Wednesday, 8 December 2010

This joyous Yuletide

Firstly I have to apologise for the writer's block. Not that I'm thinking any of you check this blog religiously, dying for another post about my cat, but I do feel aware that I've been neglecting my writerly habits. I enjoy it a lot, so when I cannot think of a single interesting thing to say, I get a little sad. I do have a theory though. Since I'm on Twitter quite a lot now, I think I've lost the ability to write what I'm thinking about in more than 140 characters. As an aside, I also think I've lost my curiosity about things. I used to love researching something that was interesting to me, maybe Boudicca, or the Amish, or arcane Simpsons trivia. Now I'm all, let's just Wikipedia the hell out of that and call myself a genius. Won't somebody think of the children?

Anyhoo. It's December. And December has been very nice so far. We have had the most lovely early Summer in Tauranga. I have been for 3 swims in the sea! It only counts if you get your hair wet. My garden is growing like crazy. We are eating zucchini and plums, waiting on the tomatoes, sweetcorn, beans, peas, chilis, capsicum and cucumbers. I have fresh gardenia by my bed every night, giving Richard hayfever and me the sweetest dreams. The cat is already at full stretch in the shady bits, and curls up on the warm concrete steps at night, when he's not chasing moths.

I have a beautifully decorated tree in the lounge, advent calendar on the pantry door, Christmas presents wrapped and piled artfully. This year, we are having Christmas with my side of the family, pictured below. Except my Dad, cause that would be kinda awkward. Also I have another niece (Mia, 4) and nephew (Daniel, 7ish) who weren't at the reception.

Back - Kirk (BIL) Regan (BIL) Melinda (SS)
Middle - Colin (SF) Mum, Kathryn (SS)
Middle - Ben (BIL) holding Stella (niece) Megan (sister)
Richard and Me
Front - Dad, Amelie (niece) Samantha (niece)

We are a very large family, due to get even larger, because these two:

...are about to get a younger brother or sister in April. My step sister is also pregnant, due in May, so it's just lovely all round. Who doesn't love a newborn. (Weirdos, that's who).

We're having Christmas in Napier at Mum and Colin's. They have built a new home which we're all dying to stay in. It has a LIFT. And a wine cellar. In which I will probably spend most of my time.

Because I love to cook, I have offered to cater Christmas Day. Mum took some convincing. I think she thinks I'm going to have too much champagne and forget to put the turkey in or something calamitous along those lines. But I love cooking, and so does Richard. We are a very good team in the kitchen. I am however bored of cooking the same old things every week so the challenge to cook for 10 adults and 4 kids is a big one. Here's what I'm going to be doing.

When we all moved in together in 1994, a tricky Christmas was had where Mum tried to please everyone and cooked a turkey in one of those plug-in frypans, and did a big roast pork in the stupid tiny European oven they inherited with the house. We always had pork, my new steppies had turkey. It was a bit of a stress out and since then she's just done pork cause everyone loved it. BUT this year, finding a pork roast that'll feed 14 is going to be too hard. Plus, v. hard to cook without drying out the outside. So we're going back to basics and I'm doing a big Crozier's turkey (free-range thank you very much). Turkey is hardly seen at all in NZ so I am going on a wing and prayer and a lot of research (thanks Wikipedia) when it comes to roasting it perfectly. So far I've seen recipes for covering it in butter and a piece of muslin, to brining it for 24 hours, to removing the drumsticks and wings before cooking (sacrilege). All very confusing. Tips welcome.

To appease those who are pork fiends, I'm going to include it in the entree. I'm going to do a super yum coleslaw with grated apple, and will roast a piece of crackling to cut into squares as a garnish. Homer drool. Richard actually came up with this idea. One year, Mum burnt the crackling, and you should have seen the faces around the dinner table. Frowny, they were.

Trimmings are going to be kept simple - roast potatoes in duck fat, green veggies with feta and lemon, cranberry sauce and gravy. I'm also going to attempt a stuffing but haven't quite decided what flavour to make it yet. Anything with chestnuts gets a big hell no. Urgh.

Pudding is going to be trifle, because it's easy and I can make it the night before. And it's quintessentially British, which I like.

What's not British is our Christmas Lunch, intended to be eaten around the pool whilst admiring new presents that float and are waterproof, and lamenting those that were not. We have the same every year; crayfish (for those not gestating a foetus) and cold meats (for those that are). Ciabatta, brie, tomatoes, basil, lemons, avocado, all artfully arranged. Washed down with lots of chilled bubbly. Om nom nom nom nom.

After Christmas we're heading back to Tauranga fairly quickly as Richard is working through. I have over three weeks off in which to read thousands of books, weed the garden and go for lots of swims. Heaven.

Well best be off, Basil is wrapped around my feet demanding his Jimbo's for the evening. He has this thing where he lies right in front of me, so if I have to get up, he's in prime position to sink a claw into my ankle to gently remind me that he hasn't eaten in ten whole minutes. Sometimes I get backed into a corner and have to wait for Rich to come home. Cats. I like them.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


Basil helped me decorate the tree today. It tuckered him out.

But then he got back into it!

I'm guessing tomorrow there will be a large mess to tidy.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in the air

I've always been a bit of a music nut, spending my teenager years hovering over the pause button on my ghetto blaster (ghettos in Napier?) all ready to record my favourite songs off the radio. Making a mix tape took a week, with thoughtful selections and song order precisely set just so, to make me look super extra hip and groovy. My Sunday mornings were spent watching the music countdown, videoing my favourite songs (I have a 4 hour video tape that I can't bear to part with, with early Radiohead, Oasis and the like, buried in a box somewhere), I would buy hellishly expensive imported music magazines like Spin or Q, and these days I spend all day listening to George FM.
How I knew I really liked a song though was when I would think, I would walk down the aisle to this song.
Funnily enough, when I met Richard, we found we do you say....rather different taste in music. I love dubstep, he likes Motown. I love Florence and the Machine, he likes AC/DC. So we really had to put our thinking caps on when it came to selecting our wedding music.
Luckily one day we discovered this movie that was showing on high rotation on Sky. Called Into the Wild, we both found we couldn't get enough of it. Starring Emile Hirsch with a glorious soundtrack by Eddie Vedder which we bought and thrashed, we realised we had found a common love.
So for our walk down the aisle, we chose "Big Hard Sun", a song from the soundtrack which you can listen to here. Whenever we listened to it we both got goosebumps.
Now keep in mind we were getting married in a big church with a proper organ and organist, who was rather miffed, shall we say, that we wanted a secular song that wasn't even Celine Dion or Boyzone. We stuck to our guns however and they came sweet which was very kind of them.
For our signing of the register, we initially wanted a choir to sing a hymn. Due to said miffed organist, this didn't happen. My Mum swung into gear and called around to find a couple of singers who would be keen to sing Pie Jesu from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem, which forever makes me and my Mum cry. They were amazing. You can watch it here.
For walking back down the aisle I had wanted bagpipes from the get go. I used to love the chapel services at school where the piper would lead in the Harvest Festival procession or what have you. So we called around and found a guy who was happy to play Scotland the Brave for us as we left the church. It was spine-tingling. .

Finally we were taking forever to decide on our first dance. First it was Al Green's Let's Stay Together. Snore Snore Snore. Then it was At Last by Etta James. Cliche Cliche Cliche. Lastly - about a week before the wedding, we had settled on All You Need Is Love by the Beatles, because we both love the scene in Love Actually and our reception had an English theme. But it niggled at me because it just wasn't really me. So - and I'm not proud of this but there you go - I totally went over Richard's head and gave our first dance music to our music person - You've Got the Love by Florence and the Machine. Watch the awesomeness here. Rich was apopleptic when I told him. "I can't dance to this!". However, dance he did, and so did everyone else. And now I get told a lot that when people hear Florence, it reminds them of our wedding. Result!

Monday, 20 September 2010


Something that used to drive my mother crazy was that I would never do anything the way it was supposed to be done. I had to be different, be difficut, and I would never take advice, preferring to make my own (many) mistakes.
Which was why she was surprised as we were planning this wedding. A church service? A nice reception? White dress? Flower girls? It all sounded very beige.
But I knew that a wedding isn't just your and your husband's special's also a big party for lots of people who have all travelled a long way to get there, and they don't want to be subjected to medieval costumes or beach front horseback weddings. They just want a nice normal wedding with lots of booze. So we went traditional, but added our own twists to mix it up a bit.
One thing that surprised a lot of people was my choice of a guy for one of my bridesmaids. I had heard of a few bridesmates, and as my friend Cameron is a bestie, it seemed a logical choice. He's the one I go to for big life advice moments....he tells me like it is - much more than a girl ever would - and we have the same stupid sense of humour. I wanted to include him in the wedding.
However there are a fair bit of politics when you have a bridesmate. It pays, of course, to check with your husband-to-be. Richard of course was totally happy about it. (As an aside, if Richard had wanted a girl to be one of his groomsman, would I have been happy about that? I highly doubt it, and therein lies the difference between men and women). It also pays to check with the wife of the bridesmate. I asked Sarah before I'd even mentioned it to Cam. She also was fine with it and was also happy to be our M.C. - what - a WOMAN MC? Surely not! So with blessings given, I remembered to check with Cam that he would be happy with it all. He had two conditions - 1) he didn't want to come to the Hen's and 2) he didn't want to walk down the aisle. Fair enough.
But what to wear? Being a McDonald, and being the last McDonald of this line - I have no cousins nor brothers and my grandfather had only sisters, the McDonald's who settled in Granity on the West Coast in 1880-something have dwindled out- I wanted to celebrate my Scottish heritage, and where better than a nice kilt.
After calling around the entire country - I kid you not -I finally found a guy in Hamilton who stocked one. I drove out there on a beautiful Autumn day and was subjected to a two hour history lecture on Scotland and its pagan roots. No matter - the kilt was perfect and they would sort out delivery and the like. Cross that off the list.
Cameron emailed and called me most weeks to talk about wedding plans. I think because I had been with him and Sarah as they planned their wedding - Cam would restrict us to five minutes which never worked - he felt I had to get my fair share. It was very sweet, especially as they had a brand new baby Tom (now my Godson!).
On the wedding day itself, Cameron turned up just as I was getting into my dress and starting to freak out. He brought me a brandy (see below) and put his hands on my shoulders and said "take a moment to look around. It goes so quickly." Everyone had told me this, but from Cam, it was sincere. I did take a few mental pictures and they are clear as a bell.
After the ceremony Cam drove our wedding car, and had organised some glasses of champagne for us. It was a surreal moment - my new husband, people staring at our fancy car, a cloud of bride in the backseat - but Cam sorted it out by putting on some AC/DC on the radio and driving really fucking fast.
I have to say that while I definitely got some raised eyebrows over having a bridesmate - I think people thought I had an ulterior motive and that Richard must have been jealous/mad, I'm really glad I did it. Cam really is just a friend who happens to be a boy, and why shouldn't we use our boy-friends in our wedding parties?

Doesn't he look brilliant? Och aye!

Monday, 13 September 2010

The leprechaun told me to BURN THINGS!

I have a long and abiding passion for the Simpsons, and have done since I sat down in our friends bach in Taupo in 1989 and watched the first ever episode screened in New Zealand - "Some Enchanted Evening".
The Simpsons never fails to crack my shit up. I will watch any episode - even the Treehouse of Horror ones - over and over again. I even watched it in South America when it was dubbed into Spanish (I knew the plot anyway). In NZ, on Sunday mornings, they will play back to back Simpsons for about 4 hours. It is the best hangover cure in the world.
Richard rubbishes me all the time about how we have to watch the Simpsons, even if I know all the dialogue and say it before the character does. We should be watching grown-up current affairs programmes instead. But, this one time, I came into the lounge and he was already watching the Simpsons and I wasn't even there! From then on, no grumbles allowed.

Anyhoo, there is a point to all this. In my wedding speech, I was telling the guests about the nice things Rich has done for me and lots of cheesy things like that (I love a bit of cheese). So I said the following:

".........he also puts up with my Simpsons obsession. If there's a Simpsons episode on, we have to watch it. In fact, I love the Simpsons so much, that Richard - can you please take off your wedding ring and tell everyone what I've had engraved on it?"

At this point Rich looks surprised - I've been notoriously cagey about looking after the rings myself and giving them to his best man as soon as possible. He takes it off - and after holding it up to a lamp, starts to laugh.

"That's right - it says "I choo-choo-choose you" - what Lisa's Valentine's card said to Ralph Wiggum."

He loved it. "....and there's a picture of a train on it!"

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Read all about it....

My grandmother passed away a few months ago, and among her possessions was a cuttings book of articles that interested her over the years, from around 1935 - 1960. It's all there, baby notices, death notices, war articles, odd goings-on in Wellington society, anything to do with the Royal family.
My favourite articles are the wedding ones. Here's the one for her own wedding to my Grandfather on 9th of August 1940, I'm guessing from the Dominion Post.

The wedding took place recently in the Taranaki Street Methodist Church, Wellington, of Grace Evelyn, only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. AF Morrison, Island Bay, and Alister Falla, only son of Mr. and Mrs. Elliot McDonald, Granity. The Rev. R.B. Gosnell officiated.
The bride, who was escorted by her father, wore a long-sleeved trained gown of cream embossed crepe. Her embroidered lace veil fell from a halo of orange-blossom ahd she carried a shower bouquet of cream hyacinths and freesias. The bridesmaids, Misses Audrey Martin (Auckland) and Barbara Barnitt (New Plymouth), were dressed alike in powder-blue and mauve shot taffeta and wore mauve topknots and carried bouquets of sweet peas and carnations to tone.
Mr. Eric Newton was best man and Mr. Cecil Morrison was groomsman.
Mrs. Morrison received the guests at the Empire Hotel, wearing a flowered black georgette frock. Mrs. McDonald wore a wine lace gown. For travelling the bride wore a heather-pink suit with navy accessories.
Isn't it just divine? I wish they still did these. I'm going to pretend they still do, and write my own.
The wedding took place recently in the St. John's Anglican Cathedral, Napier, of Amy Louise, youngest daughter of Mr. B. McDonald , Mount Maunganui, and D., Napier, and Richard Simon, eldest son of Albert and Edwina, Papamoa. The Rev. Helen Jacobi officiated.
Church music was by Mr. G. Bowler on the organ, Eddie Vedder, Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Graham Blank played a lusty Scotland the Brave on the bagpipes.
The bride, who was escorted by her father and mother, wore a strapless off-white satin A-line gown, with heavy detailing on the bodice and a lace train. Her spanish-style veil was floor-length and she carried a shower bouquet of red roses and some other things she doesn't know the name of. The bridesmaids, Miss E, Mrs B and Mrs H, were dressed alike in strapless sweetheart necklined French Navy chiffon with satin lining and nude shoes, and carried cream roses with winter berries. The Bridesmate, Mr W, wore a McDonald tartan kilt with aplomb.
Mr J was best man, and Messrs B, W and W were groomsmen.
Mrs. D received the guests at Ormlie Lodge, Taradale, wearing a soft pink frock with matching fitted wool coat. Mrs B wore an oyster silk ensemble. Both wore a cream rose shoulder spray to tone with the bridesmaids.
For travelling the bride wore leggings.

Monday, 6 September 2010


In a somewhat surreal moment, I am back in front of the computer in my PJ's, $4 slippers and 20 year old homespun wool jersey after 3 weeks of truly memorable days.

In an effort to make them even more memorable, over the next few days/weeks I'll be posting instalments describing our wedding, the planning, the honeymoon, musings from a wise married-for-ten-days-and-counting woman, plus my thoughts on the baffling popularity of the book Eat, Pray, Love, Be Narcisstic, seen around the pool at Bali in plague proportions.

Until I write this scintillating information, I'll leave you with a pic of me all gussied up as a bride, something I doubted I'd ever get to be for a while there. This pic was taken about 10 minutes before we left for the church, which was the most terrifying/exciting/anxiety-ridden/delirious ten minutes of my life. A most incredible few weeks and I can't wait to share them with you.

Mrs. B xx

Monday, 2 August 2010


I am getting married in 19 days. NINETEEN!!!!!!!!!!

We no longer have heaps of time to do things. I can't tell people, oh, no hurry, just when you're ready, the wedding's not for ages, I'm just very organised.

We have started to receive wedding presents and cards, for which I feel a bit of a fraud, considering we are not married yet. So they are going away for when we get back from honeymoon.

I have this many things to do before the day: a kajillion. My lists have grown exponentially...I find myself writing lists on things that I know I'll never look at: merely to make myself feel like I have a sense of order. I know what I'm supposed to be doing tomorrow.

Today I have to finalise the menu, finalise the order of service, finalise the table settings and begin my speech. Tomorrow I have to pick up Indonesian Rupiah from the bank, have a sunbed (fat looks better tanned) finish my speech, wear my wedding shoes in.

It just never ends. Luckily, I am really enjoying it. Thanks to the fact that I only work in the mornings, so I have all afternoon to do this stuff. If I was working full time we would be getting married in my parents house and 3 people would be coming. Subway would be catering.

Everyone said this to me, and it's so happened, in that you lose sight of the actual point of the day, which is that two people are promising to spend the rest of their lives together. We've made a pact to not organise anything for the next two weekends so that we can actually just hang out together.

In other news, we had Amelie to stay on Friday night. We pretended it was Basil's birthday (who knows, maybe it was) and put on a party. Balloons, hats, cheerios and a fruit platter (she mowed the mandarins) and a game of Pass the Parcel, or as she calls it, Parcel Parcel. Basil got a candle in his plate of food and we sang him Happy Birthday. Then we ran around and whacked each other with balloons. It was very cute. She is just such a button.

Also, I saw my first Spring blossom yesterday. YUSS YUSS YUSS. Winter has been cooooold this year. I am already planning what to plant this season. Number one - tomatoes. Number two - beans.

So there you go....unfortunately all this planning has caused me writer's block and my sense of humour seems to have taken a bit of a backseat also. I promise to be back in force with wedding pics and info and details and all sorts of things I know you're dying to know, but I can't tell you because that would RUIN THE SURPRISE!

Till then, ka ki te ano. (Maori language week here).

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Rural backwaters

Tauranga is a great city. It's big enough to feel important, small enough to know every corner of it, and has great infrastructure. Supermarkets are never too busy, carparking is ample, but where it comes into its own is the roads.
Auckland traffic is the one thing the whole country agrees on. It's awful. Bad drivers, not enough parks, etc. Getting to work meant I swore black and blue before 8am.
It takes me 3 minutes to get to work here. Hilariously, they have a traffic report every 15 minutes. This is how it goes, verbatim.

"Cameron Road is clear. 10th Avenue intersection flowing nicely. Chapel Street also clear. AVOID THE BAYFAIR ROUNDABOUT AT ALL COSTS - there's a 2-car tail back. If you can't avoid it, add an extra 30 seconds onto your ETA."

It's brilliant.


I am at present sitting in my sister's lounge, surrounded by the usual detritus that goes with a busy evening's babysitting - gin bottles, ear plugs, large animal crates.
Seriously though, my nieces are my favourite things. Stella is 1, and Amelie is 3. They were so well-behaved, eating up their mince and pasta, splashing in the bath together, popping on their winter jammies and making a pretend birthday cake for their mother (which is tomorrow - hence the babysitting favour). As I put Stella to bed, she grinned at me and blew me a kiss. It was all I could do to not pick her up and squeeeeeze her. Amelie snuggled in for a 2-book treat, then was out like a light.
I can't put into words how they make me feel. They're not even my own kids, but I would do anything for them. They make my heart ache with the strength of emotion I feel for them. I am So Lucky that I can , if I want to, see them every day.
It's funny how women get the urge to have children. I think there are a few reasons for it - everyone else is doing it, time is running out, Pumpkin Patch is having a sale. Being fairly late to have children, I've seen my friends go from social bunnies to being stuck at home with a newborn, to coming out the other side with a gorgeous funny toddler. They all have a different spin on how parenting is. At one end of the scale, it's a long dark tunnel that has a very faint light at the end of it. At the other end, it's wonderful days of love and cuddles and nothing ever goes wrong, tra lalala. I think there's a fair amount of exaggeration with each side of the story. I listen to all the stories. I've already read a lot of pregnancy books. And I still hear a loud ticking noise telling me to hurry up and get on with it, even after knowing about episiotomies that require an epidural to stitch, and infected boobs and meconium poo and never sleeping in ever again. I think it's nature's way to ensure you pro-create. I mean, you hear ALL the disasters, and you still go, yeah I still want one. You never go, oh really? It's quite hard is it? Oh well, that settles it then. Cocker spaniels all the way for me.

Thursday, 1 July 2010


There is nothing I love more in the world than being proven right.
In my last post, I talked about the issues I having with my hair, that it had started leaping from my head in large chunks, and I started to look like the Baldy Man. So I started taking Solgar's Hair Skin and Nails, and have been now for about 4 months.

Well. Have just been at the hairdressers getting a trim. Gosh! He says. You've got a lot of new growth here! What do you mean? Says I. Look! Says he, pointing at a big lot of fluffy undergrowth. It's my hair! About 4 months of it! Thick thick hair! About 2 inches long, but HAIR.

I could have kissed him. Don't you love it when something you do actually WORKS????

I am over the moon.

In other wedding and beauty news, we're rounding the corner on the inside gaining on the home straight people. It's less than 8 weeks till the wedding. Last night I put myself through the kind of pain that other women get epidurals for. That's right - the Brazilian.

For those of you who have never had a Brazilian, you should. If only so you can sympathise with other women. And when I say Brazilian, I mean the whole lot. Tail feathers and everything. Or dags, as we so delightfully call them in New Zealand.

I've had them before, and I like getting them because it just looks tidy, and what with going to Bali afterwrard, it means I won't have to worry about shaving my bikini line and walking around scratching myelf like a first year Uni student in a unisex dorm.

But the pain. Oh the pain. I took two mega strong painkillers about an hour beforehand. They were so strong I just about floated off the road on the way there. Did they work? Nuh-uh. I have - ahem - quite thick hair - and my poor therapist nearly has to yank them out one by one with pliars. At least that's what it felt like she was doing.

So there I am, lying on the table, legs akimbo, heart beating furiously, talking about our cats and their shenanigans, and she's faffing about in areas only someone who's prepared to wine AND dine me (yes I'm fussy) should faff about in. It certainly breaks the ice, let me tell you.

Richard came flying through the door after work. So? he says. What? all nonchalant. Did you get it done? What done? and so on. He's so easy to wind up! that's my hirsute issues over for the month. Feel free to tell me about your stories. Oh here's another one. In my past life as a beauty therapist, I once had this lady come in for a bikini wax. Now for those of you who don't do this, there's a certain etiquette. You shower beforehand. You wear clean knickers. And so on. This lady - a larger lady - came straight from the gym after what looked like a vigorous workout. She was wearing a g-string, bike pants, and a leotard. As she got undressed, the plant in the corner wilted.

And with that, I bid you adieu.

Friday, 28 May 2010

The Blushing Bride

It's just under three months till the wedding of the century - mine - and I'm going hard with beauty preparation to ensure that I'm happy with my appearance on the big day. Yes I'm vain, yes I'm a girl, yes we're shelling out a fortune for wedding photos that I want to be tip top.
Having been a beauty therapist in my past life, I have a pretty good idea what I can do now to make sure my hair is full and shiny, my skin is soft and clear, and my nails strong and all the same length.
Unfortunately, life doesn't always go to plan. Having come off the Pill last October due to that whole I'M 30 AND WANT BABIES NOW NOW NOW feeling that tends to slam women in the face, my trouble-free skin has turned into a hormonally-charged 14 year old boy's. I'm getting lumpy, painful, blind pimples around my chin and hairline. HORROR. The tempTATion to squeeze the living daylights out of these stubborn lumps is sometimes too much, resulting in scarring. At the same time, the stress of moving house and finding jobs meant my hair - always fine but I had a lot of it - was falling out in handfuls. I was scared to brush it in case the whole lot came off in one big clump. My nails have always been soft, but they were flaking and heavily ridged.
These weren't issues I could deal with using a nice-smelling cream from the supermarket. Oh no. This required RESEARCH.
Going back on the Pill wasn't an option, so I went to the library. (As an aside, how awesome are libraries? I am obsessed with ours. Tauranga has a very good library and I will often go in for 1 book and leave staggering under 8). I found a great book written by some Dermatologist from the States, who basically said BENZOYL PEROXIDE. Now, I am not a fan of putting harsh chemicals on my skin, but I was at my wit's end. So I procured a tube of Pan Oxyl 5%, slathered in on my chin, and the next morning? JOY. It actually works. Now as soon as I get that lumpy feeling, I pop on a tiny amount overnight, and in the morning it's nearly gone. If they do come to a head, they heal much faster and don't scar. The trick with the Pan Oxyl is to not use it all the time as it loses efficacy.
Wanting to heal my skin and hair from the inside, I did some reading into supplements. Imedeen is probably the first supplement you think of, but the price turned me right off. Ridiculous! Having used Solgar vites before and been really pleased with the result, I got me some Solgar Skin, Hair and Nails supplements. Having taken them now for a month, I'm super pleased with the result. My skin is glowing, my nails hard as rock and best of all, my hair is sticking to my head. Richard is also taking them, being a little lacking in the hair department. He's noticed his skin is slightly greasier than normal, but that's a good thing for those who are noticing their skin drying out in this colder weather or as they age.
I've also switched hair products. My hair is straight, long and on the oily side. I normally wash it, dry it in 30 seconds and brush it - that's it. No product, no straighteners, nothing. My hairdresser despairs. Worrying that my shampoo was causing the hairloss, I switched to a sulphate-free range - Evo, which is a super funky Australian brand. Well. My hair is sooooo soft. I make Richard stroke it. He even said today, your hair looks like a girl's from a shampoo ad!
Lastly, I'm prepping the skin that's going to be on show on the big day - just my arms and decolletage. For the first time in my life, I'm applying body creme every day. In these cold mornings, it's a bit of a mission. My mother gave me the most beautiful body creme from Apicare, a lovely natural range made here in NZ. Made with Royal Jelly and Manuka honey, it has a beautiful lasting rose fragrance, and is glorious. I also exfoliate once a week with yummy Karen Murrell body scrub. I'm in love with my skin again.

So there you have it- it's going to plan and it's not costing the earth in beauty spa visits. Of course, closer to the day I'm NOT going to be attempting to wax myself - last time I tried that on a quiet day in the spa I had to remove half the wax with oil and go home with a very wonky bikini line - my brain won't let me inflict pain on myself!

I'm glad my $10,000 beauty therapy training is being put to good use.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

The Good Life

My garden is one of my favourite things. I like nothing more than to wander around it at the end of the day, wine in hand, Basil at my feet, checking all the growth and mentally noting all the horrible heavy chores I can get Richard to do in the weekend.
I garden purely by guesswork and logic. If it's wilting, water it. If it's boggy, don't. Feed it with sheep pellets because they're cheap and I like the smell when they mush down into the soil. Sun and shelter and Robert's your father's brother. This way, I've managed to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli and zucchini (although if you can't grow zucchini, you should back away from the garden and go play with your plastic blocks). I've destroyed a tamarillo (not well staked) and a raspberry bush (not enough sun).
It's very satisfying. But this year we're taking it to another level. We've had a composting area built. 2 big wooden pens built right next to each other. You fill one, let it decompose whilst filling the other. And so on.
Who knew that rotting food could be so riveting?
We put all our veggie and fruit scraps in our container in the kitchen, along with loo rolls, paper towels and other organic matter. I'm a little bit obsessed with this container. I've found myself chopping a broccoli up and going, one bit for the pot, one for the compost. Perfectly good broccoli. Richard made an enormous veggie soup the other day, and all I could think of was, the off cuts are going to be perfect for the compost! I may even buy far too many fruit and veg from the supermarket with the thought that if we don't eat it, the compost will.
Anyhoo. Each day I tip the scraps over the heap and rake them in. The rich loamy smell is intoxicating, and the sight of all the wriggly worms is hypnotic. I often stand for 15 minutes at a time, just watching. A new idea for a TV channel - compost heaps.
Soon we'll cover the heap over with newspapers and let it rot for the winter, and we'll start on the next bin. We discussed moving house the other day, and when weighing up the pros and cons, I thought, no, because I won't get to use ALL MY COMPOST.
How sad is that?

Monday, 3 May 2010

My Hen's

When we were young, my sister and I liked to play "libraries". We would take all our books - and we had a lot of books - and make a label that stuck to the back cover. These would be "stamped" with due dates. Green stickers on the spine meant Fiction. Red - non-fiction. They're still there on all our old books. Our libraries - for we played this game twice - were called Palm Tree Library, and Windsor Fountain Library. The game seemed to take all summer. No doubt Mum thought we were kinda autistic and weird for shutting ourselves in a room for weeks on end doing authentic-looking barcodes and organising the next-door neighbour's kids to come and "borrow" them (late fees 1c per day) but we didn't bother her, which must have been a bonus.
Now I thought we were pretty cool, doing our own libary, until I spent the day with my friend Meghann at her house. She and her sister Anna ALSO had a library. But they had taken it one step further. They had CATALOGUED their books. An actual filing system. Perhaps it followed the Dewey Decimal, I don't recall. I do recall feeling beaten.
20 years later, Meghann is now my head bridesmaid, and she used these incredible organisational skills to throw me the best Hen's Party any bride-to-be could ever want. She sent lists to my other bridesmaids (sister Megs and Trisha). There weren't any games at my Hen's - there were Initiatives. And each Initiative required a Facilitator. (Can you tell she works in HR)? So Trisha Facilitated the "How Well Do You Know Richard" Initiative. And so on. It was brilliant. I'm going to buy her a headset and clipboard for her birthday - and I can guarantee that she will use them.
So the actual Hen's day. It was the best. Meghann is my head bridesmaid, and we've been friends since infancy. We went to school together, to Uni, and have stayed mates when both of us were living in far-flung corners of the globe. Other bridesmaids are my sister Megan and boy-bestie Cameron as mentioned in previous post - last but not least is Trisha who I've known since I was 11 and lives in Melbourne. She was over in NZ for another wedding so we killed 2 birds with one stone and had a nice early Hen's so that my liver/skin/body could recover before the wedding.
We started off trying on earrings and shoes for the girls. I didn't want pigs-trotter satin horrors that cost a fortune. Luckily we found some very classy nude heels that were actually really wearable. I think I trotted out the usual bride excuse "you could definitely wear them again!!!" Seriously. How many of you have ever worn a bridesmaid dress again?
We had lunch at the Stables on Elliot which is this super cool food-court type place, but instead of 8 kinds of Chinese and 1 dead-dog-on-a-stick (kebab shop) they had Bruschettaria, Italian, German Bratwurst, Creperies and a whisky bar. I had an ENORMOUS bowl of pasta to line my stomach.
14 layers of makeup and a super cool blow dry from Tom at swishy Ryder later (a present from me to me, I am so generous) I'm ready to par-tay.
It's funny how you get 15 women in a room, and in literally 30 mins and a few bottles of bubbles, the decibels go through the roof. Meghann had organised all my friends to send her a story about me and also their favourite recipe, and she made a beautiful album from them. Perhaps this was a Group Initiative? Anyhoo it is the most wonderful thing I own. All these hilarious stories from school and old photos ... I bawl every time I read it. It's special. After presenting me with the book, we did the Quiz. Now, I hate losing. I am not allowed to do Pub Quizzes because I don't let anyone else answer and I get really mad if someone gets a question wrong (thanks, Dad-genes). Cameron had Facilitated part of this Initiative, by coming up with questions for Richard. No "what's Rich's favourite colour?" for Cam. Instead I had to battle with "what does Rich dislike?" "what was his first impression of you?" Putting it bluntly, I failed miserably. I had to be given HINTS. Sigh. Things came back on track with the next Initiative - a music quiz. Thanking my Dad-genes again, my team kicked butt.
It was time to head into town. Donning the obligatory veil, we had dinner at Brew in town, and acted our age by inhaling all the helium balloons in the room. Things get kinda blurry from here, but we ended up later at some totally rando dive bar on Karangahake Road (that's K Road to the linguistically challenged). Before we got there, the bar had 2 people and 6 teeth in it. After we got there, suddenly heaps of guys turned up. Why?! Anyhoo this bar had karaoke. It's another of my downfalls. Like a pub quiz, I don't like to let go of the control. In this case, the microphone. And because it was my Hen's, I was allowed to veto everyone else's song choice, and also take over the singing if I thought I could do better. So anyway I'm pretty sure I sang about 90% of the songs. The next day, my stomach was actually sore from belting out tunes. I have this horrid, awful feeling that a friend was VIDEOING me. Videoing. I'm super glad a Hen's happens only once because that kind of behaviour should not be tolerated as my old school principal would say. I even recall doing Like a Prayer with my veil over my face for the first bit, then I dramatically flung it off as we got into the dance-y bit. Except that my veil got caught in my hair so I'm trying to sing and my friend is trying to untangle me and I'm all, DAMMIT MY PERFORMANCE SHE IS NOT WORKING. Because all of Auckland's homeless were judging me.
So after we blasted everyone's ear drums with catchy 80's pop tunes, we went into Ponsonby to find people with teeth. Now Ponsonby is one of the things I miss about Auckland. Tauranga's night life is dire, people. Dire. There are two acceptable bars to be seen at. You can always get a drink at the bar and usually a carpark outside. Ponsonby - Every.Single.Bar. is packed to the rafters. There's always a party to go to. Heading to The Crib, there's a live band and wall to wall people. A few cougary type blondes tell me DON'T DO IT! But most people are super lovely. At least I think they were. Who knows. By this time my shoes are in my bag and I'm standing on a table. My new dress is covered in wine spillage and my stockings are laddered.
It's time to go home. Feeling no pain whatsoever, I potter around, taking off my makeup, texting various people to let them know I'm okay. (I only know this because they told me the next day). I even leave a message on Rich's phone, reassuring him that I didn't see any real penises whatsoever. I bawl over my beautiful album and pass out with the light on.
The next day - wake up, wish for death.
Bring on the wedding.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Tarts on the Town

It's my Hen's Night this weekend. MY. Hen's Night. This is surreal to me - having gone through my late 20's with the whole, I'm going to die old and alone with 90 cats fear, I am now finding it hard to come to terms with the fact that I'm going to be Richard's wife. And - oh shit - Richard will be my husband. IT'S JUST SO WEIRD!

Don't get me wrong. It's a good weird. But it's so monumental. We will have a family together. His brother will be uncle to my children. We will be old people together. These things go through my head at 4 in the morning.

In celebration of this fact, my head bridesmaid has organised my Hen's night. It's all one big surprise. I just have to turn up to the apartment in Auckland at 4pm on Saturday. Now, I am not a surprise person. I like to know the full ins and outs of a situation before letting myself go. But this time, I'll just have to run with it.

Judging from past Hen's parties that I've been to, I think I can safely say there will be the following:
  • Penis shaped straws
  • Penis shaped jewellery
  • Penis shaped food
  • Penis shaped penises (amazing how guys will get naked for a bunch of girls on a dare)
  • Karaoke
  • Shots of Jagermeister
  • Hideous fake veils
  • Condom balloons
  • How-well-do-you-know-your-fiance quizzes (I hate losing so am trying to get Richard to give me the answers already - kinda not the point)
  • Make a wedding dress out of toilet paper games
  • Tears and giggles and screeching and general girl things.

Funnily enough, I'm actually having a boy bridesmaid, or as I like to call it, a Bridesmate. He's my boy-bestie, and has been since we were babies together. He had 2 conditions when I asked him whether he'd be my bridesmate - that he didn't want to come to the Hen's Night, and he didn't want to walk down the aisle on his own. I said FINE to the first one and suggested he take his little girl Georgia down the aisle with him. His beautiful wife is our M.C., and has just had another baby, the gorgeous Tom. She is going to be at the Hen's, hell or high water, she says.

I always feel funny when people sacrifice their free time for me. I know it sounds martyr-ish, but one friend is flying up from Wellington to be there. Another is leaving her 7 month old for the night to fly up from Napier. All I hope is, I better not pass out at 7pm and have to go home.

In other wedding news, we went to Smith and Caughey's in Auckland in the weekend to do our wedding register. I'm not going to go into the whole politics of whether you should do a register or not (YOU SHOULD) or whether you should put the information for it on the invite (YOU SHOULD) and whether you're a greedy cow who should just be happy to receive 10 toasters and a cracked china pot (YOU SHOULDN'T).

Well it was fun. Smith and Caughey's is a big department store, and is quite posh. However there is nothing else in Auckland that has so many different things under one roof. (Tauranga? Um. Let's just say it's somewhat lacking for nice housewares). We wrote a list of things we wanted, nay, NEEDED, and proceeded to find our favourites and make a list. It took two and a half hours. Rich only looked like he wanted to shoot himself 5 times, but I chivvied him along by going to look at beer glasses. It was funny, after we left, even though we hadn't bought a thing, we both had terrible buyer's remorse. Maybe I should do that all the time. Fake shop.

In other totally un-related to wedding news, who am I kidding it's all I think about these days....the Dean of the church we're marrying in is trying to veto our "walking down the aisle" song choice. Now, when I was young, every favourite song was my "walking down the aisle" music. It's all I thought about. And it's very special to me. So when Richard and I found a song that we both loved (doesn't happen often) and that brings me to tears - I'm probably not going to want to change it for some "nice organ music". I like church choirs, but organ music always reminds me of the geriatric organ lady from the Simpsons. Cat loose on the keyboard. So we are taking a break on the music and seeing if she'll come round with some pleading and puppy eyes. I mean come on. It's only Marilyn Manson. Kidding. It's the Wiggles.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Cluck cluck cluck

On Sunday, Richard and I were lucky enough to be delivered of one child, namely Amelie, my nearly-3 year old niece. It was our first sleepover. I swore I could hear this howl of delight as her father drove away, only having his 1 year old daughter to look after now, but maybe I was mistaken.

We did an Easter Egg hunt, we foraged for walnuts from our tree, we played the guitar and read Kimi and the Watermelon. We were reminded - often - that she was a big girl who could do it herself - and she could.
She hopped up on a stool and helped me peel the potatoes for dinner, and even cut them into little pieces. "We're having thauthages," she reminded me.

Sitting up for a pre-approved meal of said thauthages, peas, lashings of tomato sauce and mashed spud, Amelie decides she doesn't want any mashed spud.
Well. I am well-versed in child psychology (I'm not really).
"Richard!" I say. "This mash is the most delicious thing I have ever eaten! Try it!"
"Oh wow," he says. "You are right. This is better than Easter Eggs."
"Mmmmm," now positively flirting with my fork, "this tastes like chips and McDonalds put together!"
Richard takes a forkful of Amelie's mash.
"Hey! Yours is even better than ours!"
Amelie is staring at us.
"Try it Amelie! It's soooooo delicious!"
"Yeah, I still don't want it," she says.
One bubbly bath and two stories later, she's crashed out in our spare room, muttering "can do it myself....big girl..all by myself...."
We're zombified on the couch. Add to this daylight savings and the clocks going back an hour, I'm ready for bed at 8pm. All night I doze, imagining burglars and nocturnal wanderings and the cat sitting on her head. At 5.15 though, a poke in the shoulder tells me she's awake. She crawls into bed with us and snuggles up for a snooze. I don't even mind that it's dark and an ungodly hour. It's lovely.
Her father picks her up at 10.30. Richard and I are contemplating a beer and cooking dinner, because we've been up for so long. He laughs at our hollow eyes and stories.
After she's gone, the house is too quiet. I know parenting isn't all fun and games and snuggles, but if what we had for only one night is some of it, then I can't wait.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Late summer

So yesterday morning we slept in, woke up to a beautiful sunny day, leapt out of bed (as much as the bottle-of -wine-each the previous night would let us) and got ready to go for a walk on the beach and around the Mount while we still could.
I'm out of the shower and drying off when I notice Basil skedaddling around in the corner of our room looking crafty. I go in. "What are you doing in there Mr Brushie boo?"

Turns out Mr Brushie boo was weeing in the corner! Zipping out the door and hiding outside, he gets away with it. Never having had to deal with this before - Basil has always been exceptionally well toilet-trained - I stare at the puddle uncomprehendingly. Snapping into action, Rich grabs the paper towels and I go to work, butt nekkid, hair dripping. Cursing the rule I put in place where I have to clean up poos and spews, and Rich cleans up dead things, I get it off the carpet using just water.

Lately next-door's kitten has found his way into our house through the cat door, and is eating all of Basil's biscuits. It's very hard to scare it away because it has no fear, and it's very cute, a miniature version of Basil but with 6 toes. It's polydactyl (is that the right word??) and has huge paws compared to the rest of it. But we now have water pistols, we've locked the cat door from the outside and we put the biscuits away at night. But Basil is obviously not happy about it, and shows his displeasure by doing a big wee inside. Thanks pal.

Taking the soaking paper towels to the kitchen, I then see a big blot on the landscape. An enormous cockroach has found his way into the house and is cruising up the wall. Now I can handle any insect - snakes - anything - but cockroaches make my skin crawl. I don't know what it is. Screaming for Rich, he comes running yet again with the paper towels, but misses it and it runs under the oven. I spray the hell out of it and wait. Nothing. Knowing there is a massive cockroach IN MY HOUSE makes me feel ill. Eventually it drags itself out, looking like it has survived shelling from the Germans in WWII. Rich nabs it and flushes it down the loo.

Not a great way to start Sunday. Funny thing is, the first thought I had was - if I was in Auckland, this would have ruined my day. We're so much happier here that it takes a LOT to get us down. In Auckland, burning the toast would have meant not speaking all day. Amazing huh?

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Top of the mornin' to ye laddie

So today, in honour of my non-existant Irish heritage (there's probably some in there somewhere) I am making Beef and Guinness pie.

Everyone loves a good pie, with rich dark gravy, tender pieces of beef, with a golden flaky crust. Yum. So I founds me a recipe from Jamie O. I used a slow-cooker - he used a oven-casserole dish. Each to their own. This is enough for the two of us (we are - ahem - large eaters).

1 Onion
1 clove Garlic
1 Carrot
Celery (I hate this, so I left it out)
2 large Mushies
500 g Steak (a really tough cut - I used skirt)
2 tblspFlour
1 Tin of Guinness
2 tblsp black pepper

Chop up onion and garlic and fry gently in oil and/or butter. Add carrot, mushies and herbs.
Dice the steak into 2 cm squares against the grain. Add to pan and fry quickly. Throw all in the slow-cooker along with the flour, Guinness and pepper. Cook until tender (I did mine for about 6 hours).

If it's too runny when you're done, pour into a saucepan on the stove and reduce until nice and gloopy.

Put filling into a pie dish and cover with pre-made puff pastry. I'm going to make a little shamrock shape too and stick that on. I really do have too much time on my hands. Glaze the lot with egg wash and bake at 180c for about 40 mins, or until golden brown.

Jamie says to serve with peas but I'm going to do a salad as it's still summery-ish here. We'll also have a Guinness each and talk in stupid Irish accents all night. Potairters potairters fiddle-dee-dee.

Happy St Paddy's.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010


Here he is, my North, my South, my East and my West, my working week and my Sunday best....until Richard gets home that is. Doesn't feature here nearly enough, but he was sitting purring at my feet and stayed still long enough to get a pic. Isn't he handsome?

Called Wookie because I call him Snookie Wookie, Wurzel Gummidge, Kitten Meow Meow, Mr Brush, Reow, Friend, Pal, anything other than Basil. He's just the right amount of cat - friendly to kids, snoozes with us, chases other cats, comes running to the sound of a tin opener. I luff him.

A spot of gardening

One of the best things about moving back home is always having something to do. Back in Dorkland, Richard and I would have to leave home to create our fun, which usually meant spending money, or screaming at each other in traffic jams over which way we SHOULD have gone. But here in Tauranga, I have a list a mile on that keeps me happy at home. At the top are always gardening tasks, because I would rather have a tidy garden than a tidy home (I WIN OVER NATURE).

Anyhoo we have a lovely guy Ian Dickie do our lawns (our lawn mower being a fire hazard). He noticed that we had a lot of oxalis poking its head up through our flowerbeds. This oxalis only showed up after we mulched using pea straw. WEED FREE EXPENSIVE pea straw. Hum. Anyway, he gave us a tip that, at this time of year, oxalis creates a bulb way down deep, and all you have to do is dig it up. So today, I did.

Let me tell you, finding these pointy pink knobs deep in the dirt was like popping a huge pimple, or extracting a stubborn ingrown hair. Disgusting but oh so satisfying. The whole garden only took me 30 mins and so long as I'm onto it, we should be oxalis free.

This is my raised veggie patch. I've got, from bottom up, broccoli, brussel sprouts and beetroot. All Rich's favourites. At the top is some late-summer cos lettuce. We have a white moth infestation at the moment so I have to derris dust every day. Not so sure how good it is because I have seen the moths landing directly on top of the dust and there's still tiny eggs on the leaves. Will just have to be vigilant I guess. Looking forward to the brussel sprouts, I was watching Jamie Oliver grow them and they look fantastic, big knobbly stalks. Hopefully we get a couple of good frosts this winter to make them extra sweet. Otherwise they just taste like farts.

The grape vine was left to grow wild while we were away, which means it's a big mess of canes and weeds. Hasn't harmed the grapes any though, and I probably eat an entire bunch a day. They are the most delicious things in the world. Grapes from a supermarket don't taste anything like these. Why is that? Anyone?

This half-wine barrel was the subject of my previous post. Look closely on the ground and you'll see lots of annoying white balls. It looks great on the corner of our deck and the pansies are coming up nicely. Although the "red" pansy is coming up severely yellow/orange. If I wanted ginga, I would have asked for it.

Richard was given this drinks bath as a present in his younger years. When I laid eyes on it, I said "we're too old for parties anyway." Half a bag of potting mix and a few drill holes later, I have all my favourite herbs close by (basil, rosemary, sage, thyme and mint). Plus I can move it around to sit in the different sunny spots according to the seasons. How Martha is that?

This is my edible Thai area, with a lime and chili plant. The lime we took with us from Auckland. It's grown more in one month here than it ever did there - needed full sun, which we didn't get. Unfortunately we'll get no fruit this season but am sure that next year it'll be chockers. The chili has also taken off and is still flowering. Tonight I'm making Thai beef salad with rice noodles and one of these puppies will be chopped into a tangy lime and fish sauce dressing.

And there you go. Send me tips, advice or kudos!

Monday, 1 March 2010


Richard and I spent the weekend breaking our backs in the garden, getting everything back to how we like it, which to me, is not a blade of grass out of place, and to Rich, is somewhere he can sit and drink a beer.
Last year we bought half a wine barrel for the absurdly cheap price of $30, and it's been sitting doing nothing since then. Finally we put it in the corner of the deck. I decided I wanted it to be full of lovely flowers. So rustic and charming! Anyhoo it's very large, and would cost a lot to fill with potting mix, all for some shallow-rooting flowers. Rich pipes up.
"I saw this thing on a gardening show once, where they filled the bottom of the pot with beanbag beans, and then put the soil on the top to save space and allow for drainage!"
Makes sense to me. Off we potter to Bunnings to buy said beans and also lots of potting mix. Keep in mind we'd been gardening all day, it was 28 deg, and we had fairly bad hangovers from too much wine the night before. Brains were not fully engaged.
Getting home, we pour the beans into the wine barrel. They fill it halfway. So far, so good. We break open a bag of potting mix and start to shovel it on top of the beans. Flump. The dirt immediately sinks to the bottom. We try again. Flump.
Brows are furrowed. Turns out we'd forgotten about the laws of gravity and density. By now, the tiny beans are dotted around the deck and are sticking to our clothing and hands. I have the incredibly bright idea to water them down with the hose.
A good 5 mins later, I realise that the beans aren't spongey, and therefore are merely floating on top of the water. We now have dirty bean soup.
We still don't give up, and try laying plastic sheeting over the top of the beans. We dump more dirt onto the sheeting. Flump. It disappears under the sea of beans.
By now we are giggling like school kids. The beans are floating all over the place, and it looks like it's been snowing.
Finally we give up, and scoop out the beans with a bucket and into a rubbish bag. We are totally covered in the little fuckers and get maybe half into the bag. The rest fly off into the ether.
We end up doing what we should have done all along and filled the entire barrel with potting mix. 120 litres. Ah well. I planted red, white and blue pansies which hopefully will make an appearance in a couple of weeks. It looks rull pruddy.
The white beans are everywhere however and hopefully get munched in the lawnmower. Sorry environment.
Later on, I say to Richard: this gardening show. They used 1 cm of beans with a very small pot didn't they?
There is a pause.
Yes, he says.
Ah well. God loves a trier!

Friday, 26 February 2010

The Ventilator

We're back in the sunny BOP, in our old home in Tauranga. And boy is it sunny - it's 27 degrees out there says my thermometer - and a load of washing dries in an hour. I'm wearing minimal clothing, much to the horror of the hordes at the supermarket - and it took me half a song to drive there. NO TRAFFIC LIGHTS. No Audi and BMW drivers taking up two lanes. No snooty ladies-of-a-certain-age hogging the hummus section. It was bliss.

Moving back has been a two-sided coin. It is utterly fantastic to be back in our house. To have our garden back, and our driveway, and the ability to put holes in the wall, should I want to. I certainly wanted to when I saw the state that the previous tenants had left our house. Keep in mind, this is with a property manager doing quarterly inspections. And here's where I've given myself the name the Ventilator. Look out for me on the wrestling circuit.

The walls were YELLOW. And sticky. The oven was filthy. The extractor fan literally dripping in oil and fat. And why was this? The family that were renting our home were Indian. They cooked all day every day, and never opened a door or a window, or, it seems, picked up a cloth and some Easy Off Bam (my new favourite thing in the world). The smell is horrendous. And it's not only the kitchen. Every room has stains, marks, and has never been cleaned to any normal person's standards. I am furious on so many levels - at the property manager for not doing her job, at the tenants for being disgusting, and at myself for my naivety in thinking they would take as good care of this place as I did.

After a comedy of errors, my family and I had to clean the entire house ourselves. I have gone through 3 bottles of Easy Off Bam, 4 kitchen cloths, 3 pairs of gloves and an entire bottle of bleach. I've mopped the ceiling, the grouting around the toilet, and removed cooking fat from my washing line. MY WASHING LINE. Honestly, I've been a student in Dunedin, and we were so disgusting, but at the end of the year, we left those flats spotless.

So it's off to the Tenancy Tribunal and the insurance company so that we can fix the damage (food colouring on polished floorboards, mildew on all brand-new curtains...etc. etc. etc.). If you're thinking of renting out your home, DON'T DO IT. Seriously.

After a week of cleaning, it's slowly coming right. I have bunches of lilies around, and a Jo Malone candle in Wild Fig and Cassis that is just gorgeous. The hot weather means all windows and doors are open. Yesterday I spent the day in the garden, cutting back the roses, removing whisky bottles from shrubs (!!!), planting flowers and vegetables. It was glorious. At 5pm, I poured myself a stiff gin and wandered around looking at my work. Basil followed along, happy as a clam to be back in his domain. It was so lovely.

I should probably think about getting a job. I just popped to the supermarket to get some more Easy Off Bam (I should get shares) and ended up spending over $100. Oops. Richard has a new job as a Mortgage Broker and Insurance Something, and has been at a course for two weeks in Auckland. He gets back tonight. A friend of ours gave us a beautiful bottle of Villa Maria Methode Traditionelle for our engagement which is chilling now. I can't wait to clink glasses and wish ourselves a happy and succesful time back here in the 'Raunga.

Also, updating my blog should be much more frequent now that we have internet at home. I've also been spurred on by my talented sister, who has started a blog of her own. Check it out!


Tuesday, 26 January 2010

In swings the walk into my life....

Late last year, Richard and I were heading out the door for our deliciously long holiday break. Nineteen days of pure fun, involving beaches, fishing, babies and bubbles, all our favourite things.

If you didn't already know, I am a planner, and an organiser, and a list-maker. Rich gives me assholes about not doing anything if it's not on my clipboard. I don't HAVE a clipboard - yet. I do however have a laptop and a pen and paper, and when I go into task-mode, you do not want to argue with me, or delay, or decide to watch football results or go to the toilet for a long time.

So on the morning of the 23rd of December 2009, we have packed the car, using every available inch of space. The cat is in his cage, already letting us know his displeasure every 10 seconds. There are fresh sheets on the bed. The furniture is polished, the dishwasher clean and empty, ditto the fridge. I have vacuumed. Rich finishes mopping, backing towards the front door as we go. At the last square metre of floor, he tips the mopping water outside in the garden, and throws the bucket into the laundry, landing neatly in the tub. We close the door, and are happy in the knowledge that when we return, AT LEAST WE HAVE A CLEAN HOUSE TO COME BACK TO.

This is what I'm like to live with.

We high-five, and set off on the 2.5 hour drive to Tauranga, with a stop in Pokeno to drop Basil at a cattery. No holiday for him.

I don't remember much about the trip, other than that we were super excited, and relieved to be finally on holiday after a super shit year. When I say it was Super Shit, I'm not exaggerating. We had to leave our home in Tauranga and move to hell-hole Auckland because I lost my job. We had to endure living in a tiny home, that had no insulation, for one of the coldest winters on record. Our landlord, who lives next door, enjoyed smoking cigarettes outside our bedroom window late at night, or liked fixing his Porsche at 8 at night when the noise of the exhaust made the house shake, and filled the lounge and kitchen with fumes. We paid $450 a WEEK for this. Rent in Tauranga is half this. My new job SUCKED. (I can say this now, because I have resigned). Richard had 2 jobs, which also SUCKED, and he left one, and was made redundant from another. Into this equation also goes 40 minute trips to see friends who live 5 km away (fucking, fucking Auckland traffic), $11 glasses of wine, $80 taxi rides, $10 for one hour's parking. All the while, my house in Tauranga was being tenanted by people who didn't think to open windows, meaning the dampness caused my fresh paint job to peel.

Our trip away on holiday was to be an escape. Yes we had to still deal with the fact that Rich had lost his job, and would need to job hunt when we got back. I had to make a decision on whether I wanted to stay in my role, that was literally bringing me to tears most weeks. But for now, it was all about Eddie Vedder's soundtrack to Into the Wild, and getting used to being in jandals again, and trying to avoid camping equipment to come loose from its precarious position and whack us in the back of the head on the Karangahake Gorge. It's a beautiful, sunny day, and traffic is minimal. All in all, we're in the best mood we've been in for ages.

We're nearly at Richard's parents, who live in Papamoa, near the beach. Rich says, let's go to the beach! I say, nah. I need to go to the loo. (Once we start driving, we don't stop for anything. God I'm awful). He says, please. I want to see the surf! I say, nooooooo. I really need to go to the loo. Let's go later. He says, PLEASE. This is Richard putting his foot down. FINE, I say, and swing towards the camp ground in Papamoa. There are kids running around in togs, parents in towels and caps and sand all over the place. I feel out of place in my city clothes. We find a park, near a public loo. I use it, grumbling all the time about DISGUSTING germs and FOUL smells and other affronts to my personal hygeine. He says, let's go down to the beach. I say, I can see it from here. Plus, all the Christmas presents are in the car. What if the car gets nicked? There are TEENAGERS hanging around, no doubt up to no good. You go. I'll wait here.

But he doesn't hear me because he's already strode purposefully on. I sigh, and follow, picking amongst the sand and stones in my lily-white, soft feet. I stare at people in their togs, all brown and warm, and feel totally out of place in my office-glow. For some reason, I notice Rich is walking very strangely. He has his hand jammed deep in his pocket. I stop walking, feeling very shaky all of a sudden. He turns around.


He goes a bit further along the dunes and sits down. I sit beside him, already leaking tears.

He says lots of nice things, and I nod and wipe away tears. He asks a question, I say yes, and we hug. It all feels very surreal. We both stare out to sea, trying to figure out What Just Happened.

On the way back, I want to say, OMG! We just got engaged! to people that are around. Instead, we get in the car. Anika Moa's "In Swings the Tide" is on the stereo, fittingly. We get back to Richard's parents. She cries buckets. It's been a long time coming, and now that it's here, she can finally buy a new hat, and plan for a longed-for grandchild. Richard and I are a little bit uneasy. Rich sits on the couch, looking a bit stunned. I am not quite sure what to do. Eventually, we come up with a solution.

A frosty beer. Works every time.

We relax, and hug, and admire the ring, and call my family and friends. Richard had called my parents the day before to ask permission, so they are not that surprised, but still very happy. My friends scream, and cry, and promise many celebratory drinks when we see them.

We go to bed happy, with 18 days of celebrating ahead of us. It made for the best holiday we've ever had, and it turns out that after The Year of Tears and Awful Times is giving way to So Far, the Best. Year. Ever., with our wedding coming up in August, and a new job (Richard starts mid-February) but best of all, a move back to Tauranga, into our old home, with my beautiful garden and carpeted floors and insulated roof. Who would have thought. Maybe it was what we needed all along.

Happy Days!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

This appealed to my sense of humour

This is the front page of the Solomon Star newspaper, from the Solomon Islands, which are over by Papua New Guinea, which is above Australia...which is in the Southern Hemisphere.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


A few days ago I was reading a question on the Dooce Community. It was asked by a girl who was in the “Trying” stage of pregnancy, and had maybe been having a bit of a battle with it. So she asked: what can I appreciate now whilst I’m still childless? What do all of you parents miss the most?
It was a popular question. The number one answer was undoubtedly sex. Do it whenever you can, was the advice given there. Morning, noon, night, all rooms of the house etc. Resolving to ensure Richard never read this post, I kept reading. Number two most popular was spontaneity. Apparently when you have a child, doing things like going to the supermarket requires a five minute break in between nappy changes, feeds, naps, and laundry. Spontaneous decisions to go to the beach/park/local pub are out the window.
With this very much in mind, Richard and I found ourselves with a commitment-free weekend. We’d done all our Christmas shopping, it was a beautiful day, and most importantly, we woke up on Saturday WITHOUT a hangover. Sleepily, I said, “it’s a sunny day. What shall we do?”
Rich thought about it.
And 30 minutes later, we were showered, Berocca’d (gets you through the party season beautifully) dressed in our best summer casual-dressies and in the car.
Puhoi is an historic village situated about 30 minutes drive north of Auckland. It was settled by migrants in the 1880’s from Bohemia, which is now about 30 minutes out of the Czech Republic. Back then, it was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. New Zealand had literally just been colonized, and there were whole areas that hadn’t yet been slashed and burned. With that in mind, the Government passed the Waste Lands Act. This meant that inhospitable areas of the country could be settled and cultivated by migrants who only had to pay their way to New Zealand. On arrival, each adult was given 40 acres, and each child 20 acres of absolutely inhospitable land. The migrants, who had heard glowing reviews of New Zealand, had suffered over 100 days voyage, leaving in early Spring, to arrive in mid-Winter, turned up at a hastily put together whare (like a bivouac but larger) made from nikau palms. They would have looked around at the muddy paths, the claustrophobic bush cover and the total lack of anything suitable for farming, and no doubt burst into tears. I would have.
You can only imagine the conversations that the settlers would have had with Mr. Michael Krippner, who convinced these settlers to leave their families – never to see them again – and travel halfway around the world to farm mud and bush.
“Um – I’m pretty sure you said there were sea views?”
“Oh yeah, definitely – just climb this kauri tree and squint – you’ll see it in the distance. Maybe build a four story house....from the very available building supplies you see growing around you.”
“Can I have another look at our sale and purchase agreement?”
Anyway. The settlers were hardworking, and soon enough had cleared enough land to build more whares. They made money by shipping the tall kauri trees down river to Auckland, mining kauri gum, coal and ore. Local Maori helped with hunter-gathering. They stayed out in the bush all week, coming home in the weekend to their wives – “it’s YOUR TURN WITH THE KIDS!” – and to attend church.
With all of this in mind, Richard and I strolled around the village, which you can walk across in 15 minutes. There are not many buildings, but those that are there are beautifully maintained. Main attraction is definitely the Puhoi Hotel, a large, ramshackle building with chairs and umbrellas on a sloping lawn, dotted with people enjoying beers in the sun. The bar’s interior is literally covered in memorabilia. There are old photos, signs, newspaper articles, photos of famous people at the pub (Billy Connolly!) and the usual backpacker paraphernalia of bank notes, school IDs, scribbled signatures and business cards. It would take two days to go over it all, but the bright sun was beckoning and we took ourselves out to the lawn with a cider. Friendly dogs were wandering around, and kereru and tui were flitting in and out of the pohutukawa and cabbage trees nearby. It was stunning.
We ordered a ploughman’s platter for lunch. This is my favourite lunch – satisfying, filling, yet doesn’t make you feel overstuffed. Plus you eat with your hands, which always makes a meal extra good. This platter didn’t disappoint. The bread was soft and tasty, the ham fresh off the bone. The piccalilli was homemade with visible chunks of cauliflower and gherkin, and the pickled onions were so strong I got lemon lips. It was very British indeed.
Having eaten our fill, we wandered onwards to the Bohemian Museum, situated in the old school house. Entrance was an honesty box donation of $3.00, and there was not a soul to be seen. I loved this. In Auckland, or overseas, there would be a security guard and alarms ensuring that no one could touch anything or get too close. And while the entry fee may be voluntary, rest assured you will have to fight through three different desks each asking if you would like to pay this fee. But this felt like you were going into someone’s home. Brushing away cobwebs as we went in, (the visitor’s book hadn’t been signed since October) we discovered a charming room beautifully presented in a timeline of settlement. There were prayer books and musical instruments, kitchen utensils (found at the bottom of the river) and wedding dresses. A lot of work had gone into this room, no doubt by some hardworking volunteers. I poked a pipe and the child’s exercise books and waited for the alarms to ring – nothing.
Feeling parched, we walked up a quiet lane towards Puhoi Cottage. Passing a house blaring Christmas carols, a self-righteous boxer dog with a greying muzzle took it upon himself to bark furiously at us from behind a large gate. His owner called him off and he quietened down to a few indignant ruffs. Peace restored, we arrived at the cottage, which is apparently the oldest tearooms still serving Devonshire teas, don’t you know. I knew it would be good when I saw it advertised itself as a “diet-free zone”. A sprightly chap read the entire menu to us and explained who the house was built for, when and what with – I wasn’t listening though because I was still salivating over the menu. 2 “devo” teas – I love Kiwis, lucky I am one - were ordered, and we took ourselves around the overgrown cottage garden. Bunnies and guinea pigs, birds and bees abounded and the sun shone. The teas arrived with scones that were the size of rugby balls. The cream was freshly whipped, the jam gooey and bright and the tea strong and hot. It was perfect. So it should be for $10.00 each.
We started to get dozy in the heat, so we paid up and headed back to the pub, which was of course what we had in mind all afternoon.
It was much busier. Puhoi, like most small settlements in New Zealand, is a haven for bikies (not scary gang bikies, just people that like motorbikes) and classic-car owners. There were ranks of gleaming chrome lined up on the road, and lots of people sweating in their leathers. Richard drooled over a brand new Harley, while I eyed up a fantastic black e-Type Jaguar. My red Golf looked far too jaunty and new.
Sitting down with another cider, we do what all sight-seers love to do. Eavesdrop. Next to us was a large table filling up with people around our age. They werere all wearing T-shirts advertising “Pamplona ’97 Reunion” and “Redback Tavern – London”. One has a picture of a kiwi giving it to a kangaroo in the canine position. This one says “Show them some Kiwi style!” Cheap watches bought in London markets, fake handbags from Thailand on the way home, and all with leather wristbands.
They’re all obviously back in NZ after some years overseas. Drinking stories abound – who’s been the furthest distance away, who’s been away the longest, who can put on the fakest English accent. There are discussions on how they’re going to open a bar “near the beach, do some funny shit, just clean it up with the backpackers mate, clean it up.” I’ve seen these groups before, and as soon as one gets engaged, or has a baby, they all start dropping like flies and moving home. Saddest thing on earth? A guy who just doesn’t know when it’s time to hang up the passport and money belt. They’re all drinking crate bottles of Lion Red – including the girls – and the largest of them all takes his shirt off in the sun. I thought at one stage they were going to do a haka.
Richard and I stop staring and instead take note of a large stag do bus that’s pulled up, no doubt on a tour of country pubs, a very popular stag at the moment. Here is another sector of Kiwi society beautifully presented. About 40 guys pile out of the bus – all absolutely blotto. They’re at the stage where their legs seem to be attached to their bodies only by the merest suggestion – maybe some Blu-Tak. I take a look around. A table of beautiful blond girls quickly get up to leave, no doubt anticipating the amount of verbal banter that will get thrown in their direction. Remembering the last stag do we ran into and the amount of male genitalia that was on show, I decide I don’t want to ruin such a perfect day with that as a memory, and instead we finish up, and head off home.
If this is the kind of day I will fondly remember as I’m up at 3am with a squalling child, so be it. It was wonderful.