Books Read 2020

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

People Need Love

 

This last week I have had a bit of a dilemma to face and now I have a confession to make. 

An elderly friend was feeling extremely lonely and depressed and was in desperate need of having some human-to-human contact, so I visited her for a couple of hours.

We maintained social distancing and we have both been fully vaccinated, but under our current lockdown restrictions it could be argued that I was guilty of Civil Disobedience.

This lady has children who live outside our restricted area and so they have been unable to personally visit her.  She was anxious and worried about how Covid in the future was going to affect both her and her loved ones.  I hope I was able to allay her fears a little.


Our little garden beside the driveway


Under Level 3 we are allowed to extend our household bubble to include one other vulnerable person, and we have already done that with a vulnerable family member.  We are not meant to have contact with anyone else.

However, today it was announced that the Waikato area would have its lockdown restrictions reduced to the same level as the Auckland area (who have ten times the number of daily cases that we are getting). 

This means that two household bubbles can now meet together outdoors with social distancing.  We are also now allowed to go hunting, fishing, scuba diving etc. (not that I would want to!!), so from tomorrow my visit would probably have been alright.

I made a decision that I will not turn my back on family or friends who are having mental health issues because of Covid lockdowns.  Not everyone wants to call Helpline, and when someone needs my help I will give it in any way that I can.

Surely, as sensible adults, we can take the proper precautions and be there to help each other when needed.

Take care,

Margaret.


Monday, 25 October 2021

Shiny Red Apples

 

I bought these red apples at the supermarket the other day, when the sun was still shining.  They are so red and shiny, and remind me of the Wicked Queen who tricked Snow White into taking a bite of the shiny red poisoned apple.

I don’t expect these apples to be poisonous!




Our weather this weekend has been very dreary.  Lots of cloud, lots of wind, a reasonable amount of rain. 

I “thought” about getting out for a walk but decided to sit inside instead.  Not a good idea!

I’ve watched more television than I have watched for a long time, and have ended up feeling dull and a bit crabby.

I can’t even tell you much about what I have watched, except for the rugby game we watched yesterday morning.




The American Eagles played against our All Blacks in Washington DC.  We won, which was expected – a situation that always makes me feel for the other team.

I ended up cheering when the Eagles scored their two tries!

Spring here is often frosts and sunny days with the occasional storm.  This spring is turning into a very wet one. 

I just checked the weather forecast for the coming week and it is for more cloud, more rain, maybe some thunderstorms.  Roll on Summer 😊

Margaret.


Sunday, 24 October 2021

Cape Palliser

 

It has been a year now since I made a Road Trip around the Wairarapa with my brother, his wife, and a friend.

We had an awesome time, visiting different places as we travelled as far south as Cape Palliser, and as far west as New Plymouth before heading home again.




One of the highlights of the trip for me was visiting Cape Palliser, at the far south-east (bottom) part of the North Island.

This particular stretch of coastline is very hazardous and resulted in several shipwrecks before the lighthouse became operational.




The venerable old Cape Palliser lighthouse is constructed of cast iron and has stood on these cliffs since being erected in 1897.  Standing 18 metres tall, it is sited 78 metres above sea level and is the only New Zealand lighthouse to be painted in red and white stripes (designed to make it stand out from the surrounding hills).

The light, which flashes twice every twenty seconds, is visible out to sea for 26 nautical miles. 

It was a lonely life for lighthouse keepers and their families, with supplies arriving by ship once every three months before road access was created.  Keepers were finally withdrawn from service in 1986, nine years after the light had been switched to mains electricity operations (with a diesel generator for backup).




It is possible to climb up the 253 steps to see the view, but not to enter the lighthouse itself.  I left the step-climbing to my more active companions! 

This photo, looking back down the steps, was taken by my sister-in-law.

One can imagine how difficult it must have been for early keepers to carry oil up here for the light.  It must have been worse for the first fifteen years, before steps were finally constructed to replace a steep muddy path.




This area is also home to the North Island’s largest fur seal colony, and seals are frequently seen on or near the beach.  They should never be approached as they can become quite dangerous if they feel threatened.




It was a memorable day and an enjoyable visit – and probably a place I will never get to visit again because of its remoteness.  But you never know, who can tell what the future may have in store?

Smile, it makes life better 😊

Margaret.

 

Friday, 22 October 2021

The Plan

 

It is not very often that the Nation tunes into TV at 10 o’clock in the morning, but it did so today when the Government announced The Plan for leading the country forward in this era of covid.

I am happy with what they are saying.  I thought The Plan was positive and definitely doable.

The progression into a controlled relatively-free style of living (if you are vaccinated) sounds much better than staying in a permanent flux of lockdowns.




Once the country reaches a 90% target of fully vaccinated (for age 12 and over), then we can expect to see the new “traffic light” system implemented.

“Green” will mean not many people in the community have covid.  There will be virtually no restrictions on travel or business operations, with only some recommendations (such as mask wearing) in place.  Vaccination certificates will be used in areas with high people numbers.

“Amber” means a community has one or more clusters of uncontrolled active cases.  All businesses can remain open but there will be more restrictions put in place, like mandatory mask wearing and compulsory vaccine certificates for more places.

“Red” will mean the number of cases is threatening to overload our healthcare system.  Schools and most retail shops will remain open but with restrictions like capacity limits and a wide use of vaccination certificates.  If things turn really nasty, some areas may still be returned into lockdown.




Making such decisions like this are difficult for any government.  Trying to please everyone and still be realistic is not an easy path to take.  I liken it a bit to mixing a cocktail:

Cocktail a ’la Corona

Take a tall glass and fill it with icy Covid Cubes.

Add a jigger each of Unrealistic Expectations (public believing covid can be kept out of the country) and Public Panic (public believing covid will now run rampant).

Swish in a slosh of Health Limitations (can our hospitals cope) and a good swig of Financial Considerations (can our businesses cope).

Now add a touch of Political Consideration (have to stay on the right side of voters), before topping up the glass with Pure Hope (vaccination is the answer).

Decorate the glass with a couple of Crossed Fingers (for luck) and there you have it.




This coming weekend (today is Friday) will be Labour Weekend holiday.  Normally it would mean a rush to the beach for the first long weekend of summer.  Still possible for some, but here in the Auckland and Greater Waikato regions we will have to stay home.  At least the weather forecast looks rather dreary, so staying home shouldn’t be too hard.

Have a happy day everyone 😊

Margaret.


Photos: some random pictures I have taken of hanging garden ornaments.



Thursday, 21 October 2021

Swimming Hole Memories

 

One of the enduring memories I have as a child in summertime was swimming in my uncle’s creek.

He had damned up one area to create a small swimming hole and it was great fun to splash around there with my cousins and any adults who happened to be around at the time (we were never allowed to swim unsupervised).




My uncle also made a small raft (visible in the photo) but I could never manage the trick of getting up on it so I could dive off.  It must have been a girlie thing because my brothers never had any problem.

This blissful summer activity died a quick death the day I discovered I was sharing the creek with a very large eel – I flatly refused to enter the water again after that!

Were you lucky enough to have a swimming hole when you were younger?

Margaret 😊


Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Grapefruit Marmalade

 

Last week, Youngest Son helped me to make some marmalade and I got asked for the recipe we had used.  Today, Youngest Son made a batch on his own with me acting as supervisor.

The pulp was some we had frozen so he was able to skip the preparation step.  I have written the recipe out in full at the end of this post.


Grapefruit on the tree

Keeping the marmalade at a rolling boil

Testing for setting

Bottling the marmalade into warmed jars


Sometimes I like to have just a teaspoon of the marmalade by itself instead of putting it on toast.  I tell myself it is better for me, as the jam by itself has less calories than having a piece of buttered toast with it!!

Margaret 😊


GRAPEFRUIT MARMALADE RECIPE

INGREDIENTS:

3-4 good sized New Zealand grapefruit (in July-September, when they are not too ripe)

2 medium sized lemons (or 3 Meyer lemons)

7-8 cups cold water

1.5kg white sugar

A walnut-sized piece of butter (optional)

METHOD:

1.       Scrub the skins of the fruit until they are clean, cutting off any blemishes.

2.       Cut each grapefruit, stem end at top, into quarters.  Cut out the core and remove any pips.  Cut each quarter into 2-3 pieces and place in a bowl.

3.       Cut the lemons lengthways into quarters.  Cut out the core and remove any pips.  Cut each quarter into 2-3 pieces and add to the grapefruit.

4.       Mince the fruit, catching both pulp and juice (use the Oscar Juicer to do this, or else cut the fruit as finely as possible into shreds).  The prepared fruit should weigh approximately 1 kg.

5.       Place a plate or saucer into the fridge or freezer so that it will be well chilled when the jam needs to be tested.

6.       Put the pulp and juice into a preserving pan and 7 cups of water.  Stir well with a long-handled wooden spoon.  If the spoon does not pass easily and freely through the pulp, then add another cup of water.

7.       Bring the fruit to a boil, then keep at a steady rolling boil for 30 minutes.  Stir it occasionally.

8.       Stir in a quarter of the white sugar and bring the pulp back to the boil.  Repeat with the other three quarters, stirring between each addition to make sure all the sugar is dissolved.

9.       Once all the sugar has been added, bring the marmalade to a rolling boil for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently.

10.    Begin testing the jam for setting: drop a little of the liquid onto the chilled plate to see if it will gel as it cools.  It can take up to 40 minutes of boiling sometimes for a set to be reached.  (Do not wait until it reaches a hard gel or the marmalade will be too stiff.  A gel that wrinkles a little when a fingertip is pushed through it, and the jam doesn’t immediately run together again, is about right).

11.    Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter to help settle any scum.

12.    Using a clean warm cup or small jug, pour the marmalade into a clean warm jar (I fill the clean jars with very hot water and stand them on the bench, then empty as I require them.  They can also be warmed, minus the water, in a low oven).

13.    Check the jar has been wiped clean of any dribbles, then screw on the resealable lid.  As the jam cools, the lid will ‘pop’ to indicate the lid has sealed.

This recipe will make about five 500ml jars of marmalade.   Use any unsealed jars first (they keep well in the fridge).  Store sealed jars in a cool dark cupboard, where they will keep for several years (if not eaten first!).

FROZEN PULP:

Place the minced fruit into a large heavy plastic bag (large zip-lock bags are excellent).  Seal and freeze.  (It helps if the frozen shape will easily fit inside the preserving pot, and if flat they pack into the freezer better).  Remove frozen pulp from bag and place into preserving pan along with 7 cups of hot tap water.  Place over high heat and allow to thaw, stirring as it does so.  OR place pulp into pan and leave to sit overnight before adding water.  Add more water if the pulp is too thick.  Begin timing the 30 minutes rolling boil once all the pulp has thawed.  Continue with the recipe, as above.

 


Tuesday, 19 October 2021

My Sitting Room

 

What name do you give a room that doesn’t really have a name? 

Most of the rooms in our house are named after their function, such as the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom etc. 

But what name do you give a multi-purpose room that has no clear function?

I have taken over grand-daughter’s old bedroom and have been working on developing a room for myself, somewhere I can sew or read or iron or take an afternoon nap.


Mittens often keeps me company when I am pottering in this room


I began calling it my Craft Room, but it seemed that the room was more than that as I seldom do much in the way of craft work. 

It is not my Bedroom, and we already have a Living Room (part of the open-plan kitchen – dining – tv area) and a Lounge (the sunken area next to the Living Room, where son has based his Office area).

Then we thought about Sitting Room.  After all, I do do a lot of SITTING in there!

The room contains a recliner lounge chair, a bookcase, storage drawers and shelves, and will eventually have a table as well.  Most of the day the sun shines into the room and it really is a very pleasant place to be.

So, it looks like this house now has a Sitting Room – set aside for the use of the Grand Old Dame who resides here! 😊

Be happy,

Margaret.



Monday, 18 October 2021

The Spring Season

 

A while ago, at a Book Fair, I bought a book called ‘The Darling Buds of May Book of the Seasons,’ and have finally got around to reading some of it.




It is sectioned into the four seasons, and each section contains extracts from the writings of H.E. Bates (the author of “The Darling Buds of May”), showcasing his mentioning of the English countryside in that season.

Celebrating the fact that we are now in Spring, that was the section I read first.




The book was published in 1992, and is beautifully illustrated by Llewellyn Thomas with both coloured illustrations and black line drawings.




I was saddened this afternoon to learn that one of my favourite rugby players, Sean Wainui, tragically died in a car accident this morning.  Sean played for our regional Chiefs and the Maori All Blacks team.  He was 25 years old.

It brings home just how fragile life is, and how none of us can know when our end may be.

Live each and every day the very best you can,

Margaret.






Sunday, 17 October 2021

My Weekend

 

Saturday and Sunday have been totally different days this weekend.

Yesterday was blue skies and sunshine, and it was lovely to sit on the deck all afternoon and enjoy it (sitting under the umbrella as I burn so easily).

The garden was bright with flowers and the birds were busy doing their Spring Thing and chirping from all the trees around us.

One of our neighbour’s trees has sparrows building a nest in it, still visible at the moment, but once the tree comes fully into leaf the nest will be well-nigh invisible.




Then today, Sunday, we have had heavy cloud cover all day, along with a bit of wind. 

The rain arrived late this afternoon, but I managed to pick some Californian Poppies before it came.  Their separated petals are now sitting in the dehydrator – I find it takes about 20 hours to dry them properly (at 35 degC), but they make a great splash of orange colour in a dried flower mixture.

That, and the writing up of a few lists, is all I have managed today.  Hopefully tomorrow will be more productive.

Did you know that petting your cat or dog can help to lower your blood pressure?

Time to get petting! 😊

Margaret.



Friday, 15 October 2021

Putting Covid Into Perspective

 I doubt there is a single person in our country who is not aware that Covid-19 is an infectious viral disease.  But what is a virus?

o   A virus is a submicroscopic life form, so tiny that it is invisible under a normal microscope.

o   It is an infectious agent, meaning it will have the means to spread itself from host to host.

o   Viruses are regarded as the most common biological entities on planet Earth, and can infect all other life forms (animals, plants, and even micro-organisms like bacteria).

o   The vast majority of viruses are harmless to humans, but some can kill us (especially if we have no antibodies to fight the disease caused), and some can be beneficial (e.g., the viruses that attack bacteria can be used to stop bacterial infection in humans).

o   There are several different viruses that can infect humans.  Some of the most commonly known ones would be Corona (such as colds, influenza, covid), HIV (AIDS), Hepatitis B, Herpes, Warts, Polio, Measles, Rubella, Mumps, Rotavirus (gastrointestinal flu), Dengue Fever, and Rabies.



The Corona Virus family is so ancient that it is believed to have been present in some form or another for as long as the human race has existed.

Today’s strains all present medically with similar symptoms, which can range in severity from insignificant to very mild, through to extremely severe or even fatal.

The most common Corona forms of virus found in our civilizations today are:

o   COLD – sniffles, cough, runny nose – remember that the Common Cold killed thousands of indigenous peoples when they were first visited by Western explorers, as they had no immunity to what was to them a new disease.

o   FLU – this is a term that is often used now to denote that a person is suffering a severe bout of common cold. It is often accompanied with headache and fever, and usually requires a day or two off work to recover.

o   RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) – results in symptoms similar to the common cold.  Most children will have had an RSV infection before their second birthday.  Reinfection is common.  Those most at risk are very young babies, frail elderly folk, and adults with existing critical heart or lung conditions.

o   INFLUENZA – a viral strain that affects the whole body, resulting in severe cold and flu symptoms, aches and pains, breathing difficulties.  It can take days, weeks, or sometimes months, to recover from – remember that thousands of people die worldwide every year as a result of contracting the influenza virus.

Influenza can be broken into Types A, B and C.  Type A can infect a variety of animals other than humans, and has the ability to jump from one organism to another without undergoing major genetic changes (that is, it mutates easily). 

Type A influenza strain is the one with the most potential to be fatal to humans, as it has sub-types that can join and mutate and result in a “new” type of influenza that our bodies do not immediately recognise.  It is these mutations that Influenza Vaccine is designed to combat.

o   SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, arrived 2003) – fever, cough, muscle aches, breathing difficulties.

o   MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, arrived 2012) – fever, fatigue, coughs, chills, aches and pains, breathing difficulties.

o   COVID-19 (the latest arrival in the Corona Virus family, arrived 2019) – fever, fatigue, cough, breathing difficulties, aches and pains.

SARS-CoV-2, commonly known as Covid-19, is particularly virulent to humans at this time as it is a new disease and our bodies have yet to learn how to respond to it.  Likewise, medical protocols are still being developed in finding the best ways to prevent/treat the infection.

So far, four main variants/mutations of Covid have been identified – Alpha B.1.1.7 (first found in the UK), Beta B.1.351 (first found in South Africa), Gamma P.1 (first found in Brazil), and Delta B.1.617.2 (first found in India).




ALL Corona Viruses have the potential to be fatal to the human organism.  Most of them are able to easily mutate into other strains, and some have the ability to cross over between different host species.

We have always had corona viruses with us, and we always will.  They will never be completely eradicated from our lives, and new ones will be forever appearing.  This is just how it is.

The best we can do is to find ways to minimize (through prevention and treatment methods) the impact of each new form of corona virus until we can develop a more natural immunity to it.   

People will continue to die from every form of corona virus, just like they always have.  This is not fear-mongering.  It is being practical and realistic, and helps to put the current pandemic into a better long-term perspective.




In ten to twenty years’ time this pandemic will be part of history and the world will have moved on to something else to worry about.

Such is the way of human progress 😊

Margaret.


The photographs above are random scenes from around the North Island.


Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Flowers on my Feet?

 

Our Dutch Iris are all coming out and looking really pretty in the garden.




Son sent me a couple of photos on his phone of his Irises, plus one of my feet in my purple slippers.  What?!!

He reckons the colour matches the flowers – so therefore I must have flowers on my feet!!  What next? LOL




Today I’ve been making grapefruit marmalade – very bitter marmalade!

Store-bought marmalade, of any kind, is far too sweet for my taste when eaten on my breakfast toast.  My marmalade is made with shredded grapefruit and lemons. 

New Zealand grapefruit is a member of the citrus family, but not really a true grapefruit (it is often sold as Morrison’s Seedless, and is also known as Poorman’s Orange).  It originated in East Asia and is believed to be a hybrid between a pomelo and either a mandarin or a tangelo.




Remember, a smile a day keeps you happy 😊

Margaret.



Thursday, 7 October 2021

Chocolate

 

What is there not to love about chocolate?  I eat it regularly, probably far more regularly than I ought!

What brought it to mind was reading an article about eating Traditional Foods (tied in with your ethnic background), and I began thinking about CHOCOLATE.

When I was growing up, chocolates were a special treat.  They came as individual chocolates with different centres, sitting in a cellophane tray inside a cardboard box with a pretty picture on the lid.

I can remember sniffing those boxes when empty – they still smelt of chocolate!

The only time we ever got to eat one, was when there was an extra special occasion and the box was passed around the room for everyone to take one.  And we only ever got one!


Outside my bedroom window - can you see the snail?


Our lives were not totally devoid of chocolate, however.  We occasionally were given hot chocolate as a drink (cocoa mixed with hot milk), and a couple of times a year we could visit a school fete and purchase a small paper cup containing half a dozen pieces of homemade fudge.

Today, the fudge is harder to find and we can buy chocolate almost anywhere.  Eating chocolate, in all its variety, has become a commonplace thing to do.

I’m not sure when blocks and bars of chocolate appeared on the market, but they have certainly removed from our lives the romanticism of chocolate and the idea that it is only eaten as a special treat.

Maybe it is time I became more “traditional” in my chocolate consumption!  


Templeton (affectionately called Timmy)
snacking on a potato crisp

Our level three lockdown continues here in the Waikato.  With more Covid cases being reported I don’t see us being allowed to return to level two and all it’s relevant freedom any time soon.

It is quite warm here today, but there is a lot of rain around and the sun is well hidden behind the clouds.  A bit dismal, but I have been speaking with friends on the phone this morning and that is always a cheering experience.

Got to love having friends 😊

Margaret.



 

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

The 'Rena' Environmental Disaster

 

Ten years ago today, what has become known as New Zealand’s worst maritime environmental disaster happened when the cargo vessel ‘Rena’ struck the Astrolabe Reef off the coast of Tauranga.

We were living at Papamoa Beach at the time and many of our friends were involved when the call went out for volunteers to help clean the beach up.




Our beach was assaulted with heavy fuel oil, shipping containers, wood, Styrofoam, plastic bags of ‘goods’ (including rotting meat), and tiny plastic beads.

The action of the ocean waves broke up the oil into a dirty brown scum with an offensive smell.




A lot of sea birds were affected by the oil, and crews walked the beaches looking for affected birds, seals and penguins in need of rescuing. 

They ignored the dead fish and jellyfish that also floated ashore.




Much of the oil settled on the beach at the tide line.




A couple of days later, stormy weather buried much of the oil beneath the sand, making it impossible to remove it by bulldozer.

Crews were kitted out in protective clothing and spent days sifting through the sand to remove as much of the oil clumps as they could.

  It was hot dirty work, and several people became sick from the fumes.  It was not nice.




For several months following the disaster, walking barefoot along the beach would result in having to wash a black tar-like residue off the soles of the feet.

The tiny plastic beads were present for even longer.




Today, thanks to the efforts of many people, the beach is once again a beautiful place to visit.  The oceans and wild life have recovered better than was originally expected.

It might be a good long-term result, but one hopes such a preventable disaster will not soon occur again.

 

Have a happy day 😊

Margaret.



Friday, 1 October 2021

A Frog and a Butterfly

 

Slowly, our days are growing warmer even though we still get the occasional chilly night.  We lit the fire last night, but only to take the chill off the air and not because we were cold.

Son was recently given this butterfly ornament as a gift and he has now found a place for it to call home.  

We will see it each time we come up the driveway, and it will make a lovely Welcome Home for us.




I’ve always enjoyed ‘hiding’ little ornaments amongst my garden flowers – and the grandchildren loved finding them!  I don’t have many left now, but I do still like having some in amongst my container garden.

Being outdoors all the time, they lose their paint/colour and can end up looking rather dingy and lack-lustre.

Such was the case with this little frog.  He originally belonged to my mother, and he just looks so cute with his grin and straw hat and the little dragonfly necklace (perhaps it is a ‘her’?).



A family member suggested he could give him/her a freshen up with some acrylic paint and I agreed.  I love the result so much that the froggy now has a place on my bookcase instead of in the garden.

Nothing like a cheerful frog to bring a smile to your face 😊

Margaret.




Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Spring Flowers and Pressure Valves

 

I was very happy this morning to see the plumber drive up to the house. 


Our native Kowhai

For the last couple of days, the overflow pipe from the hot water cylinder has been pushing up water – which then drips down into our back porch area.


Snowflakes, often referred to here as Snowdrops

Everything is wet through and one could not walk across the porch without getting dripped upon.


I have no idea what these are - does anybody know?

We were afraid it may have meant a new hot water cylinder (this one was installed in 1985) but that checked out fine.  The fault was a pressure valve, which has now been replaced – no more drips!  


Star Magnolia, a beautiful spring-flowering shrub


Spring continues to advance and our weather is quite variable but the temperatures are slowly rising.  


Polyanthus nestled into a tree-shaded garden

I have been enjoying seeing spring flowers almost as much as I enjoy seeing autumn foliage.


Old fashioned muscari (grape hyacinths)
are always a pleasure to see

I hope these pretty flowers have cheered your day up a little,

Margaret 😊