Vegetarian Sloppy Joes with lentils, paneer and TVP

New Zealanders don’t really know what Sloppy Joes are, yet the longer I stay away from the US the more nostalgic I get for childhood comfort foods.  Sloppy Joes are something I have been thinking about lately, since spying a tin of Manwich at a grocery shop in Apia.  On side note I was strangely confused/comforted by the availability of American junk food in Samoa.  I brought home a jar of Goober (the pre-mixed peanut butter & jelly stuff my mom would never buy for me despite pleading for it at the supermarket as a child).


Warwick asked me about the pervasiveness of Sloppy Joes.  Do any chain restaurants have them?  I said yes, thinking maybe Arby’s does? (He had never heard of Arby’s so assumed it was not actually a well known eating establishment in the States).  I’m not sure if Arby’s actually has Sloppy Joes but some chain restaurant must do? It’s common enough yet I don’t think I have ever actually ordered a Sloppy Joe in a restaurant.   I only remember eating them at parties and family gatherings.  I don’t think it was something my mother ever made either (though maybe my step dad did once or twice?).

Then he advised me that since Sloppy Joes hadn’t filtered down through popular media (TV, film, etc) to New Zealand it must not actually be a wide-spread food.  I tried to argue it was and I think soon to become quite popular outside the US as it seems like all somewhat white-trash kitschy American foods are getting claimed by foodies everywhere and becoming gourmet-ified.  So here is my gourmet vegetarian Sloppy Joes recipe I came up with, and it was yum (despite Warwick calling it “slop”).

 Vegetarian Sloppy Joes with lentils, paneer and TVP

  • Boil ½ cup French lentils in veg stock
  • Add ½ small TVP (mince or peanut sized chunks) to lentils & stock after 20 minutes.
  • Boil for another 5 minutes then strain.
  • Add 2 tbs oil to a heavy bottom pot
  • Sautee 1 chopped onion
  • Add 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper/capsicum
  • 1 chili pepper (I used 1 small Thai chilli, then later added chipotle chilli, depends how spicy you like it)
  • Add ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • Sautee 5 minutes more
  • Crumble in ½ block of paneer (1 cup crumbled, 2”x2’x4” inches of the block?  I get Gopala paneer from the local Indian shop and I love it.  You can substitute tofu for paneer for vegan Sloppy Joes)
  • Add lentils & TVP
  • Add 1 tin tomatoes (whole or chopped)
  • Add veg stock to just cover eveyrthing
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 tbs chipotle Tabasco (or something similar with a smoky spicy favour)
  • Some liquid smoke – depending on the brand I have found this stuff really varies in strength, what I have at the moment (Angel Foods Liquid Hickory) is really strong and I only added a bit (1/4 tsp?). Don’t go crazy with the liquid smoke, you only need a bit or it can take on an overwhelming smokiness.
  • Give this all a good stir, cover, and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on for 10 or 15 minutes.
  • Let this all simmer for about an hour, with the lid off, stirring regularly (and making sure it doesn’t stick on the bottom).
  • Sift a few tablespoons of flour into the mix if it’s too wet – it needs to hold together enough to stay on a bun.
  • Serve on a nice bun. We topped ours with rocket, and a cabbage/carrot coleslaw. 


I really enjoyed the Sloppy Joes, it brought me right back to childhood birthday parties! Warwick ate two so he must have liked them as well.

Sorry it didn’t occur to me at the time to take a photo.  I also wonder if it would work as well in a slow cooker… something to try for next time.



Graduation, research, and more

Since my last post lots has been happening.

I graduated in May!

I am now absolutely officially Dr. Nicole!


grad selfie


My mum came to visit, we spent some time up at the in-law’s farm, and we had fun sightseeing in the Coromandel.

Then, she went home, and I went back to work for a busy week before heading to Samoa to spend 4 weeks doing research on information behaviour.


It was so beautiful and I had such an amazing time.

I really enjoyed meeting some of the Peace Corps Samoa volunteers.  It brought me right back to my days in Benin, despite that being about 10 years ago!

Since returning it’s been full on with teaching and research.  Trimester 2 has just started and I am teaching User Education & Reference Skills, a course I really enjoy.  I managed to finish off an article and have submitted it to Information Research for publication.  Fingers crossed it turns into a A ranked output!!  I am also finishing up work on another article I hope to get submitted by the end of August.  Then, I can really dive into analysis of my Samoan data.

However, whilst writing up the current paper that looks at my research methodology I have managed to get side tracked thinking about a lot of subjective factors that can really influence the successful outcomes of research projects.  In particular I have been considering the role of a researcher’s personality and “emotional intelligence” in interviewing, as well as research ethics and working with different cultures.  It’s really quite fascinating but could also be an entire paper on its own, so how do I squeeze it into my methodology paper?  Despite these challenges I think it’s important to consider the role these kinds of factors play.  I can’t recommend a research methodology for others to use if the methodology doesn’t work if you don’t have the same personality as me, right?

So, some things I am considering while trying to stay focussed.

And tonight I am looking forward to seeing Florian Habicht’s documentary about Pulp as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival.  I think they are even going to Skype in Jarvis Cocker after the film!

SO exciting!!!

Oh and I can I recommend What We Do In The Shadows for those of you able to get hold of a copy?



Wax prints pt. 2

Here are some images of my latest sewing creations:

wax02My three pairs of trousers made from Burda 7486.  I have another pair in a black stretch denim as well.   I quite like this pattern.  From left to right:

Birds and birdcages

Diamonds (bling print)

The rightmost-print is not actually African wax – it’s just an ethnic-y style cotton print I got at a jumble sale.

Some other creations:

wax04Shorts, these are made from Vogue 2532.  Not my favourite pattern – the way the shorts are constructed with the pockets in the side seam means the pockets bulge out unattractively.  I have not re-used this pattern since.

wax06This is a self drafted pattern, using this awesome umbrella print!  Unfortunately after sewing it together I realised that I have two big blue umbrellas right over my nipples.


wax08wax09Here is another self-drafted dress.  This one is basically one large piece with kimono-style-ish wide sleeves.  It does have a slit along the side too so I can ride my bike in it.  I love this print and this dress – it’s probably not showcased very well here on the washing line but it’s very flattering and probably my favourite creation so far this year.

Well, until I finished my jacket:


wax jacket1Yes, it is the same print as one of my pairs of trousers above.  I could wear an entire bling wax print suit! This was made using variation A of Burda 7135.

It took me about 18 hours to complete, and using a figure of $25 an hour as my typical hourly wage, plus materials, this jacket is worth about $500 NZD.   But I say it’s priceless!  Anyway I managed to learn a few new things while I was at it.  I’m planning to make another one soon – that way I will be able to practise the new skills again before I have forgotten them and hopefully get better at stuff like a notched collar and welt pockets.



I put the buttonholes/buttons on the wrong side (it buttons like a man’s coat).  But they’re cute buttons right?!




These pockets are a hot mess! wax15

I managed to melt the acetate lining when ironing the sleeve cuff… also there’s supposed to be some kind of “vent” in the sleeve that I haven’t yet figured out how it’s supposed to work.


It may be hard to tell from this photo but my collar and lapels are really sloppy looking.  This is even after completely taking the entire collar apart and re-sewing all 8 pieces, clipping, trimming, etc. etc. very painstakingly and delicately! I still can’t figure out why it looks so sloppy – I tried really hard to line everything up neatly.  I think the problem is that I still haven’t figured out which seams cause which effects on the finished garment – and what needs to be lined up with what.  I’m a “global learner” according to some tests my students have to take, and I think that means if I can’t see the “big picture” I struggle.  So, hopefully doing a lapel and notched collar for a 3rd time (or maybe 4th if my next jacket needs it to be done twice like this one did) I will have a better idea of how it all works.



Also the collar is a bit floppy – I will definitely use some interfacing for some of the pieces in my next version.  I don’t know why the pattern itself doesn’t recommend interfacing those pieces?

Any, it looks fabulous regardless, and I am happy to wear it even if it is a  bit sloppy looking.  Luckily the print is so busy it’s hard to notice all the flaws!


Wax prints

Did you know that Easter is a really big deal here in New Zealand I had a mandatory 5 day holiday from work?

Also all the shops are closed on Good Friday & Easter Sunday (except in Wanaka, WTF?!).  I decided to have a sewing stay-cation, since we are going away in May anyway, and I really just wanted to have a nice, quiet, relaxing few days away from work.

On a side note, there’s been a lot of discussion about Easter trading laws here in New Zealand (you can get a haircut but not buy hairspray, you can drink a beer with your meal, but not buy a beer?) but the one thing no one seems to mention is the religious background of this holiday and it’s appropriateness for a multi-cultural society.  I don’t mind restrictions on trade – it’s nice to have a few days where shops must be shut, and I think the unions have been hugely influential and ensuring that workers have the right to time off on public holidays, which I applaud, but why does it have to be Christian doctrine dictating which days those are?

Why not have “Autumnal splendour day” or something instead of “Easter”?  Because, just in case you were not aware, it is not spring time here.

Anyway back to my sewing stay-cation:

Lately I am obsessed with West African wax prints, perhaps getting nostalgic for my days in Athieme, Benin?

I found a good supplier –, with some pretty amazing prints, like the ones below:




The minimum purchase is “une piece”, which is enough to make a “complet” (6 meters).  Some examples of fabulous African ladies in their “complet”:



As much as I would love to rock some serious African style here in Wellington, I prefer to mix and match my wax prints with typical Western-wear.

I have made about 4 pairs of trousers using  Burda 7486



The top is hideous! But trousers version “C”  are great for making cotton pants with a zipper fly, so I don’t feel like a disgusting slob who wears elastic waist pants to work.  They have just enough ease for non-knit fabrics so you don’t feel like you are going to bust a seam but you have a skinny-leg style.  So far I have made 4 pairs of wax print trousers with this pattern – which are great with a solid colour shirt and even appropriate for the office.  That being said I am an academic so dress standards are fairly lose around my workplace.

(Photos coming soon)

I have also made a number of dresses – mostly not using any kind of pattern, but based on another dress I have.  However I did recently take a “make patterns from your existing wardrobe” course and have drafted a pattern for my new favourite simple shift dress.

(Photos coming soon)

Since I have so much wax print fabric at the moment I decided to be ambitious and try to make a blazer.  I had a black blazer that I loved ($10 from Ross on my last trip home!) but I managed to lose it (and my favourite green rain jacket) after not securing it properly to my bike rack on a nice sunny afternoon, somewhere between my office and the Waterloo station in Lower Hutt.

I reviewed a number of options but decided that princess seams would be the most flattering – so I picked Burda 7135:


I’m went with version “A” – the shorter one, and didn’t realise I would be giving myself multiple headaches with all the new techniques I am trying to figure out with this one.

Burda Style has some good Blazer patterns – mostly sourced from the Burda Style Magazine, but they are only available as “print-at-home” patterns which I find to be a bit of a pain, so I went with what I could find at the shop.

Quite a challenging project, but hopefully will be worth the effort when finished.  It took me 3 hours just to lay out the pattern pieces and cut out the main fabric & lining.

My biggest difficulties thus far have been the welt pockets, the sleeves and the collar, all of which involve techniques new to me.

My welts look like a disaster, but luckily they are covered by these little pocket flaps so hopefully won’t mar the finished product.

The sleeves have been holding me up recently – I have never sewn anything with 2 sleeve pieces (the upper sleeve and an under-sleeve).  My pattern copying instructor said that having an under sleeve pattern piece cut on a different grain to the upper sleeve allows for more movement and ease – often used in jackets.  I finally figured out last night (after setting them in, thinking some thing was wrong, unpicking my sewing, swapping them around, then undoing it again thinking I had it right the first time) that I had sewn one of the sleeves inside out (it’s hard to tell with the print I am using) – so I had 2 left sleeves, hence all the confusion, and sewing/unpicking and thinking something was wrong.  So I have properly set in the sleeves as of this morning, and now the only thing left to do it put in the lining and hem it.

However, before I put the lining in, I need to fix the collar and lapels.  They are a hot mess!

I’m not crazy about the lower notched lapel extending more than the upper lapel (see image above).  But, it’s cut out and sewn up so I will leave it for the moment, and concentrate on getting them to look semi-good for the moment.  I think I need to re-sew some edged and clip some corners, maybe do some understitching which I have heard is helpful for collars.

I was really feeling like a sewing failure after all the sleeve issues, but I tried to remind myself this was a first for me, and a learning process.

Essentially this jacket, when finished, will end up being more of a muslin for me anyway, as I think I will need to make some serious sizing adjustments.  However, if the end result is a fabulously well-tailored, fitted blazer in an amazing beautiful African print, that is a one-of-a-kind awesome part of my wardrobe that I can wear to conferences and present papers in and feel like a sexy librarian academic superstar, then it will all be worth it!

Also I enjoy sewing, despite all the headaches it gives me!




Considering ePortfolios

As I have just been working on my 2014 professional planning for my new position, and reviewing my performance in 2013, I have been thinking a lot about the best way to document my activities and experiences, so when December comes around this year, I will have evidence of my engagement and examples of the new knowledge and skills I have acquired.  I think using an ePortfolio is a great way to document this, as well as provide a record of my skills I can use when applying to jobs in the future.

In August of last year I attended a workshop for PhD students about reflective learning.  One of the sessions was related to the use of Victoria University’s ePortfolio tool.  At the time I was unfamiliar with the concept.  I know have a bit better understanding of them – but having only just begun to create my own, i’m still an ePortfolio newbie!

Essentially, an ePortfolio is a web-based portfolio that allows you to document your personal, educational and professional experiences and achievements, reflect on them, and then share them with other people, such as managers, colleagues, potential employers, teachers, etc.

Your ePortfolio is more than just your online CV – you can use it to capture and reflect on your wider experiences and skills.  For example, I recently participated in the IFLA/ALA webinar “New Librarians Global Connection: best practices, models and recommendations.”  Just after the webinar concluded, I logged onto my ePortfolio, added it as one of my “Personal/Professional Development” experiences, summarised the salient points I had gained from the webinar, and wrote a brief reflection of what was relevant to my role and the points I took away from it.   It was a great way for me to capture evidence of my professional development – and relate the knowledge to my role.   Rather than just scribbling some notes in my notebook (which I usually do), I can know go back to my ePortfolio and have a record of the webinar, my thoughts on it, and what I took away from it.   Personally I think this is a great tool for students, academics and professionals who want to create a dynamic recording of their body of knowledge.

Not only can you document and record your concrete skills and experiences, but you can also document the “transferable skills” you have acquired through other activities.  For example, as a PhD student, I learned a lot about Information Behaviour in Laos.  I also learned how to form and defend independent conclusions, design plan, and implement a study, collaborate on projects, navigate complex bureaucratic environments, and communicate ideas effectively.  These types of skills are called “transferrable skills” because they can be transferred and applied in a wide variety of settings.  You can say things like “I have excellent interpersonal communication skills” etc. in a cover letter, but providing specific,measurableattainablerelevant and time-bound (SMART) evidence of your transferable skills in an ePortfolio may be a better way of demonstrating that skill.  That being said.. I’m not an employer and I have never hired anyone so I have no idea!

This image created by Victoria University’s Career Hub provides a good visual overview of an ePortfolio.


Regardless, I’m finding the ePortofilio a useful tool simply for my own personal sense of achievement.

There are different tools or providers that can be used to create an ePortfolio.  Mahara is an Open Source web application that was designed (in New Zealand!) specifically for creating ePortfolios.   Other tools such as PathBrite and WordPress can also be used.

I don’t have a specific recommendation – I have been using the Victoria University ePortfolio tool which I believe the Career Hub team developed in-house.  It’s not very visually appealing, and lacks import/export  capabilities and can’t store documents, only link to work examples or documents stored elsewhere on the web, however it’s very beginner-friendly and has helped me get started.  The New Zealand Ministry of Education has created this document that provides an comprehensive introduction to and overview of ePortfolios.   In it they provide this excellent table summarising some of the benefits of creating an ePortfolio vs. a traditional paper based portfolio.

Digital Portfolios Guidelines for beginners

Distinguishing features & advantages

Digital portfolio

Paper portfolio

Enduring Can deteriorate over time, susceptible to environmental degradation –moisture, sunlight, etc
Provides continuity and can be lifelong Often time-bound and discontinuous
Totally mobile Not easily mobile, transport can be difficult
Freely and easily reproducible A reproduction can be very time consuming and inevitably will not look as good
Fully searchable – instantly and always available to be searched Table of contents and possibly an index, requires physical presence. Can be slow to cross reference instances of a given ‘term’
Enables collaborative work Not easily and certainly not simultaneously
Can be a ‘live’ resource for others Could be a limited and time-bound resource
Easily reviewable by anyone, anywhere, anytime Needs to be physically present
Can be read, peer reviewed, or marked by multiple viewers simultaneously. I.e. it has a feedback loop Needs to be copied and then distributed to enable multiple viewers or markers
Allows different organisational ‘views’ of the one set of core resource material Fixed layout and format
The views represent different functions for the ePortfolio: progression, process, showcase, competencies, etc Different layouts are difficult to produce and are always (paper) media bound or may also contain discrete additional media samples
It may be linear, or hierarchical in structure, or neither, or both Structure is fixed
Allows learner/teacher interaction Not unless done within the classroom
Provides student voice – feelings and emotions Impersonal – generally does not reflect feelings and emotions
Improves the learner’s ICT literacy skills Improves finger dexterity in turning pages
Easily and always available for editing Not easily editable
Easily communicated to any size, type and location of audience Expensive to do so – needs copied and transported
Intended/designed to encourage reflective practice Can be, but more difficult to include reflections
Infinitely extends the classroom Must be physically transported and present
Anywhere, any time access Must be physically transported
A personal approach to learning that grows with the learner’s maturity Content and organisation mainly driven by teacher
Development focused Often tends to be assessment focused
The owner has total control of the sharing and commenting capability Once out of the owner’s hands she/he has no control over access or comments
Does not have to be in possession of the owner to be accessible and usable Owner could possibly provide remote instructions to direct a third party to access a document/book
Secure – difficult/impossible to lose or misplace Can be lost or easily damaged
Multi-media – text, charts, graphic images, sound, video and all combinations Paper-based media only – text, images, diagrams, charts. May have discrete additional media samples
Can include embedded files What you see is what you get
Can link directly and immediately to other references Manual references can be provided – often difficult and slow to follow-up

Note: A number of the above points in the digital portfolio column have the underlying assumption that sound ICT practices are being followed particularly in terms of security, privacy and backup. (New Zealand Ministry of Education, 2011).

I  think the opportunity to develop an ePortfolio ties in with another concern I have as an emerging academic – having a current and complete “research profile” available to potential collaborators, publishers or employers.  While most organisations will host a research profile for their staff on the organisational website, it often has to be updated through an administrator or some other bureaucratic process, and once you leave that organisation, the page is no longer available.  Hence I am in favour of academics creating personal research profiles in which you can list your research interests and publications.  Some tools such as Mendeley or LinkedIn offer this service integrated into other tools – however I think the ePortfolio is an excellent way to integrate your research, publications, experiences and skills independently of any organisation where you are employed.   Some ePortfolio tools also offer social media networking – as well as other features.

I’m considering moving away from the Vic Uni tool (even though they offer guaranteed free access to alumni for life) to another more flashy ePortfolio tool.  I may try out a few along the way… and report on them here.

Almost Dr. Nicole

Sorry for the long silence.  I had more of less given up on this blog thinking that no one was reading it, but apparently some people still do.

So, I submitted my thesis on the 5th of August, and immediately started working at the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand (after a short holiday in Tonga).

My oral defence took place on 20 November and I passed with minor revisions.

I’m working on the revisions at the moment and hope to have them done by the end of the year!

Once they are approved and the thesis has been printed, bound, and submitted to the Victoria University of Wellington institutional repository, I will then have fulfilled all the requirements for my PhD and you may call me “Dr. Nicole”.

It’s kind of amazing looking back and thinking that I actually did it.

Here’s a picture of me handing in my thesis before examination.

thesis hand in


YAY! I did it!