Thursday, 31 January 2008

The things that fill my mind when I'm day dreaming on the bus

Albums currently in my CD player:

Andrew Bird - Fingerlings 3
Tom Waits - Asylum Years
Once Soundtrack

TV show I'm currently obsessed with:

(the new) Doctor Who

Superfluous Gadget I'm currently lusting after:

Supersampler camera by Lomography

What I miss about California today:

Heirloom tomatoes, 49er's sushi rolls, Osento, white-handed gibbons singing early morning duets at Oakland Zoo

Things I love about Wellington today:

Walking home from work in the warm summer twilight, Kaka parrots flying over the lake at Karori Sanctuary, bubble tea and crepes at the mall 1/2 block from our apartment

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

The New Year

December 31st

We heard there was a free concert in Civic Square for New Years Eve. While I had no intention of staying up late enough to greet the new year, we decided to wander down the waterfront and check it out. The band was pretty good, though I never caught the name. It was ten o'clock before it got dark, and still fairly warm at that. That's when I realized how much sense it makes to have New Years in the Summer. Staying up past midnight sounds like a far better idea when the days are long and the nights are warm.

January 1st

We took a bus to Lyall Bay, just a short 10 minutes away. We bought ice creams and walked along the beach. Not much surf today, mostly just kids on boogie boards looking hopeful. Down where the beach ends was a rocky area with some pretty good tide pools. We found sea anemones, limpets, chitins, mussels, sea snails, hermit crabs, and one beautiful turquoise star fish. It was an absolutely beautiful day, sunny and warm. And the beach was full (make that half-full by California standards) of folks enjoying yet another statutory holiday. It occurred to me there's at least one more reason it makes sense to have New Years in Summer: New Years Day actually feels like the beginning of a bright, shiny new day, full of hope and promise.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Boxing Day

December 26th

Since I had the 26th off, we decided to wait until this day to cook a big holiday dinner. Turkey was out, as you can only get it frozen and probably imported from Goodness knows where. And lamb's not exactly a special occasion meat when you live in New Zealand. So we went for a ham (manuka-smoked and on sale) scallop potatoes, green beans, and fruit salad (our one nod to the fact that it's Summer). Since Loren loves pumpkin pie, and I think its pretty nice too, I was determined to finally work out how to make one from scratch. A pumpkin pie from scratch is the only kind you can make in New Zealand. There's no such thing as canned pumpkin or frozen pie crusts. Fresh pumpkin can be procured year round, however, and cheaply. I used to agree with Garrison Keillor that the best pumpkin pie you've tasted is not that much better than the worst pumpkin pie you've tasted. I don't agree anymore. The pie was so tasty that I'm making another one today. And it was pretty simple to make too.

Mostly instigated by myself, we secured two Christmas items for the occasion that are traditional here (and in the UK) that are not popular in the States. The first was mincemeat pies, which turn out to be pretty tasty. They are basically little pies with apple, raisin, chopped nuts, and spices. What's not to like? We found them tasty but very sweet (except for Loren, who hates raisins).

Christmas Curiosity Number Two was Christmas Crackers. These look like a tube-shaped gift-wrapped package. You hold onto one end, get a friend to pull on the other end, it makes a tiny explosion, breaks apart, and some sort of toy/present comes flying out. You can buy these by the dozen in the grocery store, and they can contain anything from stickers to plastic toys to silly jewellery to those little things put on wine glasses so you don't get them mixed up at a party. We also got some nice ones from a chocolate and espresso shop that had 3 chocolates in each. Also they always contain a card with a joke on it, invariably a bad joke, usually a pun. Despite the painful jokes, these little things were so much fun, I feel I really missed out on something good as a child, and now have a lot of Christmas Cracker cracking to make up for!

We got a walk in that morning when the sun was out. Most stores were still closed up tight and the town was quiet. Boxing Day is a statutory holiday too. The rain was back by the time we started cooking. It was warm rain, but still, it made it feel a little more like the right time of year. In California rain always means Winter.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Christmas Day

December 25th

The animal hospital where I work was closed, but I had to work anyway. Someone had to look after the animals that were spending the Holidays at our hospital and cattery. The night before, the rain had started, and that morning it was still going strong. Riding home afterward on the bus (which was running for free all day) it was a strangely peaceful sight to see the city so empty. The bus driver (a man wearing two sets of corrective glasses at once, presumably instead of bifocals) said it was unsettling to see the city so completely devoid of people and cars "a city's nothing without it's people." But I thought there was something nice about it, like the city was just sleeping comfortably with all the rain falling gently everywhere. It was December 25th two years ago I first saw my City, when we took the ferry up from Picton on vacation. The first time I met Wellington, it was sleeping.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

The Day We Bought the Mincemeat Pies

December 23rd

Loren and I wandered down to the park, in search of ice cream. It was a beautiful sunny summer day, and we needed an excuse to get outside. On the way we stopped by Pandoro, a fantastic little Italian bakery near our house, to buy mincemeat pies for Christmas day. (we didn't know much about these odd little British baked goods, but we figured our favourite local bakery would at least show us what good ones tasted like).

Pies in hand, we walked toward the waterfront until we reached Movenpick, a new ice cream parlour with lots of tables outside. We sat near a big, grassy field which was being thoroughly utilized on this lovely warm Sunday. There were informal games of rugby, soccer, cricket, and lawn darts all going on at the same time. Past the grassy field, the skate park was also being put to good use, as well as the small basketball court next to it. A Pacific islander at a nearby table started up a lovely slack key version of "O Holy Night" on his guitar. And it crossed my mind how crazy it was to be eating ice cream in the park two days before Christmas.