Monday, January 31, 2005

Happy birthday, Auckland

And thanks for the day off work!

Although short weeks have been a definite feature of my summer thus far, I'm always up for yet another one. After at least 2 consecutive "full" weeks, it seemed only right that Auckland Anniversary Day finally showed up.

Of course, it bugs me that by the end of January we've really had all our holidays - and after Easter, it seems like a long time until proper holiday time again (Anzac and Labour days notwithstanding). I would rather be in a lovely northern hemisphere country where they get Christmas and New Year's, plus some summer holidays in July/ August. It really helps to break the year up a little more.

At any rate, the 3-day weekend was put to good use in the Skirt/ Trouser household, with a few errands but mostly rest and recreation. We managed to fit in a visit to the compound, a shopping trip (which was surprisingly restful, considering that it was at Pukes, the busiest and most mediocre mall ever), and even some quality time. Oh, and The Trouser endeared himself to me even more by making delicious ricotta pancakes from my current favourite cookbook.

I don't know what it is about quality time together, but I can't seem to get enough of it. The Trouser and I had loads of time together when we met each other, and although we live together now and probably get more face-to-face time, we don't quite seem to get enough. Especially the quality stuff - you know, the kind where you spend time together without the accompaniment of television, other people, etc.

It helps that The Trouser is one of those rare men who isn't interested in sport, who can stomach an hour or so of shopping (more if he is feeling happy, and he'll give considered opinions during clothes shopping), and has loads of great ideas for fun stuff to do together. It is probably really annoying to our single friends (and maybe even our coupled-up friends), but after over 4 years together we are still quite happy just spending time together at home not doing very much.

And did I mention he cooks? Felafel tonight (I can smell them cooking) - sweet chilli sauce here I come!

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Hanging at the homestead

So my parents went away for the weekend, and because we were unable to join them on their trip, they invited us, as always, to drop in to the homestead while they were away.

(It's not a real homestead, of course - just a regular house in the 'burbs, with quite a lot of garden. But since I don't live there anymore, and The Trouser's family home is a "compound", I like to think of it as a homestead.)

Usually when the parentals trip off somewhere and extend the invitation to make use of the homestead in their absence, we don't. But due to the hot weather yesterday and a distinct lack of holidays in recent memory (or the forseeable future), we decided it might be a good idea.

It had been a busy day - brunch at my favourite place, seeking out more lovely Poole, running other errands... We were hot and grumpy and restless, so we invited a couple friends over for dinner, got the groceries, and headed out to the 'burbs.

As we arrived, we noticed the strategically-placed lawnmower, car and random gardening implements, designed to convince lame-brained would-be burglars that the residents were, in fact, home. (Even though the implements etc. would not have moved in the past few days.) Yes, we were definitely at the homestead.

It is funny to go back to your childhood home as a visiting adult, but even funnier to then treat it as your home, even though it isn't. It was a damn sight harder to find things though - although much hadn't changed, the location of some of the kitchen implements had.

Anyway, it was quite a pleasant evening. I found the peace and quiet a little eerie, though. The homestead sits in a really quiet spot, so it isn't just typical suburban quiet - it's so quiet that it makes regular suburbia seem noisy. So unless the neighbours really shout, or a boy racer drags down the road, you don't hear much at all.

The only thing I really, really objected to (apart from being stuck doing all the kitchen duties, grrr) was the proliferation of insect life. Not just the crazy swarms of flies, but also the mad, mad swarms of mosquitoes (that seemed to descend on me and only me). Eating outside is all very well, and fine when the table is clean (thanks, Trouser!) and you are not getting eaten alive simultaneously. Unfortunately I am obviously delicious to mosquitoes, so I always get nibbled on.

Living in a more urban area, we really don't get the bugs at home. The odd fly, and a couple of mosquitoes on a really hot night - but not everywhere all the time. I really don't miss that.

Anyway, hanging at the homestead was a good idea. But next time I think we'll get takeaways or I'll make someone else do the cooking, and I will eat inside, protected from the bloodthirsty mosquitoes.

Friday, January 28, 2005

A paean to blogs

(The formal expression of praise, not the Ancient Greek hymn.)

I have been really, really loving a couple of blogs recently. One of my favourites may chronicle fictitious events, but the imagination and quality of writing make it so fantastic that I tend to forget it isn't real. I only wish the posts were more frequent - but all that clever storylining must take time.

One of my other favourites, and a more recent discovery, has daily posts at the moment, yay! Violet is a fantastic writer and leads what I think is a really interesting life.

Like Bizgirl, Violet is a librarian (well, a real one in training, but close enough). I seem to attract librarians - not that I'm complaining. They are generally clever and witty; they know a lot; plus they can be relied on to return the books they borrow in the same or better condition, which is a big plus in my books.

A few years ago when I was studying, I lent a friend a course-full of books. She didn't have much cash and I'd completed the course the semester before. Because I am anal about it, I requested that she return them as soon as she was done.

4+ years later, I'm still waiting. As I understand it, she sold the books to buy E and finance a wardrobe of really nasty PVC clothes. And while the books were not favourites (I'd barely had them long enough to begin to appreciate them), it still galls me. How rude! I can stand some kinds of rudeness, but vandalising and stealing books really bother me.

Anyway, I was praising blogs... My favourite collection of blogs has to be Public Address. So many clever people, with intelligent opinions that I tend to agree with, all in one convenient place, with an RSS feed! Getting that email in my inbox is always guaranteed to perk me up.

As you may have guessed, I am also an avid reader of Starbucks Gossip. More recently, I discovered Dunkin Donuts Talk.

(blush) Yes, my name is The Skirt and I enjoy reading blogs about American fast food chains that produce sugar-laden products. I should be ashamed, but I'm not - I'll work on it though.

Anyway, making my way through my little blog folder in my "favorites" (Microsoft, you ever heard of the rest of the world, who slip a "u" in there? Hello??) is one of my favourite information-related pursuits. It sure beats the lame newspaper available here, though Ananova makes me laugh (and the best bits of it are reprised in the aforementioned asinine rag several days or even a week later).

Still, the blogs are the most fun. I keep thinking about starting one up for work - it would be great - but actually getting anyone else to commit to even a quarterly contribution would be quite a miracle.

Anyway, I love, love, love reading my favo(u)rite blogs right now more than many things (The Trouser, sweet chilli sauce with ginger, and leaving work early aside!). So cheers.

Ok, end of paean. Maybe next time I'll try the Ancient Greek hymn form. (Or not.)

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Why didn't they invite me???

Meera Syal and Sanjeev Bhaskar from The Kumars at No. 42 have gotten married! (That's the grandmother and the son/ host, for the uninitiated.)

We may not actually know each other, but since I think they are geniuses, it would have been polite to have invited me. 20 guests... 21 guests - very little difference, really.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

More thoughts on food, I'm afraid

As an appendix to yesterday's posting, I'd like to note that Starbucks are also advertising a Neapolitan frappuccino. It appears to be a strawberries & cream with whipped cream and chocolate syrup on top. It is kind of clever - but then it is not really a neapolitan experience, is it? What if you get it without the whipped cream? Then there is no vanilla flavour in the trio at all - not that the whipped cream is vanilla-flavoured in the first place!

I have never been a fan of the plain vanilla flavoured ice cream. Vanilla bean yes - but the plain stuff is *too* plain and boring and yucky. Given a choice of neapolitan ice cream flavours, I'd pick the chocolate - it is very hard for even crappy ice cream manufacturers to really screw it up. Nasty synthetic strawberry, on the other hand, is all too common.

But what if you could pick your own perfect ice cream trio? One of my favourite questions to ask people are their top 2 all-time ice cream in a tub flavours, and their favourite ice cream or ice block on a stick or in a cone. The idea is that you could only have these flavours for the rest of your life, unadulterated (no sauces, fruit, etc. to mix in - just the ice cream).

I used to say lemon sorbet and one other flavour, which I can't for the life of me remember (it was creamy and delicious and sweet though). Maybe Movenpick vanilla brownie? Maybe not. Anyway, for my stick/ cone, I'd pick a Fruju Tropical Snow every time.

But in recent weeks Movenpick has conspired to turn my world upside-down - I can no longer name two ice cream flavours I'd happily eat for the rest of my life, to the exclusion of all others.

The first culprit was blueberry and... ricotta? marscapone? At any rate, it is delicious. Then a friend (well, she is my friend, even if she contributed to my dilemma) introduced me to lemon melissa & strawberry. It is a lovely, almost cheesecake-filling-like flavour, but delicious even if, like me, you don't really like cheesecake. (The "melissa" part, incidentally, is lemon balm.) Add to the dilemma the ever-delicious tiramisu flavour, and I am well and truly screwed.

What good is it asking people to name only 2 flavours when I can't pick them myself??

In other food-related matters, I have fallen well and truly in love with sweet chilli sauce. Not just any sweet chilli sauce - specifically, Golden Sun brand Thai sweet chilli sauce with ginger. (It's actually from Thailand, so it really qualifies as genuine Thai sweet chilli sauce!)

Everything is better with this sauce - everything. Indeed, I cannot imagine a meal that would not be improved by it (ok, sweet stuff like desserts maybe - but otherwise not). Gone are the days of sniping at The Trouser for adding condiments to my lovingly-prepared meals without tasting them first - now I have seen the light.

OK, so this isn't the first time that I've fallen for a condiment. But peanut butter and I were inseparable for over 20 years, many of them formative. It was inevitable that I would need to move on and discover new things.

It was not mutually exclusive, of course (such relationships seldom are) - but the love ran deep and true. We only parted ways when I found out that the love was not mutual - and even then there was a considerable amount of to-ing and fro-ing on both sides.

Now, like any self-respecting person, I avoid my ex. (Actually, the smell of it makes me feel slightly ill.) 20 years is a good run in anyone's books, after all. Now this particular brand of sweet chilli sauce and I - well, that's different. I've lived a little - my palate has matured. It really could be the real thing!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Hoo golly!

What to choose - a venti strawberries and cream frappuccino (with cream) or three cheeseburgers? Or, in my case, a tall or grande without cream vs. 1 1/2 or 2 cheeseburgers?

Since I don't drink coffee (gives me jitters, due to abuse of it as a young person - a story to tell another day), I primarily love Starbucks for its delicious chai. It almost always tastes the same, and you never need to add sugar (I know this is because it comes in a syrup - but I like not needing to add anything, ok?).

And when it is hot, it is lovely to order a frappuccino - again, without the jittery coffee, and almost never with cream. The best kind IMHO is a chai frappuccino - which is apparently a real drink available in places other than NZ. Don't let them tell you that it's an iced chai all crushed up - it needs the milky base to make it a real chai frappuccino.

Anyway, Starbucks preferences aside, what I'd like to know is what kind of cheeseburger we're talking about exactly - since there is clearly no such thing as a standard cheeseburger.

The cheeseburger deluxe from Wendy's? Or is that too deluxe? Maybe Burger King's cheeseburger? I mean c'mon people, give us some kind of a clue along with your scary fat stats!

If pressed, I think I'd probably go for the Wendy's cheeseburger(s) and a glass of water, even on a hot day. I crave sweet less than salty, value getting carbs and protein, and am still trying to keep my sugar intake low (related to the coffee jitters). Given a choice between the BK and the frappuccino, I'd probably give up and eat potato chips instead.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Catching up

Today was a red-letter day for me. Not only was it warm and sunny, but I won the lottery... Ok, I didn't win the lottery - but the next best thing happened - I met up for lunch with two very good old friends.

One friend, whom I first met not long after I moved to NZ, really became my friend properly during a very hot, smelly semester of classes learning a dead language. We spent a lot of time wagging to hang out and drink coffee, and segued from having mutual friends in common to becoming friends ourselves. I also managed to ace the final exam despite the wagging, so it was an all-round positive experience - though I vowed to never again enrol or stay enrolled in a class where it was so smelly.

We flatted together for a short while, in my brief-yet-all-too-long flatting phase, and then she moved to Europe, where she has spent the last 3 1/2 years doing exotic things. We emailed occasionally but it wasn't the same... So I was really, really thrilled when I received an email saying she would be back here for a flying visit this month. Although we do totally different stuff, dress in different ways and really have little in common in many respects, we always got along great. And despite the fact that we have barely kept in touch, at lunch it felt like we slipped back into the friendship really easily. Yay for friends who change but are still essentially the same cool person you met!

The second friend is someone I met thru the above-mentioned friend. We also had little in common, but spent a lot of time together out dancing and drinking (tequila, mostly) in our slightly-wild not-quite-youth. Although we live in the same city, we somehow fail to meet up as often as we ought, so it was also great to see and talk to her. Again, she has changed but not essentially, and it felt easy to pick up from where we'd left off.

I had a lovely lunch - great company and yummy food, including some delicious sumac sprinkled on the top of my food, which my recently-improved knowledge of spices helped me to identify. (Go on, ask me to tell you something about an exotic spice - if I can't, I own a great book that does!)

The only crap part of the lunch was that I ate slightly too much - which meant I spent the rest of the afternoon trying not to fall asleep at my desk, or roll on the floor running my full belly. I am proud to say that I managed to eschew both of these options, although what I did was not much more productive.

Of course, I would say more about my lovely friends, but I haven't asked them if that is OK. In fact, since no one except The Trouser knows that I'm writing this at this stage, I suppose I could say more. But since I like to not really, really annoy my friends, I suppose at some stage I will have to mention this and ask if they want to be identified.

For my own sake, I am not that keen on full disclosure. Not that I think I'll be dooced or anything, and not because I'm not really me (I love you nonetheless!), but because, frankly, everybody needs a little bit of mystery in their lives. Besides, if the whole world knew what I thought, they might tell my mother on me.

At some point I suppose other people might eventually read some of this. Like when I get around to adding my blogroll (O how I love to read other people's blogs - the less I know about them the better!) - or when The Trouser takes pity on me and sorts it out for me (I am capable but I do laundry - in my book that means I deserve some special attention). Or when I tell my friends (like tonight maybe). But there's no rush. I still haven't found the perfect blogging spot - on my favourite couch is good, but I need a laptop table; at the counter is good, but because the bar stools are high, I have to hunch over to use the keyboard, or put my laptop on a stack of phonebooks and type up high - both equally annoying options.

In the meantime, I might leaf through the cookbook I currently consult the most (and occasionally actually follow the complete recipes from) for some dinner-related inspiration.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Yet more shopping

I felt quite content after yesterday's accidental shopping trip, and anticipated abstaining from any other purchases for some time. After all, a girl has to save sometimes.

But it was not to be. I met The Trouser after work at the
Aotea Markets. Naturally, I was happy to browse - but despite the warm weather, abundance of tourists and supposed 6pm closing time, many of the stallholders were already closed or closing. A wasted opportunity for them, methinks.

At any rate, we meandered homewards until The Trouser spotted a store he'd like to look in. Then another. I wasn't complaining - his desire to shop comes upon him all too seldom, and he is fun to shop for and with. Plus, the second store had great chairs that I'd always wanted to look at more closely, but never dared to, since it is a stupid reason to enter a clothing store, and the sales assistants would probably laugh at me for it.

Anyway, to cut a long but pleasant story short, 4 t-shirts and 1 pair of pants (tee hee, pants!) later, we were done. The clever Trouser found lovely new clothes that he liked, and tried on most of the things I suggested. Because it's boring when other people try clothes on and you wait, and it mitigates the boredom to have them at least try on what you'd like to see them in.

How surprised was I this morning, then, to find that The Trouser wanted to shop for a replacement camera? Not very, actually, since he'd already mentioned it. But afterwards we spent a several additional hours on an unrelated shooping expedition - in antique stores looking for Poole pottery. And did he complain? Not one bit - in fact, he was the one who suggested where we looked, and he kept making the discoveries!

I didn't exactly know what Poole pottery was when we accidentally fell in love with and started collecting it about a week ago. We don't know much more now either (damn Interweb is full of mostly useless info so far) - but it is lovely and a bit old (1950s-60s) and comes in soooo many colours. It is hard to keep to only the few colours we started with, and to limit ourselves to tea- and coffee-related items only, but I will try. I have promised myself to collect it so we use it - not merely for collecting's sake. It will be hard for me (since I am naturally an acquisitory kind of gal) but I **will** try - and hopefully our limited space, the occasionally prohibitively high prices, and the love of The Trouser will keep me on the straight and narrow.

Friday, January 21, 2005

He is pants

Apparently the boy is not the boy after all, he is either "The Trouser" or "The Pants".

(Tee hee, my friend and her son mean undies when they say pants.)

Deepest and sincerest apologies to The Pants. I will be more vigilant in future

Email marketing really works

It's true, it does!

I know this not only because of my professional experience, but also because today I was successfully converted from email prospect to actual purchaser.

You see, I receive the email newsletter from Ricochet. It is not a terribly good newsletter - nor is the website very usable or linkable-to (sorry guys, but it's true - and I'd be happy to give you some advice in exchange for some free clothes!). However, I do rather love their clothes (not a whole outfit worn at once, but individual pieces worn with other clothes). And due to some silliness on my part, I receive the email newsletter both at work and at home.

So when I received the newsletter at work on Wednesday with news of a sale on sale items, it made me think about dropping in. And when I found the same newsletter on my home email yesterday, it gently reminded me to go and take a look.

Which I did this lunchtime, with my faithful co-worker, who always puts up with me wandering into shops when we go to get lunch. To be fair, she likes looking too.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that I am now the proud owner of one black, knee-length, short-and-puffed-sleeve jacket that was 45% off. And I never would have made the effort unless I'd received the email. So email marketing really does work.

(Yay I love new clothes!)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours

Although it is now a trite cliche (and one that makes me want to spontaneously break into song), everybody really does need good neighbours.

So when I saw someone moving in next door this afternoon, I was a little worried.

You see, the last people who lived there were probably really lovely - though due to a fairly major language barrier, I never really got to know them - but boy, were they LOUD. Not just the occasional bang or short period of objectionable music - but long, sustained loudness, combined with an inability to understand that even if they'd never had a problem in other places they'd lived, there was a problem here. Oh, and their cigarette smoke blew into our place.

They were all lovely boys, I am sure, but all in all I was not too sad when their 6-month lease expired and they moved out. They and their merry band of friends, hangers-on, and other random short- and longer-term guests.

So we had no neighbours for a little while - long enough, in fact, for the boy to notice that the door was unlocked, and take me in there to see what it looked like. Pretty much the same as our place, albeit a lot more run down. He'd been in there before, but to me at least, it felt like being naughty schoolkids sneaking in somewhere.

Being polite (and curious as hell), I introduced myself to the neighbours. They were women who spoke good English and seemed nice and polite, and quite a bit older than the former neighbours. So not yobs. I didn't like the look of the bits of furniture I could see, but that's OK - I think (hope) that they will be a lot better than the previous incarnation.

The only problem is, they've bought the place - so if we hate them, we're kinda stuck with them. Unless we move out.

I like the idea of being able to veto people who want to buy into a neighbourhood or a building, like in those swanky New York co-ops that reject people they don't think will fit in. (I wasn't thinking of a minimum level of liquid assets - more like only allowing people in who wash regularly.) I know it is perhaps a little elitist, but wouldn't it be nice to have some control over who your neighbours are?

I guess it's a bit like choosing flatmates, which I hated and sucked at the one time I had any choice. But that's a story for another day...

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

So it begins

So. After reading lots and lots of other people's blogs, I now have my own. No pressure to think of something clever to write or anything, huh?

Of course, I had plenty of things I was burning to say today at work - but in a fit of super-conscientious behaviour I thought it would be wise to get on with the various tasks at hand, rather than spend time on personal stuff. I have quite a few projects on the go at the moment, so it also makes sense to get as much work done as possible. And of course, the sooner the work's done, the sooner I can walk home, open the balcony doors and enjoy the nice weather.

It isn't that I don't enjoy myself at work - it's just that I enjoy hanging out at home a lot more. I like to be able to open windows, kick my shoes off, or get a glass of water without climbing up and down stairs. Actually, I occasionally kick my shoes off at work too. But I'm short enough as it is, and no one seems to have noticed yet.

Anyway, it's nice to be able to slope off home while other people are still working and have a little time to myself - even if it is only spent idly leafing through cookbooks or watching trashy tv. Even though it's all kosher, it feels vaguely illicit - and I like it.