Well hello again little blog

Well hello little blog. I have missed you.

Here I am sitting on a train from York to Edinburgh watching the beautiful late autumn colors roll by.

This time just over a month ago I would be nearly at the end of my work week, juggling too many balls. Instead I am on a three-week adventure to connect with my British heritage of early dark and late sun-rise, dazzling Christmas lights and the promise of snow.

IMG_0455

Those of you that have followed this blog will know that I made the decision to go back to work full-time about 9 months ago. Best work place, amazing vision, the genuinely nicest people. Yet circumstances have led me to reluctantly put that aside (at least for now) and go back to a slightly altered version of my life for the last couple of years.

Turns out just when you think you might be able to commit yourself fully to work, things don’t always go according to plan – now there’s a surprise.

The catalyst was one of our dogs developing diabetes. Diabetes for a dog is the same as Type One diabetes for a human. there is no managing it with diet, it’s straight onto twice daily insulin injections and a pretty intense schedule of working with your vet in the initial period to get the dose right.

It is not an exaggeration to say this changed our lives over night. The injections have to be given as close as possible to 12 hours apart, food must be measured, walks must be strict and the possibility of a diabetic crash lingers closely in those first few weeks.

My wonderful workplace said I could bring him into work with me as he couldn’t be left alone. He was a very popular visitor to the office as he is very cute and loves people. Deep down though I knew this wasn’t a long term plan as he was slightly stressed by the process and it was hard to juggle taking him to various meetings.

So with heavy heart I resigned my position but we developed a two day a week position that meant I could look after Bosco, and still contribute in the form of important but not so urgent projects that needed to be bought on line.

However this catalyst became a domino on the move and I found myself weighing up work with all the other things going on in our lives – a house renovation, travel, my husband’s very full-on job, the birth of yet another precious grandchild and the announcement that there was another due early year. All good things but all that meant that something had to give.

Unlike many  people I am in the weird position of not having to work unless I want to,  so for me the question is nuanced and in some ways more difficult. I have had  several other grandmothers say that if they didn’t have to work, they wouldn’t. Yet we work for other reasons than just the financial ones and that made my decision hard. I like working, making a difference, being part of something bigger than myself, workplace banter, even wearing ‘work’ clothes. But I kind of knew as I went through the praying and thinking process, that for this season it made sense to step down for a time –  maybe permanently – I don’t know.

That was just over four weeks ago and my life has been full of  getting used to having a pet with diabetes, hanging out with our children, their little ones, my friends,  and appreciating all this  in a way I didn’t before I worked full-time for the last eight months. Also time spent catching up on all those things that don’t get done when you are both working full-time!

_MG_3409

Which brings me up to now. The amazing  trip  I am currently on was planned while I was working but I have been able to extend it for another week now I don’t have to fit it into annual leave.

And it is ‘I’ and not ‘we’ as it is a trip to the cold dark  Northern hemisphere winter (spurred by the  promise of a visit to a friend and the desire to see what Christmas is like over this side of the world) that did not appeal to Wayne so he graciously suggested I do it by myself – but more of that in my next entry.

It is a very big solo adventure for me!

 

Easter Sunday

On this most special of weekends, I have been reading one of my favourite poets – George Herbert. And with doom, anxiety and worry permeating much of my news feed this week, I settled on this beautiful reminder of Who is actually in charge.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
And to remind me even more, I took my camera out on our beach walk this morning.
Waihi Easter 6-1
Waihi Easter 3-1
Waihi Easter 2-1
Waihi Easter 1-1
Waihi Easter 5-1

When the desert blooms

Quick update!

The last time I posted I said I was in a Schrodinger’s cat position – maybe I would end up with a job and maybe not. And now the box is opened and I find myself walking down a path that I did not envision at  the beginning of this process

I don’t think I would have ended in this new stage of productivity and energy if I hadn’t been in a place of being able to listen and take the time to really think about the implications.

I am now three weeks into my role as Office Manager at an amazing organisation called The Parenting Place – Christian-based  non-profit supporting NZ families in the ultimately rewarding but sometimes scary  adventure of raising children into adults.

It’s funny how God overrides your idea of what you would like to do. I was determined that I would work close to home and here I am getting up at 5:30am every day to beat the traffic as I drive across the city.

I was adamant I didn’t want to work full-time and yet I am working Monday to Friday

I vowed I would never work in an open plan office and now I sit overseeing a totally open plan space.

And I am loving it!

The job is wide ranging and challenging and at the moment my head hurts trying to take in all of the areas of my role, but I am so happy. I come home exhausted but feeling that  I have made a difference. My role  supports the work our teams do as they influence families, schools, churches and communities. What a privilege.

Of course this comes at no small sacrifice. I am needing to re-shape the rhythms of my life at the moment. I would like to keep this blog going – and will aim for once a week, maybe twice once I am more organised!

I am having to consciously carve out the precious time with those I love, especially with my grandchildren; time that I have taken for granted for the past couple of years.

Spare time is now again precious and not to be squandered. Time for me has to be actively sought. Space for creativity needs to be scheduled or it won’t happen.

And all of this is OK.  I feel that I have made this decision from a position of strength and most certainly not on a whim. I will also watch and listen carefully  to relationships around me as ultimately they are still my priority, and adjust accordingly.

On a side note, ironically I have decided to re-connect on FB early as I think my desert time has served its purpose and I now need to use all avenues to stay connected. I definitely feel differently about Facebook after my time away and will use it slightly differently accordingly.

So as Lent draws towards Easter, I am not wandering aimlessly out of the desert and the wilderness picking up things exactly where I left them, but walking purposefully and somewhat joyfully into an unexpectedly new phase.

 

desk-602978_1920

Decisions in the desert

A week in of no Facebook and all is well. I have missed some of it, although  not the sensationalist posts I have been reading since November. (I know they are still there, I just don’t get to read them). I definitely have a sense of being isolated in some way, in some good way.I know there are announcements I have missed, celebrations I don’t know about and even some sadnesses I could have been part of. On the whole though, this has been a good experience so far.

Coincidentally, or perhaps not, I have been presented with an exciting possibility in this last week and having the extra thinking space has been great. While it had been a blessing to have not worked for this year, I must confess I was starting to struggle with a tiny bit of a ‘what should I be doing with my life’ feeling. I am not old enough to retire, and so I had been half-heartedly keeping an eye on the job notifications in my inbox. I applied for a couple but then one came along that really piqued my interest – an excellent Christian organisation that works to provide parents with resources and tools in raising their children  was looking for a PA, so I applied for it and got an interview.

The interview went well – but I didn’t get the job. However they said they really liked me and that there was another position that they would love me to apply for. So I did. It was a little out of my comfort zone in terms of experience but I decided to lean in (as Sheryl Sandberg would encourage me to do).

The interview was on Monday – went for nearly two hours (which I’m taking as a good sign). They are advertising internally but have asked me if they can follow up my references.

So I’m in a bit of  a Schrodinger’s cat situation. This time next week I might have an offer of a full-time position, or I might be carrying on as I started the year. I veer between feeling excited and terrified. Full-time, back to an office, being accountable for my time, no sleep-ins, or long breakfasts, less hanging out with my gorgeous grandkids. Not having Facebook to conveniently use to avoid really thinking abut how this might work has been fantastic and a little challenging. I have had to really really think about whether I want this or not. No avoidance technique available means I have been forced to confront my fears and aspirations.

I have prayed that I will only be offered the job if it is the very best thing to do, as I am nearly  decided if I am offered it I will take it. I know God gives us choices in our life path, but I really want this one to be a Plan A route as it will mean a lot of changes.

I don’t really think it’s a coincidence that this has come up while I am spending time making room for God over the Lent period. I’m not sure I would have been in the right space to consider this properly if I was running around filling myself with noise. I now know I may be walking out of the desert carrying something I didn’t take in with me, or I may come out empty handed. Either way I will have gone through an important process. I feel surprisingly relaxed about the outcome either way and I think that means I am walking in the right direction.

 

bloom-1469696_1920.jpg

 

Loving our farmers’ market

After my last entry I thought I would this time write about something that makes me happy. I think it’s important to take time to think about what is good as well as what is troubling (and I am spending a lot of time thinking about what is troubling!). I am definitely learning to take joy in small things, and feel incredibly grateful for the country I live in.

I’m hoping to put together several posts about this small planned community with a big vision. We have been in our new home here  for just over a year. Moving from an established suburb to a brand new area has been way easier than we expected. Hobsonville Point has very quickly become home.

One of the things I love most about living here is that I can now walk to a farmers’ market (which has always been something I have wanted to be able to do). I am becoming increasingly convinced that supporting our local community, producers and economy is incredibly important. The market’s not a big one, and is the process of transitioning to a new space which means a bit of patience is required during this period, but it’s one of the highlights of my weekends.

To be able to stroll down, pick up some free range eggs, freshly baked bread, honey and partake of the odd treat still feels like such a special thing to do. The coffee is always amazing, there’s usually a busker adding to the ambience, it’s nestled down at a wharf in one of the prettiest inner harbours in Auckland – what could be better!

 

Learning a new language

My whole life creatively I have been involved in music. I’ve sung, played, written, arranged and taught. Music is as much a part of me as my eye colour (can’t say hair colour anymore though). My instrument is guitar and those that know me know I don’t mean strumming a few chords on an acoustic at parties. I own three electrics, two acoustics, two amps and a very nice pedal board. I am privileged to play on an amazing worship team at our church and am currently having fun in a local covers band.

And yet at the start of 2017 and in my early 50s, I am feeling challenged to step outside of the creativity I know and the medium I am fluent in to learn to speak a new language.

I’ve become increasingly interested in photography and our recent trip overseas really encouraged that. I was the person who was always running to catch up with everyone else because I had to get that one perfect shot – even on my iPhone. My wonderful husband, (who often senses things before I do) saw this, and bought me a very good camera as a belated birthday present halfway through the trip to feed this fledgling desire.

Since we have got back I have continued to fall in love with this new medium. I find myself thinking about shots and composition rather than guitar lines and chord progressions; scenes rather than set lists. It’s my camera I am picking up instead of my guitar, and camera, rather than guitar, tutorials I am glued to on YouTube.

I’m not used to being the novice, the person who doesn’t know what technical terms mean, who really doesn’t have a clue what they’re doing. I’ve taken a practical step and enrolled in a beginner course next month to help get to grips with this new world of ISO and f-stops. But it’s a steep and daunting learning curve!

I have no idea if I have any genuine skill or talent, and I have no idea where this might take me. I could spend this year studying something safe and sensible, or continuing to express myself in the safe medium of music; or I could take advantage of the fact that I have time to explore something new. I choose to do the latter (gulp). It’s definitely a step of faith which makes a naturally cautious pessimist like me very very nervous. (I think God likes steps of faith though…)

I don’t want to spend six months or a year procrastinating out of fear of the unknown. By writing this down here, I am at least admitting somewhat publicly that this is something I want to go after. I’m hoping that this time next year I will be looking back on this entry with a happy smile, and some great photos.

img_1788

Is it that time of year already?

I have been a little envious of all those people who have managed to blog through the Christmas and New Year period. Finally today I feel like it’s time to sit down in front and write something and it’s January 11 already!

Maybe it’s something to do with our summer Christmas. We have spend most of the last few weeks down at Waihi Beach with our extended family. While there was a rather large amount of lazing round and doing nothing, the beach always seems to make it difficult to sit down and be disciplined!img_3784

We trialled  some new traditions this year (well potential traditions) so our children didn’t have to juggle spending time with both us and the in-laws on Christmas Day which is getting more and more complicated each year, especially now there are grandchildren as well.
I’m very happy to report that we successfully celebrated Christmas down at the beach house with everyone on December 27. It took a lot of planning and logistics (how to fit in and feed 17 people and accomodate 5 dogs and a cat being the most pressing.

December 25 was a little odd. We decided that the four of us already at the beach would treat it as if it wasn’t Christmas yet so just had a delicious breakfast of French toast and then watched Christmas movies and read everyone else’s FB updates.

Boxing Day was when everyone started to arrive, kids, spouses, grandkids, uncles and a great grand-mother and happy chaos ensued. When everyone woke up the next morning, it definitely felt like Christmas Day. We started off with our traditional waffle breakfast which we have not been able to do with everyone for years and then spent the rest of the day opening presents until it was time to attack  a Christmas feast of ham, turkey and smoked salmon. There was a mountain of presents under the tree! I have to say our family is very good at gifts. They don’t spend lots of money and don’t buy stuff that will be thrown away once Christmas is over but make or buy things that are perfect for the recipient. It was a lovely relaxing (if noisy) day and it was so nice for everyone to be able to just go to bed rather than driving home at the end of a long day. So much easier for the grandchildren as well as we just bundled them into bed as they got tired.

We even managed to get a family photo, dogs and all!

img_4148

Most people stayed a few days, and one of our sons and his wife stayed to see the new year in (and we had friends arrive for that as well so the house was still quite full). We had fun letting off some fairly spectacular leftover fireworks.

And then they were all gone. Christian went up with his older siblings to spend time with them before he heads back to the UK later in January so there were just three of us. I did heave a small sigh of relief that I was no longer preparing food for the hoards.

Days for the rest of the break revolved around the weather (sun = swim, cloudy = walks and books); what to eat (very important) and scrolling through various media devices.

But now I am back and at that exciting stage of planning a fresh new year. I have a few things that I am blue-skying at the moment. I think that will be another post though!

I know that 2016 has been a troubling year in many ways but for me personally it has been a very special one. We have welcomed a new grandson and spent 9 weeks on a glorious overseas adventure. Who know what this year will bring?

So somewhat belatedly, but very sincerely, I pray that 2017 will be a great year for you all.

fullsizeoutput_9e6

Christmas food trial #1

It’s the first of December here in New Zealand! That is crazy. Having been away for so long I am mentally two months behind which means I am actually two months behind in Christmas preparation.

However I have been doing a bit of experimenting with Christmas dessert ideas this week to try and get myself back into the swing of things and I was rather pleased with these. This isn’t so much a recipe as a guide for assembling. What I liked about them is you can make as much or as little of them from scratch – depending on time, patience, confidence, inclination or stress level.

Mini lemon and chocolate tarts

You will need:

Mini pastry cases. I made mine in mini muffin tins using a polenta pastry, but you could make any sweet pastry, use store bought, or use ready-made cases.

Lemon curd. Either home-made from your favourite recipe, or from a jar you bought at the supermarket…either is fine. I had some in the fridge that I made last week as we have a surfeit of lemons. Lime curd would also be delicious.

Ganache. Ganache is so quick and easy to make that I would recommend making this rather than buying it. Make it at the beginning so it can cool down in the fridge.

Ganache is basically equal proportions of good quality dark chocolate and cream.  I used 250gms of each. Heat cream until nearly boiling, place roughly chopped chocolate into the cream and wait a few minute. Stir together until smooth. Cool in fridge until firm. If you want to use some later as an icing or chocolate sauce just gently reheat. It will keep in the fridge for at least several weeks.

Toppings: Strawberries, mint leaves, pistachio nuts chopped finely, whipped cream and raspberry powder (optional). Chop a few strawberries finely, add a few drops of balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon of caster sugar and a few chopped mint leaves. Obviously you can add or change these toppings. It’s a great way to use up Christmas ingredients that may be languishing in the fridge or pantry.

To assemble:Fill half the cases with curd and half with ganache. Top with cream and fresh raspberries (and freeze-dried raspberry powder if you have some); and the other half with cream, chopped pistachios and the strawberry mixture.

Easy! Festive! Delicious!img_3847

 

 

 

An antidote to my London yearning

Sometimes you need to see or do something completely different to get yourself back to normal.

After posting just over a week ago about my yearning to go back to London and finding it hard to settle back in,  I decided to spend a few days down at my favourite spot in New Zealand – Waihi Beach. Our daughter, her delightful baby and two dogs joined me. I’m going to let the photos speak for themselves.

This is my home country at its very best.

 

 

What’s the opposite of home-sick?

We have been home for about three weeks and I can’t settle back into my normal routine. My usual tendency is to enjoy and appreciate the ordinariness of everyday life but I haven’t quite got back into that rhythm yet.

I wasn’t expecting to feel this. I was expecting to have a definite sense of ‘there’s no place like home.’ I was talking yesterday to a well-travelled friend I bumped into at the mall about this feeling and she described it as a yearning. Yearning – ‘a strong feeling of wishing for something, especially something that you cannot have or get easily’ – that’s a pretty good summation.

I know that visiting is not the same as living there. But experiencing the almost physical weight of history and culture for an extended period of time seems to have had a profound effect on me, and  I was overcome by the beauty of so many of the places we visited. Maybe its because we never did the big OE when we were younger so the impact is so much greater now.

I miss so many of the places we visited, especially in the UK. I miss London especially with an ache that I can’t put into words.

I miss the museums, the theatres, the art galleries, the masses of people, so vibrant in their diversity. I miss the Thames winding its dirty way through the city. I miss the Underground (believe it or not!). I miss the pubs with their beautiful hanging baskets. I miss the red double-deckers. I miss the majestic parks. I miss the historic buildings. I miss the sense of tradition, the sense of place.

But I am now home and I have so much to be thankful for now we are home. I need to remind myself of some of these things.

Firstly that I am so fortunate to live in New Zealand. What used to be called the tyranny of distance now looks like an advantage as we watch the news, especially during this eventful US election cycle. Having to fly longer to get anywhere now seems a small price to pay.

Our food and wine culture is as good as anything we experienced overseas (well maybe with the exception of Heston’s restaurant). We have access to amazing fresh, organic produce. I can walk to a farmers’ market in the weekend. Fantastic!

I can hang out with  with my friends who I value dearly.

I get to see our grandchildren whenever I want now I am home. The cliches about them growing too fast are all true.  I wouldn’t want to be away all the time!

Our family  will  be together for Christmas. It will be lovely, loud and messy.

Summer is just around the corner. Christmas decorations are in the shops, BBQs are being cleaned and people, including us, are planning their  annual summer escape to the beach.

My vegetable garden is back under control after 9 weeks of neglect (check out that rhubarb below).

OK, that’s a good list to start with and has helped  actually with the yearning a lot. Home is actually a pretty good place to be!

 

 

img_0857