Monthly Archives: November 2010

Children’s parties: a growth industry?

Decorate your own t-shirt

There are so many great ideas out there – opportunities waiting to be tapped.

Children’s parties have shifted focus.

When our kids were small their parties were held at home. We prepared party food for days, stayed up late decorating THE cake, and then let chaos take over our homes for several precious hours. The kids ran around screaming at the tops of their voices, played party games like ‘pass the parcel’, devoured plates of fairy bread, sausage rolls, cheerios, mini-quiches, jelly and ice-cream and ate heaps of sweets.

They all went home happy and exhausted. There was no talk of ‘too much sugar’. They were wonderful moments in time.

The clean up was fun … not too onerous. As our kids got older activities like indoor cricket, paintball and laser-strike became popular – either before or after the feed at home.

It’s great to see that girls are now being better catered for … although I can only imagine the pressure it puts some parents under.

We walked into a fabulous children’s gift shop in Auckland recently – Seedlings. It sells a broad range of products focused on educational activities: cooking kits, kids gardening kits, craft activities, art products, science kits, a few quirky toys and great books. It’s the kind of shop that you just can’t walk past – it begs you to come in and browse. And browse we did … I thought it was fabulous. (We also bought a few xmas presents knowing that they would be enthusiastically received by parents and children alike.)

At the back of the shop a couple of tables were set up with pots of paintbrushes, pens and pencils, crafty-bits and bobs and pristine white cotton camisole tops laid out flat – looked to me like they were for 5-6 year olds. I asked the shop assistant (a lovely young girl) what the set-up was for … a birthday party.

What fun! Such a fabulous idea … I’d love to have a go at decorating my own cami-top even now. You’re never too old!

I didn’t ask if the party included food. There was no sign of any in the shop, but that’s not to say it wasn’t there.

Then yesterday as I was walking in town I saw a similar set-up in a bead shop. No need to ask questions this time.

It made me wonder whether these new party activities are a godsend for parents who don’t know what to do or whether they just put more pressure on the household dollar. For creative fun-loving entrepreneurs, there seems to be heap of opportunity….

At home with the Messiah

Essential rehearsal equipment

How times have changed!

It doesn’t seem that long ago that when learning  music I would sit for hour after hour at the piano and regale the neighbourhood with some pretty tragic attempts at accompaniment. I needed to do that to learn my lines. It must have been so painful for anyone within earshot – especially as I had to repeat lines over and over – and over. Worse than a child learning the violin.

I must admit that my neighbours were very polite – they always said how much they enjoyed my rehearsing. Yeah right!

Today in my efforts to memorise Messiah choruses for our imminent Orpheus Choir concert, I used new technology. I no longer have to rely on having to plug away at the keyboard. Instead I connect up my iPod or iPhone, put the earphones on, select Handel’s Messiah from my iTunes list, hit ‘play’ and off I go. (Needless to say, I need to have first downloaded a reputable recording of it.)

I was pretty happy singing away at the top of my voice with the sun streaming in through the window. Great fun…

Then I thought … oops, the neighbours. Previously, even though my playing was no less than bad, at least my unwitting audience had context. They could hear the bars of music coming between each of my soprano lines. Now they get to hear nothing but me … seemingly unaccompanied. Little do they know that my backing group is the whole of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and choir.

We’ve all heard it before – people with headphones singing to themselves. It doesn’t always sound the best especially when it’s heavy metal. Handel has his own quirks.

“All we like sheep, have gone astray-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay”

I wonder what they think now.

I should also mention that it’s a lot more fun this way. I can sing and dance at the same time – I love it!

A thought on passion

If food be the passion...

Friends and family were sharing brunch at the Rosehip Cafe in Auckland recently. By chance I met an old school friend.  She lives nearby in Wellington but our paths don’t often cross. When they do, we’re always glad to see each other. There’s genuine warmth and pleasure in meeting.

My friend lost her husband in a car accident many years ago when her three children were just toddlers. It was horrific. Needless to say, she was totally devastated. I’ll never forget seeing her at the funeral so consumed by grief  she was barely able to walk.

She’s a very beautiful woman. Each time I see her I’m struck by how gorgeous she is. Never any make-up, flawless skin, naturally blonde hair, tall and slender with a stand-out smile. She has dealt with her tragedy by turning it into a strength. She has followed the path of natural healing, sharing her time between Wellington and Auckland.

When asked, I told her that I’d left my safe government job and am looking to replace it with one that I can feel more passionate about. She greeting my decision with enthusiasm and replied with this philosophical thought:

“If there is no passion in your life, then have you really lived? Find your passion, whatever it may be, and let it become you and you will find great things happen FOR you, TO you and BECAUSE of you.”

I’m going to hold that thought!

Preparing for the Messiah

Warming up ain't always pretty!

No, I’m not talking about sitting on a hill overlooking Jerusalem…waiting…

The Messiah we’re waiting for is far more tangible.

I’m talking about preparing for Handel’s Messiah, a magnificent choral work that’s been thrilling audiences since 1742.

We, the Orpheus Choir of Wellington are in rehearsal for our performance on 4 December in the Wellington Town Hall.  It’s not an easy work to learn, unless of course you’ve recently sung Bach’s Mass in B Minor! We’re now three weeks away from D-day and the challenge to memorise at least four of the stunning choruses is on.

You cannot get complacent – you have to have tricks up your sleeve. And I don’t mean sticking post-it notes on the back of the person in front of you – an impossibility anyway when you’re in the front row.

“Paw-shag-ab,” said a colleague alongside me last night.


“Power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor and glory and bless-ing. Porw-shag-ab!”

Now, why didn’t I think of that.


Wilful damage

Nature's gift

I made a brief trip into the city (Wellington) today and was saddened to see the wilful damage of at least two young trees. Both had been all but completely snapped off near the base of the trunk, with one having been split vertically down the middle as well.

Both were located in areas sheltered from our sometimes strong winds.

I don’t understand why it is that these young trees are a target for destruction when they do so much to enhance our beautiful city.

But then, I don’t understand many of the stupid and needlessly violent acts that people carry out.

Grief 102 – on hard decisions

Chewing on an ill-gotten pigs ear!

This week we had to make one of the hardest decisions ever before us. To take life away from our adored ‘buddy’ Toby – a beautiful, loyal, gentle-natured and cuddly 14 year-old samoyed.

I shed copious tears before and many many more since.

We’ve been incredibly touched by messages on Facebook and notes from friends, including this one which was in our letter box this afternoon.

A Dog’s Prayer

If it should be that I grow weak

and pain should keep my from my sleep

Then you must do what must be done

For this last battle cannot be won.

You will be sad, I understand

Don’t let your grief then stay your hand

For this day more than all the rest

Your love for me must stand the test.

We’ve had so many happy years

What is to come can hold no fears

You’d not want me to suffer so

The time has come, please let me go.

I know that in time you will see

The kindness that you did for me

Although my tail its last has waved

From pain and suffering, I’ve been saved.

Please do not grieve, it must be you

Who has this painful thing to do

We’ve been so close, we two, these years

Don’t let your heart hold back its tears.

Rest in peace dear friend…

Enjoying the sea breeze with his trademark smile

Julie and Julia – is butter better?

Tarte Tartin: pastry is not pastry without butter - the addition of cream is sheer bliss...!

It took me a while to get to see it, but finally – thanks to SKY – I’ve seen the movie Julie and Julia.

Having recently spent a few days in Paris, and being a lover of food and sometimes cooking, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I laughed and laughed and of course am now keen to try all the recipes – even the boned out duck!

It made me question why I have this blog. It doesn’t have any particular reason to be, or any specific theme as it did in the movie. The cookbook diary, such a damn good idea, has already been done unless of course I copied the idea focusing instead on Rick Stein, Jamie Oliver or even New Zealand’s Peter Gordon. But no, that’s very heavy duty cooking and on a daily basis, I just couldn’t be bothered.

So what on earth could I write about?

The subject of butter was touched on briefly in the movie – how much better things (eg. béarnaise sauce) taste with butter! It’s true – I’m a butter-lover from way back. I couldn’t possibly entertain the idea of toast without butter, sandwiches without butter (although I do alternate with Olivio), cheese scones without butter or baked potato without butter. Yet my children from very young ages spurned sandwiches and toast with butter – ooh YUK! The went without … totally … just the filling. They still don’t routinely use butter in the same way that I do if at all…

I don’t understand them, I really don’t. But I’m secretly pleased that that’s one addiction less to cope with.

I’m also pleased that the Sunday bread of old – the one that used to come in a whole loaf, crusty on the outside and soft within – is no longer. You couldn’t possibly eat that without a generous lathering of butter. Before it was placed on the table we used to nibble away at the crust on either end to form holes from which we would pick at the beautiful soft bread. I can’t recall my parents ever complaining about the desecrated loaf.

The smell of bread fresh out of a breadmaker has similar appeal – the crusts are not the same though. Nothing ever is with childhood memories…

Correct me if I’m wrong – there is no real substitute for butter…it gives pastry its texture, it enhances freshly boiled or barbecued corn on the cob, a dob of it inside a baked give delicious creaminess, and its unbeatable when spread underneath vegemite.

I will never give up butter. I might moderate my intake in favour of healthier options, but will always yearn for the distinctive flavour and texture of butter.