How to understand this blog

Monday, January 31, 2011

just what the doctor ordered

Another example of honest advertising, by salesmen with integrity:

In small print: "I have for many years past ordered Guinness to my patients. ... a single glass of Guinness has often been a turning point for the better."

Advertisements from 1937-1938.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I've finally bought the new Brooke Fraser album, Flags. I've actually listened to it several times already because not one, not two, but three of my flatmates bought it as soon as it came out! (We like her. Quite a lot.)

It's a lovely album. I have her two other albums, and I don't know what one I would say is the best, but this is definitely a progression from the others - she is obviously not simply repeating more of the same, although she's still got all the wonderfulness of her other stuff - the lyrics, the voice, the musical sensitivity and originality. I heard that with this song she wanted to make sure there were more upbeat songs on it than the last album, Albertine, as it got a bit wearing always performing the more serious, dark ones. And I can definitely see that in this album. The thoughtful ones still remain, though - for which I am glad.

My favourites:
"Something in the Water", the first single, is just a charming, bubbly, happy song you can't help singing along to. It's lovely.
"Who Are We Fooling?", a duet about marriage. Somehow, it manages to be both beautiful and realistic. An amazing song.
"Crows and Locusts" is a story-song, which always appeals to me. I love the creativeness of this one, musically - its slight creepiness, the way it moves around a lot, rather like Regina Spektor in a song like "Human of the Year".

I also like "Betty", "Jack Kerouac" and "Ice on Her Lashes". And basically everything else on the album.

So yeah - I highly recommend this!

I am very excited to be going to the Christchurch leg of the More FM Winery Tour, at the Mudhouse vineyard, on February 26. An outdoor concert featuring Brooke, Opshop and Midnight Youth... as well as picnics, wine, the sun and then the stars - what could be more wonderful?

In other news: I discuss books that are meaningful to me on my other blog. What books would you choose?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

these are a few of my favourite things: part one

When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad - I simply remember the following videos, and then I don't feel so bad!

Laughing quadruplets

Love Language - The Jubilee Project

Crazy warehouse guy - duet (from The Chaser's War on Everything)

Dramatic stalking cat

Maya Plisetskaya, The Dying Swan

Sound of Music, Antwerp, Belgium

Enthusiastic musicians playing Carnival of the Animals

Others include ones which I have posted on here before, like the Otters holding hands, or the Nativity play by an Auckland church.

What are your favourite youtube pick-me-ups?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

cookbook challenge #1

From "Slow Cooker Recipes", I used a huge lump of braising steak that my flatmate's father sent up from his farm for her birthday dinner. One recipe book down, sixteen to go.

Beef Bourgignon

675 g/1.5 lb braising steak, trimmed
225 g/8 oz piece pork belly (I left this out and simply used more beef)
2 T olive oil
12 shallots, peeled (or in my case, 3 large onions)
2 garlic cloves
225 g/8 oz carrots, peeled and sliced
2 T plain flour
150 mL/0.25 pint red wine
450 mL/0.75 pint beef stock
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
450 g/1 lb potatoes, scrubbed
1 T freshly chopped parsley

Cut steak into small pieces and reserve. Heat 1 T of the oil in a large frying pan, add the meat and cook in batches for 5-8 minutes, or until sealed. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.

Add the remaining oil to the pan, then add the onions, carrots and garlic and cook for 10 minutes.

Return the meat to the vegetables, and sprinkle in the flour. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour in the wine and stock. Return to the heat and bring to the boil, stirring constantly.

Transfer to the slow cooker. Dice the potatoes and stir into the meat. Add the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper.

Cover with the lid and switch the slow cooker to high. Cook for 2 hours, then turn to low and cook for another 8-10 hours. (Alternatively, if you get started a bit late, like I did, just leave it on high.)

Serve sprinkled with parsley. (I served with homemade bread also.)

My verdict:

This was yummy. It's been so long since we had 'proper' red meat in the flat that I could almost feel myself salivating as it cooked. It was all I could do to resist temptation and wait until the bread too was ready at 7.30pm for us to eat. It smelt AMAZING and tasted pretty good too.

However, this recipe took quite a bit more preparation than a slow cooker recipe should, I feel. The whole point is to save time by just bunging everything into the cooker without any of this pre-cooked meat/onions/carrots palaver. This recipe wasn't at all out of the ordinary as slow cooking recipes go, so I don't understand why all the extra work was necessary.

It also involved scary things which I left out of the recipe above - like pouring in brandy and lighting it on fire. WAY out of my comfort zone, so automatically rejected!

So... I'm not convinced by this cookbook. Flicking through some of the other recipes, I continue to feel the same way. Slow-cooked stuffed vine leaves? Slow-cooked lemon drizzle cake? Hmm. It just doesn't seem right.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

a new resolution

Another year, another mad idea. I noticed today that I have quite a large collection of cookbooks. See below. Each tempting, but nevertheless overwhelmingly large.

I hardly use any of them, and I want this to change! So, I am forming yet another New Year's resolution. I will use a different cookbook every time I cook a meal this year. Eeek! These are the choices, in rough order of preference:

Home Food (Murdoch Books) - this is new to me, and it has the most lovely, achievable-and-cheap-yet-interesting-looking recipes.

Destitute Gourmet, 10th anniversary edition
, by Sophie Gray - this is one of my favourite cookbooks ever! Full of great recipes.

Dish It Up, by Simon Holst - this is a fantastic cookbook of one-dish meals, by the son of a famous-in-NZ Kiwi cook, Alison Holst. I especially like his recipe for pad thai.

Donna Hay: Pasta, Rice and Noodles - I haven't used this yet *guilty face* but it looks lovely!

Complete Comfort Food - this is a beautiful-looking book, but slightly difficult to find one's way around, so I don't use it very often, sadly. It is edited by someone called Bridget Jones!

Clearfile of my mother's recipes for Indian food - a fantastic collection Mum built up after she returned from her years living in Southern India.

Clearfile of my own collection of favourite recipes - this is my favourite go-to. Mum helped me create it when I was about sixteen, and I've been adding to it ever since.

Nine Foodtown magazines - Foodtown is one of the Kiwi supermarket chains. It produces some really good magazines with heaps of fantastic, seasonal recipes.

Vegie Food (Murdoch Books) - another fantastic-looking book which I haven't used much. I did make a couple of soups this year; I'm looking forward to trying more as we have a vegetarian flatmate joining us soon!

The Really Useful Ultimate Student Cookbook, Silvana Franco - this is actually a fantastic cookbook for flatting! Meals that actually taste good without being difficult or expensive.

Cook with Jamie
, Jamie Oliver - a 21st birthday present from my sister. Really nice hardcover recipe book with some great pasta recipes. My only quibble is the ridiculousness of some of them. Where, pray, am I to get hold of rabbit or duck or other game meats to cook?

Perfect Thai - I've tried a couple of these. I NEED to try more. They look good! Only problem is the accessibility of some ingredients.

Middle Eastern Cookbook, Maria Khalifé - to my shame, I still have not attempted any of these.

Simply Italian, by Sophie Braimbridge - this was a gift from an aunt, and unfortunately it's not "simple" at all. She does, however, include a fantastic recipe for foccaccia bread. And it will be good for me to have to attempt at least one of these recipes.

4 Ingredients (2), Kim McCosker and Rachel Bermingham - the concept being that every meal needs only four ingredients. This is okay. It cheats though, by leaving out things like rice or potatoes to serve meals with.

Easy as 123, Robyn Martin - this is okay, and it was free! It is the source of my fabulous Russian fudge recipe so, as long as my flatmates don't mind eating fudge for dinner, we're sweet!

Slow Cooker Recipes - still haven't tried this out. It looks okay.

Meena Pathak's Flavours of India - haven't tried this either.


The Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book - I grew up on this like every other child in NZ or Australia! It's wonderful! Join the facebook group I linked to!

Sugar and Spice, with Jo Seagar - this is the result of a nation-wide baking competition, where famous baker Jo Seagar tried out hundreds of family recipes sent to her. It has one of the most wickedly yummy chocolate cakes I've ever tried.

Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes
, illustrated by Quentin Blake - this is pretty much an awesome book.

Kitchen Wizard, by Deborah Jarvis - these are the baking recipes I used to love when I was a kid. I still use some of them!


I will keep you posted on the success of my mission!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Saturday, January 8, 2011

two desperate people

We are looking for a flatmate - (on that topic, does anyone know anyone who would be willing to move to Christchurch, New Zealand simply to help us pay our rent?) - and we're getting kind of desperate. Yesterday was yet another example, however, that we should trust our instincts and not sign ourselves up to living with crazy people for a whole year!

Someone, let's call him "Ashley", rang me up about our flat a week or two ago. We chatted about thrilling things like how much rent is, when bond needs to be paid, how much money we each put in for electricity, et cetera.

I didn't get the best vibe despite the boringness of the conversation and, anyway, we've pretty much decided we want a female flatmate.

Then yesterday I got a call from Ashley again. I'd forgotten to let him know about our decision, so I apologised and explained.

Ashley: "I actually really like living with girls."

Allie: "Oh, right."

Ashley: "Yeah, as long as no one starts liking each other, that makes it really awkward, and as long as there's no crazy bitchiness, living with girls is great."

Allie: "Hm, well, I'll talk to my flatmates, but I think we've definitely made our decision."

Ashley: "Oh." (sudden flirtatious voice) "Well, are you single?"

Allie (too surprised to lie): "Uh, yes."

Ashley: "Are you looking for a boyfriend?"

Allie (baldly): "No."

Ashley: "Are you sure? You see, I'm single, and I'm really just looking for a partner right now."

Allie: "No, sorry, I'm not on the market."

Ashley: "Well, I wouldn't say anything like that about you, it's not very respectful of women, but I understand. Bye!"


Friday, January 7, 2011


This week, I have been making a shift - literally and symbolically. Read all about it on Armchair of a Bookologist.

I have also been pondering cool (and hopefully) easy crafts - you can read about it here.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

who are we fooling?

I have had this song off the new Brooke Fraser album stuck in my head for the last three days, and I still love it. I think that means it's a keeper!!

Monday, January 3, 2011

happy new year

I normally put on a very sceptical face when it comes to New Year. This year, however, I decided to make some resolutions. For the first time in a long time, I do not know how I will be spending the year. I will finish my thesis sometime before the end of March, and suddenly there will be a big blank emptiness I will have to fill. So I've decided that I might need some actual goals, so that I can actually move forward.

1. I want to do the Routeburn Track (3 days long, one of NZ's Great Walks) before the end of next summer. I did the first couple hours of this at the start of 2009 (pictured below) and it's just beautiful. It will take a bit of preparation - gear, companions, travel, fees, fitness - but this is why I need to start thinking about it now!

2. In terms of general being-a-better-person stuff: I want to complain less. Especially in the flatting environment. It's very easy to start complaining about someone or something, and not so easy to stop.

3. Get a job that is not completely unrelated to the skills I have acquired over the last six years (sigh) of study.

4. Figure out some things. Do I want to do a PhD or not? Do I want to be anything in particular?

5. Get writing again. Creative writing.

6. Move forward in some way. I do not want 2011 to be a year of being stagnant.