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Archive for the ‘Just life’ Category

An occasional series.

Reading: Well, since my last Right Now post, I’ve been reading up a storm, reading over 20 books! And that’s including June which was a slow book month. My reading levels go up and down, but this year I’m on a roll, and enjoying good books keeps me reading new ones. So I’ll just pick out my favourites, all of which I gave five stars on Goodreads:

  • I loved After the Tampa by Abbas Nazari, so much that I actually blogged about it last week. You can read that here.
  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
  • The Volunteer: The True Story of the Resistance Hero who infiltrated Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather
  • The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman
  • Letters from an Astrophysicist by Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
  • No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

That’s an eclectic group of stories, fiction and non-fiction, fun and devastating and inspiring, sometimes all at once, and are e-books and audiobooks. There were some others I enjoyed and gave four stars, including Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World, Where Are You?, Richard Powers’ Bewilderment, Maggie Shipstead’s Great Circle, and Sosuke Natsukawa’s charming young adult book in The Cat Who Saved Books.

I feel exhausted looking at that list of books. It’s no wonder in the last month I’ve reverted to very easy reading, some more satisfying than others, none of it really noteworthy.

Watching: In these days of binge-watching, it’s hard to remember what I watched last week, let alone three months ago. But there were one or two shows that were notable, mainly because I got a three-month free subscription to Apple+ and could discover the joys of The Morning Show (loved it), Ted Lasso (didn’t like it the first five or so shows, but then fell for it hard), Slow Horses (wonderful), Severance (weird but interesting), Tehran (great, exciting), and our favourite, For All Mankind, which shows an alternative world that might have eventuated had the Soviets won the race to the moon, is really well made, and is fascinating to contemplate.

We haven’t been to many movies, but really enjoyed Mincemeat. It is about a WWII operation, and stars the lovely Colin Firth.

Listening: With wintry weather, I’m not getting quite as much exposure to audiobooks because I’m not walking outside. Yesterday, though, I was reading and had a lovely afternoon listening to some classical music, the first time I had done that in ages. It was exquisite, and often interrupted my reading, just to listen, blissed out. An excellent way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Following: Tennis. The French Open and Wimbledon have kept me entertained, and have disrupted my sleep, as I like to watch the games live, rather than risk waiting till the morning, and accidentally discovering the results before I get to the replays on TV. Otherwise, I’m not following too much else, except the covid infection rates here and overseas of course, and I’m keeping an eye on the 6 January hearings in the US, but lately I’ve been less obsessive about reading the news (which has probably helped my reading).

Drinking: Lots of tea because it’s cold – Earl Grey, a berry-flavoured superfruit tea, green tea with lemon, and chamomile. And the occasional coffee when we go out, or my husband makes my day and brings one home.

Cooking and Eating: Bread, as I blogged about here, every couple of weeks. Cheese scones have become a regular thing, which is not good because of all the cheese in them, but they are soooo good! So a lot of carbs, though we are trying to cut down, and at least if we’re eating bread, we’re not eating sweet things! It’s winter, so I’m having soups for lunch more, which is lovely. And there’s nothing like a good curry on a cold winter’s night! Likewise, a good roast. I like to do one about once or twice a year, so we had a tiny lamb roast a few weeks ago, with yummy gravy and roast root vegetables, and stir-fried brussel sprouts. Winter is the time for comfort food!

Wearing: My winter uniform of black yoga pants or black jeans, black thermal top, and a black hoodie when necessary (usually necessary inside at this time of year). When I go out it is the same thing, but with a different top rather than the hoodie.

Hoping: I’m hoping that I didn’t make the wrong decision. I’ve put a hold on a domestic trip I had been planning due to the rise in covid cases, the cancellations of flights, etc. Not to mention the price of the trip. I regret having to do that, but if I got covid (and spread it to a more vulnerable person I would be visiting) I might regret it more. Sigh.

Appreciating: Our ACC system, that is giving me physiotherapy on an elbow injury that I sustained in October. I had a few sessions back then, and thought it was clearing up, but the last few months it has deteriorated again. Turns out it was accentuated by a pinched nerve, and so I’ve been getting weekly treatments. I am getting tired of my arm being painful, and of being unable to reach for or pick up items easily. And it means I haven’t been able to knit for ages. But the last few days there’s been a noticeable improvement. I hope that continues.

Experiencing: Crazy gale force winds at the moment. The house is shaking, the noise of the wind in the trees is loud, branches laden with pine cones are falling off our pine trees and crashing on the deck, and something on the roof is rattling, and I really don’t like that. The Husband just went on a walk, got blown off the footpath around by the park, and commented that the houses there must experience the wind even worse than we do. I guess that’s a consolation?

Contemplating: The place of a specific cause in my life. I’ve devoted 20 years to it, and although it is important to me, and I have met some wonderful people as a result, I am trying to decide if I’m ready to step back a little now. Though I know I would miss it. Decisions, decisions!

Anticipating: Getting to travel again. If the current worldwide rise in cases doesn’t get too out of control, we have a trip that’s not TOO far from home (only a four hour time difference) in mind, though we have yet to make any bookings. Deciding exactly when to make a commitment might be the hard part! And I have some ideas for next year too, if all goes well.

Loving: My workouts to Youtube videos inside, rather than braving the wind (as I mentioned, it is diabolical today) or the rain. I need low impact, knee-protecting, workouts, but there are plenty online. I mix it up, between those which are walking workouts, low impact with a dance twist, or HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), depending how I’m feeling. I really like the fitness I am getting, and the convenience of the workouts.

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

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  1. My new iPad. My old one was about nine years old, and although it still works okay as an e-reader and occasional browser, Apple stopped updating its operating system ages ago, and so some sites just won’t work on it. Even our digital newspaper app doesn’t work properly on it. In particular, I couldn’t stream anything on it, and that’s one of the things I want to use it for. Its memory is so small (only 16 GB, which drops to about 12 or 13 usable, which barely holds anything) that I had all non-essential apps deleted, no photos kept on it, wasn’t even able to use my email app, etc. So it was time to get a new one. After months I finally found the one I wanted – low spec (eg wifi only) but with 128 GB memory. I refused to pay the high-spec prices – they just seem outrageous to me. Oh, what joy it was to be able to download whichever apps I wanted, and to be able to stream programmes or videos when I’m still in bed on a Saturday morning, or eating lunch at the dining table when the Husband is at golf. I can read the newspaper (we have a digital subscription) on it in the mornings, do my Worldle/Wordle puzzles on it, etc etc. My old one still works. If I’m desperate and my battery runs out on the other one I can use it for e-reading, but that’s about all.
  2. Of course, with a new iPad meant a new iPad cover, because of course they’re not the same shape anymore! I refuse to pay the exorbitant Apple prices for their covers when it is their fault I need a new one, so I found a fun one on TradeMe (NZ’s site comparable to Ebay/Amazon) with a Van Gogh painting design, and within a couple of days it had arrived. I love it! Don’t you?
  3. With the country opening up, our first visitors from overseas are arriving today . My BIL and SIL are visiting, just for a week. It will be the first time any of DH’s brothers have been here since their father died in September 2020. It will both be wonderful to see them, and wonderful too to be able to send all their things (both things stored in FIL’s house, and inherited items for them and their kids) off and be able to see the floor of my office again!
  4. Winter is arriving as I type this. Yes, it is a little gloomy, and yes, I don’t like being cold, but I’m ready for it now! I’m ready for the winter comfort food, and for snuggling in bed, and for the sound of the rain on the roof (can you hear it?), and for not having to have manicured toes, and for letting my (now longer) hair down around my ears to keep me warm.
  5. Reading. I’ve been reading up a storm the last few months, and I’ve been really enjoying it. I am deliberately choosing books with great reputations that I think I will enjoy, some serious reading and some not so serious (in other words, I’ve discovered the Bridgerton books).
  6. The aforementioned new iPad gave me three months free of Apple+TV, and I’ve loved The Morning Show (I know I’m late to this, but it was worth the wait), Slow Horses, and Severance, and Foundation was okay, and we’ve tried Ted Lasso but I suspect you might need to be American to truly love it (we’ve watched about six episodes). The three months trial must be ending soon, and I’ll have to decide whether to stay with them (along with the other streaming services we pay for). But I’ve loved the bonus viewing has been great.
  7. The bread recipe I talked about here. It is so easy, and the bread is so so good, and it has been shared to so many people, that I felt I should share the recipe here so you can make it too. You can vary the bread flour amounts, and the seeds and nuts. It is dense and reasonably heavy and makes great sandwiches and magnificent toast! I’d love to hear that someone else has tried it.

    3 ½ cups of bread flour (I use 2 cups of strong white bread flour, and 1 ½ of wholemeal, but will experiment with others, including rye and spelt)
    1 dessertspoon of instant /fast acting yeast
    1 dessertspoon of salt
    2 ½ cups of tepid water
    Assorted nuts and seeds (I add about ¾-1 cup, which was purely a guess, and use sunflower, pumpkin, ground flaxseed/linseed, and some chopped walnuts, but you could try anything)

    Mix them all together, pour into a lined loaf tin, and refrigerate overnight. Bake at 250C for one hour (straight from the fridge). (You may need to experiment – it is too high for my oven, so I use 235C fanbake) Cover after 25-30 minutes to avoid burning the crust.

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This time two years ago, I was reflecting on the covid situation post-lockdown. New Zealand had just come out of its first, very strict lockdown, and we were officially covid-free in the community. For the next 15 months, from May 2020 to August 2021, with one or two brief exceptions, we were gloriously, blissfully covid free. In that time, as the virus raged and mutated in much of the rest of the world, we lived life largely as normal (with the exception of tourism businesses, and businesses that relied on immigrant labour), waiting for the development (and arrival) of the vaccines. As Stephen Colbert described us, we were “the land where hugs still happen.” In that time, thousands of lives were saved in our small country.

Ultimately, though, the virus was always going to win. We knew that. If we didn’t, we weren’t paying attention, because our government warned us of that, and prepared for it. Delta and then Omicron arrived, but by then the country was highly vaccinated, and restrictions began to be lifted, even though, for the first time since April 2020, covid became present on the streets of my city. It is now pervasive. Case numbers in New Zealand are high (though less than one third what they were at their peak), and deaths occur daily (though there is a difference between deaths with and deaths of covid). The US even warned citizens who are travelling here to beware of the situation, which – after the last two years – just seems totally bizarre.

I am now facing the quandaries that many of you have faced over the last few years – when and how to get together with friends or family, and to ask about their risk profiles or vaccination status? Am I more at risk from someone who is unvaccinated, or is he more at risk from me? (A debate I’m having with my husband, about a business friend of his.) How to balance this? Even within a relationship? Sadly, New Zealanders are less practised at navigating these issues, and perhaps more hesitant to stand firm. It is not comfortably part of our culture to stand up for ourselves in this way, and I certainly was taught to be quiet and accommodating to others, so it is hard to know how we will operate. For so long covid has not been an immediate danger to us, and it almost feels ridiculous to now become concerned about it.

The partisanship we have seen overseas is here too. You only have to look at the comments on our Prime Minister’s Fbk posts to see the vitriol and misinformation that has been influenced by foreign views. The pandemic-related solidarity we all felt this time back in 2020 now seems to be long gone, and that makes me sad.

I remember thinking at the beginning of the pandemic that it might be “over” by October 2022, for a particular celebration when I was planning a big trip. At the time, that was my conservative estimate. I knew that I might not to be able to travel before then. It was a good estimate. But of course, covid isn’t “over” and may never be. But the vaccines have been quite effective, even when boosters have been necessary, so many people and countries are behaving as if it is over. (Though they fail to recognise that just because we want it to be over, or say that it is over, this does not make it so.) However, the resistance towards vaccines overseas (and here), the inequitable distribution of the vaccines, and the dropping of so many mask mandates, threaten to derail the decline in cases globally, not to mention the possibility of aggressive or nasty new variants. As a result, I’ve lowered my expectations for later this year. But for the first time in two years, I’ve started thinking about travel, and I’ve dared to wonder about longer term travel for 2023 or 2024. It’ll take a while before any decisions. Making those might be a bit scary. But I’m allowing myself to consider the possibility.

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