruit (it was feijoas from Mum's garden and grapes this time) and soy milk. Mix it together and leave in the fridge overnight...delicious! In case you're wondering why I don't just eat my breakfast at home and make it the night before, I leave home pretty early most mornings during the week for various forms of training madness and go straight to work afterwards so I need to take my breakfast with me to eat when I get there.

Lime and Papaya sorbets from Casa Del Gelato.

I love sorbet especially on a ridiculously hot afternoon (it caught me off guard since it's definately autumn these days and quite often wet). This place is just down the road from work so I can go there on the way back from the usual trip to the postoffice.

A vegan blueberry muffin made with spelt flour from Kokako

The BEST muffins I've found anywhere. I love the texture and taste of spelt flour and they are a lovely big size, enough for a small lunch if I'm lazy. Oh, and Kokako is just up from my gym so I can always treat myself if I feel I need it!

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

The importance of having hair

“Every morning you have gone to work, but you have never been fully awake. Of course, you have seen the sun and the moon, the stars in the sky and everything that moves, but you haven’t really seen it at all. It is different for the Joker, because he was put into this world with a flaw: he sees too deeply and too much.”
- the Joker from The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder

Hair...I am continuously intrigued by how much of a significance it has in our lives.

Hair style is the final tip-off whether or not a woman really knows herself.
- Hubert de Givenchy, Vogue, July 1985

Hair brings one's self-image into focus; it is vanity's proving ground. Hair is terribly personal, a tangle of mysterious prejudices.
- Shana Alexander

I was born with almost black hair, straight and very fine. As I grew older it slowly lightened and developed a very slight wave to it. Obviously my Mum chose how my hair was cut and I was cursed with some pretty hideous hair styles and a big fringe. Near the end of primary school I started growing out that fringe, determined to be trendy like all the other girls. When I started intermediate I got one of those bob cuts that were popular back in the early 90s. After that my hair began to fill with air and would stick out at all ends.

In my first year of high school I sat behind this older girl in orchestra and fell in love with her hair so attempted to explain it to my hair dresser who, in turn (probably having no idea what I meant) attempted to replicate what she thought I’d meant. It didn’t turn out how I wanted but my Mum loved it. In 4th form I was put in the boys line in the class photo although the photographer knew I wasn’t a boy (it wasn’t even that short). That day has been etched in my memory ever since. I’ve never felt so hideous, so despised. I didn’t see being placed in the boys line as being seen as looking like a boy...I saw it as being told I was too ugly for the girls line.

I developed an intense fear of the hair brush and even of simply touching my hair. And if I couldn’t stand touching it, well I’d be damned if someone else was. I became terrible when it came to cut my hair usually having it cropped quite short and then not having it cut for months where it would grow and develop wild curls. By my last year of school I’d had enough of the hideous short styles and wanted long hair. I would go for over a year without having it even trimmed and it waved about wildly, afro when I first would wash it, slowly mellowing as the days went by (I hated hair washing day).

I’ve mellowed out a bit these days helped by the fact that J’s friend is a hairdresser and she loves playing with it but it’s taken a lot of time. I’ve come to realise that to me my hair is so wound into my sexuality and my belief in myself that if it’s having a bad day then I will often feel miserable, ugly, useless. When I am sad my hair often covers my face but when I’m alive I find it flying out behind me. I never want short hair again no matter how much easier it may be to look after. But I’m willing to experiment and live a little.

In the summer time my hair will bleach golden brown under the sun and I have often been asked if I’ve dyed my hair or got highlights. Then in the winter it will darken up again. So right now it is a dark chocolaty red and was dead straight but has slowly developed gentle curls at the ends. No doubt it is looking forward to the water bringing back all those wild curls (J calls it my “crazy hair”) but so far I haven’t washed it since J’s friend last played with it.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Blindly running through the forest

“Tracks,” said Piglet. “Paw-marks.” He gave a little squeak of excitement. “Oh, Pooh! Do you think it’s a - a - a Woozle?”
“It may be,” said Pooh. “Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. You never can tell with paw-marks.”
- Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne

Orienteering is seriously a crazy sport. It has to be one of the only sports I know of where competitors will do anything to compete despite no matter what ridiculous injury they’ve managed to inflict on themselves either through training or the orienteering itself. You should see the number of people strapping up their ankles to the extreme before the start of the race especially by the end of a big competition. But we’re hardy souls and the race must go on.

The last two major orienteering competitions I’ve been to I’ve come away with frustratingly tedious injuries. Labour Weekend last year I got some weird as lump on my shin as well as shin splints or a stress fracture (the debate never got cleared up as the sports doctor and physio just couldn’t work it out). Yes, a mystery lump. Then just as it looked as though it might be finally on the mend I had the Waitangi Carnival early this year and on the second race (my worst nightmare, the bloody night relay) I rolled my ankle. After stumbling round in the dark for the rest of the course occasionally letting out bloodcurdling screams of agony I finally completed the course (there’s a whole team waiting for me...can’t let them down!). Then, being crazy, I ran the rest of the races with a strapped up, swollen, painful ankle. Yes, I get the mad dandy “don’t you dare try and stop me” attitude from my mother.

Naturally I was hoping the nationals at Easter would be different (well, I damn well hoped so since my ankle was still as swollen anything and the physio was beginning to think perhaps I’d fractured it instead). Well, I did manage to escape injury-free but it certainly wasn’t without its dramas. Sunburn, lack of sleep, trying to put tent pegs into ground that felt like concrete (and quite likely was concrete underneath that grass), weird pains all over the show, hideous blisters, orienteering like a retard (read: hopelessly out of touch with the map and ready to sit down and cry), running even more like a retard (read: slowly...very slowly), ridiculously optimistic time management (trying to get to a wedding at the other end of the North Island on the same day as the Long Distance event with airlines involved).

Day One: the Sprint Distance at Henley Lake in Masterton. After driving down from Palmerston North that morning (and through Eketahuna...my first time in the infamous town although we were just passing through and only stopped at the local 4 Square!) we arrived in Masterton to blistering heat. I had no energy to push through a 2.6km (as the crow flies...do not be deceived by orienteering course lengths...this is no ordinary 2.6km, trust me) course round the lake and with punishing spectator controls and fast terrain I was just relieved to finish.

Day Two: the Middle Distance at Rangiora. I knew it was going to be steep from the casual glances at the landscape on the drive in and I was not disappointed (okay, that sounds wrong...I was disappointed I was correct as a little less climb might have been rather nice!). My course headed straight down into the bush where it quickly became a dark jungle. But hey, I was in touch with the map and all was fine, abet just not very fast. Everything was going okay until the last 3 controls. What was I thinking? Where did my brain go? very good questions. Number 8 I wandered back and forth in the thick, ridiculously steep, bush wondering where the heck that control was and why I couldn’t find it...but clearly I wasn’t the only one since there were a lot of people crashing around in there...unfortunately most of them weren’t looking for the same control! I found several that weren’t mine before finally spotting it hiding away (actually, I saw a couple of people sliding down a bank looking like they had a purpose and since I had nothing to lose I followed them!).

Day Three: the Long Distance at Te Wharau. For some reason the Long is my favourite event. I guess because you don’t have to be fast, you just have to navigate well and there is always time to make up for mistakes! Plus you’ve gotta get your money’s worth at some of these events! With nearly double the amount of climb (and more than double the distance) as the day before I suspected it was going to be, well, pretty physical and I wasn’t exactly mistaken. To begin with the start was 2.5km away (well, you were definitely warmed up by the time you got there!). Steep was, well, an understatement but for a lot of the course we were contouring around the side of these huge slopes (trying not to slip too far down and therefore have to come up again) which caused awful blisters on the soles of my feet. The organisers were right in the instructions when recommending strapping your ankles if they were weak ‘cause I felt my ankle attempt to break free several times...but it survived...just. BUT despite all the pain and suffering I navigated well for the first time in the whole weekend and came in with a fairly decent time. Naturally the Long Distance is still my favourite.

Okay, so what’s next in my mad calender? Auckland Champs here we come...