super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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Being good on Good Friday

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Look, ma, no meat!

In May, five years will have passed since I moved to New Zealand. A whole half a decade of my life spent in the last bus stop in the world, almost 20,000km from home. It’s a whole lot of time to spend in a place that isn’t your own.

Except, it kind of is my own. I came across this article today, via a friend and fellow expat, that completely translated into words my feelings about living abroad.

It turns out I’m not the only one who’s come to the painful realisation that an expat will never fully feel whole again, no matter what happens. I miss Portugal dearly while I’m in New Zealand and I think fondly of all things Kiwi when I’m back in Portugal. I say “I’m going home” if I’m flying to Lisbon and I tell people in Lisbon about things I have “back home” in New Zealand. “Home” has come to define more than one place. It sounds like – and, for the most part is – a great situation to be in, to have two special places in your heart. But it doesn’t come without a decent amount of heartache.

I’ve grown more than five years in the last five years. Timezone differences mean my mum is asleep when most of my questions arise, when I burn my food, when I’m not sure which clothes I shouldn’t mix up with which in the washing machine, or when I can’t find an important document. If I get good or bad news that I want to share, I usually have to contain my enthusiasm for a few hours (we’re usually about 12 hours apart, depending on daylight savings). For the most part, I think I’ve been doing alright. Every few months, saudade hits harder but I’m fortunate enough to be able to solve that problem with the purchase of a flight home.

Moving this far meant that I had the chance to completely break away but, mostly due to having the most awesome family in the world, I’ve chosen not to.

Today, on my fifth Good Friday at home away from home, I purposefully didn’t eat meat. I have never eaten meat on any of the Good Fridays of my life. I have no real clue as to why, if I’m honest. My mum taught me we don’t eat meat on Good Friday and my grandma taught me the same and I’m pretty sure my great grandmother and great great grandmother didn’t eat meat on Good Friday either. Something something Jesus something, of course. I never really questioned it, especially because there were always plenty of chocolate eggs to make up for not being able to make a ham sandwich for 24 hours.

So if I don’t even really know why we had to do it, why do I choose to keep doing it, right? Well, it might have religious roots but it’s most definitely not a religious thing for me (if there is a God, he/she wouldn’t want to deprive me from steak). It’s a family thing. By continuing a family tradition, even if I’m away from family and surrounded by people who don’t do it, I’m closer to that other home I’m actually away from.

I couldn’t plan my Good Friday as well as I wanted to because the supermarket near home decided to close earlier than expected last night and I couldn’t buy the stuff I had planned for my meatless meals today. This little setback made me realise that, without proper planning, I’d be the world’s worst vegetarian. Aside from a fairly healthy-ish omelette (which did contain enough cheese to feed a small army), my day has been a sugarfest. Hot cross buns, pancakes, breakfast cereal and fruit smoothies.

Days that are heavy with traditions like this one are particularly hard for people who wish they could split into two or who wish science would stop mucking around and hurried up making teleportation a reality. No amount of Creme Eggs (which, thanks to the supermarket closing too early, I also did not have today) can make up for not being able to celebrate Easter back home.

I’ll just celebrate it here at home instead. And as soon as the shops open tomorrow, I’m queueing up for Easter eggs.

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On a smoothie kick

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I’m glad blenders don’t have feelings or workers’ rights otherwise mine would be going on strike soon. Poor little thing must be tired from getting used every day but I’ve been on a real smoothie kick lately.

I haven’t really taken advantage of this craving to make anything even remotely healthy but then we all know that was never going to happen anyway. I save my spinach for soup and my kale for nothing because kale is kind of yuck and I’m not entirely sure why the entire blogosphere seems to be obsessed with it these days. But I’m going through my ripe bananas like it’s nobody’s business and I suppose freezing them for smoothies is a bit healthier than mashing them for cake.

Above is the vanilla and coffee smoothie I had today. Don’t you just love when the name of something is also its entire recipe? I do! Vanilla + coffee = smoothie. Simplicity is underrated. You can add cinnamon or whipped cream or whatever else you want but, really, there’s only two basic ingredients for this. Two ingredient recipes are the best kind of recipes, even if they’re barely a recipe.

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Banana + mixed berries + berry yoghurt + skim milk

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Frozen banana + peanut butter + vanilla essence + skim milk

There are a bunch of other things you can add to each of these, of course. A lot of people add protein powder to their smoothies but that requires the extra step of acquiring protein powder.

Other combinations I’ve been making include blueberry + banana + vanilla yoghurt, strawberries + banana + berries yoghurt, and pineapple + banana + vanilla ice cream. So yeah, I’ve been obsessing a bit. I mean, what’s not to like? It’s a meal and a drink! A mealdrink! Or something. Either way, it’s perfect for the hot weather we’ve been having here down under.

Blender, please don’t break. I have a lot more combinations to try before summer is over.

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On non-smoothie related news, I’ve got something pretty exciting to share. I told the Pro Compression peeps about the giveaway winner and they decided you all deserved a little something just for being awesome. Head over to the Pro Compression website, buy yourself some marathon socks and use the code FIT2013 to get 40% off! Yep, a whole 40%! Plus, if you live in the US, the code also gives you free shipping! Who’s awesome? Pro Compression! And smoothies. Smoothies are awesome too. Those are the two main messages to take from all this.


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Bolo de Bolacha – Portuguese Cookie Cake

Bolo de Bolacha (Portuguese for “cookie cake”) has always been one of my favourite cakes (so much so that, for a few years, I requested it as my birthday cake). It is also incredibly easy to make and really quick since it requires no baking and only needs to go in the fridge for an hour or so before serving. You can make it in whichever shape you want, either square or as a circle or, perhaps the easiest and nicest looking, as a flower. I grabbed this recipe from my mum when I moved but there are a number of variations out there on the internet (and they all sound delicious).

You’ll need:

– 2 egg whites

– 150g of caster sugar

– a teaspoon of lemon juice

– 200g butter (softened)

– 2dl of strong coffee

– a couple of teaspoons of sugar (for the coffee)

– 2 packets of Marie biscuits (wine biscuits work too)

Whisk the egg whites until fluffly, then slowly add the sugar, lemon juice and the butter, beating well after each addition. Once the mixture is creamy, refrigerate for about 10 to 20 minutes. Make the coffee. Dip each of the biscuits in coffee before laying them on the plate close together, once you have the first layer (I normally use 6 biscuits per layer, in the flower shape), spread some of the butter mixture on them. Repeat the process for each layer of biscuits, dipping them in the coffee and spreading the butter mixture on top of each layer. Once you’re done, spread the leftover mixture over the entire cake. Refrigerate for as long as your heart can handle it (in my case, that was an hour, and only because I got to eat dinner during it) and eat until you can’t imagine eating any more cake ever again. And then have another piece.


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Run, eat, nap, repeat

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5k on the first morning of the year

The good news is that we’re over 72 hours into the new year and I haven’t completely mucked it up yet. I’m just really glad that none of my new year’s resolutions included losing weight or watching what (and how much) I eat. Otherwise, I’d have failed 2013 by now and should be sent to the back of the 2012 class and told to change my ways. Instead, I’m sitting at my laptop with my third cup of coffee of the morning and a cupcake, because cake for breakfast makes me happy and this is not a proper healthy living blog.

It hasn’t all been bad, though. I ended last year with a run on the last day (a fairly decent one too, about 13k, with a 13k walk back home) and decided to start 2013 with a morning run on the first day of the year. Things got a little derailed about 12 hours into the new year when I had scorched almonds for lunch (I may have gone a little overboard with my scorched almond purchases over the holidays and have a surplus I need to work through). But whatever, it was ok because I ran that day. And the next morning, I ran again, mostly because my bright lime green Pro Compression socks arrived in the mail and I couldn’t wait to take them out on the road (don’t ask me about how many scorched almonds I ate afterwards, though).

Bright and tight!

Bright and tight!

On the third day of the year, I felt slightly burnt out and thought taking a rest day would probably be a good idea. Runners World agrees (see resolution 7 for serious runners). So I sat on the couch, being all serious runner and totally fulfilling the non-running part of the running goals. And I napped. Oh, how I napped. I’ve realised I’m so good at it I’m tempted to add it to my resume. If you want expert tips on napping, I’m right here. Just don’t try to reach me between 2pm and 3pm because I’ll likely be practicing my napping skills.

That is until Tuesday when I have to go back to the world of full-time employment. If this was a fiction book, this would be the bit where the lead character is faced with intense emotional distress and where the reader and the lead character bond over the pain and suffering the character is going through. Except this isn’t fiction and I’m really back to work on Tuesday.

I realise it’s all been a lot easier because I’ve been on holidays at home with no plans in the last few days (hadn’t done this in years and it has been nothing short of blissful). Things will get harder from next week when a whole 10 hours of each day will be taken up by work so I’ll need extra motivation. Kiwi entrepreneur Vaughan Rowsell has challenged himself to run 1000k (1 million meters) in 2013. He’s inviting everyone else to join his 1 million meters challenge in any way people feel like joining, whether that’s walking, swimming, cycling, rollerblading, etc. I love the idea because it can be taken up by anyone and can be as easy or difficult as you decide it is (admit it, 1 million meters walking is definitely a lot easier than 1 million meters running in a bear suit while balancing an egg on your head and playing the ukulele). I reached 1000k running last year so trying to keep up with him will be a way to guarantee I stay on track. I also challenged myself to run 4x a week this month (right now, the count is at 2/16) so that should help my motivation.

gratuitous breakfast cupcake photo

gratuitous breakfast cupcake photo

The marathon is, as of yesterday, less than two months away (an email from S. as just reminded me of that). I’ll get right onto worrying about it, just after this next cupcake.


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fudge for lazy (ahem, tired) hungry people

You know how sometimes you get home and you’re tired and feel like crap and head straight to the cupboard for one of those pre-cooked meals in a packet that you just need to add water to or heat up in the microwave? And then you eat them watching some equally cheap show on TV and feel sorry for yourself and resolve to not be so lazy from then on, except the next day comes around and work is stressful so you go home and do the same thing all over again except this time with more tears and maybe you forgot to turn the dishwasher on and doing dishes by hand is too much work so you reach for the old paper plates from that last barbecue from years ago before all your friends had babies and stopped having time for barbecues?

Okay, me neither. That was a slight exaggeration. But the point is that sometimes I’m tired. Really tired. And lazy. But mostly tired. And I want some dessert. But I also don’t want to move too many muscles.

Enter the perfect fudge recipe for the tired full time worker and runner in need of a sugar fix.

You need: one microwaveable bowl, cake mix (I used vanilla but I suppose any cake mix will do), icing sugar, butter and milk (and sprinkles, if you’re feeling festive). THAT’S IT! The instructions are here, complete with photos and everything. Follow those steps and eat until your stomach cries of happiness. Seriously, this paragraph alone took longer to write than it takes to make this fudge.

When it comes to stuff like cake mix, I’m a pretty vocal supporter of the making it from scratch movement. It’s therapeutic, easy, and extra delicious. I don’t think I’d ever bought a packet of the thing before until I came across this recipe and decided that the future of humanity depended on me figuring out whether this was as amazing as it sounded. Plus, if I make cake batter from scratch and I don’t put it in the oven, there’s something to do with its magnetic field and laws of gravity somethingsomething that just makes it go straight into my belly. Because screw you, salmonella).  So now I’m a convert. I might just have to have a packet of cake mix at home at all times, just in case I need to make good use of 3 minutes and get me some more of this fudge.


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Portuguese food in Nelson

Ever since I visited the top of the Sydney Tower a few years ago and the first voice I heard was one of a lady telling her elderly mother “olha ali! olha ali!” as she pointed at the view, I’ve become more and more convinced that it is true what people say about Portuguese people being just about everywhere. When I approached Senhor Jorge last Saturday morning at his stall at the Nelson markets, it was only around 10AM and I was already his second Portuguese customer of that day.

I had no idea I’d go all the way down to Nelson (at the top of the South Island) to find some Portuguese deliciousness but that was exactly what I found. My stomach is not normally ready for something as heavy as beef and mustard in a bun quite so early in the day but the excitement of seeing and smelling the food got the better of me and a few minutes later, after having a bit of a chat with Senhor Jorge, as he prepared the food, I was digging into this.

Senhor Jorge’s Fernando’s business is not just a market stall and he sells his own homemade chouriços and other stuff online as well (I have a feeling I’ll be placing an order very, very soon). He let me have a slice of chouriço and asked me if it tasted like home. And it sure did. He also told me he’s working on some ideas for what other Portuguese traditional stuff he can start selling in New Zealand and there was a mention of pasteis de nata (real deal ones, not the fake portuguese custard tarts you find in other places) so I’m sure as hell going to keep checking his website for new stuff.