Not Really The Kiwi Way

Tuesday, March 24, 2015
So there's been a bit of fuss lately over this story.

Two high-school lads, from a private school in Christchurch took a ride on a baggage carousel at one of our busy airports, while in transit on a school trip.

It was against the rules. Actually, it was a serious breach of national security. 
If you've been to an airport lately you will have seen and be familiar with the signs warning against riding the baggage carousel.

But you know what boys are like. 
I know what they're like. I have two, and I went on an international school trip last year with several teenagers from our school.
Before we left my teenage son had to sign all kinds of agreements, and as well as signing the agreements the teachers verbally warned them that if they broke the rules they would be on the next flight home. Heck, we the parents had to sign stuff too.
We read it. We heard it. We agreed to it. We signed it.

It sounds like St. Bede's School, where these two carousel-riding-boys attended, also had such rules in place. Schools have to do that now. What other way do they have of controlling their students, especially when they are in a group away from home and they have the safety of children to consider?

I don't think the boys did anything necessarily bad in jumping on the carousel. They're just kids, looking for a laugh. But kids do tend to be thoughtless when they're in the moment. If they'd jumped off before passing through to the secure area this might not have ever made the headlines. But they didn't. They breached security and rode past the ribbons into a secure airport area.
The school pulled them from their rowing regatta as punishment.
The parents didn't like that. After all, any sports regatta or tournament is expensive, and a lot of time and effort goes into training. I get that. It would also have let the whole entire team down.

So the parents took it to the court and got a judge to overturn it.

And so the New Zealand public has been hotly debating this for the past few days, and the majority seems to agree with the school.

These are my thoughts on the matter.

At first I was sympathetic. They're just boys. One of our boys on our trip last year did this in the airplane. It was silly, and we frowned and tut-tutted appropriately (while smiling into the corner), but it's just boy-stuff, you know, not worthy of being sent home. 

Then I read more into this carousel matter, and I do believe now that the school are rightly justified in taking the action they did.

What if this had happened to two boys from a public school? Maybe they'd be from families less well-off than these private-school families. They would have been sent home, and they would have had to take their punishment and had to live with the consequences of their foolish actions.

This matter smacks of elitism. It screams arrogance.

Mummy and Daddy have the dosh, so let's go running off to court. We won't let our sons learn the natural law of consequence. We won't teach them, by backing the school authorities that sometimes if you break the rules you don't and shouldn't get away with it.
Yes, the rest of the team would have been let down, but that is what being part of a team is all about. You work for the good of everyone. You keep the rules, because you're part of a team.
Sport, at it's foundation, teaches character. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. It's part of life.

This was a selfish, thoughtless, foolish act by kids, and the parents are supporting their children in their selfishness. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised, by the responses of the parents, that the children flouted the rules. Perhaps this precedent had already been set at home.
We won't teach them personal responsibility. We'll throw our money into a lawyer and we'll show them! We are important people because we have money. Money that can help us get our own way.

Whatever the parents say, in justifying their actions, this is the message that the rest of New Zealand is getting. If you have money, you can over-ride the rules.

It's elitist and it's arrogant.

It is very un-kiwi. It is not our way. It should not be our way.

What would you have done, if your son had been part of this?

Five on Friday - March 6, 2015

Saturday, March 7, 2015
My week has been an assortment of eclectic things.

I finished this little project for my grand niece, Elsie. I think I must be the slowest (and maybe the youngest at 43, great aunt knitter), as this was supposed to be a gift back in November, then it got bumped to Christmas and now... well, it's a just because gift.

I have not been having much success with knitting lately. I started this hat which I bought off Ravelry last year, but it is too complicated for me, I think I'm going to have to give up on it. Too many stitches over 4 double-pointed needles, linen stitch and lots of wraps and turns, and with everything else going on it's just too much and too unimportant at the moment for me to try to figure it out. Such a cute hat, though!

I was thrilled to find that the Frangipaani plant my husband gave me for my birthday in November 2013 bloomed this week for the first time! This is one of my favourite flowers and reminds me so much of the time I lived in Hawaii, so it brings back happy memories.

The one thing that has totally absorbed me this week is researching my family history.
As a story-teller, I love diving into the rich histories and finding out little nuggets of information. I've been all over the place this week from 17th century Scotland to England to Stewart Island in New Zealand. I discovered my ancestors from the Orkney Islands, Wick, Caithness, Kirkcaldy, Scotland. Sheffield, England and my Maori heritage of New Zealand. I'm wondering if my ancestors were victims of the Highland Clearances of the early 1800's which is why they came to New Zealand. I am yet to find that out, but here is an ancient church where my Great great great Grandparents were married  in 1852 before emigrating. The Kirk of St. Nicholas in Aberdeen.

And finally, we are still getting very hot days here, so we have been spending alot of time up at the pool and I've been getting in and enjoying it too, with the children. My 6 year old and I took a selfie after one of our swims.

Joining in with Amy here.

How I Feed My Family of 6 on $120 a Week

Tuesday, March 3, 2015
A few weeks ago I would have thought it impossible.

Feed 6 people for $120!

My grocery list was getting up around the $400 mark, and to be truthful, I hate spending money on food. It's a necessity, I know, but such a waste, if you know what I mean!

My Dad will tell you and my husband will tell you that I am no good with money. I am one of those people who have no respect for money. There are more important things in life and money is just one of those necessary evils. Such a pain, money!

But I have taken on this challenge and I'm actually enjoying myself. I like the thought of getting the best buy. There's something very satisfying in that and knowing that what income we do have can be used for other things.

This is what $102 in food looks like.

My trick for shopping and finding the best deals was to spend an hour planning the night before. I went to the Countdown website and made an order online (but without finishing it). I saved my list, took a screenshot on my ipad and took it with me to Pac 'N Save first (which is, apparently, New Zealand's cheapest grocery store).  I was able to check quickly to see who was offering the cheaper goods as I went along the aisles. It was about half and half. Some things I was able to save a whole $1, some things were on specials with several dollars knocked off. So I went to Countdown next, which is fortunately, on the way home, and finished my shopping.

Last year I applied for a job at the school. I got shortlisted on a list of 3, but missed out.
I work from home on my dreams, and writing is my marketable skill, and until I manage to sell my book, or until my kids grow up and can look after themselves, we have to live on one income.

With so much of our money tied up at the moment in our house building, and with rent prices through the roof, we are having to make some major cutbacks for a period of time, until we can stop paying rent. Seriously, I don't recommend renting - we have had to do it for 3 years longer than we planned, and it's such a drain on resources and nothing to show for it in the end.

We've also had some fairly hefty bills come in all at the same time. Our children go to a semi-private school, and while we could choose a government-funded (or public) school, we are happy to make sacrifices to give them the best education we can in an environment that we know is safe and nurturing and caring and supportive and where they are doing well academically and socially.

The washing machine broke down. A tax bill came in. We've had birthdays and weddings and school supplies to get, and all the little things that suck away at your wallet. We don't live extravegantly, but we like to live well. We like our food, and we like our treats. We like to have beautiful things around us in our home.
We don't go on overseas trips and we holiday at the family bach. We don't support addictive habits and we don't drive fancy cars. We eat out rarely - only for special occasions.

So we decided to use up what was in our pantry and in our freezer and see how much we could survive on for $120 a week. And it is achievable. Just. And the money we are saving would have been my salary (before tax) if I'd managed to get the job at the school!

So I took stock of what was in the freezer and pantry and this was my menu for the week.

Breakfast: Porridge or Cornflakes or Toast

Monday: Rolled Roast Beef done in the crockpot.

Tuesday: Mince Burgers

Wednesday: Mince Burgers - a wonderful, old fashioned recipe that uses teaspoonfulls of seasoned mince wrapped in a crunchy, homemade pastry and baked in the oven. It makes enough for two nights for us.

Thursday: Chicken Curry

Friday: Sausages

Saturday: Bacon and Mushroom Flan

Sunday: Creamed fish with bread cases.

Side dishes: rice salad; lettuce salad; couscous salad; boiled potatoes with butter. Frozen mixed vege.

Lunchboxes: Sandwiches, fruit, home-baking, cheese and crackers and homemade scones and a small packet of potato chips.

The homebaking has been an issue. I have growing children who are always hungry, and I hate baking. So I need something that would last two to three days at least. My friend Jessie gave me her recipe which made 4 trays of large cookies, and have turned out to be a real treat. Elizabeth also gave me a recipe that makes 100 cookies. Can't wait to try them!

Desert: One a week - meringues with cream and passionfruit sauce. Meringues are so easy to make and only use two ingredients. Eggs and sugar, and I had plenty of those, and they make enough for my family to have desert a second night. I had some passionfruit sauce in the fridge and some cream, and voila! A beautiful treat.

Treats: Sodastream for the kids. Truly, the Sodastream was the best thing we bought this summer. We purchase one flavoured sodastream syrup a week, and a generic cordial to use with just soda water.
Tonic water with lemon juice for the adults. When you can't afford to buy wine or even cider, tonic water with lemon juice is a nice substitute. Not the same, I know, but quite nice after dinner in the evening. We call it the Poor Man's Wine!
Good coffee.

We don't have to buy fruit. We live in a region of New Zealand where fruit is abundant and relatives who have established fruit trees are kind and generous. This week we have apples, plums, nashi pears and avocados. I did splash out on some bananas at the grocery store, and a handful of lemons.

So that is my supply of groceries this week that cost me $102, leaving $18 for bread and milk which we buy at Couplands, because it's the cheapest.

I have also been getting into the habit of stock-piling over the years. I learned this from Leanne of Cottage Tails, and now when things are tightening up this is proving its worth. I haven't had to buy sugar or sauces or oils or rice or other things like that which are easily stored in the pantry.

I haven't had to buy meat either, as I am using up what is in the freezer. When I do have to buy meat, I will probably have to extend my budget to $150, but I think this will be achievable if I plan a vegetarian meal in there somewhere.

So who would have thought that this girl with a bad head for figures could work to a budget and actually have fun on it. Miracle!

Five on Friday- Feb 2015

Saturday, February 28, 2015
This year I've decided to join in with Amy from Love Made My Home, with her Five on Friday meme. While it is technically Saturday here in New Zealand, the Five in Friday originates in England, and it's Friday there, so that is my disclaimer!

1. Last week we went and had fish and chips on the beach with our niece Kristina, from Auckland, and I allowed my son to have a play with my good camera, a Canon. It wasn't until a few days later when I was looking at the new photos downloaded onto my laptop, that I was stunned with how good he is at photography. He always seems to get an interesting, unique angle on things.

2. We have had quite a few big bills come in at this time of the year. School fees, birthdays, sports fees, uniforms, the extra cost of my son having to learn French through the Correspondence School (long story, but if you are a friend on Facebook, you will have heard my rants on that), along with the usual bills of rent and petrol and power and food. So this week, food was way down the list and I've been using up what was in the pantry and freezer, and so grateful for family who live near by and have established fruit trees so we have had fresh fruit to pop into the kids' lunchboxes. And there is nothing prettier than a little grove of bountiful fruit trees.

3. It is still very hot here in New Zealand. I am a creature who prefers the cold. After studying my ancestry this week, I think I know why..... my ancestors hail from the Orkney Islands in the far north of Scotland, and Stewart Island in the far south of New Zealand. Hardy people from harsh environments. So after school, on the days that we can make it, we've been going up to my brother in law's pool to cool off. Diving into the water I can almost hear my body breathing a sigh of relief.

4. Since my husband Rob started his new job he now works from Tuesday to Saturday, which means we get Monday all to ourselves while the children are at school. It is awesome! So this is what we did last Monday. Had a luxurious hour by ourselves at a local cafe, Nourish. When you have 4 children these times are treasures.

5. Funny little notes written by a six year old.

Linking in with Amy:

Downton Abbey - my advice to Julian Fellowes

Friday, February 20, 2015
Dear Mr. Fellowes,

Thank you for creating Downton Abbey.
Thank you for providing a reason... a very valid reason.... for me to not do my housework so I can catch up on episodes, and to go out and buy pretty dresses, and to dream of hiring servants, and to pretend for a fleeting moment that the basement in my house is my very own Downstairs and that dinner will be served promptly.

And thank you for making me feel good about not hiring a Nanny.

I have forgiven you for killing Matthew. It took me two whole seasons, but I have. Truly.


As one of your millions of viewers, I wondered if you'd be interested in my humble opinions

Downton Abbey gives us a little escape from the madness that is the modern world. It sweeps us through the ages gone, back to a time in the world in which my grandfather always described to me as a 'golden era to grow up.' The 1920's.



Have you ever given any thought to what era in history you would like to live, if you had the chance to choose?

For me it would be the 1920's, based purely on my grandfather's recommendation, and the clothes that they wore. I realize that, given our current time in history, we know that the second world war was just around the corner for those who lived then, but is any time in world history safe? Maybe those born in the 1950s and 1960s have had the most peaceful and comfortable time in history, but those children may yet live to see their grandchildren caught up in a terror fight against the evil that is rampaging across the middle east at the moment.

So please don't stop writing this loveliness that is Downton Abbey.


So Downton Abbey gives us a blissful escape back into a world of order and beauty and we love it for the sheer humanness of it, where the struggles of the people then are similar to the struggles we have now. Human nature never changes. We still want love and happiness.

So Mr. Fellowes, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for creating this series, this escapism, these indulgent hours.

But (and there's always a but, isn't there), here is some free advice for series 6.

1. Please, please, please can we dispense with the storyline that sees Anna and Mr Bates heading off to jail at every other episode. It's getting very tiresome. I think they are due some happiness, and if they are not, can you please find something different to torment them with.  It is done now, Mr. Fellowes. It is so done.


2. Could someone, anyone, please give Mary some better lines. Poor girl always looks like someone's holding a gun to her back for every word she speaks. The lines need to be longer than one sentence, also.

3. Please don't kill off anymore spouses. Each one of those three little kiddos has a parent who has been killed off. The odds of that happening in one family, in real life, are pretty rare, so it's starting to look a little ridiculous.


4. Please don't ever, ever kill off Mrs. Hughes. I will stop watching it, if you do. She is by far the best character in this entire thing. And don't kill off the Dowager Lady Grantham either, if you don't mind.


5. It would be nice to see Mrs. Crawley find romance. She does it so well.

6. To be honest, it's getting rather predictable with all the love affairs and love children that keep popping out of the woodwork. Could we think of some more original story-lines now that those have been done to death? If you're heading into WWII you could really have some fun with thinking up new plot ideas. Lady Mary could join the Resistance. I bet she'd make a super spy making love to the enemy while stabbing him in the back at the same time. She wouldn't even wince.

And one final thought Mr. Fellowes....

What happened to Mrs. Patmore's bad eyesight? She never wears her glasses anymore.

Picture Source

The Romance of My Wedding Music

Sunday, February 15, 2015
It was Valentines Day here yesterday, and today my Facebook feed is full of my American friends celebrating.

Somehow I got to thinking about my wedding, nearly 18 years ago now. I was telling a friend this week who was at our wedding, that it will be 18 years, and they looked shocked. I feel a little shocked myself. Time flies when you're having fun... and busy!

I am a romantic creature by nature. I'd much rather look through rose-coloured glasses than the prosaic reality of clear. The world just looks more beautiful. My wedding was one of the highlights of my romance. The public declaration of love.

So when it came to choosing my wedding music, I wanted something beautiful, and fitting for the chapel that we were to get married in. The historic chapel at Kings College in Auckland, where my husband spent his school years. I'm only planning on doing this once, so something fitting to the ceremony was needed. The aisle is a bride's dream-come-true, and the college arranged for their organist to accompany the wedding.

So the music was to be a very important part of the ceremony.

Eighteen years ago weddings were still quite traditional. Mostly they were held in churches and our wedding services are a lot longer (in my experience) here than they are in America. Our service was an hour long which is considered a long time, but generally they are around 30-45 minutes.

The bridal procession is one of the most important parts of a wedding, and it's one I wanted to do justice to. I had four bridesmaids, a junior bridesmaid and two flower girls, along with two pageboys and a ring bearer. My sister-in-law called it the 'Grand Wedding'. And because of the setting It certainly felt that.

For beautiful, grand music you can't really beat Handel.  I chose two of his famous pieces for my wedding. For the entrance music; the music I walked down the aisle to meet my groom was Handel's Royal Fireworks. It was a perfect moment.

During the wedding ceremony my sister who was learning operatic singing gave us a beautiful rendition of Handel's Largo by Xerxes. I have a recording of the entire ceremony, but it is on an ancient video tape, so we are still needing to transfer it to a more updated file, but here is a youtube version of what my sister sang and she was accompanied by the organ.

The last piece of music to choose was the recessional music, or the music for when we would leave the church a married couple. We happened upon this hymn accidentally one day when we called in to the chapel with the videographer to look at lighting. The organist was practising and as I walked into this beautiful, dark chapel with its stained-glass windows and wooden pews and the high vaulted ceiling overhead and it's old, solemn atmosphere, the music sounded glorious and triumphant and we both looked at each other and knew that we had to have that in our wedding. Can you guess what it was? One of my favourite hymns. Prince William and Kate had it during their wedding also.

I know it is the trend at the moment to have more modern music in wedding ceremonies, but I love that we chose classical, timeless music for our wedding. I still love listening to all three nearly 20 years later.

I'd love to know what music you had for walking down the aisle. It's a very personal choice, I think.

The Over-night Trip to the City

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A couple of weekends ago, Rob and I travelled to Auckland for the wedding of a family friend and decided to stay overnight in the city as the wedding would be sure to run late.

As I have mentioned before, we have a tradition every year to get away on our own for a weekend. We do it for our marriage. When you have 4 children who are all so busy, it's easy to put your relationship to the side for the sake of practicality. So once the kids reached a certain age, (because we don't have grandparents living locally), we have to coordinate it in with my parents where they come and mind the children for us so we can get away on our own.

Going up to the wedding was not the planned weekend that we usually have - it was supposed to be just an overnighter before coming back home, so after we had arranged a sleep over for the kids at a cousin's house, we decided to treat ourselves anyway, and went for a mystery voucher bought online. Once we had purchased it, we'd be told where would be going. We knew it would be a hotel in the city.

We struck gold, and I was clapping my hands when Rob told me we were staying at the Hilton Auckland!

Last time I stayed at a Hilton was in Turtle Bay, Hawaii, 22 years ago!

My husband loves Auckland. It's where he was born and grew up. Me, I like it, but I don't love it. It's not home for me, even though I lived there from the age of 13. Home for me is Marlborough, where I was born and where I spent my wonderful childhood.

The view from the Hilton Reception.

We pulled up outside the lobby of the Hilton in our red Suzuki Swift. (So glad we didn't travel up in our people-mover)! Haha!

Our room was lovely, looking out onto the pool area.

We barely had time to freshen up before heading to the wedding reception, and it was after midnight when we returned. The nightclubs were buzzing. There was a huge line of people outside one club, and a traffic jam of cars. We had to wait in the queue to drive quietly down to the hotel, which is perched out on a wharf over the ocean. It looks a little like a ship from a distance.

I have to say the beds at this hotel are amazing. You just sink into them. We had set the air-conditioning really low, so it was quite cold by the time we returned from the wedding. For the first time this summer, it felt so nice to curl up under the blankets rather than having to throw them off.

The thing I love about this hotel is the late checkout, which meant Rob and I could go and have a leisurely brunch in the hotel restaurant before leaving.

We checked out after our breakfast and headed into the city, with one shop in mind. Smith and Caugheys and Starbucks.

We had to take photos of every flash car we saw, for our car-crazy 10 year old son.

Before heading up to Queen Street, we stopped and wandered around the Maritime Museum. Always, always looking for the old Viking, the classic NZ yacht my Grandfather and Great Grandfather lovingly tended for many years, and who we used to play on when we were children and she was anchored in a little bay in Marlborough Sounds. But she is no longer there at the Maritime Museum, though she once was, many years ago, when we had afternoon tea on board with her owners.

As we walked up Queen Street, we were waiting at a pedestrian traffic light, when a group of Italian tourists came up to me. One of the ladies asked me in her beautiful Italian accent where a good place to eat was, because, as she said, "we are Italians, and we like to eat good food."

We headed to our favourite Department Store and wandered through, and bought a very beautiful vase to put in our new house. And then we finally headed for Starbucks for a coffee before hitting the road to go home.

It was such a lovely little respite for us, this quick jaunt to the city, that I am planning our getaway weekend up here later in the year. Rob was disappointed to see Queen Street looking so shabby and run down, but it was nice to visit Auckland again and to have a few hours just to enjoy this part of the city without distractions.

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