Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Life lately

Before Christmas we harvested the first ear of corn (above) which as you can see Blair ate raw straight off the plant.  Sadly once we got home from our holidays we discovered that the rest of the crop hadn't ripened successfully - too hot?  Not enough water?  Who knows.  I'm not a big fan of corn so wasn't especially bothered but poor Blair was very disappointed.

The zucchini plants go on and on AND ON.  I can only hope they finish soon - at this stage I'm just giving the zucchini away, and if no one wants them I'm feeding them to our worms.  There are probably more out there as I type this.

Something that I'm feeling far more enthused about is the fact that the passionfruit are FINALLY starting to ripen.  I say "finally", but the plants are only about 18 months old - the exact age that they are supposed to start bearing fruit.  When we arrived home from New Zealand there was already one passionfruit ready for eating, and it was sweet and pulpy and delicious.

Not to be unbelievably fussy or anything… but it was almost too sweet.  I like my passionfruit to be tart.  Does anyone know how to make your passionfruit tart instead of syrupy sweet?

Since we've been home and blissfully free of work commitments (until, that is, Blair had to go back this week), we've been going down to the beach in the mornings for a swim.

If I only swim in our pool I never feel that I'm missing out on anything.  However one dip in the ocean is all it takes to remind me that the pool can never really compare.  The ocean is where it's at.

Early on the weekday mornings the beach is empty except for some very cheerful old people (and who can blame them for being so cheerful when this is how they start their days?).  The water is cool and clear and refreshing.

As everyone told me, there is no better feeling for me at the moment than floating weightlessly.  Blair always has to suggest that it's time to go, I could happily stay there all day.

Afterwards, there is a coffee van in the car park where I get my morning latte.

Mostly I feel I've sunk very comfortably into this whole "not working" thing, however the one transition that I've struggled with is the vast difference between the coffee I was getting in the city, and the coffee available near my house.  Before my pregnancy craving demanded that I have a coffee every day I never knew the difference.  Nowadays I realise I've become one of those insufferable coffee snobs.  I had no idea there was so much bad coffee around.

The coffee van at the beach is run by a European couple so needless to say the coffee is excellent, but nearer home the options are far more dire.  I'm considering buying a coffee machine for home - any recommendations?  Although they're terribly convenient I'd rather not get a pod machine due to the waste factor.  Plus I quite enjoy the morning ritual of going out to get a coffee - even if it is an extravagance on my new limited budget.

One of the great things about all this time off work has been the amount of time I can devote to reading.  I had forgotten home much I love getting lost in a book, and I've been devouring them.  I, for one, am always looking for recommendations, so thought I would share with you my top three summer reads.
  1. A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg.  I read this because I read her second book Delancey first (confused?).  Molly writes the blog Orangette.  Her books follow a charming theme of using her favourite recipes to tell her story.  A Homemade Life is a gentle read and had me hooked until the end, when I wished there was more.  It also made me itch to try out some of her recipes.  I recommend reading this first, followed by Delancey.
  2. Wild by Cheryl Strayed.  Another memoir (can you tell I'm right into non-fiction at the moment?) but quite a different one from A Homemade Life.  It took me a while to warm to Cheryl and I nearly abandoned this book in the early stages.  I'm so glad I didn't.  Read the book before the movie comes out.
  3. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.  And lastly, a bit of fiction for variety.  I have to admit I've only just started this but am already having to force myself to put it down to do other things.  It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and I can see why.  Do yourself a favour and pick it up RIGHT NOW.
After "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves", I've got "Yes Please" by Amy Poehler to try.

Other books I have recently loved…
  • The Feel-Good Hit of the Year by Liam Pieper
  • Things I Didn't Expect by Monica Dux
  • The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
  • 127 Hours by Aron Ralston
  • Touching the Void by Joe Simpson
  • Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
  • Paris Letters by Janice Macleod
Books that I have started but not loved…
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  • Out to Lunch by Stacey Ballis
  • The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
  • Never Make the Same Mistake Twice by Nene Leakes
  • Lost & Found by Brooke Davis
  • Room by Emma Donoghue
  • The Fault in our Stars by John Green
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  • Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Looking at these lists makes me so grateful for my Kindle.  There's no way I could afford to buy so many hard copy books, not to mention the fact that all of these I have obtained without ever leaving the comfort of my chair.

Got any truly excellent books that you want to recommend to me?

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Maternity stuff: what rules and what sucks

As I get closer to the end of the last trimester (HOLY CRAP, you guys), I feel like I'm finally starting to get the hang of this whole pregnancy thing.  It's taken a lot of trial and error to find maternity clothes that are not only comfortable, but are appropriate for wearing in public or to the office.

I thought it might be helpful for anyone heading into their own pregnancy if I compiled a list of the things that I've found great and those I wouldn't waste a cent on, if I could go back in time.  These recommendations are backed up by my vast market research, that being a discussion with the other pregnant girls in my office.

Let's get the money-wasters out of the way first.


Target maternity bra.  This one.  DO NOT BUY.  Unless you want hot sweaty itchy boobs and angry red welts under your arms.  Repeat: do not buy.  This was confirmed by a girl at work who also made this mistake.  This bra wants to hurt you.

Asos work pants.  I bought two pairs of Asos maternity pants and both have been pretty awful.  These ones are reasonably comfortable and a decent cut, but they have the world's stupidest expanding fly which means unless you have extra long tops and keep tugging them down in a paranoid fashion, you look like you're walking around with your fly undone.

This pair are a nice fit and super comfortable (starting to get a bit tight around the waistband now) but the elastic threads in the fabric all disintegrate after the first wash so it looks like you have a hairy bum crack and crotch, with the hairs poking through the pants.  I mean, REALLY.  I could not make this up.

Bub2B tops from Kmart.  Sorry, I couldn't find an image or a link but take it from me: See through!  Totally see through!  Even a nude coloured bra is plainly visible through the crappy fabric.

Asos tops.  More see through rubbish.  These look great on the site but are clearly VERY cheaply made and I regretted them deeply.  They're also a weird shape, sort of wide and short in length, so that while you're just starting to show they're miles too baggy but once the bump fills out they just make you look enormous and shapeless.  Well, even more shapeless.

Jeans West jeans.  Everyone else seems to rate these very highly but for me they were hilariously awful.  Other than a cut that screamed MOM JEANS on my shape, they sat in such a way that I looked like a had a severe camel toe even when the crotch was travelling towards my knees.  Which brings me to my next point - they fall down.  Constantly.  And the belly panel is made of flesh-coloured fabric so if your top rides up it looks as though you're wearing a girdle under your jeans.  Why couldn't the belly panel be navy, or grey, or white, or ANY OTHER COLOUR?

Target maternity pants.  These ones.  I must admit I was warned by one of the girls at work that these pants were no good, but I was so desperate after the Asos horrors that I didn't heed her advice.  I should have listened.  When someone tells you that they had to tuck their pants into their bra to keep them up, you should listen.  Also the cut is BAD.  They don't even look good on the model.


Bonds bras.  I got these ones from Big W as my boobs grew at an alarming rate from quite early on.  The Bonds bras are soft and very comfortable but be warned, I'm not sure that they're super supportive as the jiggle-factor is high.  Very comfy though.

If you really want a good maternity bra though, get the Complete Comfort from Bras N Things.  The regular version has been my favourite bra for years, and I should have just bought the maternity version straight off the bat but they're $50 each!  Of course, as ever, buying cheap turned out to be a false economy because after I'd got a couple of Bonds ones and discovered they weren't very supportive, and then bought a Target one and discovered that it was the Kim Jong Il of women's underwear, I could have spent the same amount of money on a couple of Complete Comfort bras and been very happy right from the beginning.

Bonds knickers.  You don't really need maternity knickers but I bought one pair of these on impulse and then loved them so much I went back and got a handful more.  They're cotton and they come in cute colours and they're super comfortable.

Snoogle pillow.  Totally a non-essential but could I do without it now?  HELL NO.  At first I was suspicious that the pillow was infused with some kind of sedative because even if I just curled up on the couch with it I would find myself drifting off into a deep (drugged?) sleep every time.  Even at 10am.  These days I'm really starting to feel the aches and pains of having a watermelon shoved up my skirt and I'm not sure I could get to or stay asleep without my Snoogle.  Plus once the baby arrives apparently they make a great breastfeeding pillow and a support for baby to lean against.  Also, if you needed further convincing, Kim Kardashian has one.  BUY BUY BUY.

Note: Don't forget to get a washable cover for it unless you're a fan of your own stank.

Bump band.  If you like me have fallen into the trap of the stupid pregnancy pants (see above), the bump band makes a lot of stuff wearable that you couldn't get away with otherwise.  Also when the belly starts to expand and pull on your poor back muscles, I find that the bump band helps to support that weight.  Well it feels like it does anyway.  I got mine from Asos as part of a maternity basics pack.

Mamalicious jeans.  These ones.  Every other pregnancy pant has failed me, but these jeans RULE.  Okay, yes, they do fall down a bit but I've come to terms with the fact that all pregnancy pants do.  They are a great cut, colour, the belly panel is grey marle (take note, JeansWest) and they are sooo comfortable.  These are the jeans that you can wear on a long-haul flight, or to gorge yourself at the buffet, pregnant or not.  I never want to go back to my normal jeans again.

Target tops.  After the see-through Kmart and Asos top fiascoes, I got one Target t-shirt in white and one in black.  They're $9.  They're great.  They're actually nothing special, but it's amazing how one can appreciate an opaque fabric (revolutionary!) after having to layer singlets with everything day after day.

So that's my round up of the very good and the very bad when it comes to maternity clothes.  I think the most depressing thing about maternity wear is how mumsy most of it is (funny that…).  Like "I am now a Mum and therefore I care not for style any longer!"

Realistically you can get away with buying very little - stretchy tops and elastic waisted pants/skirts in a size or two larger than you normally wear will take you far.  Just don't skimp on a good bra or two, especially if, like me, you have a couple of self-inflating balloons attached to your chest.  And remember that maternity jeans can always double as "all you can eat" jeans.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Adelaide NZ wrap up

Let's start with the headlines.

This trip is brought to you by:

  • One new memory card
  • At least five Pixie Caramel bars
  • 16 straight days of NZ sunshine
  • 8 cans of Fresh Up juice
  • Nearly two litres of Whittakers chocolate milk
  • Approximately 10 playings of Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson
  • And one upgrade to business class

When I booked the flights for this trip I somehow managed to mess up the dates, giving us only two days in Adelaide with my family, but over two weeks in New Zealand with Blair's.  Not great!

However we managed to pack plenty into those two days (and the following two weeks) and had an as always excellent Christmas at my sister Anna's house.  At the last minute my other sister Hazel was also able to join us with her two boys and teeny adorable new daughter (born last time I was in Adelaide announcing my own pregnancy) which pretty much made the day.

In our family although one person hosts the Christmas show, everyone always brings something to help out.  Mum made her famous spanakopita, Hazel made the amazing Christmas wreath pavlova dessert, I brought a risoni salad (prepared in a hotel room kitchen, no less), Anna supplied the venue as well as roast chicken, potatoes, and a bean salad, and Dad brought the Christmas spirit/s.

It was an excellent day in every sense and reminded me for the millionth time why I love my family so much.  Mainly because they are all excellent cooks.

Uh-oh controversial!!  A six-months pregnant woman holding a glass of champagne.   I totally drank it too.
Less controversial - a pregnant woman holding a baby.  If my baby isn't as cute as my sister's kids it is totally doomed.

We flew out early on Boxing Day to see Blair's family, arriving in New Plymouth late that evening.  As you may recall, we spent the 2013/2014 Christmas break at home in Perth just Blair and I.  It was awesome and hot and sunny, just the way the summer holidays should be.  

To be honest, I wasn't really looking forward to returning to New Zealand this year, purely for the fact that the weather has always been awful when we've been there.  I pretty much have not stopped complaining about it all year, knowing I was going to miss out on my sunny summery holidays.

Just to make me look like the impossible whiner that I am, NZ turned on the weather the whole time we were there.  The sun shone EVERY DAY.  It rained heavily once, overnight on New Year's Eve.  The rest of the time it was warm and sunny.  I even got burnt.  I came back with a thongs tan.

We did the usual activities: the races on 27 December and the Festival of Light at Pukekura Park.

Then we went up to the "bach" at Mokau for a week of fishing (for Blair) and reading (for me).  I even managed to complete the word target in the newspaper a couple of times.

And all the while, the sun shone and shone.

 On New Year's Day, we went up the Mokau river in Blair's dad's boat for a day of "floundering" which I eventually realised did not mean flopping around in some kind of struggle, but netting for flounder, which interestingly did actually entail some flopping around struggling in the mud.

Floundering in the Mokau River.  My brain couldn't handle all the punning opportunities this presented.

Unfortunately for the fishermen, the weather turned bad for fishing (but still sunny!) so on our last day they went down to the beach to put the long line in.  Frankly I had no idea what this was either, but from what I can gather it's a very long fishing line with lots of hooks on it, attached to some kind of motorised torpedo that pulls it out to sea.  The other end is attached to a winch which is then used to pull it back in sometime later.  I would not like to be swimming at a beach where someone had set up a long line.

Blair and I had spent the afternoon visiting his aunt just down the road and only arrived at the beach just as they were trying to bring the line in.  Unfortunately it had not come back in a straight line and had also managed it snag itself somewhere along the beach.  Cue much drama and swearing until eventually one of the intrepid fishermen swam out into some pretty hair-raising surf to fetch the torpedo and the line (potentially full of fish) had to be sacrificed.  Again, would not want to be swimming at this beach any time soon with all those hooks rolling around in the waves.

The black sand makes for some awesome photos.  It is pure black, not grey or brown, but jet black.  This also makes it EXTREMELY HOT underfoot.

Ending the Mokau trip on such a disappointing note had everyone in a somber mood, but nothing a few beers couldn't fix.

Once we'd packed up and returned from Mokau, Blair and I set out the next morning for a bit of local sightseeing around Taranaki.  We started out at Oakura in the morning where apparently Tom Cruise stayed while filming The Last Samurai on Mount Taranaki (the mountain standing in for Mount Fuji in the movie - don't say you never learn anything from me).  I can see why Tom stayed in Oakura.  It has a beautiful little beach and an old lady under an umbrella selling some seriously good ice cream.

After Oakura we carried on south through rolling farmland with the sparkling ocean on one side and the lush mountains on the other, before turning inland to visit Pukeiti Gardens - in the sunshine this time!

Blair filled with wonder at all the beauteous nature surrounding him/trying to figure out how to catch one of the trout in the stream below

By the time we had walked down the garden and then back up the hill I was feeling seriously exhausted and was probably severely dehydrated so we came back down to New Plymouth where I skulled a bottle of water and ate a restorative Pixie Caramel bar to get my strength back.  The rest of the day it was important to remain with feet up, on the couch, reading my book.  So I did.

The next day (or maybe it was the day after...), we went for a drive up the mountain since once again it dawned sparkling and clear.  I sang Uptown Funk to Blair in my sparkling clear singing voice the whole way up and down the mountain which needless to say he really enjoyed.

Don't believe me, just watch!

It is really hard to do justice to the thing in photos.  It is truly massive.  In real life it towers over you.  In photos the scale and majesty just doesn't translate.
Looking down to New Plymouth in the distance (you can see Paritutu Rock on the left)
I think this is Tongariro visible in the distance
At the end of our trip we had planned a few days' driving tour around the centre of the island, including the famous Waitomo Caves which totally lived up to their reputation.  Listen, I'm from South Australia. I KNOW good caves.  I even know the word spelunking.  However drifting silently in a boat through pitch black water, with millions of glowworms hanging overhead like a galaxy of tiny stars so that it feels as though you're actually floating through a night sky, took even my breath away.

There are no photos allowed in the caves but sometimes that is a great thing as it means I just sit back and experience the experience instead of being so focussed on recording the experience photographically.  Unfortunately our experience was slightly marred by the experience of a very small child who was rather too young to appreciate the experience, and was instead experiencing serious boredom.  

The following day we drove on to Lake Taupo to catch up with some friends of Blair's who own a space in a caravan park overlooking the lake.  It was a stunningly beautiful location with the lake crystal clear and refreshing only a few paces from our cabin.

A word of advice however: don't be fooled by the word "deluxe".  Or the words "self-contained" come to that.  When booking the accommodation we had a choice between a Tourist Cabin or a Deluxe Cabin.  Logically (or so we thought) we booked the "deluxe self-contained" cabin expecting that this meant it would have its own bathroom and with linen provided.  Yes, it would be modest, but it would be comfortable.  We could even cook some of our own meals.

However as we discovered to our chagrin and were smugly informed by the caravan park manager, there is no bathroom or linen provided in a deluxe self-contained cabin.  There is however a toilet block across the car park, and linen for hire.  We should have booked a Tourist Cabin if we wanted those things included, he told us happily.  It's always been that way.  It's safe to say that I was less than excited about stumbling across the gravel the five times a night I have to go for a wee at the moment.

We subsequently cut our visit to Taupo short and gave the key to the cabin to Blair's friends so that they could get the benefit of the second night that we weren't going to use due to fleeing home to New Plymouth where there are toilets indoors and the showers don't cost 50c to use.

This is the last photo I took on our trip
 We then had an extra day at home which gave Blair the opportunity to go fishing one last time, and me the opportunity to wash all the clothes and pack the bags.  Normally of course I would object to that distribution of opportunities, but I know that the more fishing Blair gets in the more fish that comes home.  So I decided to let that one go.

The flight from Auckland to Perth is a hideous seven and a half hours so back when we were in Mokau I'd upgraded us to Business Class which meant I went from dreading the flight to quite looking forward to it.  And it did not disappoint!  Dudes, that is the way to travel.  Although as always when I treat myself to Business Class, it filled me with apprehension as to how I will ever go back to turning right instead of left when boarding a plane in the future.  I can't!  I won't!  You can't make me!

We got home yesterday to a pile of Christmas cards that had curled up in the heat, an empty fridge and a full washing basket (WHY didn't we get that done before we left?).  This morning we picked up a very relieved Biggie Smalls who had been evacuated from the cattery last night due to the threat of bushfire.  We'll go the supermarket to restock the fridge, and tonight we'll have delicious NZ snapper fish burgers for dinner.

And I don't even have to go back to work tomorrow!