Tag Archives: Marlborough

The sweet side of life

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Edinburgh’s Luca’s ice cream – back in the day 

 

I love Marlborough. I may be a relatively new import but my fresh eyes appreciate it every day. It makes me smile, inside and out.

So when I was asked to share my blog on ‘searching for the good life ‘ in Admire , I didn’t hesitate!

Moving to a new area gives you the opportunity to reevaluate what is important to you, what you have left behind and what makes your new hometown great.

Amongst a long list of revelations are some that have made life just that bit sweeter.

Literally…..

I’m thinking sweets. Sweet treats. Cakes. Slices. Just like Grandma used to make ( or sometimes even better…!)

In the bigger cities, you are swamped with homogenous offerings that are mass produced and fill shelf after shelf of the vast number of bakeries around town. They satisfy a sweet tooth or craving but that’s about all. No one is ever going to ask for the recipes.

However, visit any home bake stall at a school gala or similar and just make sure you’re there early as they are always the most popular, sell out quick and make a tidy contribution to fund raising.

Books on home baking, jam making and preserving crowd the shelves and most of us can admit to having a few in the kitchen – either for use or (more likely ) decoration !

We love it. We can’t get enough of it. Honest, simple and ‘home-made’.

And lucky for us, Marlborough does it well and does it in abundance.

We are blessed with the number of high quality cafés that cater for every craving. But the stand out is the vast array of authentic baked goods that we are spoiled with . Most are lovingly made fresh each day.

Trust me, this is not normal.

Normal is the generic and standardised produce mentioned above that floods the larger town and cities.

Whether it’s a slice of heaven in the form of the lemon syrup cake with mascarpone and vanilla buttercream filling from Ritual, or the fabulous date and cinnamon scones that follow a precious recipe from generations of talented family chefs from CBD, or many many on my list, we are spoiled for choice.

Baking and treats are an emotional issue. They connect us with memories and can transport us in an instant to happy times gone by – often involving parents and grandparents.

When I was growing up in Edinburgh, it was a family treat to go to S Luca ice cream parlour for a chocolate nougat wafer or a ’99’  with their incredible vanilla ice cream ( there were 3 flavours back then – vanilla , chocolate and strawberry but they were all amazing). Then when my girls were growing up in North Yorkshire , it was Suggits ice cream in Great Ayton for their treats. Both have been around for a long time. In Marlborough we don’t have an ice cream shop with such a history, but we should and luckily we have one that merits longevity. D’Vine gelato transports me back to the best of the best. Not only that, but they make their own fudge on site – another treat destination for young and old alike. As we start our own next generation this year, I’m looking forward to many reasons to take them there for their treats.

Now although I will admit to having a selective sweet tooth, I’m very particular when it comes to choosing my empty calories! Not any chocolate will do ( I’ve been known to re route business trips to allow me to visit See’s candies in the USA for one particular chocolate…….I kid you not). But I’ve happily adapted to some of the wonderful creations at our very own chocolate factory – Makana – with the Marlborough salted caramels being my go to when I need a bit of a chocolate fix. How lucky are we to have our very own gold ticket to visit whenever we want – and get free samples too!

There are so many reasons to be happy here in Marlborough. Some more important than others.

Sweet treats and nostalgia may not have been top of my wish list when it came to moving but it has arguably been the icing on the cake…..…!

Fi

 

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Makana Chocolate factory in Marlborough

Shaken and Stirred but not Broken

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Minimal damage at our place

 

The earth moves in mysterious ways. Often noisy, threatening and destructive ways.

No one in my part of the world will forget in a hurry where they were at 12.02am on Monday 14th November.

I was naked underneath a door frame.

Not an image I want to linger on for many reasons but most importantly because they broke all the rules for earthquake survival.

The earthquake lasted about 90 seconds. It seemed less. I nearly vomited ( they don’t tell you that in the adverts). The motion sickness stayed with me for two days. We held on as we surfed with the waves and then when it momentarily calmed, we grabbed some clothes and shoes and went to grab the Doodles ( who were fine throughout) ,got into the car and drove away from any potential house or tree collapse. Thankfully that was only a short distance down the drive as we are pretty much on open land.

Aftershocks followed and the car happily bounced around oblivious to the severity of the cause. The sky was white and no birds sang. It was eerie . Almost other worldly.

Elsewhere others were not so lucky.

I used my phone to get radio, as well as get instant texts out to family and friends across the world who would be hearing about the incident very quickly and we could therefore head off their concerns for us and also ensure our communications did not get tied up when we may need it most. The main news source was from callers to the radio graveyard shift and they knew no more than we did. We checked on neighbours and friends.

What we did know was that something of that power had to have done some significant damage. And it did. Our neighbouring town of Kaikoura – 130 kilometres from us-  was suffering .

The following days were weird. News of damage to property came through quickly once the media was able to get amongst the action. Fatalities were small but it only takes one to change many lives forever.

But the mass weirdness was something that was felt by many and no one quite knew how to describe it or even to admit to it. It was something I had never felt before.

It was a clumsiness. A sadness. A blackness.

It was headaches, nausea and fear.

It was internal torment of being practical and realistic about what may or may not happen in future, coupled with irrational fear at every minor tremor that followed.

There have been over 4000 aftershocks in 7 days.

It calmed and disappeared in the days ahead and the experience became part of the learning and reflection of what to do if there is a next time.

We have been told to expect another major shake in the next 30 days. Some people will not be lucky. But most of us will again be fine with minimal damage.

Life is back to normal for most of us. Local businesses are desperate to demonstrate that, and it is our responsibility to help them continue trading. People are being kinder and the support for our neighbours who are suffering reinforces faith in the human spirit.

What have I learned? Apart from the blindingly obvious requirements of being able to look after yourself and your family for at least three days should you lose power, contact, food etc – something we ( and most of New Zealand) have been prepared for, for years ;

  1. Don’t sleep naked. Or if you must, keep some clothing nearby!
  2. Have a pair of shoes beside the bed.
  3. Don’t stand in door frames. That’s stupid ( as I now know) .
  4. Drop to the ground and make yourself as small as you can , Cover your head and go under a strong table. desk or bed and Hold on.
  5. Have your phone fully charged. Always.
  6. Use social media. It informs family and friends quickly and preserves your battery for what you may need it for. It also connects you with others nearby and gave me an immense feeling of support.
  7. Be realistic. This is nature at its powerful and destructive best. Respect that but don’t be fearful. Keep everything in context.
  8. Keep a supply of chocolate at hand ( this came from Civil Defence so who am I to argue! )

 

With love from the Shaky Isles,

Fi

Something’s bugging me

Literally .

Although not just something . I know exactly what it (they) is (are).

There were a few things that failed to make it on to the property particulars when we moved to Marlborough and, more specifically, to Paradise.

One was the wind in late spring / early summer. Although we had visited the area many many times, we must have just hit lucky on avoiding the wind. Windy Wellington – your more beautiful and slightly wine addled neighbour across the Strait can most certainly give you a run for your money on the wind front – at least for part of the year.

But that’s not it.

What’s bugging me is bugs.

Not affecting me personally, but there’s most certainly a fleeting possibility of threat for our precious babies budding out in the vineyard.

At a certain time of year (now) , the brown beetles or May bugs ( creatively named after their annual appearance in the northern hemisphere ) awaken from neighbouring paddocks to strike fear into the hearts and pockets of grape growers. The bugs choose to burst into life as the sun sets on beautiful days and, from nearby paddocks, aim for the moon and land on the vines. If they get their chance they will then happily procreate and eat their way through the leaves and buds, potentially causing damage.

My first reaction on hearing about our unknown challenge  was confidence that there must be something that could deter them ( or more accurately blitz them into oblivion). But being organic, with a karma-esque attitude to living things, we have found our options are limited.

So, our ritual now is an enforced walk of the vineyard every night as darkness creeps in. Torches in hand, we inspect the leaves and flick the bugs to the ground, where they can no longer do any damage.

No matter how many times we are told by those who have considerable experience in this : “ you’ll know when you have a problem” – ( thankfully, we haven’t found out so far) – we still spend our time cursing the little bug(ger)s and counting how many we knock off. Although a swarm in the thousands is what we are told will indicate an issue (?!) , we still feel the overwhelming need to protect our babies and that’s where it gets compulsive. We are the equivalent of first-time parents. Anxious to do the right thing but no experience yet to give us any real perspective. Being told that we are probably the only growers paying such attention is little comfort.

Although small numbers of bugs will not cause damage, the very fact they are there ‘bugs’ M & I . So we currently spend our evenings knocking as many off leaves as we can, while acknowledging nightly that we can’t get around every single vine.

But we still try.

A good friend who is born and bred in both the area and the industry and therefore experienced in such matters, not so reassuringly said to me, “ you really don’t have a problem until they’re mating on your eyeballs….” .

Now there’s a less than comforting thought to hold for the next few weeks…..

But. 

And there’s always a but!

This has given us the pleasure of having a nightly walk together under glorious inky skies. The doodles happily chase hedgehogs and whatever else they pick up a scent on. We talk. We appreciate our surroundings. We count blessings.

Welcome to Paradise !

Yours (hopefully) bug free,

Fi

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The little                  brown bug(ger)s!

51 things I love about you Marlborough ……the final 11…

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Canadian poppies 

I don’t know why I picked 51 – well actually I do – it was at our front gate when I had another ‘ that view is stunning’ moments. It stuck with me. But it could be so many more.

This is my final 11 and again, in no particular order. Every day brings more to add to the list.

41. Escalators. Yes really. The only two in Marlborough – based in the wonderful Clubs of Marlborough. A novelty that attracts visitors.

42. Clubs of Marlborough. If you’re not a member , you should be. And not just because of #41 above….

43. Conversations. We have them. Lots of them. With strangers. In the street. In the shops.All over the place.

44. Daffodil Day. The town turned up. It was a mass town event that only small towns can do and do well.

45. Our hospital. Wairau hospital is small but very efficient . It is peaceful. It has more time than bigger city hospitals. Its good to know it’s there if you needed it.

46. Wild flowers. At this time of year the Canadian poppy populates the still dry river beds and turns them into a sea of glorious orange. And Verve – the flower farm, makes it easy to spread the wildflower love at home too.

47. Bubbles. Although Marlborough is world famous for its Sauvignon Blanc and increasingly its fabulous Southern Valley Pinot Noir , we also have bubbles. And good bubbles at that. World class, french beating bubbles at No 1 Family Estate.

48. Pollard Park An oasis of outstanding beauty and tranquility in an area of beauty and tranquility.

49. Seasons. We have them. But each is underpinned by being the sunniest place in New Zealand. Official !

50. Picton. A beautiful spot and much more than the “place to catch the ferry”.

51. Beauty. we have it in abundance. Whether for the perfect wedding ( an unashamed plug here for my Celebrant work!) or for those lucky enough to call it home. Natural beauty makes things better and enriches lives.

Thanks Marlborough.

 

51 things I love about you …..Marlborough ( part 4)

Continuing my cheerleading for this beautiful region … ( following part 3)

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Marlborough cherries – best in the world…!

31.  Black garlic . Covered in chocolate ( optional – but delicious !)

32. Cherries . In abundance from November through January . My pick is in Jacksons Road . Heaven .

33. Top Town Cinema -like cinemas used to be .

34. The pretty wind fans decorating the Labdscape – and turning into a Dantesque scene during frost season !

35. Arbour restaurant . Great people . Great values . Great food .

36. Olives . Everywhere . No excuses for not having your own healthy olive oil .

37. Blue cross . Great to donate to and also to find bargains .10 cent jam jars – say no more !

38. The Vines Village . Idyllic spot to visit , work ,hangout or just grab a taco (on Tuesday’s )  and beer !

39. The people . Even if you’re not a 4th generation Malburnian !

40. Blue skies . Summer and winter .

 

11 to go and hundreds to choose from !

Fi

Sheep may (not) safely graze….

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Who’ll blink first….

This used to be one of my favourite pieces of music.

No more.

Sheep are my friends no longer and I care not whether they graze safely or otherwise.

I have started a blog 3 times today and each time I have suffered ‘ovis interruptus’ or put another way, rampaging sheep through every part of the property they shouldn’t be.

Whoever said sheep were stupid? Well they’re not, and they’re quite athletic – managing to hurdle fences at will.

After all these years watching Country Calendar, you would think I would have picked up something about mustering. But no, nothing , not at all.

However I may not be able to tell you what to do , but I can certainly share a few pointers on what not to do.

  1. Having a bad cough is not conducive to mustering sheep. It makes them crazy and also makes them run. Fast.
  2. Waving your arms does little – except amuse neighbouring vineyard workers
  3. Swearing only benefits yourself. Temporarily.

3 times they have been returned and 4 times they have escaped.

They have won.

I, have temporarily admitted defeat.

The farmer, who owns these athletic and smart sheep has now been summoned and he can take it from here. In fact he can take them from here.

I for one am both sheeped and shagged out.

Lamb for dinner anyone……..?!

F

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No you may not safely graze in my garden……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

51 Things I love about you ….Marlborough (part 2)

Continuing my love affair with this perfect patch of Paradise….

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Perfect Kaikoura Cheeses

11. Our Farmers Market . The best in produce from the area. Especially love Leah’s freshly made cakes and bread from Mississippi Herbs , Cheese from Dan at Kaikoura Cheese and the best organic blueberries in the world from Windsong Orchard

12. The number of roundabouts ( or lack of them) !

13. Staying with the traffic theme. No traffic lights ! It took me a while to see what I was missing while driving through town!

14. The Wairau River. Icy glacial blue and fiercely beautiful. A wonderful walking companion.

15. Muffins at Saint Clair vineyard. In fact all the food and wine is great, as is the location, but the muffins are spectacular and worth a morning coffee visit !

16. The ’10 minute’ Blenheim travel mystery. Everywhere is within 10 minutes. How is that even possible….

17. Shops that still shut on Saturday afternoons.

18. The abundance of roadside olives – an untapped industry in itself.

19. Our local ( free) papers. Everything you need to know!

20. The abundance of cafe’s and baking on site. From scratch. Not mixes. Heaven 🙂

….to be continued….

 

51 things I love about you ….. Marlborough  (part 1)

51 things I love about you …Marlborough ( part 1)

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Last weekend marked our one year anniversary of moving to Marlborough.

On 2nd July 2015, two very bemused Doodles joined us on their first ( and likely last) flight. They shivered their way across islands and sulked only momentarily as they were released from their crates into their new South Island life.

Our first stop from the airport was to the local pet store to get the essentials – happy dogs, happy life….

I still remember the drive along Middle Renwick Road on a brilliant Marlborough day – pristine piercing blue sky and clean , lung bursting pure air. It was home. It was always meant to be home.

So Marlborough in salute of you and for the best of years, here are my 51 favourite things… ( part one).

  1. The air – as mentioned – it’s perfect. So much so that we are selling it in cans to Asia. I kid you not.
  2. The wine. Oh the wine. I have learned more than I ever thought possible and it’s barely a drop in the barrel I  am now the proud owner of !
  3. The mornings. Walking with the Doodles on a crisp morning with air that almost hurts to breathe in deeply, is magical.
  4. The wood burner. Only meaningful when it’s really cold – and we’ve had a few of those days!
  5. Burleigh pies. Just yum!
  6. The Wither Hills and The Richmond Ranges – now I know who you are , you stun me almost every day with your respective golden and moody beauty.
  7. Omega plums. I have never tasted anything like it. Picking a warm sun kissed plum on an evening walk in summer was perfect.
  8. Walnuts. The most wonderful and satisfying harvest of the year. All tucked away in the freezer to keep us going until next time.
  9. Traffic. Or lack of it. Still makes me smile everyday.
  10. Parking meters in Blenheim that can still take 10 cents ( 3 minutes ) – perfect!

 

to be continued……  🙂

Fi

 

 

 

 

 

Chasing cows

After a busy day, it was time for the fire to be lit, wine to be poured and feet to be lifted.

My favourite time of day.

I’ve gotten very used to the incredible peace and quiet of Paradise, even though we have assorted animals sharing the space.

However, you know that feeling when something just doesn’t quite stack up? I can never usually hear our three Belties ( Oreo, Tollhouse and Anzac) from their paddock, but this time it felt like they were just outside. Funny that – as that’s exactly where they were.

Now until you have eye balled a one tonne Beltie outside your front door, you just haven’t passed your ‘ I survived the country’ test…. I can also now say I’ve played ( and lost) a game of ‘who’ll blink first’ with Tollhouse.

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Who’ll blink first…..?

As I feared, three one tonne cows can cause quite a lot of damage to a garden however my positive side welcomes the natural fertiliser I now have in abundance.

An urgent call to M (who conveniently was on another island) advised me not to panic them ( them??!!) and then added that at least it gave me more material for my next blog…..( thoughtful !)

While waiting for a helping hand from neighbour T ( who helped last time I thought I had lost all 3 cows : see previous blog ), I decided to take action and well and truly earned my cattle wrangling 101 badge.

Single handedly, over a period of an hour ‘steering’ them through gardens, cars, vineyard, paddocks, stream and bonfire ( which, incidentally is still going 10 days on ! – see other previous blog), I managed to coerce them back to their own corner of Paradise – none the worse for their adventure.

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Back behind bars……

What I’ve learned:

  • cows can run – really fast.
  • cows dont respond like dogs. Actually our dogs don’t respond at all so no help there.
  • gates are usually shut for good reason.
  • Belties are REALLY big when you’re standing a metre away from them.
  • Belties have beautiful eyelashes.
  • you really can do things you never thought you would ever have to, if you have to.

 

Fun time over.

Back to the fire.

Pass the bottle !

Fi

 

 

 

 

 

 

The joy of olives

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Under Tuscan Sun has a lot to answer for .

For many years I have hankered after long lazy lunches amongst the olive trees , feasting with friends on local produce, washed down with the local tipple . Olive trees always featured .

I was a late adopter of olives. Somehow my taste buds didn’t quite want to acquire them but I’ve been a firm fan of olive oil ( pure extra virgin, of course) since I started to cook – it always felt like a nod to good health, whatever I was making !

An unfulfilled dream for M & I since moving to NZ was to grow our own olives and press them into our own oil .Our last attempt produced zero results for us, but the local bird population still thanks us. However, last week it happened .

Now we don’t quite boast the plentiful olive groves of Tuscany – or even as many as almost everyone in Marlborough  who all seem to have a grove tucked away or at least access to one .

We have 7 trees.

And only 4 have fruit .

And they’re not even hugely productive. By calculations based on a complex equation shared over a recent dinner with friendly local experts , they were expected to provide me with a whopping 2 litres of olive oil .

So , not enough to retire on really….

Undeterred I looked to other means to supplement our meagre crop . Having been dissuaded from procuring more from laden roadside trees ( ” that’s stealing you know “),   I sent a message to new friends and neighbours to ask if any crops were going unharvested. It’s at this time I start to realise that not everyone was quite as excited as me and most saw their olives as little more than a windbreak at best . “Yeah we did all that once , said a very over-it neighbour “.

So the offers flooded in ! With the much welcome help of M and my wunder sibling D , we managed to pick a mighty 42.5kgs over a few hours .

It’s not easy work but it’s not as hard as grape picking that’s for sure !

I really enjoyed every second of it .

We are very lucky to have a olive press cooperative in the area so I threw the olives in the Ute and went in search of good oil .

“So how many containers in total” he said . “3-  they’re all there ” I replied, pointing to the Ute.

“How much have you got” he said . “About 40kg ” I said beaming with pride .

“It’s minimum 250kgs” he said ( with a look I’m beginning to recognise in people now ).

Ok so I’m getting that ‘newby from another planet ‘feeling again .

It doesn’t get any better when a nice old guy comes up behind us and says to him , “where do you want my first tonne ? “.

Whether it was pity or kindness or perhaps a Marlborough blend of both , my ( now not so) impressive crop was accepted and overnight magically transformed into 7 litres of deliciousness .

I couldn’t have been happier collecting it in my new , shiny and very expensive olive oil container complete with tap ! (M didn’t fail to notice – or comment –  that everyone else made do with plastic buckets…..!)

It was a truly joyful process from start to finish .

So, future plans :

  • We’re going to plant more olives ( they’re also apparently good wind breaks!)
  • I’m going to stay enthusiastic for more than the first year.
  • We’re going to aim for 250kgs next year but if not I will hope for another benevolent and sympathetic sort to turn a blind eye at the Press ….

And I’m definitely going to have my long lazy lunch amongst the olive trees with my very own good oil but,  Under Marlborough Sun 🙂

Fi

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My beautiful shiny olive oil thingy and the first tasting!
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Molly the Doodle, my trusted quality controller
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The place that does the magic !