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Posts Tagged ‘Right Now’

Reading: I’m reading a wee bit more lately, and have been lucky to find several really excellent books, each one quite different from the other. I love reading a variety of books, and could never stick to just one genre.

Just this morning I finished the fabulous Elizabeth Knox’s Wake. I note that some of my book club friends read it about seven years ago, but it’s taken me a while to get to it. It was funny though – when I downloaded the book onto my e-reader, it asked me if I would like to go to the page last read. I said yes, curious to see how far I had read, because I had no memory of it! It was only a few pages in, so I reread those, then gobbled up the rest of the book in just a day or two, which is pretty remarkable given my lack of reading much of this year. I haven’t always loved the mystical nature of some of Elizabeth Knox’s books (The Black Oxen took a couple of attempts), but this one was pitched exactly right for me, and gets five stars on Goodreads.

I’ve also finished Kindred, by Octavia Butler, a time-travel history into the early 1800s in the US which was fascinating, as I always like anything historical. And listened to Kamala Harris’ memoir, The Truths We Hold. I like listening to memoirs as audiobooks, especially when they are read by the author themselves. It seems more authentic. This was fascinating for a few chapters when it delved into her childhood and family background, but much of it was a political manifesto, written before she ran for President. Still, I learned a lot about her, her history, her qualifications, and principles, even if it was – as I expected – somewhat sanitised.

Kazuo Ishiguro has long been a favourite of mine, so I was thrilled to find a new book from him. Klara and the Sun was very enjoyable, and an easy read. But it didn’t really deliver too much that was new for me, though I know others (including one of my former book club friends) who loved it.

The Quiet Girl by S F Kosa was a mystery that kept me gripped too, and although I thought I had figured out some of it in advance, I wasn’t 100% sure, which is the mark of a good mystery!

Finally, I read Grace Dent’s Hungry, a funny and honest memoir of The Guardian’s restaurant critic. (Thanks to Loribeth who reviewed it here). I read the memoir of Ruth Reichl (former NYT critic) years ago (Garlic and Sapphires) and loved it, so was delighted to find a UK story too. I could relate to the discovery of new food and flavours, after growing up with a very traditional NZ diet (though not nearly as “beige” as Dent’s childhood died) until I landed in Thailand as a 17-year-old.

I gave all of these books three stars and above on Goodreads, which means it was a great month or two of reading. I use their star standards – eg three stars means I enjoyed the book, and would recommend it, four stars means I thought it was really good, and five stars is a book I loved.

Watching: Wimbledon, of course, and the Olympics, of course (as I wrote here), and more recently I’ve been keeping a check on the Paralympics. I’ve been delighted and fascinated by the sports I didn’t know existed, the categories that have allowed so many different people to compete, and I have been beyond moved by the efforts of people who have faced such obstacles in life.

In between the two Olympics, I binge-rewatched some comfort series, namely Downton Abbey. The Husband and I have watched a few different series, the names of which now largely escape me (Money Heist over two days in the weekend), and we’ve just started The Departure, which looks promising.

Daily viewing for the last few weeks in lockdown has been the press conference by the DG of Health and the Prime Minister or Minister for COVID Response, when they announce case numbers and progress. We seem to have stopped the spread, with the R rate currently under 1, but new cases are still popping up in our biggest city, Auckland. We’ve just watched the announcement that the rest of the country will move to a lifting of many restrictions, going back to a more normal life on Wednesday, though with increased mask requirements. I know the rest of you are already very accustomed to this, but it is new for us.

Listening: Radio NZ, of course, which is on at the moment as I write this, and just a few things on Spotify. And when I walk, I have been listening to my audiobooks. I’ve just downloaded Shuggie Bain, so I need to go on a few walks to get through that one!

Following: The usual. Progress (or lack of progress) with COVID-19 and vaccinations across the globe. News. Photographers I envy. Yes, exactly the same as three months ago.

Drinking: Today for the first time in three weeks I had a flat white (coffee)! My husband came back from the supermarket with a coffee. We’re currently in a lighter lockdown than the first two weeks, which enables food and drink to be purchased to take away. I’m not a coffee addict, but I did enjoy that one this morning! Otherwise, alcohol-wise, we’ve been drinking a little more in lockdown than we would usually, though we still have several days a week when we don’t drink. Mondays would normally be a no-alcohol day, but I have a half-full bottle of chardonnay in the fridge that I opened for a Zoom chat with some friends on Saturday night. So in a few hours, it will be a case of “Cheers!”

Cooking: To keep supermarket visits to once or twice a week during lockdown, I’ve been trying to empty the freezer of meat and bagels, etc. A good excuse to spring clean the freezer and pantry! Not to mention that I quite enjoy planning out the week’s menu in advance. I experimented with burgers (not something my husband has ever particularly liked) including a brioche-like bun, because we missed out on the food festival Burger Wellington this year. I’ve made homemade pizza too, for a Saturday night meal. I have vegetable soup and pumpkin gnocchi in the freezer, and have generally been eating pretty healthy. Well, except for the sticky date pudding I made for the first time last week. Oops. Tonight on the menu we have pumpkin, feta and bacon pasta.

Eating: See above. I don’t mind eating home-cooked food. I sometimes complain that I’m in a recipe rut, but the truth is I really like eating my favourite dishes (curries, fried rice, lamb shanks, tagines etc), and they work so well as winter comfort food too, so not being able to go out, or buy takeaways, doesn’t bother me. Prior to lockdown we got out with some friends for a fun evening at the beginning of the August food festival, and we’re all grateful that we managed to do that.

Wearing: A more casual version of my winter uniform, which includes black thermal tops (I have several) and black yoga pants. The only time I dress up – or at least, put on a bit of makeup – is when I zoom. Even though I discovered the other day I can put on lipstick and eyebrows through the Advanced Video Settings, and so barely need to do that!

Appreciating: Our government. I look at the delta variant raging around the world, and am grateful that we have had so long living COVID-free thanks to their policies, and hopefully will be free again soon. Our vaccination programme has been slow, largely because the vaccinations needed to get to us after first going to countries that were much more needy. (I had my first dose in mid-August, and my second is scheduled for the end of this month.) It’s ramping up now, and I’m very appreciative too of my fellow citizens who have been rushing to get vaccinated the last few weeks. Of course, I don’t yet know what levels we’ll ultimately reach, so I really hope I’m not speaking prematurely!

Anticipating: Catching up with friends. I know we’ve only been in lockdown for a few weeks, but it will be lovely to see people face to face. It reminds me how tough it has been for so many of you for so long. And The Husband and I have a few travel plans for the next six months, figuring out where we can go in NZ and what we can do that would be fun, or new. NZ is pretty small, so we’re going to start running out of options!

Loving: My hair! (Well, almost!) Finally it has passed that really awkward stage I was at a few months ago, and I’m pleased that it’s looking closer to how I wanted it to look. I have very wavy hair, so as it gets a little longer, I’m keen to experiment with some “curly-girl” techniques. I’m not sure it will work, but it might be fun to try. And if it is a disaster, I still have my trusty straightener, because leaving it to wave naturally at the moment isn’t an option!

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

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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.

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Reading: Well,as you’ll see below, I’ve been into audiobooks lately. I finished the year with 30 books read, and since then have read another couple. Since the last Right Now in September 2020, I loved Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. The two worked perfectly in writing this, and I should have read it earlier, but have always been suspicious of collaborations. I shouldn’t have been! I love the silliness of Terry Pratchett, yet he was always so incredibly clever in his writing too.

The Girl in the Mirror is by a NZ author Rose Carlyle, and was enjoyable but was spoiled because I kept thinking I knew exactly what was going to happen. I only knew some of it, which I guess is the mark of a good thriller, but I’m still in two minds. Apparently the movie rights have been bought, and I think it might be better on screen. I enjoyed Sandrone Dazieri’s second in the Columba series, Kill the Angel. It is set in Italy, and has a couple of interesting and amusing characters, and there’s a third in the series, but I’m eking them out for when I need a reading mojo boost!

Watching: There’s been some very good watching recently. At the end of last year we enjoyed The Queen’s Gambit, along with half the world. And in the last two days we binged Lupin, a French series on Netflix. It was left with a cliff-hanger, but apparently the second series is coming again soon, so I’m looking forward to that. And I gobbled up, in one day, Bridgerton. I decided to watch it when I read it was a Shonda Rhimes production, and I immediately loved it. I loved the leads, the music (modern music with orchestral arrangements), the humour, the settings, the costumes, the actors. The social commentary, was less than subtle, and I felt the piece lost momentum when it was trying to explain what I thought was obvious. After all, Jane Austen managed a lot of social commentary in Pride and Prejudice, and didn’t have to explain any of it. Still, I highly recommend it. Also, the sex scenes. Enough said.

We also went to the movies to watch Wonder Woman 1984. It was fine, but I think I’m over the idea of paying to watch superhero movies. We have a few movies we want to see in the next month too, so I’m looking forward to that.

Listening: My summer listening in the afternoons is often Matinee Idle, on our national radio station. They’ve been running this programme for years in the summer holidays or any public holiday, when regular programming is suspended. Two guys, who have great chemistry together, play a variety of music. Some of it is great, some obscure, and some hilarious and/or truly horrific, which they take great delight in playing, and then reading out the disgusted but often very funny texts/tweets etc from their listeners.

As we’ve been cleaning out my in-laws’ house over the last months, I often put on an audiobook, and have listened to Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers, Marion Keyes’ Making it up as I go along, Sally Rooney’s Conversation with Friends, and We Are All Made Of Glue by Marina Lewycka (which has a fabulous narrator). Normally, I would include these under Reading, but the middle two especially were perfect as audiobooks, purely for the gorgeous Irish accents. Mind you, the narrator in Marion Keyes’ book kept mispronouncing mes amis, and I really want to know if she was doing it deliberately or not, eg. how was it spelled? This is why books always win for me! I like to see words written down – it’s even how I learn languages!

Following: Events in the US, and covid infections all over the world. At least in terms of US politics, the stress levels have gone, as there is an end in sight, but I’ll still be nervous for Thursday (Wednesday in the US) until it is safely over! Covid infection levels are scary. I don’t really understand how we in NZ could so easily follow our clearly set rules, and yet the rest of the world could neither set them nor follow them, or even believe that they were necessary. And I’ve seen so many photos on Fbk of people “social distancing,” when they obviously have no clue how far two metres/six feet really is! Sigh. I feel for you all as we enjoy our so-far-Covid-free summer.

Drinking: Not a lot. White wine with meals, because it works so well in summer. The occasional gin and tonic on a warm evening. The occasional prosecco or bubbles.

Cooking: I feel as if I’ve lost my cooking mojo. I’m not wanting to try too much, because after Christmas eating, it’s good not to make tempting things! Though there is a loaf of ciabatta in the oven right now, to go with dips and cheeses and salad and smoked salmon for dinner.

Eating: Left-over-from-Christmas ham sandwiches. It’s one of the joys of Christmas food – the ham sandwiches that are such a part of our kiwi summer. In fact, because we were away at Christmas, on our return we bought a ham, and I glazed it, purely so we could have ham sandwiches. Of course, I equally love tomato sandwiches. It’s the great summer conundrum – what to have for lunch? Ham or tomato sandwiches? Together or alone? Because although I love tomato and lettuce and avocado or maybe cheese sandwiches, a tomato sandwich, just tomato, is a beautiful thing. And I like ham on its own too, just ham and mustard, and two pieces of bread. It’s a dilemma.

Wearing: Nothing fancy. T-shirts and capris and sandals and slingbacks. I bought a pair of loose (wide leg?) ¾ pants and I’m thrilled with how good they look, so I’m living in those.

Anticipating: Finishing sorting out my father-in-law’s house. We’re almost at the stage of putting it on the market, which is both exciting and a bit daunting. Sorting through their things has been a big job, especially as I’ve been very good about photographing items and sending them off to all the brothers and grandkids (who all live overseas) and asking if they want them. My husband would have just sold everything we didn’t want! I still have some major cleaning to do before it goes on the market, but once that happens it will be a new world of no responsibilities! Well, within reason.

Trying: To exercise more often, which is hard in summer because exercise outside between the hours of about 10 am and 5.30 pm requires full sunscreen/hat and sunglasses coverage. But walking earlier in the morning is really lovely on a nice, relatively wind-free (!) day. I managed five walks in a row last week. And of course I’m trying NOT to get sunburnt. I heard an interesting interview with a scientist who explained that although the Antarctic ozone hole doesn’t reach over New Zealand (as we all thought it did), in our summer we have lower ozone levels anyway (I forget the details) and we are something like four per cent closer to the sun than the rest of the world is in their summer (something to do with orbit and shape of the earth I think), so, coupled with our outdoor lifestyles, along with Australia we have the highest melanoma levels in the world. Well, that was depressing!

Adjusting: To not being able to plan travel yet. We’ve accepted that we won’t travel internationally this year again, unless we can have a two-way travel bubble with Australia (the parts that haven’t had outbreaks – ie Western Australia or Tasmania). I’ll admit that every so often I start to freak out, wondering whether international travel will ever be safe again, and whether all my plans for retirement are going to be completely scuppered! Then I realise I can’t do anything about it, refuse to entertain the possibility but also refuse to make any plans for the next year or two, lest I be disappointed. So like the rest of New Zealand, we are planning further expeditions around our beautiful country. Once FIL’s house is sold, that is!

Loving: My latest hobby. Yes, I’m still knitting. I gave my sisters knitted tea cosies for their birthdays last year – one was a crazy wild face for my younger sister who I knew would get the sense of humour. The other was a garden arrangement tea cosy for my older sister, with representations of her gorgeous rose garden and her three Australian grandsons. I’m not sure what they really thought, but a lot of effort went into them! I started off on the whole tea cosy thing when my sister-in-law requested two designs. I sent them to her for her 50th birthday, and they arrived within a day or two (given I’d sent them about five weeks earlier to allow for COVID mail issues – yes, it’s not just in the US) and she was absolutely over-the-moon with delight. Here they are – a rooster, and a jester. (As you can see, I made a few roosters – have already given one away to friends who have chickens – and a couple of different sized jesters for practice!) There are others I’ve made too – may show them separately

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

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