31 March 2014

Foodie Penpals: the smokin' hot March edition

Smokin' hotter than ever after a wee break, Foodie Penpals is back in my kitchen, and when the parcel of goodies hit my doorstep, I was as excited as ever. As I ripped off the packaging, all I could think was 'what culinary delights were coming my way from Deon; fellow antipodean, melting moment fan and Food Jam author?'.
My parcel was one designed to melt away the winter blues, a medly of treats from Deon's favourite Malaysian/Chinese supermarket. And was a box it was! We enjoy curry, whatever the country of origin it may be (though Indian/Sri Lankan tends to be the one that lands on our table most of all - this may due in part to their easy phone ordering system, but I digress.) My package was most definitely well received after recently attending a Malaysian supperclub, the flavours redolent of steamy monsoon season nights whilst holidaying in Singapore many moons ago. Perfection.
We have so far used the fantastic chilli paste in a toe warming mince (pictured above), the yellow chilli in a sunny chicken curry and have plans earmarked for the rest of the mini chilli pastes over the next few weeks. The only question is where to begin...
Oh, anyone have any idea what to do with this bad boy? I'm guessing it may be mushroom stock? I'm kinda curious why hot cross buns make an appearance on the package (I kid, I kid)...

My delicious package also contained wasabi paes (lasting about 5 minutes after opening) and a pack of delicious kiwi gummy candies that I'm going to have to track down again soon as they are delicious!
 
Thanks so much Deon, such a delicious parcel! I hope my penpal received hers safely...

30 March 2014

Upsidedown Mothers Days

One of the Expat downsides (or coming from the Southern Hemisphere is it an upside? I'm confused) is being away from your Mother country on the days that celebrate two of the most important people in your life - Father's Day and Mother's Day.

(Some things never change, this is an oldie post but a goodie, enjoy!)

Arguably one of the most success marketing ploys of Hallmark and a common victim of errant apostrophes, I think the idea of Father's Day and Mother's Day is a fantastic one. Yes, you should celebrate the people-whom-without-you-literally-wouldn't-be-here everyday in the little things, but in the high-pace world we live in today, it's fantastic to step back and celebrate your parents on their own special day.


They went through almost a year 'cooking' and carrying you, then eighteen years feeding you nutritional and tasty food, wiping your bum, bathing you, (the last two hopefully not much past 7 or 8 years) taking you to the doctor, playing with you, ensuring you had a good life and loving you.

So yes, you should make an effort.



My mother lives in Scotland and we face a slightly different question - do we celebrate the UK one that feels too early or the NZ one (when in Rome etc.) which feels too late?

As an expat Mother's Day and Father's Day does make you really think about your family more - not only your traditional family (helllooooo NZ famdamily), but your new family - I'm lucky to have lovely in-laws and really wonderful friends who have become more like family.

On the plus-side living over here also means you get 36 hours of birthday fun. We have to weigh these things up. Anyway, Happy Mother's Day to all my Antipodean readers.

When is your Mother's Day? Upon a little reading, I found out there are so many.

28 March 2014

Friday figments and photos

The last couple of weeks have been equal parts awesome, stressful new things, fabulousold things , sweet tokens, birdsong, learning the meaning of bittersweet and challenging.
 
Gotta love Spring.
 

 
 
 

I'm feeling ya dude, shift over a little, eh?



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27 March 2014

Bruges, Belgium #travelthursday

Chocolate, sunshine, Colin Farrell, gingerbread buildings, turrets, canals, lace, chips & mayo and medieval cobbled streets. What more could you want from a weekend city break? 



Everyone has asked me whether we preferred Brussels or Bruges and I honestly can't say. Bruges is quaint, teeny, full of meandering streets and canals, chocolate shops and frite stores catering for your average cheesy tourist. They do also however have something called 'samurai sauce' for your frites which I'm disappointed we didn't try.
 



We turned up in Bruges having done no research whatsoever, and simply followed our noses (and initially the rest of the tourist off our train) down into the village mostly untouched by the modern world.



Oh, except in a few places...



The architecture was a beguiling mismatch of styles, decoration and twisty alley ways bringing you to yet another interesting building.

 
This building on the main square looks like it could easily house Volturi, but sadly hosts the Bruges Medieval museum which has about as much bite and interest as an orange.



Brussels is much more of a city, and takes coaxing to find the quirky delights, but seems to have something for everyone. Beer, Margritte cloud post-it notes, Invader street art, more chocolate, restaurants that just sell waffles, beautiful buildings, Peter Pan statues in hidden gardens, laughter and a Eurostar station. 
  

I can tell you what I did find though, my new home. Now, I only need to get it to London...



What's your favourite of the two cities?

Oh, and psst don't forget it's almost time for the monthly travel link up - this month's theme is your favourite travel - add your post to our linkup between the 1st & 7th, share a little comment love and read in wonder. I'm not sure how I'm going to pick...

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26 March 2014

London's newest Burger Flipper (me) and Gourmet Burger Kitchen.

L&P. Kiwiburgers. Hokey Pokey Shakes (aka Honeycomb). Kumara (Sweet potato) Fries. Funky Kiwiana on the walls. The iconic tomato sauce bottles. Not to mention the Kaitaia Fire and links with the rather infamous Peter Gordon.


My precious...

GBK, lets be frank, you had me at hello when I stepped onto Heathrow tarmac.




All I've ever wanted was beetroot and egg on my (now gluten free) burger, with a side of smiles and kumara chips. And aioli.

25 March 2014

Do Not Alight Here, Ben Pedroche. Reviewed.

Wandering London and indulging in a touch of tube geekery in Spring sunshine? Where do I sign up?


There is something about the London tube that makes it so iconic, idiosyncratic and so fascinating. People want to eat their underground gourmet dinners on it, make journeys in order to discover secret clocks and fake houses, and endless books and blogs are written espousing the design quirks of many stations.

By turn the tube can be a source of utter frustration; delays, cancellations and weird happenings; I've sat next to Russian Generals, Tibetan Monks, a box of kittens and a group of blokes dressed head to toe in fluoro pink. But then again, that's just life in London.
 
"It is one of the many examples of London's ability to reinvent itself, always updating, while also paying tribute to the days gone by."

 

Ben Pedroche's Do Not Alight Here has taken a passion for this sinuous metallic beast, and turned it into a series of fantastic walks. I was given the book as a very late Christmas present (along with a tube Christmas Tree Bauble #lifecomplete) by a friend a few of weeks ago. With some beautifully timed spring weather we have started exploring with one of the best Christmas presents I've had in a long time. The walks are getting us into more nooks and crannies that we never knew existed, all within a stone's throw of the underground lines that make up London's artery system.

The walks are good, well paced and full of entertainingly quirky history as the vitamin D soaks in. On the way home you can take in art and quirks on the stations themselves. What more could you need?

That boring commute you have every day? Make it fun...
 
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24 March 2014

Zookeeper for a Day: London Zoo.

Lions, Penguins and Giraffes, oh my!


When I was a kid I wanted to be a Vet or a Zookeeper working specifically with big Cats. Fast forward 20 or so years and due being terrible at biology, the closest I've come is volunteering at the RSPCA, owning a wee tabby beastie cat and hanging out with office monkeys, sorry, I mean colleagues.
  

Until now. For the record, being a Zookeeper for the day at London Zoo was one the coolest things I've ever done. Ever.



The day is started by meeting your zookeeper for the day, who gives you a touch of breakfast and a debrief of the day before heading out to do a few chores, namely mucking out & saw-dusting the Zebra & Okapi pens.



My monkeys workmates howled with laughter when they heard this, offering me all sorts of mucking out work for their friends, but laughter of our group and the reward of hand feeding Giraffes at the end of it more than compensated for any hardwork.


We wandered over to the aquarium to feed live locusts to some of the large fish and chat to the keepers...



before making dinner feed buckets for the Bearded Pigs. As you do. We then threw whole hazelnuts to them, much to their unmitigated delight.

I've never seen animals get so excited about small knobbly bits being chucked to them!



A leisurely stop before our lunch at Penguin beach was my utter highlight of the day. Or so I thought it would be...

Readers, meet Ricky, the Rockhopper Penguin. Cantankerous, mouthy and generally pretty awesome (so awesome he has his own facebook page).



We hung out with a pair super friendly Humbolt penguins, and did some token scrubbing of the rocks around Penguin beach - well eventually.



Admittedly I almost had to be pulled away from cooing at the Penguins and scheming how to fit one into my handbag.


All of our work now done, Lunchtime followed, then we were given wedges of steamed potatoes to feed to the Colobus Monkeys (check out the pure white baby in this Momma's arms)...


...and live mealworms and crickets for the Meerkats. *shudder*



We chatted with the keepers about how to make friends with Coatis (hint: take treats), which was utterly divine...


Then fed squares of sweet potato and carrot to Ringtailed Lemurs. I fell head over heels for them. Inquitisive, sweet, soft and the sweetest little sticky hand perfect for climbing trees.


With the sun setting and afternoon tea in our bellies, we left our new friends behind, trudging out of the zoo happy but knackered.


Everyone has asked me how you get involved doing this; I did the Zookeeper for a day at London Zoo (having found a Groupon for a half price experience) - In my mind it's the best donation to a working animal preservation society I've ever made. There are several around the UK with varying prices, and even half days especially for kids.

Do it. I ummed and ahhed for days about booking it in, and enjoyed every single crazy moment and already want to go back.
 
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23 March 2014

Cat Cafe, Lady Dinah's

22 March 2014

Boy behind the blog: Link Up

They say that behind every blogger is an hungry partner in crime waiting to eat their dinner, hoping that it will still be warm by the time the blogger has taken snaps from 15,000 angles.
They say that behind every cheesy posing shot of a bloggers feet at the beach, there is someone lounging next to them rolling their eyes.
They say that behind the heated discussions as to whether Chips are called Crisps, and Lollies called Sweets that both parties will agree that no matter the name, both are delicious and good reward to questions like "What should I blog about today?"

 
  
I'm rather lucky to have a very supportive other half - he's saddled with a wanderlusting Kiwi after all - and happily joins in the crazy things planned & suggested to him. Most of the time.
He has written before about his Anglo-Kiwi Experience - The other side of the Expat story but with the guest post take-over the rest of this week, and finding the Boy Behind the Blog Link Up, he kindly offered to join in. I'll leave you in his capable hands.
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In the general spirit of this blog a few random questions from past Boy behind the Blog posts, so I've chosen a few older questions. The things I do for my Kiwi...
  
1. Describe yourself in five words.
Thoughtful, hard-working, lazy, mischievous, grouch. (Edit: I'm surprised nagged isn't in there...)
2. If you could live anywhere, where would you live?
Marylebone, central London.
3. Sand or snow?
Snow. No question.

4. Who is your favourite band/musician?
 The Beatles. I'm a huge George Harrison fan - definitely the most under-rated and under appreciated Beatle.
5. You're cooking a romantic dinner- what is your go-to dish?
 Cottage pie! (Edit: *Rolls Eyes* - if Mr Kiwi ate nothing else for the rest of his life, he'd be happy. Good thing he's a good cook. I would have said his Steak though... it's a gift)

6. Complete the sentence: "Never have I ever..."
 Left home in the morning unshowered.
7. What would you do with $1,000,000?
 Buy a nicer, bigger house to return to after work. (Edit: The Cat is getting rather demanding...)

21 March 2014

Otago Rail Trail, New Zealand (Guest Post: Rebecca)

Fellow London Kiwi, bubbly, cat-loving, flat-white drinking and exercise-hating +Rebecca Blandford has kindly taken over Adventures of a London Kiwi, with her exploration of the Otago Rail Trail, in the South Island of New Zealand.
 
I told you that this week would be a bevvie of beautiful bloggers didn't I?

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The Otago Rail Trail, a Runaway Kiwi and a killer Lamb.

 

The ever amazing Emma asked me to guest post on her blog, and being a thrill seeker she said I could write about whatever I liked...rookie mistake. But since the rumour is that she has a secret supply of Pineapple Lumps I better behave myself, so let me tell you about the time I voluntarily did exercise on holiday. This is the story of the time I rode the Otago Rail Trail. 

As my friends know, I love making impossible plans when drunk. After a few glasses of Pinot I think that the world is my oyster and running a marathon, taking a round the world trip or signing up for an advanced physics degree are all entirely plausible and very exciting options. Normally this would not be a problem, but in the age of the internet it means life gets a whole lot more interesting. Pre-internet you would wake up with a hangover and laugh about the stupid implausible things you planned last night. But with the internet and credit cards you wake up with a hangover and realise that the anti-exercise girl who has not ridden a bike in ten years has just booked a holiday to Otago for a week long bike ride over New Years.



When the trains stopped running in the central South Island of New Zealand, someone came up with the bright idea of taking out the tracks and making it a public cycle track and thus the Otago Rail trail was born. After all, trains can’t go up hills so the entire thing is mercifully flat and it goes through some of the most heartbreakingly beautiful countryside. 

Luckily the Pinot had given me enough presence of mind to book an entirely assisted trip, this meant that all food and was going to be provided (including some epic cooked breakfasts) and the best bit was we had a van following us the entire time. The magic of this van meant that they took our bags from hotel to hotel and if the cycling all got a bit much they could drive us to the next pit stop.



The plan was to do some training before the trip, well that was the plan anyway. The training turned out to be one bike ride to a cafe ten minutes down the road where we had to walk back because we were worried about spilling our flat whites. We were perfectly prepped for the 150kms of cycling ahead. 

It was incredibly beautiful. We were lucky with the weather, not too hot and not a speck of rain in sight. The ride was tough but we started with a road cycle beside some beautiful lakes to get us used to it, and by the time we hit the almost empty rail trail we were pros. There was something utterly in balance about cycling hard each day in the heartland of New Zealand, a massive hot dinner at night and in the morning waking with aching muscles ready to do it all again.



The only scary moment was when I got attacked by a lamb. Stop laughing. It bounded out of nowhere like a bat out of hell, and I was forced to take evasive manoeuvres in order to survive. I think what hurt most of all is that no one believed that it was a vicious and malicious creature with fangs, glowing red eyes and poison dripping from its wool. But hey, after a strong flat white and a pie I was ready to go again.



The holiday ended with an amazing historic train trip through the lower Taieri Gorge to Dunedin, just in time for a cocktail and tiredness fuelled New Years Eve. But the cycling was not over yet, on the way back to Christchurch on New Years Day we stopped by the Moeraki boulders for a photo followed by some more road cycling. Road cycling where I definitively managed to snap the chain on my bike. 

Sitting by the roadside in a field of grain, waiting for the support team to pick me up, felt like the most perfect end of the mad adventure that was the Otago Rail Trail. 
 
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Only Rebecca could have a Black Sheep experience and live to tell the tail. SorryI'mNotSorry. Definitely check out more of her explorations on her blog Runaway Kiwi, and her lovely jewellery. I can't guarantee that you'll have quite the same adventures but there is always a chance...