130. Happy Birthday Dad

For Dad’s birthday, I promised him pictures of me and my friends running round doing silly things in Viking hats.

Well, unfortunately we couldn’t find Viking hats anywhere. Who would have thought they would be so historically accurate in Denmark. Not even at Legoland did they conform to Hollywood stereotypes.

BUT all is not lost. Dad, I have found you something even better. Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak!

It’s in the post as we speak. And they even gift wrapped it with special invisible wrapping.

Happy Birthday Dad!

Love Harriet


75. Share some memories

Talking about feelings and all that jazz… not really my forte. But if there was ever a day to give it a crack it would be today!

On this day a year ago (I’m ignoring time zones) my best friend died in a car accident, so it has been hard to avoid looking back on the last year and thinking about him this week. When you lose someone, people say all kinds of things in an attempt to be helpful. The sentiment is appreciated, but a lot of things people spout are absolute bollocks, especially “It gets easier.” I don’t think there’s ever anything easy about losing your other half, you just go from hyperventilating, to not wanting to leave the house for a week, to feeling guilty when you realise its the first time you haven’t had a cry in three days, to eventually getting back to your normal routine. Or in my case, just completely changing it!

Scotty was quite possibly the most wonderful friend anyone could ever have. From regularly sorting out all the issues in my life, to hilarious adventures around Australia and NZ, to having epic nights out, to being both ridiculously silly and incredibly switched on and mature at (almost) all the right moments. I’m certainly not the only one who feels completely blessed to have known him.

While initially, it was easy to sink in to that whole life-is-unfair mentaility (although to be honest, memories of the few months after he passed away are kind of hazy), I have tried very hard to instead take on his attitude to life. He knew what he wanted out of life, and by gosh did he do whatever it took to get there. At the time, he was working full time in a job that would usually be given to a graduate, whilst commuting an hour and a half to University to finish his degree, volunteering on student radio and a bunch of other extra projects including the Christchurch Earthquake and Oamaru Flood emergency responses, travelling, and yet he still always seemed to have all the time in the world to help out his family and friends. He wanted to be the next Anderson Cooper, and we all know he would have. Everyone that worked with him knew he was going places.

He’d put in a tonne of hours volunteering for University, and his efforts had been recognised by many. Because of that, we managed to get a tree in the commerce building dedicated to him. His mother and I spent god knows how many hours trying to come up with something great to go on his plaque and we knew it had to be something that summed up his attitude, and the kinds of things he always said to us. Being the communications whiz he was, it was always him helping us with this sort of thing, so it was a bit of test when we had to do it on our own! In the end we came up with “Be the best you can be. No excuses!” – We could imagine exactly the scenario he would have whipped a comment like that out in – all the times he made us stop procrastinating, worrying, being nervous or slack and just grow a pair and get the job done.

While it continues to be a challenge without him (especially every time I have a difficult decision to make), in the past year I have tried really hard to do as he would want, to find what motivates me and go for it. Initially, I enjoyed travelling around Australia as it felt like I was the one who had gone away and everything was normal back home, but I quickly turned it in to an opprtunity to work hard (four jobs hard) to save money so I could travel Europe, see all the places I dreamed of and finish my degree.

The kind of hilarious crap he pulled out just to wind me up

Sometimes I feel really awful for having a great time without him, though. Last weekend on my flight back from Tromso, Norway, where I had gone to see the Northern Lights, I thought about how much fun I had had running around in the snow, climbing trees, collecting photos of places that looked like Santa’s house, seeing the magical lights sparkling across the sky, and general shenanigans and silliness. That kind of hilarity and adventure was right up his alley, and  absheolutely would have been right there with me trying to swim in the Arctic Ocean had he had the opportunity. All of a sudden I just about had a cry on the plane, but luckily I had plenty of eye makeup on to prevent that from happening! It is no good thinking things like “I wish I’d just made him stay over instead of driving home that night” or feeling guilty for having a good time without him, I know that’s the last thing he would want. So instead I try my hardest to think back to the last time I saw him. I told him I was planning on going on exchange and  he said I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere that didn’t have space for him to come stay, and we talked about all the fun places we were going to go.

At this point I could say something sappy about it is like he is travelling with me and memories living on and other such cliched crap. Instead, I’ll end with a quote from another good friend of ours, posted on his facebook wall today that quite nicely sums up how he continues to motivate us all and touch our lives:

“You were one of a kind, we will never be able to replace you, the most we can hope for is to emulate you.”

He was always down for a celebration, and it is absolutely thrilling to continue to celebrate his life with all our friends. Especially when they wake you up for an 8:30am skype call and make you drink a beer with them while they pass you round a circle of suited up drunkards in the middle of the Commerce Building


57. A Classic Kiwi Meal

Those of us exchange students who are staying miles out of town at Skjoldhoj Kollegiet have started the International Food Series, where we each cook a typical meal from home. When my turn rolled around, or more accurately, when I was feeling a little homesick and felt like making some comfort food, I offered to cook for the team. The next dilemma, however, was deciding on what exactly constitutes a classic kiwi meal. The problem, you see, is that New Zealand is a young and very multicultural country and as far as food goes, we just eat everyone else’s food!

I asked for some suggestions on facebook of what would be considered a classic kiwi meal. My sister helpfully suggested a delicious New Zealand Lasagne or a Traditional Kiwi Stir Fry. The irony of these classic kiwi foreign meals was not at all lost on me. After a good chuckle I settled on roast lamb with kumara and potatoes. Whilst the meat-and-two-veg combination is pretty classic as far as New Zealand cuisine goes, I do feel it is more of an English innovation. However, the ingredients are what makes it truly kiwi.

I have been asked many times as I meet foreigners whether it really is true that there are more sheep than people in New Zealand. I like to point out that the ratio of sheep to humans is roughly 4:1 and pause a little to laugh at their faces while they imagine we each own 4 pet sheep, before pre-emptively (and ever so patronisingly) correcting them that they reside on farms and not in our living rooms. There’s actually this slightly sheepish (no pun intended. Actually it was totally intentional. Who ever says no pun intended and actually means it?!) look people give me as they lie through their teeth and say “Oh… I knew that…”

Thus lamb is a very traditional New Zealand meat to oven roast. In fact oven roasting a whole meal, I have been told by a Swede, is in fact a very New Zealand thing to do. As for the two veg, Kumara (or sweet potato if translated) is definitely a truly kiwi vegetable although both in New Zealand and elswhere, it is quite expensive. Perfect to water it down with some potatoes.

As for dessert, there is nothing more traditional and kiwi than a Pavlova. And don’t you dear let those plagiarising Australian’s tell you otherwise. Officially, it is still being disputed, but everyone knows the Pavlova is ours. With a deceitfully Russian sounding name, the Pavolva is a dessert invented in New Zealand in the 1920s, named after Anna Pavolva, a Russian Ballet Dancer who was touring New Zealand at the time. A pavlova is a large, white meringue cake, with the name no doubt influenced by the beautiful white tutu of a ballet dancer in that era.

This particular meal wasn’t my first lamb roast, but by gosh, I must say it was one of my best! The pavolva, on the other hand, was my first ever attempt at the dessert, and I made the fatal error of disobeying the strict cooking instructions of a somewhat difficult dessert. I didn’t make the most common of pavolva mistakes: opening the oven door while it was cooking; but instead I decided that using normal sugar would be fine. There are very clear instructions on every pavlova recipe to use castor sugar, but I couldn’t find it anywhere in Aarhus. I read somewhere that you should grind up normal sugar to create caster sugar rather than substitute a heavier kind, but I didn’t have anything suitable for the task in my ill-equipped student kitchen. I decided to take a chance, and while the dessert wasn’t a failure, it was a little more dense than usual. I also think the oven was a touch too hot, but it did taste pretty good! In true student form, I couldn’t bear to waste the egg yolks, so I also made some lemon curd to go on top, which tasted so much better than the traditional sliced kiwifruit/strawberries. Especially as fruit is like a whole different food group here, compared to the good stuff we have in New Zealand.

The roast lamb was delicious, though it was subject to one of the larger of my shopping miscommunication failures. I went to Bazaar Vest, the middle eastern market, which I had seen had a few large butchers, and had heard one of them has been voted the best one in Aarhus, not to mention one of the cheapest (Fun fact: the Danish word for butcher is ‘Slagter.’ How delightful). Unfortunately, in both Denmark and the Middle East, it seems a Lamb Roast to feed a large family in the way we make them back home is not something repeated here. Furthermore, I have bought meat from a butcher maybe twice in my life and had no idea what to even call the cut I was after, let alone in Danish. Usually, there would be a good size piece of boneless lamb already cut and packaged on the supermarket shelf. At the butcher I went to, my options where a giant leg, a tiny steak or mince. The butcher asked me in Danish if I would like any help. I replied in English that I would like some lamb, but did they have anything smaller than the legs. After some stilted conversation where the poor guy switched to English, his third language at the very least, he said ‘OK I’ll cut it for you.’ Here was I thinking I had been quite clear that the leg was too large and I wanted about half of the size. I was amazed to see the guy very proudly come back with the leg in small chunks. It was pretty reasonably priced, and I strongly doubted the poor guy would be happy with selling the other half of the small chunks of lamb leg. So I politely thanked him and took the whole leg cut in to small pieces. He’d been so nice and helpful after-all, and I could always freeze them and save the rest for other occasions. And on the bright side it would cook faster!

So I used the following method, inspired by Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver and most importantly the amazing chef that is my mother.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Cut potatoes, onions, kumara in to bit sized chunks. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with fresh rosemary and a teaspoon of salt. Place in a roasting dish (I had to go buy those disposable foil ones) with some whole, unpeeled cloves of garlic, toss around to evenly distribute the oil, salt and rosemary and place on the bottom shelf of the oven. Place lamb, either a large cut or smaller cuts in a roasting dish. Poke a 1cm squared hole in the meat with a small knife and put a sprig of rosemary and a quarter or half of a peeled clove of garlic in the hole. Poke similar holes about an inch apart all over the lamb and repeat. Or if you accidentally have smaller pieces, 1-2 holes in each piece. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt. Place in the oven, in the tray above the vegetables. Cook the lamb for 40 minutes to an hour, depending on how well cooked you like your meat and how much/what size it is. Usually, if the juices run clear when you poke a hole in the meat and push down on it with your knife it will be well cooked. With red meat, a little bit undercooked will be fine.As for the vegetables, after about 25minutes, turn the vegetables over to ensure they cook evenly.

Take the lamb out (it will continue to cook a little as it slowly cools) and turn the oven up to 250 degrees. After a further 10 minutes turn the vegetables again. Continue to cook (and turn) until they are golden brown and crispy on the outside. Take the vegetables out and allow to cool. They should be ready between 15 minutes and 30 minutes after the meat is done, depending on how fast your oven heats up. This part requires a little bit of attention to ensure they cook well. You may want to add a touch more oil when you check them (even while the meat is cooking) if they look to be drying out.
Rosemary is my absolute favourite herb, and in my opinion, you just can’t get enough of it so feel free to through a hellova lot of it on to both your vegetables and your meat. If you don’t have fresh rosemary, dried is just as good as fresh, or if you prefer a mixed herbs/tuscan herbs/herbs de provence style combination (however your supermarket is selling a mix with a rosemary/oregano/thyme base combination) it will be almost as good.

Normally, in my household anyway, it would be served with some green veges (either steamed or oven roasted) on the side. Delicious and a great way to make it a more balanced meal. However, when catering for the masses on a student budget, the lamb, kumara and potatoes went down a treat.

I also made some mint sauce to go with. Not the traditional wierd jelly you can buy, but a home made version which was amazing. Never buying again! Do be warned though, it may make you want to drink mohitos. To make it, get two large handfuls of fresh mint and sprinkle with about a teaspoon of sugar. Chop it up as small as you can and then place in a small bowl. Juice a lemon or lime over the mint and stir vigorously until it is all mushy and sauce like. If you have a mortor and pestle it would probably achieve the desired effect far more efficiently. Other variations would suggest using white wine vineagar, but if you don’t already have it is a bit more of an investment than a lemon or lime. If it is too tangy add more sugar to taste. Don’t make it too early – it was delicious fresh!

I made some gravy too but it was a bit of a failure. Luckily it was superfluous with the mint sauce. Best I figure out where I went wrong before posting any recipes!

For the Pavlova and lemon curd, I used the following recipes:

Beat 4 egg whites with an electric mixer until they form soft white peaks. Gradually add one cup of caster sugar whilst contnuing to beat (alternatively if you can’t find any and have a very clean coffee grinder you can grind it into caster sugar, or if that is too difficult normal sugar will still make a pavlova). Add one teaspoon of lemon juice or vineagar and two teaspoons of sifted cornflour and beat for at least 10 minutes until it is glossy. Pile the meringue on to a baking tray lined with tin foil or baking paper, shaping it in a cake shape as much as possible, and leaving a bit of a dip in the centre. Bake at 130 degrees for about one and a half hours, until the outside is crispy and a sort of off-white/cream colour. Finally, whatever you do, don’t open the door until you are ready to take it out of the oven.

Put one teaspoon of cornflour, a quarter of a cup of sugar and three quarters of a cup of milk in a saucepan over a medium heat, stirring constantly. Bring it to the boil, then pour a small amount in to a bowl with the two egg yolks and stir. Add this egg yolk mixture to the saucepan and stir constantly for a further minute. Remove from the head and add two tablespoons of lemon juice and one teaspoon of lemon rind. Allow to cool.

When the pavlova was ready I poured the lemon curd over it and added whipped cream on top. Delicious!

6. 25 Hours in one seat

It wasn’t until the day of my flight that I actually worked out the amount of time I would be on the plane (that time zone changing business is deceptive, you know). 11 hours first leg, 14 second. Definitely the longest flight I have ever been on!

Before that I had a pretty long wait in Christchurch Airport (4 hours, plus the flight was delayed a further hour). I managed to get 90 minutes (instead of the usual 30) of free Wifi by logging in with three different devices: iPod, phone and laptop and three different email address. Proud of myself for that stroke of genius! I also started a movement by stealing couch cushions and sitting in the kids play area so I could plug in my phone and computer. Next thing it was packed with adults and their technical devices.

All kudos for airport ingenuity was out the door at the check in desk though. In in epic display of idiocy, the man behind the counter pointed out I had mispelled my own name when booking the flight. I knew I was going to do something stupid when booking everything, but that’s a special brand of idiocy right there.

For a brief few minutes I almost didn’t think I was going to be allowed on the plane (based on when the man behind the counter said “we can’t really allow you on the plane”). Luckily only one of the 3 G’s in Geoghegan was missing and my doe eyes worked a charm on the guy behind the counter. I was ready to whip out some tears but a little white lie: “Yeah, someone else booked it for me” was sufficent. Thank God. I didn’t want to check my Ryanair boarding pass because I had a hunch that the folk at Stansted wouldn’t be nearly as nice as Christchurch…

After that minor stressful moment, I was ready to go! Not as ready as this girl, though…

Pre-departure neck pillow

I had pre-booked my Air Asia comfort pack, an absolute winner. Note to anyone else thinking of flying air asia, bring your own earplugs too. I also pre-booked a meal on each flight. I was astonished that on the NZ-KL leg the meal cost $25 and from KL-London it was only $10. The only reasoning I could drum up was that they pass on the savings from buying ingredients in Malaysia to the passengers. I was pretty worried that I would get hungry on the flight – 2 meals in 25 hours isn’t much. And I get grumpy and forgetful if I don’t eat enough! So all afternoon I was carbo-loading like I was about to run a marathon. Anything with calories, send it my way! Turns out they did two rounds of food per leg, so my backup box of meusli bars wasn’t essential (but definitely handy). Judging by other passengers (and the smells wafting through the plane) the ‘Malaysian Meal’ was a winning choice, with the ‘European’ meal looking rather sad. I figured I ought to stick with what they know best.

First AirAsia Meal

Plus my love of all variations of asian food helps. I definitely would have eaten those meals again, which is lucky because I they were going to be my next two meals. Another bonus of the comfort pack was all the plastic wrapping it comes in. Next tip – don’t rip it all apart, the air hostesses don’t come round to get your meal rubbish and the pockets in front of you are tiny so they make for good resealable rubbish bags.

Second Airasia Meal

A lot of people seemed to screw their noses up at me when I said I was flying air asia, but it really was no different to most other flights apart from the lack of complementary anything. But who needs a few free drinks when the price difference is $400? If you really have problems going without you could buy one of the mini bottles at duty free… The seats went pretty far back too (compared with Jetstar) which was great until I was getting up to go to the bathroom and as I was squeezing past the girl on the end the guy in front put his seat back rather violently, resulting in my sitting awkwardly on her lap. On returning the guy in front wasn’t there so I kindly put his seat up for him.. We were about to land, after-all. Next tip: if you are a frequent toilet goer, book an aisle seat.

The rest of the flight was pretty uneventful, armed with a fistful of not so legally acquired prescription drugs I planned to knock myself out for the rest of the flight. I woke up very refreshed, just in time for my next meal (unnamed Malaysian rice concoction).

The second leg was much the same, only 3 hours longer. The sleeping pills didn’t do too much the first time, so I took two the second and slept on and off for most of the flight. One thing that was interesting was the difference between the meals on the first leg vs the second, particularly as they were meant to be the same. They were noticeably more stingy, but also a whole lot more spicy! I also learned from Captain Lim, a columnist in the in-flight magazine that being seated by the wings is the best place if you don’t like turbulence (plane’s centre of gravity) and down the back if you don’t like screaming babies (loudest engine noises).

Second round, decidedly more ‘average,’ to be polite

As per usual there were quite a few screaming babies on the plane. Every single time I fly I am astounded by how many parents don’t realise that when their ears are popping as the plane lands, their babies ears are popping too so of course the child is going to cry. On one of the flightsI actually gave a child a lollipop to shut it up – worked a treat! I laughed at Dad when he gave me corporate branded lollipops from work as a joke farewell but they were actually quite useful.

5. Reduce my material possessions to <30kgs

This is a big deal for me. I’m a massive hoarder. Not quite worthy of a 60 minutes episode, but I hate to waste things or even throw things out that may have a potential future use.

The mental process required to just cast my possessions aside, no matter how precious, useful or expensive they were has been made a lot simpler as I really don’t have much of a choice. I haven’t yet booked a return flight, and while I could leave things a bunch of things with mum and dad in Wellington, my bedroom was long ago converted to a guest room. My bright yellow walls painted inoffensive pale blue. My Enrique Iglesias posters removed…*

My objective is to get through every airport (I have to pass through 5, not including landing in Aarhus) with no overweight baggage issues. On every single long trip I can remember I have been well above the weight limit, but I have always managed to talk my out of a fee. In fact on many occasions I have really pulled out all the stops. Everything from befriending businessmen on day trips in the queue and convincing them to check in with me, to flirting, to doe eyes as I explain I am moving back to NZ and it was oh-so-hard to pack my whole life in to this here giant suitcase.

My favourite was a full on spectacle of crocodile tears in Tokyo with a number of classmates and my Japanese teacher in on it (she was actually the orchestrator of this fiasco). As we tore items out of my suitcase and put them in to others, completely blocking the check-in queue, the poor, polite little Japanese check-in counter operators did not know how to deal with this noisy mess of 14-year-old girls, clothes and newly purchased Japanese electronics blocking the counters. Eventually they waived me through just to get us out-of-the-way and I got my extra 10kgs of accumulated souvenirs to New Zealand, free of the $600 charge.

Packing my life in to a 20kg suitcase and 10kg carry-on bag has been an absolute mission. Especially considering I am packing for winter in Denmark, summer backpacking all around Europe and then transitioning back to winter in Prague, all whilst being properly equipped to study. It has almost been like a game show, with round after round of ‘Suitcase Idol’ gradually heading toward the winning collection of items.

The first auditions were held in Dunedin, once I decided to stay in Brisbane to save up for my travels. There were a number of instant no’s from the judges. Just like the obese Texan who describes his occupation as a professional World of War Craft player and is in a cowboy hat yodeling, it was entertaining going through my things but most items didn’t stand a chance. All furniture was donated to my sister for her first flat next year; study notes, posters and things that can only be described as ‘crap’ were chucked out. Judging was more difficult on some things: piano books, winter clothes to take to Denmark, sentimental items. These were boxed up to be stored with the parents. The vast majority was culled, but a great deal either made it to the Brisbane round or skipped to the next round in Wellington.

About 10% of contestants made it to the Brisbane round. For the lucky few, they made it through customs and got a fair bit of use in Brisbane. Largely summer clothes and of course the necessities: laptop, phone, iPod, backpack, straightener, hairdryer, a few special photos to stick on my wall and make me feel at home, and a tonne of cosmetic products. Upon leaving Brisbane, things were stepped up another notch. Half the contestants had to be cut to make room for winter clothes, the backpack had to fit in to the suitcase. There were a few special guests featured on the show. Never in the running but always quick to pop in to my mind were the things i would have to buy when I get to Denmark, despite already owning. Sheets, towels, blankets, shampoo, conditioner etc. Seemed such a shame to throw out the things I already owned in Brisbane when I was going to have to buy them again in 2 months, but I didn’t really have a choice.

Things really heated up in Wellington. This was where the audience got to vote and there were a number of guest judges. First guest judge: family friend who lives in Copenhagen and recommended a number of items to buy in NZ. Woollen tights (mmmm Merino) added to the suitcase. Guest judge number two was a very helpful man named Rick Steve, who writes a blog about travelling in Europe. He strongly advocates for travelling for as long as you can with everything you need in a backpack small enough to qualify for hand luggage on a plane. Loads of useful tips, but ultimately not necessary until I go backpacking in the middle of the year. A number of other blogs from international students and travellers proved very helpful, as well as chats with friends who had been travelling before. Handy hints included a NZ multi plug to go with my travel adapter and some good packing secrets.

The semi finals were held the weekend before I set off. I put everything in my suitcase and weighed it. It was under 20kgs but I would need to have all my shoes in my carry on bag. No contestants were eliminated but the judges had a lot to consider before the finals.

The final is always a long episode and this time the audience weighed in heavily. I put everything in my suitcase, then realised my carry on backpack fitted less than anticipated. Many elimination rounds ensued and items of clothing were individually voted on and eliminated. Everything was tightly rolled, most cosmetic products and jewellery were thrown out or donated to my sister. I tried not to think about how much they were collectively worth. Many suggestions were received from the audience and a few different carry on bags were auditioned. I opted not to take the largest one as small ones are less likely to be weighed. After 3 more quickfire rounds of weigh – cull – weigh, finally I had 20kgs in my suitcase and one small backpack. Just in time to down some dinner and race to the airport.

*I wish I had had Enrique on my wall. My teenage years would surely have been that much more enjoyable…

4. Prove a Mexican wrong

Today I decided to try somewhere new for lunch. Given the amount of wine consumed last night my salad from home really wasn’t going to cut the mustard. I wanted cheese and carbs.

I had heard about a Mexican place in Lambton Square which sounded perfect. I quickly spotted it – it had the biggest queue. Turns out the place is called QBT, meaning Quesadillas, Burritos and Tacos. Funnily enough, the name is also the menu.

They have a pretty smooth operation going on there, with three staff members, all of whom are mexican, making your food right in front of you. The guy at the end of the production line then calls you over to ask what sort of sauces you would like. Or more specifically whether or not you want it spicy. I said yes please, having developed quite the taste for spicy things over the years. In part due to the most amazing chilli sauce at my all time favourite Restaurant – ‘The Asian Restaurant’ in Dunedin. The other key influence was my incredibly talented Indian flatmate who made the best curries (he makes his own curry powder!), but was irritated by his flatmates’ inability to handle the hotness. At first he was sly about it, and lulled us in to a false sense of security by offering to make us delicious mild curries more often than he need to. After a while it all came out that he was slowly but surely increasing the spiciness so that he could make his curries just as he liked them on his cooking night. Quite genius really, as being unable to handle a good level of spice is practically a disability.

I don’t know what it is about me, but whenever I order something spicy I aways get that quizzical ‘Are you sure?’ look. Well this time, little mexican boy was holding my Quesadilla hostage, giving me a skeptical face that screamed out ‘I don’t think you can handle my spice, little Kiwi girl’ and said “You are going to cry.” Defiantly, I let him know I had eaten whole chillies before (actually a kind of stupid move, at Big Thumb restaurant – someone suggested the chilli challenge and Competitive Harriet came out. The stupid part was that we had finished all of our wine and had nothing but water to follow). He laughed at me and once again stated that no, I was definitely going to cry.

Sitting down at the table, I was so determined to prove I could get through my Quesadilla with no tears that I ate it twice as fast. My nose was running and my lips were so tingly even paw-paw lip balm didn’t help, but my eyes were drier than the Sahara. Win. It was a damn spicy sauce he put in there though, I’ll give him that.

3. Join a wine club

Actually that’s kind of fudging the truth… It was a marketing gimmick from Green Man Bar in Wellington… but it was great!

I’m almost through all of my goodbyes, and last night went for drinks with my fellow interns and later met my friends for dinner.

Turns out it is quite difficult to find a good happy hour on a Wednesday, but after asking my friends Larry and Sergey we found the Green Man Wine Club. Every Wednesday they have a new selection of guest wines for $5 per glass or $25 per bottle. If midweek drinking is your thing I thoroughly recommend it!

Delicious, delicious Oriental Kingdom roti

The bargain hunting rolled on with dinner at Oriental Kingdom. I had never been there before but heard great things about their signature dish: $7 Roti Chenai. A secret hotspot in Cuba St’s Leftbank, it seems everyone but me knew about it! Despite appearing busy, our food came out pretty quickly (hint: it isn’t so quick if you order anything other than Roti Chenai). Even though my dumpling entree came out later I was happy. There are few things more delicious than Roti bread and dumplings. In fact, I am such a dumpling fiend that if I spot them on a menu they are practically compulsory. You should have seen my face when I went to Harajuku Gyoza, a restauarant entirely devoted to Japanese dumplings in Brisbane. It has a hilarious website too!

A belly full of some of my favourite foods definitely softened the blow of saying goodbye to some of my favourite people. And all the wine probably helped too.

*I think this post should have been labelled ‘Join a Wine Club and Profess my Deep Undying Love for Dumplings.

2. Publish a blog

Back on the horse. Project started!

Technically I started a blog once before, but it was work related and I wasn’t particularly committed. This time around I am committed, full of ideas and I even bought a domain name!

It was actually kind of tricky to come up with a name. It felt like getting a tattoo, except it had to be a tattoo no-one else in the world had.

Next step, stop feeling self conscious that my writing is crap, tell people it exists and get out there and do exciting things to write about!

1. Start a project and fail immediately

The original plan was to start January 1st, being a new year’s resolution and all. Unfortunately I was too preoccupied gallivanting around the North Island with no computer or internet access for that to work out. When I came back I was straight in to work. Despite my best efforts, working 9-5 implementing a contract management system doesn’t lend itself to doing exciting, blog-worthy things.

Between returning from holiday, planning my departure to Europe, working full-time and not having actually started this blog yet, I managed to keep deferring kickoff for a good 16 days in to the new year.

I did manage a number of ‘firsts’ throughout that time, but I realised that it actually takes quite a conscious effort to ensure you do something new every single day. Maybe this challenge will be harder than I thought.

So instead I decided to defer the beginning of my 365 days to January 17th (no particular significance, other than finally getting this blog going). While I could drum up something new for each day, I was really clutching at straws for posts for the days I was at work. Instead, as a consolation prize, I do have a list of highlights from my first 16 days of the year:

1. Dance in the rain on New Years Day

While I certainly wasn’t the only one experience this, it was my first New Years at a festival where it practically rained the entire time. AND IT WAS AWESOME! It was also the first time I had been to Rhythm n Vines. A great lineup, a great bunch of people and a magical moment when the rain stopped just in time for the midnight fireworks.

2. Go to Tauranga

To be fair we only drove through it on the way to the Coromandel, but I have never been to New Zealand’s fastest growing city before.

3. Go to the Worst Best Restaurant

Down the road from the bach we were staying in for the post New Year’s detox was what looked like a lovely restaurant, albeit with a terrible name and incredibly tacky sign. However, ‘Go Vino’ had been voted ‘Best Restaurant in Coromandel’ and claimed to be a “Tapas Bar and Wine Merchant’ so we had high hopes. Sadly, it was the most shocking service I have ever experienced. In something that reminded me of the winning customer service experienced by David Thorne here, there appeared to be a bizarre practise in place where the staff at Go Vino would inhale sharply, grimace, and exclaim we are terribly lucky to be able to get a table at this time of night (8pm, well past the dinner rush) and look like it really pained them to serve us. I would guess the restaurant was about 1/3 full.  Perhaps if we were in the finest restaurant in New York, the wait staff were done up to the nines, bow ties and all and there were lines outside, behaviour like that may be expected. Unfortunately we were in Cook’s Beach, there were at least 6 empty tables the entire time, the waiter was a bizarre Latvian in cargo shorts, jandals and ridiculous purple aviators and he asked us to produce our ‘documents.’ A bottle of warm Pinot Gris, a forgotten entrée and two decidedly average pizzas later I can quite confidently say the only things salvaging the evening were the 3 lovely friends I was with and the wine waiting at home. At an appropriate temperature. The menu also featured a bizarre explanation of how some people find the concept of Tapas confusing, so rather than explain it in fewer words, they have invented (and subsequently needed to explain) an entirely new concept called ‘Kaizen.’ Not confusing at all.

4. Go floundering and feel like a murderer

My father and I have always found it a little difficult to sit still on holiday. Unfortunately for him he had a wee cycling accident and had a broken collarbone this summer so there wasn’t much windsurfing, sailing, kayaking or fishing to be done this year. One of few activities he could manage this year was floundering – a new hobby since I last holidayed with the family.  After pulling out the doe eyes and the ‘I’m crippled’ card, before I knew it I had put the wine down and pulled on my wet suit. Little did I know floundering would involve walking around in circles in the shallows for an hour trying to spot fish shapes in the sand, then ruthlessly stabbing them with a trident. When I finally spotted one I edged closer, hoping it wouldn’t notice me, hovered over it and tried to work out where to aim to combat the light refraction. There was nothing left to do but stab this poor defenceless fish, but I couldn’t do it. Hesitating a few seconds was enough for the poor little guy to work out what was about to happen and scurry away. I spent the rest of the evening being berated by my father and brother for losing him, but I was kind of OK with that.

5. Play ‘Articulate’

A brilliant board-game, played at a friend’s place on Waiheke Island. We enjoyed it so much we went another round (and it was a relatively long game). It is kind of like pictionary, except you describe words (without saying them) instead of drawing them. Much more fast paced. I tried to control competitive Harriet but I don’t think I did too well. I think I would still endorse Articulate even if I wasn’t on the winning team!

6. Win money at the Casino

I have been to the Auckland, Brisbane and Dunedin Casinos, but never have I gambled at one before. It just doesn’t interest me at all. I know the odds, they are shocking. How can I enjoy sitting at a table seeing my money disappear? However, this was my first ever casino trip before 3am and all but sober! At the end of two weeks of drinking none of us felt like a big night out in Auckland, even if it was a Saturday. So after a civil dinner in town we decided to go to the Casino (some of my friends have quite different views on gambling to mine). We arrived at 9pm and it was packed. There would have been thousands of people there. The boys had to queue for their blackjack table while the rest of us wandered around for ages to find an available pokie machine (it was that busy). You can spot the tourists and those there for novelty’s sake, but it actually made me sick to see just how many people were there repeatedly putting $2 coins in to the pokies as a legitimate Saturday night activity. After watching a friend lose her gold coins to the sparkling abyss I thought heck, when in Rome! and decided to empty my wallet of unnecessary spare change. I am leaving the country after all! A rookie mistake, however, as they only take gold coins. Here’s where things started going bad – I went in to debt to fuel my gambling. After a kind donation of $2 from another friend I gave it a go. I didn’t even fully understand what all the sparkling moving pictures meant, but somehow they made me feel hopeful! Unfortunately money was diminishing by the cent. 30c later I was bored and skeptical as ever (does anyone ever win these? It must be a scam). In the end I was just waiting for it all to disappear so I could leave, when all of a sudden the numbers were going up! I couldn’t believe my eyes. And they kept going up and up until it said I had $8! After that I decided to cut my losses, claim my $8 and repay my gambling debt. For a brief second though, I felt the temptation to put one of those coins back in the machine and see what happened. The very next moment I didn’t feel quite so morally superior to all of the people sitting around me putting coin after coin in to the pokies.

7. Go to the cricket and watch the whole game

Not! I gossiped the whole time and still have no idea what cricket scores mean.

8. Dye my hair a ridiculous colour

In 2011 I already went for ‘dye my hair a colour I have never been’ just for a laugh. I went a dark brown/auburn colour initially and wound up quite red after a disappointing trip to a hairdresser (stupid group-purchase-online-sites). It was all fun and games but dark red hair is incredibly high maintenance on a natural blonde and after a beach holiday it was starting to go pink. So I thought it was time to return to blonde and bought a couple of boxes of bleach. I knew it would be a challenge and was predicting at least 3 rounds would be necessary to rid myself of dark coloured hair.Little did I know the real issue was the industrial strength of hair dye required to get me back to blonde isn’t available on the supermarket shelf. 2 rounds later and my hair is now bright, bright orange. I’m talking bitten by a daywalker orange. I must look like the ginger kid with the best ever tan right now. Thankfully, my mother intervened and forced me to make an appointment with a hairdresser to finish it off before I could do the third round of hair dying and risk having it all fall out. With that comes a rather interesting wait to get my soul back/for my appointment. Two more days until I am cured of gingervitis!