When it doesn’t feel like summer

We are having a very odd summer here in New Zealand. Mid-January should be hot and sunny, weekends spent at the beach, warm BBQ nights, melting ice blocks hastily licked and sun-block ever at hand. Yet for most of us here summer so far has been windy, cold and vaguely dissatisfying.

It doesn’t feel like summer yet even though it is officially half way over.  The deep deep vivid blue of our summer sky is pale and covered with fast moving clouds. The little glimpse I have of the inlet near to our house is a cold greeny-grey with white caps instead of calm sparkling blue.

Last night we had a storm that knocked out power for many people in Auckland, blew down trees and fences, and drenched the ground with heavy rain.Today the sun is out (intermittently)  but it’s very windy, not very warm and grey clouds still threaten. This afternoon I have been sitting in my little office browsing the internet and generally wasting my day. Definitely this kind of weather  makes me feel lethargic and vaguely grumpy.

In  need of something to force myself to change gears,  I picked up the camera and spent a few minutes taking photos of the beautiful bunch of hydrangeas  I treated myself to earlier this week. They are so perfect and their colour is so intense that I decided a couple of the photos were worth putting up here. Taking some time trying to capture their beauty, and then looking at the results has  has brightened this rather gloomy afternoon and lifted my spirits.

I might even get out of my chair again and go for a run in that wind outside!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Christmas Vs. NYC 

A timely reminder  today from BeautyBeyondBones as I rush round ticking everything off on my Christmas planning list while feeling decidedly unChristmassy.

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Doesn’t matter who I’ve talked to recently — Christian baby boomers, non-religious 20-somethings, an 8-year-old girl, my friends, the cute guy sitting behind me at church, the cashier at the grocery store — everyone’s in agreement about one thing:

It doesn’t feel like Christmas.

I don’t know if it’s the lack of snow, or all the negativity in the media, or the fact that LED twinkle lights are officially taking over as the norm, but one thing’s for sure…it’s December 12, and people are not in the Christmas spirit.


Living in NYC is so special…especially around the holidays. There really is nothing comparable. The lights, the shopping, the smell of roasting chestnuts, the Christmas displays, the holiday markets, the ice skating…it’s something you’ve got to experience in person to truly appreciate.



But I dunno…this year, it just hasn’t been quite the same.

I’m not seeing quite as many decorations up…

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Floral overload (in a good way)

We celebrated our wedding anniversary (33 years!) a few days early this weekend in the beautiful South Island town of Queenstown. I have been lucky enough to stay in this stunning place a few times but never before in the summer. For me its a ski town, but turns out that in the summer it’s a lush and verdant paradise. I think I drove my poor husband crazy as I spent the whole time taking photos of the stunning flowers in bloom everywhere. The whole place was fragrant with roses and jasmine.

Easy to forget how much beauty you have in your own country. It was also wonderful at such a hectic time of year to reflect on how far we have come in those 33 years, enjoy a quiet weekend with each other and literally stop and smell the roses.

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.

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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.