Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Golf driving range

Mondays are not known to be big nights out in our household. However, last night, thanks to a Grab One voucher due to expire on Thursday, we tried something new and went to the Silverstream Golf Park driving range. I can be partial to a spot of mini golf but have never played golf for real (nor do I aspire to). Whacking balls is a different story, though. ;-)

I know the absolute basics in theory about how to swing a golf club. This doesn't guarantee that is actually works in practice. The closest I have ever had to a golf lesson was taking part in a Kiwisport golf session where the children were taught the technique for swinging a golf club by using a giant flag. If the flag made a 'snap' as it was swung, you're doing something right. With this in mind, my objective last night was simply to hit some balls. Distance, height or 'targets' would be a bonus.

I'm pleased to say that I hit most of the 100 balls in my bucket first time! A few were too low, most were wonky, but some hit the 50 metre mark (just) or rolled beyond. Yay! Here's how the night looked for me:

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Wellington Food Show 2011

On a dreary Wednesday afternoon, I received a phone call from the lovely Karen at Menumania. Would I like tickets for the Wellington Food Show this weekend? Wow, would I ever! I'd been keen to revisit this mecca for local foodies ever since going to the very first Wellington Food Show ten years ago. Somehow, it became one of those events I'd go to 'another time'. Not any more!

Naturally, we chose the busiest time to arrive: Saturday lunch time. To my delight, I found whole stalls dedicated to each of the basic food groups: chocolate, cheese and coffee! There were also plenty of competitions to enter, allowing me to feed my inner competition junkie. @muffinmum had tipped me off that there was a stall selling waffles so I finally got to complete another 101 in 1001 activity: #89 - Eat waffles for breakfast/brunch, thanks to the Golden Malted stand. Yummy!

I spent some time with the lovely folk from Flight coffee and learned all about some different brewing methods. I sampled a Brazilian coffee bean brewed in three different ways: siphon, Chemex and the V360, time time blending the Brazilian beans with a Guatemalan dark roast. This one appealed most to my strong, dark, Italian coffee palette. On my next town day, I am definitely going to head to Memphis Belle Coffee House and try one for real.

We tasted so much food and wine that when we saw daylight through the windows, we thought we'd made it back to the beginning again only to discover that we were just halfway around the stadium! There was so much on offer that we left after about three hours feeling absolutely full, as well as sampling wines from several different vineyards. I chatted to the delightful Annabelle White about a breakfast event I attended with her several years ago and we both drooled over the latest Kenwood products on display. I finished the day with coffee from Caffe L'affare and came home with a bag full of goodies.

Here are some of my other delicious discoveries of the day:
  • Donovans Chocolates. Rich and creamy, I especially liked their dark 80% cocoa bar, dark peppermint 80% cocoa bar and milk chocolate bar. These would make a yummy gift.
  • Silk Road Foods. Fresh meals and sauces, locally made and ready to heat up. We bought pouches of butter chicken and Moroccan chicken stew to stock up our freezer.
  • Rileys butterscotch vodka cream. This slipped down very nicely.
Wellingtonian foodies, if you haven't been yet, make sure you get down to Westpac Stadium on Sunday and catch the last day of the show.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Russian fudge

I love fudge - the sugary kind, not the one with the creamy texture. Fudge is the one treat I am guaranteed to buy at the fair. There's nothing quite like fair fudge!

My mother used to bake a fair bit while we were growing up but never made fudge. One night, while she was out, Dad and I decided to give it a go. How hard could it be to make chocolate fudge? We found a recipe and started heating ingredients up in a pot.

Things didn't look quite right and we couldn't figure out why. Mum arrived home, not impressed that we'd started baking in her clean kitchen while she was out ... and we were obviously doing something wrong. She took the pot and started stirring. Hmm. It still didn't look right. She decided to 'check' the fudge by poking her right index finger into the mixture. WTF??!

Here is a summary of the events that happened next:
  • There was a loud scream. Several, actually.
  • Mum's finger was quickly removed from the pot of boiling sugar and put under a running cold tap.
  • More screaming and a fair bit of swearing. Dad and I were told off. Mum put her finger back under the water. [Repeat several times.]
  • Mum eventually moved her finger to a glass filled with ice cubes. The ice cubes melted. [Repeat a few more times.]
  • Around 11 pm, Dad is ordered to bring Mum to A&E. The latest ice cubes in the glass melt before she even gets into the car. Cue: more screaming and swearing.
  • Mum arrives home with a large surgical bandage on her right index fingertip. She had entirely burned her fingerprint off.
  • Fudge is loudly declared as a banned food in our kitchen, never to be made again.
After a few days, Mum was allowed to take her bandage off to change the dressing. The skin had blistered and as the old layer of skin fell off in a single piece, so did her fingerprint. (It eventually grew back and stayed on permanently.) The thing is, to this day Mum will insist that it is our fault she burned her finger. Go figure.

I came across a recipe for Russian fudge on the Chelsea Sugar website earlier this week and felt brave enough to try making fudge for the first time since that fateful evening 25 years ago.

Russian fudge

  • 3 1/2 cups sugar
  • 125g butter
  • 3 Tbsp golden syrup
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 200g sweetened condensed milk (half a standard tin)
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  1. Place all the ingredients, except the vanilla essence, into a medium-heavy saucepan. Warm over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for about 15-20 minutes until it reaches the soft ball stage (120°C).
  2. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer until the fudge is creamy and thick and has lost its gloss. Pour into a greased 20 cm cake pan. Score the top and break into pieces when cold.
The result? A yummy, sweet treat and, most importantly, no fingers were burned in the making of this fudge. Yay!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Wellywood - Yeah, right

It's not often that I comment on current events or issues via this blog. I don't tend to join Facebook protest groups that pop up from time to time objecting to everything from television shows being cut to child abuse. Sure, I understand that people want to feel they are taking action, but I don't imagine they are overly effective. Today, I'm standing on my soapbox along with the rest of them.

For those who may have missed all the fuss brewing in our local teapot, the owners of Wellington Airport have decided to recreate the iconic Hollywood sign in the hillside next to the Miramar cutting. They perceive it to celebrate our local film industry and put Wellywood (not that I've ever heard Wellington called that by a local) on everyone's bucket list.

How embarrassing.

The media, social and otherwise, must be loving it. Articles, stories and editorials are popping up everywhere and opinion pieces are rife. An airport blockade protest is planned for tonight, but still Wellington Airport CEO Steve Fitzgerald remains defiant in a toddler-style tantrum worthy of the Minister of Education. Apparently no amount of outrage, objection or common sense will change his mind and construction of the sign will ahead in time for the rugby world cup in September. Don't get me started on what this pseudo deadline has meant for our country in regard to issues you wouldn't even begin to imagine elsewhere.

Not only is the proposed sign cringe worthy, but it is unoriginal, tacky and lacks any fibre of creativity - something which we Wellingtonions are supposed to be celebrating. Copying an existing concept in the name of creativity does not even make good marketing sense.

Here are some of my ideas for alternative signs. They certainly would be more appropriate.

Actually, I think this would make the best sign of all:

Come on, Wellington. We can do better than that.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Beach Babylon - Imogen Edwards-Jones

It's fascinating to see how the other half lives.

Beach Babylon is the fourth book in the Babylon series by British writer Imogen Edwards-Jones. Much like the book and tv series Hotel Babylon, it takes readers behind the scenes of a five-star tropical island resort (in a fictitious location, but probably somewhere near Bali) and follows the general manager around on his duties over the period of a week. For the purposes of the book, the events taking place during the 'week' are a condensed version.Just as well - this 'week' would be enough for any manager to hijack a case of $2000 a bottle champagne and a luxury yacht before highfooting it to the nearest (temporary) sandbank and skulling the lot!

The characters, or caricatures, rather, come to life as each new crisis arises, tempers fray and tempestuous guests alternate between demanding the earth and behaving badly on it. The phrase spoilt brat frequently comes to mind, as does the golden rule, ie those who have the gold make the rules.

A light, entertaining read. As for living like the other half - no thanks.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Danny Bhoy - Messenger (Please Do Not Shoot)

It's been a while since we've been to a live comedy show. The New Zealand International Comedy Festival is in full swing. Last night, we saw Scottish comedian Danny Boy in action.

Danny Boy is one the festival's international headliners. His new show, Messenger (Please Do Not Shoot) started out with Danny poking fun at himself in a variety of contexts, including anguishing about not being able to have his name up in lights, before moving on to talk about everything from the upcoming Rugby World Cup, the 2022 Football World Cup in Qatar, Vikings, learning French at school, Australians, coffee and tea drinking, living in the US, rain (very appropriate in Wellington this weekend) and his somewhat less than ideal stint on the David Letterman Late Show. If nothing else, his adorable Scottish accent was enough to grab the punters' attention. A very entertaining night out.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Feijoa king

I was working out of town today and drove to Palmerston North along with two colleagues from neighbouring organisations. We passed several fruit and vege market stalls on the way, but one advertising cheap feijoas caught one colleague's eye - she was planning a chutney-making session. We promised her we'd stop on the way home.

We almost missed the turnoff into a tiny country driveway with a handmade sign advertising feijoas for $1 per kilogram or two bags for $5. We followed the lane around a winding garden to a quaint little stall fitted with an honesty box. Lo and behold, another car had pulled up and we were actually a queue for feijoas next to a tiny country cottage. Now, I wouldn't say I dislike feijoas. I just never imaged they'd be something to queue for! The first car drove off with their purchase.
A bustling feijoa stand complete with honesty box
This is when the owner appeared. He was asked for four bags of feijoas for $10. The problem was, there was only one filled bag in the box; he would need to bag three more. If we could move our car out of the way, he could get started.

Hmm, ok. The driver moved our car further around the little garden roundabout and parked up to the right of the stall. 'No,' the owner said. 'What if another customer comes along and you're blocking their way?' Now, granted that we had already encountered one feijoa queue, we weren't exactly expecting an influx of traffic from the main road to fill up the tiny garden area in the next minute or so.

Still, he was insistent. The feijoas would not be bagged until we had driven around the tiny roundabout (again) and parked alongside the cottage so all the other customers could still get to the stall. Despite our protests, he snapped, 'it's just that I have three bags to fill and if you could just move then I can get started'. We laughed, but he didn't. The car was duly moved; the feijoas were bagged. We left, still laughing. No other customers came along.

I suppose we all need to feel like we're king of our own castle sometimes. Long live the Feijoa King!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Duvet days

We're having a couple of duvet days. It's unusual for my sweetie and I to be sick and off work at the same time but the winter lurgies have tackled us both. I can assure you that two days at home while feeling like this is not what it's cracked up to be. I thought I was feeling well enough to face work today (albeit slowly) but didn't want to jeopardise my day working out of town tomorrow. Seems like a wise choice; although I need to pop in to the office later on to pick up some things for tomorrow, I'm positive I wouldn't have lasted the day.

And so we have been rugged up at home, alternating between feeling hot and cold, whispering so as to not aggravate our sore throats and generally feeling sorry for ourselves. We've had our fill of comfort food (chicken and corn soup two nights in a row) and watched a couple of trashy movies (The Runaways and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps - neither of which I'd particularly recommend). I've started a book but my concentration is sorely lacking. I daren't bake, even though some over-ripe bananas are begging to be turned into banana loaf. Woe is us! ;-)

Our kitten has recovered well from her surgery last week and we are literally counting down the hours until she gets her stitches out later this afternoon. She is letting us know very loudly that she has enough of this cabin fever. She is even less impressed that we are both home during the day and too lethargic to entertain her!

On the plus side, my supply of coffee and Berocca has been put to good use. I'm enjoying some new sounds thanks to a couple of CD purchases (well, not so new - Curtis Mayfield and Bob James). Friends (and the Twitterverse) helped solve my knitting woes and I am going to knit a moss stitch throw rug, just as soon as I get some wool. I've even found a Stitch N Bitch group to join!

How has your week been? Are you managing to keep the winter nasties at bay?