Friday, 31 October 2014

For The Love of a Cold Climate

I love spring  way down country at 45 degrees south. When winter shrivels and dies and Grand Dame Mother Nature comes a creeping out of every crack and cavity of the underworld, gradually carpeting winters browns and beige in a tidal wave of GREEN. In a massive UP-You. Take that. Dull EARTH. No mind what crises are going down over the globe, Ebola, a molten lava river in Hawaii, Robbie Williams having a viral-kid, Ms Nature forges on.

Not even,bi- weekly polar storms billowing up her under-skirts can hold back her verdant takeover. Her lush pasture, her leafy  hay-fever inducing tree tips, her scented blossoms, her lamby  lambs born of mutton, her busy bees, her courting birds, her Watership down worthy rabbit populace. Etcetera. 

She's the mother of all mothers. 

I bought a pair of gorgeous summer sandals in October. Kathryn Wilson, Olivia Heels. Hot pink.  I’m wearing them now. Pair No. 33 of 254 limited edition beauties. I spoke to shoe designer and mummy-to-be KW in store. She was charming. It made for a happy parting of cash. There’s nothing like the feel of your feet in supple ruminant skin, while at home, by yourself. WRITING.  As soon as I put them on and walked to my desk, I looked into one of many forgotten file folders, by way of procrastination and knock me over with a new suede shoe, there I found a crisp fifty dollar note. A note I promptly  HID in my rainy day shoe purchase piggy bank. And continued writing…

Minutes before the sun had come out, the newly resident Tui couple lobble lobble lobble click croak clicked in the kowhai tree below my window and the daytime temperature rose to at least 14 degrees. So I’d walked over to pick a spring onion from the greenhouse and guess what I found on the pond? I’ll tell you in case you can’t work out from this snap, taken without the appropriate lens. It’s a family of ten. Mum and Dad, Paradise Ducks with eight fluffy ducklings. Never seen before. But must have hatched nearby.

The joys of spring continued because earlier in the day I received a package all the way from Barcelona. I’d been expecting it. BIG thanks to my birthday twin. I couldn’t open it straightaway. I wanted to savour its much promised arrival. The packaging was exquisite. All nouveau stylish. Not hipster, but beyond. Inside was a pair of Malababa gold earrings. I fell in love. This is what they look like on. Delicate.

I’ve been over-thinking things of late. It was stifling. Me. It wasted time, like all those people who over-thought pop star Robbie Williams and his wife, Ayda, live-video-tweeting the 24 hour birth of their second son. (8 lbs 1 oz FYI). Some feminist were up in arms at him singing his hit song, Candy as wifey panted her way through another contraction. Kind of showy weird. But so what. I thought.

I sang a song to The H when I was experiencing a very nasty rapid fire 3 hour 45 minute induced labour with our second daughter. The lyrics were not particularly well thought out and screeched in high falsetto - ‘don’t come near me or I’ll cut your cock off’. He just dabbed a rough soggy hanky on my brow, not that I was sweating. He can’t sing.

The last time I heard Robbie Williams talk about childbirth was on The Graham Norton Show. When asked what it was like being present at the birth of his first child, he replied candidly, ‘it was like watching your favourite pub burn down.’

Call me crass, but I actually thought that was quite a sweet and honest comment coming from a bloke. The H kept well away from the business end with number 2, after a 29 ½ marathon down at the fun park with the first. I’m just glad my neck is short and I didn’t have the option. To watch.

Although, I did make myself watch ONE of the Robbie live-birth-tweet-videos (by way of research). It was the post birth edit. Thank goodness. Proud dad, still slightly drugged mum, both elated, ecstatic, over joyed and overcome at birth of their son and the fact they’d been able to SHARE it.

Mother Nature at its vainest primal best. 

Bring it on.SPRING.
ps. Thinking is not writing.
pps. Thanks to Sonya Cisco for her stream of consciousness prompt this week.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

I See Red - How Not to Be a Travel Writer

Setting yourself the task of writing an award winning  travel article complete with a stunning photo essay while on a five day romantic child free SURPRISE holiday on a remote island in the middle of the Bali Sea is nigh on near impossible. I’ve discovered. I only wanted to earn my keep. Bank a few bob, so’s I could skive off and write some fiction. It wasn’t MY fault some small human person flicked a switch on my camera and set the photos to SQUARE. Ratio 1:1. Photographer credit: 0.

I gathered 6,000 words of research, experience and wonder. Trying to turn it into a compelling 1200 word magazine story that would catch they eye of bored women drinking gin and tonics while flicking through its glossy pages as the spuds boiled and the other half watched the TV News, was like writing a thesis on snail poo. Boring, got stuck a lot and I couldn’t find any. Story angles that is. That worked. Over six (I really hate to admit, six, I repeat) WEEKS, I hacked about with numerous dead end versions.Non cliched, tropical island paradise essay with a twist. No worries.

I’ve wanted to be a travel writer since my dad took me on safari in the Masai Mara, Kenya circa 1990. Upon my return, broke but incredibly enthusiastic, I sat at my sunny kitchen table in Milford, Auckland and enrolled in a correspondence Travel Writing course. For which I paid over one hundred bucks. What a waste of money. My tutor was half hearted. I learnt FA and I quickly realized I would not be selling any travel tales nor my grainy shots of rhinos in the distance anytime soon.

Upon my blog, undeterred by previous failures I write happily about holiday weekends and the like. So why this task I’d set myself was so painstakingly impossible I do not know. I even started to wonder, as I sat at my blank screen and learned a lot more than I needed to about tropical bird life, the island's nutty Cat Lady and how Bio Rock systems are improving damaged coral reefs, whether it was time? Time to go along for the do-I-have-THE-menopause blood test? Just to see IF there was a reason my brain had left its normal habitat. Between my ears.

My first attempts sounded like a Holiday Shoppe brochure. Stiff. Factual. PR ridden. Write this article in the free and easy, informative upbeat way you write your blog posts, but with normal GRAMMAR, I chastised myself, as I perspired over my keyboard. Lady writers do not sweat.I like reading of first hand experiences offered an author friend.

Here is my first Title and opening paragraph:

Destination Unknown – Bring Your Bikini

It was a magical mystery tour, a 50th birthday long haul surprise printed on a faux boarding pass – “Destination unknown, bring your bikini”. I covered all bases during the three month build up and bought five.

Here’s my second:
My Treasure Island: Gili Trewangan

 We cruised onto the brilliant-cut aquamarine welcome mat of Gili Trewangan, on a sun kissed day in June. Gili T (as the locals call it) is one of three tiny coral atolls, dotted ellipsis like in the temperate Bali Sea, on the northwestern tip of Lombok.

Yada yada.

I wrote descriptive scenes of arriving at our luxury accommodation. How the bathroom was actually a walled garden and offered a birdwatcher and bathers paradise in one. How the only taxis were hauled by pint sized ponies. How I was massaged in the garden beside a giggling french woman. How the surprises kept unfolding and our hosts kept delighting.

 I had conversations with locals. And studied the wildlife.

Girlfriends arrived from the other side of the world.(Yeah try writing a concise sentence about that!).

I had an amazing time.I have a digital album of photos.

Before I started (my article) I contacted my journalist mate Steve B and asked for his favourite travel writers. I would become them via reading-osmosis (it’s a new thing DA). I hoofed it to the library. And read weighty tomes in the bath. I left the ones that bored me and tried to absorb the ones that delighted. At the same time I read every travel article I could find. In newspapers. Magazines. Online. I read ‘tips for travel writers’. ‘Do’s and Don’ts’. You name it I read it.

I was prepared. Yet I wasn't.

I had an amazing time. I repeat. I just wanted to write about it. In a saleable format. No matter, I will go back to it. One day. And you’ll read it here. Love letters are like that. They turn up in odd places. And often they’re free.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Shorty Shortbread


In my quest for meringue perfection I have needed to devise more ways with egg YOLKS. Shrivelling up in the fridge is not an option. And Whitebait fritters are like eating liquid gold in the best of seasons. So I bless Ray McVinnie’s chef hat for printing this shortbread recipe in The Sunday Magazine. I followed his instructions. Mostly. I used organic spelt flour because it was in the cupboard and I omitted 2 teaspoons of fresh rosemary finely chopped.  Why would you?


150g icing sugar
225 grams butter
Zest of one Hawke’s Bay lemon
3 egg yolks
2 cups spelt or normal flour

You must: 
Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius

Beat icing sugar, butter and zest until pale and fluffy. I did this with a wooden spoon over a basin of hot water to soften the butter initially.

Beat in egg yolks. I know, my fresh from the hen’s bum eggs are the colour or oranges that's just what a healthy free range diet with exercise does for you. 

Stir in flour (don’t beat or your shortbread won’t be crisp warned RMcV).

Knead ever so briefly on a clean surface. Form dough into log shape and cut into 1cm slices. 

Slide onto floured baking tray (I did push my dough around a bit here to get them the same size. In furture I would be more zealous with the log making to prevent extra handling).

Cook for 15 minutes, or til they are just starting to brown. Cool to a crisp crunch on a biscuit tray. Will store for a week

My shortbread were crunchy, slightly lemony, a bit too spread-y and not exactly Hottest-Home-Sugar-Munching-Baker material. Although, crumbled under my favourite Lemon Curd with a dollop of whipped cream watching Dante’s Peak on the telly last night, I imagined them on the menu of some sweating chef on My-Kitchen-Mules.

More to the point, my shortbread was not a mark on my great grandmother Maxwell’s pale, dense buttery morsels. Maxwell, Mackie –for short, had long white hair down to her bottom, which she pinned into the shape of a currant bun every morning. She lived in a three storied house on Napier Hill with Gandie my great grandfather. At tea time a wooden trolley laden with scones, shortbread, russian fudge and tea in a silver pot was wheeled down the hall to the living room. Mackie lived til 100 and to this day I contest she made the best shortbread on the planet. I suspect her recipe contained cornflour and no eggs.I will be calling her daughter, my Gran to try and extract her secret recipe soon. Happy Baking!
Tasty Tuesdays on

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Miley Cyrus My Verdict

Miley Cyrus was not my mummy-as-chaperone-concert-of-choice, but I went along to Vector Arena on Wednesday evening, with my three mini-skirted charges (plus 6000 odd other un-dressed-up damsels) with an open mind. And heart. Expecting a song and dance extravaganza of international proportions.

But as soon as Miley appeared with her dancers, more akin to a weird and wonderful side show display, I felt a tad let down. Yes those girls could twerk, but the dwarf in the fembot bikini and the giant in white lycra with nips barely contained in a bustier all night was plain WEIRD. Miley. Weird. The first time she spoke to the audience (and she rambled quite a bit, even in the middle of songs) she f’d and blinded and called us motherf**kers. Speak for yourself. Miley.

‘I’m pretty f**ked up New Zealand,’ she claimed. ‘I came direct from California. Flew through the night…I usually get f88ked up at night…’

I wondered what she was on. Becks. Presciption meds. Voddy&lemonade, like the two tattoed chicks in front of us with a tray of four.

As security pulled crushed sweaty girls from the front of the mosh, Miley twerked, grabbed her crotch and thrust her pelvis faster than Elvis. And sang. A colourful video montage of her in perilous semi-nude poses played on the stage behind her. She changed her jazzergetics inspired high cut spangly leotards several times. Suffered from wedgees, ocassionally ficking the side of her bottoms out of her crack or just hoiking them up further.

Girls flashed their titties at her. Some threw their bras. The audience was having fun. Going wild in a safe, mainly female domain. Why not. I’ve flashed my titties before in times of extreme, possibly booze assisted excitement (hasn’t every young perky girl?) Plus I did it at boys, not an uber toned pitch perfect, 21 year old pop star.

A star with 6 albums under her wing and over 1 million in sales for each. Miley’s well timed twerk-out, at the MVA’s in 2013, wearing a nude pvc bikini has obviously paid off. Highly. The girl oozes confidence, if a little crudely. She’s mega successful. Rich. And famous.

But is this really girl power? I sat between songs and mulled Miley over. Everyone else danced and yelled for more beside me.

A crazy conglomeration of JUNK was thrown on stage. Miley loved it. She swooped down and picked out the best of it and put it on. Fairy wings. Headbands. A plastic penis puppet, looming large on the 2nd screen, projecting her every move. NO.

Jeesh I would have wondered where those things had been. The furry animal hat with long ears. The stuffed furry sea horse.  Though this was a ‘low rent... depraved and demeaning… sleaze fest ,’ said the NZ Herald.

Yet the fans lapped it up like a lecture on life. A lesson on how to behave. How to assert yourself in the adult world. A bawdy act of misplaced feminism? Or an empowering UP-you to all the haters. The judgers. She dedicated, We Can’t Stop ‘to all the people doing nothing with their lives, nothing for the world but criticising others. We all know the world needs a lot of help right now.’ Miley wisdom.

Yep, I think that’s what this diminutive dirty south hip hop singer is on about. All her overt sexual moves. Her acting like she’s a boy with a blown up Bangerz Tour banana. It’s just a casual up-you. Look where I am? Who’s laughing now? Yeah.

And would we be so affronted us mums and dads and JUDGERS if she was a man? Michael Jackson never got a bad wrap for hiking his Johnson in Thriller. Did he? And Elvis was just a jolly warm breath of fresh air to sex starved youth when he hit the dance floor.

Sure some of those over excited sweet-young-things got a bit flashy, thanks to Miley’s overt affirmations that going-over-the-top (or under) is okay. I passed a girl, in the melee of the post concert departure. ‘Miley Cyrus saw my titties,’ she chorused, lifting her top partially for her friends. I doubt this act of exhibitionism will translate into a future job in the sex industry.

Miley devoted a song to all the ‘small tittie girls like me,’ after holding up a massive black bra. Demeaning? Mmmm. I bet she made those girls feel good about their A-cups. I definitely thought about my B’s. If only for a moment. I also couldn’t help thinking what her 31 year old self will think when she looks back in ten years time…

So if you’ve been a bit prude-y, I know I have, you might feel better about judging this young, successful, albeit at times extremely bawdy pussy rubbing woman, if you buy her remix of - ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’. Here's a wee snippet:

You'll find it on iTunes. All proceeds go to helping cats and dogs in the Oklahoma Shelter. Meow Miley.

She came in like a wreck-ing-ball. All right. There was no inflated tongue slide. Darn. But for the brief moments she realized her true talent; as in going all country and singing Johnny Cash’s, A Boy Named Sue, then screaming with operatic verve, I’ll Take Care of You, I forgave her her earlier bubblegum-crotch-ballads and badly dressed dance troupe (let’s not even talk about the g-body costume malfunction (not hers) while she and her troupe wore large false brown booties).

Country and cover’s where it’s at for me and Miley. Just hope she gets on back there real soon. Ya all.
(I take no responsibility for the poor quality of these pics, it was in the lap of the gods)

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