“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.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Enough of the Obama worship already, he's not a diety!

As the inauguration approaches, I suffer post-election blues. It's sort of like post-partum depression, which in reality I know little about, so have every right to compare to. He's not even president yet, and I'm already disappointed. Enough of the disgraceful, careless, soul-wrenching payouts to the big banks and car manufacturers! It's a vicious crime, what these companies have done... I'm already tired of this tirade. Let me focus on something easier: the selection of Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration. He is, simply, a bigot. An ugly, hateful bigot who does not deserve this position of respect. And one more thing, good riddance George W! You were easily the worst president ever, and I will celebrate not only for Obama's election, but for the end of your reign of horridness! However, being my typical pessimistic self, I expect very little to change. OK, I'm done now.On to the good stuff!
Fennel grows wild all around our property at Maungaturoto. I read in the book Heat that it is the new "it" seasoning for foodies, so I cut some of the flowers and brought them home. I bundled them in rubber bands and hung them from a hook in a window to dry. They have a lovely fragrance. I spent a few bent-back hours hand-picking the pollen bits, which are pretty large. Funny to think that pollen is just like sperm. I did put some in a salad dressing, but it was overpowered by the balsamic vinegar, so I don't know if I've wasted my time or not. If you live in the states and want to try it, you can buy it here.
I followed up the reading of Heat with another book about being a chef, Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. This book is funny! I'll probably check out some of his other books eventually. After this I'm moving on to The Kite Runner, which has been on my library waitlist for a few months. Over the holiday break, I also read Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea, which was mildly amusing, but not great. I think someone compared her to David Sedaris, but I wouldn't put her in the same league.
We have been waiting for KiwiSpan to get our garage built on the Maungaturoto property. They managed to get the concrete slab done, and when there was some concrete leftover, Darin applied it to the drive past the pond.
The drive was a bit smushed by that big concrete truck going over it, so this reinforcement will help, for awhile, maintain the raving crossing/pond. The building itself was delivered just today, and we are still hopeful that it will be complete by this weekend.
Darin had the extreme good fortune to be invited to go gliding with our friend Adam on a spectacular day. The photo below shows Rangitoto Island, just off the east coast of Auckland, off in the distance. (We climbed up Rangitoto back in Jan '07). Darin was totally stoked to have such a great birthday gift.
For his birthday dinner, we had a bottle of awesome old vine zinfandel from Lodi, California, Seven Deadly Zins. He wanted a steak to eat with this wine, so we went to the local steak joint in Henderson, Tony's. Unfortunately for us, the waitress didn't know how to take a cork out of a bottle, and tore the top of it off. I am pretty sure this restaurant doesn't have any bottles of wine that are not screw top. Darin had to help her get the remaining cork out so we could drink it. The rest of the meal did not improve. Unlike me, Darin took it all with calm good cheer. I desperately wanted to send his "creamed spinach" back, because it was only steamed with butter. At least we had my awesome, homemade, chocolate cake to satisfy our foodie lust.
I decided that since we have planted all these fruit trees, I should learn how to can. My friend Ammie has been a terrific resource, and we made strawberry jam together one afternoon. It turned out to be more of a dessert sauce, which was fine, since it went perfectly with Darin's chocolate cake. I found a good deal on tomatoes, and decided to try canning them. This was a learning experience only, because the cost of canned tomatoes is so low, it's not really cost effective to do it yourself. I had to borrow a jar lifter, cherry pitter, and a rack to put in the bottom of the pot to keep the jars off the bottom, so they don't crack while boiling for 45 minutes. The cherry pitter was for the bing cherries I got a screaming deal on. I made brandied cherries: 1 kg of pitted, halved cherries, 1 kg (nearly) of sugar, and 700 mls of brandy, combined in a 2 liter snap-tight lidded jar, and put away in a dark place until winter. I take it out now and then to shake, to help dissolve the sugar.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Happy new year 2009

We spent Xmas morning at Cornwallis Park (above) with my sister and bro-in-law. The beautiful red flowering trees are the Pohutakawa, AKA New Zealand Christmas tree. Darin brought our camping stove, fresh eggs from our hens, chopped veggies, and free range bacon, and made omelettes for breakfast. We were glad we got there early, because this remote beach became fairly busy as the morning progressed. We played a couple games of Bocce ball, then headed further down the road, through Huia and on to Whatipu, where I knew of some sea caves within an easy walking distance. Sadly we didn't bring any flashlights or sunscreen with us, so the cave tour was cut short.
There are about 5 caves of different sizes, and one can be camped in. I love caves! There are lots here in NZ, and sometimes people get trapped in them.
The picture below shows how far away from the ocean the caves are. The location is at the mouth of the Manukau Harbor, where sand has been deposited over the years. You can get to the beach from here, but it is a bit of a walk and there are many swampy areas.
For Xmas dinner I made a lamb stew recipe using a lamb shoulder (bone in) from my sister's Julia Childs cookbook, and it was the best! Pretty easy, too.
The weekend after Xmas, Darin and I went up to camp in our orchard, on our land outside Maungaturoto. We had a satisfying time walking around with a beer in one hand, machete in the other, smashing the thistle bushes to death. I did get a few scratches, but that's the price you pay when you do battle with the REAL evil weed.

Fargo and Ruby had fun playing in the recently filled pond next to our driveway. Ruby improved her swimming skills immensely, and she enjoys launching herself from the shore into the water. She and Fargo are master stick-fetchers.
We knew there was a rabbit living in the ravine just uphill from the pond, and Darin found him hopping about early in the morning. He hadn't even had any coffee yet, but his aim was perfect, right in the head! The dogs had fresh rabbit for breakfast (post-butchering).
After making ourselves breakfast, we drove 10 minutes to Whakapirau, where we tried out our new surf-casting rods and reels. The tide was out, and the shore was hella-muddy. Note to self, wear your gumboots next time. After 1.5 hrs without a nibble, we gave up. It was a lovely morning for standing around the beach, watching the birds and the tide come in.

Though I meant to paint my bedroom during the break, it just didn't happen. We did have some fun with friends, and ate lots of good food. I took the time to experiment with the goat meat, and found it to be really quite good. I made 2/3 goat, 1/3 beef sausages with pork fat, seasoned with rosemary, mustard, garlic, and salt of course. I also made a goat meat chili, cooking the goat legs in beer and broth with carrots, onion, shallot, leek, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaf, etc. The cooked meat was removed from the broth, cut off the bones, and the broth drained. Then I made the typical chili sauce using some of the broth, and just added the meat back to it. I have never fully appreciated the awesomeness of braising meat before this break, and I feel enlightened by the time and effort I put into learning it.

I finished reading Steve Martin's autobiography, Born Standing Up, and also Are You There Vodka, It's Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler. They were both ok, quick reads.

Finally, my new favorite blog is CakeWrecks. I frequently laugh out loud when I see it- check it out here. I will add it to my liks also.