'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Ann and Claire’s Decadent Pumpkin Soup

One wonderful meal our German friends cooked for us when they stayed, was this rich, superb-flavoured version of a pumpkin soup. Unforgettable!


1 finely chopped onion

1 kg chopped pumpkin

60 gm butter

1 dessertspoon lemongrass cut in slices

1 tsp fresh grated or chopped ginger

1/2 chopped chili or a dash of hot chili pepper sauce

1 tsp mild curry powder

1 green cardamon

1 clove

100 ml dry white wine

400 ml chicken stock

pinch sea salt

pinch sugar

2-3 dessertspoon lime juice

freshly ground nutmeg

2 dessertspoons coriander leaves (optional)

water to add, depending on consistency of soup


  1. Gently soften onion and pumpkin in 30 gm butter in a large pot for a few minutes, stirring continuously. Add and mix in lemongrass, ginger, chili, curry powder, cardamon and clove.
  2. Add white wine and stock and season with salt, sugar, lime juice and nutmeg.
  3. Gently cook without lid for 15 minutes. Puree.
  4. Add the rest of the butter and water if required. Season again to taste. Serve with a sprinkling of coriander leaves.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Surfing Lesson at Mount Maunganui

In the spring we bought the girls a two-hour surfing lesson with the inimitable 'Space' Warbrick. They had never been surfing before. He was wonderful and began by teaching them all about sea safety, rips etc, before going through all the moves, positions and points of balance they would need on the boards, but while still on the beach. Finally they progressed to the water and... well you can see from the images how excellent the tutoring was. It's not easy to get people confident enough to be actually standing up on the boards within two hours. Thanks Space! And great going, Natalie and Claire!

Monday, 22 February 2010

..and you smell like one too.

When I was growing up we all used to sing this song to each other on our birthdays:

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
You look like a monkey
And you smell like one too.

We used to laugh and laugh as if it was the funniest thing in the world.

You can cyber-sing it to me today, if you like.
'Cos I still think it's funny.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Tommy Emmanuel plays Borsalino

It's been a while since I posted any Tommy Emmanuel.
Here's that lovely swinging Chet Atkins piece.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Falcons at 'Wingspan'

Debbie Stewart, founder and manager of 'Wingspan'.

Near Rotorua is a remarkable place. It is the location of the New Zealand Birds of Prey Charitable Trust "Wingspan". It's also where I went last Friday. I went for the purpose of talking taxidermy, and I wasn't prepared to be mesmerized and delighted by the real birds.
At Wingspan there is a cafe and shop, and a small museum containing some beautifully mounted exhibits and a display depicting the art of Japanese falconry. And there are the aviaries that house the birds - the Morepork owls and Karearea- the New Zealand Falcons.

Karearea is a rare bird in New Zealand; even rarer than the Kiwi. It is estimated there are no more than 1500 pairs left. So it was a real thrill to watch these beautiful, alert and fierce-looking birds from up close. They are New Zealand's fastest birds and, in the world, second only to the Peregrine Falcon. They can reach speeds up to 200 km per hour and can see eight times better than we can.
The short article below is good if you want to learn a bit more about them.

We walked through the aviary at about 1 pm. The birds were distracted and alert, looking out the windows because it was near to the time when they are let out to fly.

Now if you are like me and have never been close to one of these raptors before, you'll know what I mean when I say they are almost frightening. They are not very big but have large dark eyes, and a bill that really looks like it means business. They have huge black talons, and they can move really, really fast. When one of these turns its head around, looks you in the eye and then flies straight for you, you are glad there's two layers of wire between you! It is a primal response and hard not to flinch. I felt as though I was just a little furry mammal in its sights.

At 1.30 pm each day visitors are invited to hear a talk and watch the falcons flying free and being trained by their falconer to take their food on the wing. It was wonderful. I was especially interested in the fact that at the start of the session an Australasian Harrier Hawk was gliding over the ridge of a nearby hill and the falcon was extremely interested, craning its head around and unresponsive to her trainer. We were told that if it had come any closer, the falcon would have defended its territory and possibly even killed the harrier.

If you're feeling bold, you can slip the glove on and have them take meat from your own hand. What a thrill! They are not very heavy, and have been trained at an early age to be very gentle with their claws. But they are so obviously wild, it felt almost a honour that they would sit on my hand.

Afterwards when the centre closed, I was pleased to have all my taxidermy questions answered by Noel. And then a very special treat: Debbie brought in a delightful two-month old falcon fledgeling which she let run around the floor while we drank coffee and chatted. It was only about two weeks off flying, and was so endearingly funny; running about like a kitten, exploring things with its bill - the edge of the carpet, a piece of rope, mewling now and again in a cute questioning tone, falling sideways and struggling to right itself back onto its huge blue feet and so very curious about everything!