Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Whirlwind Time in Windy Wellington

People say I'm a well traveled feline. I'm not going to argue with that.

Living in the Southern Hemisphere has enabled me to also enrich the knowledge of those living in the north. I mean, I get remarks like "how come it's summer there? it's winter here." Duh, I'm in the south, in the antipodean. So everything is in the opposite. Even the way water swirls before escaping through the hole in the sink! I'm not going to teach Geography today. It's more of Travel and Leisure a la Angelina.

Everybody knows New Zealand? Remember....earthquake...Christchurch? But of course New Zealand is more than that. I've been to other parts of the country besides Christchurch. Today, we'll go visit Wellington, New Zealand's capital city.

As any good netizen would do, I googled the weather, temperature et cetera before the impending journey. It was in summer, clear skies, temperature 25oC. OK, that's similar to an average day in Sydney so not too cold, not too hot either, just nice. Hmm...I sound like Goldilocks here.

Anyway, as the flight was in wee hours in the morning, put on a thin shawl for a little warmth. That shawl saved my life.

Three hours and we touched down at the Wellington International Airport, which is like wedged between the sea and the mountain. The Air New Zealand pilot was good! Didn't ruffle my fur at all. And the stewardesses....aaahhh....genuine smiles all round.

In Māori, Wellington goes by three names:
1. Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara (refers to Wellington Harbour and means "the great harbour of Tara".)
2. Pōneke (a transliteration of Port Nick, short for Port Nicholson - the city's central marae, the community supporting it and its kapa haka have the pseudo-tribal name of Ngāti Pōneke).
3. Te Upoko-o-te-Ika-a-Māui (meaning The Head of the Fish of Māui - often shortened to Te Upoko-o-te-Ika - a traditional name for the southernmost part of the North Island, derives from the legend of the fishing up of the island by the demi-god Māui.)

Immigration was a breeze, make sure you show them the return ticket, or else you won't be allowed in. Oh, and no funny food items too. The New Zealand customs and quarantine authorities are the second strictest after Australia, I think.

Anyway, first order of the day was Mama's meeting with some people. I stayed in the background (nodding off under the boardroom table). Then woke up in time for lunch.

The excitement all happened after lunch. It's going to be pictorial from hereon.

A must visit - Te Papa Tongarewa (Museum of New Zealand). It has an awesome gift shop. Mama bought heaps of paua shell thingy here. Don't know what a paua is? Google it!
We looooove this esplanade next to the museum and port. Imagine ladies of Victorian era wearing those gorgeous gowns and gentlemen in tuxedos and umbrellas.....
Circa Theatre on Taranaki St. It's actually just opposite the museum.
Downtown Wellington. Seriously, didn't see many humans in this city. Population circa 400,000 I was told. Hmmm....compared to Sydney's four million!
Affectionately called The Beehive - New Zealand Parliament building. We arrived when visiting hours were over. Oh time perhaps. Wellington replaced Auckland as capital city in 1864. It only had population of 4,900 then.
The Beehive and its predecessor. The building to the right is the old Parliament.
View from Kelburn, the top most station of a funicular railway linking the hilly suburb with Lambton Quay. The cable car project started in 1898 and was launched in 1902, mostly used by students attending Victoria University.
The building on the left is the Skyline Restaurant at the Kelburn Station. It was opened in 1984.
Not too far from the top of the hill cable car station is the Wellington Botanic Garden. In fact, you can take the cable car to visit here. We were imagining ourselves coming here in the late afternoons to chill out like that bloke on the bench. Bliss...
The best part of the garden is the Rose Garden. Beautiful orange rose.....
...and pink....
....and yellow (complete with edible insect snack)....
...and purple....I especially like this one but Mama didn't allow me to pick any. Beautiful smell too.
....and red (these ones are humongous)....
Then we went to Mt Victoria, Wellington's highest peak, on the opposite side of Kelburn to look at this view.
Mountain climbing anyone? No steep terrain, just steps, to the peak of Mt Victoria.
Some sort of monument on the peak of Mt Victoria.
What's this cannon doing here? It's an old one though.
Nice suburb where the motel we stayed in was. I think it's called Hataitai.
Mama was drooling at the sight of these waterfront NZ$400,000 a piece?
The building on the left (orange roof) is Bella Vista Motel on Evans Bay Parade, where we stayed. The grey boxes on the left, were on sale at NZ$250,000 each.
Mascot of the motel. This marmalade tabby belongs to the motel proprietor. It was saying goodbye as we were checking out. Of course I can't resist taking its photo.
Angelina's note: What else to do in Wellington? Of course, any hardcore Lord of the Rings fan knows that this is the city to visit if you want to "relive" the movie. Many tourist agents offer LOTR packages here. purrr....meow!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Earth Hour

Hi! This is Nikki.

We observed Earth Hour last Saturday. For the uninitiated, Earth Hour was started by WWF Australia in 2007 and now 138 countries have joined in. Just switch off all lights for an hour, from 8.30 to 9.30pm. Next year, repeat the ritual on the last Saturday in March.
Pardon the red eyes, peeps. But it was so dark that we had to use the flash.
Nikki's note: Hey Angelina! Sleeping on the bathroom floor like how I did during Earth Hour is an option for you. It's cool, you know.....! purrr....meow!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Tribe Has Spoken

Dear Angelina,
Why are you so worried about the sleeping arrangement in this house? There's more than enough space for all of us. Provided, you understand the pecking order.

1. Tom is the top cat in the house. There's no question about that. He is Mama's first born and will remain so furrrever. So, Tom will always get preferential treatment by Mama and Dad. King Tom gets to do whatever he wishes to do.

Tom on Dad.
2. Nicole is the only daughter in law of this family. She's the Queen of the house. No usurper is tolerated.

3. Michael is the Crown Prince. He guards the family well and reports to Tom. Offending him means insulting Tom.

4. Nikki (that's me!) is the Crown Princess. She is the apple of Dad's eyes. She can do no wrong in his eyes.

Tom, Nikki & Nicole on bed, sans Mama or Dad. Michael on top of wardrobe, as usual.
5. This is your position now, Angelina. At least you're not last on the list.

6. Brad. Slavery has been abolished hundreds of years ago. We've declared him free from the bondage you wound around him. Poor guy. He's family now, get it?

Yours sincerely,

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Insecurity Intensified

Angelina: Mama, how's the sleeping arrangement like?
Mama: What sleeping arrangement?

Angelina: You the other house?
Mama: Hush!!! I'm not telling the world about our bedroom antics.

Angelina: got it wrong. Hmmm...let me rephrase the question. Where and how does everyone sleep in the other house? I mean Tom and family.
Mama: Oooohh...*blush* I thought you were asking about your Dad and I.

Angelina: Mama.... Tom and family! Where would I fit in?
Mama: Hmm....OK, visualise the bed in front of you. Dad on left, Mama on right. Tom on Dad's chest or arm pit, Nikki on window sill behind headboard or sometimes between Mama's legs, Nicole in between Mama and Dad. Michael is usually not on the bed but on top of the wardrobe, on a suitcase.

Angelina: Auw....that's a full house. Isn't there space for me? I usually sleep on the pillow next to you and Brad inside your blanket...
Mama: Yeah...there's space on the pillow if your Dad is away. Otherwise, you'll have to negotiate with him. As for Brad, there's still space inside my blanket.

Angelina: Negotiate with Dad? Hmm....what if the others don't want me on the bed?
Mama: Then I'll tell them I'll close the bedroom door and not allow anyone in. How about that?

Angelina: It's all or nothing? They'll surely hate me for that.
Mama: So, negotiate with Dad.

Angelina: Sigh.....
Mama: As I've told you, we'll cross the bridge when we come to it, OK?

Monday, March 21, 2011

A 3-in-1 Sunday

Yesterday was a happy day in the household.
It was:
1) Nicole's Gotcha Day - her seventh year of becoming Mama's daughter-in-law (she's married to my brother Tom).
2) Dad's birthday - can't tell you his age but in feline calculation, he's pretty veteran (almost retirement age, he said).
3) Aunty F's birthday - my Mak Long, Mama's elder sister.

We spent the day at home, Mama baked a cake and we all sang Happy Birthday and then coz it rained buckets, we didn't go anywhere and spent a lazy day at home. Lazy, but happy. purrr....meow!

Happy Gotcha Nicole! Isn't she pretty?

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Conversation with Insecure Angelina

Angelina: Mama, what if they don't like me?
Mama: What are you talking about?

Angelina: You know....Tom and family. What if we all have to live under one roof and they don't like me?
Mama: Well, I can threaten them. If they don't welcome you or Brad, I'll say I'll put them up for adoption. How about that?

Angelina: Eeeuuwww....that's mean. Nobody would want to adopt them coz they eat heaps. What if I don't like them instead? What would you do?
Mama: Then I'll put you up for adoption. Anyone should want you coz you don't eat much. But you're'll have to admit.

Angelina: Can't things stay as they are?
Mama: I'm afraid not.

Angelina: know....home to me is where you'll be. Purrrlease don't put me up for adoption.
Mama: Then behave and adjust. We'll cross the bridge when we come to it, OK?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Inspired by Curtis Stone

Kiss the Cook? Oooohhh....YES!!!! (pix from Uncle Google)
We were helping Mama reorganise her library when we came across a magazine with Curtis Stone on the cover (anyone unfamiliar with that name purrrlease stop reading and do something else... go...shoo!). Anyway, there are so many wonderful recipes in the publication. Mostly courtesy of my darling Curtis, of course. It's very rare to find someone that cute to be talented in the kitchen too. And of course, we had to try out his recipes. See if our talents combined can match His Dishiness.

We tried Curtis'  Mango Glazed Salmon

Ingredients (to serve 8):
3/4 cup white wine vinegar (we used balsamic vinegar)
1 tbsp pure honey
1 tbsp ginger, finely chopped (we grated it instead)
1 mango, peeled, pitted and cut into large chunks
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp coriander, chopped finely
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
8 x 170g salmon fillets, skin removed

1. To make glaze: place vinegar and honey in a medium saucepan, over a medium heat. Cook until honey has dissolved and liquid has thickened slightly, about 2 mins.
2. Add ginger and mango. Bring to low simmer and continue cooking another 5-7 mins, or until softened.
3. Remove from heat and transfer contents of saucepan to a blender. Process until a smooth puree forms. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, season with lime juice and soy sauce, and fold in coriander.
4. Preheat grill to high and line a medium baking tray with foil.
5. In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over high heat.
6. Season salmon with salt and pepper. Place in pan, flesh side down, and cook until golden brown, about 15secs. Flip over to sear other side for another 10secs.
7. Immediately transfer salmon, flesh side up, to baking tray lined with foil, and coat with mango glaze.
8. Place tray in oven under grill and cook approximately 5 mins, or until salmon is just done and glaze starts to brown. Transfer salmon to a plate and let rest 2 mins.
9. To serve, transfer fish to platter and serve with sides.

Our version....we used cutlets instead of fillets.
Burp...(excuse me!) It was delicious! yummmmyyyy.....Curtis would be so proud of me.
Angelina's note: I looooove Salmon and I looooove mangoes and I adore Curtis. What a combination, eh? Mama, may I have another piece? Curtis, would you feed me, purrrlease...? While I sit on your lap? *winks* Eat your heart out, Aunty Caren. Curtis is mine..... purrr.....meow!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Blues: Writer's Block

What else to explain the non-blogging behaviour? Uncle Wiki has the explanation here (doesn't he always?). I'm just tired.....the heart and mind are in Japan.... purrrr.....meow!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Trouble on Tuesday

Learning a new language is such a chore. Maybe I should hide here until the "teacher" gets tired.
Hmmm....I used to be able to fit into this drawer. Too much junk in here now.
OK....out with the junk. More space for me now.
Wait a minute! How do I hide if I can't close this drawer? Brad!!!! Help me!
Angelina's note: Sometimes you need an accomplice to assist you in your quest. Hmmm....does that mean being kinder to Brad? purrrr.....meow!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Mind Your Language, Angelina!

One upon a time in lalaland.... on one fine Sunday.....

Scene 1: Bedroom
Mama: Angelina....wakey wakey....time for breakfast....
Angelina: Hmmmmm......(stretching all out).....what's for breakfast, Mama?
Mama: What do you think? Your usual, of course. Unless you want something else?
Angelina: May I have salmon instead of tuna?
Mama: Of course you can.

Scene 2: Kitchen
Mama: Here you are, Your Royal Highness. Salmon on a plate.
Angelina:'re so kind. I'm no royal anything...I'm just your sweet darling daughter....
Mama: Whatever..... Hurry up. We need to start on your language lesson.
Angelina: On a Sunday?
Mama: Does it matter what day? I have to work on weekdays so I'm free to teach you only on weekends. Unless you want to do it at night?
Angelina: Okay.....weekend is fine as long as it's daylight.
Mama: that you don't miss your favourite TV shows....
Angelina: You know me so well, Mama....
Mama: Oooh...shut up and eat. Be quick.

Scene 3: Study
Angelina: I have the textbook, notebook and pencil ready. I'm yours to teach....
Mama: Good girl. Now, turn to page 10, Chapter 2: Forms of Greetings
Angelina: Wow! Is this what I'm going to say when I meet Tom for the first time?
Mama: Yes. Also when you meet Nicole, Michael and Nikki.
Angelina: Can't they speak English? Why must I learn their language?
Mama: Yes. They can speak English. But you don't. You speak Australian.
Angelina: Oh! What's the difference?
Mama: That's why you need these lessons. Now read.

(to be continued)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Raw vs Canned

Felines and canines, check this out.

It could be the reason why my Mama has increased our raw beef/lamb/mutton/chicken weekly quota. hmmmm......I'm not complaining. In fact, I loooooooove it. yummmm......

Oh humongous carton of beef for me? Yeah.....bring it on, Mama.
OK, I admit. I love chicken satay too. Minus the sauce. I hate eating peanuts.
When will you take me to the abattoir, Mama? Would love those fresh, really really fresh mutton.
Angelina's notes: No matter what triggered the decision, I love it. I like my food raw. As for the rest of the family, stuff the cans people! purrrr.....meow!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Nikki's Story

Hi! It's Nikki here. Angelina says I have to tell you all myself. Of how once upon a time I had this ugly scab on my stomach. It was ugly and I hated it. It was also itchy and throbbing and painful sometimes. It also hampered my otherwise healthy lifestyle as it made me spend time more on Mama's bed or our red sick bay....errr.....chair. 

Hmmm....what happened was, I was walking with a limp. I don't really remember what happened then. Did I fall off something as I was doing my routine exercise? Anyway, Mama and Dad took me to the vet. They prodded and did an X-ray on my foot. It was painful, OK!  Well, I didn't whimper or anything (hmmm...surely not good for my street cred) but I bit whoever dares touch my leg. Then the vet gave some medicines that Mama forced me to swallow every morning. For the leg, they said.

Then I started to feel itchy around my tummy. I don't know what it was so I started scratching and licking and scratching and licking ....until....a scab began to develop and started becoming bigger and bigger and bigger. Mama had a scare coz that's where the vet had previously cut to spay me. I've never been kissed....(Tom and Mike and Ralph don't count as they're my father and brothers).... 

So off we went to the vet again and this time they said I somehow had an allergic reaction to the medicines they gave me for the hurt leg (which was just a minor injury in the first place). Hahaha....Mama was sooooo ready to sue the vets. So, they pleaded and didn't charge for the second visit. So I get some kind of cream to lather on the scab and somehow it reduced the size. Phew! I'm so over it now. Actually not coz I'm still talking about it now....three years later.
Look at that ugly thing on my stomach! 
Close up of the ugly thingy. Yuks!
Aaahh...still have to keep it clean and sanitary and germ free.... for why I get the nickname "koala"....the incident with the leg and scab made me less active for a while. And so I became somewhat rotund, chubby, tubby...whatever. Well, better "koala" than if they were to call me "telly tubby" I guess.
Do I look like a koala? No, right?
So, there you have it. My story.

The second sexiest girl in the house (after Angelina, of course),
Nikki Lauda Kidman-Cruise (that's my full name.....sigh....)