Tuesday, 12 February 2019

I would not, could not in the shower

We had an interesting conversation in the office last week. I have no idea how it started but clearly remember the moment it changed tack. Someone (it might have been me) stopped and asked a colleague for clarification: "you drink tea in the shower??" 

A quick office poll revealed most of my team were as surprised as me. How does it work? Don't you get soap and shampoo and other stuff in it? What if you spill it? Doesn't it taste awful? The simple answer was "no", but no further information was provided.

My curiosity couldn't let it go. This now called for a Twitter poll. The results mostly confirmed what I knew already and also furthered the conversation.

But seriously, how does it work? Several people offered suggestions. Many shared that they take cups of tea or glasses of wine to drink while relaxing in the bath. (A friend takes it one step further and pops her Kindle into a zip-lock bag to complement her bath wine experience.) That makes perfect sense. The surfaces are relatively flat, the floor is not too far away and water or other substances are not potentially falling from above into an open vessel. It's the 7% who frequently shower with hot drinks and the 9% who have tried it that intrigue me.

This is not me
How do they do it? Splash-proof lids? Children's sippy cups? Or do they have gigantic walk-in showers with separate shelves away from the shower head that means they can quickly take a sip before stepping back under the water?

I'm reminded of a couplet from my favourite Dr Seuss book, Green Eggs and Ham - slightly revised for this new context.
I would not, could not, in the shower
I would not, could not, at any hour
I still don't understand how it works.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Pick-a-path story walk: Auckland edition

Travelling for work or business can be an adventure made all the more fun if you have time to explore a new neighbourhood. It might a restaurant I've seen online, coffee recommended by the Twitterverse or a scenic walk. Of course, meeting schedules don't always allow time for exploring, especially if I'm flying in and out on the same day.

I know Auckland's CBD reasonably well but mostly in the context of getting there, finding where I need to go, going to where I need to be and then making my way back to the airport bus with greatest possible efficiency. Often I'm travelling with a friend. We usually have coffee and brunch at Depot, check out luxury homeware that we can't afford and enjoy a treat at Milse on the way to a concert.

Today, I had a few spare hours to explore Auckland's CBD. What would I do? Twitter gave me an idea for an activity that took my navigating to a whole new level.

Imagine a real life choose your own adventure story-style right in the area you're working and staying! That's the Pick-a-path story walk: Skub or No Skub that begins by reading instructions on a lamp post at the corner of Commerce and Tyler Streets and ends wherever your adventure takes you.

There is a basic website with all the pages if you get stuck or discover a missing page. It's not optimised for mobile phones so is a bit clunky to read but came in handy when I couldn't find the next clue. (I think my adventure had two missing pages as I could only see plastic ties around the lamp posts holding what should have been laminated pages.) Also, this Wellingtonian found Google Maps invaluable as I didn't always get a sense from the basic maps on the pages where I should be going and where to look once I got there. (Side note: there sure is a lot of building and construction going on in Auckland right now. Streets and landmarks look quite different if you only visit once every year or two!)

I won't give away any spoilers other than to say that my adventure happened in eight pages. They took me around several blocks before coming to a rather unfortunate end involving a "messy descent into conflict" and my character being arrested on unknown charges. *gasp!*

This is a really cool activity idea and one that would be great for creative folk in other towns and cities to develop for their own communities.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Brain Stuff podcast

I've listened to more podcasts during the past two years than ever before. They are a convenient way of accessing information and entertainment on the go and an easier way to multitask when you've got other things to do. They're also great if I'm too tired to read, which is challenging if I'm lying down with my eyes closed.

Brain Stuff from HowStuffWorks is a short, snappy daily podcast that covers almost every topic you can think of as well as dozens you never thought to ask about. Each episode is 4-7 minutes long, which leaves just enough time to fold some washing, empty the dishwasher or get dressed. Find out why helium makes your voice squeaky, try and understand why we sleep, learn about London's train for the dead and explore thousands of other topics.

If you like Stuff You Should Know, the formula will be familiar and the style appealing. Grab one or binge on a few; they're easy to follow and a good way to learn something new every day.

Monday, 31 December 2018

2018 highlights reel

2018 has been an epic year for me. A lot has happened and, while there were some rough patches, it's the first year in many that I can say has been a good one. As we prepare to move into a new year, I've been thinking about what was great in 2018, what I still need to work on and what 2019 might look like. But first, here are some of the many highlights I experienced in 2018.

2018 highlights reel

  • I made huge changes to the way I manage my career this year and so far they have paid off. I'm now a self-employed contractor working four days a week and it's made all the difference to my personal and professional life ... but more about this later. 
  • I learned how to better manage my energy, using it when and how I needed to and according to my own priorities instead of other people's. I said no to someone's significant request for the first time in many, many years. I still feel bad about it but am learning that it was the right decision for us both - and one that I was entitled to make.
  • My extended whānau travelled to the Cook Islands for our cousin's wedding in Rarotonga. We had an amazing time exploring this beautiful island while welcoming a new member to our whānau.
  • I can (usually) fall asleep and stay asleep through the night now without staying awake for several hours pondering the state of the world and my place in it. Usually.
  • Although reading for pleasure fell through the floor, my professional reading went through the roof. I'm going to count that as a highlight.
There's always next year.
  • I listened to endless podcasts this year. Podcasts are a great way of accessing information on the go and also balance out the times when I want to learn something but don't have the energy or brain power to read it.
  • The next generation of Weka whānau musicians has awoken, starting with a very excitable 10 year old who is now the proud owner of his first bass guitar (to go along with learning piano and guitar) and a super-excited auntie who can't wait to introduce him to our world of music.
  • I planted the world's tiniest vege patch (1m²) in spring and now enjoy salads for lunch made with freshly grown lettuce. My carrots and beans look ready to harvest, although I'm still searching for the cucumbers.
What have been your highlights in 2018?

Sunday, 16 December 2018

NZSO Christmas Pops

Of all the gifts I'm blessed with, music is the one I'm most grateful for. Music is the blood that runs through our family. It's who and how we are. It's our identity. It's a passion we share and also one that divides us as we analyse and debate the ins and outs of what we're listening to, what we're watching and how to play it. It's led to a solid work ethic, a love of performing and many years of entertaining others.

Mr 10 is latest to be bitten by our musical bug. Our family are currently arguing (with him) about how many instruments he should be allowed to learn simultaneously. We've settled on 2-3 for now, on condition that piano with theory is number 1, followed by guitar and then maybe bass.

This week, I won tickets to the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra's final performance for 2018, Christmas Pops. It's always a treat to attend a NZSO performance, but pops orchestra programmes offer a great introduction to symphony orchestras by mixing up lighthearted classical arrangements of popular show tunes. It was obvious who would come to the concert with me, and I'm not sure who was more excited: Mr 10 anticipating his first orchestral experience, or me being able to share our family's love of music in yet another way. 

From the moment we took our seats, Mr 10 was fascinated. How many instruments could we see? (Too many to count!) Look at all those cellos and double basses! The orchestra took their seats and started tuning. "Wow, even that sounds amazing!" he declared. What instrument is making that sound? (It's an oboe ... oh, now listen to the clarinets!) He watched and listened and joined in the mass chorus numbers with open excitement. So did I!

The programme featured mostly Christmas music, including carols, songs, movie themes and classical works. Australian mezzo-soprano Jacqui Dark was the orchestra's special guest. Her introduction was a beautiful tear-inducing rendition of Climb Ev'ry Mountain from The Sound of Music, taking me back to my teenage years. She entertained and delighted with every number and even bravely attempted the New Zealand version of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

The biggest musical highlight for me was a suite of three pieces from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker, my favourite ballet and the centrepiece of my Christmas playlist. Of course, Mr 10 loved the arrangement of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, even if he was a bit shy when singing along. (I wasn't - but he's still young enough to not be embarrassed by me doing things like that ... yet.)

The only lowlight of the evening was the late start time for what is essentially a family show. 7.30 pm in summer is fine for grown-ups, but a 9.30 pm finish for little people, even overexcited budding musicians trying their very best to drink in every moment, was all a bit much. He slept well last night!

How special that the NZSO could share the gift of music with a whole new generation. I'm sure many fans were made last night.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Louis Sergeant's tasting plates

Louis Sergeant has a new home at the top of Lambton Quay. The decor has been refreshed and now boasts a street-facing store front to entice hungry customers in for afternoon tea. There are fewer tables and no kitchen on site so the selection now focuses on a more refined and predominantly sweet menu. The high tea menu has also been refreshed. There are now nine sweet items (no savoury) available Wednesday to Sunday.

Even with a refined menu, you're really spoiled for choice. Everything looks so perfectly appealing. If you can't decide, I'd recommend a tasting plate of three petits fours and coffee or hot chocolate for $14. The selection changes frequently and features miniature versions of the full sized patisserie items. My platter gave me explosions of flavour featuring chocolate, hazelnut, choux pastry, lemon, vanilla and pistachio ... and an appetite to return and try three more treats another day.

Tasting plate