29 December 2009

After Christmas detox breakfast

Here's a quick way to deal with all that merriment you've been embibing in over that past week or two.

Quinoa porridge with almonds, Brazil nuts, dried apricots and dates

1 cup quinoa
1.5 cups water
.5 cup of milk or soymilk (Any mix of liquid is fine as long as it equals up to 2 cups. I sometimes like more milk to make it creamier.)
half a handful of slivered almonds
5 or 6 of each of the following:
dried apricots chopped
dates chopped
Brazil nuts chopped

Rinse the quinoa a couple of times and sort out any tiny stones.
Bring quinoa and liquid to a boil and then add the other ingredients.
Turn down the heat to a simmer for about 15 minutes until all of the liquid has been absorbed.
You can tell when quinoa is ready because the little tales start to show (Yes, this is still a vegetarian recipe!)

At the table you might want to add more milk like you would with regular porridge/ oatmeal and possible some honey, agave syrup, etc. but it tends to be quite sweet naturally from the dates.

Serves one or two depending on how hungry/hungover you are.


24 December 2009

Happy Christmas and New Year to everyone!

I hope you all have a fantastic holiday and get some major relaxing in!

17 December 2009

Feeling write-y

Itchin’. My fingers are itchin’ to write sommit. But they can’t do it without my brain. Where’s my brain? Where’s my head? C’MON BRAIN! Tell my fingers what to do. C’mon eyes! Give my brain sommit to think about so it can tell my fingers what to do. What do I have to do to get through to you lot? We want to write sommit here. We’re feeling creative. Channel. Channel. Maybe they are all feeling unloved. Forgotten. Taken for granted. OK, loving kindness meditation sending out some vibes. I love you eyes. I love you brain. I love you fingers. Anything? Look out the window, eyes. Maybe the muse is walking by. Typing. Typing. Typing…nothing. Doodle in your Molskine. What does it look like? Does it look like sommit to write about? Damn! Big breath. OK, now you’re ready to write. Readyyyyyyyyyyy GO! Damn!

11 December 2009

Waiting for the Shinkansen

I'm waiting for the Shinkansen. Waiting for the starched suited man to salute the driver. Waiting for the engine hum to dull. Waiting for the white glove to point at alignment. Waiting for the rush of cold from the opening door. Waiting to walk through the cloud of smoke and into the non-smoking cabin. Waiting to settle and tuck in to an ekibento. Waiting to be whisked off to somewhere exciting.

07 December 2009

Social networking-How it would work in real life

When I start reading a blog or a Tweet by someone I don't know and then click on one of their contacts' blogs or something else on their page, it seems I inevitably end up on the page of someone I know from Flickr, Twitter, my own blog readers, Matador, etc. How is that? Are we all getting our contacts from each others pages or is it just that the people you are friends with just have the same taste as you? I'd really like to see a drawing of the map I take when on the net and how it matches up with the map of others. Do they have that yet? I'm sure I'd be going round in circles and eventually passing through the circles of others. Anyway, I can see it in my head even if I can't explain it here. But what if social networking worked in the same way in real life?

Imagine this. In real life, I walk up to a friend who is talking to someone I don't know. But, hey, I really like how they think.

"Can I be your friend?", I ask.

"Sure" they'll confirm. And then we'll go on our merry way.

A couple of weeeks later I'll be watching a gig with my brother and a mutual friend of ours when I run into my new friend from the last conversation who is with her other friend that I don't know.

"Wow, how funny to run into you here!" she'll exclaim. It's like we're really old mates now.

"Yeah, this is my brother and our friend (who is really just an aquaintance we are doing a favour by taking to the gig)"

"Cool. Your brother's hot. Can I be his friend?"

"Probably, just ask him."

"Can I be your friend?" she asks my brother.

"Sure", answers my brother.

Then our aquaintance wants in on the game and he asks new friend, "Can I be your friend too?".

New friend: "Um,maybe not." and walks off.

Now, my brother is out one time and runs into the new friend and my original friend.
"Hey new friend. I like your friend here. New friend's friend, can I be your friend?"

"Sure", she replies.

Then the next time I'm out with my original friend, my brother walks up to us saying, "How's it going? Wow, I didn't know that you two knew each other."

I'm starting to think that there are as few degrees of separation on the internet as there are in New Zealand...and that ain't many. Do you ever end up on a good blog and think you want to follow it but then see someone you sort of know from another site you frequent is also a follower. But you don't want that person to think you are stalking so you don't follow the new blog, just in case? No? OK, I guess that's just me then.

01 December 2009

Catching up

Souvenirs safely stowed in the overhead compartments, trays and seatbacks upright, my parents have finally taken off back to California and I am soon to be back on the blogging circuit. But for now, some well-needed sleep as I'm totally worn out!

20 November 2009

Visitors landing soon!

View from Mt. Eden, originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.

I'm not sure how much blogging I'm going to get done in the next two weeks as my parents are flying in from Los Angeles tomorrow morning. We are frantically tidying up things and generally making our house into a place for four rather than two!

We haven't seen them since they came to visit us in Japan although with blogs, Skype, Flickr, email, Twitter, etc. it's easy to forget how long it's been. We'll definitely do some fun tourist things, but I'm pretty sure there's going to be a lot of NZ wine and food ingested. I'd better get one last visit with my treadmill before this happens!

So, see ya later bloggies and readers! In the meantime you can enjoy this view of Auckland from the top of Mt. Eden. It's a dormant volcano in the city and I love walking round the crater rim or taking a picnic up there when it's warm.


P.S. Ireland were robbed! I hope they get that sorted out. how ridiculous!

16 November 2009


Love, originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.

Just sending it out there to all you bloggers in the blog-o-sphere!

08 November 2009

Thank you Carol!

We recently had the pleasure of having two houseguests, one from Japan and one from Seattle, Washington in the US. An amazing time was had by all as we waxed lyrical about the beautiful things in life and spent a lot of time laughing and imbibing in lovely food and New Zealand wine and tea and more tea!

So, last week when a parcel arrived from one of the guests, Carol, I was really excited. What a great surprise! How the hell am I going to wait until Mr. P gets home to open it? Or should I peek now? Nope, I waited (although it almost killed me!).

When we finally cracked into the package we found a beautiful tea cozy, handmade from batik fabric. Being avid tea-drinkers, a tea cozy is something we've really been needing since we drink the stuff by the potfull. How thoughtful of Carol to remember this little detail about us and to spend time making such a nice, personal gift.

But wait, there's more! We couldn't believe that when we looked inside it was lined with...can it be?... sock monkey fabric!

Thank you Carol! We love it!

More pining for Vietnam

I really wish I was in Saigon right now. I want to go to my favourite coffee spot and pho shop. I want to drive round past the cathedral on a Sunday on my Honda Wave, and I want to go shopping in my favourite vegetable market.

Anyone else missing anywhere?

05 November 2009

The Single Story-Chimananda Ngozi Adichie

I saw this woman speak aat The Auckland Readers' and Writers' Festival this year. She's a great speaker and I was so impressed that I bought her book. This really resonates with me as having lived in so many countries and heard the "single story" so many times. My favourite part is when she said, "The problem with stereotypes is not that they are true, but that they are incomplete.".

03 November 2009

Frequent Flyer Freaks

I love airports.

I used to go to Auckland International for coffee sometimes just to see people come and go, listen to the islanders singing relatives off, and just soak up the atmosphere in general. But these days you have to pay for parking and it pretty much makes for an expensive coffee.

Every day that I go to work I drive past the turn off to the airport and on the way home I sometimes have a hard time keeping my car on the route home. Last week I actually did plan an afternoon in the airport. I decided that I'd use my laptop to catch up on some writing and have lunch.

Well, it turned out that the internet was not free (and I refuse to pay!)and my battery had died anyway, so I really just had an expensive lunch once you add in the parking. Ironically, it was good Japanese ramen though. I haven't even had ramen like that since I'd been back in NZ although the portion was a bit stingy.

When I started watching this doco I was surprised to find that Pico Iyer was in it. Apparently he is a frequent flyer mile geek, but he also stated that he'd spent a considerable amount of time in and around LAX at one point. Since I've always admired his writing and can relate to the way he sees things this sort of affinity with airports makes sense.

I know the frequent flyer phenomenon is something we miss out on living in a small country where you can't get much for short flights, but we do win big when going abroad since we're so far from everywhere. However, I would say that the people on this film are extreme. I really wonder what they do for a job. How do they have so much time for all this flying around to accrue miles? It's interesting nonetheless and just goes to show that there is a regular version and a geek version of everything, even travel.

Do you make use of air miles?

Frequent Flyer from Gabriel Leigh on Vimeo.

01 November 2009

Remembering the little things to remember myself

It's been a crazy week and I can't believe it's Friday. You know things are hectic when you go to bed on Monday night and then suddenly realise the week is over. It's easy to forget yourself. My husband and I moved to New Zealand 10 years ago and after a few years abroad in Vietnam and Japan we realised that New Zealand was calling us back. We missed the green and the fresh air, and the more relaxed lifestyle that doesn't happen in Japan and Saigon where life is quite full-on most of the time. Time to come home and start living at a healthy pace again. However...

A couple of days ago I read and commented on David Miller's article about raising chickens and it got me thinking about how, in the craziness of re-settling it's like my husband and I have forgotten why we came back. We spend our days rushing round to work, on errands, getting the shopping in, doing washing (Well, OK, he does most of the washing.) and pretty much occupying our time with thinking about the next jobs we've got to do. So, what the hell? I mean, we're living a Japanese style life right here in New Zealand.

I have this old photo of a tree covering our room in a guest house in Malaysia. A severe storm had passed through during the night and when we woke up, we had to remove this bloody tree that had been strewn across our entrance in order to get out. After all the hard work, we settled in to breakfast at a local cafe and then on our way back into the room we noticed a hornet on the wall outside. We only noticed it because we could actually hear it crunching. Loudly! We both stood there mesmerised by this hornet crunching on the wall and then spitting it up in order to make its nest. After about 5 minutes of this we decided to get comfortable. We pulled a couple of stools out of the room and sat ther for no less than 45 minutes watching this little thing work. It's the kind of situation that you emerge from feeling like you've had a nap. You are aware that your blood pressure has gone down and there is a clarity in you thinking.

Why did I write this? Well, that's where I want to be. Back in that mindspace where time is elastic and the smallest things encompass the brain to the point that you realise all this stuff we occupy ourselves with is not necessarily what we need. I want to regain a clarity of thought and a relaxed feeling about life. I know me. I know I get this from meditation or creativity.

This afternoon I'm leaving my computer and all the stuff in the house behind to take some closeup photos. Then, when I get home, I'm going to find that photo of the guesthouse room with the tree covering it to remind me that what I can't see is the little hornet that taught me how to return to myself.

28 October 2009

Beware of dodgy commentors!!

Someone new commented on my blog today and I, as usual, followed their link to see what their blog was like. It appeared to be an older Malaysian gentleman and all or most of the blog was in Bahasa Malay with a load of followers shown right in the centre of the page. I'm describing this in detail because if you come across it, get out of there quickly!
I think it was when I clicked on his profile that it sent a stupid annoying virus to my computer which turns the volume right up and moos and baas and whistles. I don't know how to get rid of it and I'm bloody annoyed as I just bought this new computer two days ago. I hope one of my IT mates can help me sort it out. Until then I've got a stupid barnyard going on on my computer.
By the way, I do have anti-virus software installed and I also use comment moderation. But it happened when I clicked on the commentor's name to go to his blog. Sorry I don't have the name because I deleted it before I thought to report him, duh!
Be careful!

27 October 2009

Why I should never write poetry

Oh green tea,
how I love thee.
Your antioxidant power,
makes me stronger by the hour.
For good health, surely, you are the key.
(Along with a little dark chocolate)

23 October 2009

Nostalgic food #356. Pizza Toast

Pizza toast!
Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti

Remember the days of living on nothing but beer, chips and tea with the odd kebab thrown in for stamina on a night out? In England we had pretty much anything on toast and cheap (yucky!) white bread was only pence a loaf.

I used to go round my (now) husband's house and they'd be eating "sauce sarnies". Yes, you've guessed it, any sauce they had in the fridge like brown sauce, tomato sauce, and/ or salad cream would go between two slices of Spar's cheapest. On a good night they'd buy a bag of chips between four of them and a few of those would go into the mix.

At my house we were civilised in that we used fire. By that I mean, we toasted our bread. It's be toast with tomato puree and cheese. But, if we were lucky, someone would have some cheap dried "herbes de Province" and those would get sprinkled on. Pure luxury!

So the other day I was in the mood for a bit of nostalgic eating but I decided to make it a bit more posh. Wholegrain toast, leftover tomato sauce from spaghetti, real cheese and fresh toms with a bunch of herbs inside. On the side I had, shock horror, some green salad. Both the nostalgic me and the grown up me were satisfied.

Two days later Mr. P made me this. I guess he's grown up too!
Mr. P's homemade pizza

16 October 2009

Sand animation

only I want to call it 'sandimation', but I'll resist. This video is so amazing that I had to steal it from Tina's blog, who I think might've stolen it from someone else's blog, and the love goes on...
Kseniya Simonova was the winner of the Ukraine's Got Talent contest.

10 October 2009

It's about time...

...for me to learn how to use my camera properly. Seriously, I've never learned how to use it properly and just fumble round with buttons until I get some sort of result, or worse, the opportunity is gone. I've somehow picked up this vague notion of adjusting for light conditions, but it was a few years back when I used film. In fact, I guess that's my problem. I was just getting the hang of film and then I got my DSLR in Japan and made the changeover about 4 years ago, but have never got to grips with the technology. And this extends to Photoshop.

I like to joke that hey, my photos are all natural. None have been touched up. The truth is it's only because I've got no idea how to use Photoshop. I've got a digital camera in my mitts, but my head is stuck in the film era.
The final straw was when I needed to write a bio and send a photo of myself for an article I recently wrote for matador.com. I looked in my files for a pic of me and proceeded to search for Photoshop on my computer. It had pretty much buried itself in the 'never used files' basement of my computer.

OK, I've got the thing open...OK, I've got the photo on the table...now crop, crop...hmmmmmmm? Right! I've found it! God, I'm such a dork! OK, I've cropped the photo to the needed size and save. Shit! No! Dammit! I fricking went and rewrote the original file, didn't I? Since it was a photo a student had taken of me in Thailand I guess I now have to practice some serious Buddhist non-attachment and say goodbye to that one.

There are two community ed programmes within driving distance of my house and I hope one of them has a teacher who is up for a challenge.

08 October 2009

A little something for the writer on the go

One of my Twitter contacts just Tweeted this. If you live in the normal world, you can get it as an app for your iPhone. If you live in New Zealand where we are afraid of such high fallutin' technology mumbo jumbo, you can just use it on the net so that you don't have to look after random flash drives. Basically it means you can write or blog on your work computer and not have to email it to yourself, which is what I tend to do.
Check it out here.

07 October 2009

Do not adjust your set

The following is a test...

05 October 2009

Fighting the cold with grated apple and Brazil nut porridge

It's gone cold again! Time for porridge.
Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti

Yesterday I didn't even need my cardigan, but today it's 12 degrees!? I hope this is the last cold spell before summer is well and truly here. I'm ready for the sunshine. I've even had to put the heater on again so it started off smelling of burning dust. Normally I associate that smell with the beginning of the cold days of the year, not the end. And I've just brewed my fifth cup of tea for the day!

01 October 2009


I've been here before. Very lucky not to have been directly involved, but deeply affected all the same. Flashback to South East Asia. I knew something bad was happening before my students as yesterday morning I saw the earthquake on the morning news before heading off to work. My students start at 5am so I knew they had no idea. It seemed that the shaking was all a bit scary, bit there was no reported damage and there was no tsunami. By the time I got to work, the reports were getting mixed with some saying there was nothing to worry about and others giving eyewitness accounts of villages being flattened. Of course, student after student came and went and I never mentioned a thing. I didn't want them to be upset at work all day if there was no reason for it. But, by the time I got home and checked the news the mood had changed completely. The death toll was already rising and many were missing.

This morning when my first student arrived in my room (I teach one-to-one)I could just feel the sadness before he sat down. I asked if he was OK, no answer. When I asked again, with as much English as he could muster, he said, "I don't know what has happened.". At that point he pretty much broke down crying and although I'd been practically holding my breath until that point I, too, started to tear up. I got up to get a box of tissues out of my drawer so we could each partake.

His Aunt, either his sister or sister-in-law, and his 5 year old niece are missing, but since his village has been wiped out he's already decided they are dead. I felt ridiculously helpless...and sad.

I think he just wanted to sit down for a while and talk about life in Samoa. In effect, his reflections seemed to be asking why he is here in New Zealand when he should be back in Samoa where life is simple and you don't have to pay for food, housing, and water. You just build your house, grow your food, and spend time with your family.

Later I found out that another employee has heard that his father is dead and one more has a brother who is in critical condition. There's also a lovely young guy who is always singing in the cafeteria. He was reading the paper this morning at work and recognised three names in the headlining story about the deaths. Those were his three little cousins. Shocked, he changed into his street clothes and headed off home in his car.

I really don't know what to do. I know there's nothing I can do to fix this, but I guess it's human nature to keep thinking it through as if you could actually come up with something. All I can do is write this. Write to process, write to inform, and write as a memorial to those who are so loved and missed.

25 September 2009

John Key in the U.S.

I don't like National, but at least John Key (our Prime Minister) did a good job on Letterman.I thought this was really cool of him to do even though most of us were really nervous about how it would come out.

21 September 2009

19 September 2009

Undress Me in The Temple of Heaven

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Not judging the book by its title, which might lead you to believe it is quite a sexy book (it’s not), I really just expected this to be another backpacker’s account of her jaunt through Asia. As someone who, like many others, has “done the jaunt” herself, I found a lot to relate to so, excuse me as I write this review from a very personal viewpoint. The book is set in China in the mid-eighties, a couple of years before my own first, brief encounter with mainland China. Susan Gilman and her not-very-well-known friend, Claire Van Houten hatched a plan on the back of a paper placemat while out late one night of conquering the world on a trans-planetary trip. They decided to start in China and the descriptions Gilman writes of encounters with bureaucracy, once grand but now falling apart ships and other transport barely held together with spot welding, hotel and travel agent staff who tow the party line as far as only presenting what was allowed to be presented…and no more, not to mention other backpackers, is spot on. Anyone who travelled to China in the late 1980s right up to the mid-late 1990s will relate to this book on some level and probably really enjoy it for the nostalgia factor. Places too, ring true from freakishly tiny and sparse, swimming pool tile-lined guesthouse rooms in Chunking Mansions, a backpacker icon that is still existing in that ‘state’ as far as I know. If you haven’t been there or read the book yet, I don’t want to give anything more away as her expectations versus reality play-by-play about the place is brilliant. And this is just the first part of the journey.Yangshuo is another centre of the backpacking world in China and, in those days, was one of the few places foreigners could go and decompress from all the experiences had during travel in China. To have been struggling, quite out of your depth, with renegade bus drivers, unknown animal parts served up in soup, and language barriers for weeks on end then, finally coming upon the then little village of Yangshuo with its rows of cafés serving Western-style food from English, French, and German menus just seemed like a godsend. I really liked how Gilman placed their visit to Yangshuo in the story as sort of the beginning of the end as that is exactly how the place feels to many who’ve travelled there. You get a sense of having slogged your way round in relative hardship and this is the intrepid backpackers’ reward…banana pancakes all around! Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t just the reminiscing factor that I enjoyed about the book. There is also the storyline of what it is like being with someone you barely know, 24/7, for weeks on end. In this case, the increasingly bizarre relations between Gilman and her friend Claire whilst travelling in a country with a high difficulty rating, as far as backpacking goes, make for an interesting thread that runs throughout.Call me non-imaginative, but I do like books that go back and tie up lose ends. Gilman does this in her Afterwards chapter really well. For readers who haven’t travelled to China, you could easily get a sense that what the book describes is how it still is to travel around the vast country. In some places it really is still like that, but China has been hurtling towards a developed travel infrastructure at an alarming pace. Even 10 years after the book was set, it was sad to my Western nostalgic sensibilities to already see beautiful old temples crumbling or being replaced by white tiled square boxes of buildings. In fact, the first time I went to Shen Zhen on the mainland near Hong Kong in 1989, it was a small village with dirt roads. I remember an old man pulling his cart full of pigs past me. The next time I went there in 1998, it was full of gleaming white sky scrapers. I actually had to check my journal to see that I was indeed thinking of the right place. I was. In 9 years the place had become unrecognisable. Gilman’s modern description of the places her and Claire had been to really expresses the changes that have taken place. Changes that would have to be seen to be believed otherwise.In short, although I had low expectations of the book, I was pleasantly surprised. I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in travelling independently in China. And I would strongly recommend this to those who have already participated in the backpacking rituals associated with travel in China. You will be reliving much of that experience!

View all my reviews >>

Dreaming of Vietnam

Lanterns in Hoi An, Vietnam
Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti

Ever since someone made a comment here about my time in Vietnam I’ve been really pining for those days. By sheer coincidence, I noticed a little file on my computer marked “Vietnam”. Hmm!? We lived there before I started blogging and way before I had a digital camera or even this hard drive that my photos are kept on, so I thought all the photos were in slide form. But we must’ve had some put on disc and at some point I uploaded them. I’ve spent an entire Saturday morning reminiscing about those days. I would love to go back there although I think I’d try living in Ha Noi rather than Ho Chi Minh City, just do get a different perspective. Ha Noi, you are calling me!

18 September 2009

A little technical hand required

I'm confused about Blogger comments. I have comment moderation activated and it works just fine. I open the page and OK any new comments. But then they disappear from the list and reappear on the relevant entry. Fine. But if someone comments on an older entry, is there no way to find out which entry that person's comment went to? I'm not making sense and I know it.
OK, someone comments on a blog entry I wrote a few months ago, only I don't know which entry they are commenting on because there's not a date on the comments awaiting moderation. Is there any way to find this date? Any old Blogger hands know??

In other news, it's gorgeous and sunny and really warming up. Without saying this out loud and jinxing it for everyone...shhhhh, I think summer is coming, shhhh... And, do you know what else? It's Friday so I'm off to the pub to enjoy it!

(Photo randomly selected from the ones I took out our window in Osaka)

14 September 2009


So THAT'S what it means! Before I tell you what I'm talking about, a little disclaimer. For the past five years I've been living in Vietnam, where every page of the internet is painfully downloaded pixel by pixel so that it can be screened by the government before you're allowed to view it. Not conducive to doing anything other than letting friends and family know you are alive and well and eating too much pho. Then I was in the inaka (countryside) of Japan where the connection speed was great but I didn't have a technically minded group of people around me to discuss the latest in technology. And then, finally, I've been back in good ol' NZ but had a really crappy connection speed even though I did soldier on to the best of my ability. Now I've got broadband...which is a relative term down here, but it's useable, and a three day work week that allows me time to spend doing "research". OK, so here it goes...wait for it...

"WEB 2.0" just means interactive web pages!

I swear to God I had never thought about what that meant before. Yes, I'm ashamed to say that I live in cyber space as much as the next blogger. Can they take my blogging rights away from me?

11 September 2009

World of confusion: Writing

That's it! I've decided. I'm a reasonably intelligent woman, who thinks she can write reasonably well, and who doesn't want to work for other people any more. This was some of the thinking that prompted me to launch my food blog in order to get something out there. So, I thought I'd give myself until the end of the year to research the possibilities of freelance writing. I mean, the actual writing is one thing, but I'm the first to admit that I know nada about the industry.

The universe tends to provide, methinks, as all of a sudden I've met two writers in the past week. It seems I need to start building up a portfolio of work and commercial writing seems to be a way to do it. I was thinking that could be my bread and butter and anything else I do would be a bonus at the beginning. Do I know what I am talking about? Hell no!

I'm not sure how you get to know just what types of opportunities and avenues there are out there, but I've started reading everything I can get my hands on. Still hoping for that 26 hour clock to set in. I've always worked with words, but I guess I'd have had a better feel for the market if I'd studied journalism or some such at uni...well, too late. But I'm thinking that my knowledge of travel, food and education can be channeled somewhere.

Yes, this post is me thinking out loud...and maybe a cry for help...and full of bad writing (This won't be in the aforementioned portfolio!), but I'm determined. OK universe. Bring it!

social networking as a means to spying on students

Sadly, I imagine this is actually true for some people!

Facebook, Twitter Revolutionizing How Parents Stalk Their College-Aged Kids

08 September 2009

How to relax (even when you don't know that you are wound up!)

1. Take a week off work.
2. Air out your sleeping bag,waterproofs and boots.
3. Pack up the station wagon.
4. Get out of the city and into the wilds.
5. Make a small plan but be open to changing it completely.
6. Put boot to Earth and breath the fresh air in deeply.
7. Put ski to snow and hurtle down a volcano.
8. Spend time with old and very dear friends drinking wine and laughing.
9. Observe the beginning of spring.
10. Revel in the feeling of calm and contentment!

28 August 2009

Into the wild green yonder

So, the main reason I wanted to come back from Asia was because I missed the wide-open spaces of Aotearoa. I also missed seeing green and having enough room in my flat to swing a cat. Here comes the irony. I‘ve only recently moved out of a small, city apartment that was surrounded by concrete and noisy neighbours. I’ve also been made to think about the last time I went out of the city because a friend, who visited from England, 1 year ago, sent an email entitled “Has it really been a whole year?”.

It seems that the only time we make it out of the city is if we have guests to entertain. Why? Isn’t this why we came back to New Zealand…to be in New Zealand? Après epiphany, Mr. P and I decided that, since he’s being forced to take the holiday he’s been saving up, that we’d take off and do a bit of a road trip.

We’re headed south. Our original plan was to spend the week in the Tongariro National park skiing on the volcanoes, but when we found out how much they add on to accommodation prices for the ski season have thought again. We still plan to go skiing mid-week when we can get a cheap pass that includes a free lesson. I need it, he doesn’t. But first, we’re going to set off Saturday morning and try to get all the way to Napier. We’ve never been there and we were joking that it’s going to be a bit of a busman’s holiday since it’s the most art deco-ed town in NZ. But that’s not why we’re going. We’re going because we need a road trip. We need to get out of the city. We need to get far away from work, looking for work, and all the other stresses of everyday life. Most of all, we need to go to New Zealand. Don’t get me wrong, I L.O.V.E. love Auckland. It’s, in my opinion one of the best places to live in the world, but we need to get out and frolic in the rolling hills, so to speak.

I reckon we should pretend to be backpackers. We can shove all the needed accoutrements into our long-neglected packs, fill the station wagon with pasta, teabags, low temperature sleeping bags, and tramping gear, and take off. Zip off trouser/shorts and English optional.

25 August 2009

Procrastibaking once again

I should be unpacking boxes so our upcoming guests have a place to sleep...I should be getting materials ready for my students tomorrow...I should be on my new treadmill...but no, I'm procrastibaking again.

These little biscuits are pretty amazing. Apart from the chocolate chips they are vegan and sugarfree. They also have no flour and must be as "low-carb" as you can get as far as junk food is concerned...although a hate to label these "junk".

I got this from Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks website which seems to have an awful lot of things on it that I want to eat. She got the recipe from a friend. Check out her story and recipe here...and I highly recommend the recipe, especially if you are meant to be doing other things.

08 August 2009

And the moral of the story is...

And the moral of the story is...
Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti

…always shoot in RAW. Dammit!
I was contacted through Flickr by someone who wanted to buy one of my photos. It took me ages to work out how much to charge for it and then draw up a contract. The buyer was a group of art students who were contracted to do the art in a cruise ship owned by Norwegian Cruise Lines. So, she told me that my photo would be enlarged and hung in a tryptich with one from another photographer, and one from a photo library. The bad part is coming…look away now if you are squeamish.

I finally located the external hard drive that had the photo in question and found that it was a Jpeg. WTF!? It was a photo I’d taken quite early on and I had no idea about these things then…in fact I don’t know enough now, but I’m learning quickly. So, to make a long story longer, there was no way a Jpeg could be enlarged to the size they needed so I lost the sale. Bugger.

I’m trying to be Zen about it all. I really did learn something here. It’s pretty impractical to take photos in RAW all the time since I haven’t got the capacity to save all of that stuff, but the next time I’m travelling, or at least “in the zone” as far as taking photos, I’ll be sure to switch over. You never know what could happen.

30 July 2009

Pho-king awesome!

Excuse the swearing, but take a look at this fantabulous pho bowl! I think I NEED this!Please click on this link to see how it works.
yanko design pho bowl

25 July 2009

A time to Flickr, a time to blog

Flickr how I've missed thee!
Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti

It's taken us ages to get all moved in and we still have a long way to go to make this place look like a real home, but we're getting there. We've had so much fun finding all of our stuff that has been in storage...especially all the cool Japanese pottery we went mad on buying before we left Japan. We've also bought things...big things like dining room tables and giant bookshelves. I'm still not totally comfortable with all this "permanant-y" stuff. I'm scared that we are settling in even though it's fun to make a really livable place. A dining room table, HA!

10 July 2009

I'm a P.A. for myself

We're finally in our new house. We had to give up on the 'owning dream' since nobody has job security these days, but we've rented the biggest place we've ever lived in. It's really cool to be able to spread out(heating this place is another matter). Plus, I'm opening boxes of cool stuff we brought back from Japan that have been in storage until now. Christmas in July!

The past two weeks has just been about processing jobs. Change the address on this and that, buy a washing machine and get it delivered, chase up the phone man who can't seem to find out address to put the phone in, chase him up again...and again, pack boxes, clean, clean new lace, unpack boxes, eat MORE takeaway until we can find plates and pots, the list goes on.

Tonight is the first night that I am not totally obligated to meet someone, go somewhere, or clean something. Mr. P asked me to meet him and colleagues in town for a drink but the last thing I want to do is get on a bus only to fall asleep at the bar. So, I've put my foot down and I'm staying in. Well, as a compromise, I'm giving him a lift home and we're going to get some food on the way. But then I'm REALLY staying in!

15 June 2009

Louis and Nancy Dupree Foundation

This woman has been living in Afghanistan since, I believe, the 1970s and does some amazing work there. This is a little snippet in which you get to see her "in action".

09 June 2009

05 June 2009

Jasmine tea after work

Jasmine tea after work
Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti

I brought this little teapot back from Japan and it's just the right size for after work tea.

Funky little Japanese MAFF video

25 May 2009

Make your own: Banh mi

Banh mi, originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.

Banh mi are those lovely sandwiches you get on the street in Vietnam that cross from east to west. Lovely crisp French bread stuffed with more Asian style meats, pickles, herbs and vegetables combine to please the palette.

The trick is, if you can't get a baguette that is COMPLETELY fresh and crispy, you have to sprinkle it with water and put it in the oven until it becomes crisp (but before it becomes toasted!).

My filling here is tuna (tinned) with chopped chili and lemongrass, plus a little bit of mayo or sesame oil. Homemade Vietnamese pickles since I've never been able to find them to buy, and fresh coriander/cilantro.

If you wanted meat, you could just use any leftover roast (esp pork), or luncheon meat. The food-stalls in Vietnam always have some kind of mystery meat or a mystery homemade pate/compressed meat kind of thing which is popular. Bon appetite!


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

20 May 2009

So confused!

So confused!
Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.
Mr.P woke up and I found him staring into space and looking a little upset.
"What's wrong?", I asked.
"I feel a little upset ", he replied.
"I woke up with two watches on."

For some reason, and at some time during the night, he somehow managed to put a second watch on his wrist...and even managed to tuck the strap in! And, no, he hadn't been drinking the night before.

Later in the day he still had that glazed look on his face and told me that he was still a little freaked out.

16 May 2009

New Look

What d'you reckon?

I have a soft spot for old, chipped enamel things

I'm really just testing my blog-sending button on Flickr. This should be on Threespoons...but I'll bet ya it's on Shantiwallah!

13 May 2009

The best rice pudding ever!

Imagine yourself in the following scenario. You’ve had a hard day at work and the drive home took longer than the usual hour due to heavy traffic. Summer’s long gone, and you get drenched from the rain and wind while trying to get your laptop safely out of the car and into the flat. After a quick change of clothes you eat some leftover soup from last night (better the second day!) and cozy up in a blanket on the sofa to watch whatever TV comes on because you just want to be warm, and it’s either this or go to bed.

Soon your partner, the love of your life, jumps up saying, “Wait here! I’m going to make you a pudding.”, and disappears for an intensive 5 minutes of surfing the net. Eventually smells start wafting across from the kitchen, gorgeous smells. These are smells of, what is that…coconut?...butter?...something Thai? Yes, it smells like those little Thai coconut jellies. How could he be making those? I wait patiently. This is where we differ. He’d let curiosity get the best of him and look. But me, I like the element of surprise.

Voila! Rice pudding? School days and university residence hall dinners revisited. But wait…this is the best rice pudding I’ve ever tasted. It’s not too sweet, creamy as all get-out, and buttery and rich. NOW I’m warm! Thank god for the internet!

Recipe here
Note: He left out the golden raisins, added cinnamon, and used jasmine rice. He also sprinkled a bit of cinnamon on top.

22 April 2009

Missing Bill for one year

The world is still benefiting from your actions, Bill. We all miss you and are thinking of you!

About Bill

14 April 2009


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

03 April 2009

15 March 2009

Domo-kun eats Reeses

Domo-kun eats Reeses
Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.
I just think we live in the most amazing time. A time where you can get in touch with long lost friends...and they send you stuff! My most awesome and excellent mate from high school sent me this fluffy Domo (Yes, the NHK guy. I love him.) and a giant bar of my very favourite American junk food. After all these years, she still knows me. Just warms your fluffy little heart doesn't it?

09 March 2009

Chocolate chai

Chocolate chai
Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.
One of those things that just comes to you one day and you wonder why you'd never thought of it before.

Here's what I did:
In a pan over medium heat, I lightly roasted (about a minute or until getting fragrant but not burnt) a few spices. These included a couple of pieces of cinnamon bark, five cloves, two smashed green cardamon pods and about an eighth teaspoon of mixed spice because I was afraid that it wouldn't be spicy enough. Just experiment.

Then I added about a tablespoon of cocoa powder and let it heat through with the spices in the dry pan. You'll be tempted to add more cocoa as if you are making hot chocolate, but think of the cocoa as just another spice in the chai. You don't want anything overpowering anything else and upsetting the balance.

Finally I added 2 mugs full of milk and three teabags or three teaspoons of loose tea. I used semi-skimmed (half fat) but if you use full fat it will be creamy and lovely. You might want to substitute a bit of water for some of the milk if you go the full fat route.

If you want to add sugar, add it at this point so that it melts in the tea. I waited until after it was made and served the sugar on the side s people could have as much or as little as they liked.

Be sure it doesn't scald. When heated, strain and pour into cups to enjoy, MMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

27 February 2009

Currently loving

A little inspiration

I've recently come across these two blogs.
The Urban Muse give brilliant practical advice to bloggers.
And Tim Ferriss's blog, The Four Hour Work Week, based on his book is just what someone like me who is always looking for another way to do things needs.

29 January 2009

Please help me think of a name for my new food blog!!

It's going to be about the multicultural aspect of food in New Zealand and I really want to get it going, but I'm absolutely stuck for a name. Ask your friends, ask your family, ask the bloke who sells you your morning coffee. Any ideas are good ideas. I really need a giant brainstorm going on!
I want it to say something about New Zealand, food, and multicultural-ness. I'd appreciate any ideas you may have, even crazy ones. Muchas, muchas gracias!

La Tour Eiffel

Did you know the Eiffel tower had its own website? I didn't.

19 January 2009

I love New Zealand

...but why are there no jobs here?!

10 January 2009

Current musical interests

I may not have any money for music but this morning I'm taking advantage of the fact that my internet connection seems to be somewhat bearable (she says whispering so as not to jinx it!)and finding lots of good stuff. But if I DID have expendable cash,I'd buy something from either of these two discoveries.

Dengue Fever

Checkout the documentary trailer about thier trip to Cambod

Sa Dingding

08 January 2009

Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper by Fuchsia Dunlop

Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-sour Memoir of Eating in China Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-sour Memoir of Eating in China by Fuchsia Dunlop

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book has 'me' written all over it. So much so that I wish I had bought it rather than borrowed it from the library. I may have to invest. Fuchsia goes abroad under the intention of studying Chinese and having a nice cultural experience. After becoming disillusioned with the Chinese way of teaching language and realising that she's not learning a thing, she chucks in her course and starts hanging out in cafes and restaurants, chatting to the locals about what they are cooking, and eventually wheedling her way into a somewhat prestigious Sichuan cooking school. This sets her on a learning curve that ends with her becoming one of the few non-Chinese experts on Sichuanese cooking.

The part I loved the most was her slow progression from one who could not even look at a thousand year egg, to one that would happily chomp down on goose intestines and duck tongues. Personally, I haven't made it that far yet. And my experiences have been mostly of a Japanese nature. But having been a vegetarian for 25 years and then slowly starting to become accustomed to eating flesh in the form of seafood (and the unavoidable bacon that is in EVERYTHING in Japan)I felt an affinity to Ms. Dunlop when reading this.

I think anyone who has gone abroad to study and/ or work and has lived in a foreign culture for a period of time could relate to her stories. If you are actually interested in Chinese cooking and the history of said cuisine, all the better.

View all my reviews.

Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper by Fuchsia Dunlop

Christmas in Japan

What can I say, I wish I'd found this two weeks ago so it would be timely. But, it's still worth posting. I have to say, I really didn't know about the chicken thing. I must've lived in the "countryside" for too long. It doesn't surprise me, though. These kinds of things just start to make sense and, in fact seem normal, the longer you've been in Japan.

05 January 2009

expat bars

Matthew Guttentag over at Brave New Traveler has posted a list of the 6 characters you meet in expat bars around the world. I have to say, amongst a few others, you really DO meet these people. In fact, it's amazing how consistent it is that you meet these people.

My Molskines have arrived! What the hell am I doing with my life?

My Molskines have arrived!
Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti.
These are my first Moleskines, something I've wanted for a long time. The diary is no problem, but I had a "first page freakout" in the journal where I couldn't decide what was befitting. So, as usual with new journals, I left the first page blank to come back to later. Of course the first thing I did put in the journal is something about food.

I've been doing some heavy reflecting on why I'm not in the food and/or anthropology business. These things have been my true loves as long as I can remember. I think I was born just a little too early. The way I see it is that, if I had learnt about computers at school, and therefore was more comfortable around technology in general (computers, digital cameras and all the bits in between) I think I would been more brave in using this stuff to get me into what I'm into...if you know what I mean. There have been people around for quite a few years now who are doing their OE with a round the world ticket, updating their blog, and then selling the story to a local newspaper. How proactive, I thought. Getting a little kickback for when they get back home. Of course, they are mostly journalism students who know about selling stories, etc. and publishing on the web. And who knows what they'll do with their lives once they get back home.

Now, the other day I come across this http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/
A young couple decides to carry around two backpacks worth of equipment and fund their never-ending wander by writing articles and taking photos. Well, duh! If I'd had the marketing know-how and writing and photography skills needed (and I really don't think it's much if you see some of the crap that gets published) I'd have done this from the start.

But, herein lies my point. It took years of observing people like me working for peanuts to save travel money, travelling extremely frugally, and then having not enough left to buy peanuts, for certain people (10+ years younger) to figure out that you can just take your job on the road with you. Well, I'll be damned! I mean, why did I just spend the last year in hell on a crappy required course to teach in the public school system when I could've been honing my photography and writing skills and learning better the ins and outs of internet based marketing.

Rant continues so sit back if you're ready for this...

I believe there are two ways to go about the work thing, work for yourself, or work for someone else. I have never met an entrepreneur who didn't have entrepreneurial parents. And I think it's the same for small business owners. I really believe that, on the whole, if you are raised by people who work for people, then you start thinking about who you want to work for when you go out into the workforce. If you are raised by entrepreneurs, you start thinking about what you want to do when you go out there. N'er the tween shall meet.

So, the thing is, I think I was meant to be an entrepreneur but I had (and still have) no idea of how to do that. I mean, ideas flood, FLOOD into my head about things that are missing/ needed in the world. I went through a stage of writing lists of this stuff, some of which has been done now. But how in the hell do you get to the 'doing' part? Let's be clear, though, I'm not a business person, I am a creator of stuff. So, maybe that means I'm not an entrepreneur, but some other kind of creature...but what? Just a thought.

Right, gotta get back to updating my CV and writing letters to future bosses now.

02 January 2009

A little dancing inspiration

I love this bloke!

And here's his website