Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Lost and found

Last month, I received an email informing me that I'd won a $200 voucher to spend at a big ticket retailer as part of a monthly promotional draw. How exciting! The voucher was couriered to me a couple of days later and I thought about many ways I could use it to help set my new home office.

A few days later, a second $200 voucher arrived from the same person at the same retailer. Even the congratulatory note was identical.

My next step was obvious. I emailed her back, thanking her for the original voucher and explaining that a second one had arrived that day. Perhaps she could send a courier ticket for me to safely return the second voucher? Here is her response:
"Oh my! You're THE most honest person ever! I was just going through my voucher records trying to figure out where the missing voucher was. I'm so very sorry!"
A similar thank you message arrived once the voucher was returned, full of gratitude and seemingly surprised that I sent it back. I find it a bit sad that honesty is seen as unexpected, but there's no way that second voucher should be mine and it was immediately obvious that I must return it. Honesty is its own reward.

Yesterday, I was coming home from my morning walk and spotted some 'rubbish' in the front garden. It certainly hadn't been there when I left an hour earlier. I tweeted about it.

Mr Weka and I conferred; although the bank note was immediately outside our bedroom window, we didn't think either of us had dropped it. I checked that the cash I'd been paid a few days earlier was still in my wallet (it was). We agreed that $50 is a sizeable amount of cash to lose and that this situation was very different to the time when the weather gods blew a pair of women's track pants into our backyard, or the time that a book was anonymously hand delivered to my letter box - addressed to me.

I set up a twitter poll, but already knew that I would hand the money in at the local police station. The conversation following the poll reinforced that my decision is the right thing to do. $50 is a lot of money for someone to lose. Who knows what it was destined for? If it is unclaimed and eventually returned to me, I will donate it to charity. Honesty is its own reward.

I've lost a few special items before and searched endlessly for them. Some have monetary value while another has sentimental value beyond belief. My precious taonga is still out there somewhere. It's of no value to anyone outside of my whānau and I hope that karma helps bring it home to me. Honesty is its own reward.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

A new school year

It's back to school for many this week. There are family photos of children in pristine, oversized school uniforms all over Facebook and posts about teachers enjoying their last gasp of unstructured downtime for ten weeks. Not for me, though; I haven't taught in a classroom for years but a friend is beginning her primary teaching career today. We talked last night about how she's feeling equally nervous and excited.

I always enjoyed the start of each school term (and year) and remember my first day as a primary teacher like it was yesterday. Like all teachers, I'd been in a couple of weeks earlier getting things set up, planning, getting to know my colleagues, planning, attending teacher-only days, planning, setting up wall displays, planning ... I was planned and ready.

I got to school early on Day 1 and was having a final pep talk with my tutor teacher when the principal suggested I go up to my classroom because there were already some people there. It turns out that almost every child had arrived by 8:10 am with one or two parents in tow, eager to meet the 'new' teacher.

I took a deep breath, smiled and walked into my already crowded classroom. The introductions were warm and welcoming as parents and children alike had eagerly anticipated my arrival. My plan to remember all the children's names by morning tea (Classroom Management 101) was now extended to remembering parents' names - as well as who they each belonged to. You know what they say about plans, right?

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all came from one child who asked what school I went to. I answered correctly and watched her pull my class photo out of her school bag. It turns out I was in her auntie's class when she was a first year teacher in the 1980s. Suddenly, a crowd gathered as my 6-year-old self upstaged New Teacher me and I realised the ice was well and truly broken.

To all teachers beginning or continuing their journeys this week, I hope you enjoy the freshness and promise that a new year brings before the grind sets in. Bonus points if you create some lifelong memories that make you smile many years later.

Friday, 19 January 2018

I don't like celery

A while ago, my nephew had commandeered my phone when an email notification popped up with the subject line You've been paid. Here's how our conversation went:
"Hey, I've been paid!" he announced.
"Oh, good! I like those emails," I replied.
"Who paid me?" he asked.
"No, I've been paid," I said.
"What for?" he wondered.
"It's my salary," I told him.
"You get paid with celery??" He didn't sound impressed.
"No, I get paid with money. But I can buy celery if I want," I explained.
"I don't like celery," he concluded.
That's a pretty fair reaction. While we all like salary of the financial variety, my father in particular is always keen to voice his dislike for celery the vegetable and his mistrust of any food that is calorie neutral - because eating shouldn't require such hard work. I don't mind celery and will add it to soups or keep stalks in the fridge to munch on while trying to distract myself from cheese cravings. It sometimes works.

One of my summer projects has been to plant my first ever vegetable patch - a tiny square metre garden in a sunny spot in the back yard. I planted some seeds for salad greens, beans, cucumber and celery of the vegetable variety. I'll see if anything comes of them in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I'm happy to receive salary to buy celery. But my nephew is still not convinced.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

What to do with stuff

I have a love-hate relationship with stuff. I'm not a shopper by any description but I still find that stuff accumulates and hangs around until it reaches a tipping point that triggers a big declutter.

My approach to decluttering, gardening and housework are similar but not always effective: some is better than nothing. I want to get on top of all three this year. (Yes, I probably say that every year.) While I'll never be Marie Kondo, I plan to look at stuff through different eyes.

Nice but not quite me
I like this approach to decluttering for busy people. It's similar to my own pruning process and got me thinking about different ways to see and use stuff, rather than just insisting it's all gone at once.

You don't have to bin everything

What to do with stuff

I'm going to take this approach in 2018.

Use it
If you have it, use it. Erma Bombeck was right when she urged us to burn the pink candle that was sculptured like a rose. Use the fancy olive oil every day along with the good vanilla extract, the decorative tea towels, the luxurious bath towels and gift vouchers long before they expire.

Donate it
If you're not going to use it, donate it. If you've read it, watched it or not worn it for 10 years, donate it. There are charity shops and causes that need donations of quality clothing, books, kitchen equipment, linen and more. There's no point collecting hotel shampoo and conditioner bottles, individually packaged bars of soap or linen that doesn't fit any bed you own. Your local refuge will make better use of it  rather than letting it all sit in your junk cupboard.

Gift it
But what about that thing that is 'too good' to donate? Gift it to someone you know who needs, wants or will use it. Put it in the present cupboard with a specific name label attached or just give it to the person when you see them next. You don't have to wait for an occasion.

Freeze it
Don't forget to freeze it. (This one is related to use it.) I'm good at stocking my freezer with basic ingredients (meat and vegetables), mostly bought in bulk and frozen in meal-size portions. While I'll never be someone who has a detailed menu planner on the fridge door, I plan to use all the ingredients I already have before aimlessly buying more. I want to freeze more cooked meals, either by cooking double portions and freezing half or just having an occasional Sunday afternoon binge cooking session to take some pressure off during busy weekdays.

Recycle it
There are many ways to recycle it. Use it and recycle the packaging. Regift it to the right person (and not just because you're being cheap). If you're not going to use it, donate it or gift it, dismantle it and recycle the components.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Toll house biscuits

Good Bitches Baking is back in action for 2018, spreading home baked sweetness in the community. My first bake for this year is a version of Allyson Gofton's toll house biscuits. I substituted dried fruit for some of the chocolate chips and mixed it with white chocolate instead. Almost any combination would work so see what's in your pantry and have fun experimenting.

Toll house biscuits

  • 175 g butter, softened
  • 165 g brown sugar
  • 165 g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 315 g flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 cup dried mixed fruit (apricots, cranberries, sultanas), finely chopped
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (white, milk, dark)
  1. Line two baking trays with baking paper and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars together until light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. Sift the flour and baking powder evenly over the creamed mixture. Sprinkle over the dried fruit and chocolate chips. Fold together.
  4. Roll the mixture into 40 gram balls and place on the baking trays. Leave enough room between each ball for the cookies to spread when cooking. Lightly press down with a fork.
  5. Refrigerate the baking trays and cooking dough for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 180°C. Bake for 20 minutes or until the biscuits are lightly brown and firm to touch. 
  7. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.
Makes 30 biscuits.

Toll house biscuits

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Ice cream spiders

It's warm and sunny in Wellington today. Sure, there's wind - but that's to remind us of which city we live in. After a few wintry days inside, I decided to spend an hour wrangling the hebe bushes and deadheading the proteas that have been thriving since the early arrival of summer this year.

It was hot work and reminded me of summer days when the whole family got stuck into outdoor work at home. I don't remember having much success in Mum's garden but I do remember our reward if we helped: Dad would make us an ice cream spider - and there was nothing better in the middle of a hot afternoon when we'd been working hard.

Here's how it worked. We'd sit at the kitchen bench and watch Dad place one or two scoops of ice cream into a tall glass that was kept especially for this occasion (along with the extra tall teaspoons that could reach all the way to the bottom). He'd bring it over to us and pour Coke all the way to the top. Sometimes he plonked a straw in so we could sip up the last of the liquid at the bottom. There were no cherries, berries, cream, wafers, syrup or sprinkles in our spiders; simplicity was the key. You had to be alert, though; fizzy drink and ice cream could quickly overflow if you didn't catch it in time, which is why Dad assembled them right in front of us.

These days, I'm not much of an ice cream fan and haven't drunk fizzy drinks in more than 20 years, but nostalgia hit hard while I was gardening and I suddenly felt like a spider. I settled for a handful of ripe cherries and some leftover gingerbread instead.