Monday, 30 June 2008

A beautiful surprise through the rain

I am weary of controversy, opinionation, fanaticism. I can walk into your house without donning a uniform, without having to recite some gospel, without renouncing any part of my inner homeland. With you, I do not have to exonerate myself, to plead, to prove: I find peace, as on that afternoon in Tournus. Beyond the clumsy words, beyond the specious arguments, what you see in me is simply a man. You honour me as the ambassador of a faith, customs, particular affections. If I differ from you, far from wronging you, I add something to you. And you cross-question me as one does a returning traveller.
- Letter to a Hostage by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

In between downpours (once it starts raining continuously every day then you know winter has arrived!) on Saturday morning I met my beautiful friend S of the new blog, Cinnamon Spoon & Goodbye Tea, at the Parnell markets and she surprised me with the sweetest gift: a divine salad filled with kumara chunks, chickpeas and other goodies (how did she know I love kumara?) and some gorgeous cupcakes (which J and I very much enjoyed the next day). They had this delicate marmalade taste which S informed me came from her homemade marmalade. She had even packed them up beautifully herself.

All beautifully packaged.

Unwrapped and ready for indulgence.

Later that same day we visited my parents for my Dad's birthday. I gave him lots of chocolate (we're not a big gift family...the best present is every year we all get our favourite box of cereal...mine is normally Frosties simply because there is a tiger on the packet and I'm fixated on them!) and J made him a card under my inspection (although I did attempt to write a small message inside which looked like it was from someone learning to write). As it turned out, Dad's birthday has been very chocolate-coated. My brother and his wife gave Dad a selection of fancy chocolate sauces and the night before (his actual birthday) he'd gone out for dinner and had some chocolate creation for dessert. Oh, and his cereal was chocolate flavoured too!

J made hummus and we brought along Sesame Blues corn chips for nibbles and Mum had made tortilla chips from wraps needing to be used up. Then for dinner my Mum made a vegan shepards pie (a kidney bean filling with a mashed potato topping...I think it's adapted from one of Alison and Simon Holst's vegetarian cookbooks), stir fried veges and a beautiful fresh salad with her awesome dressing.

Dessert was cake, naturally. FatFree Vegan's Chocolate-Orange Cake to be exact. It was delicious (especially the icings...the orange one tasted like Jaffa) but a little chewy. Well, I can't complain since I didn't have to bake it! Mum likes to stick to her tried and true recipes so I was impressed she branched out for the night.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Oh my, it's white chocolate paradise!!

Doing anything or going anywhere with Black Dog required superhuman strength. If Black Dog accompanied me to a social occasion, he would sniff out what confidence I had and chase it away.
- I Had a Black Dog by Matthew Johnstone

In New Zealand it is estimated that up to one in five women and one in ten men will become depressed at some point during their lives. Apparently that's about 12.6% of the population (statistics from the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand). I don't know about you but I find that figure positively frightening. I did want to write more here but I discovered I'm feeling a bit lost for words...

I Had a Black Dog by Matthew Johnstone and Living With a Black Dog by Matthew and Ainsley Johnstone (both expertly illustrated by Matthew Johnstone) are two exceptional books that give a unique insight to what it is like to suffer from depression and what you and those around you can do to try and help.

If you are suffering from depression or know someone who is, these books are exceptional. There is something about the simpleness of the language and the expression in the illustrations that struck me right in the core. I have never seen anything quite so honest, simple and real on this topic before, something that could make depression not such a mystery for those around it's sufferers.

Anyway, today has vastly improved from the morning. I was on my way home from visiting work and decided to go get some vegan cheese as a surprise for J since he's never tried any. Although it's practically just across the road from where I live I've hardly ever been into the SAFE Cruelty Free Shop in St Kevin's Arcade but I remembered they were one of the few places round here stocking
Cheezly cheese. But until today I didn't realise they had a whole range of Sheese cheeses. They've probably been stocking them for ages but I've just never noticed! I got the mozzarella style cheese to try and I'm real excited about it although I have no idea how I'll use it yet!

While I was at the counter paying I noticed this:

Dairy-free white chocolate!! So naturally that had to be bought too. I could barely wait until I got home to try some (lucky I'm so close by...or perhaps not so lucky for my stomach because it's really good and I'm likely to buy some more and devour the whole lot!). I'll be very interested to see what J thinks of it when he gets home.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Desperate to cook

The Bride explained that her decision was not about our friendship, but about her wedding. She was calm and steely in her resolve. I spilled a drink and cried loudly. She said we could still be friends. I wondered if we ever really had been.
- Bad Bridesmaid by Siri Agrell

I'm not naturally a very positive person and I tend to find I need certain things to keep me on track such as art, playing music, writing, cooking (yes, it can be highly therapeutic!) and sport. Unfortunately having broken my right arm and being highly un-ambidextrous means all those are out which has been driving me, and consequently J, a bit loopy.

I made it to work for the first time in over 3 weeks today only to find my computer had died and that we'd moved offices (across the hall but still, it's weird to come back and find everything changed). There wasn't much I could do so I went home again, managing to fall on the grass on the way...and putting my damn right arm out to stop myself. Lucky I've got a cast but still, more pain killers required.

I guess one of the most frustrating things day in, day out is not being able to cook (or prepare much either). There is nothing like a warm, home-cooked meal to brighten up the end of the day. I don't actually enjoy eating out all that much and when you've only got one hand and you're pretty unco with it you find food choices somewhat limited. Lately there's been a lot of eating out or takeaways though.

Below is a mixed salad from Kokako (well actually we picked it up from Harvest Wholefoods but they get it from the Kokako cafe). We've got Raw Power, Brown Rice Salad and Roasted Vegetable and Chickpea Salad with a basic dressing.

The other day on the way home from the hospital after the usual xrays I discovered a new health food store, Huckleberry Farm Wholefoods Supermarket. Well, it's not new but I'd never seen it before despite driving along that road many a time. Turns out they are run by the same people as Harvest Wholefoods, my usual health food store (although Harvest is completely vegetarian unlike Huckleberry Farm). They had a selection of food in the counter as well as aisles to browse so I picked up a curried tofu and lentil pie with mashed kumara topping to take home for dinner. Very tasty!

Lunch in town (during a rare moment of sunshine) to get away from being stuck in the apartment all day. I got a tofu and kumara sandwich from Raw Power ( I had to ask them to cut it up into several pieces but still mamaged to spill it all over myself: mental note not to eat sandwiches again until I have two hands again!). One very awesome sandwich!

Plus everyone deserves a treat every once and a while: a huge melting moment cookie from Raw Power (it's on a pretty tiny plate in case you were thinking it was dinner plate sized!).

J is a pretty good cook but he admits he doesn't enjoy it (I'm normally the cook round here) so we have been getting a lot of Thai take-out (thank goodness for the Thai place down below)! But last night J inspired himself enough to cook us dinner.

Here we have satay (Malaysian Satay Sauce out of a bottle...we were a bit grumpy to find all the real spicy ones had fish sauce so it was pretty bland) tofu and veges on rice.

I don't have a photo of the bean and pasta soup he's made a few times (a good old Alison Holst recipe from her Quick and Easy Vegetarian Cookbook) but that is perfect for the weather we've been having lately - rain, hail, cold, damp winds. Yep, winter has most definitely arrived.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Journey to the other side of the bridge

As if a man has only a certain allocation of things like elation and delight and contentment, and the longer he lives the more they must be diluted.
But life is still sweet and death is just mystery. It is age we dread.
- Strata by Terry Pratchett

It was my Aunty's birthday in the weekend so J and I made the trip across the bridge (okay, so that's a bit of an Auckland joke about how the North Shore is on the other side of the harbour bridge from the rest of Auckland so therefore visiting is such an effort when really it takes no time at all but we just like to wind each other up...well that was a load of blah!).

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My darling cousin D and her boyfriend cooked up a storm for the occasion. They even made me my own special dishes! Ah, I'm so spoiled and it wasn't even my birthday!

First I bring you the entree: beautifully carved tomato with rice.

The main course was stuffed cannelloni. Mine were stuffed with a thick tomato and mushroom sauce and topped with a tofu and spinach mixture and tomato slices. It was real good and D was real proud since it was her first time cooking with tofu. I'm mighty proud of her!

And of course everyone's favourite meal, dessert! We all got our own miniature chocolate cakes dusted with icing sugar. They were delicious.

Sorry the pictures are a bit blurry...I am discovering that taking photos with just your left hand is not that easy especially since I damaged my left thumb in the fall somehow too!

Oh, but we do have some exciting news! J and I finally got to pick up our new bikes in the weekend. It was quite a trip since we bought them at a store all the way out on the Whangaparaoa with the help of one of my orienteering adventure racing friends. Yes, yes, they are matching (although mine is a size down from J's) but hey, can I help it if we both have impeccable taste?!.

Here they are sitting proudly in our I've just got to fix this wrist so I can give it a spin! The suspense is killing me!

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

In search of snow and ice (and a tour of hospital)

I have so much to say to you. I want to begin at the beginning, because that is what you deserve. I want to tell you everything, without leaving out a single detail. But where is the beginning? And what is everything?
- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Until recently I'd never skied before. I've been to the mountain (as in Mt Ruapehu) many times but usually in summer to go tramping. J, having become hooked on snowboarding last year, was determined to change that. On flicking through an old entertainment book J had (basically a big book filled with vouchers for all sorts of places from restaurants to tourist activities) we discovered 2 for 1 vouchers for Snowplanet, a big snow dome (but not nearly as big as the one in Dubai...for a start it doesn't have chair lifts) filled with real snow. J had snowboarded before but signed up with me for a beginner ski lesson.

To say it was fun would be one huge understatement. Once I got used to these ridiculously long sticks attached to my feet it was all go. We had so much fun we were back a few days later after work for another go! This time I made it all the way up to the top. There were some hairy moments but I think I'm totally hooked!

J and I are also keen ice skaters (don't get me started about the frustrating inability to buy proper figure skates that aren't made of leather). In fact that is how we both met. Anyway, my Christmas present from J was tickets to High School Musical the Ice Tour. Oh no, I hear you all groan! Actually it was pretty brilliant. I loved the way the cast effortlessly changed the scenery but wheeling on lockers or desks or even lilos! Plus ice skating while playing basket ball? Wow!!

Okay, so the guy playing Troy doesn't exactly look like Troy from the movie but one can suspend their disbelief for an evening.

The following morning J and I headed off to Christchurch to visit family. I did a lot of the cooking while we were there (his Mum had me in the kitchen whipping up some pumpkin, kumara and peanut butter soup before I'd even been there 20 minutes!!) but no photos since it was all too busy. We also checked out one of the vegetarian cafes in Christchurch, The Lotus Heart. Again no photos but we had smoothies, vegan samosas and vegan chocolate cake. Very good food but there wasn't much choice at the cafe. I suspect the restaurant in the central square would be better.

We had our skates with us as usual and took J's sister and a friend of mine to the rink on the Monday (it was a long weekend over here). Well, unfortunately me and the ice got rather well acquainted when I ended up falling and breaking my wrist (the right hand one, damn it!). Well, I got to get a tour of the local A&E as well as Christchurch Hospital in the department they affectionately call the bone shop! It shall be interesting as I'm useless at resting and relaxing but I'm supposed to have several weeks off work to recover!