On the NZ music scene.

We havn’t talked a lot about the NZ music scene, but over the past three years in NZ, we have had the opportunity to get to know some great musical artists and take in some pretty awesome gigs, so we thought it was about time we shared some of them with you.  Considering NZ’s size of just over 4 million people, they have a pretty solid offering of musical talent.  Here are just a few of our favorites…

Paper Cranes

Paper Cranes are a new up-and-coming Auckland band.  Without knowing it at the time, we sat next to them at church several weeks ago.  I especially love their first single, Little Darling.  Have a listen here.

Great North

I first met Rachel Donnell while I worked at Henderson North School.  After attending one of her gigs, I came to the realization that she is also an extremely talented bass player and vocalist.  Rachel and her husband Hayden are the lead vocalists and musicians in the folk band Great North.  We have since seen Great North play three times live now, and have enjoyed each one of their shows very much.

You can check out several of Great North’s songs here.

Family Cactus

We’ve seen Family Cactus, a Wellington band, play live twice now, and quite enjoy their music.

Listen to their song Kingmaker and other good ones here.

I especially enjoy the music video for their song, Whole and Red- nothing too fancy about it, but a good taste of what they are like to see live.

Watercolors

Watercolours

Listen to up-and-coming NZ artist Watercolours’ song Night Swimmer here.  Though not yet available on iTunes, I’ve been itching to get my hands on this album.

Lips

Originally from NZ but now based out of Brooklyn, Stephanie Brown, aka Lips, recently won New Zealand’s top songwriting prize for her song Everything to Me.

Other NZ artists who have been making it “big” overseas these days have included Kimbra, Gin Wigmore, and The Naked and Famous.  And you can’t forget Flight of the Concords.  If you havn’t yet seen the video for their song Feel Inside, which features contributions by a number of NZ music artists, it is definitely worth a watch.

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Choc-beet Mo-Cakes.

Moustaches.

Whether you like them or hate them, it’s hard to argue that Brendon’s Chocolate Beetroot Mo-Cakes are probably the nicest version of the moustache you will ever find.  He can’t totally own the idea himself, though, as the inspiration came from Chad Moss’ version of the Mo-Cake a couple of years ago.

In lieu of Movember, Brendon made these Choc-beet Mo-Cakes to help raise funds and awareness for the cause of men’s health.

The Mo-Cakes were very popular among the staff at Laidlaw College, and the Mini Mo-Cakes were a real hit with the students.

Want to make your own Mo-cakes?  Here’s Brendon’s recipe.

Chocolate Beetroot Cupcakes (from Huffpost Taste, as seen in At the Farmers Market with Kids)

Ingredients

2 large red beetroots (to make 1 cup pureed beet)

2 ounces dark chocolate

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

1.  Cut beats in half and place in a saucepan.  Cover with boiling water and heat to a boil.  Simmer and cook the beets until tender, about 35 minutes. Drain out water, then let cool.

2.  Puree beats until they are smooth, either in a food processor or with a stick blender.  You should have a total of 1 cup pureed beet.

3.  Over a double boiler, melt chocolate.  Stir the melted chocolate until it is smooth, then let it cool slightly.

4.  Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners.

5.  Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.

6.  In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with a handheld mixer until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs and vanilla, and beat to combine.

7.  Add the puree beets and beat until the mixture is smooth and evenly bright magenta. Beat in the melted chocolate. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until fully combined.

8.  Fill each lined muffin cup about two-thirds full with batter.

9.  Bake until the tops spring back when touched and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer pan of cupcakes to a wired rack to cool.  Top the cupcakes with cream cheese icing once they have cooled completely.  Store in an airtight container 3 to 5 days.

Cream Cheese Mo-Cake Frosting

Ingredients

1 pkg (80z) cream cheese, softened at room temperature

75g butter, softened at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups icing sugar

Directions:

Cream butter and cream cheese together with a wooden spoon.  Add in vanilla.  Beat on medium speed with an electric mixture, and slowly add in icing sugar until extremely smooth and slightly fluffy.

Pipe on to cupcakes using a large round tip, or even just the opening of the piping bag.

Chocolate Moustaches

A mo-cake’s just not a mo-cake without the chocolate moustache, of course.  To make the chocolate moustaches, melt 1 oz of chocolate over a double boiler, and then pour the liquid chocolate into a plastic ziploc bag.

Cut just a TINY piece off the corner of the bag, and pipe the melted chocolate onto waxed/baking paper in the shape of your favorite moustaches.

For moustache design ideas, click here.

Let harden completely before peeling off to transform your cream-cheese frosting topped choc-beetroot cupcake into a Mo-Cake.

The South Island: Final thoughts.

One cannot deny that NZ’s South Island is truly a pretty stunning place.  We covered a lot of territory on our most recent South Island roadtrip (1378 km, in fact) and felt that one more blog post should probably suffice.

There are a few more gems of the South Island that are worth mentioning:

The Moeraki Boulders.

One of Mel’s favourite experiences on the South Island was a visit to the Moeraki Boulders, near the fishing port of Moeraki on the Otago coast.  It was a warm and sunny afternoon, and the boulders were looking particularly glorious that day on Koekohe Beach.  We marvelled at the oddly spherical shape of the rocks, as well as their fascinating, cracked texture.

As a natural phenomenon, these intriguing boulders have acquired names such as “giant gobstoppers” and “Stonehenge of NZ”  by the locals.

After doing some research upon our return home, I found out that these boulders were originally formed in ancient sea floor sediments over 60 million years ago.  Rather than falling from cliffs and being smoothed by the ocean waves, the spherical shape of the rocks is attributed to their even growth in all directions over time.  Fascinating, I know.

Millions of years later, these sea floor concretions have been exposed through shoreline erosion.  Apparently, there used to be more of them too, but people have been taking them off the beach.  They are now a protected landmark in NZ.

Should you wish to learn more about the history and significance about the Moeraki Boulders, a short but interesting video clip about the boulders can be viewed here.

Shag Point.

On the way from Christchurch to Dunedin, there is a little place called Shag Point, about 50 kilometers North of Dunedin.  Signs for seals and yellow-eyed penguins caught our eye, so we decided to see if we could catch a glimpse of any of these coastal creatures.  The views at Shag Point were a treat for the eyes; the deep blue color of the sky contrasted with the tourquoise waters and the warm tones of the rocky shoreline made for a stunning sight.

Although the penguins were apparently out for lunch, we were lucky enough to catch a couple of seals sunbathing on rocks.

Oamaru.

The East Coast town of Oamaru has old world charm like no one’s business.  Though we originally planned to drive with right through, we were lured in by the town’s historic beauty and easily persuaded to stop for a brief exploration.  Built in the 1870’s and 1890’s, Oamaru’s Historic Precinct is NZ’s largest Victorian streetscape that still exists today.

We were captivated by this side street in particular, which has been beautifully preserved for over 120 years.  While you might think this street to be deserted, several small business, including a bakery, a bookbinder, numerous art galleries and cafes, a brewery, and a wool shop, are alive and fully functioning out of this historic setting.  Oamaru is a gorgeous little gem of a town that you should definitely stop in to visit, should you get the chance.

Snow.

For the first time in over two and a half years, we encountered snow.  And you know what?  We didn’t really miss it.

But it was strangely familiar, and brought back lots of memories of times in Edmonton of first snowfalls, cars getting stuck in parking lots, and the community/comradery that comes when people realize they need each other to (to help push their car and make it to their next destination).  Ah, good times, Edmonton.

Wanaka.

The last night of our South Island excursion was spent in the picturesque lakeside village of Wanaka.  Due to frigid and moist conditions in Wanaka that day, we probably didn’t get to experience the full greatness of this alpine destination.

I was pretty excited to discover these cool sugar packets in a cafe, though.

With limited options of what to do on a rainy evening in Wanaka, we paid a visit to Paradiso,  the quirky local theatre to see a screening of the newly released NZ film, Two Little Boys (featuring Brit MacKenzie from Flight of the Concords.)

It was a bit of a strange movie, but the more redeeming features of the film came through this awesome Maori character named Gav, whom we both loved to bits.

It was fitting that we saw this movie on the South Island, as it highlights the friendship between two young boys who grew up together in the Southern regions of New Zealand.  Having just visited some of the places featured on the film, it was even more meaningful in some ways to watch it there.

Southernmost Signpost.

On our way from Dunedin to Te Anau, our destination within Fiordland, we made the spontaneous decision to head a bit more south than originally planned.  Just an hour south of us lay the Southern city of Invercargill, and then twenty minutes below that, the Southernmost point on NZ’s South Island, Bluff.  They were just too close to miss.

Within no time, we found ourselves in the colorful and quirky fishing town of Bluff, New Zealand.

After a little bit of searching, we finally found it:  The Southernmost signpost.  The sun even came out to greet us upon our arrival.  It was a glorious moment.

It was a crazy realization to think that we had reached the southernmost point that we will likely ever reach in our lifetime.

We have now touched both the Northern tip and the Southern tip.  We are feeling pretty satisfied with what we have been able to do in NZ, and are feeling pretty blessed, and thankful.