A Village Life

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sunday Lunch with Friends

Pete has taken to calling it "our blog" now because of all of his seafood adventures and experiments.  So, yesterday we had some friends over for lunch and Pete worked hard on recipes for nibbles and for the main course.  He loves trying to smoke anything and everything (I'm not talking about drugs here).  He caught quite a good sized snapper the other day and as he was cleaning it his mind started churning as he noticed the huge roe and the liver that would have been so wasteful to just be tossing in the bin.  So he smoked them.  We didn't even know if the liver of fish is something edible but he went for it anyway.  Browsing the internet for recipe ideas, he came up with the tradition Greek dish for smoked cod roe, taramasalata.  He chucked in the liver as well and proclaimed the whole thing delicious.  For the main course he went for a lemon and ginger scented crumb crusted snapper fillet.  This got me into action wanting to produce something nice too, not just for our friends but for "our blog" as well.  I came up with a Persian omelette called Kuku made with courgettes, mint and feta.  For dessert, I took the beautiful fresh NZ apricots that we had just bought the day before and made them into a tart with a macadamia nut frangipane sort of filling.  The whole meal was really delicious.  Have a look for yourself.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Food Hero, Darina Allen

Last weekend there were two write ups in the newspaper about Darina Allen's new book, Forgotten Skills of Cooking.  On closer inspection I noticed that actually she was going to be in New Zealand doing a book signing at Cook the Books, a bookshop in Auckland specializing in cookbooks.  I promptly ordered my ticket for the event and spent the past week feeling incredibly giddy inside at the thought of seeing Darina again.  Back in 1997 after travelling around Europe with some friends, I hopped on a ferry from France to Ireland after learning that I finally had scored a coveted spot at the famous Ballymaloe Cookery School.  People questioned my going to Ireland to learn how to cook but Darina and her mother-in-law, Myrtle Allen were way ahead of the game back then.  The school is set in the middle of a 100 acre organic farm.  Students live in little cottages around the farm and all the food for the school is grown or reared on site.  It was magical, to say the least.  This was real cooking, french technique, with real food.  I had only read a paragraph about the school in the Guide to Cooking Schools that is published every year and this sounded amazing.  After spending 12 weeks living and learning how to prepare every type of food imaginable from soups to desserts and everything in between, I was ready to get stuck into working in the industry.  Darina's passion for fresh food served simply but elegantly is infectious.  People looking for chefs go to Ballymaloe to scoop up the newest students who are willing to work all over the world.  Fresh from the course, I headed first to Switzerland as a chalet girl. This opportunity was great while it lasted and very hard work but unfortunately I ended up back in California doing physiotherapy after a ski accident ended my chalet girl career.  I spent the next 3 months desperately searching for more exciting work and once again Ballymaloe came through.  I flew up to the Shetland Islands north of Scotland to work at the Burrastow House.  After this summer stint I spent time on a yacht in California as a temporary stewardess, I worked at The Organic Farm Shop in Cirencester, UK and then I went on a string of interviews in the UK all thanks to Ballymaloe.  The highlight was my interview with the Queen of Greece!  I chose to take the job that was in the most interesting location and headed to Brunei on the island of Borneo to be chef to the British High Commissioner.  After a year and a half working that post, I went off to work on yachts and the rest is history.  Now back to Darina.  I ran into her once years ago at the Culinary Institute at Greystone in California and she seemed so delighted to run into one of her past students.  Last night's event was the bit of inspiration I needed after a challenging day at home with the kids.  She was as infectious as ever and so passionate about her new adventures.  They are now running a year long horticulture course and her new book highlights lost arts such as butter making, foraging, smoking foods, plucking and skinning birds and animals, preserving and bread making.  She is an ambassador of slow foods and sitting down with your family to enjoy a meal of real wholesome, nutritious, homemade food.  Nothing flash, just simple honest food.  Of course I had to refresh her memory of who I was after nearly 15 years since my course but she was just as delighted to see me as she was in California.  She introduced me to Annabelle White who took this photo of us.

Also in attendance was Lauraine Jacobs, a well known Kiwi food writer. 
If you ever get the chance, head to Ballymaloe.  They run day courses, weekend courses and week long courses as well as the 12 week diploma course.  It will change your life, as it has mine.  Their philosophy cannot be ignored.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dinner Party Part 2

What to do when you have an overabundance of kaimoana and produce?  Have friends over for dinner.  This week's work schedule for Pete included obtaining a large pack horse crayfish whilst diving to free up an anchor and collecting 40 odd scallops whilst doing something else 'work' related.  We also doubled up on vegetables since Pete stopped at a produce stand on his way back from Tauranga and I thought I was doing well to stock up in Pt. Wells after work on Thursday. 
Alors....voila, le dinner party part deux........
Juicy scallops fresh from the sea

Tasmanian cheeses with artisan sourdough baguette
Crudites and crayfish, tomato/cucumber/feta/mint salad and bbq'd scallops served with homemade wasabi mayonnaise and hummus

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Garden Bliss


roma tomatoes

snow peas


mystery self seeder


my favorite, hydrangea

I even transplanted a rose bush successfully!

the ever beautiful succulents

We've got potatoes, basil, goji berries, aubergine and lettuce too! 

Friday, December 3, 2010


22 weeks pregnant with Gigi

19 weeks pregnant with Rita
I thought it would be interesting to look at old photos of myself at the same stage of pregnancy as I am now.  Well, that was a bit depressing!  With Rita, I barely look pregnant at 19 weeks.  With Gigi, I am smaller at 22 weeks than I am now at 20 weeks.  What a difference a few years and a few babies make!  Hope it isn't that much more difficult to bounce back after baby number 3 but something tells me it will be.  But it could be negated by all the extra running around I'll be doing come April when I have 3 kiddies to chase after, bathe, feed, change, comfort, discipline, clean up after, etc.  It makes me tired just thinking about it.  It'll be a workout in itself carrying two littlies around!
It's all worth it in the end right?  (Or maybe that's just what we try to tell ourselves.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Free Junk

Saturday after a visit to the farmer's market, I spotted these rolls of retro vintage wallpaper amongst a pile of free junk outside someones house.  Immediately I thought "score!".  Now I am thinking, what the hell can I do with them?  Anyone have any suggestions?  Nothing too fiddly or time-consuming please!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

15 months and 4 years

I woke up a few nights ago and couldn't get back to sleep.  I somehow got thinking that my girls are almost 4 years old and almost 15 months old which are two milestones when it comes to immunization shots.  Realizing that in the very near future I would have to take both of them in to have their immunizations updated, I lay in bed stressing out and wondering how to make this happen without a huge drama.  Can you even comprehend what a daunting task this is?  It is horrible to watch your baby get a large needle in her thigh, on both sides actually, but to have to convince your 4 year old that it would be ok for the nurse to stick her as well!!!  When I took Rita in for her 15 month shot I remember the nurse saying to me "this is the last time she won't know what's happening".  That seemed like not that long ago and now all of a sudden here I am with my daughter who will know what's happening.  Gut wrenching for me to say the least.  And of course the mom gets stuck with these jobs because dad is "at work".  Well, the sooner the better I suppose so off I go to schedule an appointment with the nurses for tomorrow morning.  Wish me luck.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Budding Chef

My mom recently sent me some things she had found when she was cleaning out her office at home.  One of them was this little treasure: a recipe written by me when I was probably about 8 years old. I remember being in the kitchen of our house on Loma Alta whizzing things up in the blender and serving them to my family in special glasses with little umbrellas and garnishes.  It was serious business to me back then, the whole cooking and serving thing.  And I suppose not much has changed!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Just like Christmas

Yesterday Peter and I drove down to Auckland.  Pete had an appointment with an eye specialist and I had to pick up my new double sport buggy.  All week I have been so excited about this dumb buggy.  It was as if I were going to get a 2 hour massage and full on pamper day or something.  But no, just a new twin stroller to push my kids around in.  I couldn't wait to see it in real life.  It was purchase on trade me so it is new to me but it is second hand.  I bought one about 6 months ago that Rita is now too heavy for and as we walk down the street we are nearly tipping over with the kids side by side, Gigi's side almost in the air with Rita so heavy next to her.  It was cheap and that's why I bought it but I really did want the double sport buggy.  So for the past few months and especially with number 3 on the way, I've been watching them being sold and bought on trade me.  And finally I found one that was in excellent condition and a good price.  Yippee!  We had our first stroll this morning and it was such a delight to push, honestly, as stupid as it sounds, I was having the happiest walk to preschool that I've ever had! 
Sorry for going on about it but it did feel like Christmas.  Since we were in the big smoke, I managed to drag Pete and poor little Gigi along to some shops where I convinced Pete that yes, we did need 3 very large terracotta pots and some bougainvillea and another test pot of paint for our house.  There was barely enough room, seriously, in the car for Rita when we picked her up at Bill and Noelene's on the way home.  Pete had a miserable time no doubt but for me the day was absolutely delightful.  It didn't end when we got home either because then the buggy had to be reassembled and tested, the pots had to be put into different locations and admired and the children were bathed and we all needed some sort of meal sorted out for dinner.  Hectic day for some, satisfying for others.

and alas Dad can rest....well, sort of

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dinner Party

Last night we had some friends over for a mid week dinner party to help us eat up the snapper that I caught on Sunday.  A bit of a late night for the kids but well worth it.  Peter had scored some scallops at work yesterday, as you do, so we had some nice nibbles on offer as well.  Sauteed scallops with ginger and garlic.

For the main course, we baked the snapper whole in a salt crust, leaving the scales on to provide a barrier from getting too salty.  40 minutes in the oven and out came deliciously moist snapper.  Emma made a very nice potato salad and a mixed bean salad; perfect accompaniments to the fish.  Unfortunately I was so busy sitting on the sofa chatting with Emma that I didn't get a photo of the fish!  La piece de resistance was my special dessert.  Well, actually I got the recipe out of the Sunday paper and had to give it a go.  It was a mix between pavlova and tiramisu.  3 layers of cocoa dusted pavlova meringue sandwiched with Kahlua and marscapone cream and sprinkled with chocolate chips.
Rob and Pete went back in for seconds and after licking her plate we just couldn't keep Tessa away!

Delightful evening indeed.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Family Day

Yesterday we had a much needed family day of relaxation out on the boat with Nana and Pa. Probably not so relaxing for Nana who was busy entertaining the girls the entire day! After a few bum fishing spots with no luck whatsoever, we finally found a winner spot by the afternoon and I caught a whopper snapper. Catch of the day. The day ended even better than we could have imagined when we spotted orcas frolicking in the Mahurangi just near the mooring!

strapped to a bunk and crashed out
another one bites the dust; napping on Nana

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Little Things

We've been in our house for about 6 months now and although we've definitely made it "home", I always have an idea of what I want to change next.  This week I was lucky enough to make 2 changes that have been bothering me for some time.  The first one was to replace all the handles in the kitchen so they match the appliances and make it look a bit more modern (disregarding the hideous lino of course).  The second change was to cover my grandmother's table with a sensible oilcloth tablecloth.  Wipeable surfaces are a must with my 2 messy kids.  The finish on the original table has taken a beating and it is almost in disrepair.  Instead of investing in getting it professionally refinished which is something that makes sense once our children are grown, I decided to cover it up!
What do you think?

echino fabric by etsuko furuya from fabricworm.com
 Next up....painting the exterior of the house; that is, once we can decide on a color.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lately I've Noticed....

So, I've been doing a lot of pondering lately as I step back and take a look at our lives...

When did my 1 year old become that WT (pardon the expression) baby that walks around dragging her bottle everywhere and having little "snack" drinks of formula.?
Did my 3 year old really just say to me 3 times when I told her she lost her bedtime story for being naughty "I don't really care mom, I don't really care, I just don't care"?
When did I become that fussy eater mummy who cuts the crusts off of sandwiches and buys little pots of sweetened starchy crappy yogurts for my 1 year old?
How did I get so blase to allow my baby to smash food all over the house and not care or to let my daughter sit on the couch when I can see her feet are crusted in dirt?
Speaking of feet, when did my kids become the typical Kiwi children who never wear shoes, ever, no matter where they are, even at school?

I guess with one more on the way I've given in to the fact that Peter and I will be the minority and our children will and already do rule the roost.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Kiwi style

Halloween isn't very popular here in NZ yet but it is creeping its way into the culture.  This afternoon there is a Halloween party at the Lab where Pete works, put on by a fellow American of course.  Pete and the girls dressed up makeshift style.  There aren't many costume shops around or Halloween costumes in the shops at all but Kiwi's are traditionally more improvisational; you know the whole Kiwi ingenuity thing. 
Voila.....the nappy monster and his 2 fairies! (Pete came up with the nappy thing on his own and if you can't tell from the photos, he has one on his head, one on each elbow and knee and then the big one safety pinned on like a loin cloth?!)
And off they went to the party while mama has a rest before going back to work.  Bum deal.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

And finally a day to relax

Monday was Labour Day here in New Zealand.  All this means to me is that nobody has to work; I am not sure of the true significance of this day or what exactly it represents.  Wanting some sort of family day where we do something that we wouldn't normally do, I asked Pete for suggestions of what we could do the four of us.  His main priority of course was fishing which he did early that morning with Rob.  Pete came up with the idea to visit a local sculpture trail and vineyard that we hadn't been to before.  Great idea!  I made a reservation and organized with Emma to meet there once the boys returned from fishing.  One barracuda and one john dory later we were on our way.  It was absolutely delightful.  The sun was shining, the kids enjoyed the walk and playing together and the adults nibbled on vineyard platters washed down by a bottle of pinot gris.  It wouldn't have been complete without a stop at Charlie's Gelato Garden on the way home.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Gala Mania

So the big preschool Gala is finally over, phew!  It was a wonderful day, the sun was shining all weekend long and we had lots of people come out to take part in the action.  I was inside all day working the hamper raffles but I ditched out for a pee break and ran around with my camera to snap some of the events.  Pete was flat out on the sausage sizzle all day.  They served up fish burgers, lamb burgers, sausages, falafel, ceviche and mussel fritters.  Hungry people out here in Leigh.  Nana and Pa stepped in to look after the girls while we tended to our stalls; thank goodness for grandparents.  Here's a few photos of the day, not great photography but I only had about 5 minutes to check it all out.

The final takings count, completed and banked today, was around the $10 grand mark!  Big money for a small preschool.  All proceeds will go toward upgrading the Leigh Preschool playground with new soft fall matting and sun shades.
The quick fire raffles were the big money makers

all the booty laid out to entice the punters
bouncy castle, aka: hero of the day for all the children

the slides or the big bouncy castle as Rita called it

face painting and coloring competition

the food man
tigress who kept wandering off from Pa!