Day 78 19 March – city of sails

It is that time of the year again, having to organise leotards for this year’s rhythmic competition season. It is unfortunately a costly affair but I have found that if the leotards are made slightly bigger, it lasts at least 2 years. We have always opted for custom designed leotards, suited for not only my daughter’s shape, but also adding to the equipment used and routine theme. Even though New Zealand doesn’t have many designers and seamstress within the rhythmic world (a total of 3 to be exact) to choose from, we have always kept our business within local grounds.

Today we visited one of the designers for a consultation. She had been making leotards to sell for approximately a year but have gained some attention as she not only has New Zealand customers, but also gymnasts from Australia who are ordering her designs. She lives on the North Shore, and the only way to get to that part of the country is to cross the infamous Harbour Bridge. It is a well designed bridge but a nightmare to cross in peak traffic. Thankfully it is Sunday afternoon so you would think the traffic has eased off, right? No! The bridge lanes are very narrow and my anxiety kicks in half way across. The more I focus on staying within my lane the more it seems as if I am getting closer to the barrier. The speed limit is 80 km/h but once on the bridge it feels as if you are travelling a 100 plus. I really don’t like crossing this bridge.

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The only good thing though about travelling to the North Shore is seeing the beautiful Auckland city from afar. The Sky Tower stands tall and proud above the rest of the buildings, the harbour buzzing from tourists coming in with the ferry, the crystal blue waters shimmering in the glistening autumn sun and the sail boats adoring the shores. It is always a breath-taking view and I can’t help but feel gratitude for living here. Yes it is very expensive to purchase a home in Auckland, traffic is everyone’s Achilles heel and the population is increasing every day. But in saying that, the greater Auckland offers work opportunities, it has bays, beaches, forestry, hills, mountains, dormant volcanoes, waterfalls, walking tracks, indoor sports and activities, zoos, museums, outdoor domains.

There is always something happening in Auckland and I am loving life in this multi-cultural city of sails.

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Day 68 9 March – meeting Manu

A dream come true!

Manu Feildel and Pete Evans are currently in New Zealand shooting the third season of MKR (My Kitchen Rules). If you do not know what MKR is all about, you are welcome to have a read here 😊 It is an interesting collaboration of home cooking, challenges and clashing personalities and you have the presenters/judges, Manu and Pete. We were first introduced to this Australian television show shortly after arriving in New Zealand, and I haven’t missed an episode yet!

The minute I heard of this opportunity I informed my husband and we decided we will go as a family. I am not the only MKR fan (more precisely Manu fan) in the family. I reserved our spot and kept it a secret from the kids.

We arrived early at Paper Plus in New Market. I wasn’t sure what the correct process is for an event like this. Even though they were officially closed to the public, the doors were open and the event signs up out on the sidewalk. I noticed a few people already seated. The kids had relentlessly been asking me questions  in an attempt to solve the ‘surprise’ night out. My daughter had narrowed it down to meeting an author, but it wasn’t until we approached the doors and I turned her head to the sign, that she shrieked from excitement. I bought his cook book and we took our seats. The room was filled with a buzz, everyone speaking either of MKR or of Manu himself. Every time the back door opened up my daughter would perk up, hoping that he is making his appearance earlier. She couldn’t believe that Manu will be here, in the same room as her. My son was more interested in walking around the store, looking at the books.

The moment arrived, a moment captured in memories. He peeked through the door opening and made a dramatic entrance. I don’t think there was a sound made when he walked in and then everyone clapped. Manu is calm, smiling at everyone as he quickly makes eye contact with several people. There is no denying that he is handsome, even more so in real life. His accent is soothing and he speaks with passion when he talks about his family, upbringing and cooking. He is such a casual guy and no question or comment was off limits. He is funny, witty and really knows about food (obviously).

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After the interview and questions from the guests, it was time for the book signing. As we were seated towards the front of the room, we were of the first few to have our book signed. My son was greeted with a high five from Manu and he giggled back at my daughter who couldn’t help but giggle out loud. He signed our book and we had a photo taken together as a family. My kids, bless them, then asked if they can get a ‘Manu’ cheek kiss each. Being French he does the traditional double kiss. He thanked us for being there, shook my husband’s hand and the next person walked up.

Our night finished with dessert at Movenpick. We each chose a flavour of lovely smooth Swiss ice cream; double cream meringue with chocolate sauce, mint choc with caramel sauce, panacotta, raspberry & strawberry sorbet.

Great night out in Auckland city again, cheek kisses and all.

Day 48 17 February – train ride

My husband got 4 corporate tickets to watch the T20 cricket match between South Africa and New Zealand. Seeing as this year is all about making memories by taking on new experiences I thought “Why not”. Our public transport is free with an accompanying sport event ticket, so we decided to take the train to Eden Park instead of having the same traffic congestion as we did for the lantern festival. You could spot my excitement a mile away, as I have never been on a train before. My husband takes the train into work everyday so he knows the schedule, timing and destination of the trains, but I was still hesitant about getting there. We boarded the train, and the train manager blew the whistle (I thought that was super cute as it was an old fashioned whistle and the sound immediately made me think of travelling during the early 1900’s). The doors closed and very silently the train departed. It wasn’t as smooth of a ride I thought it would be, with some little bumps and unevenness as the train automatically follows the tracks from the one stop to the other. We had 16 stops before reaching Kingsland (Eden Park). It took approximately an hour to get there, but knowing how much it would have cost us in fuel if we took the car it was well worth it.

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At the venue we had a short 2 minute walk before entering the gates of the cricket stadium. The game had already started when we walked through the gates looking for the corporate section, when the crowd erupted with celebratory cheers. The atmosphere was electrifying. We took our seats, which was in a covered section and I sat amazed at the size of the venue. The bright lights shining unto the field and the players, how small they suddenly look. We usually watch cricket on television and are use to having the commentators talking you through what is happening but watching it live you basically absorb the energy of your neighbouring supporters and cheer when your team is doing well. We were in the minority supporting South Africa, but honestly, the best team will win on the night and that is absolutely okay with me. I am not a die heart fan of any sport in particular and enjoy watching it for the entertainment value.

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Our kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves too. They were exited for the sake of excitement. My daughter was anxiously waiting for a Mexican wave to start. And when one did, at the opposite end of the stadium she was cheering it on to come all the way around to us. It did! She was almost hanging of the edge of her seat as it approached our section, and exuberantly threw her arms in the air as it came past. I love how much pleasure she gets out of the small things in life.

When the game was over (South Africa won by 79 runs), we made our way back with the rest of the 1000’s to the train station. Our trip back home took 2 hours as we had to wait over an hour to board the train. The trains were packed to the brim with an assortment of people, but what I appreciated the most was that everyone was in good spirits. No sore losers, no fights, arguments or negativity. Just people making their way home after an eventful night.

Sportsmanship at its best!

 

Day 43 12 February – bbb (buzzy bumble bee)

Today I spend the afternoon with my two lovely friends and previous work mates (the same vibrant ladies from my entry Gourmet Pizza) and once again they provided entertainment and a sense of acceptance. We went to the Howick Historical Village for a venture back in time during the fencible period, when the Royal New Zealand Fencible Corps was posted in Howick to defend the area against possible attacks. Volunteers dress up and act out how life would have been for the settlers and soldiers. There are 33 houses or sites to visit and even though the grounds are not very big, you almost feel as if you are intruding on their land and way of living. It is a fascinating event and one I would love to take my children to.

One of the sites you can visit is the main homestead, which is a magnificent old villa with all its original interior kept in tact. When we walked into the living room I imagined the room filled with neutral floral hoop dresses, awaiting young gentlemen on the dance floor, while a musician played a popular classical piece on the piano. You are surrounded by 1800 ambience and it is bone chilling realism.

During our walk through the village, my eye caught an unfamiliar plant and flower. While I was admiring the plant, I noticed a bumble bee waste deep into the open flower covered in pollen droplets and thoroughly enjoying his sweet feed. It was too precious not to take a photo. The bee was oblivious to the giant imposter and happily carried on with his pollen collecting duties.

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After our village visit we took a drive to the marina where we ate at one of my favourite eating places called Grangers. I chose the potato skins with parmesan, porcini and truffles and accompanied with passionfruit and feijoa cider. Oh wow, this was the first time I’ve had truffles and I LOVE the smokey, woody taste. It transform a dish giving it a depth of bursting flavours, like woodland fairies dancing on your tongue. The marina is buzzing from excitable visitors, everyone enjoying good food and even better company. We ate, drank and laughed.

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But still, how cute is that tubby bumble bee!