The Sweet Life

I haven’t been blogging very regularly of late. There is a lot going on at the moment. I have an offer in on the Flat, I have had EQC meetings to finally get the repairs done at the house, have had double glazing put in and discovered I have a leak in the roof. I’ve done some DIY with new curtain rails after the one in my bedroom broke in half, and I’ve been window-shopping for new furniture to go in the room where the new double-glazed slider is. Alongside that work has been flat out and I’m about to have a week off, so I know the coming week will be pretty full on too! Why is it that holidays seem to make work so much busier either side of them?

First world problems, though and all that. I did realise I hadn’t done a great deal of reading and my books were due back at the library so I took the unread ones back as well as the read ones and got a fresh load out. I’m trying to lose a stubborn 5 kilos at the moment and my thoughts seem to revolve around food and all the things I shouldn’t be indulging in (chocolate, chocolate, wine and more chocolate!). I need to sort that out, as I can’t exercise at the moment – for about 3 weeks.

So what do I do? I go and get out a book called “The Sweet Life in Paris” by David Lebovitz which is a food book. Of course it is. With recipes. I’ve already drooled at the recipe index. Friends and I are heading to Kakanui for ANZAC weekend and I have found the perfect recipe to cook up for that trip “Dulche de Leche Brownies”. Well, at least by then I’ll be able to walk them off!

I’m also looking forward to reading “the Time Keeper” by Mitch Albom. I think I need this book too – the dust jacket reads “…this remarkably original tale will inspire readers everywhere to reconsider their own notions of time, how they spend it and how precious it truly is.” Amen to that. Daylight savings has ended and the days seem shorter than they really are!

This month's reads

This month’s reads

The Women’s Show

I first heard The Staves on the inter web radio about a year ago, but after hearing them again today, have been using the wonder of spotify to hear more of them.

Many years ago, in a previous life, I was a DJ/newsreader on the local student radio RDU (for about 4 years) and after a couple of years I took over the running of the radio’s women’s show. I was always on the lookout for new talent for the women’s show, but to be fair, at the time I was largely influenced by male music. Back then, in the 90s, to qualify for the show, female vocals were sufficient – so we often played, for example, Sonic Youth – if Kim Gordon was on vocals. That was because it sometimes seemed that the music industry was awash with males. Of course there was always Michelle Shocked and Sinead O’Connor to thrash out… singer songwriters. But great FULLY female music was difficult to come by. I did discover some brilliant women in my years of firstly DJing on the women’s show roster, and then running it. I had the joy of interviewing Shara Nelson (vocals from the amazing “Unfinished Symphony” that Massive Attack produced). Being a Billy Bragg fan meant that Michelle Shocked was an easy choice to follow. My cousin and I sang a lot of Indigo Girls tracks (we had similar vocals, both play guitar and could do the harmonies!).

However if you asked me who was a great female artist, I would still struggle. I love Kate Bush and also Eartha Kitt (okay, so I have eclectic tastes, blame my parents!) I also liked Luscious Jackson, Hole and Belly. In recent years Nina Pearsson and Lisa Hannigan join the ranks and I ADORE Emile Sande. I’m a kiwi – so yes, I do like Lorde, a lot. But by and large, if you were to look at my CD collection, which is on the slightly large side due to years of radio, you would find mainly blokes. If I were honest, I would confess nothing stirs my soul more than an amazing male choir. So I usually think I’m on to something special when I discover a women’s group that actually makes me go more than listening to a song. The Staves are it at the moment. Yes, slightly country (I prefer to term it “folk” – I know it’s a fine line!). However, lovely melodies, great harmonies and sweet voices. So, enjoy The Staves” “Mexico”.

Rock the Casbah!

Okay, so I know I’m supposed to be doing Miserly March (that’s going nearly as well as Frugal February… hah!). However on a Tuesday night I go to 1.5hr yoga class straight from work and am always STARVING afterwards!

As it’s already 8pm by the time I get home, I’m not about to cook and eat late. I try to live by the adage to not eat late at night, and I like to go to sleep around 10pm so I can get up in the mornings. I’m not an early bird, so I need this routine to make it work. Therefore, the best option for me is takeaways. The challenge is to have something healthy, after 1.5 hours of putting my body into a zen-like state, I don’t want to fill it with fatty burgers and chips.

Quite often I get a Subway. I have friends who don’t think Subway is a dinner takeout – but it works perfectly for this purpose. As I like to take lunch to work (particularly during Miserly March) Thai is sometimes an option – but it can be a bit pricey. I often cook thai based meals too, so I usually opt for the bought version with friends. Usually good value for money though, as my local does a great basil & chilli chicken with rice for $12.50.

So tonight, with the rain falling and it being rather cold (goodbye summer), I went to Casbah. It’s a Morrocon outlet in Sydenham, next to a Noodle House, Hell’s Pizza and Sydenham Park. You can eat in at Casbah – it caters for around 25 sit-in guests, but it’s very basic as their main custom is takeout. Still, I have been there for a great cheap and cheerful dinner with friends (alcohol free, but we had plans for later, so that’s okay).

For $11.00 I bought a regular sized Grilled Chicken. There is enough food for 2 in the regular takeout – 3 serves if you’re like me! You get a choice of 3 salads with this – and they have seven salads options – with greek salad being one, then various grains, e.g. barley, couscous, rice… Tonight I went for Grilled Roast Veges, Israeli Couscous and the Barley Salad. It’s topped with a decent helping of the Grilled Chicken and a huge dollop of tzatziki sauce.

Casbah also do Souvlakis, and other grilled meat options, along with falafel. They have a tiny range of Turkish delight and baklava for a sweet touch afterwards.

This place is fabulous and I haven’t been there for ages, so it was a good choice tonight, and a reminder that I should visit a bit more often.

Grilled Chicken Salad

Grilled Chicken Salad

Oh, Ireland!

Ireland and music go together like cheese and wine.  I grew up in a musical house, with irish heritage.  You can see how I might make that connection.  As a teenager I hung out at irish pubs, and had friends play in an irish band as their “day job” making them enough money to be musicians in their own right.  When I went to Ireland I expected every bar to be singing Pogues songs, and full of craic.  Well, they were full of craic, but often the music wasn’t there.  In Dublin, of course there were a couple of trad bars for the tourists, but the locals didn’t frequent these.  It was the Sugar Club, Cafe en Seine and other similar night club and hip joints that we went to there.  A few times I ventured out of town to smaller villages and cities and I did come across the occasional trad pub.  In Galway I discovered the “talking” pubs – ones where you went to hear stories or just spin a wild yarn and use your gift of the blarney.   But by the time I left Ireland I realised that you hear more of the traditional stuff outside of the Emerald Isle.  I was fortunate enough to have a couple of very cool flatmates who knew their local music and before I left Ireland I was a committed fan of Tom Dunne’s music show on Today FM (he left that to do daytime radio in more recent years).  Tom was a musician himself and his show on Today FM brought new local music to my ears.

In New Zealand we have “Natures Best” the top 100 NZ songs.  Tom Dunne brought out a few double CDs of top irish hits that would be comparable in their timeline and history and I had copies of them packed in my bag on the way home.  Through Tom, my flatmates and a couple of friends, I saw some of these acts live and learned a bit more about the more contemporary side of Irish music – music beyond that of Clannard, the Corrs and U2.

When I was in Ireland last year I was only there for 3 days so I didn’t really listen to radio or check out any live music – so if anyone irish reads this and has some new music to introduce me to – please do!!!!

In the meantime, after much deliberation, here’s some of my favourite Irish music (in no particular order) – traditional and otherwise.

I, along with John Peel, agree that Teenage Kicks has to be there as a top anthem.

A band that came from the Northside of Dublin, 30 year ago is worthy of mention. No, not U2, but Aslan

Glen Hansard first found fame as a teenager in The Commitments.  He’s now one of the long-serving hardest working musicians in Ireland.  I had the delight of seeing The Frames at a festival at Punchestown Racecourse.  A hard task to pick my favourite, but I’ve gone with Revelate 

Another Irish musician I saw at Vicar Street, much to my delight, was Christy Moore.  I had to chose Ride On.

Thanks to a friend I discovered Damien Rice.  I saw Damien at the Olympia theatre when he played a gig on his birthday.  He got slowly drunk on stage and after the gig went down and busked on Dame Street…. until the Police moved the crowd on.  I think what lifted Damien’s music from good to extraordinary was the gifted Lisa Hannigan as well, so I’ve picked Volcano.  

More recently, back home a friend through a Facebook link introduced me to Foy Vance, from Northern Ireland.  I’ve chosen Guiding Light. 

There is much more I could list, and many Irish music fans will say “where’s Thin Lizzy”… I couldn’t choose a track.  The Pogues?  Once again, what do I chose as a favourite? So many  for so many different reasons.  Some more punk with Stiff Little Fingers? or old school with Van Morrison?

No, my final two tracks are:

Neil Hannon, of the Divine Comedy, which could seem a little British, but he’s a northern irish lad.  I’ve chosen National Express for it’s non-pc video and very funny lyrics.

and of course, nobody who knows me would consider I could leave U2 off the list.  Once again so many favourites, but in doing this research I found a fabulous version of one of the best songs they’ve written, in an acoustic environment, featuring Damien Rice.  Here’s One.  

Have a fabulous St Patrick’s Day everyone – make a weekend of it.  I will raise a glass on Monday evening to Irish around the world,  to my  family both here and in Ireland; and to all the amazing friends I met in my two stints living in Ireland.

Sláinte chugat.

Half-Hearted Declutterer

Okay, here’s the confession.  I like the idea of decluttering, but when the reality comes, there are some things I’m not sure I can commit to.

At the moment my house is a mess, because I’m having some new windows and doors installed.  This meant moving lots of furniture.  Which also meant unpacking the book case.  Now, I’m old-skool when it comes to books.  I love having technology and gadgets, but when it comes to reading, I like the real thing.  Books.  But while I have a pile of them on the floor, it should be the time to sort through and cull.  The reality is, I like my bookcase.  I like that it shows my philosophy books, my french classic drama and my medieval english literature books. I’m glad it shows my travel books and I like it shows that I like a bit of sci-fi and a bit of chick-lit as well as serious fiction and autobiographies. It shows some of my personality.  A bookcase is the first thing I check out when I go to someone’s home.  I like to see what’s on the shelves, and also get a feel for who they are.  So part of me knows, deep down, I won’t be decluttering my books…. I’ll be stacking them in some semblance of order on the bookshelf when the windows are done.

A pile of books

A pile of books

The other thing is my pile of CDs.  Old technology I know – but hey I even have a stockpile of vinyl somewhere!  I still prefer the CD case and booklet in my hands when listening to a new album.  iTunes and mp3s just don’t have the same physical feel – maybe it’s a throwback to when I was a DJ on student radio.  I’m also glad I didn’t throw a whole lot of these away (or sell them… if there are others like me out there) when my computer died as iTunes did NOT remember all my purchases and I lost a few albums – everything else was a CD I’d loaded, so I could put most things back on easily.  I do think I could probably get rid of some of my CDs though…. but once again, looking at someone’s music collection is also an interesting insight into their personality.

CDs wherever I could find a space!

CDs wherever I could find a space!

So there you have it – I’m a half-hearted Declutterer.  There is some stuff I just like having about me.  Clean lines and space are one thing… keeping it unique is another.  I’m busy listening to Foy Vance while I consider my options.

Oh, by the way if any of you out there are like me and love books, check out Bookshelf Porn - don’t worry it’s not what it sounds like, but you’ll be in heaven!


Ellerslie Flower Show and I HEART Pink

Blimey, what is this weather?  It was 5 degrees when I got up this morning.  The torrential rain had stopped, thank goodness and so I had a breakfast, and packed my bag for Ellerslie.  Yes, Flower Show time.

Now, let’s get the politics out of the way first.  I actually LOVE the EFS.  I don’t have a problem with the council spending the money on this show. I went to the second one (missed the first) with some free tickets from work and I loved it – particularly the award winning garden from a Chelsea Garden Show fellow.  It’s a while ago now so I don’t remember his name, but it was brilliant.  His whole design was built so it looked like Victoria Lake (okay, it’s a pond really) backed on to it.

Before Christchurch knew what a 7.1 or a 6.2 magnitude earthquake felt like, we were know as the Garden City.  We have acres of land in the centre of our geographical location known as Hagley Park and it’s a jewel in our crown.  It’s a magnificent piece of land that provides a heart to the city and has been a place of refuge since the quakes.  Festivals live in this park.  Ellerslie fits so well.  I’d rather spend my money on a ticket to EFS than to the A&P show.  So there.  You know where I stand.  I hope the council review finds that this show is successful and they keep it.

Having said that, I didn’t get to last year’s one where there were lots of complaints, but this year is my 4th EFS.  This year’s was BIGGER and BETTER than ever.  I think they’ve got it right this time.

So… I HEART Pink?   Well, Pink is the new Black – if you have a garden.  The winning people’s choice award, was fittingly the Chch Botanic Gardens’ beautiful cottage garden with PINK PINK PINK everywhere.  Including, yes, my favourite thing… a bicycle.

Other favourites – well the school exhibits blew us away – the first things we saw as we walked in.  Fabulous efforts from future designers. I did like the arty one (no pics here) but it was due to the colour, not so much the plants.  There were fabulous efforts here and I really loved the music garden (nothing to do with me believing life without music would be like life without air ;-)  ).

Of the bigger designs, I thought the flying carpet quite cute, but the ROSE window was very good.  A few man-gardens and man-caves.  I myself think that of the creative gardens think the one with the bath, the bed and living area was the stand out – it’s supposed to reflect life at the bach and bringing it back to the ‘burbs’.  It was fabulous – so much going on.

I’m not sure if I’ll get to the big plant sell-off tomorrow… but if I don’t I have a list of plants to look out for at my local garden centre.  They may be primarily pink in nature!

The Canstruction site – something a bit different.  I don’t know if the tins are full or empty.  If they’re empty a LOT of beans were eaten in the making of these!  Fundraiser for City Mission with every vote costing $1.00 which went to the City Mission.

Well done Ellerslie Flower Show – it was a great day out.  Oh, and big thumbs up to the Dilmah Teahouse tent for our Devonshire Tea … kept us going for another 3 hours!  Anyway, here are the photos… and non wordpress users, you can click to make a slideshow to read captions in full.

By the way, the temperature warmed up and by 3pm (a mere 5 hours later) it was actually quite warm.  I ended the day in tank top and rolled up jeans.  Go figure.

Frugal February & Feb Fast – How it went

Ahem, I’d just like to point out that I did this on the spur of the moment, deciding just the night before.  That’s my defence.

Now for the honesty. Frugal February came to a quick end a week in, when I spent money at the Sale.  I DID keep to my decision not to buy linen until August when I can save up for our winter sale but when these lovely pair of shoes turned up on my feet fitting so comfortably, well…

My new favourite things!

My new favourite things!

In my defence, again (am I justifying myself too much?), I have worn them nearly every day since to work… I needed some new work shoes.  I love how they’re a little bit vintage and very spanish!

Aside from the sale splurge, however, I can report that although February was an expensive month, I have taken my lunch to work most days, with just this last week coming a little unstuck.  My discretionary spend was $100 and if I ignore my sale spending (which blew that) I kept to my $100.  So small steps were working.  However it does feel like an expensive month with Accountant’s bill, car service, Mr Fix-It for the flat, Property Report for the flat all adding up.

SO! My plan is to attack Miserly March in a similar way.  This time I’m not going to give myself a discretionary spend, but just actually concentrate on not spending on lunches, coffees (or in my case hot chocolate) and see where I get to.  If I actually track my spend I will have a better feel for how the month goes.  I will have a couple of expenses this month with the flat going on the market in the next week or so – but thats not discretionary spending, it’s essential spending.

This leaves us with Feb Fast.  Well, I managed to get to day 23 without a drink at all, and was out for dinner with my dining friends.  One of my friends got engaged on Valentines Day, and it was the first time we were all together so I had ONE glass of rose to toast the happy couple.  I also had ONE glass of wine at work drinks on Wednesday.  I wasn’t doing Feb Fast as a fund-raiser so I don’t feel so bad for giving into the two times.  It also wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever done, even when my sister-in-law brought me up two bottles of fabulous Carrick wine from Central Otago in the first week of February to put in my pantry.  Having said that, I’m off to check out the Ellerslie Flower Show tomorrow with a friend and a glass of vino will probably be had – it is March after all.