Posts Tagged ‘Right Now’

Reading: After a great January, everything slowed down in February. I set myself a cautious challenge of 40 books this year, though in reality I think it will still be a stretch. Last year, I read 58 books, but if I take out the 18 books in a series that were an easy and quick read (despite one of them being the longest book I read last year,  according to Goodreads), that makes 40 more serious books. So I took that to be my challenge for this year. After all, I think that every year should include serious books and fun books and a few quick-mindless-read books. Most recently I read Michelle Obama’s Becoming, which I found fascinating. I liked that she didn’t get involved in politics, or name-dropping, but made an earnest effort to talk about her background and philosophies on life. As well as giving us an inside look at life in the White House. I’m now searching for my next read – I keep starting books, and then finding they expire from my e-library account before I really get into them.

Watching: I’ve watched quite a few series which have kept me entertained over the last few months. The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair was a slow burn, and I took a while to get into it. But by the time I was on the fourth episode, I was in full binge mode, and I watched the last three episodes back to back. I think I have to watch the final again just to make sure I never missed anything. There were some good twists, and although I predicted one of them, I missed the rest, which makes for good entertainment.

Why Women Kill also gave me regular, explosive laugh-out-loud moments, and I watched the end of The Good Place, and now I’m running through the whole thing again, because I need something with a “feel-good” vibe. In fact, as I was under the weather last week with a summer cold, I binge watched a season in one day. As I said to my husband, The Good Place is My Happy Place at the moment.

Over December and January (before summer arrived), we (The Husband and I) also went to see some of the big movies out, including the last Star Wars movie. It wrapped things up, but I was pretty disappointed really. We enjoyed Knives Out, and The Gentlemen, as much for the casts as the plots. Hugh Grant and Colin Farrell in The Gentlemen stole the show. Little Women was okay, but I really didn’t love it. Now that summer has actually arrived, we’ve been doing other things, and post-Oscars, any decent movies we actually want to watch have dried up.

Listening: I raced through a great audiobook – the BBC production of Sue Limb’s Up the Garden Path. You have to love the BBC, when you have Imelda Staunton acting the role of the protagonist/narrator! It was excellent, and I gather that a TV series was made about the book. Perfect to listen to as I was editing photos.

I then listened to another Sherman Alexie book, Flight. For a while there it was doing my head in, because the narrator couldn’t say “cavalry,” instead saying “calvary.” Given that part of the book is set around Custer’s Last Stand, they use the word a lot. It was entertaining though, and just when I started to get a little tired of one feature of the book (I’m avoiding spoilers) it moved on, evidence of excellent writing and editing! It would be a great young adults book for teenage boys.

In music terms, I have been listening to Spotify a lot, playing around with their different compilations. I don’t usually listen to it very often, but my regular radio programmes (that are on in the background now) close down for the summer holiday season (from Christmas through to late January), so it was nice to listen to some different things. I have no idea how people manage to listen to podcasts too.

Following: After the horror of the Australian bush fires, the frenzy over Harry and Meghan, anything to do with US politics, and now Covid-19 hysteria, I’m tired of following anything, to be honest! I’m struggling with that feeling that I need to be following the news to be well-informed, and that I need to be well-informed. I remind myself that I also need to be sane!

Drinking: The usual. Lots of tea (Early Grey, green tea and herbal teas), and my usual wines. Though we have enjoyed a few summery cocktails and G&Ts too.

Cooking: Still cooking up a storm! I’m not sure what’s come over me, but after Christmas, I made some zucchini chutney, then some tomato relish – two batches because the first was so delicious that I knew I needed to make some more to last a year. I also made some more onion jam/relish, but it’ll disappear quickly too, when five onions make only one jar! I’m quite amused that I’ve waited to my mid-50s to discover the joys of bottling relishes etc. And yes, in New Zealand, we call it “bottling” or simply preserving. I can never understand why people call it canning in the US, when you use bottles, not cans!

A few days ago I made an experimental plum and hazelnut tart (to share with my father-in-law), some strawberry ice-cream, and now I have a bunch of ripe apricots and peaches ready for some more experiments. I’m really enjoying trying new recipes with fresh seasonal produce!

Eating: Too much probably! Fortunately, the Christmas food (especially Christmas cake and mince pies) has long gone, and we’re getting back into a normal routine. We’ve been grazing a bit more this year – a dinner of salad, cheeses, salamis and prosciutto, and dips has been an easy go-to this summer. I’ve made romesco dip (roast capsicums, tomato, garlic, almonds and oil whizzed up) and just love it – perfect as a dip, or with meats or cheese or on pasta.

Anticipating: I’m not sure what I’m anticipating at the moment, because the whole question of Covid-19 (will it ease or get worse) will affect whether we travel this year, though we had planned on trying to get back to Thailand this year. I guess I’m anticipating losing weight (if I say it, it has to happen!), anticipating reading and writing some fun blogging projects, and hopefully, anticipating making some progress on various other projects this year.

Trying: To get back to a good, balanced exercise programme, and part of that is doing yoga. As a result of the planks in the yoga programme I did this morning, I can feel it in my chest and shoulders, and know I’ll be in pain tomorrow!

Loving: My new laptop. It opens up almost instantly (got to love those solid state drives) and has heaps of memory. And my peaceful photo from the Arashiyama bamboo grove in Kyoto that greets me every time I log in.


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

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Right Now (#8)

Reading: I’m racing ahead of my reading challenge this year, and I’m thoroughly enjoying reading again. I’m currently reading the second in a trilogy of crime series books from Spain. The translation is not great – I can’t believe that the prose in the original Spanish is as clunky as some of the English – but the characters and settings are interesting. The series is The Baztán Trilogy, by Dolores Redondo. I’ve had to wait for the second book – The Legacy of the Bones – from the library, but I’m racing through it now.

Before that, I read Pachinko by Min Lee, which is a novel across several generations, about Koreans living in Japan. Having just been to Japan (and Busan, where the first chapters are set), I loved this, though it was quite harrowing. Historically fascinating, the universal theme of mistreatment of immigrants, and their efforts to make a new country home, even when they are not wanted there, kept me engrossed.

One of the things I love about reading is travelling the world from my armchair (or couch, or bed). It’s necessary when you come from New Zealand, as our tiny population just can’t produce enough books to read solely local authors. It made me wonder. Do you read authors only from your country, do you follow just one or two countries’ authors, or do you dip into books by authors from all over the world?

Watching: The Good Place is on again, and it makes me smile! We also went to see the Downton Abbey movie, which I didn’t love as much as I thought I might. It was fine, but I didn’t really see the point. My husband was one of only a few men at the movie, so got his revenge by taking me to see Ford vs Ferrari on Friday – when I was one of only two women in the movie theatre! But it was excellent – the story was well told, brilliantly acted (Christian Bale is amazing, and Matt Damon is really good too), and the racing was exciting. And I am a person who does not like car racing!

Listening: Nothing in particular, apart from the perennial National Radio here in NZ. I’ve even missed out on listening to audiobooks, as the last few weeks the weather has been so crappy – springtime brings lots of wind to Wellington, and plenty of rain – I haven’t been venturing out with my audiobook and ear-phones to walk the local hills.

Following: The bush fires in Australia, because I have a niece who has lived very close to them. She has been posting extraordinary photos of the haze from the smoke. It’s also affected some of our sunsets over two thousand kms away here in NZ. (That’s about the distance between Toronto and Miami.) I feel for people affected by these fires – both in Australia, and California. It’s why I know how lucky we are when it rains, as it did yet again today!

Drinking: Herbal teas, and local wines. It hasn’t warmed up enough yet to start turning those herbal teas into iced tea.

Eating: Asparagus because it’s spring! I love asparagus, any which way. I also made my Thai Fried Rice the other night. It had been a long time since we had had it, and it was worth waiting for! I also spent hours the other day making pumpkin gnocchi and freezing it. I now have at least six meals packed away, and I’m looking forward to enjoying that soon. (Pumpkin gnocchi was one of my favourite meals during our three months in Italy way back in 2013).

Anticipating: Summer. Sort of. It will be nice to be able to sit on our deck and enjoy a drink and watch the birds. As long as the temperatures don’t get too hot! lol

Contemplating: Once again, contemplating the next few years, and trying to figure out how to get an extended (a year or more) period overseas again.

Loving: Working on my Japan photo book. I haven’t finished yet, but I have been thoroughly enjoying dipping back into the photos, and reliving the memories of our trip in May. I’m thinking I should be blogging about it more, so (famous last words?) watch this space.

Still unashamedly copying Loribeth’s regular series every few months here.

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Right Now (#7)

Reading: I seemed to rediscover my reading mojo in Japan. In the last two and a half months, I’ve read a total of thirteen books, which is a huge number for me in the last ten or so years. One was even an actual, hold-in-your-hand paper book that my sister loaned me last week! I read it yesterday, all day. I’m reading books that just appeal, or hold my attention, rather than trying for “worthy” books, and I’ve been really enjoying the process of reading.

There’s been a real variety, set in Italy, England, Australia and the US, and ranging from Tudor times to the 1920s to the present day. They were largely three and four-star reads. These were probably my favourites:

Kill the Father by Sandrone Dazieri
Different Class by Joanne Harris
Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Watching: I’ve been through a crime phase. My husband and I binge-watched Line of Duty from Netflix, and when that was finished, I finally succumbed to his exhortations, and watched Shetland. I raced through it, and loved it. Netflix NZ only has three series, but there have been more made, so I’m looking forward to that. The first series (only six-eight episodes per series) was more like a classic crime series, essentially introducing all the characters. The second series though follows through one main case, and was gripping. I loved the scenery, and the accents.

Listening: I’m currently listening to Radio NZ National as I usually do. I went walking today, and listened again to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie which is brilliantly told. It’s his autobiography, and I am thoroughly enjoying it, but as it is a library book, I can see it’s going to expire before I can finish it.

Following: I’m trying not to follow global politics because it is frustrating. There are a few very interesting issues going through our Parliament at the moment, both of which will be conscience votes (rather than along party lines). I’m interested in the progress of both. The first updates to our abortion laws since the 1970s are being addressed, which is about time, if you ask me! A Bill looking at voluntary euthanasia is also being addressed. Having watched my parents and my in-laws, and thinking about my own circumstances, I have some strong opinions on this.

Drinking: I’ve been enjoying wine again, after seven weeks in Asia when we didn’t drink any at all. It was strictly beer and cocktails. I found myself surveying our hotels’ Mai Tais in Vietnam. The Hanoi hotel won, because the drinks were delicious, the air-conditioning was strong (it was 39C outside), and the lobby bar was elegant. But happy hour at the beach pool was good too.

Eating: Healthily, in bursts. It’s the middle of winter, so I’m enjoying hearty Thai curries once a week, and noodle soup occasionally for lunch. Now that I write this, I’m feeling the urge for a roast lamb dinner sometime soon.

Anticipating: Getting together with some friends tomorrow night. We haven’t seen them since we went to Asia, so it will be fun to catch up. Wellington restaurants are in the middle of August’s Wellington on a Plate, so we’re going to try one of the “Festival Dishes.” Then in the last half of August, the Burger Wellington competition will be in full swing. I love burgers, but hardly ever eat them, so I’m determined to get out and try a few of the offerings. There are lots of interesting versions with Asian flavours that sound fun.

Contemplating: The next few years, as the relative freedom I had expected to return to – and which I was looking forward to enjoying – after our trip has disappeared, and so I’ll need to refocus my plans.

Loving: The winter! Believe it or not, I’m relishing the cooler weather after the hot weather on our trip. Last week I was down in the cold south and loved the zero degree temperatures they get at night, and continually exclaimed over the snowy mountains I saw on the seven-hour road trip I took with my sister and niece.  Winter is great if I’m warm and cosy inside.


Still unashamedly copying Loribeth’s regular series every few months.

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Right Now (#6)

Reading: After months of reading very little in terms of books, I just finished Normal People by Sally Rooney, which I raced through in just a couple of days. Next, inspired by Lori’s review, and thanks to my library which bought an e-book copy only a week after I searched for it, I have started The Seed: Infertility is a Feminist Issue, by Alexandra Kimball. I’m looking forward to that.

Watching: Game of Thrones. Though I’m upset I will miss the last couple of episodes when we are away. I blame my husband for having an inconveniently placed birthday, though it is not really his fault! But also other favourites that have all been on again recently, like Killing Eve, Billions, Tin Star, Counterpart (the one where the worlds split in two).

Listening: To my Duolingo language app.

Following: The photos and tales from my sister-in-law and her family who have been visiting Japan.

Drinking: Tea. Lots of tea. Earl Grey when I’m cold, green tea for lunch, chamomile before bed, and every few days, other herbal and fruit teas to vary my liquid intake, when I’m sick of water.

Eating: Hot Cross Buns and Easter Eggs, and this weekend, for my father-in-law’s 90th birthday, slow roast lamb and a rich chocolate cake. So starting tomorrow, we’ll be able to get back to normal healthy eating.

Anticipating: Our trip next month, to two countries that are new to me, and one I haven’t visited since 1996. I’ll be excited once I get everything done here I need to do before I go!

Contemplating: What to do with relatively newfound freedom once we get back from our trip.

Loving: Autumn. More on that anon.

Still unashamedly copying Loribeth’s regular series every few months.

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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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Right Now … (#4)

Reading: Poetry, as this month on our daily blogging group is Experimenting with Form month, and they are all much better poets than I am, so rather than direct you to my blog, I will commend Helen’s villanelle to you, and I guarantee the third line (at least) will make you laugh.

Watching: After finishing the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale, which was brutal but compulsory viewing, and after bingeing all seasons of the Game of Thrones, I caught up with Designated Survivor’s two seasons, and now I’m watching Counterpart, which is set in two parallel worlds, and really makes you think.

Following: The New Zealand Women’s Softball Team, aka The White Sox, is playing at the World Championships in Japan this week, and my 18-year-old niece is in the team (I think she must be the youngest there), and although they’ll struggle against bigger countries, they’re a team with a lot of heart; and I kind of wish I was there, but it’s been really hot, and so I’m glad I’m not.

Drinking: A lot of tea to keep me warm; maybe Earl Grey at breakfast, green tea at lunch or in the afternoon, and after dinner it’s chamomile tea, though I also throw in the occasional glass of wine, because I wouldn’t want to go cold turkey.

Eating: We’ve been going overboard with soup this winter, in an effort to avoid buying takeaways (eg fish and chips or pizza), and though I used to make a lot of pumpkin/butternut soup, and I’ve a recipe for a spicy carrot soup I want to try, this year I’ve been cheating and making tasty tomato soup from canned tomatoes, and eating freshly baked bread (sometimes homemade too) with it.

Anticipating: I’m looking forward to a week away in early September, thanks to some frequent flyer points I needed to use, and so I booked at the end of June (they expired 1 July), and we’re heading off to Aussie, and one of the great wine regions of the world, which will be fun, and make up for the lack of drinking we’re doing at the moment.

Contemplating: When underestimating your abilities is just an excuse for fear, and when overestimating your abilities is arrogance, and relating it to studies that have just come out

Loving: The winter, as although we haven’t had many really cold days, it’s always very cosy to hunker down inside when it’s raining, as it has been a lot the last few days (hence the binge-watching I’ve been doing this last month), and it is just starting to rain again (though fortunately it was fine this morning so I managed to go for a nice long walk), which is perfect timing for a lazy evening and a comfort food curry for dinner.

Still unashamedly copying Loribeth’s regular series.

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Right now … (#3)

Still unashamedly copying Loribeth’s regular series, I wrote a couple of posts in this series back in 2016, and completely forgot to do any in 2017. So here is my first attempt in 2018:

Reading: I’ve just finished The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel, the author of Life of Pi. Oddly, the last time I did a Right Now post, I was reading Night Train to Lisbon, so Portugal has been a theme. Eventually, I decided that life was too short to read Night Train to Lisbon. I just didn’t find it compelling. But I enjoyed the first part of The High Mountains of Portugal, though it was one of those pieces where you suspected the hapless main character was always going to do something wrong. The second part confused me a little, though I grew into it. And the third part is a fascinating conclusion.

Watching: At the end of last year, I had binged on (embarrassing admission) White Collar, and then The Good Wife (only embarrassed it took me so long to watch). So at the moment, I’m only watching a few things as they become available, rather than binge-watching anything. All my new 2018 projects are keeping me too busy.

Listening: I’m listening more often to audiobooks, when I go walking or when I’m editing photographs. I can’t listen to audiobooks at the same time as I write or read blogs, unfortunately. My most recent book was Two Brothers by Ben Elton, which was excellent.

Following: My camera course. And global politics, as always, though with less and less interest. I was going to write enthusiasm, but that left me some time ago.

Drinking: Chardonnay. I’m making the most of Pasta and Chardonnay Thursdays (aka The Husband’s Golf Nights). But as it is summer, and has been warmer than usual, I’ve been having the occasional beer too, on top of sauvignon blancs or rosés. And last week was our wedding anniversary, so there were a couple of glasses of champagne involved.

Eating: Zucchini noodles (trying to lose weight) to eat the zucchini from my husband’s little vegetable patch. Homemade ice-cream, because it is summer. And a new discovery, homemade beer bread.

Anticipating: Not too much. We had a big trip last year, so we won’t be going too far afield this year. My husband has a big birthday next year, so that might involve some travel. In the meantime, I just have to focus on little things. Anticipating having a clean office, via my decluttering project, is exciting!

Contemplating: How to make these difficult remaining years of my in-laws’ lives easier, without losing myself in the process. And at the same time, remembering my mother, as it was two years ago yesterday that we lost her.

Loving: My new blogging project, my decluttering project, and my camera course. But you know that already!

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