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Right Now (#13)

I haven’t done one of these for five months!

Reading: Not much. Not for a long time. I’ve been reading articles and newspapers and blogs, but few books. Travelling tends to accentuate that tendency too, as during the day we’re doing things, and in the evenings we’re out for dinner and walks, or I’m backing up the photos I took during the day. I’m hoping to get back into reading. I have so many “expired” books from my library in my reading app. I’ve started a dozen books this year, and finished only a few! Hopefully in the next few months I’ll get back to it.

Watching: Didn’t watch anything when we were away in May, but since we’ve come back I’ve been catching up. It doesn’t help that the cable TV box we have had for years is being replaced this week, and I’ve had to clear everything I had recorded. Watched the final series of Keeping Faith, which was excellent. Great acting, interesting story-telling, and quite a good conclusion. Yesterday I binged the four episodes of a documentary called Hillary made about Hillary Clinton’s life through to the end of the 2016 election. Enjoyed that too.

And of course, it was the French Tennis Open this weekend. I stayed up on Friday night to watch the men’s semi-finals, and ended up snatching half-hour naps before and between the two matches, and missed most of one set of the Nadal vs Djokovic match because I fell asleep on the couch! Last night I watched the Finals (a great match), that started at 1 am our time, and I finally got to bed about 5.45 am. I seriously need an afternoon nap now!

Listening: To very little again. A lot of our travel in May was in areas with poor radio or internet reception, and so we were just listening to some of the road trip music I have stored in my phone. I’ve been enjoying catching up with national radio articles since I got home, and once an injury to my leg has healed up, I hope to get back into some audiobooks, or even – shock, horror! – consider getting into some podcasts (as normally, I just can’t find the time or inclination to listen to them).

Following: The usual. Progress (or lack of progress) with COVID-19 and vaccinations here and across the globe. News. Photographers I envy.

Drinking: Enjoyed some good wine on our trip at some fancy restaurants in major wine producing areas. We decided we should splash out occasionally on some nice bottles, rather than pay money for average bottles we’d rather not drinks.

Cooking: It’s been a struggle getting back into cooking after a month (almost) away. It’s been nice doing my Thai favourites – Thai fried rice, and Green or Massaman curries – since we got home. I’m need to experiment with new recipes, as I’ve been in a bit of a rut lately. Or just revive some old favourites I haven’t made in ages. I’d like to do a bit more baking too, as – other than the occasional loaf of bread or batch of cheese scones – I’ve not baked all year, and there’s something about homemade biscuits or slices.

Eating: Too much, probably! That’s what travel does for you. We appreciated some wonderful restaurants in Queenstown, both fancy AND casual, trying variations on Asian and Pacific food as well as more traditional fare. It was cold as well, and so instead of a salady thing for lunch when we were travelling, I’d end up trying a southern specialty, a cheese roll, or a  traditional kiwi meat pie. And if we stopped for a break when we were driving, it was too tempting not to have a slice or a custard square with a coffee. Sigh. So all these things are off the menu right now! I am however looking forward to making more soups this winter for lunch. Warming AND healthy. And I plan on making a big batch of pumpkin gnocchi to freeze soon too.

Wearing: My winter uniform of black jeans and black thermal top under jackets or coats or the occasional cardigan. I can dress it up with scarves or jewellery, which is fun.

Appreciating: Our trip. I was so grateful for New Zealand’s beauty, our COVID-free status at the moment, the fabulous weather (even when it snowed, it didn’t affect our travels), and the fact that my husband enjoys these travels as much as I do, and is patient when I want to take photos. We had over three weeks away enjoying the stunning South Island, when we never got bored, loved the scenery and the old gold-mining towns and the lack of crowds and the new places and the old memories. I even enjoyed the freezing frosts at my sister’s house! Oh, and here’s a travel tip: three weeks was not enough!

Anticipating: So many projects I want to do. One is a bit boring (decluttering) but must be done, others are about house maintenance/renovation (kitchen, entrance way, our bedroom etc), one is about blogging (watch this space), a couple about photos and photobooks, one is about language learning, and a few other ideas are slowly percolating. I’m also looking forward to spending some time with a friend who has just taken a break between contracts, and will be free for lunches and adventures (I hope!).

Trying: To grow my hair. It’s passed the really awkward stage when my kinky grey hair was too short to straighten, and so looked like your average old-fashioned 80-90 year olds’ style. Sigh. I’m trying to figure out when to go get it cut to coax it into the shape I want, but think I’ll give it another month at least.

Checking: My health. I’m doing the compulsory regular check-ups that were due this year all in a couple of weeks. Fingers crossed all will be well. I know how lucky I am to be able to afford one of these checks on health insurance, and to get another as part of a national screening programme.

Loving: Being home. Knowing that, after this week (when we have a few appointments), I have projects to occupy me that will also hopefully give me a real sense of satisfaction when (not “if”) I finally finish them!

Still unashamedly copying Loribeth’s regular series every few months here on A Separate Life.

Autumn Willows

Wellington, my city, is filled with native trees, the large majority of which are evergreen. But I grew up in the South Island, where years of colonisation and farming have ensured that rivers are lined with willows, poplars are used as windbreaks, and autumn colours are everywhere. But it has been 35 years since I moved to Wellington, so I had forgotten how gorgeous autumn can be in the south. I’d even forgotten when autumn occurred there, and had expected to miss the autumn colours on our trip south last month. But I didn’t.

Whilst I love the poplars, the willows were my favourite. They now adorn the header of this blog, as you can see. I was just so happy every time I saw them.

Whilst our natural lakes and fjords are mostly lined with native trees (future tree posts), this isn’t always the case in more arid areas, or with artificial lakes, where willows are often planted on the shore’s edge. At least, I think they are willows. Who cares? They’re beautiful.

Another in the Thursday Tree Love series – find all the other bloggers doing it here.

I continue to learn about photography. Lessons I learned over the last month:

  1. Phone or camera. Whatever you have at hand is probably the best. I got this on my phone, because it was raining and I didn’t want my camera to get wet.
  1. Take a tripod. I know I should use mine more, especially for landscape photography, but knowing it is in the car is a great relief, just in case I need it.
  2. Remember that selfie stick that my niece gave me. Pop it in your handbag or backpack. All too often one of us will say, “oh, I left it in the car!”
  3. New Zealand roads often have wide verges, making it safe to pull off the road and take scenic shots.
  1. Take photos through the car windscreen if there’s nowhere to stop. Some of the pictures aren’t usable – remember to clean the windows! – but some are surprisingly clear and perfect.
  1. When Google says a particular route will take 3 ½ hours, they are not factoring in stops for roadside shots (or loo stops, or stretch-your-leg stops, or food-and-drink stops). A sign-posted 20-minute walk into the bush from the road will inevitably be longer, not because I’m a slow walker, but because I like to snap away with my camera or phone. Allow plenty of time. It gives a photographer a real sense of freedom.
  2. Take a tolerant driver/partner. Mine is happy to stop for photos, if it is convenient and safe. Most of the time. Sometimes he’ll even turn around and go back for a shot, if the road isn’t busy. In New Zealand, especially with international borders closed, most tourist roads aren’t very busy!
  3. Be decisive. Wishy-washy statements like “oh, that could be a nice shot, maybe we should …” are just annoying!  As I have been told many times. “Stop!” is a much more acceptable instruction.
  4. Know when enough is enough. (We don’t want to test #7! I was getting close when I was snapping all the autumn colours.) But don’t be left with regrets.
  5. Do a bit of research about scenic spots. Google street view was helpful a couple of times to decide where to detour. I got this pic as a result:
  1. Move. It’s one of the pieces of advice for photographers that I am worst at following. But moving to get the right composition really helps me get some of my favourite shots. Getting down on my knees, or squatting, also helps get a better shot. Scrambling down to rivers, being prepared to get wet or dirty, etc would all give me much better shots, but I am still bad at this.
  2. If you want to post photos on the move, which I do, check the photos and give them a quick edit. I import camera photos onto my phone through a camera app and my camera’s wifi, and can then edit them either with my phone software or another app. I particularly like Snapseed. But any app will allow you to crop or straighten a photo to get the shot you intended.
  3. Last but not least, ensure you take the right battery charger. I had double checked, but still accidentally picked up the wrong charger. Fortunately I discovered this error near a shop that had a good, cheap replacement that I was able to pick up the next morning. (It helped that we had an easy day of driving scheduled that day). The husband misguidedly suggested I could travel to some of our country’s most scenic destinations with just a phone for photos. Ultimately, he was very glad I ignored that suggestion.