Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Pink Ribbon morning tea

During the month of May, people come together to host Pink Ribbon Breakfasts all around the country. Apparently eight women a day are diagnosed with breast cancer in New Zealand. This year the money raised from pink ribbon events will be used to fund vital research projects and medical grants to help improve the survivorship of breast cancer in New Zealand.

My workplace decided to simultaneously hold a Pink Ribbon morning tea in all three of our offices (Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch) today. Volunteers each prepared a plate and everybody brought cash or donated online. We ended up with a selection of pink savoury and sweet treats including pink salmon, pink devilled eggs, cupcakes, marshmallow slice, raspberry meringues, crackers and various pink dips (salmon, beetroot and horseradish were the winners).

Pink Ribbon morning tea
We also had some pink goodies to buy and a super-shiny donation box - just in case anybody wasn't sure where to put their money.

Pink goodies and donations
We aimed to raise $500 across all three offices. The donation box will be out for another day or two while the IOUs flow in, then I will tally up our donations and submit them via the Pink Ribbon website. It feels wonderful to be involved in such a positive event at work, where everybody contributes and supports such a worthy cause.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Tommy Tiernan - Out of the Whirlwind

The New Zealand International Comedy Festival has kicked off around the country. We always look forward to a show or two, especially if it means we can take advantage of seeing some of our favourite international comedians on stage instead of on television.


Last night, we saw Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan in Out of the Whirlwind. Resplendent in double denim, Tiernan's stand up comedy show is a whirlwind of mischievous storytelling. Described as having "no manners on him", absoultely nothing is sacred: religion, sexism, homophobia, racism ... somehow you can get away with more when you have a charming Irish accent (although one particular Stuff reviewer begs to differ).

Tiernan plays the audience and microphone well. He is proficient at a huge number of accents (except for Belgian - you'll see) and can pull a story out of almost any situation. Take, for example, a topic as mundane as drinks. Sure, Europe enjoys their wine, but the Irish are masters of anger in a glass, otherwise known as whiskey.

Whatever your tipple, you'll laugh, be offended, then forgive Tommy Tiernan all at once during his two 45 minute sets. The tour wraps up in Christchurch tomorrow night before picking up again in Edinburgh in August.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Unison Vineyard wine tasting

This month's wine tasting featured a selection of wines from Unison Vineyard. Unison is a family estate winery in the heart of the Gimblett Gravels winegrowing district in Hawke's Bay. Owned since 2008 by Terry Horn and her husband, Philip, Unison was established back in 1993 and specialises in producing small batches of fine wines.

Unison Vineyard grows mostly red grapes on their almost 8 hectare block but have diversified by starting to make some white wines from grapes grown on other vineyards. Each small batch may be just 200-300 cases, bottled on site at their own bottling plant which they also used to bottle for other boutique wineries.

Onto the wine tasting. There was a clear winner, a maybe and several nos for our wine list.

2012 Pinot Gris. Pinot gris was the first white wine grown at Unison. It's slightly fruity up front then gives way to a softer taste than its smell, making its way onto our yes list.

2013 Reserve Chardonnay. This chardonnay is half oaked (just six months on French oak), which leaves it with a subtle, smooth finish. Maybe.

2013 Rose. This wine is one of four roses produced at Unison. The merlot-cabernet-syrah blend gave it an orangey-red colour (after being left on skins for 24 hours) but left it with a taste too similar to altar wine for me. No.

2010 Reserve Merlot.
2010 Classic Blend. Merlot-cabertnet blend.
2010 Selection. Cabernet-merlot blend.
2012 Syrah.
None of the above. We're still not red wine drinkers, no matter how alluring the deep red colour looks.

Mr Weka did very well tonight by winning the wine club birthday draw, giving him a choice of any bottle from tonight's tasting (he chose the pinot gris) and scoring a bonus prize of a $50 voucher to spend at Unison's Unwined Cafe. It looks we'll need to have another Hawke's Bay wine weekend next summer with Unison Vineyard at the top of our list of wineries to visit.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Aviary at Virginia Lake

A great memory I have from my childhood is a family holiday driving through the North Island one summer. We packed up the van and drove from town to town, stopping in places that looked interesting to explore and staying until we ran out of things to do. As a family of bird lovers, we often ended up at lakes or parks with aviaries where we'd feed as many birds as we could and play with the ones we could get close to.

One aviary that stands out in my mind is at Virginia Lake in Whanganui. We loved walking through this open air aviary and would stand there for ages, searching for all the different breeds and leaning in as close as we could to the cheeky birds that would casually step back when approached by a human.

This weekend, my dad and I drove through Whanganui on our way to a wananga in New Plymouth. We couldn't resist taking a quick rest stop and leg stretch at Virginia Lake for old time's sake. I looked for the aviary but it seemed like it was no longer next to the car park like I'd remembered ... until we spotted it on the other side of the car park just as we were driving off. We quickly turned around and headed back in to a cacophony of birds dive bombing and racing around the aviary, enjoying breakfast and chattering in the sunshine.

Here's who we met on Friday morning. Hopefully we'll have time to stop in again on our way home on Monday for another happy dose of nostalgia.

A cheeky acrobat
A proud parrot
An outdoor shower
This fantail has some tidying up to
I still don't understand guinea fowl

Friday, 8 April 2016

Tofu roulette

It's Friday, so that means my manager sends out his weekend digest of Friday Funnies. Most are cringe worthy and many are lowbrow, but all are eagerly anticipated as it means the weekend is oh so close.

Today's selection featured a series of one liners and this short recipe for the foodies in our team.
How to prepare tofu:
  1. Throw it in the trash.
  2. Grill some meat.
This led to much discussion about uses for tofu, including many questions – mostly, why?? You might be a vegetarian but surely almost any other source of protein would taste better than slobbery rubbery bean curd. Clearly, I'm not a fan. I've been known to turn down the offer of buying an otherwise appealing cookbook for a good price because too many of the recipes feature tofu. Fact.

Here's a fun game my friends used to play at cheap and cheerful Chinese restaurants way back in our student days. After ordering and devouring the shared Chinese banquet, there would inevitably be a small dish of tofu left over. This called for a game of tofu roulette. Despite our mothers telling us to not play with our food, we'd spin the plate on the edge of the Lazy Susan turntable and when it stopped, whoever had the misfortune of sitting in front of where the tofu stopped had to eat some.

At this point in the evening, we learned the importance of choosing the right seat at the start of the meal, especially if the table had a lean or the floor was uneven. Table cracks or joins also meant you had a higher chance of eating the most tofu at the end of the night as the Lazy Susan would default to stopping at the same point. I was careful to never be that person and haven't had the misfortune of eating tofu since those days. Long may my good fortune continue.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Potato bread

As autumn sets in, the season for comfort food has begun. Soups, stews and slow cooked meals and freshly baked bread. It's even better when you can combine a couple of these meals.

This breadmaker recipe for potato bread is super easy and a great way to use up left over mashed potatoes. The original recipe calls for mashed kumara but I prefer potatoes so always make sure I mash extra potatoes on slow cooker or casserole nights. I sometimes substitute 100 g of the high grade flour for wholemeal flour for a slightly more dense loaf.

Just add all the ingredients in the order you would normally put them into your breadmaker, then set it onto the basic bake setting (4 hours) for an extra large loaf and press start. It's also a good timed bread if you want to bake it overnight and wake up to the smell of fresh potato bread.

Potato bread

Ingredients
  • 3 t Surebake yeast
  • 600 g high grade flour
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 2 T milk powder
  • 30 g butter
  • 2/3 cup mashed potatoes
  • 1 T honey
  • 380 ml water
Breadmaker settings
for Panasonic breadmakers
  • Basic bread
  • Size: XL
  • Medium colour crust
Potato bread