“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Countdown to Christmas

Once again, my friend Holly and I hosted a Thanksgiving picnic. This year's picnic was held at Muriwai Beach, on the west coast north of Auckland. A lot of people showed up, each bringing a dish to share, creating enormous amounts of food. Holly's partner Steve is shown above, cutting up the wild turkey they prepared. Darin shot it on our Maungaturoto land, but Steve and Holly plucked and cleaned it, and prepared it. I baked roast beef. Strawberries are in season again, and they are in abundance. The day was glorious! Still, because this is a remote beach, I was shocked to see so many people there!
Christmas is nearly upon us. Just 3 days of work next week, then 11 days off for the Xmas/summer break! Yippee! Last week, we returned from our weekly trip to Maungaturoto (water the trees, play with the dogs), and found this in our mailbox:

Our next-door-neighbor's son made this for us. Byron and his younger sister Bronte were then ringing the doorbell to ask if we got it. I told them how much I love it. I don't think the photo displays the pop-up design. The reindeer have hats on, and Santa's mustache is green! I love it as much as the Santa my niece Lydia drew for me years back: He appears to be saying HOI HOI HOI because the exclamation points (!) are upside-down. (Ho! Ho! Ho!). Anyway, Byron and Bronte got home-made chocolate chip cookies from me.Darin and I enjoy playing board games with our friends here, and we decided we needed to buy one to share. Agricola is the #1 boardgame on boardgamegeek.com (all the geek details are here). We really like it. Darin has won every time he's played, and I'm struggling to figure out how to do better. Meanwhile, we are mirroring the actions in the game, one of which is butchering a sheep. In the photo below, it is a goat, but that's a minor detail. This photo depicts our other new Christmas gift to ourselves, a butcher's bone saw. We decided to get this after seeing a distributor selling whole frozen goat carcasses for $5 per kilo. Apparently they were for export, but for some reason the sale didn't go through. We ended up with 4 of them, each about 15 lbs. We LOVE having chest freezers (yeah, we have 2: one for people food, one for dog). The idea was to feed the goat to our pets, but then I got to thinking that I should try to prepare some of it and see how it tastes. That is on my list of things to do during my holiday break.
Darin also bought a whole albacore tuna from the fish market. We ate some of it as sashimi (shown above, in soy sauce), some of it grilled, and froze the rest in vacuum sealed packages. The grilled tuna was so delicious! The recipe is to marinate tuna steaks about 30 min. in: dry sherry, 3 crushed garlic cloves, salt, pepper, and finely chopped parsley and cilantro. While it grills, a peeled/seeded mango is blended with orange juice, white wine, and 1 habanero pepper. This sauce is served over it. It's shown below with the grilled zucchini. One of them was the first one from my garden.Here's how the garden is doing: Those are lettuces and carrots on the left, then moving right: another variety of carrot, spaghetti squash, tomatoes, sliverbeet (chard), red onions, spring onions, yellow onions, garlic, zucchini, another spaghetti squash, and a cucumber (the last two have yet to fruit). Darin sprayed the "wooly jumpers", but they are unaffected. So far, no sign of the nasty green stinkbugs, but the slugs have been having their way with some of the lettuces.
I have been taking Ruby to the Dogsport NZ Auckland club for a few months. They have accepted me as a new member, and it's interesting to compare it to the Schutzhund clubs I knew back in Southern California. They hosted a trial this weekend. Two of the teams I train with earned new titles: the BH (obedience) and IPO I (tracking, obedience, and protection/"carachter work"). I was impressed with the performances overall.
Also this past month, I went to the 24-hour Incredibly Strange movie marathon.
This was hosted at the Hollywood Cinema in Avondale, where they have a Wurlitzer organ and big balcony. The seats in the center front of the theatre were moved to make space for people to bring their bean bag chairs. People were also allowed to bring outside food and drink. The event was sponsored by the energy drink V, and 3 were given to me as I went inside. I had two of them plus a couple of cans of Coke, so my stomach was in a knot from all the caffine. I did manage to stay awake during most of the 15 movies, which included: Lady in a Cage, Krull, Role Model ,The Ruins, Dying Breed, The Road Warrior, Desperate Living (John Waters), Mr Mike's Mondo Video, Moonshiner's Woman, Ninja Turf, The Last Dragon, Small Eyes, King Dinosaur, and Time Machine (the original). Highlights were Dying Breed, Desperate Living, The Last Dragon, and The Road Warrior.
Finally, books. I don't think I mentioned that I finished Roots, but found that I lost interest when he got to Chicken George. This section went on way too long, and then the characters started changing quickly, so they didn't get developed as well. I finished In the Land of Invisible Women. I was annoyed with the writing or editing, because names come up without any background mention. The author is both very forgiving and at times very critical of the Saudi culture. She went on WAY too long about doing a muslim pilgrimage (ho hum). It confirmed what I knew and gave me new knowledge about the society, and it's really ugly. I'm now reading Heat, An Amateur's Adventures as a Kitchen Slave (etc). Pretty good subject, insight, and entertaining writing. I'm nearly finished with it, and next is Steve Martin's biography, Born Standing Up. Three cheers for the library!!!