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.