Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bread, and Bikes!

Tuesday, 22nd March, 2011
Nelson, New Zealand

It's been another beautiful day here at the top of the South Island, and Matt and I have had a productive and satisfying day off. The big sale at work starts tomorrow, and I work the early shift, catering to the masses of crazies who will queue up outside the door half an hour before we open. The first day of the sale is a one-time extra savings day for all the club members, who take it very seriously and have been in on scouting missions all week, so tomorrow will be pretty wild, and it felt good to get lots done today and feel prepared to face the hordes in the morning.

After having a nice long sleep in, I set about baking a batch of bread, as we've been living off of budget brand $1.50/loaf bread for the last six months and felt the need for a change. In the long run it's cheaper to bake your own bread, at least if you are comparing to nutrient-rich, healthy bread and not the cheap stuff we've been buying. So last week I bought white and wholemeal flour, yeast, and other ingredients, and today I tried out Annabel Langbein's "Busy Peoples' Bread" from her wonderful book The Free Range Cook (a bestseller in NZ, Matt and I bought it for ourselves for Christmas and sent it home with Jessa. It turns out that Nickola just so happens to have a copy in her kitchen!). This is a no-knead quick bread that rises in the oven at a lower temperature before you turn it up to bake the bread. I'd like to try it again with actual loaf pans; Nickola doesn't have any, and I had mixed success with the available baking pans:
 (Click on Photos to Enlarge)

What doesn't show in the photos is that I put one batch in a smaller, round pan at first, but as soon as it started to rise in the oven, it completely overflowed the pan and dripped all over the oven. I had to pull it out and pour the remaining dough into a larger pan. The batter is a very liquid, sticky one, not like kneaded bread dough, so you can't shape it into loaves or rolls. It's also a very yeasty bread, a taste which is probably exacerbated by the fact that it wasn't in proper pans. I'm going to try and find some loaf pans at an op-shop this week, and also maybe try a more standard bread recipe next time. Still, it's awfully tasty. The seeds on top are a mixture I bought in the bulk section at Pak-n-Save, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries- delicious!

We got the call today that the bikes we looked at on our weekend were ready to be picked up, so this afternoon we walked down to Stoke (about a 30 minute walk) and got our bikes, and a free regional bike map! I had been getting really stir-crazy to get out and see something new, so our maiden voyage was a ride south towards Richmond, then back north along the coastal bike route, past mud flats (the tide was out) and lots of water birds. The bike paths around here are really really great, and I can't tell you how nice it felt to be back on a bike again, even if it was a slightly small mountain bike that was misadjusted for my height, meaning I couldn't extend my legs very far at all! Have no fear- as soon as we got home, we rifled through the van for the Leatherman and an Allen key, and after a few minutes' work, had everything fitted properly, so our two-wheeled commuting can begin comfortably tomorrow! Nickola has two spare helmets and a spare bike lock, so we are all set, if a bit dorky. The helmets are a bit dated, but I think it's the matching His and Hers green bikes that make us particularly stylish :)

The rest of the day has been filled with cooking, cleaning, gardening, and performing surgery on Nickola's vacuum cleaner, which had somehow gotten a clothespin stuck inside the internal cord spool, preventing the cord from retracting properly. Productive day!

Other than all of that, life goes on as usual. We're enjoying ourselves generally, and eating well and cheaply. Matt went to the local fruit & vege stand on his lunch break yesterday, and bought sweet corn, spinach, tomatoes, kumara, onions, and apples enough to fill his backpack, at a total cost of $18.00, and we're spicing it all up with fresh herbs from the garden here.

You can see from the books in this picture that we've been doing some thinking about what kind of exploring we want to do here on the South Island. We are working here in Nelson through the first  of May, it looks like, so we'll have about 3 weeks of May to explore before we have to get back to Auckland to catch our flight home. We certainly won't get as thorough of an experience on the South Island as we did on the North, but we're both okay with that- the North Island is really the place for the steaming hot subtropical summer and surfing we came in search of. We have also decided that we won't try and take any trips out of New Zealand until we fly back to the states. When we first came to NZ, we thought we'd like to go over to Australia and/or up to Tonga or Samoa at some point, but we've come to the realization that we wouldn't be able to go anywhere for more than a week, and would spend a lot of money doing so. It would be the kind of travel that is a vacation, and not what we're doing in New Zealand, actually living and experiencing the country. We sat down about a month ago and confirmed with each other that what we'd rather have is the fullest and most diverse experience of this one country, than small snippets of several different countries. So we'll stay here.

At this point we're trying to figure out when and how we'll travel around to the places we want to see south of here, when and where we'll sell the van and surfboards, and how we'll get back to Auckland. We have several options for each at this point, and one of them is new and pretty exciting: Magic Bus, a hop-on, hop-off bus company here in NZ, has offered me a free South Island Pass in exchange for blogs and photos involving their company! I found out about the opportunity from a customer at work who was doing the same thing, and I contacted Magic, who said yes, definitely. So if I want to, I'll get a free pass for the month of May, and have free transport to all the places I want to see on the South Island! Matt might try and do the same thing, catching up on his blogging (http://thegreatselkie.blogspot.com) and taking more photos, or we might sell the van somewhere where he would drive to, and meet up with me for some leg of the trip by bus. It's all up in the air right now, but lots of exciting thing to think about!

With that, it's time for me to make tomorrow's lunch and head for bed. May you all be well and happy wherever you are, and thanks again for reading!

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