Posts Tagged ‘Right Now’

Right Now

Reading: I struggled with reading during March, when the pandemic was ramping up, the rest of the world began shutting down, and we then closed down towards the end of the month. Like so many people, I became a little obsessed with reading articles, until I finally stepped away from my devices (where I read my books too) to try to escape from reality. So I did not finish one single book in March. By April we were in full lockdown in NZ, and although case numbers started going up, we knew we were doing something proactive, and there was a degree of comfort cocooning at home. I finally finished Bridge of Clay, by Markus Zusak, which had taken me a while to really get into and begin to enjoy. I decided some happy easy books were required to get my reading mojo back, and read a book that shall not be named, before getting into the lovely The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne that whisked me to Ireland, and Eleanor Oliphant is Complete Fine by Gail Honeyman which had more depth than I expected from the title and cover art.

A friend raved about Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton that, like Bridge of Clay, is about teenage boys in Australia living tough lives. I enjoyed the location, the matter-of-fact integration of refugee/immigrant families into the story, and the writing, although it was a difficult read (emotionally) at times.

I discovered too a detective series with a difference, set in Italy and based on the art world, by Iain Pears. The series is called the Jonathan Argyll series, which annoys me a little because as far as I am concerned, the main character is the female Italian detective, the secondary character is perhaps the male Italian detective, and Jonathan Argyll has more of a bit part. But he’s English and male, so gets top billing! Now, aside from that, I read the first two of this series in May and June respectively, and will read the rest. They’re simple, fun, but perhaps a little predictable. But I love the settings, and the subject matter is interesting. Definitely a cure for a missing reading mojo, and I’m saving the next book for when I need it!

I finished with Jodi Picoult’s A Spark of Light which tackles the issue of abortion in a southern state in the US. I didn’t love the structure of the book, as it works backwards, and I felt frustrated that I didn’t know the ending for most of the book, until I got to the Epilogue which wrapped it up for me! (If only I had checked the Table of Contents I could have saved myself some angst!) It covers a range of the issue’s complexities in the different characters, and I found it wasn’t quite as harrowing as it might have been. It’s worth reading regardless of your particular take on the topic.

I’ve read 19 books, 48% of my target for the year, and Goodreads cheerfully reminds me that I am one book behind schedule. No pressure! I quite like to be reminded, because it is very easy to be sucked down by the internet article vortex, and forget to turn back to books.

Watching: It’s been a great time to finish various series we had been watching, and to binge-watch a few others. I raced through a few series, but my favourites were probably Ozark, Marcella, and the second series of Dead to Me. I’m still mourning the end of The Good Place, and dip back into it again when I just need to feel better. The Prodigal Son is pretty gruesome at times, and a bit formulaic at others, but Michael Sheen is brilliant in it and well worth watching. My husband and I like to watch a programme together every evening, and together we’ve been through the latest series of Billions, and just started the latest season of WestWorld, but our highlight has been an entire BBC (I think) series, George Gently. It’s a detective series set in the 1960s and 70s which we recorded and have watched together, and is sad, and infuriating but beautifully done too.

Oh wait!  I’ve just had a look at different streaming services, and I completely forgot that Killing Eve has come and gone since I last wrote a Right Now post, and the last season of Flack, and Normal People, which I think I liked better than the book. (I know!) The book is excellent, but the characters were a little more likeable in the series, and it’s pretty faithful to the book.

And of course, almost every day I’ve caught up with the animals in Africa, via Wild Watch Live. I’ve seen little hyena cubs grow and emerge from their dens, at first wobbly on their feet, and some tiny lion cubs start to grow and join the pride, playing with each other and their mother. And it is always a joy to just sit and listen to the birds and sounds of the African bush.

Listening: Superb autumn weather and lockdown walks around my neighbourhood gave plenty of time to listen to audiobooks, and I raced through Kafka’s Metamorphosis read by Benedict Cumberbatch and How to Survive the Roman Empire, by Pliny and Me by Hattie Naylor. Every day during the lockdown at 1 pm I would try to remember to listen to the daily briefing from our Prime Minister and the head Health official, reporting on the status of cases within NZ. Those have ended now, but we still get more regular press conferences and comments that are covered by Radio NZ National, and there’s a comfort to being informed regularly by our leaders. I listen to the radio most weekdays, as it gives a nice coverage of current events, arts and literature, and local music. In the weekend I often listen to relaxed Spotify playlists if I’m writing or editing photos.

Following: The spread of the virus, closely followed by extreme stupidity, around the world. It has not been a particularly satisfying exercise.

Drinking: Not too much. We stuck very much to our routine through lockdown and as we came out of it, trying to ensure that there are two-three days that are alcohol free every week. I went seven weeks without a barista coffee, bu have had one or two a week since then.

Cooking: Oh, the cooking! Over the lockdown, and before we could get back into eating takeaways or going out for lunch again, I enjoyed cooking and meal planning and rather belatedly got into baking. I made for the first time:

Chocolate Marshmallow Easter Eggs, Sticky Cinnamon Buns, Chocolate Peppermint Slice, pizza dough (for homemade Margherita Pizza), Roti Canai (a flaky flatbread), naan bread, focaccia bread, and thanks to a blogger friend from Slovenia, Bread by Klara.

And made some old favourites: ANZAC biscuits, chocolate chip cookies, lemon slice, cheese scones (almost weekly)  beer bread, hot cross buns (though a new recipe).

Eating: See above! Since all our restrictions have been lifted, we’ve gone out for dinner a couple of times, have enjoyed takeaways (burgers, fish and chips), and have enjoyed a couple of lunches out too – Chinese food, an Indian curry, Subway etc. In fact, yesterday I added up how much we spent on buying food out of the house yesterday and it was a bit shocking after a couple of months of none of that. No wonder so many cafes and restaurants have gone out of business. I’m doing my bit to help them out now!

Wearing: The winter wardrobe is well and truly out, as I largely live in black long-sleeved thermal tops under jackets, cardigans, fleeces etc pretty much from May until October. Winter jackets are out, and I’ve even had to resort to a scarf one day already!

Anticipating: A visit early next week (I obviously wrote this last week – it’s today!!!) from my sister, niece (the famous Charlie), and brother-in-law. We haven’t seen them since November, so looking forward to exploring Wellington, eating out, and just catching up.

Trying: Not to get depressed about the international situation, focusing on what we can do here instead.

Loving: Living in New Zealand. We’re lucky. We’re far from perfect. We have an election in September that worries me. But at the moment, we have no COVID community transmission, and that means, compared to much of the rest of the world, we are free. And I’m very thankful for that.

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

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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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