Tag Archives: #DPchallenge

Weekly photo challenge: Lost in the details



When seen up close, these lifeless limbs take on new lives of their own. A tortoise reaching out for sunlight, a knarled snout hoping to catch some prey in it’s toothless jaws, fingers curling under…what do you see?

Photographed on the shores of Lake Taupo, New Zealand, 28 February 2013.


Weekly photo challenge: Urban 2


Nothing quite like watching other people work!

I got really excited when the urban challenge was set – I’ve so many street scene images. I love them …

I had intended to post a new urban picture every night this week showing you scenes that had caught my eye. However, other things got in the way and I failed! So here I sit on a Friday night – one more opportunity before this challenge expires and the next is set.

So rather than take you to another country, in another time – here’s another street scene from Buenos Aires. Still in the Caminita.

If anyone knows the translation for ‘Desvio’ I’d be very grateful.

Of course, I could look it up myself, but that wouldn’t be as much fun.

Weekly writing challenge: Trading old ways for new

A salad for kings … and Estonians

This year I began with the resolve to cook, on Sundays, a virgin dish – something I’d never cooked before. The resolve lasted about four weeks! Those four weeks were magic. I’d start planning on Saturday night, pouring through my huge stack of cook books and Cuisine magazines, and listing ingredients to buy on our regular Sunday pilgrimage to Moore Wilsons (an institution for Wellington foodies).

I’d spend time reading the recipes making sure to begin preparation early enough, and then would spend all afternoon in the kitchen – humming as I worked revelling in the challenge. I would proudly deliver my resulting efforts to the table to requisite squeals of delight from my partner or whoever else happened to be there, knives and forks aloft.

Then my youngest son returned home with his Estonian business partner. To stay. Both of them.

Just when you think your life is sorted and when after years and years of child-rearing, you can please yourself with what you eat, when and how – your bubble bursts!

Don’t get me wrong, I adore my son and love having him back home. But – and a BIG but – my darling carnivorous son, who had always loved all manner of meat, especially rare beef, schnitzel, green chicken curry, malaysian chicken curry, motorway chicken, crusty lamb racks, barbecued lamb, meat, meat, meat – you get my drift? Well he returned after 12 months away proudly announcing:

“I’m a vegetarian now, Mum. You won’t have to cook meat for me.”

My New Year’s resolve came crashing to the ground. All of a sudden the gloss went off my new and fabulous meat dishes, yummy scrummy pies, marinated rumps, and a thousand-and-one-way chicken recipes!

“No, no, no I’m not interested in a diet of chick peas and lentils … it’s bad enough having diabetes. Don’t do this to me…please …”

Mr six-foot-two-inch Estonia looked at me with puppy-dog eyes beneath his floppy Hugh Grant fringe,

“Oh, but I love meat – I love meat a lot,”

and smiled … pleadingly.

So began two and a half months of catering (while working full-time of course) to my fitness fanatic vegetarian son and our meat and sugar-loving Estonian – a fella who could down a batch of baking in two days flat.

“When I finish my work (he’s a computer Geek as well as being Estonian!), I reward myself with a cookie. I love your cookies.”

And he’d smile … pleadingly.

They came up with a compromise to help me cope with the changes to my perfect life. They’d cook one night a week, I’d cook the other six. They thought it seemed fair…

Mr Estonia turned his talents to cooking. Well, not cooking exactly … but he became very good at making salads, cutting up the ingredients and arranging them in the salad bowl. He took his time, really laboured over the task, and I mean laboured. That was how he approached everything, except cookie crunching. Slow. Methodical.

To their credit they did the dishes every night which was a whole new experience for Mr Estonia who’d never ever seen a tea towel in his life, let alone used one!

“Oh it is a very strange to do these dishes. It is very family isn’t it – it is fun.”

You know that game of flicking the wet tea towel at the legs, arms and butt of whoever does the washing? You know the game where screaming takes over from the task at hand and ends in tears? I was the one pleading for mercy – the youngest and only girl in the family! I had two older brothers who used to make me do the washing up and then subject me to relentless torture while my hands were in the sink. Some game!

Well, Mr Estonia knows that game now. I pity his poor partner as he inflicts the wet tea towel torture on his unsuspecting sons, that if, of course, he’s able to break centuries of chauvinism and lure them into the kitchen.

When his visa came to an end, Mr Estonia returned to the other side of the world to his partner and children, determined to impress everyone with tales of his New Zealand adventures AND his new found cooking skills. For a man who throughout his whole 35-yr life had barely stepped foot inside a kitchen this was major.

He contacted me recently to ask for the recipe for his favourite ‘cookies’ – which have weetbix in the list of ingredients.

The biggest challenge for him is finding weetbix in Estonia.

So what of my New Year resolve? Well, I’m now enjoying the vegetarian adventure. Meat is still on the agenda – and I’m being far more experimental with all else.

When my son takes off again – as he will – the challenge is to continue this new regime…not just one day a week, everyday!

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.