Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ginger beer, cheesemaking, and quality of life.

Most of the culture here is based around homemade, homegrown goodness. I've gone through more bags of flour than you could guess! We made cheese the other day from yogurt, which I could've made from scratch had I been bold enough to milk the goat. Yogurt-makers are sold at every major grocery store! At every yoga class, one of the students brings Louisa a bottle of homemade chutney or jam. There's little organic vege gardens in every yard (vege is the kiwi spelling of veggie that I've happily adopted) that usually include many varieties of lettuce and greens, potatoes, garlic, a lemon tree, a banana tree, beans, pumpkin, and other favorites. We've been rolling in celery and broad beans this month. Last night we had to use up all the broccoli, so made a broccoli/blue cheese/kumara (sweet potato) soup. yum!
I've started a list of all the things I want to have when i finally "settle down." it starts with mason jars, which was put on the list over a year ago when i started it (at Krysia's lovely home in New Mexico), so i call it the mason jar list. I've added many, including 'creative mailbox' and 'hot water bottle' since I got to Kerikeri. basically, it's a little piece of each home i pass through that I hope to have in my own one day.

Here's some more photos from the days in the kitchen. As well as some photos from my walks down the road... The end of the road, bamboo groves and one of many creative mailboxes.

Hey, how come nobody writes comments anymore. Are you out there?

Monday, September 28, 2009

To the left!

quotidian adventure. going to drop the kids off at a party and rent a movie. but also the first time driving in new zealand.. Finn sat in the passenger seat and reminded me to drive on the left.

First get the music on. Then figure out which one is the gas pedal. it's the same, but it's still confusing cuz everything else is reversed (gear shift, window wipers, etc...) Then get the kids in the car and off we go!! It wasn't AS strange as I thought it would be. The streets are so quiet, there's plenty of time to think about each turn and roundabout.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Passing time, "kerikeri life," discoveries of zen...

There is a photo competition at the local photo shop. They told me that I should enter. They said that they can't get the kinda camera I have here in kerikeri, so maybe that's why. Anyways, I wouldn't be around to collect the winnings (a poster canvas print, 100 free prints, etc...) but the categories are as follows: "springtime" (for spring is springing here as the leaves turn back in Minne), "party time" (for which I'd have to throw a party) and "life in kerikeri." So this is my life in kerikeri..

I found out that kids make good kitchen helpers when they're in the right mood (well, at least Charlie Rose does). She excels at stirring, kneading (but she doesn't like getting her hands messy so the dough has to be a dry one), and reading to me while I cook (from the book of nursery rhymes, or if I'm lucky, the story of Tiger the kitten) Here she is helping me with a sweet potato pie (or kumara pie, as sweet potatoes are called here), which she says is an adult dessert I made chocolate rice krispie treats for the kids. Which are called "rice bubbles"

I discovered the hand of buddha. Not while doing yoga, but while hanging out in the gardens. That's what this plant is called. I got excited cuz I thought it was like a squash and I could make one of my many many squash recipes. But instead, it's an inedible fruit kinda like a lemon. You can use the peel for zest, but would you really want to remove the hand of buddha from the garden just for some zest? Though I haven't had time to weed the gardens at the yoga center yet, I went up there while walking the puppy (and kitten) to pick some more cherimoya fruit. The fruit are high up in the tree so either me or Charlie Rose has to climb up and get them. Or we try to beat them down with a stick. Cherimoya hunting is my kind of hunting! Like easter egg hunts.

Watering the vetiver grass every sunny day. This would be the first in a series of photos of gardening in my tee-shirt from Gary Guthrie's farm (the carrot king of Iowa) where my organic farming adventures began! Credit goes to Richard for the photo and the sky for the sunny day! There's only been a few sunny days this week. Lots of time for baking!!

Tonight is taco night. I'm doing alright at this subsitute mom thing, but am greatly excited that real mom will be home soon (this weekend). also, kids don't always love my cooking, and I have a lot of leftovers unless its pizza or muffins. Today I made pizza muffins!

And, to bring the day full circle. This is the current status of kerikeri, 5:38pm Wednesday. view from the kitchen window.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Treasures old and new

This weekend has been fun. Homecooked meals, a visit into town to check out the library and have a coffee (flat white, not my favorite but the only term i know. there's a fancy espresso machine at the house so I don't go untended for). Hanging out with the kids and puppy and kittens. The kittens amaze me. They follow us on walks with the puppy, maybe I've mentioned that?

Here are some treasures I've accumulated in my time here.

New (young, fleeting): The first is a cherimoya, an elusive fruit-of-the-gods from Ecuador. I searched long and hard for these in Minnesota where they had briefly showed up at the Cub Foods. I had noticed in the Sunday paper ads and got one to take to work (Azia) where the entire kitchen staff was Ecuadorian. The fruit went so fast and they were so happy that I went back to the 24-hour Cub at 2am after work to get more. And they were gone! Poof! This heart-shaped one was growing on a tree on the driveway. I wouldn't have even noticed them, and nobody living here even knew they were there. The subsitute yoga teacher pointed them out. Those are also some chicken eggs that I got this morning. We found a nest of duck eggs in the pond yesterday too. Maybe I'll get to see babies?! How long do baby ducks take?

Old (ancient, everlasting): Richard gave me one of these wooden eggs after I was admiring them in his workshop. They're incredibly light and smooth, so I was captivated. Little did I know, they are made of the Kauri tree. The Kauri tree used to cover New Zealand, but when Europeans came they exported it all because it's such strong, light and beautiful lumber. Richard says most of it went to California, especially San Francisco to rebuild after the earthquake. They grow tall. All the branches at the top weigh hundreds of tons and yet they keep pushing up in short growth spurts that cause the rippled look in the wood. These eggs are made from 45,000 year old Kauri tree that was dug up out of the swamps!! There are some sap balls, called kauri gum, from the same old trees too. They had a big rush in the late 19th century to dig it all up to send back to England for use as a fire-starter.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Rainbow Falls and Fairy Pools and beach.. Northland, NZ

I don't really love nature pics, but I take them anyways. I took the puppy, Zena, on a looooong hike to the Fairy Pools and Rainbow Falls. It was an attempt to tire her out and calm her down a bit.. It didn't work!

this tree is called peroora (that's not really how it's spelled. i sounded it out. it's a tongue twister)

This is honeydew from the same peroora tree. it's made by a honeydew insect and then the birds drink it.. i tasted it. it tasted like water, but my palate is perhaps not as refined as the NZ birds..

Tramping in the bush

Not sure why it's called Rainbow Falls and the Fairy pools, but why not?

After Rainbow falls, thought we'd give the puppy a real holiday and head to the beach. Are you tired yet Zena?

Puppies never tire of adventure! But waves are scary!

Some boys walked by with a basket full of sea urchins, their hands bloody from the effort. They cracked one open for me to try. fresh uni! ah, all the weird non-vegan things i've tried in the name of adventure.

this is not really how you eat it... there's some squishy yellow stuff on the inside amongst all the squishy black and pink and red stuff. that's what you scoop out and eat straight. it's slightly sweet and gooey. at Tsunami we served "spoonfuls of happiness" with urchin, quail egg, flying fish roe and sake in a shotglass, so i was familiar with uni but never had eaten it..

One more idyllic beach pic...

...and one more peacock butt. he was after the chickens again when we got home. i got a slightly better picture this time, but he always puts his tail down when i get too close.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

kerikeri! (which means dig dig) getting to work!

Kerikeri! It isn’t raining so much anymore and when the sun shines this place is like paradise! The plants are all tropical, ferns and palm trees and bamboo. Every type of fruit and vege grows here! Golden kiwis are amazing! They have tamarillos which are like tomate de arb√≥l (Tree tomato) in Ecuador and kumara which is a purple sweet potato like the camotes I loved so much in Ecuador too. Check out this fruit bowl. The bananas are the only non-local item, and they taste it too.. The first bananas I've met that I don't like. The tomatoes and oranges we picked up from various neighbors and the kiwis come from another local stand. the tamarillos are on top.

I’m staying at a house that is a yoga center, organic garden and family home while the owner, Louisa, is away for a yoga teacher training with Iyengar’s daughter. Louisa has spent the last few days instructing me on everything from the kitchen to the gardens. After unloading it all, she left! I am in charge of everything with the help of her boarder, Richard. There is TONS to do, but I figure I’ll do what I can. As long as I keep the kids and pets alive, it’s alright, right?

Mostly I’ve been cooking stuff from scratch. Indian Pizza (check out the before/after pic) with whole-wheat pizza dough, spinach from the garden, feijoa chutney from the neighbors (not sure what feijoa is but we have various jars of homemade feijoa chutney in the pantry)... It took a long time and I used every dish in the house, but they all enjoyed it and even the kids ate some though I had made them a cheese pizza too. They want me to make pizza every night. I tried making sweet potato black bean burgers for the kids but they didn’t particularily like em. Then I mashed em up for tacos but again, no dice. They did eat my orange carrot bread, however. And muffins are popular around here. Not for breakfast, but for tea. There’s morning tea (which I pack in their lunches to eat at school) and afternoon tea when they get home. They’re kinda like hobbits. Good, simple food. Lots of it. Homemade jams and jellies and baking. And they go barefoot a lot. Actually, I let Finn, the middle child, go to school without shoes today. He convinced me that it’s ok, and I guess my perception of them being so much like hobbits allowed him to convince me.

the kids keep asking for pudding. i guess it's the general word for dessert but it also is about all they like for dessert. i asked them, "so pudding just means dessert?" and they said "yeah" so i asked, "like cookies and cakes?" and they said, "No, like dessert!" And i asked them to explain why cookies and cakes weren't dessert and they said that cookies and cakes are for afternoon tea, but custards, mousses, ice cream and puddings are desserts.

so now i make cookies and muffins every afternoon and have fun playing around with baking when I'm not tending to the yoga gardens, picking oranges from the orchard, or watering the vetiver grass, which is the one cash crop here. They sell it to be used in gardens as erosion control and use the clippings as mulch. I guess it's supposed to be amazing stuff.

So, I'm off to walk the 6 month old puppy. In the afternoons, I walk her with the little girl and we play explorers. The kittens usually follow us and climb trees. The photo is a picture of Charlie Rose, the little girl, playing in the backyard with her stuffed puppy. We go visit Richard's goat and the chickens (There is usually a peacock hanging around, strutting his stuff for the hens) and feed the ducks. All in all, lotsa fun! I'm probably 'exchanging' more than the required 6-8 hours of work for room and board, but I can't complain. Welcome to my adventure in domesticity and rural life!

ps. for the non-technically-inclined (Ahem, mom) you can click on the photos to make them larger!

p.s. peacock butt!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Auckland (correct pronunciation sounds like Oakland)

I’m not going to miss Auckland too much, though it has been a nice starting point. I spent my days wandering around the city, which has grown on me little by little. The architecture is interesting, and I wish I had a better arch vocab so I could describe it. In lieu of description, I can put up some photos. To me, it feels very early 90’s.
As jet lag and exhaustion caught up to me on my first afternoon, I have spent the latter part of each day ‘tramping’ about the city, keeping my legs moving to keep my eyes open. The first day, I was revived at the waterfront, where I watched the cranes loading shipping containers and the little trucks that looked like grasshoppers on stilts. I think I looked a little silly with my face pressed up against the fence and my camera in hand… Hunger hit me early, as it has done every day since my arrival, at about 3 or 4pm. So it was that I discovered food alley. A food court of Asian restaurants: Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, with its own bar, "Alley Cats," that looked like a slushie stand with colorful cocktails and a large beer selection. It was colorful, with flourescent lights, neon colors and a wll painted to look like we were outdoors. It reminded me of what I think it would be like to be in an Asian country. oooh I really want to travel in Asia since being here. My favorite part of Auckland is all the Asian restaurants, shops and presence. Well-divided into separate countries, unlike the U.S. where they tend to get all smooshed together. I hope to go to Food Alley a few more times when I'm passing through Auckland and sample all the cuisines. This time I had Japanese donburi, and a local NZ beer called Monteiths (The name of my evil second grade teacher that always made me stay in for recess and write sentences!)I was craving sake, but the only sake place I saw didn't keep the sakes in the fridge, but still charged high prices though the bottles wouldn't be worth it.

My second day commenced my shoe shopping tour of Auckland. Which really doesn’t sound that exciting, but anything can be the basis of an adventure. I got up at 7am and was already out by 8am. The shops didn’t open until 9am but I had to walk downtown and then I scoped out the scene before they opened. I traversed most of Auckland in my flip-flops and tried shoes on at most of Auckland shoe shops. I hate shoe shopping. Halfway through the day, I was tired, my feet and back ached and I had only bought one item, a small stuffed capybara keychain from the Japanese store. I stopped on K’road, which is a Bay Area-esque strip of thrift shops, Asian restaurants, coffee and teashops and nightclubs. It had started raining and I had to use the bathroom, so I ducked into a teashop that also was an art gallery, radio station and moko studio (traditional facial tattoos). They had a million kinds of tea, and I sat at the bar where I could see how each was brewed following unique guidelines and traditions. Tea is the second-most consumed beverage in the world, after water. The Irish are the heaviest tea drinkers, followed by Kuwaitis. New Zealanders come in about halfway on the list (of the book I was perusing about tea in the shop) and Americans are close to last. I made up for that by drinking many cups of tea there
while it continued to rain. When it finally cleared up, I continued on through the cemetery. The most beautiful cemetery, even beating the one I saw in Tulcan, Ecuador. The tombstones were all from the mid-1800’s. Then I headed back to the shoe stores in Newmarket, by way of the big park and duck pond in the center of the city, the last neighborhood on my list. I ended up with no shoes at the end of the day when the shops closed. Just my capybara keychain (which I left in the box for awhile, since the color was a surprise!) But I now know Auckland front and back. The next day, I got up early and went to buy the best pair of shoes I had found (at a high price. Tennis shoes here run $100-$200US!), which were at the very first store I had visited. I had breakfast out, a delicious muesli of sultanas, dates, coconut and oats with a fruit salad of kiwis, pineapples, and oranges. The buses went on strike, so I barely made it to my bus to Kerikeri. I had to run up the hill to my hostel after walking all the way to the shoe shops and the fake Apple (Mac) store where I had to buy an ipod charger to replace the one I left in the LAX airport. Then I was lucky, and the hostel owner drove me to the bus station. Now I’m in Kerikeri, five hours up from Auckland. It’s nice to be somewhere out of the city and out of the hostel scene. Hostels are always the same culture no matter what country you’re in. I’m staying with a kiwi family of three kids, their mother and Richard who lives here and helps with the kids. The mother will be going out of town in a week, so Richard and I will be in charge. More on Kerikeri soon, as I must take photos before I can add words.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"Is this your first coffee in New Zealand?"

Is it that obvious I just arrived? Apparently, yes. I haven't spent too much time researching Kiwi slang. It's my first time traveling extensively in an english-speaking country, so I thought that the whole communication thing would be a breeze.
But my first exchange with a Kiwi had me at "Just a flat coffee?" "Um, yes? With milk, please." When the server brought my coffee to the table, he explained that they do not serve much filtered coffee here and that I should ask for an Americano from now on. I ended up with a cappuccino, which apparently is called "flat white." Oh well, it does the trick.

By the way, I'm here! Welcome to New Zealand! I'm getting right to my blog while I wait to check-in at my hostel. My plane arrived at 7:30AM this morning, Wednesday 09/09/09. We flew right past Tuesday, which apparently was the birthday of one of the flight attendants... Wow, what a flight! I could've spent a week on that plane! It was as big as a building, a flying castle. I was open-mouthed with awe, and the flight attendant decided to be extra kind to me. He whispered to me that the back row was open and that as soon as the seatbelt light turned off, I could move back there. He moved my bag back to hold the seat and put all the armrests up so I could lay down and sleep. I almost didn't want to sleep, there were so many movies and TV shows I wanted to watch on my personal TV screen. They served us a gourmet dinner with wine, gave us snack packs and toothbrushes and face masks and socks, and then I slept most of the flight until breakfast. I had two full meals between our midnight take-off and 7am arrival!

Auckland is just a big city. Not sure what there is to do.. But I'll be here for two days. Today, my goals are two. One, to find the post office and send a postcard to Brendan so I can find out how long it takes. Two, to buy a pair of shoes for working and walking. All I have is flip-flops and Japanese toe socks which keep my feet warm but will probably get dirty fast and may give these kiwis a bad image of American fashion.. Then again, I'm in travel-mode. Example: a fanny pack for a purse, I don't care so much about fashion.