Good Riddance (time of my life!)

Man it's been a busy few months. I feel like I have barely had time to breathe, let alone write anything. So this blog post is rather overdue!

Megan and I went to see Green Day in May. It was amazing. It's hard to find the words to describe what it means to me to have been there together, singing at the top of our lungs. For me, there is music, and there is music. Most of it I don't care that much about, but some music really means something. It's not just because the band is cool and the lyrics are good, but because of what it connotes. 

I started listening to Green Day the year I started university – 1995. It was a watershed year for me. I separated from my husband and made a decision that I needed to get serious about this growing up business – I had a 3 and 6 year old after all. Every day I would drop the kids off to school and pre-school, and then my day would be my own. I'd catch the bus to uni, and on the way, I'd plug into my Discman and switch my brain from Mum to independent young woman / student. The bus was like my transition zone, and Green Day was my companion in that transition. Green Day was the soundtrack to my changing life. 

Later, Green Day accompanied me while I struggled to get fit and lose weight – at first treadmill running with my Discman and then with my cherished iPod brick. It was always my go-to music to lift me up when I needed a boost. 

And of course my kids grew up listening to Green Day. It's something Megan and I had in common when she was an emo teen. It must have been horrifying for her to share her (very uncool) mother's taste in music. 

Being at the Vector "Spark" Arena together, singing along to every word, was powerful. It moved me to tears. And it was a really great concert – so epic to hear them live … I'd say one of the best times of my life.

Next post … all about the good riddance part…

The one where I baked a cake

I really don’t like cooking – I’m not very good at it and I don’t have the patience or passion to get better via practice. But I decided to bake a vegan chocolate cake for Megan’s birthday. Wyatt, Megan and Antony are dairy-free, and I can’t eat anything fun, so I thought it would be good to bake something we could all eat.

It turned out pretty well too! I think maybe the cake tin was too deep and small, because it took an hour and a half to cook all the way through – instead of the recommended 45 minutes. I think I’ll need to buy a different tin and give it another try.

Anyway, here’s the recipe – super simple!

Vegan Chocolate Cake

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
6 tbsp cocoa
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup oil
2 cups cold water
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla essence

Sieve all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix to combine. Add the wet ingredients and mix until smooth.
Pour into a greased and lined 20cm cake tin and bake at 180°C for 45min or until the cake springs back and a skewer comes out clean. Leave in the tin for about 10 min after it is taken out of the oven and then turn out on a wire rack.
Ice when cool.

Money-rich, time-poor

This week I did something I never thought I would ever do – hire a cleaner. We had a cleaning service come and give our whole house a spring cleaning – windows, sills, skirtings, dusting, fridge, oven, floors, bathrooms, the full noise. Our house is gleaming!

They are coming back on Tuesday to do a regular clean, and then every Tuesday after that. It feels so luxurious to pay to have someone do my chores – I’m totally embracing it.

The cleaning service comes hot on the heels of the gardening and mowing services we employed last year. This all feels extravagant, but also really awesome. It’s so nice to come home on a Monday and see what work our gardener has done – she moves things around, plants things here and there, and obviously has very green thumbs (unlike me!).

I understand now what people mean by the phrase money-rich, time-poor. I am happy to pay people to do things for me so I have time to do other things instead. I actually don’t mind cleaning at all – I find it soothing and satisfying. But I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to fit into my week – I feel like I’m always cleaning and tidying, because I have to do little bits all the time to keep up with it.

It’s not like I’m using my new spare time lazing around. The reason I have so little time is all the unpaid work I do for derby and hockey. I do this work joyfully and with gusto. Both these sports have expanded my world, taken me to new and interesting places, stretched my skills (and my patience at times) – they give back to me as I give to them. But the reality is that giving my time to others leaves less time for cleaning the loo. It seems like a fair trade to me.

Crowd-sourced decision-making

We’ve been thinking for a while about getting a coffee machine for home. We’ve been using a French press for years.

French press
French press

Lately I’ve been hearing about this amazing new device called a Nespresso. They seem to be everywhere, and people who have one rave about it.

Nespresso
Nespresso

We saw lots of them when we were travelling last year, and we talked about getting one. I liked the idea of homemade espresso with very little mess / fuss. I wasn’t 100% convinced though – they seem to produce a lot of waste in the form of little aluminium pods. And you can’t choose your own beans. Then I tried a cup at a client’s office the other day, and it was pretty nice coffee. I asked around and the evangelists had me sold. I was ready to go out and buy one.

But before I did (still nagging doubts about those pods), I asked Facebook to tell me what they thought.

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A very interesting debate ensued. On the one hand, people said:

I’ve had one for 2 years, Nespresso pods are good but now I use supermarket ones for half the price I love it, totally different taste to plunger, still take a bit to get the quantities right, milk, water, pod strength but you can get a good proper coffee machine taste, never the best but good, as for waste – the plastic I use in 2 weeks would be less than one plastic meat tray, and the aluminium ones are recyclable.

Yes for sure – and I said no to a coffee machine for years. Had one for a year now and wouldn’t go back.

 It’s great. Easy to use, great selection of tastes, and the milk thingy always makes your coffee look cool.

George Clooney

They give you a card at the shop with a chip in it and when you go to the shop you are auto logged and they greet you…by name. So register your name as Mr Clooney….for shits and gigs

But George Clooney…

We’ve had one for about 4 years and couldn’t live without it. I personally think the coffee tastes great but our machine (Maestria) does allow for you to adjust more than the basic machine and we do run more water through each capsule to extract more coffee. The pods are recyclable in Chch in the standard recycling but if you want to make sure you can now drop them off at the Nespresso Boutique in Ballantynes at the proper recycle station. Supposedly they are infinitely recyclable. We recently tried another Eco-brand of some sort but it didn’t cut the mustard flavour wise.

Love ours! Our one you steam your own milk too, which gives you part of that satisfaction of putting a little effort into your coffee, but sans mess!

It was pretty convincing stuff. No mess, and George Clooney!

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But then…other people gave me pause for thought…

A very clever marketing campaign backed up by great service to make you feel part of an exclusive club, while you drink weak, overpriced coffee and damage the environment, despite the well-intentioned recycling programme.

Capsules are expensive and only available in their “boutiques” (far and few between) and online. The only good, strong Nespresso I’ve had was when I used 2 pods in one cup – making it even more expensive. Not to mention that Nespresso is from Nestle – one of more evil multi-national corporations which should be boycotted (a company with a CEO who doesn’t believe that water is a basic human right, a company that used child labour in Africa on cocoa plantations until 2005 and of course aggressively pushed formula in Africa for years resulting in an unnecessarily high infant mortality rate.)

Back to coffee, we have had a Breville Fresca for the past 4 years, which has a built-in grinder. We love it. I don’t buy takeaway coffee anymore, ever. I also like that I can buy whichever beans I choose – fair trade, organic etc.

Hmmm, I have purposefully boycotted Nestle all of my adult life…

 

Drinking coffee is not just about ‘getting your fix asap’. If you buy a proper espresso machine you’ll experience the joy of making a good coffee yourself. You can learn, experiment, refine your skills and it only takes a little bit longer. You can make the coffee just the way you like it best… not how Mr. Nespresso thinks you should drink your coffee.

Plus if you multi task, you can make a coffee while having a meaningful conversation with somebody who really knows your name and who is really interested in you and not just in your wallet. You don’t have to suffer through all the fake marketing bullshit so you feel ‘special’… together with the millions of other Nespresso drinkers all over the world.

And as a bonus your soul doesn’t die a little every time you drink a ‘soy vanilla caramel late with rose sprinkles on top’ because you’re not putting another ‘pod’ in the ground. That alone has got to be worth something.

So yeah… do you follow the crowd… or do you drink coffee?

Yeah, family coffee-making and meaningful conversations, I like!

 

Espresso machine is a much better option in my opinion. Much more control, can support local roasters.

Local roasters!

 

These were also convincing arguments. The two sides of the debate perfectly summarise my take on this – I like the idea of the easiness and no-mess-ness of the pods, but like the idea of making my own coffee using non-evil corporation products.

Reviewing the arguments carefully, I noted that the ‘for’ arguments all focus on the convenience of the pods, and the ‘against’ on the value of brewing your own coffee using beans of your choosing.

So I started my research again, this time including espresso machines in the mix. I had thought (wrongly) that these machines would be out of our price range (i.e. several thousand dollars). What my research showed was that there are lots of semi- and fully-automatic coffee machines in the $500-$1000 range – about the same as the Nespresso.

I showed my research to Stephen and we narrowed the options – don’t want a milk container attached, do want to be able to make steamed milk, don’t want a portafilter, do want to be able to use beans or ground coffee, do want a decent sized water container.

And so we found this little beauty.

ECAM-22110SB-left
Delonghi Magnifica S ECAM 22.110.SB

And it is magnifica! It is exactly what we we wanted. It makes a great brew using any beans we choose, we can select different strengths, make two coffees at once, make short or long blacks, and steam milk, and it is no-mess. And for $1000 it includes a four-year service warranty.

I’ve been slightly over-caffeinated since we got it…

Derby

I made a big decision in December to quit playing derby. I gave it a good two and a half years, and it’s been an epic roller-coaster ride. When I started, it was to keep Megan company. I’d been rollerblading a few times, was enjoying ice skating and was keen to learn to roller skate. I signed up for freshmeat never intending to actually play roller derby. I love to skate and I’m glad I learned, but I never enjoyed the full contact aspect of derby. I don’t like hitting or being hit. Though, in honesty, it’s actually been really good to learn that getting smacked to the floor repeatedly really isn’t so bad – it doesn’t hurt as much as it looks like. I don’t mind the bruises and actually I am quite proud of some of them. They feel earned. Which probably sounds nutty to some.

I worry a lot about getting injured. I’ve seen more injuries in the two years I’ve played derby than in my seven seasons of ice hockey. It scares me a little. And derby has been hard on my body. People argue with me when I say I’m too old for derby. I’m not saying that I’m chronologically too old – at 42 there are people my age and older still playing. But my body is old and beat up. I haven’t taken care of it and it’s pretty wrecked. I have to be careful what I do with my poor body if I want it to carry me around for another 40 years. Last year I spent a lot of time in pain – legs, hips, back, feet, elbow (my poor elbow!). Just ask my massage therapist and osteopath. They are both very polite about the sport I play – they’d never tell me to stop, but they both support my decision that’s for sure.

Then there’s the intensity of it. Two hours, three times a week. In my busy life, that’s a huge time commitment. It doesn’t leave room for much else, and I’ve slowly given away other things I enjoy to make room for training. I’ve quit running, dancing, Sunday dates, gym classes, winter ice hockey, all for derby. In my league, part time is not an option. You’re either in, or you’re out. There is no middle ground, no “social derby”. One of the things I love about hockey is that I can do as much or as little as I want, and no one really cares. If I wanted to, I could skate every other day, go to all the trainings and camps, skate outside, practice my shots. Or I could just be mediocre and have fun playing once a week in the B Grade. I love that. It’s not an option in derby. Like I say, it’s intense. And not for me. Right now I feel like the love of derby got beaten out of me in the past year.

The problem is, I really love to skate! I wish wish wish we had a roller rink that I could socially skate with my family. In lieu of that, I’d love to be a roller derby referee. One of the things I loved about doing freshmeat was learning the rules. They are plentiful and complex and interesting. As a ref, I’d get to skate, and I’d have to really know the rules, and no one is allowed to hit me, and it’s free. Sounds perfect! It means I’d get to keep participating in a sport I really enjoy, and it’s something I can continue to share with Megan and Bronwen.

So maybe it’s not so much quitting as it is shifting from player to zebra. I’m pretty excited about that. I’m going to give it three months. Once the season starts in February I am taking a three-month hiatus to see how much I miss it. If I don’t, I know I’ve made the right decision. And if I do miss it, I can jump back in!

A thing that actually represents another thing

You know how sometimes when you are mad or sad about something that isn’t that big of a deal, it’s actually about some other deep-seated unresolved issue? Like how I irrationally dislike someone and then realise it’s because they sound like / look like / act like my mother. Well, I just had this realisation about a jacket.

It was a really nice summer jacket. I got it from Farmers, it wasn’t expensive or cheap – just right. And I got it just before I left New Zealand on my big overseas adventure / voyage of discovery. So the jacket is imbued with meaning (though I never really thought about it like that until now). It was my freedom jacket. And it was a good jacket – it fitted me really well, it was super comfy, and suitable for many occasions.

So what happened to this amazing jacket, you ask yourself? I left it in the building in High Street on February 22nd, 2011. I had the presence of mind to grab my phone on the way out of the building, but nothing else. My poor little jacket was hanging on the back of my chair. I’ve been missing it every since. There have been other jackets, but none have been just right (too rustly, too short, long, tight, loose, wrong colour etc. etc.). I think right back in the recesses of my mind, the loss of my jacket is connected to everything else I lost that day.

So spring rolled around again this year and I started to really pine for my lost jacket. I went looking for one just like it – and I can’t find it. I even looked for a pattern with the idea that I could get a new one made. I’ve kind of found one similar on Etsy, and I’ve been debating with myself about getting it for a couple of months. Which is what led me to the realisation that the jacket has meaning beyond a piece of clothing.

Buying a new jacket is moving on, closure. It’s a good thing, but it’s also saying goodbye. Deep.

A new jacket for a new life
A new jacket for a new life
me, my jacket and the Corvette
Me, my jacket and the Corvette
Me, my jacket and my BFF have fun in NYC
Me, my jacket and my BFF have fun in NYC
Me and my jacket have fun on a rooftop carpark in old Christchurch
Me and my jacket have fun on a rooftop carpark in old Christchurch
Me and my jacket visit Apple world headquarters in Cupertino, California.
Me and my jacket visit Apple world headquarters in Cupertino, California.
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My new jacket?

It’s the little things…

Jeez, it’s been ages. Two months. I think about blogging all the time, in fact just yesterday. I think of something to say, or about something that just happened, and then I post it on Facebook and Twitter and move on. Social media is easy and blogging takes time and effort. Sad but true.

Anyway, I did something momentous (for me) today – my first lone roadie. I drove from Palmerston North to Wellington. In a rental car. In the dark. And the rain. It took just over two hours. It might not seem like a big deal if you drive all the time, but it is huge for me. The idea of that much speed for that much time scares me. There were bridges! There was one bridge with a curve, and up hill, and a BUS coming the other way. That one made me sweat a bit. And I drove all the way through Wellington city and out the other side to drop off the car.

When I got my driver licence in 2011 (on my 39th birthday), it gave me this amazing sense of freedom. It made so many things possible that were just difficult to do before … imagine going to hockey on the bus, argh. A couple of weeks ago I thought about driving to Timaru. I’d need to bring Stephen along, I thought to myself. I can’t drive myself, I thought. There are bridges. And it’s a long way! So now I know I can. That’s really cool.

Back in MY day…

There have been a profusion of cute little notes and things on Facebook recently about how different kids’ lives were back in “our day”. It recalls a bygone era when kids rode their bikes to their friends houses, climbed trees, stayed out til dark. Kids were smacked when they were naughty, didn’t answer back or swear, they knew their place.

It sounds like a lovely place and time, but it doesn’t ring true for me. The 1970s, as I remember it, involved adults being able to beat children without fear of consequence, children being abused behind closed doors and nobody talked about it, women being bullied by their husbands and having nowhere to go for help. Children had no rights – they couldn’t answer back, or speak out. Women were not the equals of men in the workplace or at home.

I am glad I don’t live in that world anymore. And I am VERY happy that my children have had a different life than the one I had.

Yes the world has changed. The world has been changing as long as humans have existed. This time is not like the time you grew up in, and children have different experiences than the ones you had. It doesn’t make yours better or more valid than theirs.

But some things never change. If I want my children to be socially responsible, thoughtful, well mannered, it’s still my job teach them how. The amount of TV they watch, the music they listen to, the games they play have less influence on them than people think. I am still the biggest shaper of my children’s lives – I still have the most influence over what they think and how they see the world. They watch everything I say and do, and they will copy me. If I want my children to spend less time in the cyberworld, then it’s up to me to turn the computer off and go play with them. Or maybe join them in cyberworld and enjoy the marvels of the wide world out there with them.

Don’t worry, one day they’ll be lamenting about ‘kids these days’ and recalling that golden age of smartphones and iPads and goodness knows what else!

This one from Facebook, I love:

First written by Judge Phillip B. Gilliam in the US in 1959, it was recently reproduced by a Northland high school principal.

It’s just as true now as it was then. And for parents as much as for the kids.

Open letter to Teen-ager

Always we hear the plaintive cry of the teen-ager. What can we do?…Were can we go?

The answer is GO HOME!

Hang the storm windows, paint the woodwork. Rake the leaves, mow the lawn, shovel the walk. Wash the car, learn to cook, scrub some floors. Repair the sink, build a boat, get a job.

Help the minister, priest, or rabbi, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army. Visit the sick, assist the poor, study your lessons. And then when you are through – and not too tired – read a book.

Your parents do not owe you entertainment. Your city or village does not owe you recreational facilities.

The world does not owe you a living…You owe the world something.

You owe it your time and your energy and your talents so that no one will be at war or in poverty or sick or lonely again.

Grow up; quit being a crybaby. Get out of your dream world and develop a backbone, not a wishbone, and start acting like a man or a lady.

You’re supposed to be mature enough to accept some of the responsibility your parents have carried for years.

They have nursed, protected, helped, appealed, begged, excused, tolerated and denied themselves needed comforts so that you could have every benefit. This they have done gladly, for you are their dearest treasure.

But now, you have no right to expect them to bow to every whim and fancy just because selfish ego instead of common sense dominates your personality, thinking and request.

In Heaven’s name, grow up and go home!

– South Bend Tribune, Sunday, Dec. 6, 1959.

 

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Mother’s Day

I’ve always made a bit of a big deal of Mother’s Day. Not as a kid, but once I became a mother. I know that people complain about it being overly commercial and all that, but I love it. I can take time out to think about how far I’ve come as a mother, and (hopefully!) get a bit of appreciation for all my hard work.

When I think of Mother’s Day, I think of it in relation to me as a mother, but never really think of my own mother at all. Which may seem callous if you don’t know me. I really feel like I don’t have a mother. I don’t remember her for the first few years of my life, and she left when I was 10. Since then she has popped back in and out of my life, sometimes quite painfully. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with the fact that she isn’t really my mother. I have someone who gave birth to me, but she isn’t my ‘mum’. I know what it really means to be a mother, because I have being doing it hard-out for 25 years!

So Mother’s Day for me isn’t about cards and gifts (although I do love those), it’s about taking time to be with my children and appreciating the relationship I have with them.

Me and my beautiful children
Me and my beautiful children

Five years ago today

Five years ago today I met Stephen for the first time. It was a blind date. It had been a big day for me – I’d just sat and passed my restricted driver license and it was my first trip out alone with my car.

We met at Metro cinema, to see Man on Wire. I spied him before he saw me, and was instantly impressed – he was wearing a Serenity t-shirt. It’s one of my favourite movies! Less impressive were the sneans, but I chose to overlook that.

I wonder what his first impression of me was!?

We went into the theatre, had a brief awkward moment over the ticket payment (I paid for my own) and settled in. The movie was not especially memorable, but the company was. Before the movie started we talked about work and technology and gadgets and all manner of other things. We held hands in the movie and it was lovely.

Afterwards we went looking for somewhere to have coffee. The only place open in town was McDonalds. We grabbed a takeaway and sat in Cathedral Square beside the Chalice and chatted some more. An English couple came along and started talking to us about their trip, and asked us lots of questions about ourselves. They didn’t realise we were on our first date and we didn’t like to say. It was awkward and funny.

Stephen walked me back to my car (I had to be home by 10pm with my license curfew!), we had that strange half-hug-cheek-kiss thing and said goodbye.

I had no idea that night how much my life would change as a result of that night. All I knew is that he was cute and funny and sweet and I wanted to see him again. Which obviously I did. Our second date was Ironside Thai and a walk around the park. Our third date was Tulsi, a drive in the Port Hills, the beach. We’ve been inseparable ever since. It was love at third sight.

Stephen, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love your patience

I love your solidity, you are always there for me

I love that I can depend on you utterly and completely

I love that you laugh at me when I’m being stupid (it’s really annoying at the time!)

I love that when I ask you to, you take me seriously and listen hard

I love your humour – Dad jokes!

I love your energy and commitment to the things we do together

I love that you say, “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right”

I love that you have grown my world and we are fulfilling our wildest dreams together

I love that my children are your children, and your child is my child

I love that you are a committed and involved Dad, even when it’s awkward

I love how you’ve embraced being Poppa to Wyatt and Arlia

I love that you don’t let me boss you around

I love that you are smart

I love that you are always expanding your knowledge of things you are interested in

I love that you know how to slow down, and are teaching me how

I love that I get to spend all my days with you

I love you.

Stephen and Bebe
Our very first couple-selfie