Thursday, December 27, 2007

my Christmas present to me


Yup - I have just ordered a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 from a Parallel Importers in another city. My camera died in Thailand after a mishap involving a kayak and, er, the sea, and I have been borrowing one for the last few weeks, and finally I have found the camera for me. I couldn't afford a digital SLR but this one is at the higher end of point-and-shoot digital cameras, and, even with postage, this is a lot cheaper than getting it at a camera shop in my city. I've seen several very positive reviews of this camera, one going so far as to say there is nothing wrong with it, so I am very excited about getting my parcel in the next few days.


How was everyone's Christmas Day? Mine was sunny and beautiful. We had a fantastic brunch at my sister's house in the late morning - Eggs Benedict, pancakes with mixed berries and cream, croissants, fresh orange juice, COFFEEEEEE. My sister has just sold her house and so it was bittersweet that it would be our last Christmas there - it is a lovely cosy old villa with a cottage garden and a swimming pool. Then we had a barbecue in the evening at my brother-in-law's parents' house. Boxing Day was not so nice, weather-wise - it rained all day - but today is another perfect summer's day, and my gran and two aunties took me to the beach via the hills for lunch. I love summer!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

it's Christmas time

Tagged by Lynette... (lestes65.blogspot.com - no linkage due to decrepit old computer that lets me do nothing)

1. List 12 random things about yourself that have to do with Christmas.
2. Please refer to it as a ‘hoopla’ and not the dreaded ‘m’-word…
3. You have to tag specific people when you’re done. No “if you’re reading this, consider yourself tagged” stuff is allowed. The number of people you tag is really up to you — but the more, the merrier to get this ‘hoopla’ circulating through the blogosphere.
4. Please try and do it as quickly as possible. The Christmas season will be over before we know it! Let’s involve as many people as possible!

Hmm, so here goes:

1. I always wake up early on Christmas Day. Even as an adult. I can't help it. It's exciting!

2. This year my Secret Santa (we have that system in my family) asked what I want and I requested either a complete surprise, Coldplay's album "Parachutes", or the Oxford Book of Carols, which is a beautiful book of singing/piano music with carols from all over the world arranged beautifully.

3. Being in the southern hemisphere, sometimes I feel like I've missed out on Christmas pop culture. I have never seen real mistletoe, mulled wine is a bit impractical at this time of year, I have no idea what eggnog contains and used to assume it was an eggplant drink, it never snows here in December unless you're on top of a mountain, it's the wrong season for holly, the list goes on. There are lots of benefits to a summer Christmas but one year I would love to spend Christmas in Germany or somewhere cold.

4. I have played both a cow and a poplar tree in nativity plays at our church. Should I explain? The first was the innkeeper in a nativity musical (the main character was Mary's donkey). And on the other occasion I was Polly Poplar, the heroine of the drama - all the other trees at the nursery were being bought as Christmas trees but I was too ugly, being a poplar, until an angel came and decorated me with Christmas lights and then I was beautiful! It's hard to pretend to cry when you have a tree costume on.

5. My mum died around Christmas time so lots of people assume Christmas must be hard for me. Actually Christmas seems to give some meaning to Mum's death, for me. Although I can totally understand that some people in similar situations find it very difficult.

6. I have two particular pet peeves about this season - people who think Christmas is an evil or unnecessary thing with pagan roots that Christians shouldn't participate in, and people who decide that since they aren't Christian they should try and stop other people from celebrating. Ie, the man in Wellington last year who rang noise control because the Salvation Army band was playing carols on the street, as they do every year, complaining it was offending him and usurping his right to religious freedom. Killjoy.

7. Another pet peeve is the Christmas music that plays in malls. Sheesh, it's already noisy and hellish enough in there without Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or Jingle Bells playing over and over. I have never been unfortunate enough to work in a mall over Christmas but I heartily pity those who do.

8. I like waterfights and barbecues at Christmas. I know that this year we will have the latter, but everyone's too grown up for the former now, unless I enlist my nieces and nephews. Oh, and that's right - I have a cast on which I'm not allowed to get wet or walk on - looks like a fun Christmas for me.

9. My sister wrote a Christmas musical for our church one year, as part of the composition element of her music degree at uni. I still have some of the music and I still think it's really good.

10. (edited because I suddenly remembered this) One of the nicest things about getting a real tree when I was a kid was that it would always be too tall, so Dad would lop off the top with a saw. I was allowed to put it in a smaller bucket, decorate it myself, and keep it in my room as my own mini-Christmas tree. Kinda cool.

11. Last night our neighbours invited my dad and I and some other neighbours over for a Christmas barbecue. It was so nice feeling part of a little community.

12. Next year at Christmas time there will be two more members of my family.

FINIS

Edit: *scream* Must! Tag! Someone! Layling, Tusk, E., slskenyon, and Patty, if they read this. And the Ukrainian Mafia.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

cliche or truth?

I have over the last two months seen one movie about three times because I loved it so much - it was one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. I won't say what it was because if I do I'm about to spoil a really special moment in it for anyone that hasn't seen it.

Actually, what I write here isn't going to sound all that original or "special". It's a bit of a cliche, in fact.

In this film, someone's father has always given them the advice that success isn't all life's about. Instead, what matters is to have tried.

Despite this being a really sweet moment, the first times I watched the film it just washed over me, to be honest. Yeah yeah, that's what everyone says, heard THAT before. Third time through, I stopped to think. The one thing I want to be successful at (- writing -) is the thing I'm most scared to attempt. My major reason for not hunkering down and writing The Novel, instead of just sitting round excusing myself and waiting for The Idea, is that rejection is a little too frightening. More frightening is making the attempt and then finding out that I'm a crap writer and I can't actually do it unless I want to sell my soul and do Mills and Boon. This has always made perfect sense to me even if I don't admit it.

(Of course, an element of my inaction is just pure laziness.)

But then I thought, suppose some day I die, which is more than likely. Will I really be lying on my deathbed surrounded by adoring hordes of descendants, or with my life flashing before my eyes in the midst of some tragic accident, thinking, "well, at least I never got rejected by a publishing company"?

I've got to get on with it. Just do it. Bite the bullet.

There are probably about ten cliches in this one blog post, not least that "trying is the most important thing". Maybe this particular cliche hasn't used up all its truth, though.

And at least if I write the novel and die without seeing success, I can delude myself into believing it will be published posthumously, make my grandchildren rich, and ensure for myself a well-kept tombstone.

Monday, December 17, 2007

being a bridesmaid

When one of my best friends told me earlier in the year that she was engaged and she wanted me to be a bridesmaid, I was a) stunned as I hadn't even met her boyfriend; b) honoured and SO happy for her; and c) just a little bit panicky. Last time I was a bridesmaid it was for a very considerate sister who spent a lot of time making sure each of her bridesmaids felt comfortable in the dresses we wore. But when we were at high school, my friend (let's call her Jane Doe) would often tell us exactly what her wedding dress would be like and how her bridesmaids would wear baby pink, baby doll dresses with a white sash. I can think of few dresses less likely to compliment my figure and colouring than that, and so I (probably unjustly) panicked, assuming my friend would be one of those brides who dresses her bridesmaids in clothes that would suit HER and not them.

I panicked even more when she asked me to try on a dress in a store called Portman's that sells clothes in both Australia and New Zealand. I tried it on - a beautiful shiny red - but it wouldn't quite do up, and it came almost two thirds up my thighs. *scream* I think Portman's makes clothes exclusively for ballerinas. My friend gave up on that idea very graciously and looked elsewhere, finally buying dresses at a shop called Ezibuy, and buying two different sizes for me just in case one didn't fit right. My panic has been toned down over the last few months, mainly because I didn't think about it, but today Jane Doe brought the dresses to my house to try on.

Well, I did. The smaller size fits me perfectly and it is BEAUTIFUL. I am so relieved. Over the last year or so I've found it impossible to find a single dress that doesn't make me look like an elephant, and somehow my friend finds one without me even having to try it on first. Here is the link if you want to see what the dress looks like - it is the red one on the right - http://www.ezibuy.co.nz/Search/4103/Burnout_Voile_Dress/36132.htm

THANK YOU JANE DOE! Bring on the wedding (Feb 9).

Saturday, December 15, 2007

haere mai

So - I'm home. Arrived at 2:20pm on Thursday 13 December, exhausted after leaving Perth at midnight. Lucky because I travelled by business class and was able to use the Qantas Business class lounge in Sydney, with free food, magazines, wireless internet and soft comfy armchairs. I am still jetlagged (this timezone change is a killer - I have to get up at 3am and go to bed at what feels like 4pm) and I have Business to attend to in the form of enrolling for university, making hospital appointments, informing Inland Revenue that I AM in NZ and therefore don't have to pay extra interest on my student loan, applying for travel insurance - and so on.

I have come back to:
- heavenly, heavenly cold weather. When I came out the airport door, it was rainy, misty and windy. BLISS. Such is a New Zealand summer. It's only started to get sunny today. And when it gets warm, it won't be too dry and it won't be too humid. There will be hardly any flies, no poisonous spiders, no snakes.
- Dad, my sister and her husband, my two nephews aged 9 and 7. Alex, the younger, said to me on Thursday - "when are you going to get married and have babies?" (I am the only one in the family who is still resisting.)
I snorted and said, "I don't know, never maybe."
Alex replied, "Well, you're lovely, someone should marry you!"
As little as I want to get married right now, isn't that just so sweet? Who wouldn't want to be around a kid like that?
- old computer and slow, restricted internet. I cannot use facebook and my gmail and blogger accounts only display the basics - no photos can be published today. Right now it is still funny.
- a soft bed. For various reasons the mattress I slept on in Oz was built like a log and my sleep now is long, luxurious and uninterrupted.
- people who are like me. Even chatting to the airport staff who wheeled me through Christchurch Airport reinforced this. The Aussies I met were on the whole great, and hardly all that different from me. But being back here reminds me this is where I belong, this is where I fit in. No more New Zealander jokes. No more overemphasized imitations of my accent. No more slightly different standards of politeness.
- a mall in which I inevitably run into at least three people I know every time I shop there. One of the lonely things about Perth was walking around town or mall or beach and knowing I would see nobody I knew even vaguely. Today I met some friends at a cafe near Riccarton mall and besides these friends I bumped into four other people I know. Christchurch is a small, small place.

It's good to be home.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

ho ho ho

Sailing in Penang, Malaysia in a regatta on 21 November, on a 52ft yacht called the Resolution of Whitby.
Me and another crew member while we waited in the stinking heat for the wind to come up.
My brother driving. Yes, he had fun.

Christmas meme from Lynette:

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper for sure. Even without ribbons etc it looks prettier. There's something about a big chunky parcel you can't peek into that a shiny bag can't beat.

2. Real tree or Artificial? Fake's better than nothing, but I lurve real Christmas trees. NZ pine trees are straggly and they drop pine needles everywhere - but they smell so good! And Christmas lights look so much prettier in a real tree.

3. When do you put up the tree? The last few years we haven't had one - my Dad's not a fan of disposing of them (he gets all the dirty work), apparently they won't burn and they just sit in the garden gradually getting uglier and uglier all year. But if we do, we usually got one a week or so before Christmas.

4. When do you take the tree down? When even I have to admit it's dying.

5. Do you like eggnog? I have never had eggnog. I'm not opposed to trying it but it's not the most encouraging name.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? A chocolate fondue set from my sister Felicity.

7. Do you have a nativity scene? Not one we use every single year and is an integral family custom, if you know what I mean. I saw one last year after Christmas at Trade Aid, though, which is a Mexican one and it was the coolest thing ever. I'm really tempted to buy it this year if they still have it.

8. Hardest person to buy for? My Dad.

9. Easiest person to buy for? My niece Lydia. She basically loves everything to do with animals or crafts or reading or jewellery etc etc etc. Or her brother Lewis. He is constantly obsessed with several things - last year it was crystals, volcanoes and medieval torture devices. A breeze.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail. Not that I've got organised this year...

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? ---- A blank. I can't remember anything bad enough that I didn't want to get it. I'm a hoarder and a scavenger.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? I'm not a fan of Christmas movies per se. However, there is an exception, and it's Love Actually.

13. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Don't think so. Oh yes, one year I got the same book from two different people, so I gave it away or something like that.

14. What is your favorite thing/things to eat at Christmas? Scorched almonds (and lots of them), sparkling grape juice, gravy (with meat, of course, but I'm open as to type of bird), pavlova (legendary Kiwi dessert - I think I've mentioned it on here, oh, some fifty times), roast veges.

15. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Well, it seems that compared to everyone else I am tasteless but I like coloured ones. The problem with clear lights is that they always seem to be on boring Christmas trees, the ones that have been actually designed and have symmetrically placed ornaments. Our Christmas trees have always been eclectic, disorganised and a bit odd-looking - and I like it that way.

16. Favorite Christmas song? What Child Is This, and O Come O Come Emmanuel. Great tunes, fantastic words, minor key, not overdone by modern singers.

17. Travel at Christmas or stay home? It doesn't matter - I want to be where family are.

18. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Nope. Dasher, Donner and Blitzen. And of course everyone knows Rudolph.

19. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Morning.

20. Most annoying thing about this time of year: Politically correct policy of ignoring everything that's good about Christmas and trying to make it a hygienic, plastic, uninspiring, and utterly BORING celebration of consumerism.

21. Favorite ornament theme or color? As said before, I don't like having a theme. I like some disorder.

22. Favorite thing for Christmas dinner? Roast chicken. A BIG one.

23. What do you want for Christmas this year? I would love to finally get Coldplay's first album Parachutes. Other than that, I appreciate creativity.

24. Who will you tag for this meme? Anyone whose name is Rhonda.

Coming up: Leaving Australia. My thoughts.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

the Christmas spirit

Some photos from Phi Phi Island in Thailand: My brother and family on the long tail boat at the Phi Phi Islands
A long tail boat from outside
Around the coast of Phi Phi Ley, a smaller island, and near where we snorkelled. The island itself was just beautiful - it felt like we were in a mini-fjord at times, with those big rocky walls, except the water wasn't very deep.
The beach outside the place we stayed on Koh Phi Phi. The restaurant was right by the beach, and the swimming was amazing - right by our doorstep.
The sunset on, funnily enough, the night I broke my heel.

Guess what? I'm going home next week. The insurance company just rang to check flight details with me. Leaving here on the 12th, arriving on the 13th. I will have been away from Christchurch for exactly five months. I'm so excited! Anyway - onto the main blog business:

It is December, which means I'm feeling Christmassy - of course. I know it's possible to get a bit silly about Christmas, but I love it too much to be sensible. I can't wait to start wrapping up presents and decorating and cooking etc - almost all of which will be, of course, very difficult on my gammy leg but I'm sure to try! This morning I spent a long time on iTunes going through carols and buying a selection for my listening pleasure - carols are almost my favourite thing about Christmas. I bought:
- Good King Wenceslas
- Joy to the World
- God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen
- Es ist ein' Ros' entsprungen
- Ding Dong Merrily on High
- For unto us a son is born (from Messiah)
- The Coventry Carol
- O Come, O Come Emmanuel
- Stille Nacht
- What Child Is This?
- Fairytale of New York (okay, so a little different to the others, but this is almost the only modern Christmas song I actually like)
- Away in a Manger (with the alternate, less common tune, and sung by Ella Fitzgerald)

Favourite carols, anyone? Any recommendations?

Also, all this dwelling on Christmas made me remember an email my sister sent me last Christmas which I have probably shared on here before - but it always cracks me up, so here it is:

"It is that time of year and we better get ingredients this weekend and start baking our Christmas cakes, if you have not done so already. Thought I would pass on this wonderful recipe to all of you. Read it, you will be inspired to get baking!
CHRISTMAS CAKE
Ingredients:
1 cup of water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup of brown sugar
lemon juice
4 large eggs
nuts
1 bottle Vodka
2 cups of dried fruit

Instructions:
Sample the vodka to check quality. To be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink.
Take a large bowl, check the vodka again.
Turn on the electric mixer.
Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl.
Add one teaspoon of sugar.
Beat again.
At this point it\'s best to make sure the vodka is shtill OK.
Try another cup .... just in case.
Turn off the mixerer.
Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.
Pick fruit off floor.
Mix on the turner.
If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers pry it loose with a drewscriver.
Sample the vodka to check for tonsisticity.
Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something. Who giveshz a ***.
Check the vodka.
Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.
Add one table.
Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find.
Greash the oven.
Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over.
Don't forget to beat off the turner.
Finally, throw the bowl through the window, finish the vodka and kick the cat.

CHERRY MISTMAS"

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

the return of the... girl


Hi everyone, I'm back! Back from my wonderful holiday abroad, being dissipated and leisurely. I had such a great time, doing things I've never done before - my favourite was snorkelling at Phi Phi Island, in Krabi. We spent three nights on the island and I am going back for sure. It was paradise. Another highlight was sailing on a 52ft yacht in a race in Penang harbour (Malaysia). Of course, I was absolutely no help except as extra weight, but I had fun!!! This is a photo of my two-year-old nephew Frank on the long tail boat we hired to take us snorkelling, swimming and so on. My niece and two nephews are like FISH. It's incredible.

Of course I did lots of shopping (pashminas, paintings, a few clothes, a few utterly useless things that are pretty nonetheless, lots of presents), and even more inevitably, lots and LOTS of eating. I will make a list for you: satay, nasi lemak, thosai, roti canai (my favourite), pad thai, green curry, tom yum, steamboat, Thai grilled chicken, papaya salad, ice kacang, dumplings - and so on and so forth.

I will be posting here some of my best photos from the holiday over the next couple of weeks, probably, but if you just can't wait, here is my photobucket album of them. I'm also perhaps posting my travel diary via a link, later.

So everything was wonderful and it was a great holiday... except... if you ever happen to be dropped off by a long tail boat at a floating pier on Phi Phi Island in the middle of the night at high tide - wait for the tide to go down. Do NOT jump onto the beach. Or you too could end up with a broken heel. Thai doctors will try and tell you it is a sprained ankle, and then charge you thousands of baht for a very small cast and crutches. And then you will come back to Australia (or wherever), x-rays will be taken, and it will turn out that it's broken, that you need an even bigger, heftier cast, and that the cast must stay on for a further five weeks. And that after the five weeks you will need physiotherapy for a while to make a 95% recovery.

I am so disappointed. This means I am going to have to cancel my holiday in Sydney on the way back home as it's just not possible for me to do any walking further than to the letterbox. I can't even carry my breakfast to the kitchen table. Luckily for me, my travel insurance company is going to foot the bill for a direct flight home - a real blessing as I'm not sure what I would have done otherwise. Still, it's very depressing. Good thing I bought all those DVDs in Asia, eh... *wicked and guilty smile*