Friends, acquaintences, and other social matters.

and spend my time just sitting in the sun

I’m trying to take my trusty old Nikon F3 with me to as many places as I can again, so that I put my grandparents’ lovely gift to good use. Namely, twenty slick new rolls of my favourite Ilford HP5 black and white film in 400. I think I’ll ask for 800 or even 1600 next time, because I’ve been really missing some good old grain. But the photos which I would like to accompany this post are unfortunately sitting in a roll of undeveloped film next to my tea mug, so it may be months before I have anything to show.

Not wanting to take a biased view, but it’s barely September and my friend’s band, Artisan Guns, have released one of my favourite albums of the year already. I hadn’t been the most active friend as of late, so apart from a tiny sneak preview, I had no idea what to expect when Jonathan and I sat down over a hearty meal from Burger Wisconsin and listened to the album from start to finish. Cutting to the chase, Coral is simply so solidly fantastic that I knew most of the lyrics by their album release gig two Fridays ago (at which some of the aforementioned photos were taken).

From the very first listen, “So You Know” has been my favourite track, and I’m guilty of doing that awful thing where people put a song on repeat because they can’t get over the fact that every song must inevitably end. Considering the fact that it clocks in at under three minutes, I think hitting ‘previous track’ repeatedly is wholly justified; especially once you’ve fallen for the slide guitar intro. Did I mention the subtle overlap of vocal entries? One of the (many) standout components of this band is that not only can Matt, the frontman really sing, so too can Reuben, and sometimes the lads on guitar (Jonathan) and drums (Alex) also chip in on the background vocals in an instrumental-colour sort of way. The ensuing outcome is an album that’s been fine-tuned to sound so… precise.

Whilst I favour certain songs over others, there are definitely none that I skip over when I listen to the album — which is indeed a bad habit of mine, but I’d like to justify it as being reflective of the quality of music at stake. These guys are skilful at crafting bridges that are musically realised in a way which makes the musician in me smile. Often I feel like they successfully avoid what I’d call the “easy” or “obvious” choices for a bridge, yet the transitions out of choruses have been tackled so well that I can’t fathom any alternatives. There is no room left for any wishful thinking by the listener such as, “great song, now if only they had…”, and the like.

One of the other main things that stuck out to me about the album was the strange mood of the “season” which it evoked for me. I’d said to Jonathan at the time that it’s like a really nostalgic-sounding summer, because it didn’t sound sunny or summery. As if it were almost autumn but not quite — and we went on to chortle about how crap the past couple of New Zealand summers have been, as he pointed out, like the opening song — “Rain in Summer”.  More to the point, it truly makes me happy that a friend that I’ve always musically looked up to has been a part of producing something that brings me — and I’m sure many others — great joy and comfort. Even in the sadness-tinged corners of this album, there are glimpses of a contented hopefulness that is a rare find.

And the most important thing of all, you can listen to the album on their page here, and please do share any thoughts if you do! I’ve already stuck this album under the nose of people in Seattle, New York, Malibu, Taipei and Abu Dhabi. So perhaps I am a rather biased friend-and-fan but who cares, I’m supposed to know what I’m talking about! Also, I believe that anyone who has the high-quality files will be able to experience the same tape hiss as I did, on selected tracks. Retro-magic.

the week, end

I wonder if any other couples have a sport-watching routine that would resemble what the boy and I do. We’ve been really sad to see the London Olympics come to an end, and since I stupidly deleted the last day of the Tour de France from mysky, we’ve been watching the Closing Ceremony as the backdrop of dinners and dish-washing. I was so impressed by Matt Bellamy’s vocal abilities that I’ve re-wound and watched the bit where he hits that amazing note and transitions from piano to guitar (why did he step away from the mic?! Argh, I hate that note being cut off like that!!) over and over and over again. And then we speculated as to whose decision it was for George Michael to debut a new song that nobody knew, when he could’ve easily done another crowd pleaser. And whose call was it to blind us all with Jessie J’s 3x horrendous nude bodysuits?! Oh yeah, and to have to sing repeatedly too. Many, many others would have been far more qualified and deserving of the honour of singing along side the remaining Queen members, say. Yikes. So, just as the Olympics have wrapped up, the boy’s soccer and my own hockey are just heading into the business end of the season. I was sad to have missed his two very impressive sounding goals yesterday, since our game times overlapped. And I’m sad to say that my team lost to an opponent who are technically not as good as us, but are proving to be our bogey team. We probably needed the extra motivation though. We’ve had a few decent wins in a row now, and we have the semi final in a couple of weeks’ time, so maybe we needed a decent wake up call. Also, Liverpool probably got a bloody decent wake up call last night. After a night of beer pong and chandeliers (both fantastic beer games, by the way), I dozed off during the game, but to be honest, there was hardly any desire to stay awake considering the shabby loss to West Brom. Embarrassing.

A few food recommendations, then I’m back to nursing some battle wounds and studying with the cat. This Glass Eye Creek Wild Meat Sauce is one of the greatest sauces I’ve ever had. Considering the fact that I’m not a sauce person at all (tomato sauce is about it, and only on average-tasting fries, no less), this is a big deal. They only sell them in selected supermarkets and I’m positive they don’t sell them overseas yet, but I’m definitely sending my sister in Malibu a bottle of this when I get around to it! (Am happy to take requests too) I haven’t done all that much with it yet, but I was introduced to it in the easiest, most amazing manner of consumption: well-toasted Vogels (amazing NZ bread), buttered, sauced, then topped with feta cheese. Too easy.

Oh by the way, I have to confess now that I am turning into one of those people that relies on their phone for photos. So they’re all sub-standard to me (especially of the beautiful restaurant below!!!), so I need to umm, you know, get back into a camera-carrying routine. Damn. Cos all of these were taken on my phone, shhh.

I also put a spot of that sauce in my burger (below). Which was also made in quick-and-easy manner, but tastes so sooo good! The boy and I have been improving with each burger we make, haha. The below features two sorts of lettuce only because it sort of had to be eaten… For the patty, all you need is some mince, mixed with pan-friend onions (maybe garlic), an egg, mustard seeds, salt and pepper, mould into the right size (press down the middle part to a slight welled shape so that it goes flat when cooked) and grill in a regular pan. Flip only once. Let the cheese melt on the cooked half once it’s been flipped. And compile on toasted buns with anything you like. I had an egg with this one. Butter, salad, mustard seeds, Glass Eye Creek Wild Meat Sauce and some ground black pepper.

Just a token chocolate shot. Brain food.

On Friday night we managed to get around to going to a Japanese restaurant which the boy had been planning on taking me for quite some time. It’s located in the oddest of neighbourhoods (next door to a Chinese takeaways), and I can’t say that the shop front looked all that promising – in fact it was rather blinding. But after we were lead through this…

… a sliding door opened to reveal some stairs leading down into a quasi-basement area that was very industrial-loft-looking with a high ceiling and the most amazing framed windows on one side, and a lovely wall that was entirely painted with cherry blossoms. The waiters and waitresses (and chefs) all spoke or were Japanese, so it definitely passed my standard of what they advertised as “authentic Japanese” should be. We had the most amazing, drawn out meal that consisted not only of our absolute favourites such as karaage chicken and tempura prawns, but we also had shabu shabu. Not to mention the three bottles of Japanese marble soda that I could not resist!

Photo of the beautiful iris flowers in my front yard. One of my favourite, favourite flowers.

And this is what winning beer pong looks, like, heck yeah! After some warming up, the boy and I made a killer team last night. I had to crack open some beers on the side in order to drink any haha. One more week of tests and such, then it’s study break. I miraculously did better at my combo recital last week, (the best public playing I’ve ever done so far, I think), so yay for improving. In the meantime, Jacam Manricks is back and we’ll be attending his show at jazz school on Tuesday night, but check him out online!

bring, bring the thunder and the loud, loud rain

Life’s changed a lot as of late. For one, I haven’t blogged for over a month, and believe it or not, at one stage in the holidays, I didn’t turn my computer on for over two weeks! That is not to say I haven’t been on the internet for all that time, but I just didn’t do all the things that I usually like to do online. I was too busy doing so many things, or, more realistically, I was too busy doing nothing. It felt great, to not have to do anything for a little while, for a change. But now semester has started,  and everything is already taking off at speeds I don’t dare dwell upon. I’ve got an even bigger workload this semester, doing five papers as well as virtually doing a sixth paper, but not for credit. My exam and recital results all went well enough (the boy would tell me off if I said they were average, because most people would consider them “good”, but they’re just okay to me), and I’ll have to work even harder this semester. By the time I finish my two undergrad (non-conjoint) degrees, I’ll have completed 840 points. A fact which sent people at jazz combo reeling today, considering they were discussing aaaalll the things they have to do for their conjoint degrees.

I have to wake up in less than five hours to try and stream myself into a tutorial, and then I have to board a ferry and do some serious bass practise before having hours and hours of class in a row, so I’ll try and keep this short. Just a summary of what I’ve been up to, through the lens of a generously gifted iphone which I’d gotten for my 21st birthday in May. I can’t believe it’s been two months already…

From left to right:

– Sunset views on my birthday + best birthday meal EVER: the manager came out to see who had ordered the 1kg t-bone steak, haha.
– One of many birthday cakes + beer and burger at jazz school for lunch. Best way to ease oneself into late rehearsals…

– A percussive instrument which you either shake or tie to your leg (I didn’t actually play this), but it’s made of some kind of bean shell + School of Music is beautiful but after three years of university I have finally had ONE class there this year!
– The hardest essay I’ve ever had to write… and it took the longest time, too – I’d pulled so many late/all nights only to have NOTHING written + view of the beach round the corner from the boy’s house.

– Birthday party decorations + lasagne at dinner with the boy and our parents.
– Phone cover + garlic and cheese bread for sister’s birthday dinner.

– Sister’s birthday dinner + hockey.
– Amazing post-game cheese + drinksss.

– The Grizzly teddy bear that has now been transformed into my sister’s driver cover (ref to below) + art gallery with the boy.
– Flakey + Aotea Square

– Waterfront with sister + Flakey not wanting Liv to go back to America.
– Flakey being adorable + Grizzly bear now in Malibu!

– Homemade burgers + belated birthday lunch Christine took me out to – amaaaazing (huge) scotch fillet, yuuuum.
– Beer! + playing Chandeliers – so so so much fun.

– Sushi train dinner with mum + Flakey whilst we watched the Tour de France.
– Sandwiches I mad for lunch yesterday + dreary cityscape
– Deliiiicious lasagne with Flakey + musical education

After this hopefully normal-blogging shall resume… And find me on instagram: pixxybug for a daily stream of adorable-catness, haha.

Saturdays = Youth (but now means exams)

Turning 21; staying-up-until-the-next-day for days on end to complete a painfully difficult assignment; throwing a highly-anticipated and very enjoyable birthday party; now studying for my first ever round of exams in the three years I’ve been at university… just what happens when one has been solely a performance student for two years solid, I suppose. So many exciting, whack and wonderful updates I wish I had time to write about right now, but kicking academic butt takes precedent right now. My brain has made an impressive comeback so hopefully it won’t let me down!

All the epiphanies, rolls of film, party-times and general awesomeness will appear here in just over twelve days’ time. Promise. For now, from Saturday night, where my guests were subjected to 10+ speeches which lasted virtually an hour on the dot. Luckily, the consensus is that they were pretty interesting so people did not die of boredom. I forgot my Nikon F3 with my trusty roll of b/w film in it, but luckily still had a film point and shoot on hand (blessing in disguise, perhaps! So I wasn’t preoccupied with photographing the whole night, even though I took a fair few anyway). Happiness, captured on Kodak UltraMax 400:

Every photograph and story, trickled through the lengthy web of friends

I’ve still got a handful of handmade invitations to distribute (mostly to friends who are studying overseas and have not arrived back yet), but after that it will be mission complete for phase-one of 21st birthday party planning! I’m going to avoid going into how scary it is to turn twenty one as much as I can – but it just seems like it’s the last pretend-barrier between me and supposed “real adulthood”. The thing that I’ve discovered to be surprisingly daunting yet somewhat enjoyable about the whole party-planning experience is the fact that this is possibly the most narcissistic thing I’ve ever done. And it will probably remain so, until some miraculous day when I get hynotised into thinking that getting married is a good idea, haha. For the time being, I’ve just been absolutely thrilled that everyone who has received an invitation seems to really appreciate the sentiment, and think that they look lovely. It now feels absolutely worth the painstaking hours spent hand-making and handwriting them all.

This whole process of creating a guest list has been somewhat nostalgic. Whilst I’ve invited a lot of middle-ground friends who have darted in and out of my life for most of my adolescent-to-adulthood years, it’s also caused me to put in quite a bit of effort with catching up with people. During the mid-semester break a couple of weeks ago, and even during class breaks last week, I made sure that I tried to see as many of my friends that I hadn’t seen in a while, and to try to deliver as many invitations in person as I could. I had the most lovely lunch-turned-int0-afternoon catchup with my old piano teacher (who has the same birthday as me), who had taught me for about eight of the past ten years, and it felt just like old times again, chatting about everything music and beyond – minus the piano lesson. I’m also looking forward to catching up with another influential figure who helped me out a lot when I was younger – hopefully this will actually go ahead in a couple of days’ time. I really want to make sure that everyone who has influenced me in a significant way will know how important they’ve been to me – and hopefully they will be able to attend and enjoy the evening with me. I’ve also committed a faux pas in not allowing “plus one”s, except for couples whom I’m friends with both people and have invited them together. This is firstly due to the venue having a strict people limit (for fire hazard reasons, etc), and secondly because I don’t want my birthday party to yet again turn into “just another party” where the host hardly knows half of the ‘partners’ there, and so on. It might sound harsh at first, but I’m sure my friends all understand.

The biggest headache I’ve got with regards to party planning has got to be the food. I don’t even want to go into it… That, and scanning childhood photos for a slideshow on the two TV screens at the venue. I simply can’t pick! And it’s going to take me absolutely forever to scan them all. I need to acquaint my mother with scanning…

And here is Flakey, who was a cute feet-warmer last night and caused me to sleep rather lopsidedly because I didn’t want to kick him! For a while last month Daniel’s beer box hadn’t quite made it into the recycling bin and was just floating around by our backdoor… Flakey decided to be a bit of a (cute) hobo, haha:

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