A mum and a wife and sometimes just me

Thursday 28 January 2010

Last orders at the bar please!

Is usually whats shouted at the end of the night in the UK as they ring the bell to 'politely' tell you to get out. It only takes about five minutes before the lights are suddenly shining brightly in your eyes and you are gruffly told in no uncertain times by the bouncer to finish up your beers and head outside. Never mind that I ordered my pint only five minutes ago and am forced to now down it in one sip.

So it only means that last night while at the pub I was only slightly shocked by the bartender politely informing all customers individually that they would be closing soon and if we wanted we would have to order our last beer in the next few minutes. 'Sure, thanks, but we are OK' I kind of respond in a rather dazed manner. Alberto and I instantly smile at each other, yes another positive difference between the UK and NZ to add to a running list!

Then just to top it off the bar begins to empty and we both still have another half pint to work our way through. We worry about getting kicked out as we greedily watch the live tennis on their TV. The bartender must have noticed because he tells us to take our time and finish our beers as they close up slowly around us.

Sweet as!

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Spiced Bean Quesadillas with only slight adaptations

Even when you reach the end of the shopping week or month there is usually a few ingredients left in the fridge or cupboard to do something...well you hope anyway...so what great fortune I had to realise that I could still make a lovely dish of Spiced Bean Quesadillas courtesy of Annabel Langbein:


Splash of Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2tsp cumin
1tsp chilli powder
310g can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/4cup sweet chilli sauce
salt and ground black pepper
1 cup grated tasty cheese
2tbsp chopped fresh coriander or spring onions
4 fresh flour tortillas


Heat oil and gently cook garlic, cumin, and chilli powder for about a minute. Roughly mash beans and mix in spice mixture and chilli sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Spread 1/4 of the mixture on a tortilla, sprinkle with cheese and coriander and place in heated frypan. Top with another tortilla and cook until golden then turn to brown other side. Makes 2 'sandwich' quesadillas.

OK all sounds good but I had to make some slight adaptations. Fresh herbs never last very long in our house I hate to admit but I had a lonely spring onion sitting in the fridge so I added the little fella to the mash beans mixture. I did not really have a bottle labelled sweet chilli sauce but in the fridge was a bottle of tasty Wahawera kiwifruit (which makes the sauce have a slight sweet flavour) and habanero sauce so I added a teaspoon of it. We bought this sauce actually during our time in the Bay of Islands. Hubby loves his hot sauces so when we find something new he jumps at the opportunity to get it so he can try it! One of his favourite things!

Of course I don't have that non stick frying pan remember so I fill and fold my tortillas, making a total of four, and put them in a baking tin and smack them into the oven for around 10-15 minutes, you know when they start smelling good. I also had some dregs of passata left in the fridge so I put some of that on top which also makes them seem a bit more like a main course rather than a snack.

All in all very yummy for my tummy!

OMG!!! I have been there!!

It's just feels great when you get to say that. I consider myself lucky to think of the things that I have now experienced in my life with all the travels that I have been doing.

Just this weekend I was able to visit a beach that is considered to be one of the top 20 deserted beaches in the world by the Guardian Observer and then realised that I had already been to one that was also on the list.

New Chums Beach, New Zealand

One of the 101 things that AA says that kiwis must do! Situated along the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula it's a bit of a trek wading through a stream,  picking your way over rocks and for us trekking through a bit of mud to get there but it was really worth all the effort. For a minute actually I thought maybe I was staring in Beach II! You are greeted by pristine white sand, clear blue waters with the waves crashing against the beach and there is a guarantee that you will find your own quiet spot.  I did personally love it especially because for an NZ beach it had a bit of everything, like being able to swim and the cover of the Pohutukawa trees.

Guludo Beach, Mozambique
Elephants pick mangoes from trees and dugongs wallow in the shallows eating seagrass on this virgin white beach in the Quirimbas National Park in the north of Mozambique.
                         Gemma Bowes, The Observer, May 7th 2006

We finished our honeymoon at Guludo Beach Lodge in Mozambique where I had the pleasure of experiencing Guludo Beach. A long stretch of white sand, seemingly never ending especially as we went for a walk and never made it there! Along the way you are really only greeted by locals who live in the fishing villages along the beach. It's simply 'barefoot bliss'!

Microlight flight in Zambia

Also while on my honeymoon we went for a microlight flight in Zambia with "Remote Africa Safari's", again described in the Guardian Observer with a video no less....

A microlite safari in Zambia

All my experiences while I have been travelling has been special and there is nothing that makes me feel better than thinking about all of the places I have been and things that I have done!

Monday 25 January 2010

I scream

You scream, we all scream, for ice cream. Ok so ice cream is definitely one of my very favourite things. I remember in Jamaica when the guy would drive down the road on his motorbike, beeping his horn, shouting "Nutty buddy, ice cream cake, choco bar". I loved ice cream cake but boy you had to eat it quick cause it started melting and more than likely you would start making a real mess of things. I think at some point there was then the upgrade to the ice cream van and which child do you know who does not succumb to the music like to the pied piper of Hamlin. I actually hate when people ask me what's your favourite flavour...you know those questionnaires which tell others all about like....I'm like hello...it's all good....it's ice cream! OK so I tend to choose chocolate over vanilla, but I really like coffee sometimes and when I'm in Italy I am even a little partial to the more fruity flavours. Now don't get me started about Italian ice cream and the way it just drives me crazy with the amount of choices they have . You stand and stare for ages just trying to decide which one and wonder if it would look bad if you come back later to try another flavour or maybe you can just have an assortment of flavours with a five scoop tower! OK maybe I am getting a little bit out of hand here but seriously it's ice cream we are talking about. Italian ice cream of course keeps it real!

While living in Glasgow we rented a flat and it did not have a freezer so I was pretty much denied ice cream for 6 years unless we were out and it was an odd sunny day or we had it for dessert at a restaurant. Here in Auckland we have a big fridge and a proper freezer and finally we always have ice cream in stock. It just makes me feel good to know that!

Sunday 24 January 2010

My coffee hotspots

So places to drink coffee suddenly became important to me being here in Auckland. I think it has something to do with the time I had on my hand when I first came to Auckland and did not have a job and also to have comfy places where I could go to read my book. So I suddenly had my two 'coffee hotspots', a place where I enjoy going to relax and read, one of my favourite things. Please note that part of this definition does not include drinking good coffee but it's more about the atmosphere.

  • Starbucks in Parnell: is in the best position to catch those sun rays so sunglasses are not optional and drink of choice is usually a mocha frappacino. I have that UK mentality, you know the one where as soon as the sun shines you have to go outside and enjoy it because you never know when the sun is going to shine again. New Zealand sun does burn though so I have to be careful and put on the lotion just before heading out. Trust me I have what seems to be a permanent shorts tan from a previous experience of forgetting the suntan lotion!  

  • Alleluya Bar and Cafe: situated in the corner of St Kevin's Arcade on the k'road. Like the k'road it has that relaxed even kind of hippy atmosphere where I would be happy to just kick my shoes off. Ok so thank goodness that most days I am wearing jandals anyway. The place to go if the sun isn't really shining. Here my pick is the long black which is pretty much a long espresso here in NZ so it's strong and I usually require lots of sugar. Once I went with hubby and we sampled the sweets on offer and it was a huge slab of chocolate cake which was not to disappoint!
While these places are my hotspots, being in Auckland something that I have noticed is that cafe culture is pretty rife so there are many options of places to go. It's funny actually that Auckland is busier in the day than it is during the night I think just for that fact with maybe except for the weekend. I think everyone has lunch outside of the office surely and it is ever so tempting to join them so most times I do!

Wednesday 20 January 2010

I don't want spaghetti bolognese!

Unlike me not one of my husbands favourite dishes. Yet we always have minced beef in the fridge. I don't know when it started but it just ended up being a staple we bought when we did the weekly shop. Even here in Auckland we have added it to our monthly shop. Maybe it's because secretly bolognese has always been one of my favourite dishes or because hubby makes the best chilli (I must ask him if I can blog about that). Whatever it is there it is in the freezer needing defrosting and now needing a recipe to turn it into something good.

So off I go to do the recipe internet hunt. Now if I am not careful these hunts can take me all day as I uhm and ahh over them trying to figure out which one sounds the best and probably more importantly if I actually have the ingredients in the house. I also hate to overcomplicate things so the simpler I usually believe is the better. Today though hubby had an idea of what he wanted, which can either be a good thing or a bad thing. He wanted polpette and he probably was thinking about how his mum makes it. It is probably a bad idea to think I can ever compare my cooking to his mother's, his Italian mother! So the pressure is on. When I finally find a recipe which even had an Italian title I think I must be in luck.

Polpette di Carne Fritta
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Serves 4
  • 400 grams beef
  • 150 grams breadcrumbs
  • 150 grams grated parmigiano
  • 2 eggs
  • Minced parsley and garlic to taste 
  • Salt and pepper
  • Oil and butter for frying
Preparation: Mix the meat with breadcrumbs, parmigiano and eggs and season the mixture to taste with parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Form them into balls and fry them.

OK so it all went pretty much according to plan until it came to frying them and I without a non stick frying pan (I'm renting my flat and am only in Auckland for a year so it has not made it to the shopping list) got into a bit of trouble. They were sticking to the pan and so therefore breaking apart. After a few curses (I get a bit heated when I cook) I banged them into the oven...easily salvaged and yes they tasted great. You can then pretty much serve them with anything. They are great on a summers day with fresh salad or fried vegetables or just stuff them in a pitta bread with condiments! It is one of those recipes I will head back to again and again.Yummy.

Tuesday 19 January 2010

So did I really see Africa?

I have been to Africa twice now and loved visiting a bold, big and beautiful country. The landscape constantly changes and it always draws you in to experience what can seem as something mysterious and wonderful. Having just read Paul Theroux's Dark Star Safari though I am now beginning to wonder: "Did I did see Africa?"

When I started reading the book I thought of the time when I went to Cape Town I organised to visit one of the townships and my mother asked me why I would want to do that...I just needed to stay home for that (that would be Jamaica where poverty is in some ways comparable). In the end I am not sure what I really did get out of visiting the township. In the end the tour for me was not about experiencing a different culture or getting to know the 'real' Africa. I was instead put in a position to purposefully feel sorry for and guiltily pushed into helping. The only feeling I had when we went inside one of the families houses was uncomfortable. There was a point where I refused to meet the witch doctor! There was some guarantee from the hostel owner who recommended this particular tour that the money we spent definitely goes back into the community. I must admit that I did love meeting the children in the local school as they are genuinely keen to meet you and hold your hand and in the end that did make it all worthwhile. Theroux though was pushing me even beyond this with his novel, that is of finding a way of immersing yourself in their way of life and not just running away and locking yourself into one the safe tourist hotspots.

He really does not have patience for the safari types. While reading it I did not know how guilty to feel about the money I spent on our honeymoon safari to Zambia. I have always wanted to go on safari to see these great animals in their natural environment. We went with Remote Africa Safaris which does a lot to support the local community so does this justify our trip in some way. But yes I was greeted at the airport and whisked away to a fantastic lodge where I ate the most amazing food and went on safaris to go big five spotting. There was the option of course to visit the local village which is sponsored by Remote Africa Safari's but we saved this for our later trip to Mozambique. Actually maybe I can claim to have done it right in Mozambique as I stayed at Guludo Beach Lodge renowned for it's sustainable model to relieve poverty in the area, so much so they have actually won awards for it.

Nema Foundation | Guludo Beach Lodge

So I guess the question should be before you go travelling, "What are you going travelling for?" To be honest though Theroux throughout his book does not even leave it open for you to have such debates. He has made up his mind about what he is travelling for and lets just say it's not your average tourist experience. Just for the sake of asking another question, "Is there anything wrong with just being an average tourist?" After all his experiences included being shot at, and that to be frank is not my idea of a holiday! His tour was in many ways also nostalgia for his days when he taught in the Malawi bush. I have read him described as the witty observant but sometimes his comments seemed rather harsh and judgemental but possibly truthful.

In the end would I recommend reading this book, yes. If for nothing else than enjoying reading about his experiences and feeling envious for the fact that I would just not be brave enough for travelling the way that he did. At the same time always questioning his judgements of the people and their way of life and asking 'Is that how they see their Africa?' One thing I do know Africa is always calling me to come back.

Monday 18 January 2010

It takes someone special to do what you do?

Does it? I don't know what it is about my job that makes people say that to me? I am not special I just decided to do something different, actually I just kind of started doing it and it's what I know now.

So I really don't want to talk about my work but here I am thinking about it and speedily writing it down before I forget. I work with children with disabilities and have been doing it for quite a long time now where I can claim to be experienced. But what do I really have experience in? I am really not sure if I am any better at doing what I have been doing for so long. It can be the type of job that defines who you are but I have refused to make it do that. It is my job but yes I insist on having a life outside of it. There are days when I actually run away from it as it threatens to come home with me. I actually decided to do a social work degree to give myself some space from it and get some experience in other areas of working with those 'in need', willingly shouting from the rooftops 'NO I DO NOT WANT TO CHANGE THE WORLD' only to find out that is what social work is all about...change. It was not just changing others but changing myself, experiencing myself, getting in touch with who I am that sometimes I got to feel a bit uncomfortable with it all.

I am yet to put my new found self into action and find myself here in Auckland again doing respite work with children with disabilities. My interview went well and I thought maybe too well because they seemed so excited about having me that I might have sold myself too much. I have learnt not to expect huge change and small steps is good. Never expect to hear thank you and a great appreciation for the amount of effort you put into things, and that is not just from the young people by the way. The best feeling is the one I had today which drove me to this ramble. One of the young people was having his dinner and we were chatting and he asked me a question and simply used my name when he addressed me. Yes that's it, I was more than just someone, I was Sabrina.

On loosing track

So it only took 3 blog posts for me to loose track of where I was going with this thing. So maybe I need more focus of what I want to do with this thing. I think what I want is to maybe talk about the things I love which mostly equals...food, travel and books. If I could spend my life doing these things without having to work life would be pretty good. I have been in Auckland, New Zealand now for about 3 months...damn make that nearly 4....and I do find myself actually doing these things a bit more. Work is just a casual thing to earn some money to support us travelling and maybe now and again pay the rent so I actually have the time to do these things more. I must admit though the environment here is a lot more conducive than the UK as well to enjoy my favourite things.


My interest in cooking and baking started when I was unemployed in Glasgow for 3 months with a lot of time on my hand and little money to head out and about which meant I was stuck at home. We still needed eat so I thought I would give it a go and not to brag it didn't taste all that bad. I have gotten braver in my choices as I go along but am still a strict recipe follower. I started enjoying dining out when I first met my husband and he had a great appreciation for food and checking out the local restaurants. I have found that food in Auckland whether the stuff you get from the supermarket or heading out to eat has been top quality. Even the chippy is worth a mention. I have enjoyed it so much so that I have actually bought a recipe book to work my way through! So the perfect opportunity presents itself to share this wonderful experience....


I never travelled. I come from a small island expensively far away from the rest of the world, Jamaica. When I arrived in Europe I suddenly realised how much there was to see and how ignorant I was about experiencing other cultures. Again my husband has been a huge influence and showing me his home country Italy (which there are still bits of I have not seen) was only the beginning of our travel adventures. Our adventure now is New Zealand and there is so much to see and do. A small country with a big itinerary gives me lots of experiences to share......



I have always loved reading since I was about 12 when I discovered Nancy Drew. When I started university again to do my Social Work degree 2 years ago it seemed the only thing I had time to read was a book about social work. I suddenly had a long list of books that I wanted to read. It was shocking to arrive in New Zealand and realise how expensive books were here. Thankfully they have great local libraries and I am now a full fledged member. I have found so many spots to read my books that I am spoilt for choice on where to go when I want to chillax and read that I am quickly working my way through books that I can share my comments on....

So hopefully this is me saying I am back on track...bring on 2010...I hope to be sharing more with you.
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