Sunday, 30 October 2011

Summer's coming

Spring is my favourite season of the year for many reasons, one of which is that summer is on the way and the best is still to come. I'm not a beach babe by any description and reach a melting point somewhere around 25°C, but the thought of long days and heaps of sunshine are a welcome tonic for my soul.

Signs that summer is almost here:
  • I can safely wear 3/4 pants and short sleeve tops all day without worrying if the 5 spare layers of clothing I have brought with me will be enough to be keep me warm later in the day.
  • My straw sunhat gradually becomes an essential item of clothing.
  • White limbs are everywhere you look. Some are practically translucent!
  • 50+ women proudly put their cankles on display. (I'll never understand this one.)
  • Barbeques become the most commonly planned meal, even for those of us who are only just barbeque-tolerant.
  • Days no longer end as soon as I arrive home from work. In fact, it's almost like there's still another half a day to go before bedtime. Bonus!
  • Jandals become uniform footwear.
  • Gelato becames my preferred means for ingesting calcium and dairy products. 
  • Strawberries and other summer fruits start appearing in shops and gardens. 
  • Lawnmowers and weedeaters provide the soundtrack during daylight hours on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • I can get 17 loads of washing done and dried outside in a single day. *
 What are your telltale signs that summer is on the way?

* Actual numbers may vary, but you get the point.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Well, I never

I'm sick at home today after what was a relaxing long weekend. In between napping, I've tried reading my book but a pounding headache has seen me resort to randomly surfing the net and reading blogs from days ago. That's how I found Moata's post about things she has never done.

I got to thinking about things I've never done in my lifetime. Not big life changing, world saving, reckless and radical stuff, or major regrets, but small or quirky things that others might be surprised to learn. For example, I have a friend who has never pumped petrol into her own car. Mind you, she does introduce herself at staff meetings as Princess. I started putting together a list just like  Moata's. (I've even stolen the title.)

Without resorting to anything dodgy, here are a few things I've never done.

Things I've never done but would like to do someday:
  • Build a house. I have the perfect plan in my head and it would be awesome to see it come to life.
  • Own a smart phone. Maybe one day ...
  • See a live rugby test match. I probably should have done that during these past few weeks while the world cup was invading our home turf.
  • See The Nutcracker on stage. I listen to Tchaikovsky's score every Christmas and have seen a few performances on TV, but never live.
Things I've never done and feel indifferent about doing:
  • Eat caviar. Just to say I have.
  • Be in a food fight. Such a waste.
  • Own a hairdryer. Find out why here
  • Purchase individual songs or albums in iTunes (or similar). I prefer to cut a high quality copy of music from CDs instead.
Things I've never done and have no interest in ever doing:
  • Have a manicure or pedicure. Conjures up images of a spoilt French poodle for me.
  • Buy something on credit or hire purchase, have a bank loan (apart from mortgages) or use an overdraft.
  • Jump out of a plane, off a bridge or onto/off any moving target.
  • See the second and third Lord Of The Rings movies or read the books. I sat through the first and that was more than enough for me.
  • Read a trashy Mills & Boon romance - and I don't accept the "how do you know they're bad unless you've read one?" rebuttal, either.
  • Get drunk.
  • Gamble with real money. I'd may as well just throw it away.
  • Smoke a cigarette or take illicit drugs. That often makes me the odd one out in groups.
  • Get a tattoo.
  • Pretend I was sick to get off work. Seriously - I even took annual leave once to have an operation and worked full time during my six week recovery period.
 What's on your "I've never done ..." list?

Friday, 21 October 2011

Things I have learned recently

They say you learn something new every day. That's certainly true in my profession. However, there are times when the things you learn really take you by surprise and at times when you least expect it.

Here are some examples of things I have learned recently and that have had me scratching my head in wonder:
  • It's not dodgy; it's different. Looking at things differently makes something dodgy ok. Apparently.
  • There is a thing called chattiquete, ie etiquette for online chats. After 10+ years in e-learning, this was news to me. If you want to say something, you type in !. If you want to ask a question, it's ? and if you have finished the conversation, it's ///. Well, I'll be!///
  • Once you know that a colleague announced at a workshop that she wasn't wearing any undies that day, it is very hard to take anything she says seriously from then on in. Unfortunately, you can't unring a bell.
  • Griffins Collisions sound good and taste mighty fine, but between you and me I actually prefer the original flavours on their own. There, I've said it.
  • Waking up thinking it's Saturday when it is actually just Tuesday morning is no fun at all. It is even less fun when you do it two weeks in a row.
  • When a grownup says they like Katy Perry, sometimes they're not joking. !
What have you learned recently that has caused you to raise an eyebrow?

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Bad hair day

Hair is a funny thing. The state of our follicles, or lack thereof, can be either a person's crowning glory or the bane of their life. Still, everyone seems to have a bad hair day story sure to elicit instant sympathy and knowing nods from anyone who cares to listen.

I always know when it's time for a haircut. Once I get to the stage that all I can do is wear my hair up or tied back, it's time for a tidy up. Actually, I'm pretty low maintenance when it comes to hair. I suppose hair is a bit easier to maintain when it is long and straight, hence there are very few products lurking in my bathroom. I don't even own a hair dryer - and if I did, seriously, who has time to style their hair and fry their brain every day? Sure, I'll drag hair straighteners through my hair every now and again, but can't imagine subjecting myself to this process on a daily basis.

I used to work with someone who could seriously be up to an hour late for work if she couldn't get her long, flowing locks right in the morning. I have friends who fret at the first sign of rain, lest their hair start to curl or (shock! horror!) friz after being invaded by sinister raindrops. Years ago, a friend was lamenting yet another bad hair day when she announced that she thought we'd all be better off without hair at all; she wished people just had heads and left it at that. I notice she never shaved her long hair off like she threatened to ...

It amuses and astounds me in equal parts when I hear people in their 40s/50s/60s whose hair is very obviously dyed talk scathingly about others whose hair might be a different colour to what they expected. Maybe the chemicals invading their scalp over the years has helped them conveniently forget that their hair colour hasn't been natural since the 20th century, or do they simply think that no-one has noticed?

A few months ago, I was waiting near the entrance to The Warehouse and overheard a conversation that a passerby struck up with a woman who happened to be standing nearby. Looking up, I noticed that the woman was quite young and completely bald - arguably an unusual sight but not one that I'd feel the need to comment on. The passerby noticed she was wearing a pink hoodie and assumed this 'poor woman' was suffering from breast cancer and standing there to collect money for a good cause. No, the woman replied; she just has alopecia. Apart from having lost all her hair 27 years ago at the age of 4, she is and always has been perfectly healthy. No, it doesn't cause her any bother and no, it will never grow back. The passerby checked (more than once) that the woman didn't in fact have breast cancer like her sister-in-law had. She insisted that the woman must be so brave to go out without wearing a hat or even a scarf ... "Why?" the woman tried to interject (several times). "It's only hair."

And that says it all, folks. On even the worst bad hair day, it will be alright as long as we remember: "it's only hair".

Remember -
bad hair days
were cool in the 90s

Monday, 10 October 2011

10,000 steps a day

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
Chinese philosopher (604 BC - 531 BC)
Spring is here and summer is just around the corner. The days are getting longer and warmer. It's time to lose the couch potato status that is synonomous with long winter months. But where to start?

My workplace is taking part in the 10,000 steps a day programme. Teams of four have got together with the intention of walking the equivalent of from Cape Reinga to Bluff (New Zealand's northernmost and southernmost points) during the next six weeks. We plot the number of steps we've walked each day on a map of New Zealand and see how many kilometres it translates to, which is pretty cool even if the conversion rate is somewhat unscientific.

To help move us along, we have all been armed with pedometers, drink bottles, sunblock, chapstick and sticking plasters (are we expected to hurt ourselves just walking??). The streets around work were a good target for games of I spy today as pairs and groups of coworkers could be spotted out pounding the pavements. I'm predicting that the days of this project and the numbers of walkers out walking will progress in inverse proportions. Never mind - the intention is to start people off and get everybody up and about.

So how far is 10,000 steps? Even if you don't manage to get out for a dedicated walk each day, the steps soon add up. I've discovered that a jaunt around the supermarket is about 2000 steps. Walking from home to some of my favourite cafés adds about 1000 steps each way and a quick 10 minute walk around the stream at work clocks up another 1500. Grabbing a coffee from the cafeteria adds a few hundred more steps each way and 10 minutes of dedicated exercise (swimming, cycling, Zumba, sport etc) qualifies for another 1000 steps.

So that's my challenge for the next six weeks: to walk the equivalent of 10,000 steps or more a day. Who's with me?

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Special treat salmon

A while ago, a colleague introduced me to The 4 Ingredient Cookbook. I browsed through the recipes and decided that this book would revolutionise meals in our home. Imagine the creative yet tasty meals I could whip up each night with just four ingredients! A year or so on and I have cooked just one recipe from this book, but it has become a favourite.

This recipe for grilled salmon steaks is incredibly easy to make. Salmon is something of a special treat for us, hence my name for the recipe. The measurements are approximate and can be adjusted according to taste or however for whatever quantity of fish you are cooking. I say grill/bake as it depends on whether I am cooking something else in the oven at the same time - we usually have this with roasted garlic and herb potatoes. I also find the recipe works well with other strong flavoured fish (such as grouper).

Special treat salmon

  • 4 x 2.5 cm thick salmon steaks (or fillets)
  • garlic salt
  • worcestershire sauce
  • 30-50 g melted butter
  1. Place salmon steaks on a baking sheet and sprinkle both sides with garlic salt.
  2. Splash Worcestershire sauce and butter on top of each steak and grill (or bake) for 3-4 minutes, depending on thickness of the salmon.
  3. Remove from grill and turn each steak. Splash Worcestershire and butter on top and grill for 3-4 minutes. Fish is ready when it is slightly flaky (but be careful to not overcook).

Monday, 3 October 2011

Crunchy chocolate slice

I found this recipe for a traditional crunchy chocolate slice in yesterday's Sunday Star-Times. The ingredients are simple but I found that the recipe was missing a vital step or two, so I guessed when to add the cocoa. It is a small mixture so spreads quite thinly when using a standard 20 x 30 cm slice tin but the baking powder means it expands a bit in the oven. It also meant that I needed to double the icing ingredients to those below.

Crunchy chocolate slice

  • 170 g butter, softened
  • 115 g icing sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 cup cornflakes
  1. Cream together the butter and icing sugar using an electric mixer. Add the flour, baking powder and cocoa and combine.
  2. Beat in the vanilla essence.
  3. Add cornflakes and mix by hand. Press into a greased slice tin (20 x 30 cm).
  4. Bake at 180°C for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and leave to cool.

Chocolate icing

  • 2 cups icing sugar 
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons butter, softened
  • 2-3 tablespoons boiling water
  1. Beat together the icing sugar, cocoa, butter and boiling water together. Add boiling water until desired consistency.
  2. Spread over cooled slice. Cut into squares when the icing is set and store in an airtight container.
Crunchy chocolate slice