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In New Zealand, the month of January* brings with it a degree of liberation. January has a lightness of burden that comes with the departure of the previous year, along with all the negatives that arose with it. There’s a relief that the year is over, and so too is the busy Christmas season that – as much as I enjoy it – comes with obligations and duties as well. The sense of relaxation that the year proper doesn’t really begin until February, delivers the freedom that this is a time of limbo when we can step away from our normal lives, and do whatever we want.

It brings an often unfamiliar warmth with it that is wrapped in promise; the promise of summer fun, of beaches and ice-creams and nature walks, of chilled wine and drinks on the deck, and barbecues with friends and family. The warmth brings freedom too, from extra layers of clothing, from huddling inside, from the need for heat. It’s a time when we wear carefree clothes, and thrust open our windows to the summer air and its scents. Our shoulders drop, our necks lengthen, our backs straighten and we stand tall.

In my city, January brings a beauty only matched by Septembers’ kowhai blossoms, starting with the pohutukawa flowers in the first week or two. Long gone in its native environments to the north, the New Year in Wellington sees red trees everywhere. As you know, they lighten my heart and make me smile and exclaim with joy. As they fade, the agapanthus blue flowers burst forth. Hated by conservationists, as they are native to Africa and are therefore an invasive species here, they have been much-loved by the city’s gardeners. Hence, they are ubiquitous throughout the city, including my own garden, inherited from the previous owners. Their blue flowers, like the pohutukawa’s red blossoms, are a welcome shock of beauty in this evergreen town filled with native plants.

As the year in front of us stretches out as yet unspoiled, January delivers a sense of hope for new opportunities. This January was the first time in several years I have been able to embrace this feeling, and as February arrives, it hasn’t yet dissipated. It is, I have to say, very welcome. And as the year passes and opportunities fail to manifest and inevitably the sense of promise fades, the warm memories will linger.

 

* Inspired by Kim’s beautiful piece on January in the frozen north.

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Reading: I’ve finally finished The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, which is my first book of the year and my first book in a long time. I read only half of my 30-book target last year, a dismal performance that I hope to improve on this year. I’ve just started The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq (NOT the one by Alan Greenspan! and hope it won’t take me months to finish! Blogging and family events last year really sapped me of any reading energy or motivation, but this year I am already finding that I more time and enthusiasm for books and blogs. That makes me happy.

Watching: I’ve also just finished watching The Australian Open (tennis) every night, so I’m trying to get back to a more normal daily schedule. Before I got sucked into the tennis, I was binge-watching The Good Place, a fun comedy with equally fun plot twists that was just what I needed. There’s a lot of good quality TV about to start up. There are all the Oscar films to catch too. But with the hot sunny weather at the moment, it seems wrong to hide inside in the dark to watch a movie. Mind you, we might be seeking out the air-conditioning of a cinema soon.

Listening: I’m currently listening to the audiobook of Eddie Izzard reading his memoir Believe Me. It is really lovely. He’s reading the book, but he’s adding a whole lot of spontaneous footnotes, which are funny and often really touching. I am thoroughly enjoying this as I go on my walks around my suburb’s hills.

Following: I was following the tennis. There is summer cricket on, but I’m not really a cricket fan. And I’m fed up with politics, so right now I’m just following writers and people I know and like and admire, and on social media I am following a few photographers who inspire me.

Drinking: Lots of water. Today I’ve made some fruit iced tea (or it will be iced once it cools enough to add the ice) to keep me hydrated (and to replace lunch). We’ve enjoyed some of the scrummy wines we bought when in the South Island just before Christmas too. Brennan Wines is my new favourite – they do some lovely wines, and we had a nice vineyard lunch there too. Unfortunately, they’re a smaller producer so as yet I haven’t seen their wines here. (Note to self: Must go check out some of the wine stores.)

Eating: Seasonally. And of course, at this time of year, there is wonderful produce. My favourite summer vegetable medley is on the menu tonight, with eggplant, zucchini, capsicum, and cherry tomatoes dressed with mustard and balsamic vinegar. Yum.

Anticipating: We have a wedding anniversary next week (one that ends in a five), and so we’ve booked a favourite but expensive (so we haven’t been for a couple of years) restaurant for dinner. Then a week later we have a family wedding to attend, which will be nice because I’ll get to see my two nieces who live in Australia. And we plan to head over the hill at some stage to enjoy the vineyards and olive groves with friends. So February is looking like a happy month.

Contemplating: How I want to spend (and fund) the next five years or so of my life.

Loving: The relative freedom of the warmth of summer, the ability to get out in nature (we went for a walk on a new track yesterday), and the long summer evenings. Summer in Wellington doesn’t last too long, so we’re soaking it up (whilst complaining about the heat at night) while we can.

Still unashamedly copying Loribeth’s regular series.

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A few nights ago, just as I was about to go to bed, I looked out the window and noticed a stunning moon. The moon was big and bright and surrounded by interesting looking clouds. So I rushed and got my camera. Though by the time I had set it up on the tripod, the clouds had gone.

“Never mind,” I thought. “This is an opportunity to practice moon shots, and to see if my new lens is any good for it.”

So I stood outside on the deck, and snapped away. I got distracted when I saw some mist hanging in the valley, and snapped away at that too. Then I decided to try my hand at some star shots, and played some more. I discovered that a 30 second exposure is sufficient to prove that the earth is turning (ie, far too long to photograph stars!) and got a decent photo of what we call The Pot (which is also Orion’s belt but the northern hemisphere’s version is upside down and so not the cooking pot/saucepan that we see here).

It was a beautiful evening, and I was still in the strappy sundress I’d been wearing all day. By this time, I knew it had been a mistake to dash outside so quickly. I was starting to itch. But the clouds had returned around the moon, and I had to try that too.

Finally satisfied I headed inside, with an urgent need for medication for insect bites. It took ages to get it on and even longer to begin to feel some relief – perhaps another hour. I felt distinctly unwell.

So I’m not 100% convinced that I want to photograph the supermoon tonight. Lesson learned though. If I do venture out, I will be wearing insect repellant!

Footnote: There were no photos good enough to show you.

 

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Whilst this week marks the time when perhaps most New Zealanders are back at work, there are still many on their summer holiday, waiting to return until next week – giving them a full month break – or the week after, which is around the time that the school terms begin. So I often excuse myself when I don’t get back into a normal routine until February! This year though, I want to start getting into a routine this week.

The first thing in setting a new routine is a To-do List. It’s different from resolutions, which I always think are doomed to fail. Here is my 2019 To-Do List:

  1. Declutter 2019 things from my house in 2019.
  2. Finish the projects that were optional in my photography course last year, and join a local photography group.
  3. Study Spanish for a minimum of 15 minutes a day for the first four months.
  4. Plan a trip to Peru (and maybe some surrounding countries).
  5. Refocus attention on my two regular blogs.
  6. Earn some money somehow.
  7. Continue to lose weight through diet and exercise.
  8. See friends more often.
  9. Read more books.
  10. Start the To-Do List today.

 

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What do you think? I took this photo on my December travels down the South Island of New Zealand. It was taken at Lake Kaniere, southeast of Greymouth on the West Coast, on a gorgeous day. It was still a week or so before Christmas, so there were only a few lucky souls enjoying the view, walking in some of the native bush trails around the lake, and visiting the occasional waterfall. I had fun with my camera, practising getting my hyperfocal range right, and on this photo, it seemed to come together about right.

Here is the original:

p1100358 lake kaniere copyright web

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Good-bye, 2018

This year has not been my favourite year. Mind you, neither was last year (with the brief exception of our wonderful trip then to Iceland, Norway, and the Baltic states), and the year before was worse! Surely I’m due for a decent year next year?

That said, I have been grateful for many things this year. We had a lovely week’s break in a part of New Zealand we had never been – I wrote about it here – and another week away (thanks to some frequent flyer miles/airpoints about to expire) in South Australia in September.

Our recent road-trip to the South Island to spend Christmas with my sisters was really special, and I ended up blogging about it almost daily elsewhere (starting with this post here), and posted photos on Fbk and Instagram (where I am @ travellingMali).

Back in January, I noted a number of projects I intended undertaking this year. I’m pleased to say that I stuck with my year long (well, 11-month?) photography course. I have some projects from it that I want to complete properly, and some lessons I need to do again, but that is the sign of a good course. I highly recommend it. Whilst I knew how to use some of features of my camera, and knew the basics about aperture and shutter speed, this filled in a lot of gaps, and I feel so much more confident with my camera. The course online is free (and begins in January, April and I think September), and there are two books for the course which you can buy online. I did, and thought they were worth it. Go to A Year with My Camera here to read more and sign up.

I have written about my gratitude for my daily blogging project and fellow bloggers over on x 365 Take Two. But I’m also grateful that people here still visit, read and comment. In total, on my three blogs, I have posted 485 times this year on my three blogs, a feat I have no intention of repeating this year. It was fun and exhausting and sometimes plain crazy! I do intend to be much more attentive to A Separate Life here next year, and I have a few other projects that I’m keen to attack too.

However, I do have to admit failure. I started enthusiastically with my 2018 in 2018 project, intending to declutter my house of 2018 things. I decluttered my bedside table and my undie drawers, and they have been a delight to me all year! But about two months in I faltered, and never got back to it. So I’m going to roll it over, to 2019, and start anew tomorrow. (Okay, maybe Thursday.) It is, after all, only a matter of decluttering five-six things a day, and I have so many papers and magazines and recipes etc that need to go that I should be able to do this. That’s the plan, anyway!

I did declutter a lot (ie thousands of emails) from my email inboxes, but I still have a long way to go! That at least began a better habit of filing or deleting emails, though again I have been slack the last month or so.

This post is breaking all the rules of Microblog Mondays, except the most important one, which is to blog. So I’m thinking that maybe next year I might not adhere so strictly to the eight-sentence rule/suggestion. (Am I the only one nuts enough to do that?)

So, we now only have six-and-a-half hours left of 2018 here in NZ. You’ll probably read this when I’m in the next year, and you’re left behind. But I’ll be there waiting for you, and will be very happy if or when you join me back here in 2019.

Happy New Year!

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Yes, as I wrote on my daily blog the other day, summer has arrived. Not as hot, so far, as last year, its arrival had been more gentle. Tomatoes and basil, strawberries, cold drinks outside on the deck, early mornings and (relatively*) late nights are all reminding me of the time of year. So too is the sun. I set off on a walk yesterday, determined to charge up and down the hills of my suburb, until – ten minutes in – I realised I’d forgotten to put on sunscreen, and had to turn back. Exercise is important, but sunburns are dangerous, and so a reminder to my fellow Kiwis and Australians – don’t forget to cover up!

This all meant I needed to change A Separate Life’s livery. The pohutukawa flowers are already making an appearance and will be in full seasonal bloom here in a couple of weeks. I’m hoping I won’t miss them.

* after visiting Iceland and Norway last year in June, it’s hard to be surprised by daylight at 9 pm.

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