Tuesday, 27 January 2015


After confessing my fear of staring down the barrel of routine last week, I'm pleased to report that we've been mixing things up a bit. Catching up with family and friends and a couple of impromptu camping trips these past two weekends ... we haven't let The Routine suck us in yet.

Our camping trips have been fun. We're getting good at throwing a selection of seemingly random items into the car and packing up at relatively short notice. Packing almost seems like cheating when you can just chuck everything into the car (and it's even better when you can throw a wet tent into the boot to dry out and fold up back at home). Still, something is always inadvertently forgotten - not that it usually makes much difference.

Camping is relatively accessible for kiwis wanting to escape for a while but still travel on a budget. Some basic gear to get started (beg or borrow if you have to), warm clothes for overnight, plenty of food and drink and you're away.

We headed out of town for the start of Wellington Anniversary Weekend and pitched our tent at Otaki Forks campsite in Tararua Forest Park. The facilities are really basic there and the total lack of cellular coverage means the quiet that comes from completely disconnecting is both enveloping and refreshing. Morepork lulled us to sleep and tui greeted us in the morning as they chased each other over our heads. I guess this is what camping is all about.

Last weekend, it was a busy Kaitoke Regional Park where we pitched our tent near the river, looked up at a perfect blue sky and tried to find shelter from the 34°C heat. We know this was the temperature because the campsite has 3G - which meant we could look up the menu before phoning through our Indian takeaways order, saving us time when picking up dinner. It went nicely with wine and cheese and the chocolate fondue we had for dessert, melting four different types of chocolate over a campsite bain-marie.

Thinking about it, maybe this was actually glamping instead of camping? We have heard that it exists, but surely no hot water, lighting or showers answers that question for us? There's also a significant price difference ($6 per person per night for us, as opposed to one night's glamping starting at $180+). Still, the blue cheese was not too blue for my liking and the freshly cooked bacon sandwiches went down a treat for lunch. Hmmm. It looks like the line between camping and glamping is finer than I thought. ;-)

Friday, 16 January 2015


It was back to work for me on Wednesday after a break of nearly four weeks. The time flew by and the long, lazy summer days quickly disappeared. Thankfully my first two weeks back at work are short weeks. Great planning, huh?

I am amazed how I instantly slipped into The Routine this week: getting up (to an alarm!), feeding the cat, making lunch, shower/dressed and racing out the door before seeing the same people at the bus stop, the same driver who dropped me off at the same stop in town ... you get the picture. It was great to see my workmates and catch up on holiday happenings over coffee - which kicked off another routine. We went to our usual café for coffee at the usual time and didn't even have to give our orders; the barista knows what we all drink and remembered from last year! (Actually, that's kind of nice.)

My work routine settled after just a couple of hours and it didn't take long for the holiday feeling to slip away entirely. Surely this isn't what my year is going to look like, every single work day??

I love this quote by Paulo Coelho:

Now, that's not entirely true as routines are often necessary and even positive. Kids thrive on routines and they provide us with a sense of comfort. But apparently most people run through life on autopilot. That's probably a relief for some. I find it scary, even though I do it myself. Time slips away and the days become a blur when running on autopilot.

How about this instead?

I have a friend who is desperate to be socially spontaneous, so long as she has enough time to plan it first. Short notice "let's do coffee/lunch" messages are met with "Oh, I'd love to but I'd better not because [insert reason here] - but definitely next time". Maybe this is the year we get her out for a random mid-week coffee or drink after work?

I'm looking forward to more spontaneity and less autopilot this year. Let me just figure out how to do that before being sucked back into The Routine.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Mini cocotte

I'm an average cook. I can rustle together a healthy meal reasonably quickly and it will taste fine, but cooking is not my passion. Somehow, I'm better at feeding an army than cooking for just myself or the two of us. This often sees me making a large portion of something simple and having it for two or three meals, but I've always admired cooks who can serve up a gourmet meal for one.

Enter mini cocotte, the cutest little cooking vessel ever and a Christmas present from my family in 2014. I was given a pair (purple ones, naturally) along with an accompanying recipe book. I was hesitant at first; sweet cooking and baking is my forte, but what meals can you possibly make that are this small? It turns out: almost anything!

If you like eggs for breakfast or brunch, here are four simple recipes to get you going.

I began by making coddled eggs with leftover Christmas ham, just like in the video. I added a sprinkle of cracked pepper and mixed herbs on top. Success!

Coddled eggs
Next up, a smaller version of this hearty ham casserole with more leftover Christmas ham, corn and potato. This would work with almost any combination of vegetables and meat.

Hearty ham casserole
And, of course, there's dessert. This mini apple crisp was delicious and I have also made volcano chocolate cakes.

Apple crisp
I have now started a Pinterest board of mini cocotte recipes. You can use any recipe that can be cooked in a ramekin, which I find is a helpful rule of thumb until I work out how to reduce recipes to fit into the mini cocottes. I am quickly becoming an expert at halving and quartering quantities of ingredients. For our appetites, mini cocotte cooking is perfect for breakfast or brunch, lunch and desserts, but we find them more suitable as a side dish for main meals.