Thursday, 19 January 2012

Pavlova Made Easy

I can't believe that we have been here for more than a month and are just now having pavlova for the first time. For those of you who don't know, pavlova is a meringue-based dessert named after the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. It has a crisp crust and a soft, light inside. The dessert is thought to have been created in honour of the dancer after one of her tours down under in the 1920's.

The crazy part is that Australia and New Zealand have been arguing over who actually created this lovely treat, and they went to court over the whole thing. At this point in time, it has been determined that New Zealand is in fact the winner. I knew you were wondering...
The dessert is a popular dish and an important part of the national cuisine of both countries, and with its simple recipe, is frequently served for special occasions.

Rather than try to make it from scratch, I came across these lovely store made pavlova. Much easier and in such great individual servings. Is it cheating if the kiwi's are doing it??

Pavlova is traditionally decorated with a topping of whipped cream and fresh fruit like kiwi, passion fruit, and strawberries.
I am switching things up and using an idea from a former co-worker, (you know who you are), and trying a lemon curd topping in place of the whipping cream.

I found the lemon curd recipe on a kiwi TV program and it was very easy to follow:

2 Lemons - the zest and juice of both
1 cup of sugar
3 eggs lightly beat
3/4 cup of butter

Put all of these ingredients into a sauce pan and cook on a VERY low heat because you don't want to scramble the eggs. Stir regularly for about 15-20 minutes. Once this has thickened and looks glossy, strain it and put it in the fridge to cool until you are ready to serve.
Wait until just before serving to top your pavlova, otherwise it will just get soggy.
(this made enough to top 6 servings)
Finished product - be as creative as you like. I unfortunately cannot write what Jeff said as he took his first bite of this dessert. He loved it, and you can use your imagination.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Working in New Zealand

Well, I think it is time to discuss the "working" part of our our working holiday. Armed with a one year working visa for New Zealand, that allows us to pick up contract work with the same employer for the full 12 months, my job hunt started a month or two prior to leaving Canada.
My first step was revamping my resume to meet the format used here. There was not much tweaking before I had it sorted out to my liking. I decided leave as much detail as could even though I did not expect to be working at the same level or in the same industries as I had at home.
My next step was finding the most popular job search website in NZ. I uploaded my resume to and started applying for positions.

I kept an open mind and applied for as many positions as I could (at least 200). With my resume I included a cover letter that spelled out my employment goals, visa information, and skill summary.
I started getting feedback from employers advising that they do not regularly pursue employees until the are in the country. I still kept applying and eventually was contacted by five different recruiting companies and set up interviews with them. It was great to speak with them to get a feel for the work climate here and what type of positions I could expect to find.
I was told to bring proof of my degree and I also brought a stack of reference letters so that there would not be any issues verifying my employment history as a result of the time difference. I also decided to bring a suit in order to be a formal as possible for interviews. Generally the level of dress here is fairly casual but I was told on more than one occasion that the suit was a good idea.
Upon arrival I re-connected with the recruiters and supplied current contact information. I then met with them in person. Because we arrived a couple weeks before Christmas I was not expecting much. Most companies shut down between Christmas and New Years with many of them not stating back up until well into the New Year. I was in luck though and had an opportunity to interview for an administrative position in a New Zealand based insurance brokerage. I ended up being successful with the interview and signed a six month contract that started on the ninth of January.

It ended up being a short but fruitful search that will allow us to save up here for some more future travelling. The only advice I can give for anyone that decides to do something similar is to be patient, be prepared and don't try to force things to meet your wants, just be confident and see what happens.

Magnificent Mt. Eden

In an effort to explore more of the city, we took a morning and ventured into the community of Mount Eden. A 15 minute walk from Jeff's work is the beautiful Mount Eden itself. This is the highest volcano in Auckland and one of the most culturally and archaeologically significant sites.

The start of the trail

The view of Auckland from about half way up. Jeff said that we needed to acclimate before we went further... In the process we also took some glamour shots, why not?!

The crater is a sacred site dedicated to the local god of the volcanic field.

Jeff and I were walking around this sundial at the top of the volcano and were stopped by two people. One woman from Saskatoon recognised our accents and said "hello", while another American woman and her son approached us and asked where we were from. She explained that she just got her citizenship, and welcomed us to the country. Such a friendly bunch!

If you look closely you may see some familiar places, and their distances from this point.

You can see the terraces which were modified and used for housing when the Maori occupied the mountain in ancient times.

When we were done the climb we were ready to explore Mount Eden Village. A short stroll down the road from Mount Eden with lots of great little vintage shops and cafes.

Look! We found food...fancy that. This cafe was a great stop after our morning. We sat outside and enjoyed a lovely view of our 'Everest'.

If there is a carbonara menu choice, we order it. This version didn't disappoint.

This was a fantastic citrus calamari dish. Perfectly cooked and served with little mixed vegetable cakes and salad - a perfect combination of flavours.


We are having a lot of fun discovering new places and food in Auckland, and will bring you all of our finds from week to week. Stay tuned :)

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Feed the Hungry!

With a kitchen the size of a shoe box we have been fairly limited in the options of what to prepare for meals. We are lucky because we live in a diverse area and the food is amazing. We frequently use Tripadvisor to find places near us to fill our bellies. New Years Eve in Tairua was no different. We fired up the iPad and found a short list of places to eat, (three). After deliberating we decided to head towards The Cyprus Tree, an Italian restaurant on the other side of the bay from the backpacker lodge we were staying in. It was raining out and we did not have reservations. We set out and became thoroughly soaked within minutes. Derek, the genius that he is, decided that since the tide was out we could save time and "book it" across the beach. He is an idiot. We were swallowed in mud up to our knees and I had a sinking feeling that I may not make it to 2012. It looked like we were not going to find the restaurant open and were most likely not going to be eating. We persevered and dragged ourselves through the door hoping they would not notice the mud all over us. Without a reservation we were sent to one of the last tables at the partially enclosed patio. This is where our night started turning around.

Once we were seated, Jess took off to the bathroom and washed the excess mud on her legs in the sink...classy.
We ordered a sparkling wine to start the festivities. For an appetizer we had an arugula salad and some pizza garlic bread. Our mains were delicious pasta dishes that filled us so much we couldn't eat dessert. The Cyprus Tree hit the spot, and it didn't break the bank either.

The next morning we set out to recover from the night before with anything covered in Hollandaise sauce (my personal favourite). We found the Hot Wave Cafe and all three of us devoured eggs Benedict. Bennie's are super common here and they include spinach, (usually only found in Eggs Florentine back home), and the ham from a Bennie into a super breakfast meal.

A view of the cafe: An open inside-outside concept.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

New Years in Coromandel

After a short car ride - our first rental experience on the left side of the road, we made it to Tairua. This cute town is located on the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula. We pulled up to the Tairua Backpackers Lodge in our stealth Nissan Sunny, and were assigned a room with a view.

Not only did this place have a great view. It was fully equipped with an adult tree house, three chickens, and picnic tables designed with jandals, (This is not a spelling mistake. This is what flip flops are called in NZ).  Most mornings started with clouds and a drizzle of rain, but between noon and dinner time we were under the sun.

January 1st 2012 was a day to remember. Hopefully this day at the beach was a hint of wonderful things to come for the year.

Jeff and Derek scouted out a perfect spot for our beach hut and we were set.

Hot Water Beach was an interesting stop along our travels. For two hours on either side of low tide, you can access an area of sand at the middle of the beach where hot water oozes up from beneath the surface. This happens because lava flows approximately 2km below this point.

People typically bring spades to dig their own personal hot spa pools, but we simply dug in our feet for the experience. At one point Jeff stood only two feet away from me and couldn't keep his feet in it was so hot. I on the other hand had a more comfortable temperature.

Some of the sights on our drive home. So many wonderful shades of green.
We took the long way back which covered the remainder of the Coromandel Peninsula.


Krazy for Kayaking

On day two of 2012 we booked a kayak tour of Coromandel's Te Whanganui a Hei Marine Reserve. Say that five times fast. This tour was booked through 'Cathedral Cove Kayak Tours'.

Our departure point at Hahei Beach

Kayaking is one of my favourite things to do because it is a refreshing way to see so many things that you typically can't by boat or by swimming. I have told Jeff on many occasions that I will kayak everywhere I can for the rest of my life. It is a great all ages sport that does require some skill, but you don't have to be an IronMan.

This was our first time in sea kayaks, and Jeff put me in control - odd I know. I was steering with foot peddles, and after a few awkward zig zags I got it down. I knew I was doing well when at the half way point Jeff didn't take over.

Our tour guide Jenny's cafe set up on Cathedral Cove Beach. She made it all. Jeff had a Long Black (A drink that we order a lot here - an Americano with less water. More like an espresso). I had a Mochaccino. A great drink with a great view.

This picture makes me think of the movie 'Open Water' minus the skarks.

The boys modeling the latest in kayaking gear

Overall this was a great investment in fun and like a 5 year old at the park, I didn't want it to end.