super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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berries and white chocolate chip ice cream recipe

what’s one to do when one’s out of ice cream and gets a craving for this cold treat? well, one stops referring to oneself as “one” and “oneself”… and then makes ice cream from scratch.

I used the always faithful Edmonds cookbook (a kiwi classic) for the basic ice cream recipe. The result is the mixture you see below and, for that, you will need to get a few bowls dirty. Here’s how:

beat four egg whites until stiff peaks form. gradually add 1/4 of a cup of caster sugar to the egg whites, one tablespoon at a time, beating until the sugar dissolves before adding the next tablespoon.

in a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and another 1/4 of a cup of caster sugar until thick and pale. add one teaspoon of vanilla.

fold yolk mixture into egg white mixture.

in another bowl, beat 300ml of cream until thick. then fold the cream into the egg mixture.

That’s your basic ice cream done. If you pour that into a container and freeze it, you will have vanilla ice cream. Or frozen boredom, whatever you want to call it. So pick your favourite ingredients to add to it and make it more interesting. For this first attempt, I picked berries and white chocolate. I had a bag of frozen berries in the freezer so used those to make about 1 1/2 cups of berry pulp.

I didn’t have any chocolate chips, only chocolate buttons, so patiently broke them into little chips (because that’s how committed I am to ice cream).

Give the mixture a good stir to ensure the white chocolate chips are all over it and don’t just concentrate in one place. Pour the mixture into a container (or individual serving bowls) suitable for freezing.

Freeze for about three hours or until firm.

Eat it as if ice cream is going out of fashion.


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I know what I did last summer* – Great Barrier Island edition

A mini-guide to Great Barrier Island

A much-needed backup of my laptop led to me spending a good hour browsing through photos, including the folder of photos taken on Great Barrier Island in October last year. It is such an amazing place to visit and you would be surprised at how few NZers actually go there (especially considering it’s only about 100km out of Auckland – a mere 30min flight away). But maybe the fact it doesn’t get many visitors is actually part of the reason the island is so beautiful.

Travelling to Great Barrier really does feel like travelling back in time to what New Zealand must have used to be. I know it sounds cheesy but it is true that time seems to slow down on the Barrier and things are done in a much simpler way. There are no paved roads and no electricity on the island. Each house as its own power generator and don’t expect to find any street lights or traffic lights anywhere (take a torch with you!).

There are amazing pristine white sand beaches like I have not seen anywhere else in New Zealand and a network of great bush walks for keen hikers. Snorkeling and diving are supposed to be amazing here but I didn’t do any of those so can’t talk about them. It is also supposed to be a popular place for birdwatchers, for the many beautiful species that choose to call the island home. If you’re into mountain biking, there are a few good tracks. If golf is your passion (I won’t question it but I do find it a lil’ bit dull), there’s a nine hole golf course as well.

Population numbers are very low on Great Barrier (something like a little over 800 people covering 285 square kilometres). It’s not unusual to drive for ages without seeing anyone else and it is also not unusual to realise that pretty much everyone you’ve established any sort of contact with while on the island knows each other.

But there’s more to Great Barrier than just the stunning landscapes. Artists have found in the island their perfect refuge and many run small galleries where they exhibit and sell their creations. We bought a couple of unique handmade charms off an artist on the island, just as we were on our way to the airfield to return back to Auckland. That’s when we realised the galleries deserve a closer look (a reason to go back).

We only had three days on the island and I was a bit worried we’d be rushing around to see all the sites we had planned on seeing. However, as we arrived there, the relaxed, no-frills lifestyle kind of rubbed onto us and we found ourselves taking our time and not really stressing about getting through our list of places to see. We sat around for ages admiring landscapes and enjoyed the privilege of walking along deserted beaches.

Three days were enough to give us a taste of Great Barrier Island but they were also enough to make us realise we definitely need to return. And you should go there too.

How to get there:

You can either fly or take a ferry from Auckland to Great Barrier Island. If you’re flying, you can choose to fly with Fly My Sky (the company we used) or Great Barrier Airlines. The trip takes about half an hour.

If you’re choosing to take the ferry (which can either take 2 1/2 or 4 1/2 hours, depending on whether it is a car ferry or a passenger ferry), both SeaLink and Fullers operate from Auckland.

Where to stay:

There are many accommodation options on Great Barrier and most of them look very nice. Truth is, you’re never too far from an amazing beach on the island so, wherever you choose to stay, it’ll probably be amazing. We stayed in Tryphena, at the south end of the island, not very far from the airfield.

Getting around the island:

The roads on Great Barrier are not paved so my advice is that you do not take your own car to the island (which you can do with the car ferry). Hiring a car on the island is not very expensive and you’ll be thankful you are driving a rental car when you hit the really rough parts of the roads.

Food:

There are some good restaurants on Great Barrier, if memory serves me right. We had a delicious dinner at an Irish pub in Tryphena. I can’t remember the name but I’m pretty sure there aren’t two Irish pubs there so that should be enough information to get you there.

However, snacks can be expensive! Great Barrier Island’s groceries arrive weekly from supermarkets in Auckland and, therefore, stock is limited and prices are higher than you will find in other areas of New Zealand. If you’re going for just 3 or 4 days, like we did, I suggest you pack some snack bars or biscuits, in case you get hungry and don’t feel like paying 3 or 4 times as much for them.

Money:

There are no banks or ATMs on Great Barrier so take cash with you!

Not to miss:

The SS Wairarapa shipwreck site, on the north of the island, is well worth a visit.

Don’t forget to visit the Kaitoke hot springs, which are a short bush walk away from the road.

Windy Canyon is well worth the walk to (especially for the stunning panoramic views you get of the whole island). But they’re not joking about the name – don’t leave that jacket in the car!

* Winter has really settled in here in the land of the long white cloud (and we’ve been having some seriously cold weather). The next best thing after warm coats, hot cups of coffee and comfortable knitwear is to remind myself of how much I enjoyed the past summer. It is also a good reminder of the good times to look forward to when the next summer comes around. Oh yes it is!
 
This is the fourth post in the series.The first one was about Rarotonga, the second was about White Island and the third one was about New Zealand’s South Island.


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happy weekend!

It’s amazing how, not thaaaaaat many years ago (shut up!), I was battling with my parents over what time I was allowed to come home from being out with friends in the evening. Back then, conquering the right to an extra 20 or 30 minutes felt like a victory in a major battle. I subconsciously believed I would forever cherish the fruits of those battles.

Ten years later, my ideal friday night – especially now in winter – includes good food, a cat curled up next to me and a pile of magazines or a book. And that’s not even in preparation for a big weekend of hard partying, nope! My plans for the weekend include – you guessed it! – cakes and books and coffee and tea and biscuits and magazines and crap tv and early nights*. If I knew I was about to turn into such a nana so early on in life, I wouldn’t have made such a big deal over those 20 or 30 minutes ten years ago.

Yay! Weekend!

 

*and a fair bit of running in preparation for the half-marathon so, please, weather gods, be kind!


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It’s the (not so) little things

Around lunchtime on 29 November 2009, I typed my final word on the document that I had had open for the previous 29 days, added a “the end” for dramatic effect and grabbed my phone to call C. It was sunday and he was out on a bush walk with some friends.

It was a gorgeous day outside, as it had been in the few days prior to that. I had massive bags under my eyes and was in serious need of some vitamin D so I remember feeling really bummed out I couldn’t join them for the walk. “I DID IT! IT’S FINISHED!” I said, as soon as he said ‘hello’. Instead of his usual patronising “hmm okay, honey” (usually said while he quickly tries to remember what the heck I’m talking about), he said “All done? Wow! That’s awesome!” and proceeded to tell the person walking next to him that I had just finished my first NaNoWriMo challenge and, with that, my first 50,000 word novel.

The reason for his genuine satisfaction with my achievement (which, on a universal scale, is pretty minuscule, I do realise) was because he had seen how hard each of those days had been, working full-time in a writing job, only to get home and write another 1667 words on top of that, when my brain was begging for a break. I printed out my “winner’s certificate” and felt genuinely proud of myself.

Was it because I had written the next New York Times Bestseller? Of course not, I’m no Snooki! I had over 50,000 words of complete rubbish (so bad I haven’t dared to open the document pretty much since that exact same day, for fear of dissolving into a pool of embarrassment).

So no, it had nothing to do with the kind of work I had slaved over. It was just about the fact that I had set myself to do it… and I had done it. Bonus: I had managed to stick to my self-imposed rules: 1) do not take any time off work because of it and 2) do not cancel any pre-scheduled social engagements because of it.

In the great scheme of things, doing the thing you love the most every single day for 30 days shouldn’t be hard. But like most things in life, turn it into an obligation, give it a deadline, and it enters the “tedious chore” danger zone. That was what I was afraid to happen. It didn’t.

Anyway, I started thinking about this after watching this short TED talk by Matt Cutts about how small sustainable steps make you achieve your goals in a much easier way. It all sounds pretty obvious until you start thinking about how you usually have big ideas (I want to write a novel! I want to run a marathon!) and then get completely overwhelmed by the scale of those ideas and toss them aside in favour of something a little easier.

In a way, I think that’s the same logic behind my decision to enter one running event per month this year (I’ve entered five so far, having missed the June one due to a cold and the July one due to not wanting to give organisers $50 for the only run that fits into my schedule… but I’ll catch up). The point is, this goal is not to run a marathon (CALM DOWN!) but to slowly progress towards something of the sorts.

(The fact that I’m going to be running my first ever half-marathon in 3 weeks time and still have no idea how I’m going to live to blog about it is a subject for an entirely different blog post.)

Last January, I also set myself the “mini-goal” of running 100km during that calendar month. It turned out to be fairly easy to reach, with summer days being a big help and getting through the month tracking the numbers and seeing them increase was actually quite exciting, like I was in a race against myself… and winning!

Thirty days seems like short enough for me to stick to something in case I don’t like it and it also seems like long enough for me to do something I like very often without getting sick of it. Plus, it means I’m making each day matter, somehow. Well, most days.

***

image credit goes to my friend & running buddy S. and you can sort of see me with my dorky knee brace during our very first running event, on Waiheke Island, back in January.


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5 things that have annoyed me lately and 6 things that make it all better

I’ll quit my bitchin’ in just a minute but, for the next few lines, let me use this blog to let out what has been annoying me, okay? Okay, cool.

  • Moody’s pretending that they have any kind of credibility (see here for context, for example)
  • Online stores that don’t ship internationally, totally missing the point of the www
  • Online stores that charge you a kidney to ship something internationally while others will send you cheaper, heavier items for free, from further away (I love you Asos, marry me!)
  • People who get in trouble for doing illegal stuff, admit to knowing they were doing it illegally on purpose and still act all cocky about it and threaten to sue because they were put in jail instead of  a hotel. True story.
  • My hand mixer committed suicide this weekend halfway through mixing flour into the dough for a chocolate cake. I’m currently “hand mixer-less” which is a really bad state to be in.
On the other hand, there are some pretty cool things in life and, contrary to what it may look like early on a Monday morning, I’m not a giant cloud of no.
  • I have a stack of cheap as chips vintage film cameras in working order at home and can’t wait to load them up with some film and start snapping away.
  • I’ve also got a pile of cool old magazines from work (yay for their spring cleaning in winter), full of pretty pictures to look at.
  • Warm milk and a couple of squares of Whittaker’s creamy milk chocolate thrown in it. Heaven.
  • My kitty who sleeps lying on her side like humans (and snoring!) and is the cutest thing ever.
  • Being able to go to the gym at 11pm
  • Good music to help me get through deadline.

Right, final Russian lesson tonight (for the current course) so better finish my homework before heading there. до свидания!


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Note to self and to others: a list of things to eat in Portugal (WIP)

I’m going to be home in more or less 50 days. By the time I land it will have been 20 months since my last visit which is just ridiculously stupid. I would describe to you how excited I am about going home but then this would turn into a really long blog post full of crazy-happy yays and squees, capital letters and multiple exclamation marks so I’ll save you from that.

Besides all the obvious things that I’m looking forward to (ie, squeezing all my family and friends real hard until they start wishing I’d just bugger off back to NZ so they can breathe normally again), I’m really excited about the food. Yes, the food. After the people, the food is the best thing about my country, hands down. I mean, it’s beyond awesome and no other country can replicate the level of culinary awesomeness that goes on in that little country, I tell you.

So the other day I started writing down all the things I cannot wait to eat when I’m there. Last time I visited, I thought I wouldn’t need a list and ended up forgetting to eat a bunch of delicious stuff that I can’t get here in Kiwiland so this time I decided a list was in order. Then I thought I should put the list on here so that it can serve two purposes: reminding myself of all those things and, just in case someone happens to be planning a trip to Portugal, they don’t act all crazy like I did last time and leave without trying some of this stuff.

Note that this list is a work in progress and I’m sure there are at least 456,550 other things that I’ll think of before I make my way back to the northern hemisphere. Also, apologies in advance for the lack of accents.

  • pao alentejano (without a doubt, the best bread in the world. Even my kiwi agrees that life without that bread is a tough one)
  • cafe delta (best coffee in the world and lalalalalala I can’t hear you if you disagree lalalalalala)
  • gomas vidal (a particular brand of lollies that are super soft and full of flavour. to die for!)
  • tuli creme (sort of like nutella but about a bazillion and a half times better)
  • chocapic (best. cereal. ever.)
  • grilled sardines (one of the advantages of visiting in summer)
  • snails (again, amen to a summer trip for allowing me to enjoy these, after 3 years of visiting in winter and missing out on them)
  • acorda alentejana (with lots of pao alentejano!)
  • morcela de arroz (again, on pao alentejano)
  • pasteis de nata (the tarts that I keep telling everyone I can’t live without)
  • ovos moles (egg overdose. nothing not to like)
  • bolas de berlim (it’s like what in NZ you’d call a donut but giant sized and with heaps of egg cream inside. to consume on the beach, preferably)
  • farturas (a type of fritters… with sugar and cinnamon – deliciousness!)
  • churros com doce de ovo (churros are pretty well known here… except these ones are super-sized and have an egg mix inside that makes them divine!)
  • sumol de ananas (a pineapple fizzy drink that I haven’t found anywhere else)
  • queijo fresco (on pao alentejano!)
  • rol (is it still available? I read it made a comeback but not sure if it was for a limited time only! One of the ice creams made by Ola – the same brand that in NZ is called Streets)
  • tomatada (a dish made of basically tomatos and egg that you eat with, yeah, you guessed it… pao alentejano!)

(to be continued)


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auckland from above

Apparently, I’m the kind of person that goes on a helicopter ride and forgets her camera. That’s what happened this morning when I started the day with a helicopter ride over Auckland and only realised I didn’t have my camera on me when I sat on the helicopter. You’d think I would have gone prepared, seeing I was actually quite excited about it.

I had to snap away with my crappy cell phone and thought it was okay because I could always edit the photos out later. Turns out I don’t completely dislike this washed-out look my cell phone gives Auckland so have decided to post them without any editing. For the record, though, it was much more colourful and prettier. You’d get better pictures if I wasn’t such a freakin’ retard. Ah well.


Rangitoto volcano


Northhead


Harbour Bridge


Sky Tower


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I know what I did last summer* – South Island edition

In the beginning of summer, my parents visited New Zealand for the first time and we took them on a little whirlwind tour of the country. It was a jam-packed month during which we tried to made sure they got to see the most amazing sites (including a couple of places I’d never been to either, like Milford Sound). We couldn’t believe how lucky we were with the weather (even if mum and dad found it a wee bit chilly most of the time). The sky was clear for 99.9% of their time here and the southern lakes were a real beauty.

We started off our southern roadtrip in Christchurch (which my parents were fortunate enough to visit pre-earthquake) and headed west across Arthur’s Pass to Greymouth. From there, we drove south to the glaciers and then to Wanaka and Queenstown, before heading to Te Anau and Milford South, and all the way down to Invercargill before starting the journey back up north through Dunedin, Oamaru, and a bunch of other cute little towns, back to Christchurch again.

The poor rental car clocked up a lot of kilometres but we still had plenty of time to stop and enjoy the amazing landscapes. I honestly can’t remember how many photos we took of this lake (Lake Pukaki) but we just couldn’t believe how beautiful it looked. We had driven past it earlier in the day and it hadn’t been quite like that but I guess the real still air with zero wind caused this image in the afternoon. I was so pleased they got to see it like that too.

This was my third trip to the South Island and every time I go I’m reminded of why New Zealand is considered one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It’s not that the North Island isn’t pretty – it is! – but the South Island is truly spectacular.

 

P.s.: Dear tourists travelling to New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup in September: if you come all the way to the bottom of the world and don’t take the extra drive/flight to the South Island, you’ll be missing out on the most amazing landscapes ever. Consider yourself warned.

* As winter reaches New Zealand, I thought the next best thing about warm coats, hot cups of coffee and comfortable knitwear would be to remind myself of how much I enjoyed the past summer. It is also a good reminder of the good times to look forward to when the next summer comes around. Oh yes it is! This is the third post of the series.The first one was about Rarotonga and the second was about White Island.

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