if its not yummy, then we better make it funny.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Why am I baking bread at 3:00 in the morning?

I have a story for you. A couple of years ago I found a nice hard bound book at a primary school gala (what we call a school carnival in the States). It is entitled Dining By Arrangement. It is about an Australian woman who had settled in Karekare, a sleepy beautiful coastal community west of Auckland. The woman's name was Tina Greenville. She was raising two adolescent girls on her own. She decided to put her culinary skills to use by converting a part of her home into a restaurant routinely. People would schedule meals or parties and she would develop a seasonal menu, get her girls to help clean and decorate and "play restaurant" for the night. I found the book a delight to read because I love the unconventional idea she pulled off and the stories are witty, sometimes poignant, and there are recipes with every anecdote. When I met Clair Inwood, a woman from neighboring Piha who happens to be a caterer, I asked her if she had ever eaten at Tina's eatery. She said that she had not but that Tina now lives in Piha. She added a story that she knew about Tina that further intrigued me.

Years back, Tina came to a point where she decided she must sell her Karekare home. I don't know the details of the necessity, maybe finances dictated it. She was considering the impending transition while walking on the beach at Karekare one day. Karekare beach is a hauntingly beautiful place. It has lush green mountains meeting dramatic cliffs and rock formations interrupted by the constant waves of the Tasman Sea which changes color from pale blue to aqua to greenstone jade throughout the day. It is where the beach scenes for The Piano were filmed. That day, while walking Tina met an American man, she ended up walking along with him and sharing her concerns about selling her house. It was a transition that had significance beyond a real estate transaction and she was working it through. Tom, the American man noted eventually that he was, or wanted to be, a seasonal resident in the area and perhaps he could buy the house and she could remain there until summer came and then just make room for him when he came each summer. Wow.

The offer was considered and accepted. The months passed and the first summer of the arrangement loomed as Tina wondered how hard it would be to "move over" for Tom, the new owner to have the space in 'his' house. She was pensive. Something must have worked out right during that time, though, because Tina and Tom were eventually married. I guess that summer wasn't so hard to endure after all!

I just loved the story and it fit nicely with the lore I had already collected about Tina. Occasionally I would inquire as to Tina's whereabouts. Looking up her name in the Western Auckland phone book got me nowhere. I got some more accounts of her quirky restaurant by asking locals I met about her, but noone could tell me how to find her. I was interested in doing catered dinners from my perch and wanted to consult her about it. There were a few other things on my plate, though, like Children, two university studies programs to support, immigration anxiety and loneliness and marital uneasiness, to name a few. I didn't make any progress finding Tina to meet her and share my appreciation for her book and pick her brain for advice on how to set something up, myself.

Recently I had a 'Bed and Breakfast" guest, Carol Jackson over to stay in our guest room while she was on a one woman hiking vacation. Carol, who owns Serendipity books in Friday Harbor is a great guest. She showered us with her invigorating, 'can do' style and was appreciative of both the loud but charming children and the brand new kittens (that love to sleep on the guest room bed). Carol and I went on a hike while she was here and what we thought would be a 2-3 hour hike turned out to be a 5+ hour one. We returned home, exhausted. I was able to lay down, but Carol had an engagement with a friend of a friend in Piha. I was upstairs waking when I heard Jordan on the phone that evening. He kept saying "that's amazing!" to whoever he was talking to. Finally I came downstairs to indulge my curiosity. Jordan saw me and excitedly told me he was on the phone with Carols friend. Carol and her friend had figured out that The woman had actually met me before. She had lived seasonally in Friday harbor and had ordered a cake from me. (I filled orders for special cakes from my home, after I closed the restaurant)
Jordan handed me the phone so I could talk to the warm and chatty woman myself. She recounted our meeting in my house, (complete with reports of little Lil in high chair with whipped cream all over her face). As the conversation went on she mentioned she and her husband were living here now, that he had recently moved all his worldly belongings from Friday Harbor. As we visited about Karekare, her first New Zealand home, she mentioned that her husband had bought her home, only they weren't married then. It all came together in my head. She was Tina Greenville! Id been looking for her and she had found me. I gushed forth with the recognition and told her I loved her book and Id been informally researching her eatery and loved the story of her courtship with Tom and had retold it often. I wondered if I was staring to sound a little stalker-like, so I curtailed my raving, a bit. We had a long conversation and have had some good chats since. I decided to make her a loaf of bread to take over and meet her in person. At about 10 last night I set the timer for an hour to get up and bake the risen loaf. It wasn't until 3:00 however, that I heard the buzzer going off. So now I'm baking the (overproofed) bread and telling the story of Tina Greenville. Having a friend with a business called serendipity come to stay can have it's surprise benefits. Thanks Carol, for the visit and the new friend. Carol must be back in Friday Harbor by now. Tell her hello for me if you live there. Here is a good photo of her, taken on our hike.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Hello all you readers, I want to reveal that I am goofy footed. That is the right foot forward position on the surfboard. About 80% of surfers are "Naturals" and the other 20% are goofy footed. I think that is appropriate since the rest of me is goofy, too. I went to my surf lesson yesterday at south Piha beach. I wore my wetsuit that I got for last years open water swimming and used the surfboard that came with my lesson. My teacher, Anna Jolly, is a high school PE teacher and she reminds me of my friend,Suzy Wampler, somehow. She has been surfing all her life and is an excellent teacher. The weather was rugged and stormy for my first surf, with offshore wind creating "crumbly" waves. If the more preferable winds from the east were to be blowing the waves would be slow and curly. For two hours I worked at riding the white broken waves. One watches for an appropriate wave and when it is spotted turns around with back to it and hops quickly on the board. The board is waxed on the top to help the surfer to stick to it (contrary to ski wax which makes things slipperier). The wave zooms up behind you and you are paddling towards shore and when the wave thrusts you up and forward you push up with your arms and leap into position. The proper positioning is feet spread apart front one pointing forward along with the front hip. Both knees are bent. The back foot acts as a break and the front as accelerator. I really like surfing and its a good thing because I need a hell of a lot of practice!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hunger and feeding mosquitoes

I am on the third day of my master cleanse diet. It is easier than I thought it would be. The hardest time is the evening meal, when the family is eating together. Last night we set up our tent on our front deck, facing the Tasman sea and the lovely fading sunset. First of all, the space was too small for all of us, but we tried anyway. Now, I need autonomy when I sleep, no limbs impinging on me and no snoring in my ear. So I got up and went to the Guest room (having stolen the mattress in our room for the tent bed),Jordan followed, which wasn't what I had in mind because I knew that if the kids woke up, they didn't know where the zipper pull was and they might panic in the dark without a grown-up there. Well they did. I dashed out in the dark and settled in with them. One cat had gotten so afraid from Desmond's shouting that he opted out when I slunk through the opening, sneaking under the army of mosquitoes having a collective fantasy on the outside webbing of the tent. "Look at all that veal, one little blondie and a tender curly haired one, how delicious!" I heard them saying as they stroked there drills. Not long after that the cat on the outside of the tent started frisking with the cat on the inside of the tent. I didn't want them to damage the screen by climbing it so I slipped open the door at the bottom and encouraged the outside cat, whose name is either Joey, Twinkestar or Baby Jesus depending on the day of Desmond's declaration, to come on in and join the SLEEP. He was not sure about coming through such a small opening, though and finally I unzipped the door entirely, having forgotten about the mosquitoes and then the party really got going! All three of us have the marks of an evening in a mosquito pit. It would be better if they just silently did their business of feeding and were done, with anesthetic expertise. They do that buzzing thing, though. That is unnerving as hell. I think Ill try a different configuration tonight.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oh Yeah, and...

E Gads! I forgot to report that I am having my first surfing lesson on Tuesday! I go for a two hour lesson with a board provided for 80 bucks. It is a private lesson with a woman named Anna Jolly. She apparently has a new baby and teaches PE at local Green Bay school. Her father Mike Jolly is Mr. Piha Surf; with his shop, rentals, board crafting and even accommodation in some old jalopy caravan (very charming). Anyway, he is very vocal and full of heart, yet passionate as a bulldog, somehow too. He got a bit grouchy when I inquired about repairing a brand new kiddie surfboard that never saw a wave, due to some slacker gift orientation.
I explained to him that I was a university student in charge of providing my own PE "classes". Having chosen surfing this term has me exploring a new realm of charactors. Anna Jolly has won awards in surfing competitions and she sounds like she's in her 30s, maybe? I am happily anticipating being out in the water, out moving on the waves. Yes, it'll be good to have some mermaid time.

I am having a quiet spell with my friend, Helen. She was really interwoven there for a while. I have noticed that in friendships before: the warming up and cooling down of strong willed individuals who are friends. She moved in next door and it's been great to have her so close. The owner of her place is auctioning it on Valentine's day (a B and B + rental, keepers quarters) and maybe she's detaching from the neighborhood a little. It's really not bad, if you get on with your other things and people you vibrate with. It always swings around again.

I would love to have that place but the price is at least a million and a half. Maybe collaboration would work. Calling all B and B Partners! Calling all retreat using business'! Lets get it together, Now. Speaking of the Beatles...

We went to a concert 'Seven Worlds Collide' Which was coordinated by Neil Finn and had members of The Smiths, Radiohead, Wilco, Bic Runga, JT Turnstall, Bratty and endearing Liam Finn and many more. We attended the first of the three only Auckland performances. It was delightful. There were elements of experimentation, family and friendship tucked in there. There were video cameras all over the place in all sizes and the sound was getting worked out for the recording that was happening. The singer from Wilco, Jeff Tweedy, who was the most intriguing discovery of the night, mentioned that there was going to be an album made from the endevor, there was a pregnant pause. Neil looked up at the audience and confirmed there was an album being made. The first and only other time he put "7 worlds collide" on there was an album made, also. It was about 8 years ago with many of the same folks plus Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. Wilco who is from Chicago was there in its entirely and they had a lot of play in the second set. There were two encores. Nice. The evening was a real recharge. Proceeds from the event and album will go to Oxfam.

Sunny Day

Today was a Thursday that felt like a Monday. It may have been that the inauguration made yesterday feel like a weekend, Im not exactly sure. I took Lil to her preschool in Piha for the first time in a month (due to the holiday closure). Desmond and I set off to the beach and went for a romp in the waves. There were many others there with the same notion. The Lifeguards put up flags on the beach about 200 feet apart and all the swimming and boogie boarding has to be done in that tiny section. I had encouraged Desmond to collect some swimming shorts and he insisted that he'd go naked. I asked if he was sure, that Piha was a lot more crowded (and conventional) than Kare kare beach. He stuck to his stance- fine. When we got to the beach we took care of his sweet tooth, just to get that out of the way. He chose an obscenely gooey ice cream bar with velvet milk chocolate over a layer of carmel (New Zealanders say Car-a-mel and dont know what you mean if you say carmel) over another chocolate layer and then, finally filled with vanilla ice cream. All conversation stopped for his full enjoyment. I am fasting today and only enjoyed it with my eyes. We went out to the flagged area where Desmond got a few gawks at his Greek statue self. There was every age and shape out there. We stayed in close enough for Desmond's comfort. I do have the impulse to swim beyond the breakers, though. After our frolic in the surf we walked over to Lion rock and climbed up to the top, 270 steps up. It was out of the breeze and a good place to dry off, with spectacular views down to the beaches and out into the Tasman sea. We were getting a little too much sun so we wandered back to our fresh catch of library books and found a shady spot while Desmond ate lunch and I read to him. I like my solo times with Desmond, they are very uncomplicated. I am trying to really enjoy peaceful easy moments with my kids, these days. It is silly how much Ive tried to do while parenting young kids. I am cutting down. I found my seam ripper and I'm taking the giant "S" of all my clothes. Time to be 'Normalwoman'. There, Mom, are you happy? Well,I am, too. Lillian was ready to see us when we picked her back up, although she was quite grouchy and she said the kids at school were all stupid. Then, so were Des and I. We fed her and she got better. Then she got her choice of ice creams, a decidedly more moderate vanilla bar with chocolate and toasted coconut exterior. Jordan is at school today meeting with Sergei about some observation plan they are cooking up. He was in a melancholy state this morning, maybe because of his step grandma's recent passing, maybe the wrapping up of summer vacation for the kids, or maybe he is sad because he has to spend even a moment away from my endearing company, who knows. Melancholia is ofter vague, I find. I need to get dinner aimed at a pan. This civilian cooking without any hope of eating is a little challenging. Ill be fasting for 10 days, actually Ill be drinking maple lemonade with cayenne in it for 10 days. Its a good pocket of time in between guests to do it. When Grandma Linda and Uncle Charles come on Feb 5, I want to enjoy the summer harvest and the fresh fish we have here with them, except I just remembered that Charles isn't a fish lover, huh, everthe meal planner I am....
I got an 8 day vacation recently, with my children s writing course having a retreat and some visits to friends in the southern North Island. It was great, lots of spare time, lots of good exercise, at least an hour and a half each day and clean crisp eating. I certainly felt vital centered from it. I did have a rough splash down when I got home, though, although the only thing that got spilled was adrenalin. Things have evened out now. Jordan's friend Dmitri came around while I was gone and managed to dislodge more money out of Jordan. Student finances are challenging when a person is magnanimous by nature. We have two of those magnanimous types between us, I guess.