Wednesday, 25 June 2014

What We Do In The Shadows (2014)

Wellington has been bitten by vampire fever recently. Suddenly, vampires are everywhere you look, including the places you'd never suspect. @DeliciousNecks are infiltrating Twitter and Vellington has effectively been rebranded. Just look at what's happened to the Wellington Airport sign:

There is a good reason, of course. Last week, a locally made mockumentary-style comedy premiered in Wellington and opened our eyes to the undead world living around us. Written, directed and starring the very talented Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, What We Do In The Shadows (2014) follows three vampires trying to get by in a modern world.

The movie begins at the crack of dusk with an unsuccessful flat meeting and looks at some of the practical challenges vampires face each night, from dressing themselves without being able to see their reflection, to not being able to enter their favourite bars without an invitation. Wellington's nightlife plays a starring role and Courtenay Place takes centre stage.

I'll admit to not really understanding the fascination others hold for vampires, zombies and other creatures of the night, but What We Do In The Shadows is really funny. The audience laughed throughout and I'd happily recommend it to anyone looking for a good giggle.

Check out the official trailer here, then go see the movie for yourself.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Banana coconut loaf

I don't know what it is about bananas but we rarely manage to eat them while they are fresh. I like bananas very much, but they usually end up sitting on the kitchen bench for a week or so before being relegated to the baking ingredients pile - not that I have a problem with that!

This recipe for banana coconut loaf originated from Gran's Sweet Pantry. I've modified it slightly based on ingredients I have in my pantry and added desiccated coconut, which gives it a slightly crunchy texture. A warning, though: leave the loaf to cool for at least five minutes before slicing or it will crumble as you cut it - although it's pretty hard to wait that long when it smells so good!

Banana coconut loaf

  • 3/4 cup sultanas
  • 1/2 cup dark rum [I used water and a teaspoon of vanilla essence instead]
  • 100 g butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 t vanilla essence
  1. In a small saucepan, combine sultanas and rum. Bring to the boil over medium heat, then remove from the heat and let stand for 1 hour. Strain the sultanas and set aside. Discard any remaining liquid.
  2. Preheat oven to 170ºC. Grease and line a 20 cm x 10 cm loaf tin and set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together and fold into the butter mixture.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix together mashed bananas, coconut, coconut milk and vanilla essence. Fold into the mixture. Pour into prepared loaf tin.
  6. Bake for 1 hour then leave to cool in the tin before slicing.
Banana coconut loaf

Friday, 13 June 2014

No Such Thing As A Fish

I really enjoy QI. We have a season pass set up to record all new episodes and reruns as there are dozens of shows we haven't seen during its phenomenally long run over the years. QI's timeless format is enduring; the only way we can date most episodes is by judging the length and state of Stephen Fry's (or Alan Davies') hair.

No Such Thing As A Fish is a weekly podcast produced by the QI elves (researchers). Each elf takes their turn to present their favourite fact from the previous week and this leads to some intense yet hilarious discussion and debate. For example, did you know that rats were once the size of hippos and that in 2003, three people in Mexico were officially listed as having died of acne? Neither did I, but I do now! Who knows when I'll be able to pull those random facts out at a party? ;-)

The sharp, snappy format of No Such Thing As A Fish keeps things moving along at a rapid pace. There is a list of episodes here, but I suggest you start at the beginning and keep going - you'll soon be hooked. Each one is full of the stuff that drives trivia quizzes and I'm hoping they will help me regain my ability to impress, all the while honing my former legendary ability to retrieve irrelevant minutiae at just the right place and time.

Thursday, 5 June 2014


The sun'll come out tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow ... there'll be sun!

You know how the song goes. It's hard not to smile when you sing (or hear) it. Annie and her fellow orphans have been charming audiences around the world since 1977. Although I'd never seen the show live on stage, Annie somehow managed to creep into heart of me and my friends a few decades ago. Set in 1933 at the Municipal Girls' Orphanage in New York, the story of a little girl rescued from an orphan's life by a dashing billionaire is the stuff that dreams are made of.

I was delighted to win tickets to see Annie at the St James Theatre last night. I imagined the audience to be overflowing with preening ballet mums and grand-ma'ams with their precious bairns in tow. Looking around, the audience was actually a much wider cross-section of ages and people-watching subjects, including groups of girls and women in their 20s and 30s no doubt reliving their childhood nostalgia like I was.

Much was made of the international cast in the lead-up to the show and there were a few standout performances. I really enjoyed David McAlister as Oliver Warbucks and Mig Ayesa as Rooster. Annie and the orphan girls' performances were really well polished and oh, so upbeat. It's easy to get lost in the mood when surrounded by a troupe of joy germs.

Sadly, the show was let down by dreadful sound quality. From where we were sitting (about seven rows from the front, slightly left of centre), the sound was very loud and trebly enough to be piercing, especially when being bombarded by nasal, fake American accents. I could barely make out the lyrics over the orchestra during the big numbers. AND THERE WAS SO MUCH SHOUTING! So, so much shouting in the show - and then a little girl was blowing a whistle and someone else was ringing a bell. Don't get me wrong; I've made a lot of noise myself performing on stage over the years but I shudder to think that we'd ever subjected an audience to sound that was bordering on painful to listen to. Two women a few rows ahead walked out during the first act. They missed a great show but I understand why they had to move.

Annie and her friends move to Auckland soon for the second half of their New Zealand tour. The show is enjoyable and well worth seeing. I just hope the crew at The Civic do a better job of the sound than their Wellington counterparts.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Composting coffee grounds

We knew something serious was up when our lovely receptionist/hostess/looker-afterer/office mum sent a moany email a while ago.
"Brace yourselves everyone, I'm going to moan ...

Could you please make sure you rinse your coffee cups before you put them in the dishwasher? Coffee grounds are attaching to clean cups. I am having to wash things twice ..."
Ouch! Now, I know that email is pretty tame by many (most?) comms standards but they're harsh words from our office mum. She looks after us well and in return we worship the ground she walks on and do what she says. How could someone let the side down and upset Mum?? The "not me" emails immediately flooded in. ("I drink tea" – from the CEO. "I buy coffee downstairs" – others.) A few were suspiciously quiet. Enough said.

And then I piped up. As a daily coffee buyer, I am amazed to see colleagues empty coffee plungers full of grounds down the sink and try to wash them down. I'm not a plumber but I can’t imagine that's good for the plumbing or our waterways as they move through the system. How about we look at alternative uses for the coffee grounds, perhaps preparing them for compost instead? Apparently coffee makes for great compost so long as you don't exceed 25% of the soil's composition. The same goes for worm farms.

"It's not an issue; we've been doing it for years," I was assured. Ok, back to my corner.

Until last week. The sink was blocked. A quick check in the cupboard underneath revealed coffee grounds trying to escape from the S-bend. Some had already succeeded. The plumber was called. "You can't put coffee grounds down the sink," he said.

No-one likes to hear "I told you so", but ... I TOLD YOU SO!

And so now we are looking at how to dispose of or, even better, reuse the coffee grounds that build up each day. There are sites with some great suggestions. But I'm wondering how they prepare and store the grounds while still in the office before people take them home?

We have begun with a makeshift solution: a kitchen sieve filtered with a paper towel and placed over a large bowl, but it's not pretty and a long term solution would be better. Do these even exist? How do other offices drain their used coffee grounds and prepare them for composting?

Monday, 2 June 2014

Easy slice

I often wonder what to bring when visiting someone. I don't like arriving somewhere empty handed but sometimes it's hard to predict who else might be there at the same time and, therefore, how many I might potentially need to cater for. Dinner parties are easy enough; I usually can't go wrong with making bread or dessert as they are courses that can easily be doubled. But visiting at other times can be tricky. (Don't get me started on anticipating special diets and dietary requirements!)

That's where slices can save the day. Usually one recipe means there is enough to safely go around with some to spare or leave behind. I dug out my trusty copy of Easy Slices and found the title recipe was exactly as described: easy and no baking required!

Easy slice

  • 3/4 cup sultanas
  • 250 g packet plain sweet (wine) biscuits, crushed
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 T cocoa
  • 50 g pecans or walnuts, finely chopped
  • 65 g butter, melted
  • 60 ml orange (or milk combined with lemon essence)
  • 100 g chocolate, melted (for topping)
  1. Combine biscuits, sugar, cocoa, nuts and sultanas.
  2. Pour in the butter and juice and stir through.
  3. Press firmly into a lined slice tin and top with melted chocolate. Refrigerate until firm and cut into slices.
Makes 24 pieces.

Easy slice

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Winter wonders

Today is the first official day of winter and the overnight frosts this weekend have well and truly announced its arrival. Winter is not my favourite season but I have to admit that it does have some pretty darn amazing redeeming features. Beautiful, crisp mornings like today act like silver linings that contrasts short, dreary days filled with wind and rain.

Here are just a few things I love about winter:
  • Merino everything: hats, tops, wraps. 
  • Scarves: warm ones, colourful ones and scarves you can knit for others.
  • Hot chocolate, especially when made with Bohemein dark chocolate tricks.
  • A roaring fire place, although I usually need to borrow someone else's to enjoy this.
  • Soup: vegetable soup, pumpkin soup, minestrone ... let your food imagination run wild.
  • Mulled wine (although, if I'm honest, I far prefer the smell of it mulling that its taste).
  • Boots. Long ones, short ones, elegant ones and puddle stompers.
  • Goose down duvets (and sometimes extra duvet layers) for night time snuggles.
  • A good storm, but only once I'm safely inside and wrapped up warm with no plans to leave the house.
  • Bed socks: the only kind of socks that are ever acceptable to wear in bed.
  • Cashmere lined kid leather gloves made in Italy, for a little bit of luxury every cold day.
  • Freshly baked cookies straight out of the oven. Actually, these are good in any season!
Wrap up warm, folks. Winter's going to be hanging around for a while. :-)