Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Recipes

I've had a couple of requests for recipes we use for Christmas, so this post is going to be fairly long and full of recipes!  Some of them are metric and some are Imperial measurements, because Dave got quite a few recipes from a US exchange student and various other US sources.

We make this Christmas Cake every year and it is always popular.  It is very dense and rich and alcoholic!  We make ours about 6 weeks before Christmas.

Quantities suitable for 6" square tin. Double for 9" round (bake 5.5 hours), triple for 10" square (bake 6.25 hours).

6oz   butter               1/2tsp mixed spice
6oz   dark brown sugar     1/2tsp cinnamon
1tbsp black treacle        6oz    currants
2tsp  Gravox               6oz    raisins
2     eggs                 12oz   sultanas
2tsp  brandy               2oz    candied peel
6oz   plain flour          2oz    glace cherries
sherry, rum or whisky      2oz    chopped almonds
(for soaking and pouring)  grated rind of 1 lemon

Mix currants, raisins, sultanas, candied peel, and glace cherries together in a bowl and soak in the alcohol of your choice overnight.  Pre-heat oven to 135C/275F/very slow.  Cream butter, sugar & treacle.  Add eggs and brandy.  Beat all together.  Sift dry ingredients.  Add fruit and dry ingredients alternately to butter mixture.  Stir well.  Transfer to tin lined with brown paper or baking paper.  Bake 4 hours (or as noted above).  Flip from tin and pour more alcohol over the bottom, then replace in the still-lined tin.  When completely cold (24 hours) pour more alcohol over the top and wrap in glad wrap and foil.  Store in an airtight container in a dark, cool place for at least a month before eating.

More recipes after the jump!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Big50 Day 50: Christmas

As an Atheist, I obviously don't celebrate Christmas for the religious aspect of it, but even when I was a kid, that was never what Christmas was about to my family.  Christmas to me is about family, and Summer, and road trips, and collective cooking at my parents' beach house.  It's about rain (nearly always rains on Christmas Day, and today is no exception!), and the sound of a tent zip opening in the early morning stillness, and about sharing and giving gifts.

This is my fifth year in a row that I haven't been home for Christmas ("home" being NZ, obviously).  I told Dave that no matter what, we are going to NZ for Christmas next year!  I've already booked my annual leave with work.  I normally get quite Grinchy at Christmas, because it reminds me that I'm not home.  But I also find that Christmas can bring out the worst, as well as the best, in people.  Pushing, shoving, rude, abusive people flood the streets and the shops.  People go crazy with Christmas lights.  This year, there's been reindeer horns and red noses on every second car.  There's extra shop people everywhere, blaring out specials on portable microphones and speakers, or aggressively shoving pamphlets into your hands.  But there's also random acts of kindness, and a collective effort to go the extra mile.

I hope you have a wonderful, stress-free Christmas, if you celebrate it, and if you celebrate a different holiday, I hope you enjoy that (or have already enjoyed that).

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series, which is now finally over!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Big50 Day 49: Home

'Nuff said.

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Big50 Day 44-48: Senses

Because I got so far behind, I'm going to cheat a little and combine my 5 separate "Senses" posts into one!

The soft spot behind Jeddah's ears.  The roughness of Bubbles' tongue.  Silk against my skin.  Egyptian cotton sheets.  Dave's head after I've shaved his hair.  A mohair blanket.

Freshly-brewed tea.  Raspberries.  Christmas fruit cake.  Roast dinner.  Grass after rain.  Coconut.  Bacon and eggs.  A new book.

Smooth, rich chocolate mousse.  Lemon meringue pie.  Nana's rice pudding.  Gruyère cheese.  A crunchy Granny Smith apple.  Feijoas off my parents' tree.  Lychees.

A baby crying.  Jeddah meowing.  A tent zip opening on a clear Summer morning.  The Storm by Jim Steinman.  Phoebe yelping in her sleep.  My Daddy's electric razor in the morning.

A beautiful fantasy painting, like by Boris Vallejo.  Ron Mueck's sculptures.  A full moon.  Kawakawa Bay, from the hill above.  The Desert Road.  Wisteria vines.  Jacaranda trees. Kowhai trees.  Pohutukawa trees.  A book.

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Big50 Day 43: Grandmothers

I've already spoken about my Nanas on a couple of occasions. They were and are inspirational women, and I can't say much more on the topic other than that I miss very much my Nana D, who died earlier this year, and my Nana W, who I don't get to see nearly as often as I'd like.  Unfortunately, it's difficult for her to travel, and she wasn't able to make it to our wedding.

I wanted to write something about Dave's Gran, but I haven't gotten a copy of the eulogy his Uncle gave at her funeral in October.  I will say that she was a pioneering, opinionated, inspirational woman.  She worked with Aboriginal people and was involved in the Baha'i church and loved writing letters to her grandchildren.  We had a lovely holiday with her when we went cruising on the Murray River with Dave's Mum and my parents, and she also came up from Adelaide for our wedding earlier this year.

I wouldn't be who I am today without the influence of these three women, especially my own two Nanas, and most especially Nana D, who looked after my sister and I so much when we were children.  We went to her house every day after school, and clearly some of her characteristics have rubbed off on me.  I love and miss my Nanas very much and am already counting the days to Christmas 2011 when I'll be in NZ and able to catch up with Nana W.

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Big50 Day 42: Collections

I get my magpie-like collecting and hoarding tendencies from my Daddy.  He has rather a lot of fishing rods (although he would scoff at the idea he collects them), and a lovely collection of vintage pocketwatches.  Considering his collection has been amassed almost entirely through TradeMe (NZ's answer to eBay), he's managed to pick up some beautiful watches and some really good bargains.  He'll happily talk for hours about his watches, showing you the mechanisms and waxing lyrical over their functional beauty.

But this post isn't about his collections, it's about mine!  One thing I collect, although this is currently on hold due to a lack of suitable display options, is dragon figurines.  I have a pretty nice collection that is currently bubble-wrapped and sitting in a box in the spare wardrobe.  When I have space for a china cabinet, I will start this collection again.

We have a very modest collection of antique books that was recently boosted by inheriting some from Dave's grandmother.  In particular, I like collecting old Shakespeare editions.  I picked up a fairly good condition vintage complete works in an op shop for $3 that is worth quite a bit more than that.  This is another collection that I'm slowly building up.

Another thing I collect is cook books.  I have one whole bookshelf specifically for cook books.  It's kind of inaccessible at the moment so I tend to stick to just 2 or 3 that I have out and handy, one being my copy of the Edmonds cook book that sits in nearly every Kiwi household kitchen.  I can't resist picking up cook books when I see them on sale.  Dave has tried to ban me from buying any more but that hasn't worked out too well!  Oooh, vintage Edmonds cook books!  Hmmm.

What do you like collecting?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On the Julian Assange Rape Charges

Trigger warning for this post and all posts I link to here for discussions of rape and rape apologism.

So.  I'm not going to write a blog post about this whole thing, because several people have said what I want to say far better than I could.  What I want to do here is a bit of a link round-up, a "signal boost" if you will, to make sure my friends and family and other readers at least spend a few moments thinking about this stuff.

What I am going to say, first of all, is that in the very early days of the Assange accusations, I did retweet some stuff on Twitter that I didn't really think through, and I did make some comments and have some discussions with my husband that were in public places and may have been overheard.  If I somehow upset you, or triggered you, or angered you, I'm sorry.  I'm more informed now.  I hope that you all take time to read these links, and become more informed too.

First up, if you somehow have no idea what I'm talking about, here is a Washington Post article describing the charges against Julian Assange, why they are controversial, and a little bit about who he is.  Here are the charges, as described in the article:
The allegations against Assange are rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. He's accused of pinning one woman's arms and using his body weight to hold her down during one alleged assault, and of raping a woman while she was sleeping. In both cases, according to the allegations, Assange did not use a condom. But the controversy seems to center on the fact that both encounters started off consensually.
 Now for the link round-up (these are all from my Google Reader feed and thus are heavy on Fat Acceptance and Australian voices):

  • Talking about rape and who hears you: Kate Harding did this post about some of the things people are saying, and Elizabeth at Spilt Milk wrote this one about who hears you when you say these things:
...[W]hen what we hear time and time again is some version of apologism or some perpetuation of a rape myth like sluts can’t be raped or women always cry rape or nice men aren’t rapists then all we do is make the noise of rape culture louder and the voices of victims and survivors ever more silent.
  • Several prominent figures in the USA have spoken in support of Assange and disparagingly of the claims, including Michael Moore and Naomi Wolf.  Kate Harding wrote about Michael Moore and the Twitter hashtag #Mooreandme, and added a follow-up a few days later.  Brian at Red No. 3 posted on the same topic from a male perspective.  Viv at Hoyden About Town wrote reblogged an open letter from another blogger (Harriet J at Fugitivus) to other prominent feminists to challenge Naomi Wolf.
  • Two of my favourite bloggers wrote incredibly brave posts about their own rape experiences, and I thank them for sharing and for giving me permission to link them here: Fat Heffalump and The Rotund.
  • Finally, Elizabeth at Spilt Milk wrote a post about where she stands on WikiLeaks and the Assange accusations, which is pretty much exactly my stance.
Phew.  I know that's a lot of links, but I really hope you guys take the time to read them.  At the very least, I hope I've gotten you thinking about rape and rape scenarios and who hears you when you talk about rape.

Big50 Day 41: Crafts

I usually think of myself as not a particularly creative person, because I can't paint or draw or sculpt or anything like that.  But that's not really being very fair to myself.  I enjoy doing creative things that have guidelines, like cross-stitch from patterns and baking from recipes.  I'll happily adapt those guidelines to suit myself, but if you were to ask me, for example, to create a meal out of a bench full of assorted ingredients, I'd be totally lost.

I've recently been on a bit of a sewing kick.  I made the ring pillow we used for our wedding, and am halfway through making a maxi dress.  Speaking of the wedding...We also made our own centrepieces to go with our sand ceremony and our colour scheme.  Here's me with one on the day we were assembling them:

I used to make a lot of my own paper with a paper recycling kit, and turn it into cards and that kind of thing.  I've spent the last few evenings baking so that I can give gifts to my coworkers for Christmas.  I just enjoy giving home-made gifts.  The act of creating something, anything, is immensely satisfying to me.  I guess I just don't give myself enough credit for my personal brand of creativity!

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Big50 Day 40: My Spiritual Home

I've mentioned several times now that I consider Wellington my spiritual home, but have never really defined that.  So that is what this post is going to be about.

I was born and raised in Papakura, a town in South Auckland, which officially became a city in my last year of primary school.  Unfortunately, it's now been assimilated into the Auckland Super-City, which is pretty crap.  I represented my school at the city incorporation ceremony and was so proud to be a part of such an important event.  So it's sad that the ceremony is now meaningless.

Anyway, Auckland is a very big city and is the main entry hub into the country.  Most flights from outside of the South Pacific go through Auckland, and so it's where most tourists are introduced to the country.  That's a shame, because Auckland is a pretty soulless city, and is far from representing the beautiful, wild country that I love.  There's also a pretty strong rivalry between Auckland and the rest of the country.  The rest of the country has a slur (JAFA) for people from Auckland, and Aucklanders have a reputation for thinking that NZ "stops at the Bombay Hills" (a range of hills south of Auckland).  Non-Aucklanders also think that Auckland sucks up more than its fair share of national resources.  To top it all off, a lot of non-New Zealanders think Auckland is the capital!

While most of my family is in Auckland, and I miss them desperately, it's Wellington I really miss.  Wellington is a small, compact, picturesque city, with a lot of green space and a lot of old architecture.  As the capital, it is the political hub and knowledge base of the country - but it's also the cultural hub: the national ballet and symphony orchestra are based there, and it has several theatres.  I really miss the ballet and the theatre!  Wellington also has a strong cafe culture.

When I moved from Auckland to Wellington, I just immediately felt at home.  The style and culture and size of the city all suit me and my preferred lifestyle.  It's Wellington I long for, and Wellington we will eventually settle in (it's still closer than Oz, Mum!).  Of course, it doesn't help that I've recently made several new friends who are all in Wellington!

Where is your spiritual home?  Is it the same as your current home, or where you were born?  Have you ever lived in a different city?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Big50 Day 39: Grandfathers

Sadly, neither of my grandfathers are alive.  My father's father (Granddad) died shortly before my 5th birthday, and my mother's father (Poppa) died in 2006.

Because I was so young when Granddad died, I don't remember much of him.  I remember he was very tall (as were/are his five sons), but I don't remember him talking much, or being particularly affectionate.  My Daddy says that he had Alzheimer's, and as it progressed he got quite aggressive, so I suppose our contact was limited. I do remember that we weren't allowed to go to the funeral, because Mum didn't think we were old enough to understand.  Clearly, I was, because I was upset I couldn't go!

Poppa was very different to Granddad.  He was very involved in our lives and very affectionate.  Poppa was a bit of a joker and loved playing with his grandchildren and later, his great-grandchildren.  He played lawn bowls and tenpin bowls and was active in his local Cossie Club*.  He loved fishing and being at my parents' beach house.  Poppa died a couple of days before ANZAC Day 2006.  Sadly, I wasn't able to be in NZ at the end.  I saw him at Christmas 2005, when he was still fairly spry.  He had cancer.  My whole family banded together to support him and Nana, doing renovations to their house, staying at the Hospice he was in, and helping to look after him.  At his funeral, there were so many people the chapel couldn't hold us all - there were people spilling out onto the lawn, even though it had been raining.  There were a lot of great-grandchildren there too.  I was very proud to be one of the casket bearers and able to be involved.  Afterwards, as the hearse drove from the chapel, all the grandchildren and great-grandchildren lined the little road with helium balloons, and let go of the balloons as he was driven past.  It was a really sweet tribute and got everyone involved, and was a way for the little ones to understand about "letting go".

Even though I didn't know my Granddad very well, I still miss him.  I miss both my grandfathers very much.  I teared up while I was writing this.  I be my Mum cries when she reads it.  I'm sorry I made you cry, Mum.

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

* I was trying to find a link to give you non-NZers about Cossie Clubs but I can't find anything generic. They seem to be a uniquely NZ thing.  They're kind of like RSLs or RSAs, or, I don't know what the US equivalent would be...Think of a community centre that is mainly for older people and serves pub food and alcohol and you have a general idea.

Big50 Day 38: On Being Underestimated

I'm underestimated in all sorts of ways.  While I have a lot of privilege in some respects, there are other things I'm at a disadvantage for, such as being a woman and being fat.  I'm very intelligent and have a lot of general knowledge, and have worked in a lot of different jobs and environments and have a wide range of interests.  I have one bachelor's degree, am currently doing another, and plan on going on to post-grad.

However, I work in a job that is considered "unskilled" - I'm in Customer Service.  Never mind that Customer Service is quite a small part of my role, and shrinking - I'm in the Customer Service team, and that's that.  I find that some people - colleagues, customers, acquaintances - assume that because I'm a fat woman in an "unskilled" job, I'm therefore not particularly intelligent.

This really annoys me, because I'm quite aware of my intelligence.  You could say (and it would be fair, and it's something that I know I should work on) that I'm quite arrogant about it.  So I find it personally insulting when people assume I'm clueless.  Which is silly - the person on the other end of the phone doesn't know me.  If they want to treat me like I'm an idiot, that's their problem, not mine.

Of course, there are some situations where I can use this to my advantage.  I can pleasantly surprise people when I understand what they are trying to explain with minimum explanation, for example.  But mostly it's just kind of annoying.

The moral of the story is this: if you don't know someone, then don't make assumptions.  This is, of course, something I need to practice more too.

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Big50 Day 37: Phobias

So. Phobias.  I know there's an actual psychological definition, and that the word is over-used, and I should probably use fears, so I apologise to anyone who takes issue with me saying "phobia" instead of "fear"...But I'm going with phobia, because I do feel these things irrationally.  This post may also be triggery if you have any phobias.

My biggest irrational phobia is of drains.  That's so irrational it's not even on the Phobia List.  This stems from two Stephen King influences.  The first is obviously IT, a novel about an evil clown that comes up out of drains.  There's also a short story (I can't remember the name) about a guy who finds a finger coming up out of his drain and the finger gets longer and has more and more joints...Ugh, I just shivered and now I'm going to have trouble taking a shower.  I really, really hate taking a shower in a shower stall that has the drain in the middle of the floor (as ours does), and try to avoid standing over it as much as possible.  I'll randomly get hit with this phobia when I'm cleaning my teeth or whatever and suddenly have to get away from the sink as quickly as I can.

Another irrational phobia, also courtesy of Stephen King, is of my wardrobe door being open.  This one is from Cujo.  Most people remember that novel as being about a rabid dog that traps a kid and his mother in their car, miles from anywhere...But I remember the kid also saw the dog as a monster in his wardrobe, and thus, I can't sleep with my wardrobe door being open.  Or even be in the room if it's left open after being used.  When I started writing this paragraph, I glanced over my shoulder to make sure the wardrobe in our computer room was closed!

A more common phobia I have is agoraphobia - fear of being in crowded spaces.  I've had panic attacks from this.  It usually manifests when I'm in an unfamiliar crowd, like at a concert or something, but I can also be hit with it when I'm at the supermarket or mall, even if it's not a particularly crowded day.  If I'm already stressed and my mental defenses are down, just a regular supermarket trip can make me very jumpy.  I think this comes down to a lack of control over the situation.

My final phobia would I guess be a form of claustrophobia (confined spaces), but it's a bit more specific - I can't stand anything being over my face or close to my face.  It's very difficult for me to have someone else do my makeup, for example.  If I'm getting a haircut, the hairdresser can't put my hair over my face or I freak out.  I can't sleep with my covers over my head.  I don't even like having water on my face - it's the first thing I dry when I get out of the shower.  I'm not sure where this phobia comes from.

If you feel comfortable doing so, share your fears and phobias in the comments!

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Big50 Day 36: Fashion

I blogged about fashion several months ago. Since then, I've bought everything on that wishlist!  I don't really have a wishlist right now, except that I really need a couple of pairs of shorts I can wear to work.  Otherwise I'm pretty set.

I've bought a lot of shoes over the last few months.  Shoes have become my new obsession, specifically, red shoes.  I have several pairs now, and recently bought more.  I love my red shoes!

I'm enjoying finding new places I can buy stylish clothes.  I have a huge list of websites now.  I'm slowly cleaning out my old stuff and bringing in new stuff.  I still can't go past a cute tee and a pair of jeans, but I like experimenting with other looks too!

What's your personal style?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Big50 Day 35: Fathers

As I've mentioned before, I would say I'm a Daddy's Girl, for sure.  The fact that I still call him Daddy should demonstrate that!  My Daddy was always very protective of me.  None of my boyfriends ever measured up.  My clothes were too revealing.  I should aim higher.  What it all came down to really, however, was that he wanted what was best for me.  I think he's realised recently that what I think is best for me may not always be what he does, but that this is not always bad.  He's become more accepting of my choices - and finally approved of my relationships.  He gets on well with my husband, which I'm so grateful for.

My father-in-law is a botanist whose work takes him to some pretty remote places, including Antarctica - he's been there several times.  He grew up on a winery and has a lot of very interesting stories.  He's also an excellent artist - his botanical drawings are beautifully detailed and graceful.

I'm very lucky that I have such a good relationship with both my parents, as well as my in-laws.  I know that's highly unusual!

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Big50 Day 34: Blogging

Another "what were you thinking?" blog topic.  I wrote about this already.

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Big50 Day 33: Webcomics

Several years ago now, my friend in the US introduced me to my first webcomic - Penny Arcade.  I love Gabe's artwork and Tycho's scathing wit.  Even though I'm only a casual gamer (I only own one console, a Wii, gasp!), I still love reading about games - but the comic isn't really about games.  It's about two dudes who really, really love games.  They also run one of my favourite charities - Child's Play.

Penny Arcade led me to PVPOnline, which is kind of like a rival gaming webcomic.  Both comics frequently mention the other.  PVP has more of an ensemble cast, so it has a more diverse range of storylines, but it's also at its heart a comic about two guys (Cole and Brent) who really love games.

Back when I played World of Warcraft (did I mention that I'm happy I've kicked that habit?), another friend introduced me to Looking For Group, which is basically an ongoing graphic novel.  It draws heavily on WoW and other MMORPGs as well as regular RPGs, but also fantasy novels (especially Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series) and miscellaneous pop culture.  I love the warlock, Richard.  For Pony!

LFG led me to another comic by the same pair of Ryan Sohmer and Lar DeSouza, Least I Could Do (NSFW, more often than not).  This one is about a guy called Rayne who is cute and uh, well-endowed, a total ladies' man, but also a colossal nerd.

I've read xkcd on and off over the years, like most nerds, but am currently in the process of reading the archives.  xkcd is, well, it's kind of hard to explain, so I'll use the explanation on the site: "A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language."  It has stick figures.  If you're a nerd, you're probably already reading it, and if you're not, you probably won't get it (I don't get half of it!).

Someone I follow on Twitter (alas, I've forgotten who it was now), posted a Dinosaur Comics strip and I checked it out.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that a comic that uses exactly the same artwork in nearly every strip could have such a wide range of storylines.  I'm still working my way through the archive (there's a lot!).

A blogger I read (also alas, I've forgotten who it was now), posted a Two Lumps strip about Thanksgiving shortly before Thanksgiving, and I was amazed I had never come across it before.  A webcomic about two cats, kind of like a cat version of Pinky and the Brain?  I read my way through the archives over a few days and now am a loyal follower.  My next two cats will be called Eben and Snooch!

Two Lumps led me to Cleopatra in Spaaaace!, a webcomic about, well, Cleopatra in space...It takes a young Cleopatra and writes a comic about what she would be like if she'd been born thousands of years later.  It's another one like LFG - essentially an ongoing graphic novel.

So there you have it.  The 8 webcomics I follow currently.  I'm sure there's plenty more out there that are excellent.  If you have a recommendation, let me know!

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Big50 Day 32: Poetry

This year I did a Creative Writing paper for my Communication degree.  It had a Poetry component, which I thought I was going to hate, but actually really enjoyed.  I've posted several of my poems on this blog, and recently submitted two of them to Takahē magazine in New Zealand on the suggestion of my tutor.  I haven't heard back yet, but even if they don't publish either of them, the fact that my tutor thought I should at least try is very exciting!  One of the poems also makes me eligible to apply for a prize from my University, which I need to organise before March next year.  I'm also doing a paper solely on poetry in Semester 2 next year!

I haven't read a huge amount of poetry, but am starting to read a bit more, although I have read (and studied) quite a lot of Shakespeare.  A new Aussie blogger I discovered recently, Mim, did a post on poetry a little while ago and I will be using her to find more poetry to read!  I'm also going to start buying my nieces poetry instead of regular books (although their Christmas presents are already bought, sadly) and will definitely introduce my own children to poetry when the time comes!

What sort of poetry do you like?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Big50 Day 31: Boobs

Boobs.  They're everywhere.  It seems that you can't have an ad or a music video without boobs being front and centre these days.  They say sex sells, but what they really mean is boobs.

I'm quite proud of my boobs.  I mention them on Twitter fairly often.  I wear clothes that show them off.  I inherited a Rack of Doom from my mother, and her mother before her...Many of my cousins and aunts are well-endowed, boob-wise.  I recently placed an order with ThinkGeek for some t-shirts, and it was a toss-up between the "Huge Tracts of Land" shirt (if you don't get it, you haven't been watching enough Monty Python) and the "Schrödinger's Cat" shirt.  I bought the latter, but it was a tough call.  I'll get the Huge Tracts of Land one next time!

The thing about boobs is that they're just a normal part of the body.  Plenty of people have them. And plenty of people who don't are obsessed with them.  Why?  What's so fascinating about boobs?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Big50 Day 30: Friends

I've never really been a person with a huge circle of friends, and for most of my life, I've had more guy friends than girl friends.  In primary school, I had one good friend, and when we were getting ready to transition to intermediate I was worried we wouldn't be in the same class.  My teacher assured me that we would be - but when we started school, we weren't.  Unfortunately I lost that friend.  But I made several new ones.

One of these friends, Helen, I mentioned yesterday.  We were best friends from intermediate right through to the end of high school.  Sure, we had fights (mostly over boys), but we always bounced back.  We both had a slightly kooky way of viewing the world that others just didn't get.  We had two other friends, Kim and Kelly, and several boy friends as well (boy friends, not boyfriends, although we both dated several of them at various times).  When we got to high school, we made another friend, Shiloh.  She moved in across the road from me, and I'll never forget the first day of high school, when she approached me and said, "Hi! I'm Shiloh, I live across the road from you, do you want to be my friend?"  And so she joined our circle.  Shiloh could have easily ended up with the cool crowd - she was pretty and outgoing and did Drama, not Music, but her location across the street from me cemented her in our group.

Most of us stayed friends up to the end of high school, and then some through the first year of university.  Then I moved to a different city, and lost contact with pretty much everyone.  I made some new friends, but it was never the same.  Then I moved to another city, then another...I lost some friends and gained others, and then regained old friends through Facebook.

These days, most of my friends are from work, although I do have some old friends, and some friends I've met online that I've never met in person (and still others that I have).  I still find it hard to make friends - I can be quite outspoken and sometimes forget that people don't always appreciate that - but I feel comfortable in the circles I'm in right now.

Geez, I thought this post was going to be hard, but it's a pretty long one!  How do you make friends?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Big50 Day 29: Art

While I find art interesting, and dated a couple of artists when I was younger, I don't have any great skill myself.  I would love to be able to paint or draw, but alas, my talents lie in other areas.

Currently we don't have a lot of art work up in our house, although we are slowly remedying that.  I have two original works done just for me (from the aforementioned artist boyfriends) that both need to be reframed before I can hang them.  Our pride and joy, art-wise, is the painting we received as a wedding gift from my best friend from high school (Helen) and her partner (Hayley).

Image copyright 2010 Hayz Originals

Isn't she amazing?  Hayley, who has a website here, painted this for us herself.  Helen asked my sister for suggestions for what we might like and Angela immediately said "Dragons!".  Little did she know that our wedding cake was also dragon-themed!  So, obviously, we were thrilled with this painting.

We also recently inherited some art from David's grandmother, including an Indonesian batik and an original painting which we still need to get valued and reframed.  Our collection is slowly growing.  We both have quite different tastes, so I think that our collection will end up being quite eclectic!

What art do you like?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Big50 Day 28: Body Image

I've talked about body image a few times before, this post being the most comprehensive.  I'm in a pretty good place with my body image right now.  So today I'm going to talk about your body image*.

Yes, you.  How do you feel about your body?  Do you love it?  Do you hate it?  Think about what your body does for you every day.  If you're alive, your body is working hard to keep you that way.  There may be some things that don't work as well as they should, or perhaps work too well; there may be some things your body does that you're not happy with.  Your body is complex, and for you to be here at all is nothing short of amazing.

So why complain to your body about how it looks?  Why lose sleep over the outer shell?  You may be fat or thin, tall or short; you may have a visible disability, or people may judge you based on the colour of your skin.  But believe me, you're going to get enough negativity from everyone else. After receiving so much negativity from others, your body still soldiers on.  Don't you think it deserves a bit of respect from you?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

*Note: I've tried to keep this post as privilege-free as possible, but as a privileged person, that can be difficult.  I'm sorry if I unwittingly offend.  If I do, please let me know!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Big50 Day 27: High School

I'm not sure why I scheduled both a "High School" post and a "My 16-year-old Self" post.  So, in the interests of catching up (which will take 2 posts a day to catch up by Christmas Eve), I'm skipping this one.  Go read the My 16-year-old Self post instead :)

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Big50 Day 26: Trivia

I collect Trivia.  I have several books of trivia, such as Guinness World Records books, books about urban legends, general knowledge books, that kind of thing.  I soak up minor snippets of information like a sponge.  Whenever I encounter something I don't know much about, I look it up on Wikipedia.  I'm pretty good at Trivial Pursuit, but useless at anything that requires me to remember a date!

I really enjoy learning new things, and trivia is one of the things I enjoy the most.  It's fun to be able to remember strange facts about people and places.  Whenever I go somewhere new, I always read as much as I can about that place, including finding out minor details.

One thing I really love is urban legends.  Snopes is one of my favourite websites.  I'm sceptical of a lot of what I read or hear, and always check Snopes if something seems off.  I'm really annoying with chain emails and Facebook memes.  People seem to hate it when I point them at the Snopes entry on things that they forward me, no matter how politely I do it.  I just want people to think more critically of things they see or read!  Just because someone says it on the news, that doesn't mean it's true.  Critical thinking is a crucial skill.

I seem to have gone off-topic.  That's what you get when I write a blog post when I'm sleepy!

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

OOTD: Christmas Drinks!

Friday night was our company Christmas drinks.  We started at Central and then, when the bar tab ran out, moved across the road to Picture.  Picture is owned by an ex-coworker and her husband and we wanted to check it out!  It's absolutely gorgeous, if you're on the Gold Coast you should definitely pay them a visit.

The decoration is amazing.  They have fabulous booths which are usually really expensive to book, but they were pretty quiet so we managed to score one for free.  When the group of us turned up, mostly drunk (not me, I was driving!) and slurring about how we knew the owners, the duty manager must have thought we were having them on.  We managed to convince them we were genuine somehow, and they let us all in, even some of the boys that weren't really dressed nicely enough.

I decided that, as it was Christmas, I should accessorise in Christmas colours.  What better than my Fat necklace and my Wittner clogs?

Necklace: Definatalie
Belt: City Chic
Clogs: Wittner

When I was planning the outfit, I decided that what it really needed to tie it all together was a red belt.  So I went out and bought this ruffled one from City Chic.  I don't usually wear belts.  I don't even remember the last time I bought one (until I bought this one).  I own 3 (including this one), two of which came free with other things.  But I think the dress with the red accessories looks great!  It was dressy enough to wear out, but not too dressy that I didn't feel too overdressed at work - I was going to the drinks straight from work and didn't want the hassle of getting changed!

We've had a couple of weeks of rain, but we had one gorgeous day in the middle of it all yesterday, which was great!  I got a sunny OOTD post for a change, and I didn't have to walk in the rain while we were out in Surfers.

I really, really love this dress, and these shoes, and this necklace.  To have them all together in one outfit is fabulous!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Big50 Day 25: Daydreaming

I daydream a lot.  I have a fairly active imagination, and daydreaming is a way to channel that.  I daydream about my future, about people I know, about fictional characters, about random strangers...I compose stories, poetry, and blog posts...Anything to keep my mind occupied!

I daydream when I'm driving to and from work, or watching TV, or lying in bed trying to get to sleep (although I suppose that's nightdreaming, not daydreaming, hmmm).  I find daydreaming helps time pass faster and is a really good way to switch my brain off and help me sleep.  I think it's just part of my nature to over-analyse and dwell. Daydreaming keeps my mind focused on positive, mundane things, and stops me from brooding.

I'm not going to describe my daydreams, because that's too personal!  Do you daydream?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Big50 Day 24: Games

I love my computer games.  I've played games since I had my Commodore 64 when I was a kid.  I went through a phase where I was a World of Warcraft addict, although luckily, I seem to have kicked that habit for good.  I usually play strategy games like Civ, or RPGs like Diablo, Neverwinter Nights, Dragon Age, or Mass Effect.  I have a whole drawer full of computer games, and need to keep my PC fairly up-to-date to handle my games.

My current main occupation is Civ 5.  I've played most Civ versions, and find this one to be as addictive as ever.  Civ has the "just one more turn" factor - you think, "I'm just going to finish this Wonder", or "I'm just going to kill off this city", and then suddenly it's 2am!  The latest version has the added benefit of Steam achievements.  I can't believe I just gave you guys that link...

I also love love love Dragon Age.  BioWare do fabulous games, and Dragon Age is definitely my favorite game so far.  I'm secretly (not so secretly, rather) in love with Alistair.  I think I've mentioned this before.  The sequel is out in March, and I am very excited about that.

I'm certainly not a hard-core gamer, but I do enjoy my games, and I enjoy webcomics related to games (like Penny Arcade, PVP Online, and LFG).

Apart from computer games, I also enjoy board games, although we don't really have anyone to play with at the moment.  We have several games in the cupboard that I wish we could play more.  I also played Dungeons & Dragons and World of Darkness (both play-by-post and tabletop)for a while, but simply ran out of spare time to enjoy them properly.  I still have a big bag of dice though!

Do you play any games?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Big50 Day 23: Sports

Sports are an integratal part of NZ (and Oz) society.  It's impossible to completely avoid coverage of sports, even if you have no interest in them.  So it's lucky I have plenty of interest!

I played netball as a child, like plenty of New Zealand girls, and played indoor netball as an adult.  My father plays cricket - he's a wicketkeeper.  His employer has a big cricket tournament each year at a different city in NZ.  My grandfather (his father) apparently also played cricket.  Dad likes joking that Granddad played cricket at the MCG - which is technically true: he played for Marton at the Marton Cricket Ground - but obviously misleading!  My other grandfather played lawn bowls and tenpin bowls.  You certainly couldn't call me sporty, but I do enjoy playing various sports.

Of course, I also watch a lot of sports.  Rugby (Union, of course!) and cricket are my favourites, but I'll also happily watch soccer or rugby league, and can now watch an Aussie Rules game and have a vague idea what's going on.  When I moved to Wellington and discovered my spiritual home, I immediately switched my allegiance from the Counties-Manukau rugby teams to the Wellington ones!  I'm a big Hurricanes fan, and also support the Lions (NZ rugby domestic) and Phoenix (soccer, the NZ team in the Australian A-League).

There's quite a lot of rivalry between NZ and Australia when it comes to sports.  NZ is usually better than Australia at rugby union, but generally the Aussies have the upper hand in everything else.  However, we did win the rugby league this year, to the disgust of the boys at work.  In NZ, you can get t-shirts that read "I support two teams: the All Blacks, and anyone playing Australia".  I'm not quite that one-eyed, but things can occasionally get a bit heated in our household when NZ and Australia are playing each other!

The boys in the IT and Marketing departments run a weekly Betting Club, which I also participate in (as the only girl and also only Customer Service).  I usually do alright, even though this is my tactic for picking bets, depending on the sports on offer each week:

  1. Pick a Wellington team
  2. If none available, pick a NZ team
  3. If none available, pick a Gold Coast team
  4. If none available, pick a team Dave supports (although I've been forbidden from picking Liverpool this year due to their unreliability)
  5. If none available, pick a team with a cool name (this is also my tactic for picking my horse)
Not very scientific, hmm?  What sports do you play or follow?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Friday, December 3, 2010

OOTD: Clogs!

I can't think of a witty title for this post because I'm just too focused on my new red clogs from Wittner!

Are they fabulous or what?  They're surprisingly comfortable and are taller than they look.  Clogs started coming into fashion (and season) a couple of months ago and I've been keeping my eye out for a red pair for ages.  I finally decided on these Wittner ones because they are lined and have rubber on the sole.  I put them on layby a couple of weeks ago, and then picked them up yesterday when they went on sale!

Cami & Mini: Torrid
Necklace: Definatalie
Clogs: Wittner

What better to team with red shoes than my red Fat necklace?  I've mentioned before how much I love red shoes and I am super-happy with the latest addition to my collection!  They can be dressed up or down and worn with just about anything.  I predict many, many wears.  Love!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Big50 Day 22: Tea

I've always been more of a tea person than a coffee person.  I think that's because my Daddy drinks tea.  I used to have mine like him - with 2 sugars - but I've managed to cut back to one now.  I have a very specific way of making my tea if it's with a tea bag - I put the milk in first, then the hot water, and I always leave the spoon in the cup and drink it with the spoon there, stirring it as I go.  Dave flat-out refuses to make my tea how I want it (milk first) - but he never forgets the spoon!

Recently I've started drinking more loose-leaf tea.  I finally got around to visiting the Tea Centre store in Robina and bought some Formosa Choice Oolong and a little tin and strainer to keep at work.  The Oolong is delicious with a little squeeze of mild-flavoured honey and no milk.  I have a little tea ceremony and it helps me de-stress.

For home, we bought the Ceylon Ruhuna, which is nice and strong, just how Dave likes his tea.  Today I also bought a little tin of Earl Grey Blue Flower for work (Dave doesn't like Earl Grey) which smells absolutely divine.  I love visiting the Tea Centre, I just want to smell all their teas!

My friend @missrbit is heading home to India for a holiday next week and has promised to bring me back some Darjeeling tea, which I'm really looking forward to.  It was the only condition on which I would allow her to desert me for a month!

I guess I'm becoming a bit of a tea snob.  We're planning on putting up a shelf in our kitchen to keep our growing collection of tea on!  I strongly believe that most problems can be solved with a cup of tea and a homemade biscuit.

What's your favourite sort of tea?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Big50 Day 21: Mothers

Looking back over my blog, I seem to have mentioned my Mum quite a lot.  As I've said before, the older I get, the more I appreciate my Mum and the influence she's had on me.

I also know a lot of mothers.  I'm at the age now where a lot of people I know have had children, so I have several friends who are mothers.  And of course, as you all know, I want to be a mother myself more than anything else.

I'm lucky that I have such a good relationship with my Mum and my mother-in-law.  Many people don't have a mother, or have a bad relationship with their mother.

What's the biggest influence your mother has had on your life?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Big50 Day 20: Thanksgiving

So this was supposed to be on Thanksgiving, obviously.  I should probably stop reminding you guys that I'm so far behind, huh?

One of the people I follow on Twitter, @VoiceInRecovery, does a daily hashtag tweet where she asks people what they are grateful for.  I always try to think of at least one every day.  Some days are easier than others.  My gratefuls range from minor things (like a nice cup of tea) to big things (like the incredible community in my home country of New Zealand).

In Australia and New Zealand we don't celebrate Thanksgiving, obviously, as it's a US holiday.  However, due to the pervasive nature of US culture, it's impossible to avoid Thanksgiving.  Even if we don't celebrate the holiday itself, it's still a good time to think about what we are thankful for.

So, here are things I'm thankful for, in no particular order:

  • My family
  • My husband
  • My husband's family
  • My fur babies
  • My friends
  • My ablebodiedness
  • My home
  • My car
  • My job
I could go on and on.  Once I start thinking about what I'm thankful for, the list becomes endless.  I really am incredibly lucky.

What are you thankful for?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Big50 Day 19: Tattoos

I currently have two tattoos, but I have plans for at least 3 more.  Here are my current ones:

The tattoo on my back is the first one I got.  I scoured books and magazines and the internet for nearly a year before I found this design on some random webpage of uncredited Pagan symbols, and I knew it was what I wanted straight away.  I've never seen another like it.  When I showed it to my tattoo artist (the fabulous Dave Stevens at Electric Ink) and told him where I wanted it, he told me that I'd chosen pretty much the most painful tattoo I could for my first!

The main symbol is a pentacle.  Clockwise from top-left, the smaller symbols are as follows:

  • A six-pointed star, generally recognised as the Star of David
  • Aum, which is a sacred syllable in several Indian religions
  • Yin yang, a Chinese symbol that represents how opposing forces interact
  • A triskele, an ancient Celtic symbol
  • A sun cross, a prehistoric symbol that can be found all over Europe
As you can see, the symbols come from many cultures and religions.  Without sounding too much like a stupid privileged white person, I tentatively interpret my tattoo to represent balance, harmony, wholeness, and the sacred nature of all things.  I absolutely love it.  My only regret is that it's not somewhere I can see easily, because I could certainly do with a reminder of those things every day!

When my first one was done, my tattoo artist asked me what I was getting next.  "Nothing," I said.  He laughed and gave me a knowing look and said, "You'll be back."  He was right - I was back about 12 months later for my armband!

I knew I wanted an armband tattoo, but I wanted one a little bit different from everyone else.  I chose this design from a book of Celtic tattoo designs I had.  Sadly, the book doesn't say where it is from, but of the examples were from illuminated Bible manuscripts.  It's a bit hard to tell from the picture, but the tattoo is interlocking dogs in alternating red and green.  I chose the dogs because I love animals, and my tattoo artist helped with the colours - I knew I wanted colour rather than black like my previous tattoo, and he suggested the red and green as being traditional Celtic colours.

My remaining plans are: a small silver fern on the inside of my right wrist, a phoenix on my right shoulder (I'm hoping to cover my huge scar from removing my birthmark but apparently you shouldn't tattoo over a scar so need to think about that), and a quote, probably from Shakespeare, around my left ankle.  Then I'll have to come up with some more.

I'm reluctant to try another tattoo artist because Dave at Electric Ink did such a fantastic job, but I am getting really desperate for a new tattoo, and making a special trip to Levin just for a tattoo pilgrimage seems a bit extreme!

Do you have any tattoos?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Big50 Day 18: Simple Pleasures

Man, I am so far behind!

I'm finding it very hard to blog about simple pleasures today because I haven't had a very pleasurable few days, but never mind.  In no particular order...

  • Lying in bed while it's raining outside and reading a good book
  • Crisp clean sheets
  • Baths (oh how I miss having a bath!)
  • Cuddling with my fur babies
  • Beautiful underwear
  • The feel of silk against my skin
  • Hugs
  • A baby on my hip
  • Bubble Tea
That will do for now.  What's your favourite simple pleasure?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Big50 Day 17: Meat Loaf

Oh man, I am so far behind, and I started out so well!  I have to catch up, and fast, because I have posts planned for certain days!

So today I'm going to talk to you all about Meat Loaf.  Not the food, as I hope at least some of you have guessed, but the musician.  I fell in love with Meat Loaf after finding his Bat Out of Hell record in a box of my parents' old vinyl.  I even wrote a poem about that discovery.  Here was this man - this fat, messy, hairy man - who still had this amazing power through his voice.  I loved his music - the epicness of it, the emotion of it, the poetry.  It was the start of a life-long love of Meat Loaf.

A few years after that, a boyfriend found out about my love of Meat Loaf, and when I bought my first stereo, he gave me two CDs as a gift.  One was U2's Rattle and Hum (because he was trying to introduce me to them, and I instantly became a convert).  The other was Jim Steinman's Bad For Good.  Chris explained that Jim Steinman has written most of Meat Loaf's hits, and in fact Meat Loaf has recorded several of the songs off Bad For Good.  He was introducing me to the world behind the star, and I loved it.  I've even been known to recognise Jim Steinman compositions when I hear them, like Céline Dion's version of It's All Coming Back to Me Now.  He has such a distinctive style.  I still have both CDs on high rotation.

I'm ashamed to admit that I just realised I still haven't bought Bat Out of Hell III.  I will need to remedy that next time I'm in JB HiFi!

Right before I moved to Australia, Meat Loaf was touring.  I went to his concert in Auckland.  It was amazing, being able to actually see him perform on stage.  He made a joke about the little poem at the start of Hot Summer Night, and Bat Out of Hell sent chills down my spine (as it always does).  My only regret is that I didn't have anyone there with me to enjoy it.  It's the only time I've been to a concert alone, but it was worth it!

Meat Loaf showed me that music is always better if there's real, powerful emotion behind it.  Jim Steinman showed me that a carefully crafted song will always stand the test of time.  Who was your first musical love?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Big50 Day 16: Comfort Food

I've already talked about chocolate and baking, so it should be clear to you by now that I really love my food!  In fact, I just added a new category for "Food" to this blog.  As I write this, I have my second Christmas Pudding of the season boiling in a pot on the stove, and a batch of choc-marmalade-walnut biscotti cooling on the rack.

Comfort food means many things to me.  When I'm sick, I want my Nana's poached eggs and lemon honey drink.  My favourite dessert was her rice pudding, which my Daddy does an excellent imitation of.  When I'm home, I want Mum's bacon and eggs and mushrooms for breakfast.

Sausages with onion gravy and mash is my favourite meal to cook when I'm craving something comforting.  We get some really good quality sausages and make a slow-cooked onion gravy with this recipe.  It really is worth the hour of cooking, it's just perfect.

I guess what all my comfort food choices have in common are that they are traditional, home-cooked meals.  There really is nothing like home cooking for comfort!

What's your favourite comfort food?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Big50 Day 15: Celebrity Crush

I'm a couple of days behind for various uninteresting reasons, sorry loyal readers!

Today I'm going to tell you about my celebrity crush, or rather, crushes, because there are a couple I want to mention.  My oldest and most enduring crush is on Keanu Reeves.  I used to have several posters of him on my bedroom walls as a teenager.  He gets slammed for being a crappy actor, but he starred in one of the biggest movies of the 90s, and who can imagine anyone other than Keanu as Neo?  There's just something about him...I loved him in the Bill and Ted movies, that was where it started for me I think.  His artless, wide-eyed character just appealed to me when I was in high school.  He'll always be my first celebrity crush!

Another crush I have is on Alan Rickman, or more specifically, his voice.  He has a gorgeous, smooth, sexy voice that commands attention.  I love it!  He's amazing as Snape in the Harry Potter movies and I can hardly wait to see him in the final two-part movie.  I'm not going to put any spoilers here, but I think Alan Rickman is going to carry off Snape in the final movies of the franchise perfectly.

Who's your biggest celebrity crush?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Big50 Day 14: Children

You know what? I'm going to skip today.  You all know how much I want children.  I don't think I need to say any more.

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Big50 Day 13: My First Job

I got my first job when I was 15.  They had a noticeboard up at school, and there was an ad for a petrol station very close to my place.  When I went home and told my Daddy, it turned out one of his buddies from the drag strip was the owner.  So he came along with me, had a chat to Wayne (the boss) and I got the job.

I loved it.  The work was just physical enough that I felt active, and was much more interesting than flipping burgers or packing groceries.  I got to meet cute guys with nice cars, and I learned a lot about cars while I was working there.  I was given responsibility and not talked down to (by my boss at least) even though I was a girl in a man's world.  Weekend mornings in the summer we were so busy I hardly had time to turn around, but mid-week evenings were quiet enough that I could read the magazines while I waited for customers.

It wasn't all sunshine and bunnies though.  We never got held up while I was working there, thank goodness, but we did have several drive-offs, or people would leave valuables for their petrol and never came back.  We had one guy come in and leave 4 brand-new tyres as payment for his tank of petrol.  He had several more in the back seat of the car.  Wayne smelled a rat and ran his number plate.  It turned out the car (and the tyres) were stolen from a dealership, and our security video helped to catch him.  Another time, a lady came up to the counter where I was serving while the guy she was with pumped his petrol outside.  He was yelling at her to come back out, and she was yelling back that she wanted to buy smokes.  When she got to the counter, she leaned over and said urgently to me, "please help me, he's kidnapped my baby, he has a machete under his seat."  I knew that it wasn't some kind of joke - she was terrified.  I poked my head out the back where Wayne was and repeated what she'd told me, and he casually leaned over and hit the emergency stop on the pumps, then, while his wife called the cops, Wayne ambled out to the guy like nothing was amiss and told him we were having a problem with the pumps and he had to wait.  He stood and chatted to the guy, reassuring him that the pumps would be back up in no time, right up until the cops pulled up.  Sure enough, there was a machete under his seat.  It turned out they were an estranged couple and he'd tracked her down and taken off with her and the kid.  Who knows what his plans were?

We also had an incident where one of my coworkers was stealing from the till.  She was very careful to do it only when she was working with me.  I'm not sure if she was aware that my family was friends with Wayne and that I was the least likely person there to be stealing from them, but she was certainly trying to frame me.  Wayne was sure that it wasn't me, but he had to get proof, so they marked some bills in our float one day and asked both of us to turn out our wallets when they were missing.  Of course, they were in her wallet, not mine.  Wayne was devastated and it was shortly after that incident that they sold up and I got a new boss.

The petrol station was also where I started smoking.  Most of my coworkers smoked so I picked up the habit from them.  I was never a really heavy smoker, and have been completely smoke-free for nearly 7 years now, but that doesn't stop me getting cravings still, especially when I'm stressed.

What was your first job?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Big50 Day 12: Learning

I've always enjoyed learning new things.  I read non-fiction for fun.  I'm in the middle of my second bachelor's degree.  I enjoy learning new skills for work, and how things work, and what makes people tick.  I soak up knowledge like a sponge, so I'm good at Trivial Pursuit!  The one thing I have trouble with is dates and numbers.  I was always really bad at history subjects because I could never remember all the dates things happened, which is a shame, because I really enjoy learning about history.

Learning, for me, is a lifelong process.  My Mum is also studying at the moment, and was doing night classes through most of my childhood.  She also loves learning, and passed that on to my sister and I.  My Daddy is more a practical learner - he likes to know how things work and why things happen.  My sister is currently doing her PhD.

Because I enjoy learning, I also enjoy teaching - but only teaching people who want to learn.  I don't understand people who are happy in their little rut, not learning, and find it difficult to relate to them.  At one point I was planning on teaching high school, and still have a vague idea that I might continue with my higher education and eventually teach at university level, but I'm not sure about that.  I still don't really know "what I want to be when I grow up".  I want to learn about everything!  I always struggle to choose my papers for my university studies because they all sound so interesting!

Today I learned several new things for work.  What have you learned today?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Big50 Day 11: Chocolate

Ah, chocolate.  I have a sweet tooth, I'll admit that freely.  I get it from my Daddy, who always has to have chocolate in the fridge.  One of the things my Naturopath and Acupuncturist said I had to cut was chocolate, because it heats me up, apparently.  I've cut my chocolate consumption right down, but I still have a little bit every few days.

My favourite chocolate is Whittakers Dark Ghana.  It's so rich, you can only have a few squares at a time.  And they're a New Zealand brand, so that's an added bonus!  It can sometimes be hard to find all their varieties here, and when they bring out a new flavour in New Zealand it can take a while for it to cross the Tasman, but I can generally find the Dark Ghana fairly easily.  Whittakers are also supporters of Fair Trade, and don't use palm oil or genetically modified ingredients in any of their products, so they're a good choice!

I also have a huge weakness for Guylian Seashells.  The hazelnut praline in the centre is just divine.  Guylian Seashells are my preferred chocolate bribe, in case you ever need me to do you a favour!

Chocolate is very much an emotionally comforting food for me.  I crave it when I'm hormonal, or emotional.  Chocolate is also great to share!  Most people won't say no to chocolate.  What's your favourite chocolate flavour?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

OOTD: Black and White and Red All Over

Question: What's black and white and red all over?

Answer: A sunburned penguin.  Or a bashful zebra.  Or a skunk swimming in strawberry jam.  Or a newspaper (wait, that's read all over).  Or...Me, in my OOTD!

Skirt: Big W
Shoes: Rubi Shoes
Necklace: Definatalie
Glasses: Oroton at OPSM

Another OOTD with my favourite red shoes!  I planned this outfit ages ago and was just waiting for my necklace to arrive, which it did on Friday.  The neckace is by one of my favourite body image bloggers, who is also a designer.  I missed out on this necklace twice before I snagged one in her last pre-order.  I think she's planning another pre-order soon.  I also have new glasses, finally.  My old ones were getting pretty ratty and I wanted a new look.

I love this necklace!  Natalie's work really is amazing, check her out!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Big50 Day 10: Natural Therapies (TMI)

I was going to talk about natural therapies today, but I realised I've already covered a lot of what I wanted to say in this other post.  I can't believe it's been two months since I first saw my Naturopath!  Since then, I've been seeing her every 2 to 3 weeks, and my Acupuncturist every week (except for a couple of weeks I missed due to scheduling issues).  I definitely think it's helping - my migraines have dropped right off and my stress level is pretty good considering everything that's happened over the last couple of months.

I managed to convince Dave to see my Acupuncturist for the first time today too.  I won't go into too much detail for fear of boring you all, but the short story is that he's been given two different medication options for his medical condition, both of which suck pretty bad.  So our current plan is for him to see the Acupuncturist in the mean time until after my laparoscopy in February, because we'd prefer him not to be starting any severe medications when we may need to consider some form of fertility intervention.  Basically, I need to get pregnant before February!  But if it doesn't happen, then we'll reassess all our health options after that.

My naturopath is Trina Chan at CompMed in Southport and she really is fabulous.  If you're on the Gold Coast and are looking for a naturopath, I highly recommend her!

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Big50 Day 9: Baking

I love baking, that's no secret.  I probably get it from my father's mother, who always had home-made biscuits and slices and various other goodies in tins in her pantry.  When I went back to NZ to see her when she was very sick, before she died, Mum and I made Nana some rock cakes.  She wasn't too sick to demand cherries n her rock cakes!  Baking Nana's specialty with my Mum in Nana's kitchen is a very special memory.

I try to bake every week or so, although it doesn't always work out that way.  I'm currently on a bit of a biscotti kick - they're perfect for dunking in tea and everyone loves biscotti!  I gave people at work so much biscotti, I was dubbed the Biscotti Fairy, and so another Twitter account was born.  I also love rock cakes, and make a mean Carrot and Orange cake.  I try to bake bread as often as I can as well.

One thing Dave and I do each year is make a Christmas Fruit Cake.  I'm not sure where he got the recipe from, but we make the same one each year.  It's loaded with fruit and extremely alcoholic and is always popular!  It's so rich it doesn't need icing.  We're soaking our fruit overnight tonight to bake the cakes tomorrow.  This year we are also making a Christmas Pudding.  We planned to do it next weekend, which is, by happy coincidence, the traditional weekend for making Christmas Pudding anyway (Stir-Up Sunday, the Sunday before Advent).  I also usually make spice cookies or something, for people who don't have alcohol.  I'm planning on getting some Christmas cookie cutter shapes this year!

Baking is a very nurturing thing, I think.  The act of making something from scratch and sharing with others always makes people happy.  I believe most problems can be solved with a cup of tea and a biscuit, especially if the biscuit is home-made!

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

We Interrupt This Blog For Some PSAs...

Dear readers, you remember back when I introduced this blogging challenge and mentioned the fabulous Sleepy Dumpling?  Well, she's just announced on her blog that on Australia Day (January 26, for you non-Australians) she is going to shave her long pink hair all off to raise funds for the Australian Cancer Council.  I can't express how amazing this is to me.  Please donate, if you can, and come along to the event if you're in the Brisbane area.

On the subject of fundraising, I'm also going to take this opportunity to  plug my favourite charity, Child's Play.  Started in 2003 by the guys behind my favourite webcomic, Penny Arcade, Child's Play collects donations of cash and gifts for children in hospitals at Christmas.  You can choose which hospital you'd like to donate to, including hospitals in Australia and New Zealand.  I've supported these guys every year since they started and it always amazes me how much the gaming community, and people in general, get behind this great charity.

Even if you don't choose to donate to either of these causes, please spare a thought for those people who are not as fortunate as we all are.  While I usually hate Western Christian ethnocentrism, Christmas really is a good time to remind people how lucky we are (you might not think you're lucky or fortunate - but if you're reading this blog, that means you have access to an internet connection, which means you're more fortunate than a lot of people).  So, please consider donating to one of the many charities that do fundraising drives at this time of year - food, clothes, money, or time, it all helps.  And if you have a favourite charity, post it in the comments!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Big50 Day 8: Pets

For most of my life, I've had at least one cat and one dog.  Growing up, we had one of each, plus various fish, birds, and even a chinchilla.  My first pet was a cat named Solitaire.  My parents had had her since before I was born, so naturally, she hated my guts.  Even as a five-year-old, I understood that when she started letting me pat her, that was the beginning of the end.

After Solitaire died, we got Sharna, who was supposed to be a pure-bred Himalayan but turned out to be just a moggy after her mother "got a bit friendly with the local Tom" as my Daddy put it.  She was grey and shaggy and definitely knew I was the softy in the family.  She was put outside at night, and as soon as Mum put her out, she'd run around the side of the house, jump on my windowsill, and meow to be let in.  Mum would find her curled up smugly on my bed in the morning!

Shortly after we got Sharna, we also got my first dog, Jem.  Jem was a pure-bred Keeshond and was simply the nicest dog.  My Daddy is like the dog whisperer, dogs just naturally follow him and do what he says, and we never had any trouble with obedience with our dogs.

I've been through several other cats, who have come and gone from my life for various reasons.  My current fur babies are one dog and two cats.


Phoebe is currently my oldest fur baby.  I got her when she was a few months old in mid-2001, making her nearly 10 now.  She's kind of awkward-looking - no one knows quite what she is.  Her body is just a touch too long, and her legs a tiny bit too short.  I'm fairly certain she has some Kelpie in her, and some Staffie, and maybe some Rottie, but really, who knows?  She's moved from Wellington to Auckland to Hobart to the Gold Coast with me - she's been with me longer than anyone.  She's mellowed out in her old age - she used to be a complete menace - but she's also gotten more neurotic.  She's terrified of thunderstorms, to the point where even just rain makes her cower in fear.  She's getting very grey around her muzzle now too.


Jeddah is the elder of our two cats, and has her own Twitter.  We acquired her when a co-worker at my old job was moving to a new rental property and couldn't keep her.  I took her home, and when Dave got home I said, "now, don't be mad, but we have a cat now."  He got used to her eventually (he never had a cat when he was growing up) and is now a cat lover as well as a dog lover.  Jeddah has a very piercing meow and will "talk" to you if you meow at her.  She also purrs very loudly, and is a kneader - she won't settle on you until she's kneaded with her paws for 5 minutes.  Her nickname is "Buddha".  I'm sure you can see why.  She is about 5 years old now.


Bubbles is the youngest of our fur babies.  A few months after we moved in here in early 2007, our elderly neighbour knocked on the door while I was at home and Dave was at work.  In the palm of his hand was a tiny ball of fluff and fleas.  He had found her in the park when he was out for a walk and knew we already had one cat, and wanted to know if we wanted this kitten.  How could I say no?  I gave her a bath and cleaned her up, and when Dave got home, I said, "now, don't be mad, but look! We got a kitten!"  And of course he couldn't say no either.  Bubbles totally adores Phoebe - she grooms her and snuggles up with her and comforts her when she is freaking out over a thunderstorm.  She and Jeddah get on okay, but Jeddah is a bit more independent.  Bubbles got her name from a Blackadder episode in Season 1, it's short for Beelzebubbles.  Her nickname is "Smoochy" because she's a very smoochy cat!

I love my fur babies and could never be without them!  Do you have any pets?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Big50 Day 7: Books

I might have mentioned once or twice before that I read.  A lot.  I have 5 bookshelves that are absolutely chocker-block (including one dedicated to cookbooks).  I mostly read fantasy.  David Eddings was the first fantasy I ever read and still has a special place in my heart.  I love George R R Martin for his realism and his amazing characters.  I am a complete Harry Potter nerd.  I'm in the middle of re-reading the series at the moment in preparation for movie #7.  I've read the entire series through so many times I've lost track, and I still find new things each re-read.  There are still scenes that make me cry every time (Neville and his parents in St Mungos in Phoenix springs to mind).

I also love Stephen King books, especially the Dark Tower series.  The Gunslinger has the most hook-y opening line ever: "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."  Does that make you want to keep reading or what?  The Stand is also a perennial favourite.  Terry Pratchett is hilariously funny.    Ditto for Ben Elton.  Patricia Cornwell is also an author I like - I wanted to be Kay Scarpetta when I was a teenager!   Speaking of...when I was a teen, I loved Margaret Mahy and Roald Dahl (I still love Roald Dahl).  Historical fiction is also a genre I like, particularly Margaret George, and Guy Gavriel Kay writes novels that are somewhere between fantasy and historical fiction.

Apart from fantasy, I also enjoy reading books that expand my general knowledge.  I have a bookshelf dedicated to non-fiction books as well.  Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics are both excellent.  Anything by Bill Bryson is amazing, particularly his Short History of Nearly Everything.  Also, Richard Dawkins is the reason I now identify as Atheist.  The God Delusion really opened my eyes and helped me work through my spiritual beliefs.  Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder should be required reading for any Philosophy 101 course (and anyone interested in philosophy).

I think that's barely scratched the surface of my reading habits!  I used to go through around 3-4 books a week, but since I've been studying and my working hours have changed, I've had less time than I'd like to read.  What sort of books do you like?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Big50 Day 6: TV

I know Day 6 is supposed to be about books, but my Books post is going to be way longer and more work than my TV one and I'm too tired, so I'm swapping days!

I've never been a huge TV watcher.  My family happily watch TV.  When I was a teenager I used to prefer to sit in my room and read, but my Daddy would tell me to "come out and be sociable", so I'd sit in the lounge and read while they watched TV instead.  But there are some TV shows that I like.

My favourite TV shows are generally British comedy (like my favourite movies!).  Blackadder and The Young Ones are my two favourites, and I also like Coupling (the original British version).  I've also recently discovered Black Books (and am partway through Season 2).  I used to be a huge Simpsons fan, not so much recently, but I'll still happily zone out on a Sunday morning with the Simpsons re-runs for 3 hours, if given the chance.

My favourite current TV shows are House and The Big Bang Theory, which should come as no surprise.  House because I love Hugh Laurie, Big Bang because it's a TV series for nerds!  I also liked the first season of Heroes (never watched more than that, apparently I'm not missing much).  My friend keeps telling me to watch Chuck, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

I used to watch Next Top Model (US and Oz versions) but I got so frustrated with the obvious staging and general crapness that I kicked the addiction and have been Top Model Free for about a year now!  I also enjoyed Girls of the Playboy Mansion, because I'm a bit of a Hugh Hefner fan, but stopped watching after the original 3 girls left.

We have satellite TV, so we have plenty of channels to choose from, but we mainly have it for the sports.  I also enjoy the documentary and animal channels, although they're mostly war and "most dangerous jobs" type deals now, which is a bit disappointing.  I love David Attenborough documentaries.  And I also watch a bit of music TV.  Not MTV, are you kidding?  MTV showed so little music that now it's classed as a reality channel and is not even in the block of channels for music any more.  They gave us "MTV Classic" instead, which is supposed to actually play music, but they still use it for crapumentaries about musicians, or countdowns or whatever.  Apparently we got another MTV channel this week, but I don't know what that's like yet.  I used to like VH1 but they took it away and replaced it with the MTV Classic channel.

Do you have a TV show you can't miss?

This post is part of my Big50 blogging challenge series.