Archive for the ‘Things I like’ Category

  1. Hot Cross Buns
  2. Being able to sleep at night without being too hot
  3. The lovely, low light
  4. Not being afraid to let the sun in the house
  5. Hunting out my winter clothes
  6. Covering up
  7. Starting to think about warming, winter food
  8. Red wine replacing whites/roses
  9. The leaves on our oak tree starting to turn
  10. Not having to shave my legs or paint my toenails

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A friend (Amy) is currently on holiday in Thailand. We were AFS students together when we were 17 or so, and she has returned this time with her husband and her parents for the first time. I have been loving seeing her photographs on social media, and I share in her joy in sharing this place that is so special with the people she loves.

It made me remember hosting my parents in Thailand just ten years after I was a student there. We were living there as diplomats, and it was the first time my parents left New Zealand. Thailand would not have been their first choice as an overseas destination, but we were living there, they were temporarily homeless (having retired from the farm, they were waiting for their little retirement house to be built), and they actually had a little cash in their pockets to make the trip. They travelled later – to Europe, and a couple of times to tour different parts of Australia (they saw more of it than I have, despite our numerous trips) – but regularly said that their trip to Thailand was the one that stood out. Frankly, it blew their minds. Europe, Australia and America all feel familiar – people look like us, the food isn’t that different, and we are accustomed to seeing these countries on our screens and in our books. But Thailand – its sights, sounds, food, temple, people, language, and size – has no reference point in rural New Zealand where they spent their lives.

They came because I had spent a year there instead of finishing my last year of secondary school. They came too because a few years later, they hosted a young Thai exchange student, their fourth “daughter.” (My friend Amy did this several years ago too.) I remember walking with them out of the airport in Bangkok. My mother sniffed the foggy air, and looked at me in horror. “Do we have to breathe that?” she asked incredulously. My father looked around in fascination, and uttered a very 1960s comment. “The teeming millions of Asia,” he said, as he had probably never seen so many people in one place. These things are so familiar to me today, it’s good to remember their reactions.

They stayed for a month, and we took them around Bangkok (or rather my husband did, while I worked), and on excursions out of Bangkok, day-trips in our car, or a few weekends at the beach, and on a longer trip on a sleeper train, which they loved. (There’s a funny photo of them on the train here.) They were still young, newly retired, and adventurous. They explored the local streets and foods on the non-excursion days, got to know our maid, relaxed by and in the pool, met my Thai host family, went on adventures with their Thai AFS daughter, and did many things they never would have imagined. My father, who had always been very active (as a farmer he really had no choice), sat under a palm tree at the beach, feeling the soft, warm wind, and just relaxed. “This is just wonderful,” he said, looking around. It was certainly a far cry from the cold prevailing wind on the stony beach near the farm where he spent almost all of his life.

I remember coming home from work one day, and hearing of my mother’s trip to a market. She had visited it with my husband and father a few days earlier, but they had just walked through it, and didn’t give her time or space to explore, or shop. She was determined to go back, and insisted that day that she was going alone. My husband had nervously summoned a tuk-tuk, and gave the driver instructions of where to take her. Noisily it drove off, and he wondered if a) he’d ever see her again, and b) how he would explain that to me when I got home! There were no cellphones. She didn’t speak a word of Thai. She’d never taken a taxi in her life. But she had money, she had the address of our apartment with her, and she wasn’t scared. Of course, she made it home safely, much to the relief of my husband, who swears he lost a couple of months of his life from the stress.

I loved rediscovering Thailand through their eyes and ears and nose and tastebuds. I am equally sure Amy is enjoying doing this with her parents and her husband. And I know we both feel so lucky we’ve been able to do this with those we love.



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On the driveway side of our house, we have two large macrocarpa trees. There used to be more, just on the other side of our fence, that provided good protection to our house. But neighbours have chopped down two or three of them, exposing the house to southerly winds and rains. We’re now going to have to do some renovations to our entranceway.

We know that the last two macrocarpa trees are living on borrowed time. A previous owner of our house has pruned them, making them a rather unusual shape. Whilst some branches are still lush and green, other branches are not so healthy. The trunk of one of the trees has a diameter of at least a metre, perhaps two. It’s a very old tree, and on its last legs.

But I’ve come to love the protection from that tree, and the fact that it is home to many tui and other birds. More recently, the kaka have been quite destructive, ripping off the bark searching for a dinner of the insects living underneath.

Macrocarpa trees are everywhere in New Zealand. They’re an introduced species, and – in writing this and googling their origin – I have only just learned that they are called Monterey cypress and come from central California! So thanks to Thursday treelove for teaching me something new. They’re a common tree in rural New Zealand particularly, and there was a stand of them just behind our house on the farm where I grew up. They’re less common in cities, simply because of their size. But there are a few in our suburb. I’ll probably feature one near me which I love on another Thursday treelove post.

These are ours:



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When we bought our house, there was one scrawny cabbage tree in our lower garden.  It barely reached our living area deck, but in recent years, once it reached a decent height, it has shot up. It has also split from its long trunk and finally has a few different branches. I loved it when I could see it through my kitchen window. And in more recent years, it’s now level with our bedroom window upstairs. Soon it will outgrow that too.

Cabbage trees or Ti Kouka are a NZ native tree. We see them everywhere, and they always make me smile. So having one in my own garden is special. Even if it is, in fact, very common.

P1100960 cabbage tree house


Linking with #ThursdayTreeLove here.

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A lot of people wrote about International Women’s Day (IWD) last week. I may be a bit late, but I was interested to see what discussion there was about it here. I’ve since seen a lot of articles, and I’m still making my way through them. One piece particularly made me think, and it is probably why I am writing this here and now. This article talked about celebrating Women’s Day rather than Mother’s Day. As a non-mother, I appreciate this sentiment and wish I had thought of doing this too. After all, the most wonderful, caring, generous and talented women I know are not mothers either, and they deserve to be celebrated. And the wonderful, caring, generous and talented women I know who are mothers are also so much more than mothers, and they deserve to be celebrated too.

My husband and I are among the few people who still get the local newspaper delivered. (I do that because I like to read news that has been curated independently of my own interests and biases.) On Friday, the front page heralded International Women’s Day with a big headline that said, “Our day, our voices” and quoted our former Prime Minister, Helen Clark, saying, “None of us should rest until the serious inequities and injustice many women face around the world are overcome.” There were photos of many prominent women on the front page, including two of our three female Prime Ministers, and inside a two page spread with statements from 18 women about the day and what it means to them. It included the two PMs, the Minister for Women, Georgina Beyer (the world’s first transgender mayor and former Member of Parliament), local body politicians, the National Council for women, representatives of charities, sex workers, sexual assault victims, authors, sportspeople, ethnic groups and businesswomen.

They all had some great comments, and a few where I guess I rolled my eyes a little. For example, a couple of women, one who ran New Zealand’s largest company at one time, talked about growing up being told they could do anything.  However, one did qualify her statement by noting she was lucky, though it wasn’t clear how. And the former CEO qualified her statement by adding ” … when we had equal opportunities.” And now she works on empowering women. I hope she’s successful in that too, because I don’t like rolling my eyes when women are helping women.

A day after IWD, there were photos of a ceremony where our current Chief Justice (a woman) was standing down, and her replacement, another woman, was sworn in. We have a female Governor-General, a female Prime Minister, and a female Chief Justice, as we did in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It seems unremarkable to me now (or perhaps, still just a little remarkable or I wouldn’t mention it here). Perhaps I’m just happy at what “normal” in New Zealand has become.

Back to the original article. I guess I related to a sentence in Helen Clark’s statement the most, though equally a number of the women shared the same sentiment. She said,

“… I celebrate progress to date on gender equality, but also reflect on how much more remains to be done.”


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Other people’s blogging and photography projects have inspired me again this year, but I’ve already completely missed capturing photos of local art around the city for February. (And apologise to Travelcraft Journal for missing it.) I’ve been frustrated by just being busy, by commitments to others, and by the weather. Oh yes, and on the few times I’ve had time and opportunity to do it, by my memory!

But today I want to try something new again. Happiness and Food has a regular item about trees. I love trees – they provide shelter, and drama through our windows, and they are home to my beloved tui and other birds. So this month, I’m going to start with the oak tree on the corner of our deck. It’s where the kaka play and copulate (occasionally, they haven’t visited the tree for a while), and where the tui love to sit and flit around, always flying off just when I grab my camera. It’s where we sit for shade on summer evenings when it is perfect to sit outside for a drink. In winter it is sculptural, and in summer it just adds to the green I see looking out the window. In autumn, I mourn as the last leaves disappear, and in spring I watch the buds eagerly for the first new, green leaf. And in the last year or two, as I’ve been learning how to use my camera properly, it has been the perfect subject on which to practise.

I didn’t like the tree when we first moved to this house, but now I couldn’t imagine the house without it.

These are photos I’ve taken previously:




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I recently finished the “line a day for three years” journal my niece gave me. Each day, it gave me a prompt for a quick response. I didn’t fill it in religiously every day but would almost always go back to complete the previous days’ questions. When I was not travelling, I rarely left it longer than a few days. It was nice to have – I felt as if someone, somewhere, cared what my answers were!

The three years I had this were not my best. They were far from my worst three years, but nonetheless, during the last three years I broke my ankle and was pretty much house-ridden for six weeks, my mother died, my mother-in-law died, I felt weighed down by the responsibilities of caring for our in-laws, I was on an unsuccessful job hunt, and had only one big trip to enjoy anticipating. So yes, as I flick through the book now, I can see that for much of the time I was feeling gloomy. Even when I wasn’t, a lot of my responses were about my in-laws. Or Trump. I’m sure you get it!

But there were happy notes in it too. Questions about funny things that had happened recently reminded me and made me laugh, including things my husband had said. Also, prompts about the last compliment I was given came up about every four months, so I had to find compliments a number of times. Sometimes it was easy, sometimes I couldn’t think of anything. But a lot were blog related, so thank you to anyone who has ever said something nice here or on my other blogs. It means a lot! Two compliments mentioned that I didn’t look my age, which I find hard to believe. And my great-nephew said that I was funny. Three years later, I’m still not sure if that was a compliment or not!

One of my favourite prompts was to note what the last nice thing you did just for yourself. My responses were always simple. A coffee and some time with a book. Taking some photographs. Successful diet days. Mini-moments, just for me. They’re good to note, to be grateful for. Otherwise, with everything else going on they can be easy to miss, easy to forget.

I enjoyed having these external prompts* and those few moments to write in the book before I would start whatever task I had come to my desk to complete. But now it’s finished, what can I replace it with?


* I know that sounds hypocritical, given my regular “blog posts I won’t be writing” about prompts that miss their mark. 

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