Sunday, 1 October 2017

Kevin Bridges - NZ Tour

Paying it forward really can work. After abandoning two sets of Wellington on a Plate tickets last month due to illness, I was rewarded with free tickets to a comedy show from a colleague in a similar situation to mine. Would I like to see Scottish comedian Kevin Bridges on stage? Heck, yes! She insisted I take them as she hated to see good tickets go to waste. (A special cake will be making its way to her this week.)


The warm up act for the sold-out show was Italian-Australian gay gluten intolerant comedian Nath Valvo. He got things off to a flying start before Bridges took the stage.

We laughed ourselves silly from start to end as phrases were helpfully translatated into kiwi English for those who may not have understood Bridges's broad Glaswegian accent. Then the usual suspects (Trump, ISIS, Brexit) made an appearance in a standup routine that took him all around the world before finishing up with anecdotes about growing up in a suburb that sounds like the Hutt Valley of Glasgow. Yes, he did his research before facing a Wellington crowd. Hoos rice, anyone?

It seems like the audience was full of Scots keen to show off their patriotism - so much so that Bridges had to deal to a persistently annoying heckler, who made it clear just how much online stalking research she'd done by shouting out her findings all night. After some bickering in the gallery, a flurry of pledges to buy Bridges a beer after the show later popped up on Twitter. I hope he took up an offer or three. This guy is hilarious!

Monday, 21 August 2017

Two thumbs up

The winter lurgy has well and truly visited our home this past week and is yet to fully leave. It brought with it some nasty symptoms and a raft of questions about its status. Have you been to the doctor? Can you work from home? Is it flu or is it another virus? How come you can't walk 200m/get dressed/fold washing without puffing? Why don't you just relax and read a book? Can't you take something for that cough? Maybe you should rest and not worry about work? Do you have to cough so loud?? At least you're not [aching any more/losing a limb/facing real problems/dying].

But really, what does it matter? After a week that saw me cancel Every. Single. family and social event as well as work, it's easy to feel sorry for myself and feel like I've achieved nothing at all. But maybe all was not lost while I systematically forfeited all my plans and commitments? Stranger things have happened.

If I think about it in a cheesy two thumbs up, fake grin and get-over-myself kind of way, this last week actually looks pretty good! Well, maybe.

Two thumbs up moments

  • I saved a small fortune in transport, takeaway coffee and food expenses by not leaving the house, making coffee at home and barely eating anything for a week. This went a teeny way towards paying for the expensive Wellington on a Plate event tickets that went to waste on a night I was too sick to go out.
  • Our 8-year-old nephew loved his birthday present from us: a boxed set of all ten Diary of a Wimpy Kid books - so much so that he was still reading with a torch under his duvet at 10:40 pm! He eventually accepted his mother's pleas to go to sleep on the understanding that he could wake up early the next morning and read more. And Mr Weka thought he wouldn't want books for a present! #lovereading #lifelongreader
  • I conquered my fear of baking with topsy turvy cake pans by successfully practice-baking one off-set layer. It worked perfectly. Now I need to repeat the feat three more times, decorate each cake and work out how they will stack without falling over.
  • I discovered how far two big pots of soup and a loaf of homemade potato bread can go when you're just not hungry. Several days' worth of meals from pantry staples. WhatWho have I become?
  • I also discovered the Ear Hustle podcast and had a bittersweet binge through the first few episodes. I couldn't wait to listen to the next but wanted to savour the series rather than being left with a long wait before the next episode drops.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Perfect pastry class

It's that's time again: Wellington on a Plate has kicked off. Seventeen days of food, fun and more food. Wellington is a great place for foodies to be in August each year. I have four festival events booked this year and hope to squeeze in a lunch or two along the way.

First up was a practical lesson. The Clareville Bakery north of Carterton is renown for its artisan bread and pies. They're offering two classes for Welly on a Plate this year: a bread masterclass and the perfect pastry class. We packed up our aprons and headed over the Rimutaka hill for a hands-on pastry masterclass with Mike and Rose Kloeg, owners of The Clareville Bakery.

The class was a mix of demonstrations and hands-on practice. We learned about making puff pastry, Danish pastry (similar to puff but one less fold), choux pastry and sweet pastry. A French pastry class five years ago gave me a glimpse of what's involved in the process, which is too labour intensive for me to repeat at home, but I was keen to revisit the techniques and pick up some more tips.

Danish pastry

We practised working with Danish pastry. Like puff pastry, the art of Danish pastry involves more rolling, resting and patience than a three hour class allows. However, our already-prepared 10 x 10 cm squares meant we could have fun with shaping and actually have something to take home at the end of the evening.

We learned three techniques for folding and filling pastry squares. I was quick to master the first one: a square with an indent in the middle for custard and fruit. The second technique involved creating a pinwheel by cutting diagonal slits to corners of the square and indenting the centre.

Danish pinwheel
Indent the centre and cut from the edges
Next, each corner was folded from below the slit into the centre to create a flower shape and secured by pressing down the centre. The centre is then filled with crème pâtissière and topped with fruit before baking.

Fold corners into the centre to create a pinwheel
The third technique was creating a classic pocket. Fold corners to the centre and indent to secure.

Danish pocket - first fold
Repeat with the opposite two corners to create a square pocket. Again, fill with crème pâtissière and top with fruit before baking.

Fold in half again to create a Danish pocket

Choux pastry

I enjoy making choux pastry; it's one of my baking success stories that sees éclairs and profiteroles frequently on my dinner party menu. However, I'd never made a choux pastry swan before. Mike's recipe includes milk for texture and colour. He showed us how to use a large star nozzle to pipe swan bodies.

Piped swan bodies
You can also pipe profiteroles using the same star nozzle.

Profiteroles
Finally, add a small round nozzle to the end to make the swan necks.

Piped swan necks
Spot the intruder
To assemble, cut the bodies horizontally, then slice the top half of the body vertically. Pipe crème pâtissière on the bottom, arrange the wings and neck and dust with icing sugar.

So elegant!


Mike and Rose joined us for a wine and cheese break. It was great to hear about Clareville Bakery's story from when they first started in 2013 to get to where they are now - and the journey is continuing.

Perfect cheese platter with house made crackers
Then it was back to the kitchen to pack up our goodies. Here is everything we took home: three styles of Danish pastry, caramelised onion and potato galettes, profiteroles, choux pastry swans and sweet fruit tarts.

Finish products
A huge thank you to Mike and Rose for their hospitality and expertise. I learned some new techniques and was reminded of other tips I'd forgotten. I doubt I'll be making puff or Danish pastry any time soon but I'm keen to give sweet fruit tarts a try at home.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

High tea at Louis Sergeant

After sampling many high tea menus in recent years, I had finally worked my way up to the top. High tea at Louis Sergeant is a very special affair. The tables are set with white linen and the tea menu is presented. Much like with cocktails, I loved reading the descriptions of each blend but opted for coffee instead of endless cups of tea.

I had planned on scrupulously taking notes detailing each item, reporting back on both ingredients and form. However, when the time came, I could only manage to gape with wide eyes at the selection placed in front of us and let the lyrical descriptions float over me. So here I am, one week later, trying in vain to remember details of the menu. I'll let the photos do the talking.

Louis Sergeant high tea
This is what four high tea servings looks like. Each item was tiny and perfectly formed - and not a sandwich or sausage roll in sight!

Savoury delights
Interestingly, the middle tier was the starting point with four savoury items to begin with. Each had a different texture and themes included cheese, a bit more cheese, betrooot, mousse-y stuff and microgreens.

Something sweet
There were two sweet tiers, one each on the bottom and top. But where should you start? I decided what I'd like to finish with and worked backwards from there, heading to the bottom tier first. Hazelnut praline, chocolate, gold leaf and a strawberry and balsamic macaron featured here, each one a heavenly mouthful.

Saving the best for last
And now the finale. Which to choose: strawberry or lemon? Both were elegant and bursting with decadence but the lemon edged its way into first place for me.

This really was an exquisite high tea. I'm so glad I've worked my way up to it as Louis Sergeant is hard to beat. Apologies to my foodie friends for making such a hash of my descriptions. Hopefully you're reading this and smiling as you remember our high tea. I'm already looking forward to the next one.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Chocolate dipped macaroons

I'm a Good Bitch Baker this weekend and felt like trying something different. Thumbing through a new cookbook, I came across a recipe for chocolate dipped macaroons. Remember macaroons? They were all we knew before macarons came along. What's the difference? This explanation is harsh but accurate.


These macaroons are actually light and crispy. They're pretty much meringues with desiccated coconut rolled through and dipped in chocolate.

For a smooth finish, roll the mixture into balls and pat down the rough edges. For a chunky coconut rough-type finish, drop spoonfuls of mixture onto the tray.

Chocolate dipped macaroons

Ingredients
  • 2 egg whites
  • 180 g caster sugar
  • 4 t cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 180 g desiccated coconut
  • 130 g dark chocolate for dipping
Method
  1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Line two trays with baking paper.
  2. Whisk egg whites in a clean, dry mixing bowl until firm peaks form.
  3. Gradually add the sugar, beating well after each addition. Beat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is thick and glossy.
  4. Add the cornflour and mix until the ingredients are just combined.
  5. Add the coconut to the egg white mixture. Using a slotted metal spoon, mix until just combined.
  6. Roll heaped teaspoons of the mixture into balls and drop onto the prepared trays.
  7. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the macaroons are lightly golden. Remove from oven and leave to cool on the trays. 
  8. Melt the chocolate in a small bowl and dip the top half of each macaroon into it. Leave to set on a drip tray.
Makes 36 macaroons.

Chocolate dipped macaroons

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

High tea at Aston Norwood Gardens

Kaitoke Country Gardens at the base of the Rimutaka Hill has undergone a makeover in recent months and has now been reborn as Aston Norwood Gardens. The venue is positioning itself as more of an all season destination and aiming for the country-style wedding market. Among the cafe's offerings is high tea. Don't mind if we do!

The table setting was cute. Delicate tea cups with well loved but worn out decorative spoons were presented alongside sugar cubes and a fake flower spray. The bubbles were poured on arrival and our tea cups whisked away to be returned bearing the coffees of our choice.

Country charm
Three tiers of food were delivered to our table. We were left to work out what we'd been served.

Sparkling high tea
The savoury tier had two tomato, cucumber and pesto white bread sandwiches each and a handful of about five heated up frozen savouries and sausage rolls. I sampled two (two more than I'd ever normally eat in a typical year!) before giving up and leaving the rest to take home to Mr Weka.

Sandwiches and heated savouries
The middle layer was pseudo-sweet, with home-style ginger crunch, then a lemon curd pre-made tart and scone with jam and cream. Looking across at the next table I noticed that some others had chocolate slices and what looked to be a miniature glass of berry coulis. It would have been interesting to try them both.

Ginger crunch, lemon curd tart and scones
The top layer once again featured pre-made pastry tarts, one featuring jam and covered with more jam and cream and the other filled with chocolate and caramel. Not unpleasant but nothing special.

Berry jam and chocolate tarts
I'd describe this experience as a high tea of sorts. I was disappointed with the lack of variety and very surprised at how much of the food was pre-prepared from frozen or store bought but still presented as high tea. It's not somewhere I'd rush back to but we still enjoyed some time out to catch up during a busy weekend.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Exploring the Martinborough wine trail

The plan was to cycle around the Martinborough vineyards and taste wine at a leisurely pace. We'd stay in the town centre, pick up a wine map and head out on two wheels each to explore the best of Martinborough's wine trail. The weather forecast had other plans, though. Heavy and steady rain was forecast all day - and if the early morning downpour was anything to go by, it wasn't going to be fun riding in the rain. We'd experienced soggy wine tasting before, but this was looking to be much worse. Plan B was devised.

We decided to replace two-wheeled transport for two sets of four wheels. This meant we could head out to some of the wineries that were slightly further away than the ones we'd managed to cycle to before. After two or three tastings, we'd return to our accommodation and walk to nearby wineries until the rain got the better of us. Luckily, our drivers were happy with this arrangement.

Te Kairanga Wines

Making the most of our transport, we started furthest away at Te Kairanga Wines. The cellar door is in The Cottage, a classic farm house cottage built in the late 1800s. The picturesque grounds were resplendent on an autumn morning. Our host was welcoming and informative, giving us the background to each wine we tasted. Given that 70% of Te Kairanga's vineyard is pinot noir, three of these vintages were included in our tasting, something which is lost on those of us who are white wine drinkers.

Te Kairanga wines
White wine tasting notes
  • 2016 Sauvignon Blanc. Although I'm usually a sav drinker, I found this style particularly forward and acidic, overpowering the tropical fruit palette. Maybe.
  • 2015 Riesling. This very dry wine gave off a kerosene smell. I learned that this isn't offensive to note; it's a result of the terpene produced while on the vine. This is more prominent in New Zealand and Australian wines as there is a higher concentration of UV rays on the canopy. Too acidic for me. No.
  • 2016 Chardonnay. Barrel fermented on 15% new oak for 10 months, this chardonnay blend was not too forward or oaky. Maybe.
  • 2014 reserve Chardonnay. A much fuller flavour - far too oaky for me. No.

Poppies

The sun had started to shine and more people were venturing out for wine tasting. We made a smart decision to visit Poppies before the crowds and rain arrived. Poppies is phenomenonally popular in summer. Their wines are only available from the cellar door and the venue is simply beautiful.

A warm welcome from Poppy
We started with wine tasting by the roaring fireplace. It was hosted by winemaker Poppy Hammond, while husband Shayne Hammond (viticulturist) prepared an outdoor table for our lunch.

Wine tasting notes
We were served teeny tiny samples, which made it a hard to get the full flavour of each wine, while Poppy explained her tasting notes.
  • 2016 Rosé. This rosé is 100% pinot noir and its pinkish colour came from two hours of contact with the skins. Maybe.
  • 2016 Riesling. I didn't quite know what to make of this Riesling. It was extremely dry with a limey aftertaste, which some of our group loved. Maybe.
  • 2016 Sauvignon blanc. This very smooth wine is the last time Poppy will make a pure Sauvignon blanc. In future, it will become a Sauvignon blanc and Semillion blend. Not overly sweet. Maybe.
  • 2016 Pinot gris. Very smooth and sweet. Maybe.
  • 2016 late harvest Riesling. These grapes were harvested 6 weeks after the regular Riesling. Usually I find late harvest or dessert wines far too sweet but, surprisingly, I kind of liked it! Maybe.
By now the sun was well and truly out and Poppies was almost full. We were enticed to a table outside and offered warm blankies to cuddle up with (it is autumn, after all). Poppies is not a restaurant but is known for its excellent seasonal lunch platters, which offer all sorts of goodies including rosé poached salmon, pork belly slices, stuffed peppers, mushrooms, olives, brie, pumpkin hummus, rare beef, crostini ... the list goes on but our vegetarian was also happily catered for.

Lunch platter at Poppies

Luna Vineyards

No sign of the promised rain - far from it, in fact. We moved on to Luna Vineyards. Situated on the former Alana Wines site, Luna Vineyards has a lovely cellar door setting and restaurant.

Luna Vineyards tasting bar
Wine tasting notes
  • 2015 Riesling. This off-dry Riesling had around 30g residual sugar and a pleasant finish. Maybe.
  • 2016 Sauvignon blanc. Very smooth and not too fruity. Maybe.
  • 2015 Rosé. This orange-tinged rosé is made from 100% pinot noir grapes that had spent five hours on skins. Maybe.
  • 2015 Chardonnay. Not too oaky. This chardonnay spent 10 months aged in 40% new French oak barrels, leaving it with a smooth finish. Maybe.

Non-events

We drove out to two final vineyards on the way back to our accommodation. Both are slightly off the wine trail but we stopped at neither before calling it a day. Here's why:
  • Colombo Wines. Only four wines available for sampling but still with the usual $5 tasting fee. This usually gets 6-8 samples elsewhere.
  • Cambridge Wines. $10 tastings. Enough said.
Back at the bach, I checked the weather forecast status. Still no sign of the heavy rain we'd apparently had all day and were currently experiencing, so we could have cycled after all. Oh well, next time!

Pure fiction

Saturday, 6 May 2017

High tea at Martha's Pantry

When you hear the name Martha's Pantry, it's hard not to think of high tea. Martha's were one of Wellington's high tea pioneers when it enjoyed a big resurgence in the mid-2000s. In its heyday, bookings had to be made well in advance and nothing less than sheer decadence was on the menu. I've enjoyed many events at Martha's Pantry over the years and looked forward to returning for high tea to celebrate a special family occasion.

An extensive tea menu awaited our arrival, which unfortunately was not taken advantage of by our mostly coffee-drinking family. Luckily we could choose substitutions from the blackboard drinks menu. The special children's high tea menu was a big hit with the two youngest members of our family, who were served quickly. Drinks orders were placed and then our high tea services arrived.

High tea service
A selection of club sandwiches and savoury tarts helped whet our appetites.

Savoury to begin
The second course was bite-sized scones, one each with jam and passionfruit curd and piped with whipped cream.

Second, scones
To finish, we had brownie, mini lemon meringue tarts and vanilla cupcakes.

Sweet treats to finish
What's not to love? Sadly, I think the golden days have passed. I appreciate that family and business circumstances have changed, but Martha's Pantry seems a shadow of its previous glory. Now the food is not quite as fresh, the decor looks tired, the paper napkins are Pam's and the little touches of luxury that were all part of the experience have faded away.

High tea is (still) always a treat, but I fear others may now be outclassing Martha's Pantry at their own game.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Ed Byrne - Outside Looking In

The 2017 NZ International Comedy Festival roared into life last week and saw the return of my favourite international comedian, Ed Byrne. After a traditional Wellington welcome consisting of an aborted plane landing, an unforeseen return flight to Auckland and then an eventual landing at Wellington airport, Ed sauntered onto the stage, beer in hand and looking barely worse for wear after the ordeal. He's been here before so knows it works.


Outside Looking In features Byrne's brand of observational comedy. Everyday activities get overthought, taken apart and regurgitated in a delectable Irish accent. Byrne covered topics like the futility of interviewing athletes after a race that lasted just 10 seconds, an awkward TV and radio experience with the notoriously arrogant New Zealand broadcaster Paul Henry, plus I learned far more than I ever wanted to know about diarrhoea. (These last two skits were unrelated although they sound like they go together well.)

This year's show was completely different to Roaring Forties from two years ago, apart from the odd cheeky reference thrown in to see which of us were paying attention last time. If anything, it was even better! (Apart from the diarrhoea, that is. No-one saw that coming.)

Monday, 24 April 2017

Golden syrup

I have a sweet tooth. I always have. I occasionally give in to it but if I had a choice between savoury or sweet, sweet would win every time.

I keep my sweet tooth in check by never drinking anything sugary but still indulge in half a teaspoon of sugar in my coffee (or a full spoon if I'm making a triple espresso at home). I can  drink coffee without sugar but I like it slightly sweetened. I prefer dry wine, though. I don't drink juice, soft drinks, energy drinks or other versions of lolly water. But I still like to eat sweet stuff. I guess everyone has a vice.

One of my favourite things is golden syrup, both on its own and as an ingredient. As I think about whether to bake something for Anzac Day, I do know it will contain golden syrup. Just look at all the things I've already baked using golden syrup! I've loved this gooey sugary caramel goodness since I was a child. I remember using a knife to lever the lid off the tin with varying degrees of success. If you were messy when spooning it out and spilled some in the groove along the top of the tin, it would become really icky and glue-like next time you tried to wrench it open.

Loving golden syrup seems to be a family thing, especially for my dad. He taught us that golden syrup can go on or in almost anything - whether or not it should. I keep some of the pourable variety in my pantry for when pancakes, crumpets or waffles need a quick topping (I'm not a jam or marmalade eater), but it's not as good as the thick stuff that comes out of the tin.

Golden syrup goes especially well with another one of my favourite things: hot cross buns. There's nothing better than butter and golden syrup on freshly baked hot cross buns, right? Well, it seems like no-one outside of my family agrees. Here's a quick Twitter poll I ran to find out what people have on their hot cross buns. The results, and the restrain they implied, astounded me. Hmm.


(I'll admit: I cheated on this poll. The single vote for butter AND golden syrup is mine. I thought at least a few others would agree or even be curious, but no-one admitted to anything other than butter - except for a single comment voting for peanut butter. Now that's just wrong.)

So it looks like I'm alone in my love for golden syrup, at least as a topping for hot cross buns. Now that I've confessed my secret indulgence, what's yours?

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Missing Richard Simmons

Missing Richard Simmons is a 6-part podcast series that hit the digital airwaves in February this year. Created by filmmaker Dan Taberski, it explores the so-called mysterious disappearance of 80s-style fitness and lifestyle guru Richard Simmons, whose departure from public life almost exactly three years ago has been the cause of much speculation.

If you don't know who Richard Simmons is, conjure up your most vivid memory of an over-hyped 1980s leotarded Jazzercise video and turn up the volume. Picture a harem of devoted followers of every age, shape and size. These are the people Simmons helped to lose weight and gain health. He had a personal connection with them all, and his many grand gestures show how much he cares. He would never leave his loyal followers without saying goodbye ... and yet he somehow did by not turning up to class three years ago and not being seen since.

So what's the big deal? The podcast is less about the fact that Simmons disappeared but more interested in the way he did it: quietly and totally out of character with his very public persona. Perhaps it wouldn't have been so extraordinary if he'd gone out with a characteristically energetic bang than this muted whimper? Nobody expected a quiet disappearance from this very public figure.

Maybe he is merely missed, rather than missing? Or perhaps it is a publicity stunt where the mystery of his disappearance is fuelling interest in his brand and leading to further sales? It's possible but doesn't seem likely given the circumstances outlined by his ever-faithful followers.

Dan Taberski tells a good story. He has his own personal connection, of course, and explores some theories about what may have happened to Simmons, none of which really reveal anything. However, it makes for great entertainment that has captured the minds and mouths of social media these past few weeks. And so Taberski's own grand gesture in the form of a one-man tribute ends in a manner that parallels the narrative: quietly.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

A little bit green

Earlier this week, I attended a presentation with the endearing title, "Are we all doomed?" Naturally, the presenter immediately grabbed the audience's attention. The subject was climate change and the context was our actions: what are we doing to save the world? Whose responsibility is it to make changes? Will it make any difference?

This topic has been on my mind for a very long time. I describe myself as a little bit green but know there is plenty of room for improvement. I'm a follower of the every little bit helps school of thought in many areas, and this approach was reaffirmed during the presentation.

Here is a quick inventory of my everyday green actions:
  • I use reusable shopping bags at the supermarket, although still resort packing fruit and cold cuts in plastic bags.
  • I have a coffee keep cup at work and at home; it's rare that I ask for a takeaway cup. (This happens most often when I'm travelling.)
  • I recycle as much as possible, reuse or donate second hand items (clothes etc) as much as I can and generally try not to buy too much crap ... generally.
  • I reuse plastic containers for other purposes (especially freezing food) and recycle what I don't need.
  • I use public transport to commute to and from work. Occasionally I get a ride from someone else going in the same direction but never drive to work alone.
  • I turn off lights, computer monitors and appliances when not in use and unplug chargers when done.
  • I'm planning a small vegetable garden and have started by planting herbs. The neighbourhood's snails and caterpillars have given up eating my produce this year, meaning I get to enjoy what I grow.
  • I avoid using my car for short, quick errands and try to walk, where practical. It helps that I live on the flat and close to many amenities.
But is it enough? Can the smallest actions make any difference when the majority of greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture and energy-based industries?
It's a start. I know there are plenty more things I could and should do. But apparently small actions do add up. If everyone adopted three small green behaviours, it would make a big difference and we may not be doomed after all. I might not be saving the world by myself, but hopefully I'm helping.

How are you helping to save the world?

Sunday, 26 February 2017

February snapshot

At the risk of sounding like a giant cliche ... time is going so fast and I can't believe February is all but over. We haven't had much of a summer this year but have still been really busy with summery events - and that's Wellington for you. We can't plan on good weather so just get on with it anyway. Here's a snapshot of a few things I've been up to this month.

February snapshot

I've started Zumba again! I was worried about starting from scratch after 5 (may 6) year break, but it turns out that my muscle memory has stored lots of the moves for me and it's just a case of linking them together in different combinations. There are a few moves I'm struggling to unlearn and relearn but most others also have arms and legs flying in random directions with huge grins plastered on their faces, so I'm in good company.

Guns N' Roses came to town for their Not In This Lifetime tour. The rain cleared just enough for us to make our way to a stadium filled with 31,500 other wet bogans. I know I predicted that the tour would be a tragic, train wreck of an event, but still bought tickets ... and I'm so glad I did. The concert was better than I could have imagined and a full-on Slash show, who I now respect far more as a musician than I thought possible. Appetite for Destruction survives another decade.

Despite the best of intentions for Round the Bays last weekend, I ended up too sick to get out of bed on Sunday, let alone walk 10km. So that event will go back on my list for next year.

We enjoyed our annual camping trip at Himatangi Beach with around 20 friends. It was fine enough to pitch our tent overnight for what is likely to be our only camping trip this summer.

I read the novel Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. And then I watched the movie of the same name. Wow. As always, the book is far more detailed and nuanced than the movie, which rushed through the suspense and made it far too easy for viewers to guess what was going on. But, I repeat: wow! No clues or spoilers from me, just a recommendation to read the book (essential) and then watch the movie (if you feel the need).

It's actually been quite a musical month. I took my dad to see The Hollies Highway of Hits concert on Friday night. Core members of the group have been touring almost continuously since forming in 1962, which is an impressive feat. I'd seen The Hollies when they toured in 2011 and this show was pretty much the same as that one, but this time I had Dad in tow to enjoy a stroll down musical memory lane.

I ordered a present for myself: The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days recipe book. The original Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook is one of my favourites and now has a sister publication. I christened the book by making chocolate chip whoopie pies for Good Bitches Baking this weekend. I'm pleased to report that my first ever batch of whoopie pies passed the Weka household's quality controls with flying colours.

Chocolate chip whoopie pies