Sunday, 26 February 2017

February snapshot

At the risk of sounding like a giant cliche ... time is going so fast and I can't believe February is all but over. We haven't had much of a summer this year but have still been really busy with summery events - and that's Wellington for you. We can't plan on good weather so just get on with it anyway. Here's a snapshot of a few things I've been up to this month.

February snapshot

I've started Zumba again! I was worried about starting from scratch after 5 (may 6) year break, but it turns out that my muscle memory has stored lots of the moves for me and it's just a case of linking them together in different combinations. There are a few moves I'm struggling to unlearn and relearn but most others also have arms and legs flying in random directions with huge grins plastered on their faces, so I'm in good company.

Guns N' Roses came to town for their Not In This Lifetime tour. The rain cleared just enough for us to make our way to a stadium filled with 31,500 other wet bogans. I know I predicted that the tour would be a tragic, train wreck of an event, but still bought tickets ... and I'm so glad I did. The concert was better than I could have imagined and a full-on Slash show, who I now respect far more as a musician than I thought possible. Appetite for Destruction survives another decade.

Despite the best of intentions for Round the Bays last weekend, I ended up too sick to get out of bed on Sunday, let alone walk 10km. So that event will go back on my list for next year.

We enjoyed our annual camping trip at Himatangi Beach with around 20 friends. It was fine enough to pitch our tent overnight for what is likely to be our only camping trip this summer.

I read the novel Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. And then I watched the movie of the same name. Wow. As always, the book is far more detailed and nuanced than the movie, which rushed through the suspense and made it far too easy for viewers to guess what was going on. But, I repeat: wow! No clues or spoilers from me, just a recommendation to read the book (essential) and then watch the movie (if you feel the need).

It's actually been quite a musical month. I took my dad to see The Hollies Highway of Hits concert on Friday night. Core members of the group have been touring almost continuously since forming in 1962, which is an impressive feat. I'd seen The Hollies when they toured in 2011 and this show was pretty much the same as that one, but this time I had Dad in tow to enjoy a stroll down musical memory lane.

I ordered a present for myself: The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days recipe book. The original Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook is one of my favourites and now has a sister publication. I christened the book by making chocolate chip whoopie pies for Good Bitches Baking this weekend. I'm pleased to report that my first ever batch of whoopie pies passed the Weka household's quality controls with flying colours.

Chocolate chip whoopie pies


Monday, 6 February 2017

Revisionist History

It's been a summer of podcasts for me as I gradually clear the backlog of series and episodes that I would listen to "when I had time". Revisionist History is one of them, having been downloaded months ago and sitting in iTunes ever since.

Revisionist History is a bit different to your everyday podcast series. Presented by Malcolm Gladwell, whose famous works include The Tipping Point (2000), Blink (2005) and Outliers (2008), Revisionist History examines concepts and events that first appear one way but, upon exploration, are not quite what they seem. I found it hard to get into the series at first as I was always wondering "what's the twist?" and "why this angle?" But from the third episode onwards, when Gladwell examined societal inequities in the education system, I was hooked and raced through all ten episodes of series 1.

I enjoy Gladwell's brand of storytelling. He has an accessible and engaging style of presenting social psychology that invites listeners and readers to think and think again. Check out Revisionist History on iTunes or wherever you subscribe to podcasts.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Dear 30

The baby of our group celebrated a special birthday while we were away at new year. She was turning the big (little) 3-0 and feeling quite distraught about it. She worries her youth is over and is not yet convinced that she's actually entering the best decade of her life so far. Fair enough, too. I remember the painful third-life crisis that hit at 30. And then 32 became the five best years of my life.

Here are some things Dear 30 absolutely does (or does not) believe at this point in time but will soon learn - and it's just the beginning.

Dear 30

"I can have dessert now AND cake when we get back to our place. I go to the gym, you know."
Sure you can - but just for tonight because it's your birthday. Soon, going to the gym will no longer give you a lifetime pass for two desserts.

"My favourite shoes aren't that comfy but they look really good."
One day you'll reverse that statement and breathe a sigh of relief.

"I don't need to write it down. I'll remember it."
Ha ha ha ha ha ha! What's that thing called that you tow behind a car? Oh, a-a-a ... caravan! What three things did I need from the supermarket? Not the four things I came out with. Why did I walk into this room?? No idea ... *retraces steps and gets distracted by something else*.

"I don't need as much sleep as you guys. I can get up the morning after a late night out and still be fine for work."
Sleep is now the ultimate prize that you will do anything to win. You will come to covet it more than money, wine or a new car. #fact

"I dye my hair because I like it to be different shades, NOT because I have grey hair."
Yes, for now. But stretch out the time between colouring it just a bit longer than normal and check again.

"I ALREADY grown up. I've faced some pretty big life situations and dealt with responsibilities you'd never have dreamed of."
True, you certainly have. I had, too, by 30. But I vividly remember the moment I felt like a grown up. I was driving home from work after a very difficult day and night. I'd spent much of the day trying to deal with an unimaginable scene that had presented itself 24 hours earlier. I'd just been on the phone and made what I realised was my very first grown up decision. I was 35.

"I'm still young. Well, at least I'm younger than all of you."
Yes, you are. But soon age will become just a number and you'll choose to embrace it like we all have.

Happy birthday, Dear 30. The best is yet to come.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Someone Knows Something

I was a huge fan of series 1 of the Serial podcast. A true crime story told over several weeks, I marathoned one episode after another two summers ago and was left hanging out for more. The second series didn't grab me so much. I couldn't develop any empathy for the protagonist so have put it aside while hoping there may be a third series in development.

Someone Knows Something (SKS) is similar to Serial in that it is a true-crime podcast that develops over eleven episodes. Presented by Canadian writer and filmmaker David Rigden, SKS investigates the cold case of 5-year-old Adrien McNaughton, who disappeared without a trace while on a fishing trip in Eastern Ontario in 1972. It's a small town story re-examined decades later through fresh eyes.

SKS is not as sharp as Serial. Its pace is slower and generally less engaging. It's almost a journey back to a time to when things operated differently to how they do now. But it's still an interesting case and one that I enjoyed delving into.

Stories such as this cold case blur the lines between investigative journalism and what could (or should) have been part of a police investigation. I couldn't help asking myself why some potentially key witnesses were never interviewed at the time or aspects that we'd now consider standard practice in any investigation were seemingly overlooked. There may be valid reasons. Perhaps these techniques weren't available in 1972? Surely someone would (should) have sent out sniffer dogs before cadaver dogs were deployed to search for remains more than 40 years later?

I've already downloaded series 2, ready to listen to, perhaps in the form of another marathon session or during the next rainy weekend.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Rule of fifty

Life's too short to read a bad book. Actually, I decided a few years ago that life's too short for a lot of things, but I'll focus on books for now. You see, I've been reviewing the titles on my TBR (to be read) list and it's now longer than ever. I didn't manage to achieve my Goodreads reading challenge last year but have reset it once again to 24 books in 2017, or approximately one every two weeks. It doesn't sound like much but when my brain is at full to overload capacity, reading is one of the first pleasures to drop off.

I plan to stay on track with my reading challenge this year. Yes, really. You see, this year I have a strategy. I'm getting better at choosing books I'll finish but still struggle to abandon a book part-way through. It's just not in my nature to stop pursuing something; even if it takes forever, I'll finish it one day.

Book lover Nancy Pearl has come up with a true pearlism. It's called the rule of fifty and makes perfect sense to me as a reader. To quote Nancy Pearl:
"If you're fifty years of age or younger, give a book fifty pages before you decide to commit to reading it or give it up.

If you're over fifty, which is when time gets even shorter, subtract your age from 100. The result is the number of pages you should read before making your decision to stay with it or quit.

Since that number gets smaller and smaller as we get older and older, our big reward is that when we turn 100, we can judge a book by its cover!"
I still have many years until I can judge a book by its cover, but for now I'll give the rule of fifty a go and hopefully meet (or exceed) my reading goal as a result.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Kayaking to Cathedral Cove

Visitors to the Coromandel are spoilt for great scenery with lovely coves, bays and beaches interspersed with hilly landscapes and farmland. Having done most of our exploring on land, we took to the water to visit one of the region's most famous attractions, Cathedral Cove. Cathedral Cove Kayak Tours organises guided tours to the cove, which is only accessible by foot, boat or kayak.

Sea kayaks
Leaving from the beach at Hahei and paddling through the marine reserve at Mercury Bay on tandem sea kayaks, the tour is about three hours long. It took us an hour to kayak around to Cathedral Bay (at a leisurely pace - and with breaks to admire the scenery and learn about the landscape). We came ashore for morning tea at adjoining Mare's Leg Cove and walked through the beautiful, naturally formed archway.

Cathedral Cove
Cathedral Cove from Mare's Leg Cove
The Cathedral Cove Kayak Tours website boasts world famous cappuccino for morning tea. We certainly were impressed with the range of barista-standard coffees prepared on the beach by our guide while we explored the cove. You're seeing hot chocolates, lattes and a flat white in this picture.

Beach barista
The return journey took about 45 minutes, aided by rafting the kayaks together and putting up a pirate sail that pulled us along for a bit. The tour is quite expensive but still a great way even for beginner kayakers to experience this part of the Coromandel.