Monthly Archives: April 2011

Easter at the Mount

So, this past weekend was Easter weekend.  Four days off of work for E and most of the country even, so a great time to get away.  We were invited to go down to Mt Manganui with his friends Derek and Victoria to stay at Derek’s parents’ holiday house.

Let me tell you, it was a really fantastic time and I am so glad that we went.  I’ll try to be brief while still giving you the gushing review that you’ve come to expect from me.

Good Friday

After spending the morning packing, E and I drove down to Botany to pick up Derek and Victoria.  We loaded up the car and took off!  The ride was memorable not only for the gorgeous scenery outside of mountains in the distance, Cows, and vineyards, but for the stimulating conversations about visible spectrum radar and whether it would be possible to make a boat move purely with radar power.

After about an hour we came to what was affectionately referred to in our car as “The Gorge”.  The dire warnings from the backseat had ne fearing for my life, this roller coaster that we were about to be on, with a single strip of road winding through a gorge enough to put the highland roads of Scotland to shame. Happily enough, there wasn’t much to it.  There were high walls and a rather nice looking river running through it.  We’ll have to go back at some point and walk through the old mining settlement that is there along the banks.  But I did get a nice picture of a bridge for my mom!

Soon after we were arriving in Tauranga, and then a few turns and we were at the Mount!  Well, almost. We got into the house and settled our stuff in, and then we went out for a nice walk.  We started at the park across the street which had some rather stately looking trees growing.

And then it was a walk along the seaward beach with it’s constant surf and pounding waves, a walk down just at the foot of the Mount, and then we were landward at the quieter water, more of a bay than ocean.  And then it was back to the house for a night of some board games.  Until it was dinner time, and then we went out for some Turkish food that was delightful.  The night ended with us watching Terminator 2 (my first Terminator movie! how exciting!  I can cross that off my list!) and then heading to bed for the next day.

Saturday

Saturday morning started out cloudy and rainy and dreary.  Just like we were expecting it to be. But that was alright, the weekend was made for relaxation.  We stayed inside most of the day, watching television and playing board games.  But we did get a chance to go out for a walk that afternoon, E and I.  We were sent out for bread and milk and we ended up going for another loop around the isthmus.  The pictures that I got of the trees and the architecture are just as amazing as the other evidence of the kiwi spirit that I’ve seen.

First, there’s the fact that there’s both palm trees and Pine trees together.

Then, there’s the absolutely gorgeous architecture.  It seems so ‘Beach town’ at first, but then you realize that a lot of the buildings in this country look like this in some way.  Terraced while being built, lots of windows, absolutely fascinating to look at.  Sometimes I’m reminded of the designs that I used to draw up in high school.

And then, there was just the plain amazing things that you find.  I know that there are amazing pictures in the states, and people who do astounding things that just take your breath away.  But the Kiwis have this ability to just make me smile in the oddest ways.  And with the best stuff.

Yes, the tractor is hooked up to the boat in order to get it to the marina and the water.  It was highly enjoyable.  Of course the next best part of New Zealand, other than the people is the scenery.  And the plants.  Like this Hibiscus.  So Beautiful.

Victoria made us dinner that night and we played some more board games and then headed to bed early, determined to get up and try to beat the rain to the Mount.

Sunday

Happy Easter!  A morning of pouring rain, down pouring rain, and chocolate cross buns.  Which are like hot cross buns but instead of the nasty technicolor citron that is used in the states, it’s made with chocolate chips.  They looked and smelled delicious.  I, however, had a piece of matzah and some cream cheese.

The morning started out slow, but then the rain went away and we decided that we were going to try and conquer the Mount.  I was going to try and conquer it.  Now, by climbing the Mount I really mean going up the rather nice and gentle path that was carved around the side of it.  It’s considered the Easy Way (which as I’ve come to find means ‘slightly suicidal for out of shape american girls’), and I know that I’m much fitter than I was when I went up the Kitekite trail, sure I can do this.


I’m pretty sure that I wanted to die about 200meters in.  Luckily there were stairs and plenty of terracing (from when the Mount used to be an ancient pa (pay), a maori hill fort essentially) for me to rest on.  Victoria, being the athletic lady that she is, took off up a different path than us to run up the mountain.  Why? because she’s just that crazy.  Derek decided to stay with E and myself while I tried to get up the mount.

Let me tell you this, I am fairly certain that had the path been flat and not steep, I would have been fine.  I know this.  But the incline on the path was murder on my knees.  The arthritis is gotten to the point that keeping my knees in the half-bent position necessary for walking up a path like that is murder.

I did, however, make it about 1/3 of the way up the Mount, stopping just below the lighthouse (which is a light housed in a box behind a fence) before I absolutely could not keep going. But, I made it 1/3 of the way up the Mount. that’s a full 1/3 more than I would have done last year at this point.  When I would have looked at the Mount, then at E and told him he was out of his mind and hell no.

Progress!

Derek continued on to the top, since he had the water bottle and Victoria was certain to want a drink. E and I continued back towards the bottom, me with the typical and expected disappointment in myself for failing at what I set out to do, but he of course with the encouragement that I needed and the love that kept me going.

Yes, you can gag if you want to, but I’m not going to listen to you.

The path down was, of course, a bit easier, but the view was amazing.  I knew that we were on a small strip of land, but actually looking down on it and seeing just how thin was impressive.  Four blocks, if that, separated one part of the bay from another.

We headed back to the house, I took a shower to wash off the dirt, sweat, and disappointment in myself.  Derek and Victoria returned shortly thereafter, and right behind them came the rain.

So we played some more board games, and then the rain stopped.  Back to the beach!  Derek and Victoria played volleyball and frisbee and E joined them occasionally.  I walked along the water, getting soaked by the waves and picking up seashells.  Dinner out at a Thai restaurant and then back to the house, another board game and then bed.  We got up early on Monday morning and drove back to Auckland.

It was a fantastic weekend with friends and E, relaxing and energizing.  I look forward to going back at some point in the future and conquering the mountain completely.

oh, as a side note that will be fully updated tomorrow, I am at 130kg.  wooosh

W&K

Know where I’m going to be this Friday night?  I bet you can’t guess.  That’s right. I’m going to be glued to the computer monitor watching along with thousands of others as William Windsor gets married to Kate Middleton.

Why?

Well, to be honest, why the hell not?

I have friends all around the world, most of them don’t get the interest, some do.  I am currently living in a former British Colony and most people down here could give a flying fig less.  They don’t seem to understand the American obsession with the Royal family.

To be honest, I don’t understand it fully either.  I know that the royal family is a fascination for me, and has been.  Although I tend to enjoy more of the renaissance time period than modern, but that’s the same for just about everything English.

Americans are celebrity obsessed, that’s for certain.  Don’t believe me, take a good look at how many gossip magazines are at the checkout counter next time you go grocery shopping.  Now, take a moment to realize that there are none like that down here.  At least not that I’ve seen readily available.  Of course, i don’t go looking.

I am not usually celebrity obsessed.  I don’t know who the Kardashians are or why I should care.  I have no idea how many men Brittney Spears has been married to, or divorced from.  And I can honestly say that I have no idea what Lady GaGa wore to what event.  Or could I care.

But there is something about the Royal family that catches my attention.  Something that sets the imagination on fire.  Yeah, they’re the descendants of Tyrants and crazy people, and yes they’re all interrelated going most of the way back to William the Conqueror, but that’s not the point.  The point is that every little girl wants to be a princess.  And the royals give, and have given over generations, the chance to pretend.

There is something innately romantic in every little girl, Disney first starts to stir it up with Cinderella and the other Princesses in their movies, and then the little girls grow up, and there’s real princesses.  History classes talk about kings and queens and princesses and things, storybooks give details about this and that and this.  It’s enough to set the imagination wild.

Most Americans are never going to be rich.  Most are never going to be Princesses or royalty of any kind.  But that doesn’t stop the dreams.  The hopes.  The wishes on far away stars.

Grace Kelly was a girl from Philadelphia, she started acting, was a big movie star and she could dance with the angels.  And then, she became a Princess.  The perfect story for every little girl growing up in the USA.  Or at least in the Philadelphia area.  You too could maybe meet your prince and he will make you a princess.

Maybe it’s inevitable that I feel this way.  My name is Sarah, which is Hebrew for “Princess”.  I have always been treated like a princess by my parents, spoiled rotten and well behaved. I knew my manners and my education was stellar.  I was 5 days old when Diana and Charles got married, my mom watching the wedding from her hospital bed.  Maybe that had something to do with it.

I grew up fascinated with the English Royal family, from 1066 on down.  There were points where I could recite the entire lineage from the War of the Roses on down to modern times.  I can’t do that as much now.  Henry VIII is as fascinating to me today as he was when i was in 10th grade history.  Elizabeth I is just as imposing as she was back then.

And the royal wedding is going to be just as much fun as I can imagine.  There is an aspect of romance to being able to have everything you can imagine and more for your wedding.  That dress? yes please.  Those flowers, i’ll take a dozen.  Any thing you can imagine and create and come up with?  Yes.

It’s a romance thing, it’s wanting what you can’t have.  To be swept away by white stallions and a prince who will give you everything you can imagine.

I’m a happy woman.  I am in a relationship with a man who loves, respects, and cherishes me.  he spoils me and treats me as close to a princess as I’ve been treated since I was a little girl playing with my cabbage patch dolls that my Daddy got me and going to stage shows with no discernible plot but featuring everything from saturday morning cartoons that I loved.

Do I want a wedding with the glitz and the glamour, with the drama and the blank check?  of course I do.  Every little girl somewhere deep inside wants that.  That one day where everything is perfect, where you’re the center of attention and nothing but you and your loved one matters.  Am I going to get the dream wedding?  Probably not.  There won’t be a carriage ride through town.  There probably wont be a giant room with white curtains and lilies and roses and ivy cascading around us.    But at this point in my life, I can honestly say that grabbing a few friends, grabbing a judge, and getting married in the middle of the day on some summer day would be just as magical and romantic to me.

But enough about me.  We’re talking about the obsession over the British Royals and the wedding this weekend and how absolutely insane it is for Americans to be so obsessed and fascinated with it.  And I think that’s it.  It’s a fascination.

The closest we have is our Celebrities in the States and their weddings are huge affairs with glamor and drama and the news covers them like the events of the century.  But it’s been 30 years since the last royal wedding, they happen so rarely, how can you not be excited?

On a side note, this is the perfect time for England to start giving a great Public Relations moment for next year’s Olympics.  The world is watching you, England, advertise now.  Bring in the excitement, the glamor, the thrill and the wow with this wedding and push it for the Olympics.

There will be hundreds and hundreds of tourists in town for the wedding, use this and the Olympics next year, and bring yourself back up to the top.  You have the stage this weekend, Don’t screw this up!

Also, congrats to Kate & William!! A wish of Good Luck and Health to you and your future together.  Mazel Tov!

Seder

To continue with my educational portion of my blog, I will now expound upon that which was mentioned yesterday and explain what Passover means to me in this modern time.  There are many sides and aspects and thoughts about this, so I promise I will do my best to not confuse or lose you in the thought processes, but I  cannot be certain that I will be successful.

To begin, lets start with the Seder itself.  Seder is the Hebrew word for “Order”, so when you hear somebody invite you to a Seder meal, they are inviting you to not only a Passover dinner, but to an Ordered Meal.  Everything within the Seder has a place, a meaning, and a purpose.  Sadly I do not know these steps and meanings off the top of my head and I did not pack a Hagaddah to bring with me when I moved.  However, if you are curious about the ins and outs of every nuanced step of the Seder, you can find the information on the internet, or purchase a Hagaddah from any bookstore of any reputation.

Most of the Seder is the retelling of the story of the Exodus, please see yesterday’s post.  There are other stories that are told depending upon your family’s traditions.  On every table there is the Seder plate, the matzah plate, and a goblet of wine for Elijah.  More recently, some families have started to add a goblet of Water to honor Miriam, Moses’s sister and a prophetess of her own right.  Some say, but I won’t wade into that argument here.

This is my new Seder plate that my father bought for me and sent me here.  It’s rather lovely, isn’t it.  The squiggly looking letters are Hebrew, and the english translation is just under them.  Starting at the top of the star and moving counter clockwise you have the Bitter Herbs, Egg, Parsley, Horseradish, Haroseth, and the Shank Bone.

This is an unusual plate, I actually believe it’s Sephardic* in origin because it places the Bitter Herbs and the Horseradish separately, whereas the Ashkenazic** Seder Plates usually combine those two together as Bitter herbs and the 6th place belongs to salt water. Each item has a symbolic reason for being on the plate, and each connects back to the story of the Exodus, and of the Jewish people.

  • Bitter Herbs- Usually Horseradish, freshly ground, this recalls to us the bitterness of life in bondage.  It is eaten twice during the Traditional seder, once by itself on Matzah, and then in a sandwich on Matzah with the Haroseth
  • Egg- this is often hard boiled and then roasted in the oven, but that is purely for health safety sake, and also so that if it gets dropped, you don’t have egg yolk oozing everywhere.  In Israel, and most of the world, Passover is a spring holiday, and Eggs symbolize new life, a new year, and a new beginning.
  • Parsley- Or really any greens are acceptable. I have seen some people use lettuce leaves when they could not afford parsley.  This also symbolizes spring, new life and growth.  Parsley and other leafy greens also used to be used in the Temples of Israel to help spread blessings via smoke and water. During the Seder, the Parsley is dipped into the salt water and eaten.
  • Salt Water- This is a vessel that is filled with a mixture of salt and water, enough salt to the point that it tastes of tears and the salt will not dissolve anymore.  It is kept room temperature, or slightly warmer.  The symbolism is clear enough that it is for the tears that the Jewish people have cried over the years.  Not just in bondage and suffering, but also in Joy and Reverence.  A reminder that one Emotion can be different from the other, but the reaction can be the same.  Even in our sorrow, we can find Joy.
  • Haroseth- Now, this is the fun one.  Ashkenazic Jews usually make this mixture with apples, raisins, walnuts, and wine.  Sephardic jews often use the raisins, walnuts, and wine, but instead of apples, they use dates.  The different recipes for Haroseth numbers in the thousands, with every family having at least one of their own.  From chunky to almost paste like.  The symbolism is the mortar with which the Hebrews built the temples and pyramids for the Pharaohs while in bondage.  It is mixed in a sandwich with the horseradish and matzah, once again to remind us of our time in slavery being both bitter, but also a bit sweet, as we who were a scattered people before Joseph led us into Egypt, we left with Moses a nation of people, bound together by suffering and belief.
  • Shank bone- Usually the shank bone of a lamb, roasted in the oven.  Sometimes, in lean times, it is permissible to use any bone you can find. I have admittedly used a chicken bone in the past.  This is to symbolize both the new life that spring has given us in the fluffy little lambs, but also the sacrificial lamb that was killed to provide the blood for marking the lintel and posts of doors so that the Angel of Death may Pass over the houses of the Hebrews while enacting the 10th plague.

Also on the table is the plate of matzah, which is covered and consists of 3 slices or crackers of matzah.  Why 3?  Because according to Jewish Tradition there are currently only 3 Tribes of Israel left, Cohen, Levite, and Israelite.  The Cohen (I know, you have friends with that last name) are the Priests, descendants of Aaron and the other Priests of the temples.  Levites are the shepherds, Descendants of Moses and the other teachers and Rabbis.  The Israelites are everybody else that’s leftover.  After the Diaspora (the Babylonians invading Canaan and doing their typical uprooting the population and scattering them to the winds) it became difficult for most Jews to remember their Familial and Tribal ties, or to even hold to them.  These people are the Israelites, the lost, the Tribeless. They’re not truly treated any differently save for a few ceremonial differences.  Truth holds, the Israelites outnumber the Cohens and the Levites.  By the way, it’s pronounced Coe-Hain, not the way you’re thinking it out in your head.

Goodness I’ve rambled on some more.  Alright, lets see if I can’t wrap this up a bit quickly.

During the course of the night, as the story is being told, 4 glasses of wine (or juice if you’re too young and your parents are sticks in the mud) are drunk.  Except, almost.  During the reading of the 10 plagues, we dip our pinkies into our wine and remove 10 drops of wine from the glass.  Why? Symbolism.  While we hold that the plagues were necessary for our freedom, a lot of innocent Egyptians suffered, those that did not have the power to set us free still suffered because of Pharaoh’s hardened heart.  So, in a show of almost solidarity and sympathy, we remove ten drops of wine from our glasses, signifying that while we are happy to be free, our happiness is not complete, because of the suffering of others.

Deep, huh?

I don’t know if you noticed what I did there, but I moved the story into the present time.  That’s something else about the Passover Seder and the telling of the story, it’s subtle and not a lot of people notice it.  It’s almost second nature, but the story is to be told in the present tense.  As though the Exodus was just the last week and we are retelling it to our new neighbors.  This is just another way of connecting us here in the present to our ancestors in the past.  Another Tradition.  One thing you’ll notice is that the Jewish religion and people are filled and built upon Tradition after Tradition after Tradition.

I digress.

After drinking our wine and feeling sorry for those that suffered in order for us to be free, the youngest child possible at the table asks 4 Questions.  Why is this night different from all other nights? Why do we spend this night reclining, when on other nights we can either recline or sit up straight?  Why do we dip our greens into the salt water? Why do we eat the bitter herbs?

All of this is answered during the story, other than the reclining.  Reclining while eating was a privilege of the rich, of the Masters, not of the slaves.  Slaves ate quickly and sitting up straight, always afraid of punishment.  Now that we are free from our bonds, we have the freedom to eat however we please, but on this night, we recline to show that we do not take this freedom for granted.

Almost done, I promise.

There are a few things left to happen, including dinner.  There is the breaking and hiding of the Afikomen, and the inviting Elijah in.  Now, I do not know and have never really heard any symbolic meaning behind the Afikomen, so I will simply tell it as I know it.  The Afikomen is the center matzah from the stack of 3 that is on the table.  During the meal it is taken out to show the bread of Haste that we eat to remember our flight from egypt, and then it is broken into two pieces.  One piece is placed back into the stack to be broken up and eaten from later, the other piece is, at some point during the meal, hidden.   Why? I have no idea.  But it is a big game for the young children to go and find the afikomen.  There is usually a present for the child who finds it and brings it back to the table.  The Afikomen is then divided up again and is used as the Dessert for the Meal.

Elijah is another deal.  Throughout the night the goblet of wine is filled and waiting for Elijah to visit.  Before dinner the children go to the door and invite in Elijah, and any others who may be outside and be hungry for dinner.  By the time the kids get back to the table, the goblet of wine has been emptied by the Prophet while he stopped in briefly to enjoy the meal.

There are larger implications of Elijah’s visit, namely that if he actually does visit and stay, it will be to announce the coming of the Messiah within the next year.  But that’s a completely different story for a completely different time.

Whew.

You think it was long to read?  A traditional Seder will last about 4 hours, not necessarily including dinner.  Most modern families skip the longer parts by putting The Ten Commandments into the DVD player during the day, asking the 4 questions, singing a few songs, and then inviting in Elijah.  My father and Uncle Brent could do the entire Seder in under 20 minutes.  And then you eat.

Food is traditionally lamb or chicken, with matzah ball soup and other jewish side dishes that I have yet to learn how to make (although tzimmes is fantastic and I really need to perfect it..).

By the end of the night you are full, you are happy, and you are surrounded by family and friends. I am strengthened every year by the thoughts that everywhere in the world, everywhere from Israel, to new Zealand, to The US, to Iran, to Kenya there are Jews everywhere celebrating the holiday with me, singing the same songs, saying the same prayers, and waiting for Elijah.

And that connection to the greater world, the knowledge that no matter where I am, the traditions have been held onto and passed down and are being repeated everywhere makes me feel even more spiritual than insignificant.  But explanations on my religion and my faith are not why you’re here.  I promise, I’ll get back to more fun things like food and travel soon.

I hope you have enjoyed this two part explanation of yet another segment of the complex person that I am.  I am considering making a whole section of this blog about Judaism, or at least My Judaism.  I wonder if anybody would be interested in reading that?  Let me know!

Although I’ll probably do it anyway.

Next Year In Jerusalem!

*Sephardic refers to the Jewish peoples from the Western European countries and the middle east (Iran, Iraq, Spain, morocco, etc)

** Ashkenazic refers to the Jewish peoples from Eastern Europe (poland, Ukraine) and Russia

Passover

Last night, at sunset, the Jewish holiday of Passover began.  Now, I’m going to go with the assumption that most of my readers are more than just my mother and that most people don’t know what Passover is.  Bare with me as I will do my best to provide you a quick education in jewish traditions while not putting you to sleep.

First, have you read your bible?  Even if it was just back in sunday school so many years ago that you care not to remember what you insisted being allowed to wear, just go with that.  Alright, so assuming that you have read your bible, or at least had it read to you, you have most likely heard the story of Moses and the Exodus from Egypt.  This is a good starting point.

The Jews were slaves to the Egyptians for 400ish years.  They built their cities, labored under the lash, and were generally bitter and miserable as beasts of burden.  Then, at one point, a falling star foretold even doom and gloom and the Pharaoh declared that the firstborn Hebrew manchild must die.  This sucked.  One mother decided to disobey and put her newborn son into a basket and sent him floating down the river Nile.  Quite ballsy, considering things like crocodiles.  The baby in the Basket was found by Pharaoh’s daughter and rescued from the basket, drawn from the water, and so she named him “Moses” which means “Drawn from the water”.  Original, huh?

Ok, fast forward a few dozen or thirty years.  New Pharaoh and Moses is considered a prince of Egypt, close to the throne, etc.  Until he finds out by some way that he’s actually not a prince of egypt and is instead the son of slaves.  So, like most emo kids of his age, he goes on a soul quest, trying to figure out just who he is, asking the age old questions of what makes a man who he is, nature or nurture?  (you like how I got that in there, didn’t you?  Turned it all into philosophy and junk.  I really am just that good.)

To make a long story short (too late), Moses begins to identify as a Hebrew and feels that slavery is wrong and evil.  An egyptian day Abe Lincoln.  He gets himself all self-righteous and in a moment of identity crisis forgets that he’s a slave and not a prince and he murders an Egyptian overseer to protect another slave.  This gets a bit messy and he’s found and banished from Egypt (some stories have him running away at this point, but I personally enjoy Mr. DeMille’s version).

But wait, there’s more!

Moses makes it through the desert to Midian, to the children of Ishmael, and there he finds peace and love and life with a young shepherdess names Tziporah.  It is here in this wilderness beneath Mt Sinai that Moses first notices the Burning Bush upon the side of mountain.  He goes up, gets an encounter of the divine kind with God, and it’s back to Egypt!

Our story picks up pace here, it really does, I promise.

To Egypt!  Moses reunites with his brother Aaron and his sister Miriam, and between the three of them they begin to orchestrate their people into being ready for freedom.  With one small block in the way, Pharaoh.  For being Gods themselves, we are now on our 3rd Pharaoh of this story as they appear to be less than hardy in their godly ways.

Pharaoh is greedy and stubborn, he likes having slaves to do things, otherwise he might have to make other people work, and that would be just plain silly.  So, he refuses to do what Moses tells him, and in turn Egypt is visited by 10 plagues.  Well ok, we’ll cover the first 9.

Blood, frogs, gnats, wild beasts, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness.

There, 9 plagues.  Now through all of this, Pharaoh was a stubborn jackass and refused to let anybody go.  But it was the 10th plague, the one that he caused himself, that finally softened his heart.  The Death of the First Born.  And it is here that we come to the namesake of this holiday.  Gloom and doom and a bit of thriller action for the win.

God passed along through Moses that the Angel of Death would descend to egypt over the night and would slay the first born of every household.  The only way to save your first born is to mark your doorposts and lintel with the blood of a lamb. This would be the signal for the Angel to “Pass over” that house, as it was the house of a believer and a Hebrew.

Now, you know where the name comes from, but why the matzah?  Well that happens next.

Finally, The Pharaoh relents and tells Moses to get the heck out of Egypt, him and the Hebrew slaves.  Free at last, Free at last, Great God Almighty, Free at last.  And so the Hebrews, who have been packing for going on like five weeks now, are ready to go.  But their bread has not yet had a chance to rise when they pack their goods and go.  The hot sun bakes the bread upon their backs, and this is why we eat unleavened bread like matzah.

Some other stuff happened in the story, but to be honest, it’s not all that important to what Passover is at the moment.  If you want to know the rest, read your bible.  Or better yet be like all good Jews and watch The Ten Commandments.  Charlton Heston. Yul Brenner. Anne Baxter. Yvonne De Carlo.  There is plenty here for everybody to enjoy.

So, lets fast forward to modern days and how Passover is celebrated.  It’s in a way slightly like Lent, in that it is a period of time in which there is some self-deprivation involved.  No leavened bread.  No bread, pasta, crackers, cookies, etc.  Some traditions go to extremes and insist that no grains that need to be soaked in water for longer than 18 minutes is permissable, but I say that’s a bit too much for me.  And I intend to have some rice and some oatmeal this week.

Passover is celebrated with family, over a seder dinner.  And I’m thinking that I should probably explain these in different posts.  Or it just gets a bit blocky to read.  So tonight, later, I will put up a post about Seder and traditions.  But for now, just enjoy knowing that Egypt was defeated and the Hebrews were freed and that Charlton Heston is Moses.

back later!

Liner Notes

A thought.

 

I have recently purchased a few albums through amazon in mp3 format.  Now this is not unusual for me to do and i enjoy having the music in that format.  However, a while back my mother asked about whether or not I missed the Liner notes.  Nah, I thought, not really.

 

But with these recent purchases (a cd of Maori songs by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, and Andrea Bocelli’s ‘Amore’ cd) I am coming to change that perception.

 

These songs, as one might imagine, are not in English.  One is in Maori, the other predominantly Italian.  I enjoy them both very much and have been listening to them rather incessantly while working around the house.  Here’s my problem.

 

I would like to know what was being said.  Oh the Italian is not as important, just apply what little French and Spanish that I know and go from there, assume he’s talking about being in love and all things are explained.  But the Maori… It fascinates me, and I would love to be able to sit here, listen to the words as they are being sung, compare them to the text and if I were lucky, a translation.  how better to begin to come to understand a language than through their music?

 

So, somebody out there with the ear of the record companies, or amazon, or somebody who is looking to make money, should begin to offer a service.  Liner notes, lets say for an extra dollar or even only 50 cents to the cost of the mp3 album, you can get a pdf file with the liner notes for that album.

 

it’s environmentally friendly, as you don’t have to print the notes for the CDs and people won’t throw the physical ones out.  It’s economical. as people, who are music buffs enough to want the liner notes to begin with will also pay the extra money for them.  It’s culturally helpful, as having access to those types of translations will make life easier for those who want to learn.

 

there, now somebody can feel free to steal this idea from me and go make yourself a millionaire.  have fun.

Nice

Today was a good day.

 

I woke up feeling good (a bit later than I wanted to, but not later than what is really normal for me), and I had a tasty breakfast of whole wheat toast, nutella, and a banana. Paired with a large mug of New Zealand breakfast tea.

 

I did a few things around the house and then, I went for my walk.  I had to get to the chemists in order to get my stomach medication (a necessity, sadly, for the foreseeable future).  Now, the walk down is something like 800m.  Give or take like a meter or so.  So the walk back up is another 800m.  That’s the route that I usually take, just a straight down and back.  Oh, and add in the inclines to that both in the beginning and then end.

 

But today, I was feeling pretty good when i got to the top of the hill on the way home, I hadn’t gotten too sweaty and my legs were actually feeling pretty strong.  I decided to lengthen my route.  So instead of heading right back the way that I came, I took a detour and went the long way around, adding another 1.25k to my distance.

 

All in all, I walked just under 3k.  including the inclines!  not too bad.

 

I came home, took a shower, had an apple and a banana and some peanut butter.  And now, getting ready for dinner.

 

A nice day.

Fast Food

There is a thing going on in my head that’s been bouncing back and forth since I got home the other night.  About food and the quality thereof.

 

For example, E and I went to Botany Downs the other day to do some shopping (mainly to get the extended warranty on the new 3DS), and we decided to stop by and get some lunch at the food court.   Sounds dangerous, right? like a thing that should not be undertaken at any cost?  You’re probably right, but hear me out.

 

While yes, there is a McDonalds in this food court, and the other stalls are also big chains that I’ve seen in other food courts, the food is good.  You know, except for McDonalds.  E ended up getting a chicken sandwich from Oporto, and I ended up with some chicken korma from Shamiana.

 

Yes, chicken korma.  Indian food.  The combo meal contains the korma (or whichever curry you choose), a serving of rice (basmati), a big piece of naan (food of the gods), and a drink.  I opted for a Coke because I was filling my caffeine requirement for the day.  It’s not a lot of food, it all fits on one plate, and would by no standards be considered a full meal by any American opinion.  However, I could barely finish it.  But that’s not the point, the point is, it was good.  Heavenly good.  I could only wish to be able to cook curry like that myself good.

 

Oh sure, it’s probably prepackaged and only heated up in the small galley kitchen in the back, but it was tasty.  Very mild, a little sweet, but so good.  Had I not been full (ohman, full so quickly lately it’s amazing), I would have mopped up the korma liquid with my naan until there was nothing left.

 

This goes to something that is so true that I have found, just because it’s fast food, it doesn’t have to be bad food.  Let’s face it, McDonalds is bad food.  It just does not taste good.  It is grease and cardboard and the flavors are just horrible.  And if at some point I find myself craving the salty fries or the greasy chicken nuggets, I relax and tell myself that I will regret it in the long run, as I know my insides will reject the foodstuffs that I just fed it.  The only thing that has had me stopping by a McDonalds in at least several years has been the Sweet Tea.  And even now I can make my own that tastes better.

 

So, from the delicious lunch at the food court with fantastic Indian food, we jump to the next day, where my nostalgic brain decided that breakfast sounded fantastic and that I missed Denny’s.  Yes, you read that right, Denny’s.  Processed, prepackaged, microwaved and reheated food served in what is considered to be decent pace.  Again, down here the portion sizes are definitely smaller, and it’s completely noticeable at a place like Denny’s, where it’s an American company.

 

There is no ordering a shake and then having it delivered in a tall sundae glass, with the extra in the metal mixing container right next to it, being delivered.  Hashbrowns are the exact right portion size, and there is no such thing as getting a short stack of pancakes drowning in cherry fruit syrup and topped with whipped cream and ice cream.  You can get your short stack, and you can get it with syrup and butter.  But there is no where on the menu that has any other options.  The menu has been changed to include international foods, like curry and satay, but still, it’s Denny’s.

 

And it was the worst meal.  For a company with set guidelines and standards as per the American system, it was horrible.  the best thing about my order was the hollandaise sauce.  E’s salad even managed to be flat.  A better experience, and cheaper, was had at the little Italian place we stumbled into down in Milford one night.

 

So, I had a point here somewhere, but I think it got lost in my remembering the absolutely mediocre and thoroughly disgusting and disappointing experience at Denny’s.  And it was a point beyond ‘nostalgia is a bunch of lies, your stomach lies to you’.

 

There’s a multitude of things with this post.  One, I’m adjusting to the Kiwi portion sizes and that’s a fantastic thing to be able to say.  Sometimes I’m even finding them to be too much.  So that’s a good sign for the weight loss.  Another thought is, fast food doesn’t have to be bad food.  And good food doesn’t have to be slow food.

 

Now, in the sense of full disclosure, I have read and finished every book by Anthony Bourdain (other than his 2 fiction novels) and his opinion on fast food is mostly the same.  Street food is good food.  Local food is good food.  A bowl of noodles and soup that’s cooked up on a small grill of flaming charcoal while you watch can be just as good tasting, if not better,than the bouillabaisse you’ll find at the expensive restaurant that you’re going to tonight.

 

E and I go out to eat, I’m not saying that everything needs to be homemade, we do go out.  But we don’t go out to McDonalds or Arbys or KFC, or any of the other fast food chains. We go to a local sushi place where we’ve become regulars of a sort.  Where the food is good and prepared with some speed but still care.  It’s not necessarily slow food, but it is good food.

 

And I do cook.  I have made two whole chickens in as many weeks.  One I boiled for broth, the other I roasted in the oven, and both made their uses well known.  Now, I might change my tone when i start working and I don’t have the free time to just write and cook all day, but I don’t think I’ll ever go back to settling for substandard food at the cost of speed.

 

And from what I’ve seen, down here, nobody would expect me to.  Again, aside from McDonald’s, most places in the food courts seem to have fresh food.  There was even a fish & chips place that offered to cook the fish in front of you, if you wanted the grilled option.

 

Try doing that in the US.

100

Oh man, would you look at that.  I made it to post #100.

Not too bad, all things considered.

I had all sorts of ideas for this post.  To talk about some of the vocabulary differences that I’ve picked up while down here.  To discuss the ongoing difficulties of being an immigrant.  Maybe even to talk about the amazing roast chicken that I made last night.

But I think, for such a momentous post, a marker in fame one might say, that it could be a good time to get to know more about my head, and what goes on in it.

Now, granted, I have no real hopes that this will go anywhere fascinating, no real dreams that anybody really cares, but at the same time, this blog is more for me to be me than for any other purpose.

I love food. I Love writing. I love my boyfriend. I love life.

It took me a long time to get to that last point.  I’ve always loved food.  and I’ve always loved to write.  And whatever boyfriend I’ve had at any given stage in my life I have always loved him.  But it took me a long time to get to the point of loving life.

What’s so different now than before?  Why now at the glorious age of 29 do I suddenly realize that I love being alive?

Because i’m finally happy.  With myself, my family, my friends, and my life.  I’m happy.  Could my life be better?  Yes.  I could win the Lotto and have millions of dollars and not want for anything.  Could my life be worse? Yes.  And it has been.  But neither of those lives are what I have right now.  And I’m happy right now.

Yes, I want to get a job.  yes, I want to contribute to this household more than cooking food and doing laundry.  Yes, I want my own money to spend and save my own ways.  So yes, life could be, in specific, better and I could be happier.

But, in general.  I have a man who loves me, supports me (not just financially but also emotionally), and finds me fun to be with.  I have a family that also loves and supports me, even from far away.  I have friends that think I’m crazy, but they are loving my life along with me.

I am happy.

It’s taken a while, a long while, to be happy.  Growing up, I was always the fat kid,the jewish kid, the odd one out. Even in high school and university, I was one of the strange ones, slightly outside what I should have been.  Don’t get me wrong, going to Rutgers and working at the theatre there was one of the best experiences of my life and I miss my guys and the life that we had.  But that was for a younger time and a younger me.  A much younger me.

I can’t quite put it into words, although I sure am struggling to find a way to do so.  What makes this so different from then.  I was happy then.  I was also much younger and not that much smarter.  So why now?

It could be because of the period after Rutgers and before now.  Where I was in a good spot but it got messed up.  Where the happiness turned to dust and so did everything else I had.

I’ve tasted poverty.  I’ve tasted that metallic tang in your mouth that happens when you’re afraid to answer the phone.  I’ve had the heart failures and the catch of breath every time you see a police officer, positive that this time, they’re going to arrest you for bounced checks and back bills.  I’ve known what its like to go begging for help, any help, just a little bit of help is all that I need, and to be turned down.  I’ve been in the position where the best thing to look forward to was that extra gallon of milk from a friend’s WIC,because it meant that I would be getting some form of protein.

I’ve been to the bottom of the barrel, staring at the $300 paycheck in my hand, the $800 bills, and the $400 negative in my bank account.  I’ve been there.  I’ve been to the point where at times just giving up on it all seemed like the only option left.

But I didn’t.

I think that’s why this Happy is so Happy.  Because I have lived past and through so much more.  I know that a job will happen.  I know that everything will be ok.  And I know that even if it’s not ok, I can survive it.  I’ve done it before.  I can do it again.

Not exactly what I had intended to type up today, but for me that’s the beauty of this blog.  I can be myself and type my heart and my mind and maybe somebody somewhere will read what I’ve written.  And maybe somebody somewhere will be helped by what I have said.

I had a thought last night, while wandering the flat in that drunken ‘i should be long since asleep’ state that happens at times.  And there was this title of something rolling around in my head.  “Growing up Me”.  Now, I have no idea what it is, what it will be, or anything like that.  But something in my head wants me to write this.

and i think, with a new perspective on what I know about me and who I am, I think now would be a good time to do so.

So for those of you who have been with me through all 100 posts so far, thank you.  For those of you who are just joining in,  this may not be what you’ve come to expect from a blog on the internet, but thank you for stopping by anyways.

Onto the future, and to Growing up Me.  Whatever that means.

Lentils

I have long wanted to try these legumes.  Prided on for their nutrition, and their price, but cooking for one was never an option before and now i’m cooking for two, but two who are adventurous and willing to at least try new things.

 

So this week at the grocery store, I picked up two bags of lentils, one regular green lentils (maybe they’re brown?) and a bag of split red lentils.  Not alot, just under a Kilogram in weight.  So today the hunt was on!  what can I do with Lentils?

 

I pulled out my newest old cookbook that my mom sent over to me (thanks mom!), the Soup Bible and went looking.  Mainly because if the word ‘soup’ is in the title, it’s difficult to get my boyfriend to NOT eat the food.  Or at least try it.  And so, we come across the recipe for Garlicky Lentil Soup.  Reading through the instructions it seems easy enough, ‘Dump ingredients into pot, cook for 1.5 hours, add vinegar at the end, enjoy.’

 

Who could mess that up?

 

Me, apparently.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

First step was to gather the ingredients (i had to walk down to the store for the onion which resulted in a twisted ankle and some bruised ego, but that’s another story)

 

Ingredients gathered!  Not pictured here is the pepper, curry powder, or red wine vinegar that were all added later.

 

Now, onto the mincing of the veggies!  If there is one thing that I wouldn’t mind going to some sort of cooking class for, it would be proper knife skills.  Those would be really nice to have.

 

After the vegetables were chopped, they went into the pot, along with the lentils, garlic, ginger, bay leaf and some stock.  Here is where I ran into trouble.  The original recipe called for more lentils than I had.  So instead of moving on, i decided to reduce.  so I halved and then halved again, taking it form 6 servings down to 2.  I did all my calculations and even double checked them.  Piece of easy peasy, Right?

Wrong.

 

I, again, have never cooked lentils before, so when the recipe said to dump it all in together and then leave to cook for an hour and a half, I did.  I started to hear some troubling sounds and I ran into the kitchen, the lentils had soaked up all the liquid!

 

Insert panic here.

 

I didn’t know if that was supposed to happen, so I went to the fridge and grabbed the canister of vegetable stock that i had used for this, and started adding.

 

This happened a few times and finally towards the end of coking time I had added in the original amount of stock that the recipe had called for.

 

The result did not look pretty, but it smelled heavenly.  Especially after I added in some black pepper and some curry powder (god I love curry powder) in the last half hour of cooking.

 

I have no idea what I ended up with, but I do not think that it could be called ‘soup’, it was more like what split pea soup is from the can, before diluting it with water.

 

What it was, however, was freaking delicious.  Served with cucumber slices (about 1/3 of an english cucumber each), and some hunks of herb & garlic focaccia bread, it was quite the tasty meal.

I’m still a little hungry, but I know that if I let my stomach settle, then everything will be full.

 

Again, I have no idea if I made the food right, I followed the instructions but reducing the portions seemed to make the soup go all crazy.  I do know, however, that the lentils end up cooked just fine, the meal tasted amazing, and E was sad that there weren’t any leftovers.  I call that, in all cases, a success.

 

yeah, I added some sour cream to mine.  Definitely a tasty addition.

 

Garlicky Lentil Soup

inspired by The Soup Bible

edited by Debra Mayhew

 

Serves 6

  • 1 1/3 cups red lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 2 onions, minced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 carrot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a generous pinch of dried marjoram or oregano
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • garnish
  • crusty rolls

 

  1. Put all ingredients, except for the vinegar, seasoning, garnish, and rolls, in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan.
  2. Bring to boil over Medium Heat.
  3. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring the soup occasionally to prevent the lentils from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Remove the bay leaf and add in the red wine vinegar, with salt and pepper to taste.  If the soup is too thick, thin it with a little extra vegetable stock or water.
  5. Serve with hot crusty bread.