Month: February 2010

Raisin the wondercat

I thought it time that the lovely Raisin made an appearance.

Mr Raisin

Raisin's Natural habitat

Full Name:  Raisin Aitchison-Schaumann

Age: 8 human years

Address:  The same as my feed-person

Married to: Tessa (really!)

Hobbies and Interests:  Lying – on beds, compost bins, paths, bbqs.  Eating, tormenting the two dogs who live next door, endeavoring to access the feed-persons bed during the night to get the warmest bit. Purring for no apparent reason. Watching compost insects for hours.  Meeting the feed-persons car when she comes home from work with very loud raucous miaowing.  Having cat friends over via the catflap which Raisin can’t use but which other cats are really good at using, then letting those friends squirt around the house and eat Raisin food.  Partial to hair licking. particularly partial to people who use certain hair products, one of the less attractive habits.

Something interesting about Raisin:  Born to abandoned solo mum in a coalbox in Alexandra.

Something else interesting:  My siblings or past siblings  names all start with an R. Rupert, Rover, Ruby and the sadly deceased Roxy (identical twin).

Testimonial:  Raisin is beloved by all from his household.  He loves it when there are feed-persons daughters home so that he received the attention that he knows he deserves.  He is in a long distance relationship with his wife and is not totally committed to her because he believes that Megan is of equal importance.  Nick is reluctant to express his true feelings for Raisin in a public forum (but we all know the true depth of his affection).  Raisin is a cat of good character despite several bad habits and is loyal and loving.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

What a brilliant read this book is!  A gorgeously rich gothic novel with layer upon layer of story.  I was hooked from the first page.  Margaret is a bookshop owner whose life has been totally changed by the discovery that she was a twin, and that her other twin died in order that she survived.  She has written a book and has therefore been engaged to write the memoir of a famous writer Vita Winter who is one of the world’s most popular authors.  She heads off to the remote home of the writer and becomes totally engrossed in the stories that she is told of the writers life.  As she peels back the layers and finds out the truths of this woman’s mysterious life, she discovers all kinds of things about herself.

The book has lots of Jane Eyre themes running through it, the novel is mentioned quite a lot during the course of the story as parallels are drawn between Margaret’s discoveries and the story of Jane.  So, if you like dark gothic novels that keep you up late at night with fantastic writing then just read this book and if you liked books like Rebecca by Daphnie du Murier this will be just your cup of tea, or perhaps a baileys on a cold night.  Loved it.


Long long ago I lived in Japan (twice) and while living there  managed to try many and varied types of food.  There are some favorites that still remain after all these years.  Most are difficult to re-create at home, but this is easy and yummy and although there are rules which must be followed my kids and I have had this dish a lot over the years.  Tonight it was Nick’s request for his 17th birthday dinner.  So this is how I make it:

Colourful isn't it!

Into a huge bowl break about 4 eggs.  Add aprox 1.5 cups of self raising flour, 3 chopped spring onions, 2 tablespoons of rice flour (not necessary but I like the texture it adds), some chopped bacon or chicken or pork cut into small pieces, and about a quarter of sliced cabbage – regular green one.  Mix this all up well.  Heat up a non-stick frypan of a decent size, add a slick of oil, not too much.  Add spoonfuls of the mixture to the hot frypan and cook them as you would a pancake, albeit a very lumpy one.  Fry until golden on one side then turn over.  Onto the top add some okonomiyaki sauce – you can buy it or you can make it from the recipe below.  You need enough sauce on top to be nice and thick and make little cuts into the pancake so that the sauce goes into it a bit.  Cook them until the bottom is golden and your meat is cooked.  Remove from heat and place on plate.  On top, add some beni shoga – pink pickled ginger, not the sort that you get on sushi but the proper kind and this you will have to buy from an asian grocery store.  On top of the ginger put squirts of Kewpi mayonnaise – again it must be this kind, regular won’t work.

For the sauce:  Mix a big dollop of tomato sauce, a big squirt of soy sauce and a tablespoon of brown sugar together.

Nick - full of okonomiyaki

You should be warned.  This is very very filling.  In Japan you would go out to a restaurant  to have this for dinner and it is about as close to junk food as they had there before McDonalds et all arrived on the scene.  When you have it there you mix your own individual pancakes in a cup and cook it yourself over a hot plate.  It should be accompanied with Chuhai or Shochu which is a very yummy alcoholic drink based on vodka and soda with flavouring of your choice.

The girl who played with fire by Stieg Larsson

The second book in the Millennium series.  I declare right here that I haven’t read the first one, The girl with the dragon tattoo, but I saw the movie, see the post below, and was assured that the second book picks up the story pretty much from where the movie ends.  It is a seamless flow, well done to the movie makers for putting almost all of the first book in the movie.  The character of Lisbet Salander is very cool, she kicks butt, she has a well defined set of morals even if the code is somewhat different from what would be considered the norm.  This book has mountains of action, it keeps the pace fast and even though there are multiple characters with hard to remember names (which can seem rather similar at times) you don’t get lost.  It is fantastic.  No 3 in the series is waiting for me and as soon as I’ve had a wee break from Sweden for a couple of weeks I will get right into it.  Can’t wait.  Below is the trailer for the book series from the Australian publishers. Here is the link to Stieg Larsson’s website.  As most people probably know he wrote all three books, presented them to his publisher and then tragically died.  What a loss, these thrillers are intelligent, clever, and very controversial.  There has been debate in my local library world about whether they should be in the school library given the violence and drama, but as I sit here there is much worse than what these books contain happening on my television right now, so they will be in our library.  It would be a shame to deny the clever readers the opportunity to read these beautifully written books.

The summer garden

Archway with compassion and regal lily

Yellow asiatics and delphiniums

My garden peaks during mid January.  This year I was swanning around the North Island in mid January, having myself a gorgeous time with my partner and visiting friends all over the place, and going to places I had never been before.  I know, it is a tragedy, I’ve traveled the world, lived overseas in exotic locations for years and never seen the North Island (well north of Paraparaumu and that was when I was 8!) apart from Auckland and Wellington when I go to meetings and conferences or leave the country.  Anyway, I was away for 12 days, and Megan (the middle baby) was chief executive in charge of feeding Raisin and deadheading roses and watering the veges.  She did well!

When I arrived home it was all a bit overblown but still there were treasures to be found.  One of the best things was that my Xmas lilies were so slow to flower that I got home in time to enjoy them.  It was very cool and quite damp here this summer so things became very long and leggy and have been a bit slow to flower.  My bergamot is as tall as the fence which is ridiculous!

Claude Monet and pink daisy

Also in flower was this gorgeous rose, Claude Monet.  It is a lemon yellow with a pink stripe.  I’ve a bit of a thing about stripey roses and am quietly collecting them.  I have Claude, Ferdinand Pichard and Scentisima so far, I’d love Rosa Mundi but missed the rose sale this year.  My garden is getting rather full now with only one major area at the front left to plant and it is currently full of potatoes which are about ready to harvest.  If only my capsicum was doing as well as the spuds – never mind.

Things have changed considerably since these photos were taken. Claude is having a rest before working on an autumn flush, William Lobb a gorgeous thing is pretty much done for the summer and Tess, which I didn’t think would survive has produced some gorgeous blooms.  Now is the time of the dahlias though and you can look forward to seeing some pics of them soon, I’m a bit delighted with how they are doing this year.

My Mum’s Tomato and Rice Bake

Over the years I have made thousands of these.  When I go home to Alex this is what Mum makes for me cos she knows what I like, and even though hers is almost the same as mine it always tastes better from her oven.  This is great for vegetarians with a salad and crusty bread (and if they are extreme vegos you can get vegetarian cheese). This makes quite a lot.  Adjust as required.


Add a chopped onion (and a couple of bay leaves if you want to) to 3 cups of rice while you are cooking it.  When it is cooked spread half of it out in a sprayed shallow casserole dish.  Over the top of the rice spread lots of lusciously ripe tomatoes, spread out the rest of the rice on top of this then sprinkle lashings of strong flavoured cheese and parmesan mixed together.  Grind some sea salt, or in an ideal world Malden Sea Salt, and freshly ground pepper over the top, be generous.  Bake until the top is golden in an oven at about 180 degrees.  It should smell fantastic at this point.

Serve with salad, bread, sausages or bacon.  It is even yummier the next day, great for lunches and you can add spinach and even use tomato sauce in the middle, but the original is actually the best. I will post a photo when tonight’s one is out of the oven.

The girl with the dragon tattoo by Stieg Larsson

I gave in, I bowed to pressure and I went to see the movie before I had a chance to read the book.  Wow did I have a good time.  It is brilliant, the acting is superb, the setting picture perfect and the tension is totally extreme.  In the theatre there was this huge intake of breath when the tension finally broke.  Yes it is a bit grim, very grim, it makes you squirm in your seat but you should all rush out and see it.  Blimmin fantastic.

In other related news tonight I start the second book in the series, straight to number two for me.