Saturday, 28 July 2012

Weekend Cooking - Eating out in New Zealand

Even on vacation, being mom, I still had to feed the family.  It can be difficult in a foreign country, but I try my best.  With little more than a camera, I caught this big fish.  Actually, we are in Mangonui, New Zealand at the 'World Famous Fish Shop'.  This location was recommended to us long before we even step a foot on the airplane.  Mangonui is located in the far north-east of the north island.
 Very picturesqe location right on the harbour.  We ate Blue Nose fish, freshly caught that morning.  I don't know how to describe Blue Nose, other than to say it was fluffy.  Usually I would say that fish is flakey, but this was way beyond, it just seemed to jump apart.  Wonderful.
 This was a new experience for me.  I had never had fish served wrapped in paper before.

 My friend Linda and her daughter Michelle (the one that stayed with us for six months a while back) were travelling with us on this side trip.  They told us that this was a really expensive serving of fish, and that we could have probably got similar for half the price at the other fish shops in town.  Still, it was worth the experience and the taste.  Later in the vacation, we bought fish from the shop near our rental house. Yes it was half the price .  They also served fresh fish, snapper one day and tarakihi the next time.

At the end of June, hubby and I celebrated out 25th wedding anniversary. We decided to save dinner out with the family till vacation time. It was interesting trying to decide upon a restaurant amoung the many hundreds that we found online and within a reasonable driving distance. Hubby found one called the Gumdigger just a short drive from us located in Birkenhead, one of the oldest settlements on the North Shore in New Zealand.  Not sure what to expect, we asked my friend, who was to join us for dinner.  She hadn't been there either, but a close friend of hers goes there for all her family celebrations and said she had never been dissappointed.

 This was fine dining done very well.  We sampled and variety of appetizers, scallops, shrimp, mushrooms and cheese(?).  We each chose a different entree, all of which were cooked to such perfection that none of us would share with the other.  While the fellows sipped espressos, the three of us ladies had very tasty desserts.  I can't remember the last time, if ever, that I had a tart lemon pie stacked with inches of fluffy meringue. 
When in the Auckland area, don't miss a chance to dine here, but be sure to book ahead and there is only one dinner seating and it is a small restaurant.
Thanks to the Gum Digger Restaurant for use of the stained glass window image.
To learn more about the history of gum digging in New Zealand, be sure to visit the Kauri Museum website.  In this earlier post, I introduced you to Tane Mahuta, the largest living tree in New Zealand.  Gum, is the sap from the Kauri tree. Throughout history, gum has been used in a wide variety of products, varnish being one you might recognize.  We were able to spend a short while at the museum,. but could easily have spent several hours.

This little kiwi is made from melted and moulded gum. 
You can see the mould in the background.

This bench is carved from one piece of kauri.  Large enough to seat two adults.

My niece Michelle suits this throne carved from a solid piece of kauri.
Behind her is the outside of a spiral staircase carved from a kauri tree truck.

Wattie's Hearty™ Butter Chicken soupKnowing that we couldn't eat out all the time, we ventured to  Countdown, the local grocery store.  One of our best buys was Watties Butter chicken soup.  It really did taste as though you were eating a dish of butter chicken.  I found a recipe and will be trying it soon. Hope to have a post about it next Saturday.

Thanks to Watties for the use of the soup image.
Not to survive on soup alone, we tried the national favourite, meat pies.  These are handheld, rectangular pies with meat based fillings.  While my kids ate sandwiches in their school lunche, in New Zealand, the students favour meat pies bought hot from numerous vendors.  my niece assures me, that after a night out on the town, it is popular to stop at a gas station/variety store for a pie to hold you over.  We bought at least 7 packages of six pies each , all Big Ben brand. (couldn't find a website for them).  Bought from the grocery store, they are about $1.00 each, bought hot from a vendor, about $2.50.
One final place that I must recommend when you are on the North Shore, is the bakery/cafe Little and Friday in Takapuna.  Chef Kim Evans has a tasty assortment of sweets and savorys that will tempt the most reluctant taste buds.  My family hates it when I pull out my camera in a restaurant, so no photos.  The lemon cupcake I demolished was fluffy and nice and tart.  Later at home I sampled one of the cream filled donuts, and they put to shame every other donut I have ever tasted. Daughter enjoyed the banana cake, and the author kindly shared this recipe at Penguin Books New Zealand.

I loved the serving dishes, an assortment of fine china and mis-matched silver ware.  Kim has out a wonderful cookbook, Treats from Little and Friday, photography by Rene Vaile (his food phototgraphy debut).
Thanks to Penguin New Zealand for the cover image.

Hope you have enjoyed these tidbits of culinary enjoyment from my recent trip to New Zealand.  Notice that I have omitted the chocolate.  Being vacation I did not skip out on sampling the local favourites.  Whittaker bars are for indulging and I did not shy away from that task.  Cadbury has varieties that I had not imagined.  Daughter brought home several bars as souvenirs to share with her girls. 

I am curious, when you travel, do you stick with food you know, or do you go native and try local foods?

For more foodie fun, be sure to visit Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Post.  You are invited to add a link to your recent food related post.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Free Audiobook from SYNC - 7

I hope that you have been enjoying this summer's program.  I missed the last two weeks as I was away on vacation and didn't have my laptop with me.  I did find another wonderful time to listen to audio books.  I have a difficult time falling asleep on airplanes.  I often start watching a movie and will fall asleep to it, but then there is that dramatic music and something noisy happens and I wake up.  This time I tried listening to an audio book. It worked like a dream.  I was awake long enough to be introduced to the plot and the main characters, then fell asleep.  Each time I roused, I heard a bit more of the story and would drowse again.  Best sleep I've had on a plane.  I am now re-listening to the story from the beginning.

Two new audiobooks are available this week for your listening enjoyment.

July 26 – August 1, 2012
by Alfred C. Martino, Read by Mark Shanahan (Listen & Live Audio)

Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson, Read by Dion Graham (Brilliance Audio)
For further details about this summer program, read  my introductory post.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Needlework Tuesday - Kiwi Crafts

Needlework Tuesday is open to all readers looking for inspiration, encouragement or who want to share their recent needlework project. Introduce yourself in the comments and be sure to leave a link to your current post. Feel free to grab the cute little mouse for your post.

I've been back from vacation for a few days now, and am still trying to adjust to 17 hours time zone difference.  I feel like a vampire when I am walking around my house in the middle of the night wide awake and all my neighbours are asleep.  I took no needlework with me, though I did find time to visit both a quilt shop and a knitting shop. Both of them were located in the very picturesque Devonport.  This town is directly north of Auckland, New Zealand.  First stop was Wild and Woolly at 36 Victoria Street.  I bought a pattern book by the Australian Company Cleckheaton.  Hadn't heard of them before, but they certainly do have a good range of patterns.  I was wanting to knit a hat and this book has a bunch of them. Each pattern is sized from toddler up to mom.  My friend bought a copy of  Country Yarns Magazine: 30 Patterns, and there is enough in there to keep her knitting well into the next year.

I chose the orange tweed from Naturally Aran Tweed, a wonderful New Zealand Merino blend.  For my daughter, I selected a kit to make her a pair of fingerless mitts.  These are made using Pure Merino Wool from Touch Yarns, New Zealand.

After we finished our wool selections, we went next door to Cusha's Village Fabrics. I was specifically looking for a local fabric that would show New Zealanders.  I was thrilled with this Maori inspired print.  I also bought a piece that showed the Nikau Palm.  I already have an assortment of fabrics showing "Kiwi" images and will combine these in a special project.

When you travel, do you purchase needlework supplies from that country?  If yes, do you then move those project to the top of your 'todo' list.

Over at Lit and Laundry, there is a wonderful hexagon project in the works.  I am so in love the colours of the hexies.

Friday, 20 July 2012

First Nations Friday - Maori reading list

No vacation would be complete without a visit to a book shop for a book by a local author.  In this case, I wanted some by Maori authors.  Luck was with me and I purchased three. I haven't had a chance to read them, reviews will follow once I do.

Ripples on the Lake by Dawn Rotarangi.   2007 debut novel

Pounamu Pounamu by Witi Ihimaera. Special 40th Anniversary edition of his debut novel

Dreams Lost never walked by Raumoa Ormsby 2003 debut novel

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Free Audiobooks from SYNC - 6

Not travelling this summer, then let these free audiobooks wisk you away to a much different time and place:

July 19 – July 25, 2012
Cleopatra’s Moon
by Vicky Alvear Shecter, Read by Kirsten Potter (Oasis Audio)
Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare, Read by a Full Cast (AudioGO)

For further details about this program, read my introductory post.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Wood Carvings and bubbling mud in Rotorua, New Zealand

My regular readers are aware that I have been on vacation with my family in New Zealand for the past two weeks. We have been visiting as many sites as we can.  Of course we couldn't leave without a visit to Rotorua. This is a very active volcanic zone.  The entire city is centre's on the volcanos.  There and hot vents and pools found just about every where you look. We enjoyed our visit to one of the parks that is filled with such sites.

Husband did reach his hand down to touch the water and it was hot.  The sulfer smell is quite strong throughout town.

I am fascinated by the bubbling mud pools.

And finally, I insisted that we visit the larger of the two McDonald in town. There is a world famous carvers school in Rotorua, and at some point the students(?) carved some amazing panels for the restaurant.  We went at a time when it wouldn't be too busy so I could take this short video.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Needlework Tuesday - Elmira Needlesister's Quilt Show

I'm on vacation this week though have left a mini quilt show for your enjoyment.  All the quilts shown are by members of the Elmira Needlesister's Quilt show. In last week's post I featured two quilts made by our Presidents from blocks that had been specially made for them by guild members.
 I have included images of the labels that were attached to the quilts for the show. Thank-you to guild member Karen Ross for preparing all the labels.

 Do you remember the Block of the Month quilt that I was working on?  First, I'll show my version, and then I'll show versions made by two members of the guild.  They are very different in appearance considering they are from the same pattern.

One of my favourite parts of a quilt show, are the stories behind the making of the quilt.  I read each and every one of them,  They often tell much about the maker and the recipien.

Monday, 16 July 2012

The Expats by Chris Pavone

From the Hardcover edition

The novel starts with a short Prelude that grabbed me into the story and didn't let go until the final word.  I couldn't have stopped reading even had I wanted to.  Mulitiple passports, rolls of cash  and a gun, all signs of a family that's been on the run.

We soon learn that Kate Moore is ex-CIA, is there really such a thing as leaving the CIA while still alive, and she has moved to Luxembourg when her husband Dexter was transferred there to a prestigious position in security. She  has talked herself into believing that she is ready for a normal life of being a wife and mother to her two small children.  It can't be that hard to socialize with the other expat wives.  At least she believes this until she starts to suspect her new friends Julia and Bill of being much more than they appear.  She is convinced that they are watching her and Dexter, but can't imagine why.

Is Kate paranoid or should she be worried.  And who should she be worried about. 

While I was reading, I could hardly put the book down.  I carried it around the house with me and continued to read every chance I had.  I was fascinated with Kate's life and how she was dealing with all the change in her life.  Not only did she quit her job, but she moved countries and had to settle into a totally different lifestyle.  Everyday she met with expats from many countries; could she trust these women or were they being her friend for very different reasons.

I really had no feeling or connection with Dexter.  All the way through the book, he was a mystery to me.  Bill was much the same. I couldn't have cared less if anything had happened to these men.  Julia I could have almost liked, but she seemed rather elusive when it came to the  details, and it's always in the details when deciding whether I like a person.

The plot lines kept me guessing the entire book.  I wasn't able to outguess the author at any time.  Very promising for a debut novel.  I'll be looking forward to future books by Chris Pavone.

Thank-you to Randomhouse for the use of the cover image and for my review copy.

Also reviewed at:

Mike Draper
Jenny Loves to Read

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Boat Who Wouldn't Float by Farley Mowat

I can't recall the last time I so thoroughly enjoyed a book.  This one held me in rapt attention. From the opening lines through to the final word.  I've read that Farley Mowat is a 'natural story teller' and I totally agree.  I burst out in laughter so many times while reading this book, and often in public places.  Thankfully most everyone on the plane was sleeping while I was trying unsuccessfully to contain my chuckles.
What did I find so amusing you might ask. Well, just about everything Mr. Mowat wrote.  He can manage to turn the most sorry of stories into an award winning humorous novel.  

This is the tale of his little Newfoundland boat that just didn't want to float.  Whether it was the wood or the design, the Happy Adventurer was continually threatening to take Farley and his sailing companions down into the deep.

During the several years of fretting and sailing this little vessel, there were many times when Farley could have called it quits, but he perservered and eventually succeeded in turning her into a sea worthy ship.  This true life story shows great spirit and tenacity.

I have several more books by Mr. Mowat that I am moving to the front of my reading list.  I can't imagine why I haven't read any of these works earlier.

This book counts as part of the 6th Canadian Book Challenge hosted by John at The Book Mine Set.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Peter and the Secret of Rundoon by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

Peter and his lost boys are back in another rollicking adventure.  Mollusk Island has been attacked by a brutal band of warriors determined to vanquish the Mollusks and seize their treasures.  At the same time in the far away land of Rundoon, the Star Catchers are also under attack. 

Somehow Lord Ombra has pulled himself together and he is holding nothing back in his assault on all that is light and good. 

Molly, Lord Aster's daughter, and her neighbour George Darling, get themselves in all sorts of trouble, though in their defence, they are only trying to help.  In this third installment of the series, George finally shows that he has what it takes to become a good man.  Up until now, he mostly whined about Peter and Molly liking each other.  Now he shows his strength of character and his surprising intellectual skills at helping Molly out of her predicaments.

Any child reading this story would be excited by the presence of King Zarboff's gigantic snake Kundalini.  This snake is so huge that the King feeds him any person that displeases him.

While this is a great book to read with your child, there is enough action and detailed characters to keep adults interested.

I listened to the unabridged Brilliance Audio Book version that was read by Jim Dale.  Once again, Mr. Dale did a wonderful job of bringing these characters to life.  He has developed such appropriate voices for each of the many characters that it is hard to believe that he was not working with a full staff, rather than just himself.  10 hours 15 minutes.

There is a detailed Disney site for the Peter and the Starcatchers series.
Peter and the Starcatchers series:

  1. Peter and the Starcatchers
  2. Peter and the Shadow Thieves
  3. Peter and the Secrets of Rundoon
  4. Peter and the Sword of Mercy

Thank-you to Brilliance Audio for the use of the cover image.

Friday, 13 July 2012

And Winter visit to the Auckland Botanic Gardens

This morning we visited the Auckland Botanic Gardens. Even though it is winter here, there are still lots of flowers in bloom. Here are just a few plants for you to enjoy.