Monthly Archives: February 2011

Tapas!

So, our friends from Christchurch made it out and are up in Auckland for a week or so, just to get away from the shaking and the stress, and to have a shower. In order to assist them in their need for normalcy, E and I invited them out to the movies on saturday afternoon.

 

And they kindly accepted.

 

So, we met at the large movie theatre downtown in the CBD on Queen Street, and while waiting for them, E and I got some pizza (man somebody could make a killing opening up a real NY Pizza place down here.  A killing.), and picked up a frozen coke for the friends.

 

We went to go see Love Birds with Rhys Darby and others from Auckland.  If there is ever a chance you want to get a 2ish hour crash course in everything that I’m seeing and doing and the people that I’m meeting, you should watch this movie.  The scenery is all from Auckland, and the humor is, as our friends said, decidedly Kiwi.

 

But I’m not here to talk about the movie, no no no.  I’m going to tell you about the absolutely delightful food we had after the movie.  The pizza slice before it was a bit of a downer, more bread than sauce or cheese.  And you gotta know that there’s no sauce on it for me to be complaining about it.  But the food after dinner? Terrific.

 

We walked up Queen street a bit and into the Whitcoulls, a local large book chain, kind of like Barnes & Nobel back in the States.  But the entrance to the restaurant that’s usually open through Whitcoull’s was closed, so it was back out and down to the small alleyway up beside the building.  I say alleyway, and it’s more like a lane.  On an incline.

 

Everything is on an incline.

 

And we entered into the Tapas bar.  Now, I don’t remember the name of it, i think it was something with Mezze, which would make sense. But this is a place that you would be hard pressed to find in Delaware, possibly Baltimore or Philadelphia, but even then, maybe not.

 

Wooden tables and chairs, a very cozy atmosphere with the menu written up on a large chalkboard behind the bar.  There were drink specials and Tapas and then main meals.

 

Tapas is, essentially, a very Spanish thing.  No, not Hispanic. Spanish. Like from Spain.  Small bites and bits of dishes for sharing amongst friends over good drinks.  So we got little bits of this and of that and then had a blast.

 

Patatas Bravas: potato wedges cooked with a delightful spice mixture, topped with a red sauce and some sour cream.  delightful, if a bit difficult to spear with toothpicks.

Tricolore Uno: Pita bread and crostini with a trio of dips, Red pepper, Pesto, and Garlic.  Very delicious, although the Pesto really could have standed some pinons added into it.

Gambas al ajillo: I think that’s right. It’s essentially these delicious little prawns (or shrimp) with garlic flavoring, served on bits of toast with some aioli on the side.

Chicken and Risotto:  This was a meal sized plate, but it came with four pieces of chicken, so it portioned itself out very nicely for all of us.  The chicken was fantastic, I didn’t even mind eating the skin, and the risotto was terrific. so good.

Bowl of Vegetables: was exactly what it says, a bowl of vegetables but seasoned wonderfully and roasted in the oven until delicious. Tomato, courgette (zucchini). mushrooms, carrots.

Meatballs: these were actually really really good.  Not sure what all was in them, probably a mixture of meats, but it was definitely well seasoned and cooked, topped with crispy croutons and red sauce.

 

We had a bottle of pinot gris between three of us and E had a glass of limonata, which was more expensive than the whole bottle of wine.

 

I’ve had more wine in the last week than I have in a year.  Or more.  But it’s all been very good.  And all Kiwi.

 

so that’s it.  the point of the matter is, go find a place that is doing Tapas. You get small plates of delicious food to share with everybody, and you no longer have to look at a menu and go ‘man, i wish i had tried some of that!’  because with Tapas, you can.

Hot and Sour

So, for those of you who may or may not know, my boyfriend is deliciously Asian.

Now stop that, I said before there wouldn’t be any talk of sex on here.  Seriously, you guys are really just in the gutter today.

 

Anyways, what does his being Asian (Taiwanese to be exact) have anything to do with anything?  Well that’s easy.  Number one, he’s incredibly sexy and he has the hair to just die for.  Long, dark, straight hair that at one point in my youth or childhood, I would have killed for.

 

But no, the not so but sort of superficial reason that his being asian is awesome? The food of course!

 

I have a man who is unashamed or afraid to take me out to sushi multiple times, who has opened my eyes to all different types of food (Udon noodles? awesome!!!), and spices and ways of cooking that I just never even considered before (drizzling beaten egg into ramen soup as a fast and cheap way to get protein?  Bring it on).

 

So with this in mind, I have wondered aloud before what his favorite meal is, and of course he says it’s soup.  Soup!  I can make soup.  But oh ho wait! There is more to this than just soup my friends.  his favorite favorite favorite soup?  Hot and Sour.

 

Oh.

 

Well I’ve never made that!  I’ve always avoided it in chinese restaurants in the states because of my stomach issues (Hooray for medicine!!!!) with acid reflux.  How am I going to impress him and make this soup?

 

Simple.  Go onto Allrecipes.com and search. scour the internets.  find something that sounds good and easy.  Well, there was a recipe and I’ve been here for two weeks and now… might a bit of a good time to try this out.

 

so, today we went out and got the ingredients and together we chopped and sliced and boiled and prepped.  And the soup simmered and cooked.  We beat the eggs, and chopped the chicken.  we added more mushrooms than it called for and tossed in some water chestnuts which it didn’t call for at all.

 

and then, the moment of truth.  The soup was done.  I spooned it out into the bowls (we made enough so that there are plenty of extra helpings left).  And we sat down to dinner.

 

Success!

 

E has now gone back for his 3rd bowl of soup.  so maybe there won’t be enough left for lunch for him tomorrow! lol

 

I am most happy with the results.

Afternoon Delight

Get your mind out of the gutter.

 

Believe it or not, this is not about sex.  I’ve made an executive decision that unless explicitly asked or a certain topic just can’t help but be discussed, I would not talk about sex on this blog.  Except in the abstract.  There might be children reading.

 

No, this is about a delicious treat that I had today that made the afternoon of walking and shopping seem that much better.  It’s an item that i’ve seen advertised on a few of the little coffee bar places around, but never quite got into.

 

Iced Chocolate.

 

Now, your eyebrow might be raising a bit in curiosity, or if you’re a kiwi already then you probably already know what it is, but please, allow me to explain.

 

Iced Chocolate is essentially a coffee shop version of milk chocolate.  Only it is served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate syrup.

 

simple, right?  Astounding that we don’t have places in the states who have thought of this! It is just amazingly simple and so delicious, that it’s hard to believe that we american’s haven’t figured it out.

 

So there you have it, today’s indulgence.

 

Tonight’s treat will be something involving meat and vegetables.  possibly with some fruit as dessert.  we bought strawberries.

 

mmm strawberries.

Dinner and a Goal

So, we went out to dinner the other night with E’s friend and her boyfriend.  The food was divine, the company exciting and very enjoyable and the conversation lively.

 

And somewhere in that conversation an event was mentioned, the event being “Round the Bays”.  It’s an annual 8k fun-run that circles the bay in Auckland.  Run/Walk/Crawl.  But no cycling or skating.

 

And I first thought to myself, there’s no way. I can’t do that! Walking 1k around the neighborhood is killing me, let alone 8k!  I’m just not ready!

 

Well, I went to the website for the run, checked out a few things and I have made my decision.

 

I am not yet ready to do this event this year.  However, next year, gods willing, I will be there.  I will enter into Round the Bays and I will finish.  Whether I be running, walking, or some combination of the two, I will do this event.

 

A goal.  I have a goal for myself.  By next March, I will be able to go 8k without wanting to die.

 

Good things come to those who set goals.

 

http://www.roundthebays.co.nz

Heart Kiwis

I’ve been in this country for just under a fortnight, and I can already say with definite truth, that I love Kiwis.

 

Love them.

 

Not a single person has been rude to me, insulting, or even given me a dirty look.  Not one shopkeeper or bystander on a corner has said one thing crosswise to me, or been anything but endearingly helpful.

 

To my very limited access of people and my small interactions with them, I can gladly say that I am happy to be here in this country, and I doubt I could have found a more pleasant place to move to.

 

Even with the earthquake this week and all the horrible devastation that has brought and the national sorrow that is palpable and felt even by myself, the Kiwis I’ve interacted with have had nothing but this undercurrent of good humor.

 

There is an overall attitude of inevitability that seems to be innate in Kiwis.  Yes, this tragedy happened.  Yes, it was a tragedy.  But we’ll move on, we’ll fix it, we’ll make it better.  I was watching the new reports yesterday when one of the Australian Urban Rescue teams showed up, and the Kiwi reporter seemed to be so amazingly overwhelmed at the kindness of the Aussies for being here, so astounded that they responded so quickly, it was catching in his throat that this realization that everything would be alright, that the Kiwis had friends.

 

There’s a bit of, self deprecation that seems inherent in nearly all communications with Kiwis.  There’s an underlying current in the tone and diction that says “Yes, we know we’re not from Australia, but we’re really just a likable”.    It’s a black humor, dark and sometimes misleading, but it’s there.  This feeling of being not quite the best, but the best at what they do.

 

I love it.  That sense of humor, the sense of knowing that they might not be considered top notch by the world, or even be remembered by the world farther than Australasia, but they know what they are good at, they know what they have to offer, and they’re more than happy to offer it.

 

I hope I’m being clear.  I’m not trying to poke fun at the Kiwis, especially not now.  But their ability to poke fun at themselves, even if they don’t know that they’re doing it, even if they don’t see the little tendencies of appearing as the younger children that I seem to be picking up on, it’s there.

 

And it makes this place even more delightful than before.  Especially for me.  I seem to have found a nation full of people with the same self-deprecating humor that I have found in myself.

 

I love it here.  And the I love the Kiwis.

Natural Disasters

Now, I’m afraid of a lot of things. Heights. Docks. Boats to some extent, but mostly docks. Spiders as is only rational.

I’ve lived through hurricanes and blizzards. I even went through (kinda) a tornado or two once. But I’ve never been through an earthquake.

Christchurch, New Zealand has since last september endured over 4500 earthquakes, tremors, aftershocks. September 4th was the big one, 7.1. Damage everywhere, it was bad.

since then, there have been few days where the ground in and around Christchurch hasn’t trembled, rumbled, shifted and moved.

And then today, there was another big one. A 6.3 magnitude, just along the outskirts of the city, and it was shallow. And shallow earthquakes are not good.

There have been reports of death, fires, liquefaction, flooding, and everything else that you can think of in an earthquake.

The airport is closed right now.

E and I are supposed to be going down to Christchurch this weekend, to meet a few friends of his, and let them meet me. I’m almost sure we’ll probably still go.

But.

I’ve never been in an earthquake. and lord knows this is selfish of me to think this, especially when the city down there is in so much need of help.

But at the moment, I’ve never been in an earthquake. I’m not so sure that I want to.

I’m a little scared.

Bubble Tea

I’ve decided that there will be posts about the different foods I’ve had since moving here.  I’ve already introduced you to the Red Bean Paste Bun (or Azuki bean), and to mochi.  Today, we travel to the exotic world of Tea.

 

Yes, tea.

 

Now, I know I’ve posted on here about tea before and it’s not something that a very many people think about being unique.  However, most people that I know in the states have never experienced Bubble Tea.  Or Pearl Tea.  And even the concept of Milk Tea is slightly foreign.  So, let’s start with the easy one.

 

Milk tea.  Sounds fairly simple right?  It is.  Think of your favorite iced coffee with cream.  Now, make it tea instead of Coffee.  Fascinating right?  A thought that never really would occur to most Americans, but there it is.  Tea with milk and sugar is a hot beverage, not a cold one.  But for the longest time I thought that about coffee.  Until I had a properly prepared iced coffee.  It’s the same way with Milk Tea.  It sounds strange, until you have it.  And then, somewhere in the back of your mind, it clicks and you realize that this is good.  And how in the world had you not thought of this first?

 

That brings us to Bubble Tea.  Or Pearl Tea.  Now, it’s easier for me to describe Bubble Tea once you’ve seen a picture of it.  So, here we go.

Thanks to agapetea.com for their image

Now, that is standard milk tea. But those black things in the bottom? That’s the Bubbles.  Of tapioca.

 

Got it? Ok, we’ll move on.

 

now, I’ve had Bubble Tea before, when I went to DC to meet E for the first time, we went out to a teashop and they had bubble tea for sale.  I tried some and I was, confused by it.  We had some the other night, tried it, and I was still confused.

 

The tea comes in a plastic cup with a plastic seal on top (at least to the place we went to) and you get a really BIG straw and you stab the plastic seal in one easy swipe, and then you sip.  And as you sip the tapioca pearls travel up the straw and into your mouth.

 

Now, I’m sure you’ve had tapioca pudding and you know that odd gelatin type texture that is on the tapioca pearls.  these pearls are much larger.  Much larger. I would say smaller than a dime, but not by much.  And the pearls do come in smaller and larger shapes as well.  But the ones that we had the other night were about dime shaped.

 

And they’re gooey and sticky and jelly-like and it just feels odd.  The tea itself is usually quite good, a bit hard to describe really because you’re so focused on the fact that you have this odd sphere of goo in your mouth, but good.

 

Can I heartily recommend Bubble tea as much as I did Azuki buns and mochi?  Not necessarily.  I’m still out on Bubble Tea.  I’m hoping to find a shop around here that offers the smaller pearls so I can try again.

 

But I can definitely endorse Milk Tea and highly highly recommend that you try some yourself.  A great way to cool off in summer’s heat.  I personally would suggest jasmine, mint, or lavender flavors as they lend themselves quite well to the lightness of adding milk and the cooling effects needed on a hot summer’s day.

Piha Beach and Kitekite Trail

So my weekend started out early on Saturday morning, waking up at a seemingly obscene hour to find the map towards where we were going.  Piha Beach.

 

Piha Beach is a black sand beach on the West Coast of New Zealand.  We’ll get to the black sand bit a little later.  But first on our agenda, past getting there, was to go on a nature walk along Kitekite Trail in the Waitakere ranges national park.

 

Now, I will pause here for a moment, I said Nature Walk.  It was more like a Hike.  But again, I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

The ride from Auckland out to the West Coast was beautiful.  Tall hills and mountains, deep valleys, lush with trees everywhere.  We drove along the winding roads through vineyards and sheep farms, winding our way up the mountains and in and around and down.  The views were breathtaking and startling.  So much so, that I got very few pictures.

 

I was too busy clutching the map and the handle on the car door for dear life.  E is not a dangerous or aggressive driver by any stretch of the imagination.  However, those roads are just killer.  hairpin turns at 40km/h are not conducive to taking pictures.

 

But we finally got to the top of one of the hills, and we were rewarded with a small overlook spot, and a view of beautiful Piha Beach and the imposing Lion Rock

Impressive, isn’t it?

 

But that was our destination for later in the day.  First, Kitekite trail. So we hopped back into the car, munched on a bit more of our delicious breakfast (pizza sticks from Shakespeare’s Bakery in Milford) and drove down to Glenesk road and the start of Kitekite trail.

 

Now, I picked this trail because of the description on the Piha site.  that it was a walking trail, fairly easy, and there were waterfalls at the end.  They said it was a good walk for just about anybody to do.

 

Hah.

 

Granted, I know that I’m not in good shape.  But I foolishly thought that having been doing 1km or more walks every day with hills would help.  Man, I was still so very out of shape.  But again, getting ahead of myself.

 

The trail itself is gorgeous.  It runs along a babbling brook of a stream (that comes from the waterfall surprise surprise!) and the water is so very clear.

And it’s like that the whole way through.  With little rapids and tiny falls all along the trail.  And honestly some of the coolest looking trees I have ever seen.

 

But, in the end, we were climbing up. up and up and up. every up.  occasionally there would be a flat section, someplace wide enough for me to have a small breakdown, let the people on the trail behind us go past.  I was going through so many moments of self doubt and loathing.  But E was always right there, offering support, love, and his shoulder to cry on.  He sheltered me from the other hikers, so they couldn’t see the fat girl having an emotional breakdown in the middle of a trail.

 

But he would not let me go back.  He would not let me quit.  And I am so glad that he didn’t.  Because we made it to the top of the trail, and to the waterfalls.

It really was rather breathtaking.  And I’m not just saying that because I am fat and out of shape and couldn’t breathe.  The sight of the waterfalls, the blue sky above, and everything in between was completely worth it.

 

of course, we still had to go back down.  And so the long trek down began.  This essentially involved heading down the opposite side of the gorge on formed steps.  now, these steps were formed from wooden frames with it seemed like hardened clay, dirt, and rock in the form.  There were no handrails and I was suddenly very easily reminded of not only my fragile fleshiness, but of my near paralyzing fear of heights.  But downhill we went, my legs shaking and shivering the entire way.  Stopping occasionally when I got so afraid that I just couldn’t go on.

 

but, we made it down.  And across the rocks that held us up on one side, with the help of E, who took off his shoes and socks, waded into the water and held my hands and hips until I got across the rocks.

From there, it was an easy walk back to the cars and off to the beach.

 

Now, lets have a nice talk about the beach.

 

It’s gorgeous.  It’s stunning, it’s absolutely amazing.  And it’s black sand.  Sounds cool right?

 

Wrong.

 

Well, it is rather awesome, but cool? No.  Somewhere along the lines there was a strong disconnect between my head and the words ‘black’ and ‘sand’.  For some reason, I didn’t think too much about how the color black absorbs heat, and how regular sand gets hot in the afternoon sun, so obviously black sand would get hot too.

 

Bad disconnect to make.

 

Let’s talk about searing pain.  the kind that makes tears spring to your eyes and sends you running for the closest thing that is not the black sand.  In e’s case, he made it to grass.  In my case, I darted for the asphalt.

 

The asphalt was cooler on my feet than the sand.  I’m going to let that sink in for a bit. Got it.  Excellent.

 

In other words, do not walk on the black sand unless you are prepared to run and or have shoes on.  At least, not on the dry black sand.  Once we got down to the wet sand, things were fine.  It was a beautiful day, and we both remembered our sun screen, so no surprise sunburn this time.  We didn’t spend much time at the beach, but the time that we did spend only made me want to come back.

One of the really impressive sites along the water was Lion Rock.  This is a large rock that just sticks up in the middle of everything.  If you look closely at the rock, you can tell that it’s volcanic in formation and it is really fascinating.

 

On the side of Lion Rock there are 2 plaques dedicated to the memories of the waitakere community who died in both WWI and WWII.

After a long day of walking and hiking and facing fears and beating them down for at least the moment, it was time to head home.

 

We stopped off at a place about halfway back down called ‘Elevations’.  The food was so so, but the view was worth it.  From their outdoor porch you could see everything, from where we were hiking all the way across the island to Auckland Harbor.  If you looked out closely, you could make out the Harbor Bridge and the Sky Tower.  Quite the perspective adapter, realizing that I was literally looking out over the island.

 

And that, my friends, is my adventure to Piha Beach and Kitekite trail.

 

Stay tuned, there may or may not be a more in depth post about the frailty of my human body and the fears that leap within my mind, and the brave knight who is finding ways to combat those evils and bring me into this world of happiness.

 

There may also be a post about Bubble Tea later.  Ah, the mysteries and the wonder that are Bubble Tea.  I may never figure them out.

Intermezzo

We went to Piha beach today.

And there are so many potential posts that have come out of that trip that I can’t possibly do them all at the moment.

Stories of Piha, pictures.
Epic tales and wandering details of love for E.
Discussion of Pearl Milk Tea (or Bubble Tea).

So many things to do!

So tired.

Perspective

Now, I know that some people find the scaly, peeling skin that happens after sunburn heals to be quite gross.  and in some cases it is.  But for me, right now, it’s wonderful.

 

Not because of the peeling skin (although that is fun to do for a brief time, and it can be very relaxing), but because of what it reminds me of.

 

Being a care free kid, no worries and certainly no fears, running around outside in the summer, getting burned without a care, bee stingers in your bare feet, and spending the afternoons peeling your sun burn from your shoulders.

 

Fast forward a few years, 20 or so for me, probably more, and here I am, after years of growing fears, growing fat, and being a hermit because of depression crashing down on my head and making me not want to go outside ever, I have sunburn again.

 

I have sore legs and feet from walking, I have sore arms from the sun beating down on my skin.  And this evening, I have peeling sunburn.

 

In a little while, I’ll remember that I’m an adult and that peeling skin is unattractive and unhygienic.  But for just a fleeting few moments this evening, I’m going to relish in that feeling of being young and carefree.  I’m going to rejoice in the knowledge that I’m actually leaving the flat, going out into the world and enjoying nature and my life.

 

For a few moments, I’m going to be young and free.