Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Apologies, a Reminder and some more Reverb10

This is a cooking blog. Opps.
I've been a little lazy in terms of actually photographing anything I've made recently. In my defense, my parents arrived from France late last week, and it has all been a bit hectic since. I have made some lovely things.... a yummy Seasame Chicken Stir Fry the other night, and last night was Kung Pao Broccoli with Chinese 5 Spice Beef.

December 21 – Future Self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead?

Relax. Nothing is so important that you stress yourself out over it. Take time to stop and think. Slow down.

We're 3 days away from Christmas here in NZ.... oh the benefits of being in the future..... and it's hectic out there. I went out this morning to get some new summer shorts, and it was insane. And I got to the mall as it opened in order to beat the crowds. People tend to forget at this time of year what it's really about. It's not about the presents (as much as I love them) - the purpose behind the presents is to show our love, not to buy as much as we can and bankrupt ourselves in the process.
It's not about drinking, or rushing, or going from one party to another.
Christmas is about family and friends. It's about relaxing and having fun. It's joy and laughter and a time to reflect. But most of all, it's about something else. Something that people often forget..... It's about the birth of Jesus. Christmas, would not be Christmas without Christ. Remember that.

And now? I bring you the most insanely cute, adorable and sweet video ever made:
(The nativity redone by St Pauls in Auckland City.... SO CUTE.)

Monday, December 20, 2010


I started off answering the Reverb10 prompts a week or two ago, and then just.... didn't. Blame the end of the school year, my laziness... and well, mostly my laziness. (And a slightly obsession with Glee, that may be taking up a fair bit of my holiday time in the form of Season 1 reruns.)

The first four can be found here.

December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

An ex. Time to move on. He has... so moving on is what I needed to do. I'm getting there.

December 6 – Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

Christmas Brownies!!! There's not really anything Christmassy about them.... but they were requested along with the normal Christmas baking (Fruit Mince Meat Pies (mini) and Butter Tarts) so I guess that makes them Christmas Brownies. I used.... cocoa, butter, flour, baking powder, dark chocolate chips, eggs, sugar and a pinch of salt.
I would like to find some kind of crafty/arty thing to fill my time... but haven't quite got there yet.

December 7 – Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

I became closer (in a sense) to my school community - the people I work with, the church we are part of... I think that I became closer and more in touch with my own faith, and with that which I am teaching. As for next year.... I would like to work even harder at becoming closer to my community of friends.  Taking more time to do nice things for them, spend time with them - especially those who it's harder to find the time for - and just generally be a better friend.

December 8 – Beautifully Different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.

I know that my sense of humor is what often draws people to me. I am funny. I can be very funny. I generally have a nice balance of funny and serious. I give good advice, but don't expect people to always take it. I'm a good friend - I listen. I can cook well. I think that I'm becoming a better teacher - I know that I care immensely about what happens to my students, how they achieve... and if they're having fun and engaging in what we're doing. I like my eyes. I like the way my eyes stand out when I use makeup. I like my hair on good days. I like my skin. I like the way that I've become a lot more careful about what I eat, and how much I eat. I like the fact that I'm becoming a better singer, and I'm becoming better and not resenting those who can sing. I like myself for what I believe, and I like that I'm not ashamed of my beliefs, that I'm willing to hear other peoples thoughts and sometimes, I'm willing to adjust my beliefs... I am proud of what I believe, but I also don't feel the need to shove them in others faces. I think that when I'm at my most beautiful, I am laughing with friends.

December 9 – Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans

The work Christmas party. It seriously rocked my socks off. I'm not going to say much on here - that's not fair to those who were there. All I will say is that I had the tim eof my life - I think it might be the best party I've ever been to. I had so much fun with a group of people that are awesome.

December 10 – Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

To let go of my preconceptions of how my life should turn out, of the direction my feelings should take... to let go. I'll let you know how that all plays out for me.

December 11 – 11 Things. What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?

1. My weight. - I'm working on that right now. Eating less, eating better... I've started swimming more, and plan to swim everyday once we're at the beach for the summer. I used to.. I can do it again.
2. My insecurities - Say what I think and want to say... and not sit mulling it over again and again.
3. My ex. Done and dusted baby.
4. Laziness. Less sitting, more doing. Less dreaming, more acting.
5. Procrastination. If it has to get done, ithas to get done. May as well do it sooner, rather than later.
6. To much seriousness. Time to lighten up.
7. Worry. Life happens when you're busy living it. A friend told me that a few days ago - and she's right. Time to stop worrying and get on with it.
8. Spending - gotta get back to that budget. Spending is fun and all.. but saving is better.
9. People who drag me down - it'll be hard, because when you see someone all the time, and you're a pretty nice person... it can be hard to not be NICE all the time. But I need to take a step back and stop letting this person use me.
10. The way I think people are watching - nobody cares. If you want to dance, dance.No one is watching... and if they are, who cares?
11. Bitching - let's try to bring it down to once a week shall we?

December 12 – Body Integration. This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present.

I'm going to be completely honest and lame here... but last night, when I lit the forth advent candle... I know there are proper prayers for advent and all, but being me... I have no idea what they are. I lit the candles and wandered into the kitchen to throw away the match.... and stood in the moonlight and just said my own little prayer. Definate body integration.

December 13 – Action. When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?

Swim everyday. Care more.

December 14 – Appreciate. What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it.

My friends. By being nice to them? :)

December 15 – 5 Minutes. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.

U2 concert - rocking under the stars and moon with a great friend, loud music and the wind blowing in my hair.
Christmas party - dancing with friends, not caring what people thought.
The look of joy on the faces of the kids in my class as we watched the music video we put together as our end of year project.

December 16 – Friendship. How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?

To take certain things seriously, to let go of others. To know that life is what happens when you're busy living it. To let go, have fun and have a few drinks... the world won't end if you have fun.

December 17 – Lesson Learned. What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?

That I am awesome. I will continue to be awesome. ;)

December 18 – Try. What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it?

Admiting my feelings to the person I admire/love/adore.

December 19 – Healing. What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011?

Knowing that life goes on. Nothing is that bad. There are always worse things that could happen. Oh, totally drip by drip...

December 20 – Beyond Avoidance What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)

Lost weight. It's an endless battle. I think I have the right motivation now.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday Homes Tour

So, I've observed Jen's (Jen on the Edge) Holiday Homes Tour the last year or so, and this year I decided to take part.
We don't really go all out at Christmas - mostly because we leave to go down to our family beach place on the Coromandel (the holiday haven of most North Islanders in NZ) on Boxing Day. (Something I've never been sure about.... I know that Boxing Day is a holiday in Canada, like in the UK, Australia and NZ... but is it one in the US?)

My parents arrive from France today, so the past few days (after schools let out for summer break on Wednesday.... best part about being a teacher!!) have been all about cleaning and tidying and sprucing.

So, let's get this thing started:

Welcome! This is my new Christmas wreath. The old one was looking a little... weathered. I'd love to have a go at making one someday, but at this point, work is just too busy leading up to this time of the year.Plus, bonus - this one only cost me $20 on sale.

This is the old wreath. I hung it in our dining room on the double windows. It doesn't look too bad there... (And out the window you can glimpse the greeness of NZ at Christmas..... though that might not last for long. It's been so hot here so far this summer (hot enough that it's March weather, not December) that most of the country has already been declared to be in a drought.)

As you come in from the front door and into the entry way, you'll see the nativity scene on the china cabinet, bells hanging from a painting, the (fake) mistletoe hanging above the door to the living room, and a glimpse of the (real) tree....

Close up of the nativity scene. Most of these pieces were bought at Trade Aid.

To the right of the living room door, the stairs head down to the bedrooms - it's an upside down house on a hill. The street entrance is on the upper level, so all the living areas are up there... and the bedrooms are downstairs. While trying not to put an pins in the walls, I came up with the idea of stringing the cards along the stair railings. I've actually added another upper level of cards.... the benefits of being a teacher. LOTS of cards. (And presents!!!)

In the kitchen I've put a poinsettia in a red bucket with a snowman... to remind myself that event hough it's not cold here, it is in other places.

Kitchen table, with red/Christmassy tablecloth and my Christmas basket - pinecones etc.... each year I sprinkle more cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, star anise and ginger on the basket. Always smells good :)

The tree. Bit of a disapointment this year. I didn't pick a good one....  Oh well!! No theme. There's never a theme... it's more of a 'put all the decorations you have on it', theme....

Voltives on top of the (very old) TV. I do believe I was watching The Biggest Loser Australia at the time.

Tree with lights in it :) Trying to make things festive.

Technically this is actually a photo I took for this blog (cooking) but you can see some of the lights strung up along the railing..... But really, this is a good picture, because it shows what a Kiwi Christmas is all about. Summer, BBQ's.... etc.

Ahhhh, here we go. Night time, lights on shot of the tree. Pretty!!! It was looking a little more alive in those days.

Advent Wreath. I've tried to stay traditional - I have a lovely one at school (I teach in a Catholic School) but yes... the only thing really missing is the evergreen part... but all good. We're up to three candles lit now. The last purple one will be lit tomorrow night (Sunday here in NZ) and then the Christ candle on Christmas day.

Anyway, I hope you've all enjoyed getting a glimpse of my Kiwi Christmas. I wish I had more summery pictures to put up.. but it's been raining for a few days (so much for that drought!! - though, probably not enough rain to do much) and it's been humid... 100% humidity some days. So no gorgeous sunny days to photograph.

Merry Christmas!!!!! 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Marinated Beef with Garlic and Chilli Bok Choy

(And the worlds most awesome Ice Cream Sundae.)

And so we start the second week of Advent. How on earth did we get this far into the year?!

With Christmas approaching (and my parents returning from their 4 months overseas... and therefore claiming back the kitchen... I really MUST start house hunting...) I've been having fun doing a bit more cooking. As busy as the last few weeks of school are - it's really just busy AT school (and of course the after school events) but theres not much take home work. Which is brilliant. And helpful when one wants to spend the weekend lounging in/beside the pool and in the kitchen baking.

So this weekend I baked an awesome Spiced Apple Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing... and took no photos. But I promise you it was awesome. And I am taking most of it into school tomorrow for staff morning tea.
I also made Buckeyes. (Peanut Butter balls covered in chocolate. They are like Reeses Pieces. But cheaper. And in bulk.) I will blog about those... with photos.

Tonight, I made Marinated Beef with Garlic and Chilli Bok Choy.... which so does not accurately describe how awesome it is.
It's there slices of tender as hell sirloin steak basted in this mouthwatering paste made with ground toasted sesame seeds, garlic, ginger, soy sauce and palm sugar. Maybe theres something in there that tenderises the steak more.. because it was melt in the mouth tender.

The bok choy is done with chilli and garlic - as the name suggests.... and is awesome. I added udon noddles to my dish, simply because I felt that it'd need something to nutralise the flavor a little bit. (I bought some easy and quick organic dried udon noodles at my local vege shop and few weeks ago and this was the perfect time to try them out.)
I'll copy the recipe at the bottom of this post.

I also (over the weekend) made the worlds BEST ice cream sundaes.
Tip Tops new Caramel ice cream, Hersheys hot fudge sauce and home made strawberry sauce. (Strawberries, Sugar, a dash of water and a little bit of vanilla. AWESOME.)

Not an awesome photo. Or one that displays how good those things taste together.

Marinated beef with garlic and chilli bok choy
Serves 4.
For the marinade:
2 Tbsp sesame seeds - toasted and ground
2 cloves of garlic, smashed, sliced
3cm knob fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp palm sugar, grated
4 Tbsp light soy sauce
4 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
The beef:
600g beef sirloin steak, thin sliced
3 spring onions, sliced on angle
2 Tbsp peanut oil
Bok choy
1 Tbsp peanut oil
3 bok choy, sliced into quarters
1 red chilli, sliced on angle
2 cloves of garlic
3 Tbsp light soy sauce
2 Tbsp water
Use a mortar and pestle to grind the sesame seeds into a fine powder. Add the remaining marinade ingredients and work into a paste.
Place beef into a shallow glass dish and sprinkle over spring onions, reserving some for garnish.
Add the marinade and massage it into the meat. Cover and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Heat your wok over high heat. When hot add the oil then beef with marinade and quickly stir fry. It should only take about 3 minutes. Remove and set aside to rest.
Rinse wok and return to the heat.
Add the oil and when shimmering add the garlic. Stir fry for about 30 seconds then add the chilli and bok choy and stir to combine. Add the water then soy and continue to stir fry until the bok choy has softened but keeps its colour. Remove from heat.
To serve, arrange the bok choy in a circle in the centre of a plate.
Spoon the beef into the centre and sprinkle with the remaining spring onions. Pour over some of the remaining juice from the bok choy and serve.

(Can also serve with udon noodles)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A little bit of Fun for the Holiday Season

(I'm not sure what prompted the use of random capital letters in my heading up there......)
I'll be back later today to post about the worlds msot awesome ice cream sunday..... but for now I thought it'd be fun to post something non-cooking related. I thought it might give people a better insight into me..... all two of those people reading my blog. One of whom is on my facebook anyway, so probably already knows a few things about me.... ah well.
I'm going to do the first 5 days of this at once, as it's the 5th of December today and I haven't done any... but after this I'll try to post one a day.


December 1 – One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?

It's funny, I read the second half of the question first, and thought that success would be a word that I hope will capture 2011 for me.... but really, 2010 has been incredibly successful for me. It's the end of my second year of teaching, and I am now a fully qualified, fully registered teacher. (For those of you outside of NZ, you do a three year degree, and then have to teach for two years and be  passed by a qualifications board before you can be fully registered.)
This has been a good year. I've worked hard. I've been tired. I've been exhausted and stressed. But I've been happy. Success. My class has worked hard. They have achieved great things. Especially some of them. Success.

2011? I guess..... Security. I'm looking to put a depositi down on buying my own place in the coming year...... so Security.

December 2 – Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?

Nothing? Because writing isn't the msot important thing to me. I used to think it was, I used to write everyday - blogs, stories, poems, song lyrics.... but times change.

December 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). 

That's easy. Standing on the stands amongst thousands and thousands of people at the U2 concert last week.... under the stars with the breeze blowing..... the stands shaking from the crowds excitement... and Sunday Bloody Sunday blasting..... I felt more alive in that moment than I have in... forever.

December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

I've always tried to cultivate a sense of wonder. I think it's important to see things through a childs eyes.... I guess I get that easily being a teacher. You've got get excited, and keep things fresh. If everything has been seen before... well then life is boring. Stay wide eyed I say.

Turns out, I can't do up until the 5th, because seeing as it isn't the 5th yet in the US, they haven't posted the prompt for the 5th yet. I guess I'll be posting a day behind :)