30 June 2018

June 2018

So June is over and now it's nearly Christmas. What happened to this year? Is time flying by what happens as you get older? This June has been a mixture of a month. The first half was terribly slow, with non-stop overcast, rainy weather. But then since the shortest day the speed picked up and I'm sure it's been a week since it rained. Already the days are brighter and it fills like winter is coming to a close - even though it's not half way through yet! My garden is definitely confused - my first daffodil has flowered! I've been pretty busy this month - I have found some motivation again and been sewing and crocheting. I've even hemmed the living room curtains (they're not perfect, I'm clearly an amateur). And I'm nearly done with our bedroom curtains, they're all pinned up and will be sewn tomorrow. They look so much better than when they were pooling on the ground!

So one out of the ordinary thing I did this month was have a party. Not a serious party but a pot-luck with a bunch of work people. It's actually the first time we've bothered to have a gathering of people at our house. And maybe that's for the better, because there were two toddlers and several incidents with red wine and chocolate cake on the carpet. Nathan took a couple of sick days from work for a cold so he was home for once, which was great because he finally got to meet my friends. But he does get stressy about spills on the carpet! We ate so much food, and I made mulled wine and mulled cider. Then we played cards against humanity, which I hadn't played before. Later, when everyone was gone, we decided to watch something on TV to relax a bit and I topped up my glass with the dregs of mulled wine, and made Nathan a cup of tea. Then I proceeded to knock both of them off the coffee table, they were completely full and went all over the couch and carpet. So, after all the little bits of mess with guests and toddlers, it was really me that was the problem. We cleaned it up as best we could, but to be honest there is a rather large mark from the red wine. Luckily it is under the couch (we had moved it and when we put it back, the stain was covered up).

In the middle of June I went to Fieldays. In case you don't know, it's like a giant A&P show, plus a giant home & living expo, plus tractors. It's huge, when you go over the hill and then see all the tents spread out below you for the first time you just stop and stare. A lot of people take photos of it (me included). I had to work for my two days there and I'm glad I was in the education hub because it is way less popular and crowded (education and careers aren't really the point of Fieldays). Everyone said I would need lots of merino layers and gumboots, but then it ended up being sunny so what I really needed was sunglasses. It wasn't rainy and most of the main ways are paved but I bought gumboots anyway because they were on sale and they are bright pink! There was loads of great things to buy, you could easily spend thousands there. More if you were in the market for a car or boat. I got some treats for my team at work and for Nathan, and a lot of free samples of dog food. I did not see the Prime Minister - I was on my lunch break while she went through our area. I had to get up at 5am to get to the airport for my flight up there, and then there was a fiasco with the rental cars and a flat battery so my bags got stranded in a locked car at Fieldays till late - so much for an early night. Needless to say I was pretty exhausted by the end of it, and I don't think I could handle working more than two days at something like that.

Around the house we have just been busy as usual. As well as curtains and sewing, I have been out in the garden doing odd bits and pieces when the weather allows. Winter crops aren't really much of a thing here - when winter really hits it's just too cold and everything stops growing, except the silverbeet. I pulled up my carrots today because they didn't seem to be growing any more. They're not very big but they're really delicious, much nicer than the ones from the market. And I ordered new lilies and planted them down by the fence, can't wait for summer to see what they look like.

Then the other weekend we were outside and the animals were hanging out while we gardened, as they do. We were digging some big gorse out from amongst our native bush area, and Nathan was swinging a heavy mattock to get through the clay and at the roots. The cat was watching, and then suddenly without warning he raced out and under the mattock, mid-swing. He aimed to go under the handle as it swung down I reckon, and the handle definitely hit him a bit. He zoomed off (so probably not hurt if he could run so fast) and of course I was worried that he had a serious injury. It completely ruined our day, I was all worried and Nathan felt bad that maybe he'd hurt my cat. The little bastard didn't come back for about 6 hours. After calling him a few times and going for a walk round the block just in case he was lying somewhere suffering internal injuries, I went looking one last time before bed and looked under the house (I'd looked there earlier of course). He was right there, sitting on a pile of old carpet staring at me. He'd heard me calling, he'd come back to the house quietly and then refused to come in, probably just sitting there listening to me call for ages, and didn't even get up when I found him, I had to go under the house and get him. What a little jerk. In return for making me worry I made him be an inside cat for most of that week.

We are still slowly preparing for our holiday of course. The countdown is on, only 10 weeks till we fly out! We have all our accommodation booked and now I am putting together a folder with everything we might need, like flight details and accommodation details and all the things we might want to do. Because I'm a nerd and I like to organise things in folders. I have a pinterest board for it too - it's arranged by must-do, might-do and maybe-do. Because I'm not allowed to make a full on itinerary, apparently being spontaneous is more fun. We don't have a housesitter yet. I've signed up to a website that was recommended to me, Trustedhousesitters. Hopefully that will get us somewhere, though I probably should have signed up sooner. It will be great to be on holiday but I will miss home and the pets. I won't miss work though!

The Airbnb thing has slowed right down, there were a few short stays this month but only one booked so far for each of the next two months. We plan to keep on at it in summer, and the price will go up because it's tourist season. We're hoping to make at least enough to build a fence. We have made about 2 grand to help with our holiday costs and we only started at the end of February so I reckon next summer we should do pretty well. We actually have a guest staying this weekend, but I've got to say it's the strangest guest situation yet. This guy has come from up Kapiti Coast for a squash tournament at the local club. He showed up last night, stopped to chat and then went of for his squash game and said 'see you in a few hours'. He hasn't been back since. Should I be worried? Maybe, but then, it's not my problem to watch out for these people and it's not like I have an emergency contact for him. It's pretty weird though. I hope he does show up at some point though; he hasn't left anything here but he does have the key to my house.

That's probably enough for tonight, I should go do dishes. I have had a very quiet Saturday night, we have started seriously planning for Nathan to change career. At some point in the future he will work a normal week and be home with me on the weekends. It will be strange at first, but definitely a change for the better! Here are some recent pics off my phone to finish with:

02 June 2018

May 2018

May has slipped by super fast, so fast that I can hardly remember what we have been so busy with. Maybe if I took photos of stuff other than the animals it would remind me. It all started in early May, 4 days in to be precise, when my team went overboard with a May the 4th be With You morning tea at work. There was a teensy bit of pushing and nagging on my part, being the uber-organiser and all. And luckily those team members that aren't nerds have nerdy husbands, who lent us many props.

Then the next day was a book fair in Upper Hutt. I bought about 20 books - I need a much bigger bookcase. So I've been neglecting housework and enough sleep each time I pick up a new book - but I'm trying to pace myself. I've been sewing too - slowly but steadily using up bits of my rather large store of fabric. But I am never content to just stop - I like having a project on the go and then when it's done, I just go straight on to the next. Again, I think the answer is just to have a bigger wardrobe?

We've also been getting a bit of work around the house done this last month. Not that much can really get done with Nathan almost always working overtime. But little things here and there. Getting rid of gorse, clearing the vege garden. I've finally started hemming curtains - about a year after I put them up but still, it's something. I need to keep up the momentum and get the living room finished because I'm going to try be social for once and have people over. Not a party, just a mid-winter potluck thing, but we've actually never had a group of people over since we moved in - we didn't bother with a housewarming, there was too much unpacking to do. And being rather anti-social we don't have mutual friends that we spend time with so it is just my people probably - mostly (all?) work people. Hopefully it goes well. Maybe it can become a tradition, we'll see.

It's only 3 and a half months now till we go on holiday to Europe. We have started booking accommodation and we're still finding out about all the awesome stuff we might want to do while we're away, and we used some of our Airbnb money to buy concert tickets. We've still got quite steady Airbnb bookings to bring in a little extra cash for the trip - and we'll definitely do it over summer to make up a bit for all the money we plan on spending overseas. But the novelty has definitely worn off, I'm sick of meeting new people. One of the things I dislike about it is the review process - it's important but I hate having to write reviews about people, always saying the same thing because it would be mean to say anything else, and it's not like posting a rating and review about a product or a movie - it's about people. And people we hardly know. I've stopped reading the ones that get posted about us. The next big Airbnb task is actually to figure out how to pay tax on it. And then before you know it, we will be the travellers staying in other people's houses and hopefully we can find someone really good to look after our house and pets while we are away.

01 May 2018

April 2018

Today is the first of May and I think I'm not the only one wondering where April went. Work has been busy so most of my team feels pretty surprised that it's May already. Time seems to have started doing weird things, like today is only Tuesday but could swear that I've already worked more than two days this week. And last week, by the time ANZAC day arrived it felt like the weekend was desperately needed - but it was only Wednesday!

I guess one reason April has flown by is because work has been really busy. The science conference that I organise was last week and there were some last minute emergencies, and it didn't go perfectly on the day, but it was OK and feedback so far is almost entirely positive. I already have a list of ideas for next year though. And I'm lucky in that this year it wasn't just me making it happen, I have a new team-member that is working on some of my projects with me, and we have a support person to help with the logistics. Which is good because in April we were also running a tertiary level scholarship, and I've been organising the film schedule for a virtual field-trip, and there was this that we sponsored, so that was both really exhausting but led to a lot of good connections to get our curriculum resources noticed and used. This week I am catching up on things and then next week the craziness starts again.

Another reason April has been busy is the Airbnb. We have been pretty booked out, but a lot of short bookings instead of week-long stays, so that means a lot more work keeping the place tidy enough for first-time guests, making up the guest room every couple of days, and continually repeating all the things you have to say when someone first arrives. It gets exhausting. The novelty has worn off, and actually so has our popularity - I guess we're in the off season now and our future bookings reflects that. We still need to keep making money for our Europe trip, because we want to have a good trip and do lots of stuff and buy lots of things! So just to put it out there - feel free to send us donations!

So we are pretty busy but things are good here. We had a bit of a storm - and it was centered right over Wainuiomata. The thunder was so loud that it shook the house and woke me up, and at first I couldn't tell if it was thunder or an earthquake. The cat and dog didn't much appreciate it. We had freezing cold days and really warm mild days, so it's been hard to dress comfortably for work! My tomatoes have still been ripening, though after the storm a lot of green ones came down. I made a big batch of tomato relish and it turned out so well, that recipe is a keeper. My pantry is super full of jars of jam and relish now. I have also been sewing, making a dent in my fabric collection - but then on the weekend there was a fill-a-bag fabric sale at the op shop and I got more fabric. And this weekend there is a book fair so my book collection will grow too. When the weather has been good we've been working in the garden, clearing gorse and weeds from above the retaining wall. Now there are daffodils planted up there, and while in the long term we want to fill that space with useful plants, for now I have sprinkled a flower seed-mix to try and keep the grass away. It will look great in spring, I can't wait. Hopefully it won't all come up too early, while we are in Europe.

Plans for Europe, if you're interested and not feeling too jealous, are coming along nicely. We will spend roughly a week in Denmark, then Germany, then The Netherlands. We might do a day trip to Sweden from Denmark, and maybe a day trip to Belgium from Netherlands - but it depends how we feel when we're there. There is a big festival on when we're in Germany and an ELO concert in Amsterdam. We've been looking at museums to visit, and the best shopping spots. In Copenhagen is Europe's oldest amusement park (it's still functional) and a really big aquarium. In Germany we will mostly be in Hamburg but will spend a day in Bremen, where I spent time during my PhD, and maybe visit Lubeck which is famous for marzipan. In Amsterdam there is a cat-cafe and a pizza-cruise on the river. I'm looking forward to shopping, I want clothes and shoes, and buying lots of chocolate, eating all the great European foods and seeing lots of sights. My blog posts will surely improve greatly!

Until then, you can settle for pictures of the animals, the house and this skink that I found.

01 April 2018

March 2018

It's the first day of March, it's only 7pm and it's completely dark outside. Daylight savings being over will take a bit of adjustment. Cher is sitting on the couch beside me staring because her dinner time is 7.30pm and she's confused - she doesn't know that it's only 7pm and not 8pm. The cat is too cool to beg for dinner, he's just sleeping.

March has been an interesting month. We have had several set of Airbnb guests - who would have thought that Wainui was a popular place to stay? Some are people passing though, just need a cheap place to sleep. Some want to have some quiet time and go for walks in the bush. And some are in Wellington more long term and need somewhere to stay while the look for somewhere to live. We've had one that could hardly speak English, an older couple from Singapore that were super chatty, told us about their lives and made me dinner, some young French people that shared our interest in fantasy books and sci-fi movies, and a young English couple, one of which has got a temporary job at MPI, just a floor above me!

Also in March we have done a lot of research about our trip to Europe, and finally booked flights. We're going to leave New Zealand on 12 September, go to Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, and get back to New Zealand on the 5th of October. We're going to spend lots of money and make the most of it. I have a pinterest board so that when I'm browsing things to do in Europe I don't forget them. In Copenhagen there is the oldest amusement park in Europe - it still works just fine. And we have a friend with rich parents who have a fancy house near Amsterdam that we can stay in for a few nights. And we can visit Bremen, where I stayed for a month or so way back in the second year of my PhD.

Other March events. We went to see Star Wars with a live orchestra - it was awesome. Movies should always have a live orchestra. My tomatoes are finally ripening - they are still going. And I have some winter crops starting to grow - carrots and silverbeet, and more peas. They are doing the best so far. We are working on the area above the retaining wall, weeding it and getting it ready to plant. I got given a rhubarb plant and all the herbs will go up there, but mostly I'll just sprinkle a seed mix of flowers to try and keep the weeds at bay until the whole thing is planted properly. We figure that the area is not very useable, so we might as well plant useful things up there - herbs, berry bushes, small fruit trees.

01 March 2018

February 2018

Here in Wellington things are busy. February was not really very summery, but I'm still busy in the garden when I can be. Our tomato plants are growing and producing lots of little tomatoes but they're all green and maybe they won't ripen now. I'll have to make green tomato relish instead.

Our big news for February is that we decided to go on a holiday later this year. To Europe. We're thinking a couple of weeks in September but I've been told twice now that two weeks is not very long considering how far we plan to travel. So maybe we will go for longer. But we would need a house and pet sitter. Anyway, a big holiday like that will require money, and lots of it because I want to do lots of shopping and refresh my wardrobe. So last weekend I signed us up for Airbnb, we cleaned the house and tidied the guest room and thought maybe there will be the odd guest that wants to stay in Wainui. 

Well within an hour I had a message! Now we won't go into that too much because to cut a long story short, that first booking was a bit of a disaster. They got in late off the ferry and it was super dark out here (and our house isn't visible from the street), I was asleep and didn't hear my phone and Nathan's didn't go off because of there being a typo in the contact number I'd provided (so all my fault really) - but at the same time, they should have come up to the house, seen the porch light was on and knocked because Nathan was waiting up for them. So I blamed myself because of course two young women might be nervous to go up a dark driveway in the middle of the night in a random suburb that seems like the middle of nowhere. But in hindsight, they really should have come up to the house so I guess I could have blamed them for being chickens and going off to the city to find some other alternative place to stay. 

Anyway, learnt some lessons. And we now have our first guests staying with us for a week, a young French couple wanting some quiet time near the bush. And then in two weeks we have an older Singaporean couple that have not been to NZ since 1978. So I hope we keep getting bookings and make some money!

Nothing else much is happening. I'm getting to work with my sewing machine because if we are going to have spending money in Europe I can't be buying clothes until then, so if I want new stuff I have to make it. Plus I still need to finish hemming the curtains... I've also been making jam and relish - so much so that I have not jars left but I still have a tree covered in peaches and a box of apples in the fridge. Tomorrow is recycling day so maybe while I walk Cher I will keep an eye out and scavenge from recycling bins? But to be honest, they're mostly full of wine and beer bottles.

And once again it seems that I have only bothered to take photos of the animals this month. Obviously I need to get more of a life. So here is the cat in my freshly turned garden, the dog when she was sad with an upset stomach, and the chooks chilling in the bush.

02 February 2018

January 2018

In January I would say I have been at work for just over half the working days in the month.  I took a long break over Christmas, we've had a public holiday and we took a long weekend to Auckland for a concert. Plus we've had extremely hot weather. So all in all it's been pretty cruisy. I have spent my time off reading, sewing, gardening and watching tv (it was too hot to be outside much during the middle of the day so I had plenty of inside time). Plus I started doing yoga with a youtube channel. It was great to have a break, if only I could work so little all the time. 

My veggie garden is going well - we've been collecting the laundry water for the garden because of the water restrictions. The broccoli patch is boring, I don't think I'll bother with them again, but the tomatoes are doing awesomely, and the beans, and I have cute little cucumbers growing. We've been eating from our own garden, plus the chooks are laying lots of eggs. When I'm home on my own in the evenings I've pretty much been living off salad, veggies and omelettes. Here are a couple of snapshots - the cucumber as it started flowering, my last lilies to bloom and the first tiny tomato.

So we went to Auckland, which was even hotter than here. We didn't do much there, except go to see the Roger Waters show. It was good, but not quite as good as we expected. There were two sets, and they both started and ended really well and the encore was good. But there was random stuff in the middle that I didn't know, and it looked like most people didn't know - perhaps some of his newer stuff. There were some great bits, like they had a group of local children for Another Brick in the Wall. There wasn't much in the way of lasers though, just some at the end. When it comes to a Pink Floyd experience, we are glad we went but in the future we'll go back to the tribute band when the come around instead, and get all the classics.

So work is, well, work. It started off nice and quiet, there were a couple of sad goodbyes as colleagues moved on to new things, and now we're getting into the real swing of things for the year. My big things for the next few months are organising a scholarship and a conference. Plus our organisation is undergoing a bit of a restructure, so that might be interesting. And I have my performance review coming up so I have to figure out what I want to talk about. It's hard to make a development plan when you're not really a career-oriented person. Just taking opportunities as they come doesn't really work itself easily into a development plan.

So here is Cher, enjoying the heat. Till next month :)

31 December 2017

December 2017 - the end of another year

Well here we are, it's new years eve. To us it seems like this year has gone so quickly. This time last year we had been in our new house for about three weeks, and it was far more bare than it is now. There is so much to do, so many things on my list, so many visions of how things will be, but we've actually done a lot already. We have a bit of lawn now, fruit trees and veggie gardens, the chooks are all grown up and laying a lot of eggs, I learnt how to make curtains and Nathan learnt how to make tile splashbacks.

As for an update from December - what has this month brought me? Well, work is finished for awhile and that's a relief. I have another nine days off. Work finished with three urgent briefings and completely over-the-top christmas decorating in the office. I didn't win or even get commended but I have to say, there was no criteria, and no time put into the judging to take in the crazy amount of detail that a couple of the pods (the science team pods) had put into their decorating. Not that it matters, the prize was only chocolate and the ideas can be pulled out again next year. Not sure what to list on my time recording for all that decorating though. We were fully encouraged by our director so I am in no way responsible for that waste of time. And it's surprising how many people got really into it - I can't help but feel that it was an outlet for how frustrated people are feeling with mid-level management right now (a.k.a. the aforementioned director). Anyways...

So December is a bit light on the news front. Other than work we have been just doing the usual. Working around the house mostly. I went to a neighbour's secret santa party, it was a ladies thing. It was fine and it was cool to see in her house but these things are always a bit awkward. We've been here a year and that was only the second time I have talked to our furthest-away neighbour. As usual, said we should get together sometime. Will we actually do it this time? On Christmas eve our car broke down. It started making a noise on our way down Wainui hill, and by the time we got home it was really noisy and the battery light was coming on. So we didn't go boxing day shopping as planned, we stayed home for two days watching movies and eating way too much (my tummy is still unhappy about how much I ate). Then we got really lucky, a local mechanic opened on the Wednesday, and he managed to get a part a fix the car right away, and it could have been way worse. Some sort of tensioner-pulley that holds the drive belt and makes the alternator and power steering work and fallen to pieces. He put in a new one, it wasn't cheap but wasn't super expensive. And it was done within a few hours. I was stoked to have the car back, and the battery was empty so I had to go for a long drive, during which I noticed that the car was driving so nicely! Obviously it had been going downhill for ages without me really noticing, and now it's really smooth and responsive.

As for Christmas, well that was pretty good but really quiet. It was just the two of us, and like I said we watched movies for two days straight. I got a jigsaw puzzle and two books - they are all finished already but of course that is why I wanted them. And I got a super expensive set of fancy Le Crueset saucepans. We ate way too much, and had a seemingly endless supply of candy and chocolate. I'm really glad that's gone. The cat got a toy but was more interested in our boxes and Cher got a bone because she has stinky breath by she was more interested in begging for scraps of ham. The chickens didn't get anything but they've still been laying well - I have 6 hens but got 7 eggs yesterday! We watched Christmas movies exclusively on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (both Die Hard movies count). Then Christmas was over and Nathan went back to work. I've spent my days reading and now I'm trying to get productive and do sewing. I just finished a hoodie out of this navy jersey fabric that is covered in sequins. Probably the most awful fabric I've ever tried to sew.

Right so it's nearly 2018 and it's time to go drink bubbly and listen to good music. Like last year, we are home in our house for New Years. We'll keep an eye out for fireworks and try not to stay up too late (the dog is already whining that it's bed-time). I'll update this with photos tomorrow (update on the photos - I got some in, and now my touchpad clicker won't work. Need to buy a mouse...).