Books Read 2020

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Happy New Year!

Today is the last day of the year - 2019 must now give way to 2020.  It seems to have gone by so fast, yet slow at the same time.  Our concept of how time passes never fails to fascinate me.

Pied Oystercatchers settle in for the evening, to await the dawn of a new day

I love this editorial about New Year Resolutions, that I found in a January 1960 issue of the magazine "Stitch" (NZ Issue - so maybe not so relevant to those of you in the Northern Hemisphere!).

A new year begins, and with it a fresh spate of resolutions.
I wonder how many of you fling off the old year, take a deep breath, 
and resolve to be better, do better, and mark out this particular year
as the one in which you will accomplish so much?
There is something exciting about a fresh start -
it has a note of optimism
and a gay disregard of past failures.
Perhaps you have noticed, too, that it is the time
when you have your brightest ideas about
re-furbishing your home and your wardrobe.
If you don't mind looking back for a moment in this first flush
of enthusiasm for a new year and new ideas,
ponder with good humour the fine starts of other years.
Generally, it was not your fault that resolutions dwindled with the weeks.
Remember that January is not merely the beginning of another twelve months,
but also the height of summer,
when your family clamours for picnics 
and lazy days on the beach in the sunshine.
The packing of a picnic lunch becomes a daily occurrence,
the garden becomes a tempting spot for siestas
that stretch into hours.
Well, the curtains do not get repaired,
the kitchen does not get painted,
those letters do not get written, but .....
you are happy!
It IS a good start to the new year, after all.


Wishing you all a very happy New Year celebration and a great year to follow,
Margaret

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Back Again


I hope you all had a most enjoyable Christmas.  I certainly did J

I joined one of my brothers and his wife for lunch that day, along with their daughter and children.  I loved it when the youngest one greeted me with a “welcome to the party – the Christmas party!”

For my contribution to lunch I took a platter of savoury eggs with a centre of finely shredded lettuce and halved cherry tomatoes, garnished with parsley and decorated with a marigold flower head.




Son made himself sandwiches for his lunch.  He worked all day, as well as Boxing Day, and grand-daughter is spending the week with her mother.




Boxing Day was spent quietly at home.   Friday I braved the supermarket and it was still busy, busy, busy.  I guess it is the time of year where food takes centre-stage in people’s lives.  The supermarket was only closed for one day but it would be easy to believe they had been shut for a week!

Our weather has been rather pleasant, except for a strong wind the last two days.  It has been warm and dry during the day, and the night temperatures have still been dropping low enough that sleep is still possible. 

We have been having some spectacular sunsets from the smoke in our atmosphere from the terrible bush fires in Australia.




Only a couple of days now until we enter a new decade.  When I was at Primary School in the 1960s our teacher told us that many of us would no doubt live to see in the new millennium – and now here we are twenty years after it!  Time surely does go by.

Margaret.

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Christmas 2019




A big Merry Christmas to everyone!

I hope you all have a great day filled with much joy and happiness.

Stay safe,

Margaret


Monday, 23 December 2019

Blooming In December

Some flowers I have seen blooming during December.

Hydrangea

Lavender

Bear's Breeches (Acanthus mollis)

Christmas Lily

Magnolia grandiflora

Caucasian Walnut

Sweet-peas

Marigolds

Roses

Beautiful flowers bring joy into everyday life :)

Margaret.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Summer Solstice


Today we mark the Summer Solstice in New Zealand.  At precisely 5.19pm the sun will reach its highest position in the sky and this will mark the astronomical change of direction of the sun’s orbit.

Throughout history almost every culture has marked this event in some way with religious services and spiritual rituals, usually involving feasting, dancing and general merriment, and the lighting of fires.


Sunrise (Waikawau Bay, 2007)
(Photo used by permission)


It is the longest day of the year, having the greatest length of time between sunrise and sunset, and is one of nature’s more obvious turning points as from now on the seasons begin their long descent back into winter.

It is considered by some to mark the beginning of summer, and by others to mark the middle of summer (it is sometimes known as midsummer’s day).  Whichever way it is looked at the weather often becomes hotter after this day, with February nearly always being New Zealand’s hottest month of the year.


Midsummer Evening (Mt Maunganui, 2008)


Some modern ideas for marking this day are to watch sunrise and/or sunset, enjoy a barbecue outdoors in the evening, go for a long walk in nature, or light a candle and spend time contemplating the cycles of nature.

In the Northern Hemisphere it is, of course, the Winter Solstice.  Their days will now grow longer as ours will begin to grow shorter, which to me seems a greater reason to celebrate as it is always nicer to be moving into warmth and sunlight than into grey and dismal.


Summer Sunset (Pokuru, 2008)


Whether you totally ignore the Solstice (summer or winter) or choose to celebrate it in some way, I hope you have a great day.

Margaret.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

A Pleasant Saturday


Today has mostly been sunny with a few fluffy clouds around and a little bit of breeze.  I spent the morning writing emails and doing the laundry, which was dry within a couple of hours.




After lunch I drove grand-daughter and a friend across the city to the Waterworld swimming pool complex, where I left them to enjoy a couple of hours swimming and hydrosliding while I visited the supermarket for a few forgotten items (just like all the other people!  I broke my own rule on avoiding shops, but at least everyone seemed to be in a happy mood).

The supermarket foyer was welcoming with a Christmas tree on display.




As I still had a while to wait for the girls, I found a shady street to park in and settled down to a little snooze.  The road I chose was the back road to the racecourse, so I figured there would not be much traffic on it.  Wrong!  There was a race meeting this afternoon and quite a lot of taxis and horse trucks were going up and down the road.  So, no snooze but it was interesting watching the traffic.


The girls enjoyed their time swimming, and I enjoyed my cup of tea when I returned home.  I purchased a box of Christmas fruit mince tarts, so had a couple with my cuppa.  Very nice but also very rich – even though they are small, I think one would have been more than enough.


All in all, it has been a rather pleasant day.

Margaret.


Friday, 20 December 2019

It's That Time Of Year Again


In New Zealand, being summer, Christmas is not only a time of festivities but also a time when most of the country goes on holiday.  Many businesses close completely for two weeks, and schools shut for six weeks before they begin again in February.

It is the time of year when our coastal populations swell to capacity, as folk from all walks of life head to their favourite beach destinations.  Camp grounds will fill to overflowing and holiday homes that have stood empty for most of the year will be humming with activity.


Whangamata Beach (1971)


The mass exodus from the cities is expected to begin this evening as people finish work for the week.  It will reach its crescendo on Boxing Day, as those who chose to celebrate Christmas at home head off on holiday.

It is my belief that this combination of Christmas and Holidays is why things become so totally crazy at this time of year.  Not only is there presents and Christmas catering to cope with, but preparations must be made to stock up on food to take away and purchase all those little things needed for a good holiday.


Camping at Waikawau Bay (1997)


In this week leading up to Christmas, I do my best to avoid the shops.  The roads are busier than at any other time of the year, the malls are packed with shoppers, it is near impossible to park the car anywhere, and everywhere it is push-and-shove and rush, rush, rush.

Retailers love it! 

Margaret.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

A Matter Of Perspective


I recently came across this piece (I don’t think it could be correctly classified as poetry, but it is sort of), written by Abdullah Shoaib, and it got me thinking how things can appear to be so different depending to how we perceive them.

I’m very ugly
So don’t try to convince me that
I am a very beautiful person
Because at the end of the day
I hate myself in every single way
And I’m not going to lie to myself by saying
There is beauty inside of me that matters
So rest assured I will remind myself
That I am a worthless, terrible person
And nothing you say will make me believe
I still deserve love
Because no matter what
I am not good enough to be loved
And I am in no position to believe that
Beauty does exist within me
Because whenever I look in the mirror I always think
Am I as ugly as people say?
(Now read it again, beginning with the bottom line and moving up)


Capitol Reef National Park, Utah (2014)

Around the world there are many places that have awe-inspiring landscape.  The photo above was taken early one evening at Capitol Reef National Park in Utah in 2014.   There were no other people around and you can get a sense of the scale of the place by looking at the trees in the foreground. 

Standing there before such grandeur, in the intense quiet and isolation, it was easy to see how one could feel very small and alone and even a little frightened, but one could just as easily feel a sense of wonder and of being at peace with nature, marveling at the beauty of it all.  It all depends on how you view it, because the scene does not change – only we do.

It is said that there are always two sides to every story, and there is usually at least two opposing ways we can view anything that happens in our lives.  It is our choice which we choose.

Margaret.

Monday, 16 December 2019

Lake Pukaki


The day I visited Lake Pukaki, in last May, the weather was not very conducive of photographs, which was a shame because this naturally formed lake is famous for its incredible blue colour and I was unable to see it at its best.

The unearthly blue comes from glacial flour (a fine silt of pulverised rock) that is suspended in the icy cold lake waters and which reflects blue light and gives the lake a luminous appearance.


Lake Pukaki


Lake Pukaki is situated in the Mackenzie Country in the central South Island and I approached it from the south, driving up from Twizel where I had spent the night. 

Salmon farming is big business in all this area, and I purchased some fresh king-salmon fillets from a farm near Twizel before beginning my journey.  They made an awesome present for my host that evening.


Driving beside the Southern Alps on my way up from Twizel


I stopped at the Lake Pukaki Visitor Centre for views of the Lake.  On a fine day there apparently are beautiful views to be had of Mt Cook Aorangi away in the distance, but this day the mountain was shrouded in rain clouds.

I could, however, visit the thar statue beside the edge of the Lake.  This bronze statue was created by Murray Matuschka in 2014 and commemorates the passing of the Game Animal Council Bill, which allows recreational hunters to have a say in the management of public conservation land.  Thar are described as a kind of goat-antelope and were introduced to the area in 1904, but I cannot say I have ever seen one.


The Thar statue beside Lake Pukaki Visitor Centre

Upon leaving Lake Pukaki, the road heads for Tekapo village and its lake.  The long straight roads were a dream to drive on, being too early for too much traffic, but it was rather strange to be driving toward blue skies and sunshine when all I could see in my rear vision mirror were ominously black rain clouds.  Those clouds chased me for a long time, but eventually I drove clear of them and into a beautiful sunny autumn day.

On the road to Tekapo

My timetable for the day had not allowed me to detour from the Highway to visit Mt Cook Aorangi itself, which was perhaps for the best considering the weather.  Maybe next time …..

Margaret.

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Roaming Dogs

This is a bit of a moan post tonight.  We were comfortably watching TV after dinner when a noise outside made my son go and investigate.

What he found were two small dogs that had baled up one of our cats in a corner of the garden.  The dogs ran away when they saw son, but the poor cat was absolutely terrified and took off for regions unknown.

It was a good 30 minutes before we were able to find her and coax her back into the house.  The other two cats were already inside, so no problems with them.

Why do people insist on owning dogs when they cannot be responsible owners? 

We have never seen either of these two animals before and so know that they do not belong to anybody who lives close by.  That means they are out loose and wandering the streets, and no doubt their owners would deny that they ever left their home properties.

Surely it is up to a dog's owner to ensure the animal remains on their own property if they intend to let them out during the evening.

I wonder who else has had their cats terrorized by these offending animals?

Margaret.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Pottering


The rain we were promised this morning never eventuated so after breakfast it was out into the garden to do some watering.  I usually water in the evening, but didn’t last night because of the rain that was meant to arrive.

It was a bit of a potter-around day, doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that but nothing that important.  I was telling one of my sons about disposing of more books, and made the comment that I was trying to only keep those that “spoke” to me.  His reply:  “You might need to stand there for a while, then, and see which ones go quiet!”

With Christmas fast approaching I thought perhaps I should put up some trimmings, and decorated my bedroom with a few little baubles.  Grand-daughter bought a small artificial tree and has decorated it with a string of lights and a few ornaments.  It looks very pretty.




Hope your weekend is going well,
Margaret

Friday, 13 December 2019

Yesterday And Today


The big news for this morning  has been that a team successfully landed on White Island and recovered six bodies.  I am glad those families can now have their loved ones returned to them, and feel for those who must still wait – two bodies have not yet been found and a search will be made another day for them.


Hamilton Lake, with Mt Pirongia in the background (2008)


Yesterday I felt inspired to rid myself of more of my book collection.  Now that I am downsizing my possessions, I want all my books to fit into one bookcase.  Not an easy task and this is the third time I have attempted it, but I think I might just about have got there!


My bookcase


My collection of Georgette Heyer books is much too large and I have singled out the best ones to keep and some to dispose of.  However some of them I simply couldn’t remember what they were about so I am going to work through and re-read those ones.

The result of that decision was that my nose got stuck in this book yesterday, to the exclusion of everything else in my life, until I had finished reading it.  It is a terrible character fault of mine, that if I find a book interesting I have extreme difficulty in putting it down.

Cousin Kate is a Regency (English) romance with a touch of thriller thrown in.  The outcome was semi-predictable, but I still enjoyed the story.  Georgette Heyer’s books are full of well-researched details and the stories she wrote generally have very plausible plots, but I really don’t need to own twenty-seven of them.


The book I read


I went to Aqua-Zumba class again this morning and loved it.  The pool water was quite cold to get into but we soon warmed up.  I still can’t keep up with our instructor, but it is enjoyable exercise and leaves me feeling good. 


Our local pool, the Gallagher Aquatic Centre


I saw the funniest thing on my way to Zumba – I was sitting at the traffic lights, with all the traffic stopped, and a rat bounded across the pedestrian crossing.  I had no idea that rats were so road-savvy!!

Keep smiling,
Margaret

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Down By The River


Beside the Waikato River


I went for an early morning walk through Hamilton Gardens again, and this time made my way down a path that led to the edge of the Waikato River.  It was incredibly peaceful and quiet down there, with only birds and some rabbits to keep me company.  In the distance I could see the Cobham Drive bridge with traffic passing over it, but it was too far away to hear anything.


Looking towards Cobham Drive bridge


It was good to have a little time by myself as I was feeling rather angry after watching the early morning news on TV.  A pilot of one of the three helicopters that airlifted twelve people off White Island soon after it erupted, was saying how they were forbidden to return to rescue the remaining people as it was considered too dangerous for them to do so.  These pilots are all experienced with flying visitors to and from the Island and know the hazards well.  If they were willing to volunteer themselves, then why were they not allowed to do so?  

I am so thankful that no-one was able to stop their first flight or the death toll would be a lot higher (some of the twelve rescued have since died, but at least they had a chance given to them).  By all reports, eight people remained on the Island (in various states of injury) and they are now all declared to be dead.  It is starting to look a bit like the Pike River debacle all over again, and makes me angry and sad at the same time.

(For those who don’t know, the Pike River Coal Mine disaster occurred in 2010 and willing rescuers, who were fully trained and equipped, were forbidden to enter the shaft and search for possible survivors.)


One of several rabbits that I saw


Today was also my four-week weigh-and-measure day.  The scales say I now weigh one kilogram less than I did, and the tape measure says I have lost 3 ½ inches in total.  I confess to feeling a little depressed with these results, but then reminded myself that for the first time in months the scales were not saying I had gained weight, and losing the inches is also a bonus.  I shall choose to be encouraged!


This is a popular riverside picnic area in summertime


Take care,
Margaret

Monday, 9 December 2019

Volcanic Eruption

On the TV tonight we learn that there has been a major volcanic eruption on White Island this afternoon, off the coast of the Bay of Plenty and less than three hours drive away from us.  Initial reports are saying that there were about fifty people on the island when it erupted, and there are around twenty people still unaccounted for.  We are praying they will be safe.

Our family flew over White Island in 1986, but I have never actually set foot on the Island.  These photos are ones I took on our flight that year.





White Island is an active volcano and people land on it at their own risk as it can be unpredictable, as volcanoes are.  Tour groups often visit, and I believe the missing people have come from a tour group off a passenger ship currently in Tauranga port.

This is a sobering reminder of the geology of New Zealand, with its volcanoes and earthquakes.
Margaret.


Sunday, 8 December 2019

Washing Machines


We have just had a good thunderstorm (if they can be “good”!) with heavy heavy rain.  It certainly cooled down the temperatures and sent us rushing to shut windows.  The cats came flying inside and we had to turn the stereo up to be able to hear it! 

A display at Matamata Museum (2007)

In my lifetime I have experienced three different types of washing machines.

The first was the wringer washing machine, an upright agitator machine that was used with a wringer/mangle to squeeze the water from the washed laundry.
My mother had one of these and I remember her using two concrete laundry tubs with the wringer mounted between them.  Fascinatingly, one tub always seemed to have blue water in it with a little deep blue bag sitting on the soap dish.  In later years I discovered that bluing was a popular way to stop your whites from looking dingy.
My grandmother also owned one of these, and when she had finished her washing she would carefully empty out the machine and bucket the water out to her garden.  She always maintained her citrus never suffered from any pests or diseases because she regularly threw soapy water over the trees!


A wringer washing machine


My mother eventually traded her wringer machine in for a twin-tub washer made by Hoovermatic.  Because of its superior ability to spin water from the washed items, her sheets would dry in one day while the neighbour’s would sit on the line for a few days.  I think it was a sort of competition between them!

When I married in the early 1970s we received one of these machines as a wedding present.  It was fantastic for conserving water as several loads could be washed in the same hot water, the same as a wringer machine but so different from today’s automatic machines.  One would start off with whites and progress through the washing until the dirty work clothes were done last.  Fresh cold water was used to rinse each load, before spinning them almost dry. 
It used to take me about an hour a day, when the children were small, to stand at the washing machine and wash everything.  When a load was finished washing I used a good-sized stick to lift it into the spinner side of the machine.  The hot washing water was spun back into the wash-side, and then cold water attached to the spinner.  When the water level was high enough, the machine would spin it out into the laundry tub.  A couple of these rinses and the things could be left to spin longer before throwing them into the clothes basket to be hung up on the outside line.


The twin-tub Hoovermatic washing machine


We bought an automatic washing machine ten years later, but I still kept my old twin-tub to wash very dirty clothes and anything that had sand in it.  The first automatic I ever saw was a top-loader that the lady I boarded with had purchased.  She was very fussy about what was washed in it, and it used to bounce across the laundry floor as it washed.  It was her pride and joy!
Nowadays, everything goes into the machine.  With its fancy computer technology, the machine can wash everything from delicate drip-dries to the dirtiest overalls (in different cycles, not together!), and even sense how much water is required.  Throw the washing in and walk away!  When the machine beeps, then it is ready to throw into the dryer or hang out on the line. 
Only trouble is, these machines do not seem to last as long as their predecessors, as we have purchased a few of them now.

Our current Fisher & Paykel automatic washing machine

Most of my laundry is hung on an outside line to dry.  Not a propped-up line like shown in my first picture, but on a rotary clothes line.  I like the smell of fresh air, sunshine and wind in my clothing and linen.  One of our neighbours used to always wash her sheets when rain was threatening as she loved the smell the rain gave them!

What type of washing machines have you used?
Margaret

Friday, 6 December 2019

Smoky Skies And Paper Wasps


We have had a lot of cloud around today, most of it tinged with orange.  This morning I was out on the roads and every time there was a view of the distance it was shrouded in a thick blue haze.  Smoke from the Australian bush fires has definitely reached our northern skies (it showed up in the South Island a few weeks ago).  I shall have to keep a watch out for spectacular sunsets, not that that helps my Australian friends who are still battling fires that keep flaring up.


This photo was taken in 2006 when we had smoke in our skies


On another note, I went for a wander around our garden and found the beginnings of a paper wasp nest.  We had a lot of them visiting us recently but numbers have dropped off dramatically and so we thought a neighbour somewhere must have destroyed a nest.


The new nest we have found


Three kinds of paper wasps are now found in New Zealand (they are different from the common wasp) – the Australian paper wasp which was accidentally introduced in the late 1800s, the Asian paper wasp which arrived in the 1970s, and the recently found Asian paper wasp which first appeared in the last ten years and is rapidly spreading throughout the country.

Paper wasps are now classed as the number one pest in urban environments and a summer campaign is being mounted to help eradicate them.  The advice is to wait until evening and then spray the nest with fly spray, making sure there are no vulnerable children or pets etc. around to face the ire of the wasps.  Once the adults have died, detach the hanging nest from its position and place into a bag.  Then freeze the nest to kill off any remaining larvae.

Years ago we discovered a large nest hidden in our rambling garden.  My husband sort advice from his workmates and was advised to douse the nest in petrol, which he did.  It killed the wasps immediately and he then set fire to the nest and burnt it.  Not a very correct way to eradicate these pests, but it was effective.

It is a shame these pests keep getting introduced into our country.
Margaret.



Thursday, 5 December 2019

Burkes Pass Village


Burkes Pass, gateway to the Mackenzie region in the centre of the South Island, is reached 15 minutes before arriving at Lake Tekapo (when traveling from Christchurch).  Nestled at the foot of the 709 metre (2326 feet) high mountain pass, is a tiny historic village and my day-trip travel companions and I made a short stop here when visiting Tekapo last May. 


It was fun to wander around the collection of antiques and memorabilia on display, some of them being for sale.




Also in the village are old buildings that were mostly erected in the 1870s.  A 30-60 minute meander along the Heritage Walk will take you to see places like a church, the former hotel, an old school, a musterer’s hut, a saddlery, several cob cottages (built of clay and tussock), and a cemetery.  We left this walk for another day in the future, as we were running out of time on this visit.




There are meant to be some lovely picnic spots around the village, so this would probably be a good place to visit during the summertime.

Don't you just love exploring old villages?
Margaret.