Category Archives: Memories

Weekly photo challenge: Illumination II

Latticed illumination

Latticed illumination

It had been a miserable day, with unrelenting rain, so last night we went to Wellington’s Embassy Theatre to see Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. 

The Embassy is a theatre, which was opened in 1924 and was refurbished in 2001, in time for the world premiere of the first of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. The theatre is gorgeous – an very stately old dame. As you enter her wide doors on Cambridge Terrace, you ascend to the first floor via elegant curved stairways with beautiful art deco tiles in deep blues and greens lining the walls. She always takes my breath away.

Last night I searched for the tile I’d heard about at a recent funeral. One of Wellington’s beloved, an extremely kind and generous philanthropist, funded the tiling of the walls. All he asked for in recognition of his generosity was for one tile to be placed honouring of his parents. I found it exactly where I thought it would be, very simple and discrete – with only a christian name for each of them and the initials of their surname – perfect. I felt so moved by this one simple gesture that I wanted to hold my fingers to my lips then press them gently against the tile.

Choc-dipped ice cream in hand, I settled into my sumptuous leather seat, sponsored by another well-known Wellington identity. The lights went down plunging the auditorium into near darkness but for the latticed domes on either side of the screen. After a one-handed scrambling at the bottom of my handbag for my camera clutching my ice-cream cone in the other, I managed to take just one photo. If I’d had more time, and two hands, I would have tried to show the magical lattice effects on the surrounding walls and ceiling.

Next time.

Weekly writing challenge: On fire with strudel

Mamma’s Apple Strudel … not a bad effort

Ever had a hankering – no, cancel that – a full-blown yearning for a long-remembered taste?

I’m an avid fan of Masterchef Australia, and at some stage during last week I saw a trailer for an upcoming episode featuring slow roasted lamb ribs. It showed a deliciously juicy-looking pair of ribs – dark brown but not burnt – perched on a mound of mash. Mmmm I thought I might just have to go and check out the website. (We’re several episodes behind in screening here – not  the website!)

I searched the site high and low to no avail – but – I did see a recipe for Gary Mehigan’s Apple strudel. Oh my god – Apple strudel! My father’s absolute favourite. I used to watch Mum rolling the dough and plonking the mixture on top. I’d press my nose against the glass of the oven door inhaling the gorgeous spicey aroma and watching the pastry turn to a flakey golden brown.

My quest for slow roasted lamb ribs came to an end – my memoric taste buds were on fire for STRUDEL.

But I had to find a recipe for the real McCoy…

I went to my trusty old and faded Greta Anna Cookbook. It literally fell open at the strudel page and I read the recipe. Apples, check; brown sugar, check; ground almonds, check; mixed peel, no; filo pastry, no. Damn. Let’s find another recipe … how different could it be after all?

I trawled through a few more books and didn’t like the look of any the recipes on offer. Then I searched through Mum’s old handwritten recipes …in her red-linen covered book which is now falling apart, the pages are yellowed … damn, no strudel. How could she? Someone MUST have stolen the page!

Stupid stupid me … didn’t I just see the recipe online? So I whizzed back to the study, turned on the computer which I had dutifully turned off just a few minutes earlier, turned on the printer and had Gary’s recipe printed out in a flash – minus colour.

Note to self: need to buy more ink cartridges.

Pink lady apples. We don’t have Pink Lady apples in New Zealand. No fresh apples on hand – tinned ones’ll have to do, check; brown sugar, check; almonds, check; fresh breadcrumbs, check; brandy, YES!; raisins, check; lemon rind, check; one portion home made pastry? I was up for the challenge.

I read the pastry instructions once. Then I read them again. A tea towel? Hey, mum used to use a tea towel … if it was good enough for her, it’ll damn well be good enough for me.

I adopted my best Masterchef persona (minus the monogramed apron) and hit the ground running. Measured the flour into the mixing bowl, cracked the egg, heated the milk (overheated the milk), melted the butter, and threw in a dash of salt. I watched as the dough hook hooked the dough, waiting as instructed, until it left the sides of the bowl. Then I put the dough in an oil lined bowl, covered it and left it to rest for the requisite 40 minutes. Timer on.

Oh my goodness, this is so easy. Eat your heart out Jamie Oliver!

I then put all the filling ingredients in a bowl, doused them in brandy and let the flavours absorb while the dough rested, as instructed.

In my Masterchef haste (always watching the clock!) I’d made such a mess that it was then time to clean up and make some room on the bench for the ritual laying on of hands – or the rolling out of the pastry, using the old fashioned tea towel method! Let me read that recipe again.

Flour the bench, roll out the pastry very thinly, roll it up onto a rolling pin, roll it out onto a floured tea towel, plonk the mixture on top, fold in the edges, roll it up …

How hard is that?

Not hard – but messy, very messy. Flour all over the bench, flour on my arms, flour on my black jeans, flour on my shoes … but … after careful, definitely not artful, manipulation – did I mention it had to fit diagonally onto my baking tray? – and a lot of swearing I finally had my strudel folded into a long dog roll ready for transfer to the tray.

Let’s not go there … more swearing!  Suffice to say, it did end up on the oven tray.

I was unconvinced. I was sure this thing was going to burst and as I painted it liberally with melted butter, I lamented my failure.

“It’ll be fine,” said my partner, “stop beating yourself up!”

Into the oven it went, and for the next forty minutes I hovered between watching olympic gymnastics and the oven. I refrained from pressing my nose against the oven door! A familiar aroma wafted through the house.

Much to my immense surprise and delight, the strudel didn’t burn – nor did it burst. And the result – delicious! Magnificent! A triumph!

That was Sunday night.

On Monday night, I watched Gary Mehigan demonstrate making his Apple Strudel.

You know, I didn’t do too badly.

Next time – and yes, there will be a next time – I know how to roll the strudel perfectly and transfer it effortlessly onto an oven tray.

I’ll be able to skip the swearing step.

Tears for Christchurch

Earthquake ravaged

We spent last weekend in Christchurch, the city that suffered irreparable damage and huge loss of life on the 22nd of February 2011.

Although I spent a week down there for work in October last year, I never ventured into the city. We listened to the stories and imagined the devastation.

This time we did wander round the inner streets looking over the cordons at the ruins of what had once been a beautiful city. A magnificent Cathedral as its centrepiece, and lovely old buildings gracing the wide streets. No longer.

“There’s the Crowne Plaza,” my partner said, the Crowne Plaza having once been a grand and imposing hotel.

“Where?” I responded.

“There, right in front of you.”

I looked at the pile of rubble, it didn’t seem significant enough to have been such a massive hotel. A hotel in which I had sat many times enjoying a cappucino in the Piano Bar with my beloved friends Doreen and David. Every time they walked into their favourite coffee spot, the pianist would see them from the corner of his eye, stop whatever it was he was playing and play their song – Somewhere my love  from Dr Zhivago …

I’d read some time ago, in an article by Jane Bowron, that a friend of hers said the Crowne Plaza resembled the ruins in Sarajevo. I guess he wasn’t far wrong.

The first of my tears started to flow. They continued as I saw what remained of the Cathedral, and then High Street and Cashel Street. Gone were the city scapes of well-known buildings – replaced by cranes, bent iron sculptures, empty window frames and fluttering building paper.

Amidst the devastation are bright spots of colour …

Pop-up shops … colour, energy and optimism

The first photo was taken at one end Cashel Street – a street with the exit blocked by wire fencing and warnings.

This photo was taken on the same stretch of road – where optimism reigns. Brightly coloured containers line both sides, housing bustling boutique shops. The footpath features floral sculptures – yes, the deer above is fake – and big tubs are filled flowers and native greenery.

We had a cup of tea in Ballantynes. Ballantynes is a department store which suffered the worst fire in New Zealand’s history in 1947; 41 lives were lost. Ballantynes suffered again last year – thankfully it escaped serious damage and is in the process of renovating. It is already a beautiful store … no doubt it will be more so when renovations are complete.

A bright future…

It was hard looking at the ruins of a city. I felt like a voyeur … looking on from the comfort of my warm and dry home in Wellington. I felt like I shouldn’t be taking photos – that’s why I didn’t even take one of the Cathedral. It felt like I was claiming their loss as mine. But the quake in Christchurch hasn’t changed my life…only made me more aware how everything can change in the batting of an eyelid…

Then on Tuesday night we had a quake. Just as I was about to climb into bed the house started shaking. I watched 110-year old door frames as they rocked from side to side. The quake lasted seven seconds, it seemed longer. My heart raced and continued to throughout the night. No damage, just a few fallen photo frames.

The batting of an eyelid …

Rossi’s daily photo challenge: Our dining companions

Ooh la la ...

I’ve cheated … these gentlemen were not snapped today. I took this photograph during the Rugby World Cup. We had just had the pleasure of meeting them, and after I had taken the liberty of adding moustaches and eyebrows to their costume (I got better as I went on – the one on the left was my final attempt!) I snapped them for posterity – and for their wives! We had a lot of fun …

The game we were all going to was the semi-final between France and Wales. All being New Zealanders, we went equipped with red scarves in support of the Welsh team, while they opted for blue shirts for France.

France won – needless to say they were overjoyed!

Quite by chance they were sitting in front of us a week later during the final – where we were all in support of the All Blacks. I took another photograph of them there, wearing more sombre attire. It was a tense 80 minutes – we emerged smiling. Phew!!!

Weekly photo challenge: Faces 5

One of the loveliest faces in the world - sadly deceased

I wrote a blog about this lovely man, a man who was part of my life for many many years, a man who took on the role of father and grandfather after my parents died – I entitled it Good Debt .

I said it all in the blog, so I won’t repeat myself. What I will say though is that his face was always full of love, care and compassion. Always smiling, always telling everyone how much he loved them and how special they were to him.  Even as this photo was taken, when he was extremely ill, his love shines through.

I never ever saw him without a shirt and tie!

Weekly photo challenge: Mountains 2

In the pink

New Zealand is blessed with the most magnificent mountains. My previous post featured Mt Taranaki (also known as Mt Egmont) as seen from the air, while this weekly photo challenge shows Mt Ruapehu; Mts Ngauruhoe and Tongariro are obscured by cloud.

These are all North Island mountains. Mt Ruapehu (also Mt Taranaki) are favourite destinations for skiers and snow boarders – anyone seeking a snowy retreat. The field and climate conditions are not quite as reliable or extensive as those in the South Island where there is far greater choice.

I first ventured out onto the snow when I was 15 years old. I booked into a ski lodge and went up on my own taking with me an old pair of wooden skis belonging to my elderly uncle (he’d be 111 now!) I didn’t know any better … they were very heavy, very long and they left a trail of splinters in the snow wherever I went. I must have looked totally ridiculous, but I didn’t care…

They had last been used many years before when Uncle Leon ended up in Taumarunui Hospital with a broken leg. I remember us having to take a family trip in the old station wagon to retrieve him!

I don’t know how I managed on those old skis – I probably kept to the learners slopes! Rest assured, I wasn’t deterred. Next time I went skiing I took much more up-to-date gear, which didn’t make me a better skier.

Nowadays I admire from afar – and keep warm.

Even in summer these mountains have a dusting of snow on the peaks. This photograph, taken from the head of lake Taupo, dates back to last December, the beginning of our New Zealand summer.

Weekly photo challenge: Broken 5

High time I fixed this!

My little Lladro girl in her nightgown has lain lovingly wrapped in tissue in this shoe box for the best part of 10 years. I remember the day it got broken and how upset I was. It was an accident and I know that the person who broke it was as upset as I was. It’s not that I’d gone out and collected Lladro myself … a few of the pieces I have, including this one, were gifts from my mother. She collected Lladro – always bringing back a special piece when she went overseas. And when my two elder children were born she gifted a piece especially for them. Sadly she died before my third child, but I have a piece for him anyway.

I was given my first piece of Lladro when I became engaged – I’m sure it was this one. When the weekly photo challenge for this week was posted, my thoughts immediately went to my figurine. I knew I had to fess up to my inaction sometime this week. Now that I have, I’m determined to fix her so she can take her place alongside my other treasured pieces.

I’ve never been a great lover of china, but I appreciated that my mother was. When I went overseas in my early twenties I remember going into an exquisite china shop on Kensington High Street, London. I really wanted to buy my mother a special piece; I knew she’d love it because parents always love gifts from children don’t we – handmade gifts especially.

I chose a plate – bread and butter size plate. It was made by Rosenthal and depicted a scene from Mozart’s ‘Eine kleine Nachtmuzik’. It was vibrant – with beautiful bright colours, including deep azure blue and gold. I remember it costing me 45 pounds – a fortune even in those days. It was worth every penny … Of course she loved it putting it on display with her other plates.

Some years later, after she’d died, someone knocked the plate off the wall and it broke into little pieces – beyond salvage. I wouldn’t have cared if any of the other plates had broken – they had no special significance to me – but I was upset about this one. It was a gift that I had chosen – it came from my heart. I remember weeping up the pieces and keeping them for ages until such time as I was ready to let them go.

It is indeed time I repaired my little Lladro girl.