Category Archives: All

Lasagne

Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.
~ Marthe Troly-Curtin, Phrynette Married

As I write this, layers of bolognese, mozzarella sauce & pasta sheets are bubbling away in our hot oven. Two lots of dishes have been washed by hand and the second lot now sits shiny and glistening on the rack. I may have been busy in the kitchen for the last couple of hours, but while I have been tracking how long each part cooks for, time itself has slipped by quietly and pleasurably so that I haven’t noticed my legs tiring of standing. The pleasure of cooking is a happy mystery that unfolds with every meal. Even on days when I am bone tired and find smashing and chopping sticky garlic cloves a most irritating affair – it seems that I am always ready for it again the next day.

Cooking is ordinary and predictable in one sense, yet thrilling and adventurous in another. Time passes quickly while you are forced to slow down … to

wash,

chop,

fry,

stir.

To

inhale,

observe,

taste,

share.

On that note … it’s dinner time.

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Paris Ever After

A poignant, warmly feminine depiction of food, love, friendship and the beautiful mess that is life.

Set in the glittering city of Paris, “Paris Ever After” serves up an intimate narrative of main character Amy Brodie’s world. Filled with teasing descriptions of gastronomic delights, pretty places and unexpected surprises, this novel makes for a full read from beginning to end.

Through this American woman’s eyes, we explore some light and wrenching themes – friendship, romance, grief, loss, redemption, desires, home, responsibility, letting go. For the hedonists among us, the backdrop against which these are brought to light will provide further pleasure … that of the magical (if only in our imagination) city Paris, and delicious food. A mug of cafe au lait and a madeleine or two will pair well with your reading of “Paris Ever After”.

Life is a strong, delicate tapestry and choices are not always easy. Yet the largely likeable ‘cast’ in this story reminds us that with some good food and company, all is not lost. If, like me, you aren’t an avid fiction reader, you may find yourself struggling a little at first with trying to place ‘who’s who’ and immerse yourself in a ‘fictitious story’. Then you may, like me, find yourself rooting after all for who they are … and who they can be. Flaws, idiosyncracies and all.

While I have yet to read the prequel “The Paris Effect”, I feel “Paris Ever After” works well as a standalone story too.

Merci beaucoup to Karen Burns for the wonderful opportunity to review “Paris Ever After”. :-)

“Paris Ever After” is due to be released on 1 May, 2018!

Image © Pixabay

Synopsis as laid out on Karen Burns’s website:

Can Amy’s rocky start in Paris turn into a happy ever after?

Amy didn’t realize how stale her life was until she jetted off to Paris without telling a soul—not even her husband—and had the adventure of a lifetime. Now as she tries to establish herself in the City of Light, she finds that despite a fun (and quirky) group of friends and the ability to indulge in French pastries whenever she wants, reinventing her life is much harder than she imagined.

Then on Amy’s thirtieth birthday, two unexpected visitors leave her wondering if she will soon be saying au revoir to Paris and the new life she’s struggled to build. Her estranged husband, Will, shows up—but is he interested in reconciliation or separation? And a young woman who arrives on Amy’s doorstep unleashes chaos that could push Amy out into the street.

As Amy’s Parisian dream starts to fall apart, she must decide: return to the stability of Will and Phoenix (if that’s even still an option) or forge her way forward in Paris? Amid secrets and surprises, set in enchanting gardens, cozy cafés, and glittering Parisian streets, Amy must choose between two very different worlds. And each has a claim on her heart.

Amber Topaz: The Rude Awakening

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Image © Amber Topaz

When I first saw the poster, I was suspicious of my husband’s motive for wanting to go to this (though he tried to convince me I would want to go too if I had joined them in their podcast where they interviewed Amber Topaz). MEN! – I harrumphed. 🤤🙄

Well – curiosity won and I said yes to going for the show. She was sultry and sassy, as expected. But I was swept off my feet by her warmth, vulnerability, and beauty. 💘

She told her story and she did an amazing job in portraying the wonder of WOMEN! and of the human experience. 💎

🛫 WELLINGTON (NZ) she is headed to you next week and she doesn’t know anyone in NZ … so I said I would help spread the word 

More details here

Cool Behaviour

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Are you cool? Am I cool? Are they cool? 

Last night I invited my friend Justin – a Kiwi back from his other home Edmonton – to join me at Q for “Cool Behaviour”. We were ushered into the cosy, warm space that is the Vault … to a table at the front. Uh-oh. My heart skipped a beat at the possibility of having to do the dreaded audience participation stuff. This, before it even started. I distracted myself with the bright thought that Justin was seated in a more convenient spot to be picked. Ha!

With no due warning the play commenced and two bold, quirky, beautiful “Doctors of Cool” burst out on the stage, and there was no time to retreat … to consider an ‘out’. We may not have signed up for it, but we were in. We were enrolled – as students, guinea pigs, dare I say disciples! – at the School of Cool.

For a brief and glorious hour, comedy duo Ava Diakhaby and Frith Horan charmed, chided, humoured and enlightened us through multiple genius acts – with energetic song, dance, rap and more.

I laughed more than I expected to, I had so much fun!

Justin wished to award it “five stars”. I think back to a certain sea of Doritos stars I saw scattered across a dark surface last night, and indeed I feel like showering both Ava and Frith with stars.

Are we cool? Are we even close? Why yes, now that we’ve walked out those doors changed people … I think we are.

Producer: Alice Kirker
Stars: Frith Horan (Actor/Writer; Mating in Captivity, Album Party), Ava Diakhaby (Actor/Writer; Flaps, ATC’s Boys)
Dates: 22-24 February, 8:45pm
Venue: Q Theatre Vault, 305 Queen St, Auckland
Ticket $: $18-$22 (service fees may apply)
Bookings: here or phone 09 309 9771
More info
Auckland Fringe
Image © Q Theatre website
This post has also been published on NZ Entertainment Podcast.

Charming weekend in Hawkes Bay

Rhythm is born in all of us.
~ Ginger Rogers

Last Thursday, J and I flew down to Napier for the annual Art Deco Festival. J’s first time; my third. As individuals we are both happy travellers – as a couple we are learning to allow our separate interests to mingle and create experiences which delight us.

While J can never say yes quick enough to salty sand and water, my tummy is the one I think of satisfying, more so than any Vitamin D deficiencies. He loves films; I love farmers’ markets. He poses, unabashed, for the camera. I am still learning not to apologise before asking if someone can take a photo for us … and not to hurry J when he is taking a photo of me, because I get shy holding a pose in public. He is a relaxed person and puts people around him at ease. I work hard to relax … and when I don’t I too often make the mistake of working harder still >.<

But we’ve always, since our first short trip away together, travelled well together. Through him I go on more walks, swims and adventures – through me he eats and travels more and has an increasing capacity for spicy food.

Over the weekend, we had just about the perfect combination of activities for both of us. We stayed at an Airbnb retreat in Te Awanga, about 25 driving minutes away from Napier – at a cosy pad where we could hear the rolling waves from the beach just behind us. It wasn’t an ideal swimmers’ beach but was lovely to spend the first part of a morning there.

We watched sparkling vintage cars roll by …

ate some scrumptious food

danced to live music with a beautiful crowd …

savoured some visual feasts …

visited the one and only Hawkes Bay Farmers’ Market

took in the sights at Te Mata Peak

and certainly a highlight was meeting with the lovely Fiona whose writing inspires me; and her family, in her dream home! It was a wonderful evening for J and me both.

We also went Deco shopping, watched a special screening of the delightful and humorous 1937 film “Shall We Dance”, and had a bit of down time just chillin’, which we both needed.

:-) Till we meet again, charming Hawkes Bay, stay sunny, strong and wonderful.

treehousekitchen – a book

I’d finally come to understand what it had been: a yearning for a way out, when actually what I had wanted to find was a way in.
~ Cheryl Strayed

At some point, one of my dreams morphed into fear.

The child who had penned an earnest letter to a publisher overseas, who had felt a secret glow of pride at having her essays published in her school’s book of “model essays” – found herself trembling at the laptop, sitting by the bin … shredding journals by hand.

Once upon a time I saved up my words and felt sure I was destined to be an author. Praise felt like confirmation of what I already knew. Later on I still wrote, but I also loved the relief of discarding records of my truest thoughts. Not caring felt bad, but easier than caring.

Every so often, as I tried to make sense of things I could not articulate, I would try to inspire myself to ‘work on something creative’. Something light … not too close to the hurting parts of my heart.

I thought I would write a cookbook. Easy – it would be about something I enjoyed, but not something that required too much of ‘me’. After all, whenever someone asked me if I had thought of writing a cookbook, the idea would excite me. Whenever I wrote down things to work on, ‘cookbook’ made the list.

I would get excited, write earnestly for a while, filing photos by category to accompany my words. Then difficult emotions would resurface, and inertia. I would write, edit, and sigh in exasperation at my useless, overworked sentences.

Ego … pride … sigh.

I marvelled at the ways of the heart. So pure, yet deceitful, too.

I discovered the crippling power of anxiety, discontent and looking back at the past.

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One afternoon, last week or the week before? – I lay down the weight on my shoulders.

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I clicked my way to Zno (who, by the way, print fabulous photo books and deliver promptly). I found a folder on my computer in which I had stuffed various full-size photos from my blogging adventures / more recent cooking experiments.

I clicked and dragged. Within an afternoon, I had pages of complete layouts. Just images – no words. I showed two friends the online sample.

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Thankfully, Cathy suggested that I could “sprinkle a few words or comments across the pages like chocolate drops on a trifle”. :-)

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So I did. I let go of the desire to impress. I just had fun. I clicked “Save” and ordered five copies.

They arrived on Monday morning this week.

They are by no means complex or impressive works of art, or the most wonderful food book ever published.

But when I flip through the pages, I remember many good moments. And my body feels as light as meringue.

That’s good enough for me.

[UPDATE: you can order one, and receive a bonus with it – click here to find out more!]

Courage, caution: shaken, not stirred

My grandma was hardy and tough, bold enough to sneak out in the evenings to attend night classes in a time and place where girls were not granted education rights. Solid enough to blink back tears at the age of nine when her father hit her on the head for not cooking the porridge perfectly. Zany enough to catch a live cockroach in her hand and fling it out of the window while my grandpa and I looked on, glad it wasn’t us doing the disgusting deed. Plucky enough to stop live crabs from getting away from her in the kitchen sink, and to turn them into a delicious dinner for us all.

She was also sharp and full of common sense, forward-thinking and clever. She could taste a dish at a restaurant and quickly work out how to reproduce it at home; she had a solid memory; she was skilled in all aspects of homemaking; she wore bright red lipstick and modern outfits and travelled with ease; she once cooked for 80 people, to celebrate my grandpa’s birthday.

She was a woman with both charm and a startling temper which could descend on you without warning. She loved working with her hands – cooking for her family, always putting meals on the table no matter who was in or out that night; sewing pyjamas for us; smacking me when I got unruly; brushing my hair and braiding it. She made food to take to the temple as offerings for the gods. She loved to play mah-jong with friends and family. She rarely sat still, except in the afternoons when she sometimes took a short nap, or in the evenings when her favourite sitcoms were playing on TV.

Notions of what it meant to be a wife and mother drove her, work and duties were ingrained into her daily routine. Strongly anchored to that love was a sense of fear and needing to protect us from any harm. Growing up as a child under the roof of a father who loved boys but not girls, into a young woman living amidst the horrors of war during the Japanese Occupation, to a woman who had ambition but not the opportunity to do more beyond marry and have children … she was one of many women in her time who relied on marriage as a means of survival, as she had no education or way to make a living. Her children were her everything. Her love was both warm and assuring, and smothering.

Though she never said this to me, I eventually came to suspect that her world was an unsettling one, where the most we could do was control how things went at home and be morally upright so we might be spared punishment from the gods. She worked hard to do the right thing in every situation, to make all the right offerings at the temple, to pray to the gods for protection for our family.

With her lips she cautioned me against the many dangers of the world. Don’t walk outside alone at night. Don’t catch a cold in the rain. No jumping off that seat, it’s too high. Eat your rice, or each grain left on your plate will become a pimple on your husband’s face. Be careful, don’t mess with a man before you get married, or you may get pregnant and he will leave you. She told me stories of her past, she hoped I would have a better life and be able to help look after her when she got old.

From her I learned that it was good to be beautiful, but not to be too beautiful or a man might take advantage of you. It was important, as a girl, to marry not just for love, but for practicality. It was vital to always look after yourself, as no one else might. It was good to help others, but not too much in case your family was left with not enough.

Towards the end of her life illness and disappointment had worn her down; fear had come in the way of her once ringing laughter, and I was afraid of her bitterness and anger. I found myself feeling irrationally angry with a woman I once loved inviting over to our place to ‘sleepover’ in my room; whose tickles once made early mornings bearable; whose meals I always looked forward to with anticipation.

* * *

In the course of working on a book, I found myself tracing love’s story, love’s journey, love’s lessons … I found myself remembering my grandma. Early days. Late days. Times in the kitchen when she’d lovingly chase me out so she could fry food in hot oil for dinner. Times in the lounge when she’d talk and I’d wriggle out of her arms, tired of hearing a story *again*.

I found myself smiling and crying as I wrote the above … recalling moments in which it was easy to feel love for her, and moments when it was really tough to even like her.

But that is family, and love. So simple and yet sometimes so complex when you are that close to someone. Sometimes the love you share with someone brings you warm fuzzies. Sometimes it brings hurt and makes you mad. Sometimes it makes you question … makes you think about who you want to be. 

I love her so very much, and on many days I miss her.