29 May 2014

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,   
The stride of my step,   
The curl of my lips.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,   
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,   
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.   
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.   
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,   
And the flash of my teeth,   
The swing in my waist,   
And the joy in my feet.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered   
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,   
They say they still can’t see.   
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,   
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.   
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.   
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,   
The bend of my hair,   
the palm of my hand,   
The need for my care.   
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

28 May 2014

Pico de Gallo - or heaven in a bowl - or cooking Mexican in New Zealand

Since moving to New Zealand five months ago, I have had to come to terms with something that I might never have realized had I stayed in the western United States. I am a white American, but my food culture is Mexican. You might think that the fact that I brought 2 enormous containers of chile powder in my suitcase would indicate that I knew that, but no. It was only after we moved in to our house and I was planning meals and going grocery shopping that it became all too clear. My teenager started complaining. "I want regular food." and "nothing tastes right" and "I want a real after school snack!" I started thinking. What was his regular after school snack back in the US? Chips and salsa. What did an average meal week look like? Well, street tacos, beans, tortillas, chile relleno, tamales, carne asada, you know. Mexican food. It was my go-to cheap and easy solution  to the busy day. Here in Wellington, that is not the cheap and easy solution. Here, where lamb is cheaper than chicken and refried beans are in the "international foods" section with the milk duds and the A&W root beer, Mexican food is not happening 3-4 times a week at our house. Yet. We are working it out. We have acquired a 50 kg bag of black beans and found a source for less expensive pinto beans, and it is tomato season. Hence the pico de gallo. Want to make the best pico you've ever had? No matter where you live?

The trick to really good Pico de Gallo is to drain the tomatoes. Pico is not meant to be super wet and saucy. 

Then you add the onions, garlic, cilantro and jalapeno, and let those flavors blend. I think it's one of the prettiest foods there is.

Ready to make some of your own?

Pico de Gallo

4 cups diced tomatoes (about 6-7 medium, ripe tomatoes)
1 medium red onion, diced (I didn't have any red today, so I used yellow. It works fine, but I like to dice the yellow onion smaller because they have a stronger flavor)
1 jalapeno, diced - and seeded if you like your salsa mild
1 large clove garlic, diced (I usually chop it up with the onion using my Handy Chopper/Dicer)
A good handful of cilantro (or coriander here in NZ) rinsed and chopped
Juice of 2 limes (or to taste - I like the lime)
a couple grinds of sea salt

Dice the tomatoes and place them in a colander over a bowl. The idea is to let some of that extra juice drain out so your pico isn't super wet. Let the tomatoes sit in the colander for about 15 minutes and then add the onion, garlic and cilantro. Let the flavors blend for another 15 minutes or so, then transfer the whole mixture to a large bowl. Add the lime juice and the salt, stir and enjoy. You can also refrigerate the pico for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to blend more. Enjoy with tortilla chips or your favorite Mexican dish.

27 May 2014

Around Wellington - Just some random stuff

We are heading into winter now, and while it can't compare to a Colorado winter in terms of snow or freezing temperatures, the wind is pretty convincing. Saturday and Sunday we had a "strong NW gale" with gusts up to 140 km/hr. Ferries were cancelled, but we still had a hockey game. Can wind be seen? You tell me. Just as I took the second photo, there was a really strong gust...

This morning it is chilly, but still and sunny. We are learning that calm means the wind is changing directions. So we should enjoy it because by this afternoon we will have a cold southerly (that's wind from Antarctica, folks) and rain. Tonight will be our first dip below 40F.

Other stuff:

A trip to the supermarket is not that different from the US, except when it is. For example, even in California, I have never seen a huge pile of persimmons for sale. Another example is when you can't find molasses. Because they don't have it. There's also the mental conversion from kg to lbs. or gallons to liters. I'm getting better at not even trying, but my brain still can't quite let it go.

persimmons and kiwi

mandarin oranges, feijoa and pineapples - the pineapples are imported.
Feijoa are native to South America, I think, but they grow them here and make yummy juices with them. They are sort of tart, lemony.

Choko I  know as chayote, the yams are new to me. Pretty, aren't' they?
They roast up a lot like you would expect, but sweeter than a potato or American yam.

I know, you know that's broccoli and cabbage, but look how HUGE that cabbage is!

Sunday we went to a baptism at church. The Tongan feast afterward was totally amazing. I have never, ever seen so much food in my life. I also win the prize for trying new food. I had some kind of taro leaf and corned beef soaked in coconut milk, taro root, lamb curry (not that new), another new kind of yam (not my favorite) and 'ota 'ika. That translates to "raw fish" and is really good. The closest I can compare it to is ceviche. It's got cucumbers and capsicums and hot peppers and the raw fish, of course, and it's marinated in lemon juice and then put in a sauce with coconut milk. 

My youngest is doing swim lessons for school now. They take the bus over to the pool, change in the dressing room (ALL TOGETHER!) and divide up by ability and go swim. But... before they go swim, they review what to do if you're in the pool and there is an earthquake. Did you know you should go to the lane ropes and hang on? Yup. 

That's really all I have for now. Just thought I'd share some of the things that make my life interesting. The Queen's Birthday weekend is coming up, so maybe we'll go see some of the sights on our day off and share that with you next week. 

26 May 2014

Menu Plan Monday

Makara Beach - on a very windy, almost winter, day


Rosemary mint and honey glazed lamb
garlic mashed potatoes


black beans


Spaghetti and meatballs (didn't eat it last week)


Pad Thai


Pizza bread




Sloppy Joe's

23 May 2014

Friday Favorites

1. One of the things I am still working on getting my head around is the opposite seasons. On the other hand, there's always Pear Season in May. Awesome.

2. Have you read the book North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell? It's a really great book. But if you don't love reading, the movie is absolutely fabulous. Also Richard Armitage is in it. His voice is dreamy.

3. Sweater knits - something I have just started sewing with recently. Lightweight, warm, and very, very nice. 

4. Sun Valley foods cocoa powder - rich flavor, smooth texture, fabulous for cooking with. 

21 May 2014

Thai Curry Pumpkin Soup

Crown Pumpkin

Some more food terminology: In New Zealand, the word "pumpkin" is used like the word "squash" in the US. The Crown pumpkin is one of the more common varieties, and also very inexpensive. I got a whole crown pumpkin for less than $2 the other day. The skin is very hard, so getting it cut up is a bit of work, but when you try this soup, you will know it was totally worth it.

Thai Curry Pumpkin Soup

2 onions, diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. green Thai curry paste
2 L vegetable stock
8-10 cups cubed pumpkin (I just used 1/2 a crown pumpkin)
1 can coconut milk

Fry the onions, garlic and curry paste in a large stock pot with a little olive oil. When the onions are translucent and starting to brown a little, add the vegetable stock. Dump in the pumpkin cubes and simmer until the pumpkin is soft. Let cool a bit and then puree the pumpkin and onions until the soup is nice and smooth. I like to use my hand blender for this - so much easier than pouring small amounts into the blender...
Add the can of coconut milk and stir it in and then heat the soup until just before it boils.

Garnish with coriander or some freshly ground black pepper. Serve with bread or croutons.

20 May 2014

Menu Plan Monday - or Tuesday...

Kapiti Coast - near Paikakariki


Sloppy Joes


Vegetable Fritatta


BBQ Chicken




Cilantro Lime Chicken (crock pot)


Baked Basa with lemon
Mixed veg



16 May 2014

Friday Favorites

1. Crown Pumpkin - inexpensive and delicious. Look for a recipe next week...

2. Cedarwood essential oil from doTerra
promotes clear, healthy skin, eases nervous tension and repels insects, to name a few things.

3. Loving this series by Juliet Marillier - a New Zealand author prolific enough to keep you happy for weeks.

4. I love you from here to New Zealand (that's pretty far) by HopSkipJumpPaper

13 May 2014

Around Wellington - Botanic Garden

The Botanic Garden was started in 1868. The original purpose was to plant conifers for evaluation of their economic potential in the New Zealand market. In 1891, other areas of the garden began to be developed. The garden now covers over 61 acres and includes a duck pond, rose garden, cafe, an impressive collection of hydrangea and rhododendron, as well as many pathways through native New Zealand bush. 

It is fall now, so many of the flowering plants are going dormant for winter. We'll have to do another post in the spring to show you the teacup magnolias and other amazing sights.

We are taking our walk in between rainstorms today - it never hurts to be prepared.

What a great place to get in a walk. So close to downtown, yet quiet and peaceful inside. If you get hungry, the Picnic Cafe is just past the rose gardens and has some delicious options. I can recommend the chicken Caesar salad. 

12 May 2014

Menu Plan Monday

Huka Falls, Lake Taupo, NZ


Breakfast for dinner - Biscuits and gravy


Thai Pumpkin Curry Soup


Beef and Rice Noodle Stir Fry


Pizza Roll


Cilantro Lime Chicken
Corn Muffins




BBQ chicken

07 May 2014

Cheesy Baked Quinoa Noodles

We have been making an effort to eat less corn and wheat based meals. One of the best gluten free noodles we have found is made by Ceres Organics here in New Zealand, using quinoa. They don't go all mushy when cooked, unlike some of the other gluten free brands. We really like them - even the kids.  

Cheese Baked Quinoa Noodles

450 g Quinoa noodles
2 cups grated cheese plus 1/4 cup (asiago, or a blend of mozzarella, cheddar or jack)
2 - 250 g containers Crème fraîche
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped thyme leaves
1/2  tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions, but undercook it slightly. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid. 

Heat oven to 190 C (375 F)

In a large bowl, combine the 2 cups cheese, Crème fraîche, parmesan, thyme, salt, pepper, pasta and cooking liquid. Gently toss until all ingredients are combined and the pasta is coated. Place the pasta in a buttered baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Bake until golden on top, about 25 minutes. 

We like to serve this with roast chicken and fresh green beans.

06 May 2014

Around Wellington - Museum of City and Sea

Ranked as one of the 50 Best Museums in the World by The Times of London, this popular museum will take you back a thousand years and lead you to a vibrant present day Wellington. The interactive and exciting exhibitions engage visitors of all ages. From WellingtonNZ.com

As an added bonus, three of the thirty or so "Easter Eggs" placed around the city for the Big Egg Hunt and Children's Hospital fund raiser were here at the Museum of City and Sea.

One of the Big Egg Hunt eggs

The story wall - where visitors can leave a little piece of their own history.

Not sure if he's squinting out to sea or what.

Wellington is built around one of the largest and most scenic deep water ports in the world. The original Maori inhabitants of Te Whanganui a Tara (Wellington Harbour) got their food from the sea and used it for recreation as well as travel. Overseas ships - whalers, flax and timber traders, etc. also drew on the natural resources of the area and began the process of bringing New Zealand out of isolation from the rest of the world. 

A beautiful example of scrimshaw work

Sailing the stormy seas of Raukawa (Cook Strait)

This was easily the kids' favorite museum so far. You can't beat hands on, interactive exhibits and signs that say "TOUCH" for a happy museum outing.

05 May 2014

Menu Plan Monday

Fall walk through the Botanic Garden


Pasta Salad and Roast Chicken


Taco Night


Chicken Soup with dumplings





Breakfast for dinner
Biscuits and Gravy?


Crock Pot - TBD
Curry with pumpkin?

02 May 2014

Friday Favorites

1. Great gluten free pasta made with quinoa. It doesn't turn mushy when it's cooked and it tastes great.
2. GoTo Patterns Go To Leggings pattern. For only $10 you get multiple patterns and styles
3. ChiaGoo Red knitting needles. Love the feel of them, the smooth knitting, the cable, LOVE it all.
4. Gorgeous handmade earrings from L'Accent Nou - check out her shop. Unique, artistic and beautiful.