They're Changing Flags...

Sunday, May 17, 2015
I quite like our New Zealand flag. I have no objection to it.
The union jack gives testament to our historic ties to England, and the four stars of the Southern Cross represent our place on the planet.

But there are winds of change afoot, and a new flag is being discussed and will be voted on soon.

How do you feel about a flag change?

I have no strong feelings either way. I like the current flag. I like it's historic significance, but I also think it says a lot about our small country that we are discussing a change. Does this mean we're feeling independent enough to assert our growing autonomy?

In thinking about this debate, I keep coming back to the Canadian flag. It is arguably, one of the most recognisable flags in the world and was chosen as the official flag in 1965. Previously, it also emblazoned the majestic Union Jack. In using just red and white and a large Maple leaf, we all know which country this flag belongs to. It's simple, but it stands out. I would hope that New Zealand would adopt similar guides. Simple and bold.

Whatever the reason, the changing of the flag has generated a lot of debate and quite a bit of creativity. Any New Zealander is free to submit ideas for a new flag, and I have been perusing some of them and decided to list a few of my favourites.

1. Design by Martin Caie from Auckland

I like this one a lot, because it is simple, keeps traditional colours and stands out.
It's a little too similar to the flag of the State of Texas.


Or this variation, but I do not like black in a flag, for the reasons that it is dreadfully dull - I like colour - and because of the current association of black with the IS flag.

This design by Ryan Maxwell from Auckland


2. Designed by Martin Hermans from Auckland

PROS: This is actually one of my favourite designs. It keeps the traditional royal blue, the Southern Cross and changes the union jack slightly to also represent our Maori heritage.
CONS: Not much of a change from the original?

3. Designed by Kyle Lockwood from Auckland

PROS: This is currently my favourite. I like the traditional colours, the inclusion of the Southern Cross and the large white silver fern which has special significance to us kiwis. It just kind of has that official look too, if you know what I mean.

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4. Designed by Simon Aiken from International

PROS: My husband likes this one - he thinks it's original and quirky. Me, not so much, but I appreciate the design originality. It incorporates the Southern Cross, the red, white and blue, has a nod to Maori tukituki (slightly stretching it there), and is forward thinking in the digital code.
CONS: Not really visually identifiable as kiwi.

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5. Designed by Andrew Sims from Auckland
PROS: I really, really like this flag. It would be instantly recognisable. Probably in my top favourites.


There are dozens of flag designs that have been submitted, and you can view them all here. What I think would be a good idea for the government to do once the final designs are chosen for the vote, is to make the flags up and fly them from a mast, as that would give us a better idea of how it would look at official occasions. What do you think?

Which one do you like?

The Royal Tradition of Familial Baby Names

Tuesday, May 5, 2015
There has been quite a bit of discussion in our household over the naming of the newest Princess.

Having our own little Alice and the girl next door called Charlotte, there have been two little girls very excited to see whether their name would be chosen.

I guess the girl next door won, but Alice was not to be disappointed. Elizabeth is also her second name.

I really love the tradition of naming babies after family members. It is obviously something that is important in the Royal household, but what about you? Have you used family names when naming your own children?

We did a mixture.

When I was studying New Zealand history I discovered that Maori had a long tradition of naming their babies after family members who had passed away around or near to the time of the birth, or named after significant places or important events. I think it's a wonderful tie to the past - a link to honour those who have made our existence possible. For Maori, before they had their written language, it was a way of recording past events.

Our eldest son Hugh takes his name from at least 5 generations of Hugh's. There's a family legend involving the original Hugh who sailed out to New Zealand from Scotland, but that is a story for another day. His middle name is after a New Zealand judge who was my husband's godfather. But we later found out it was also a surname on my husband's side.

Our eldest daughter's first name is a name we chose because we liked it, but her second name is Frances, after her paternal grandmother. Many (not all) of her first born girl cousins have the same second name in honour of their grandmother who passed away before she even met any of her grandchildren.

Our third child's second name is after my maternal Grandfather, Roy Spencer, MBE. I have always liked the name Spencer, and I once promised my dear Grandad that one day I would name one of my children after him. Probably a foolish promise to make, but in my youthful enthusiasm it was a way of me telling him how much I loved him.

And Elizabeth was chosen as a second name for Alice. It is a favourite family name going back through my mother's lineage. We can trace it as far back as the early 1800's. There is an Elizabeth in every generation.

How do you choose your names? Do you mix it up like we did, or are you like the royals and go for family names through and through?

Hunting The Dead In A Beautiful Place

Tuesday, April 7, 2015
One of my favourite things to do is to hunt down the dead.

Ancestry research is great fun. If you like puzzles and you like mysteries, this is a pastime that is as much thrilling as it is enlightening.

Rob and I pulled up alongside the Waikumete cemetery in Auckland on a warm Saturday afternoon. We had called ahead during the week, so we had a fair idea of where Great Grandfather x3 Foley was buried.

We squeezed through the overgrown hedge and found ourselves in one of the oldest grave sites of early New Zealand. A beautiful, sloping green field dotted with the grey, crumbling headstones of our ancestors. Many were still in good repair, but many were rusty and broken and fallen, overgrown with grass and briar roses, where the earth had sunken around the buried coffins, and the concrete sealing some of the graves had lifted away from the foundations, cracking and twisting through the hundreds of years of sun and rain and nature's ceaseless and unfettered march.

As Rob explained to me, the cemetery employees, as a government-owned entity is responsible for the upkeep of the grounds, not for the upkeep of the graves. That is left for family to tend to, and as the years pass, and family pass too, the dead are forgotten and abandoned. It's only when we, the young and the living wish to seek our roots and familial connections that we look for them again and come to find the final resting places of our kinsmen.

On my mother's maternal side, we have a rich oral and written history, but on her mother's father's side there is not much information at all. I think my Great Grandmother's family had a strong and large unit of aunties and uncles and cousins and a close bond with their Maori heritage that it dominated the family stories and connections, but in the last month I found myself wondering about my mother's grandfather and his origins, so I began a little digging around to see what came up.

Stephen Foley, my Great grandfather died a couple of years after I was born, and as I hunted around I discovered that his grandfather and grandmother, John and Hannah Sarah Foley immigrated to New Zealand among the first early settlers of the 1800s, and they came from Ireland.

We had always suspected we had Irish blood, not the least because throughout my lifetime people would always refer to the dark ring around my green eyes as being Irish. The legend goes that if you have that, you have Irish blood.

Well, now I've proven it. My Great x3 grandfather was Irish. His wife was Welsh, and they came to New Zealand to start afresh. He was a book binder, and he died in Auckland in 1893 and was buried in the Roman Catholic Division of the Waikumete Cemetery.

But as Rob and I wandered up and down, we failed to find the Foley headstone.

The old part of the cemetery is not very well organised. We were told John Foley was buried in Row 1, plot 63, so we wandered up and down, checking. Some graves were unreadable. There would be moss grown over the etchings or the words had faded into oblivion. We couldn't be sure if we were looking at our family member's headstone or not.

So we drove back to the office. Twice.

If I had the job of working in a cemetery I would be so interested if people turned up looking for an ancestor. I would love to help in the hunt, doing what I could to assist, but the staff at the Waikumete Cemetery were either extremely bored, depressed or just didn't love what they did for a living, because we had to go back twice to find the information. The second time we struck a different staff member and she was more helpful, if slightly bored, and brought out a large ancient cardboard plan of the old cemetery. We had to use the magnifying glass to find the written number on the tiny, faded squares that represented the plot sites, and when we did find it, it was the one part of the old, worn cardboard sheet that had torn and worn away, just like the graves. No markings. No number. No record. The upkeep and record keeping is very poor, in my opinion. This needs to be rectified as soon as possible to preserve history for future generation.

What had happened to my Great great great grandparents original headstone, I do not know. The cemetery had a record of the etching with their names and dates of death, but there was nothing that remained to physically mark the graves, other than a slight indentation in the earth. John's wife Hannah is buried in plot 61 - also unmarked, and John's grave is a double grave, his daughter Elizabeth dying 6 years before him, 4 months after her mother, in 1887. When John died, he was buried on top. Why did Elizabeth, my Great great Aunt and her mother die so closely together - within a few months? This is another piece of the puzzle.

We did find them - we know where they are buried now, but there is nothing to mark it, other than this old tree that grows over the site.

We photographed the graves beside.

and recorded the site for our future reference.

I am going to look into getting a small marker for John and Elizabeth and Hannah. It doesn't seem right that the two people who gave us the privilege of being new Zealanders don't have anything tangible to remember them by, other than their genetic gift of their many descendents. I hope we can rectify that.

John Foley born 1814, County Carlow, Ireland
Book Binder. 
Died aged 80 years, April 16, 1893 in Auckland, New Zealand

His wife,
Hannah Sarah Foley, born 1820, Glamorgan, Wales
Died, aged 66, 7 February 1887
Occupation: Domestic

Their daughter Miss Elizabeth Mary Foley (buried with John)
born in London, 1857
died in Auckland, 30 May, 1887 (age 29 years)
Occupation: Domestic

Buried in the Roman Catholic division of the Waikumete Cemetery, Auckland
Row 1, Plots 61 and 63.

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:

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