Soursop season brings Christmas cheer

My goodness, it's hard to believe that a whole month has gone by, and no blogging, and it's not for want of news, call it pregnant lady lethargy!
Firstly the Pleaiades are up and the fruits are here with us. Quelle plaisir! We have mangoes, soursops and pineapples a-plenty, the tahitian goosberries and lychees have been and are almost gone again.


So it's time to get busy jam-making and feasting on the bounty. I made a great lychee coconut milk sorbet, served up with fresh mango, a real gourmet treat. We're also gorging ourselves on the humble soursop. It turns out that it contains active ingredients that are supposedly more effective than chemo at targeting and killing cancer cells, but without the unpleasant side-effects, it tastes good and is freely available here in our backyard. Not sure I need more excuses than that to overindulge!
Other exciting and news-worthy events on the social calendar include a tourism day - complete with dancing in the caves, historical re-enactments and a huge tahitian feast, the official opening of our new marketplace complete with a visit from the high commissioner (I was entertaining the charter jet's pilots, so I missed the excitement as usual!), the inauguration of the renovated Church in Moerai (with several hundred participants, several delegations arriving on charter flights) 
as well as the much anticipated arrival of the NEW Tuhaa Pae, the cargo boat, the new model that we've all be awaiting for the last 6 years or so, is sadly too big to fit in the harbour entrance, so it has to sit outside in the bay - unloading took over 48 h with containers being lowered onto a barge and shuttled to and fro - new but not so improved....
.....they weren't able to carry enough fuel this first trip, so we're back to fuel shortages and the shops are looking surprisingly bare for the week before Christmas!
School's out again (already?) and the girls are at home, but not after a school visit by Papa Noera himself.....he biked into school looking strangely lithe and tanned, sporting a pair of shades and a remarkable pot-belly!

The kids were all going wild with excitement, it was truly fun, if a little surreal, Christmas time here often strikes me that way. Matotea recited a poem for us and there were rounds and rounds of a tahitian version of Jingle Bells......an extraordinary experience indeed, not too much like our nine lessons and carols services!
Now it's wedding time, exactly 6 years on from our own wedding and our neighbors and family are launching their big Rurutu wedding, it kicked off this morning with the anticipated glamour, the first family showed up with heaps of gifts (gift-wrapped plasticware) boxes of frozen chicken thighs, a huge hog and the requisite bunches of taro and bananas, it really is something to see, and honestly less nerve-wracking from the spectators seat.
Here the five couples (dressed in a rather glitzy red and white number) are being paraded around wrapped in fabric and tifaifai, by the visiting family and co-ordinating parties! Matotea has decamped to meme's house to be closer to the action and of course hang out with the cousins.


Tropical Teatime!

I'm feeling rather pleased with a jam break-through that I've just made. I've been experimenting with coconut preserves for a long while, and I've finally come up with something I actually like, that's not too sweet, but still good and coconutty, made with fresh coconut and coconut milk, it comes out a little bit like dulce de leche. To celebrate we made had a proper tropical afternoon tea - vanilla tea and coconut scones on the terrace, with Matotea holding court, how jolly civilized!!!!


My Incredible Edible Garden

OK, I must admit that I'm feeling rather smug about the garden at the moment - it's true that not everything I planted has grown, and quite a lot of precious seedlings haven't made it through the busy spell, or those not planted out still in my newspaper pots have succumbed to the destructive forces exerted by my merciless puppy and cat, who both think nothing of sitting plum on top of my plant pots or better still shredding the pots with abandon, scattering the contents where they will  (Grrrr!). 
That said I'm learning more every day about the culinary bounty that surrounds us.
I may have already mentioned my flower syrup, which is a real hit on crepes, but that's run of the mill now. I managed to make a first and very precious single jar of hibiscus jam (yes, you heard right hibiscus jam, using a couple of hibiscus varieties that I have got growing here), it is an amazing vibrant red color and has a very pleasant, albeit subtle flavor. 

Whatsmore, I've just discovered daylilies. 
We have a fabulous display of them every spring, it's a real visual treat, but they're also a treat for the palate I discover now - we tried deep fried flowers (after the success of the squash flowers), and they were pretty good I admit. 
Supposedly you can eat almost every part of the plant from the under ground tubers, young shoots to the blooms and buds (aparently an important ingredient in authentic sweet and sour soup - I'm up to try, we've got some dried mushrooms lying around, but sadly we can't get the tofu here to make it a really decent version)! 


A birthday to Remember

Last week was birthday week, Matotea turned six and Viriamu was a bit older.
While Viriamu refused to celebrate, as usual. Matotea had a wonderful week of birthday fun - Dana our friend and mermaid was with us, so I had some help with the celebrations.
We did a mermaid treasure hunt on the day, as well as the obligatory screaming children, cake, balloons and jello.
Later in the week Matotea and Heimana got a chance to hang out with a mermaid and try on their very own tail!

It was worth it to see the girls' faces......


The chaos continues....but in a good way!

September has given way to October, the weather is slowly warming up. The whales are still here in abundance. I spotted a dozen between my home and the local store last sunday - now don't tell me that's not exceptional! I really can't get over it, this year is incredible. We've hit the ground running since the salon, so not too much time to breathe, just enough time to put my poor aching pregnant lady legs up for a day or two!

But it's all good, I've been indulging in awesome sea-salt and monoi body scrubs, thanks to Ashlee's great idea and I get the odd well needed massage if I play my cards right! We've also been blessed with a great group of guests recently, including Amber a friend for the girls and her grandma Thi an avid cook, originally from Vietnam with lots of great original culinary suggestions to inspire me.

As well as tattie Dana, making her annual migration (though this year it was so much fun that she's back for a second round in a few days time!! I can't wait)....
......she'll be here for Mato's birthday.......it's going to be a fabulous, fabulous fishy surprise.....

And how about this for home-grown deliciousness, an excellent tropical dessert that I've perfectioned this month (if I do say so myself), a papaya, banana and strawberry coconut-crumble (beat that with 100% homegrown fruits and nuts), served with a lashing of coconut milk - every bit as yummy as it looks!


September's here

Almost a month has flown by between blogging, and it's been a busy one, full of guests and whales and goings on! First of all we had the much-anticipated arrival of the Gauguin cruise ship, which turned into a fiasco as the guests were unable to get off the boat due to the rough seas and narrow pass in Avera......this was a huge disappointment to us all, particularly the tourist committee (of which I am the tresurer) as we'd spent months preparing a spectacular welcome, training guides, programming an activity-packed day and negotiating at great length with the cruise company. Fortunately, the day was saved to some extent, as some of the welcome committee were allowed to get on the boat (after much to-ing and fro-ing with the cruise staff), so thankfully we managed to get paid for the 325 flower leis that had been prepared by our craftswomen.......I was very grateful to have been absent, it happened to coincide with another tourism salon, and I don't regret it an instant, as we managed to fill the guesthouse for the next three months. The school term continues and Heimana is getting into the school rhythmn. Matotea is making leaps and bounds in the literacy race, she tells me she wants a desk and computer for her birthday, she'll be writing novels by next year!!! For my part the garden's coming on, though it's been a bit too dry lately so some of my seedlings suffered from my absence at the salon, but I'm stocked for fresh herbs, we've been eating my home-grown plum tomatoes, the odd cape gooseberry and are slowly gathering strawberries in the freezer, in the hopes of making some jam or a sauce for yogurt, before the end of the year......I also have been growing, there's a third and final bump, due in feburary......


Vive la rentrée!

Yes, the girls are officially back to school now, both of them. Heimana skipped off to school, getting on the truck all on her own, on her very first day of school. OK, she was with big sis (who officially started primary school yesterday) and two cousins on the truck, but still, she's growing up all too quickly. I followed the truck all the way to her school, to make sure that she was OK, but she was clearly as happy as a duck in water, so I left her quickly with her new friends and giant lego, a sly little tear welling up in my eyes. I'm ever so proud of my not so little girls........


A walk in the hills

A while a go, the girls and I went for another hike, following the success of our Matotea trip. We tried to hike the trail to the Manureva ridgeline, the highest point on Rurutu, at a dizzying 389m.

It was a great day for it, not too hot but sunny nonetheless.  However, the trail was rather overgrown, and my poor girls were up to their eyes in weeds most of the time. I ended up carrying Heimana for most of the trip, and had a grumpy Matotea in tow, which was all more than I had bargained for, but still the views were worth it!
Heimana's eyeview! 


August blooms!

We're still enjoying some fairly 'wintry' weather at the moment, as are the whales who are here in force, and seem to be enjoying themselves in this particularly cold season.

However, the first signs of spring are already here. the limeblossom's out, as well as the 'grapefruit' blossom, which smells just incredibly fragrant, like neroli only stronger and zestier. It's actually an Indonesian pomelo, super sweet and juicy, with little in common with what I call a grapefruit, though we still call it pamplemousse here. There are times when there are more or less of them, but we do tend to have a sufficient supply for our needs, all year round, in fact our general citrus glut is one good reason to celebrate, whatever the season or weather!


July closes

Tomorrow we welcome August onto the scene, so today we say goodbye to July with all its  cultural festivities. The heiva was stretched out for a full extra week and a half this year, with re-plays of the dance shows, in an attempt to ring up a bit of extra trade. The general feeling being that things were pretty quiet this year, and it's true there did seem to be less visitors (tourists and locals) around this year, which is sad because the dance shows were really very impressive this time, here are a few parting shots that Mato took of Moerai's dance performance......


Our hero takes a fall!

Bastille day, the 14th, always heralds the horse races here in Rurutu, as you already know this is the pinnacle of my horse-loving family's year. There were no tricolor fly-bys or injured parachutists (as in gay Paris), but there was excitement enough. Sadly, Tuati, our raining champion, let slip the title this year, coming in third, after a tumble in his first heat, and some debate about Oviri the wonder horses' form.
Even Mani, Viri's brother came in second, allowing the title to leave the family after 8 years consecutive wins!!!! It does seems like our poor horse has some hoof problems........ and oh well, fortunately no serious damage done (except to my men's pride), we'll just have to come back next year........


Princess for a day!

Heimana, my cheeky little monkey, turned three yesterday, and of course there were children balloons and a rather tasty passion fruit sponge!


Let the heiva commence.....

 Friday was the opening ceremony of our annual cultural festivities the 'Heiva i Rurutu', for the first time I was involved in the opening parade, as a member of the Tourist Committee. It was a fun little moment of island pride, with an odd jumble of participants - the local associations were out in force, the kid's football associations, the Pandanus weavers and the very noisy Moto-cross and quad bikers, the mayor's office workers (all in matching attire, above) and a drive-by of the new communal heavy machinery!
Then there were the three village's dance troupes with their decorated chariots.
There was the raising of the flags headed by the chief of police and an original version of the Marseillaise played on Tahitian drums, by Moerai's dance troupe, all kitted out in ti-leaf costumes. My girls, who'd never miss a party, came along,  dressed up to the nines in their new fairy and ballerina costumes - Matotea was nonplussed when she was not allowed to join me in the parade.

Tama, our friend and the local dentist from Tubuai, took some great photos of the girls as well as the opening of the craft tent, here my mother-in-law shows off her wares.
 In the evening there was the annual fireworks display,  Heimana slept through the whole thing last year, but this year she was completely enchanted.......


Breath of Warm Air!

On sunday I made a trip alone over to the Big Smoke of Tahiti, for an ear problem. It was a warmly welcomed break from life here in the freezer, in Rurutu. There must be 10deg difference in the daytime temperatures (in Rurutu we're in the 20s by day), it never ceases to amaze me how different the climate is! I also got to visit the labyrinthine new (yet somehow already shabby) hospital in Taaone, and spent a long while gazing bemusedly at the over-stocked aisles of Carrefour, the big french supermarket here. I did a fair bit of running around for various bits and pieces, as well as meeting old friends, like Tracey, the other Brit married to a Rurutu......
With friends like Tracey who needs a style consultant (these rather natty sunnies, modelled by us, are the perfect gift for the girls, they'll blend right in on the beach out in front of our home!). It was a nice change of air, but now I'm back in the icebox and it's HEIVA season.......