Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lady Marmalade

I had a notion to make some marmalade, so I looked around t’internets and found, then adapted someone else’s recipe.  Here’s what I made:

1.3kg oranges (this turned out to be 5 large navel oranges)
1.3kg sugar
1.25l water
Juice of 1 lemon

I sliced the oranges very thinly, then put them in a pot with the water and the lemon juice to soak for 24 hours. This, apparently, allows the pectin to develop. I then boiled it up (with a lid on the pot) for 40 minutes, added the sugar, and cooked it at a rolling boil, uncovered, for a further 40 minutes. 

Then I started testing the set every 10 minutes, by putting a small amount on a refrigerated plate and sticking it back in the fridge for two minutes. At the 4th go (after about another 30 minutes) I got the classic wrinkles after a couple of minutes in the fridge, and stopped cooking. I let it stand and cool a bit for a further 30 minutes before ladling it into jars.

These quantities made 5 jars of marmalade, which was handy, as that's how many empty jars I had. 

This morning I tried it on my toast, and it worked! It had formed a proper jelly, and tasted nice and orangey, and wasn’t too sweet. This has been much more successful than my previous marmalading attempts which have either failed to set properly, or ended up by being a gloopy, sticky something that bore no real resemblance to real marmalade – possibly due to my being suckered in to using preserving sugar when I should have stuck to the ordinary granulated. I think the pre-soaking helped as well, so I’ll continue to use this technique.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

48 Hours

On Wednesday night we went to the Embassy Cinema, at the invitation of a couple of friends, to watch the Wellington finals of the “V” 48 Hour Film competition. This is a competition run in 8 cities throughout New Zealand, where the competitors are invited to make a 7-minute film in 48 hours. The competition is open to professionals and amateurs alike (although they must all be volunteers – professionals cannot be paid), and attracts professionally-made short films as well as film-school/student entrants, and amateur film-makers. The 48 hours were between 7pm on Friday 20th May and 7pm Sunday 22nd May, and all films had to be started, filmed, completed and edited/post-produced in that time period.

The competition is run on a city basis initially, with a grand final between the city winners held in Auckland.

The 12 films we were to watch were the Wellington finalists, so (we assume) much of the lower-quality films had already been deselected by this point. Before the showing, however, we were treated to a film which hadn’t made the cut for the main competition, but was being submitted into a new(-ish) category of “Incredibly Strange”, where the weirdest submissions from each city battle it out for the title of “weirdest shit to come out of someone’s brain and onto a film screen”.

The rules also stipulate that 4 required elements are included in the film. These are a character, a line of dialogue, a prop, and a camera shot. As we watched each film it became clearer what each of these were, and we could then anticipate and spot the usage of these elements in each film - a character called Bobby Young who was a school bully, "what have you got?", a piece of bent wire, and finish on a freeze frame.  Also, each entrant is given a randomly-generated genre in which to make their film. This is a bit of a challenge, and it was notable that some genres were more heavily represented in the finals that others – only one musical made it through, but horror seemed to be well-represented.

After the films had been shown, the awards were given out. Most of these were for film-making rather than acting, although there were “Best Actor” and “Best Actress” categories. There were also “Best Use Of” awards for the required elements. One film kept picking up awards – best script, best cinematograpy etc – and it was no surprise when "Sketch" by Couch Kumaras was awarded “Best Film”. The film hasn’t been uploaded to the website yet – I think they’re waiting for the finals in Auckland before they make the films available to the public. If you’re a Timelord you can see it here by travelling forwards in time. Ordinary mortals will have to wait until it’s published and I can redirect the link.

We’ll be keeping an eye out to see how the Wellington entry fares at the finals next week.

Monday, June 13, 2011


A week after receiving my Approval In Principle, I took another phone call: this time from Malcolm Pacific to tell me that my passport was now available for collection. So I am now a resident of New Zealand. So far as I can see from elections.org.nz, this means that I will be eligible to vote in the General Election later this year, and in two years’ time (subject to some not-very-onerous restrictions), I’ll be eligible to apply for full citizenship. This takes five years in total.

For the time being, though, it opens up much more of the job market as many companies won’t employ people who aren’t residents, except on short-term contracts. It also means I have better access to healthcare and other such benefits.

It also means, paradoxically, that I can leave NZ (my previous work visa was only eligible as long as I remained in the country). So maybe we can pop across the ditch at some stage – although not at the moment, as flights are grounded due to the Chilean volcano ash cloud currently covering the country.

(Thank you National Geographic)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sign On The Dotted Line

Last weekend we went out househunting again, and found what we thought would be a nice place to live out in Miramar, near the airport. We went to the “open house” on Saturday, and liked it so much that, although we had 3 more houses to see that day, our heart wasn’t really in it. We went through the motions and saw another house that was very good, but much more expensive and without a garage. (This is important for keeping the pride and joy under cover – I’ve seen the effects of exposure on New Zealand cars, and it ain’t pretty. Something to do with the thinner ozone layer here in the Southern hemisphere, I think.)

We returned on Sunday (they were having open house on both days of the weekend) , and spoke to the agent, and submitted application forms. Then we went home, and held our breath…

On Tuesday, I noticed that the ad on Trademe had been removed. Concerned, I called the agent, who told me that the owner had always intended to remove the ad after the weekend, and that we were definitely in the running to get the house. Later that afternoon, he called to confirm that we were indeed the preferred prospective tenants for the owner, and invited us to sign a contract on Friday.

We both took the afternoon off work, and drove out to Miramar to meet the agent and owner at the house, and sign the contract. We still have a bit of time left on the lease to run here on The Terrace, so we arranged a mutually beneficial moving date of Saturday, 9th July. This gives us some time to transition between properties rather than trying to arrange everything for one day, as we will have to arrange delivery of white goods and furniture before we move in properly – it’s being let unfurnished, so we’re going to have to supply everything except the range, oven and dishwasher, which are all built in.

This weekend we’ll be going out shopping for furniture and white goods…I think we’re going to make some salesmen very happy, but I aim to drive a hard bargain – after all, if we’re going to be buying three large electrical items in one store, and buying several items of furniture as well, we’re going to be bargain-hunting as much as possible.

We’re aiming to make this much more of a “home” than we have at The Terrace, which has always felt temporary to us – particularly with the cheap rented furniture and being somewhat small. With this house, we’re thinking of staying for a couple of years – until we’re in a position to buy in Wellington. So we’ll be able to get furniture and fittings to make it much more our own place, and also be in a better position to entertain our growing social circle. This also means that any of you, dear readers, who are considering visiting the coolest little capital in the world – we’ll have plenty of space to accommodate you! So please, form an orderly queue, and get booking those airline tickets! ;-)

The Trademe ad has been taken down, but you can still see details of the property here where it's being offered for sale rather than rent. I don't know how long those details will stay up, so click now to avoid disappointment.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Approval In Principle

This morning I received a phone call on my mobile. I recognised the number and it was, indeed, my Migration consultant calling to tell me that he has received “Approval In Principle” for my Residence application.

I went along to their offices at lunchtime to give them my passport and complete a form for the final payment of the migration levy. This all gets sent off to Auckland and, so I’m told, should be processed in about two weeks’ time.

It’s all taken a bit longer than we’d been led to believe, but soon I shall be officially resident in New Zealand – woohoo!

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Lead Wait

On a chilly Friday evening in Wellington, we went to St John’s Bar and Restaurant for a pre-theatre dinner. This was assisted by our good friends at the Entertainment Book, who helpfully took care of one of the main courses. I had a Chinese duck pancake to start, followed by Wagyu steak, and Nicola had a crayfish raviolo and pork belly with scallops. All very nice, and a waitress who knew about wine, to boot. We didn’t linger for dessert and coffees, as we had a show to see.

Next door at the Circa Theatre, we’d booked to see The Lead Wait. This is an NZ play first produced in the 1990s, now having a revival. It centres around four characters and the relationships between them – some of which are explicit, others only hinted at. It also involves all four characters undressing and having a bath at various points during the play. The set is a house in the midst of renovation – to the extent that the bathroom door and walls have been removed – I leave the rest to your imagination (something that we were not required to do)! It also involved one of the characters gutting and cooking a fish on a griddle, so our clothes will probably smell of fish now.

It all ended rather abruptly and we left in a somewhat confused state of mind about the meaning of the final line, worrying about the death of the canary, and wondering what it all meant.