Thursday, 30 September 2010

Ukulele days

It's time for an update on my 101 in 1001 project. After all, time is ticking away and it's only another five or so months until I'm due to finish. Following on from my 1 year to go roundup, I've made some progress. Two goals that go hand-in-hand are my modified goals: #17 - Start a ukulele orchestra and #18 - Create ukulele orchestra wiki. I can assure you these have been lots of fun.

A couple of months ago, a colleague and I set up a ukulele orchestra at work. We tentatively asked for an expression of interest and, once we had six responses, started getting together for weekly lunchtime practices. It has really taken off! We now average 10-12 people coming each time and have more than 20 people in the group, including our CEO who went out and bought a ukulele specially. Wow!

To communicate, share music, and keep everybody up-to-date with what's going on, I have set up a simple wiki. For privacy reasons, I won't post the link to it. It's basic but functional and I have really enjoyed putting it together, adding and updating content when I get a chance to.

My ukulele playing has really come along, especially in recent weeks during which time I've been playing almost every day. After having so much fun at the Wellington Ukulele Summer Fiesta earlier this year, a group of us are going to join in with the Ukulele Spring Spectacular at the Botanic Gardens Sound Shell this Sunday. Yep, lots of ukulele madness going on lately!

I realise that my third ukulele activity, #92 - Learn to play the ukulele, is open-ended. I'll keep it 'open' for now and perhaps tick it off later in the year once I have improved a bit more. I'm getting there. :-)

Tuesday, 28 September 2010


Yesterday's lighthearted  flurry about OCD on Twitter opened a can of worms. Check out the #OCD hashtag and you will see what I mean. We're not talking about superstitions or actual disorders, here. It's more like things that someone has to do in a particular way or a certain number of times. The Twitterverse disclosed everything imaginable, from ironing clothes and underwear before travelling, not celebrating a birthday until the minute of your birth, walking on cracks evenly in the concrete (or avoiding them), or opening computer programmes in a specific order so they line up correctly on your task bar. (I can empathise with this one.)

There's a great joke that goes something along the lines of, "I have CDO, which is OCD but spelt in alphabetical order like it should be". I love it. (Check out the title for this post.) There are certain things that bother me, but I also enjoy poking fun or annoying people who fuss over silly things. For example, an ex used to insist that the openings of pillowcases on the bed pointed away from the door. (Apparently it is an old Scottish tradition - ha!) Guess which way I put the pillows now? ;-)

I know someone who arranges her wardrobe according to skirts, shirts, tops, dresses, coats etc (and it won't be in the order I've just described), then each category is shaded from dark to light. I know there was something to do with seasons in her order but can't remember exactly what. Incidentally, she's an accountant.

Here are some of my particular OCD tendancies. I'm sure there would be dozens more to add if I gave it some more thought.
  • Clocks and calendars: they have to be correct. Each month, I am the one who changes the calendar to show the new month. We changed to daylight savings time this weekend. All our clocks at home and in the car seem to be ok and I quickly changed the time on the clock in my office, but I've noticed several other clocks in high places that are still an hour behind and that really bugs me. The funny thing is, I can't stand to wear a watch.
  • Picture frames: they have to be straight unless the display is designed to be otherwise. The same goes for posters. Someone thought I was taking down a new poster at work the other day; no, I was just straightening it. I'm still relatively new so my colleagues don't quite know how to take me yet. They'll find out.
  • Coathangers: mine have to all be hanging over the wardrobe rail (not hooking under) and skirts, tops and dresses have to face to the left. My sweetie is the opposite (although he insists it doesn't bother him); his shirts all face to the right. I try not to let it drive me nuts.
  • Numbers: when I have a group of something, I like them to be even numbers or multiples of 5. 10 is good, 11 not, 12 is fine, 13 not, 14-15-16 are all ok ... get it? I don't know why.
  • Clothes pegs: their colours have to match. I used to be really fussy with this, even to the extent that all socks had to be hung with the same colour, or tops etc. I'm a lot better now but still like to hang each item with matching clothes pegs.
What are your #OCD tendancies?

Friday, 24 September 2010

Savoury or sweet?

It really is the small things in life that make things good. Sunshine, duckies, coffee, cupcakes, new laptops (ok, that's not so small – I'll tell you about it later). I buy a daily coffee at our work cafeteria. As soon as our barista sees my takeaway coffee cup entering the room, she knows that my order will be a trim latte. It always tastes good and is a little treat I can look forward to each day.

And then there is Friday. Apart from the obvious, general jubilation associated with Fridays, Friday is cheese scone day at work. It is the only day of the week when I will buy food to go with my coffee treat – kind of a reward for making it through another week without causing too much mayhem and destruction to everyone around me.

As I sat down to enjoy my latte and scone today, a colleague, Claire, noted that I should be drinking tea instead. Apparently savoury foods, such as cheese scones, go with tea and sweet treats, like chocolate and cake, go with coffee. What?? I quickly educated her in my aversion to tea and my love for coffee; this was not going to wash with Claire. Another colleague, Henry, wandered past. "Mmm, is that a cheese scone?" he asked. "I might get one."

The question was quickly put to him: should cheese scones (being a savoury food) be eaten with tea or coffee? What was he going to have with it? Henry, like me, replied that he’d never really thought about it. Once again, Claire remained unconvinced. She gave us an extreme example of a coffee-tea crime; apparently she knows someone who adds kahlua (coffee flavoured) to his tea. Yuck. (I'd agree – tea is yuck.) Henry went off to buy a cheese scone; I don't know what drink he settled on. I'm guessing it was tea, as I haven't heard Claire tell him off yet for mixing savoury with coffee.

So, what do you think? I agree that there are certain food and drink matches that work perfectly, and others that probably aren't good combinations, but how about the whole savoury/sweet/tea/coffee thing?

(I remain unconvinced; almost anything can complement either coffee. The same goes for chocolate. Mmm, chocolate.)

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

What wine are you?

Apparently this quick quiz from New World supermarkets can tell you what wine you are. After going on a few wine trails in Blenheim and Martinborough, I have a fair idea of what I like, but this has come after trying about 100 different wines of various varieties and from numerous vineyards. Would a simple quiz be able to reach the same conclusions as our wine tastings? We'll see.

Pinot noir. Really? Hmmm. Obviously not.

I have tried the #1 recommendation in question, Russian Jack Pinot Noir 2009, at a cheese tasting event I went to recently. It was ok and a good match for the bruschetta we were eating, but not something I'd buy a bottle (or glass) of.

What's your wine match? Did the quiz work for you?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Stormy weather

For a couple of days, we have been warned that the biggest storm on the planet is making its way towards New Zealand. The size of Australia, this storm has promised severe wind and weather conditions up and down the country - bad even for Wellingtonians, who are used to being blown around a bit.

We waited. We got a bit of rain. The sun came out. It was fine. And then the storm hit at lunch time. Cool!

I seemed to be the only one in my office actually excited by the storm. I counted the seconds between the lightning and thunderbolts (the storm was practically right above us at one point!) and looked out the window at the hail pelting the cars in the car park. I jumped out of my chair and whooped in delight at one particularly long flash of lightning but looked around the office to see everybody else with their heads down, hunched over their computers and pounding away at 'important' work. Is nobody else excited by thunder and lightning?

I realise that storms aren't everybody's idea of a fun day. Let me qualify my love of thunderstorms by saying that they are great when I'm safely inside, warm and dry, and in no risk of damage. Today's storm (I'm not sure if it's finished yet) is a great example.

As a teacher, I spent more than my fair share of time in a classroom with around 30 youngsters during wet and stormy weather. I remember one particularly bad storm. Most of my class of 7-8 year olds had their noses pressed up against the window watching the rain drive down and counting the seconds between the lightning flashes and thunder bolts. Some were less interested and a few were a little scared.

One 8-year-old boy was absolutely terrified. Having spent the first six years of his life in a Russian orphanage after being abandoned by his gypsy mother in the snow one night, wrapped only in a blanket, he had experienced horrors beyond what most of us could ever imagine. The sound of thunder conjured up memories of army tanks for him; I don't know why, and he couldn't explain it to me. I just knew that his terror was real, even in the safety of his school on the other side of the world. He and I spent many storms huddled on the floor while he shook, sobbing in my arms.

And now the skies are blue and the wind has died down, although the temperature has noticeably dropped and I can see the clouds regathering. Did the weather bomb hit you, or is it still on its way? Does that scare or excite you (or neither)?

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Spring roundup

So, where did the past week or so go? The days are whizzing by like The Flash at the moment. I'm loving how our days are getting longer after a long, wet and dreary winter and look forward to daylight saving in a couple of weeks' time. I'm noticing that even in busy times there sometimes seems more hours in the day to do things if it's light when I get home from work.
  • Spring is here. We're still getting our fair share of rain, but I'm seeing apple blossom everywhere and little families of duckies along the riverbank beside work.
  • Some of my 'in between' clothes have started making it out of the wardrobe - not quite summer clothes yet, but no longer several winter layers, either. I can't wait until the day I can put my big winter coat in for dry cleaning and pack it away for another year.
  • I'm going through a ukulele feast at the moment, where almost every day at work offers another opportunity to play. While Tuesday is our regular ukulele orchestra day, there have been many other occasions when a ukulele is called for. Strange but fun.
  • I started my dream job last week. While a couple of days have almost entirely been written off due to an office shift and some big network outages, it's is such a buzz to be working back in a field that I love and have years of experience in. Full speed ahead!
  • While I never go far without my trust iPod, I'm finding it an absolute necessity at work during the day. I seem to be part of a pod of plugged-in colleagues, each with their heads down and their ears plugged in. It's good as I get to listen to some of my favourite music that I haven't heard in a long time. Someone next to me must have quite similar taste in music to me; I've wondered a couple of times if I've left my iPod going by accident. It turns out I can just hear it through his headphones.
  • I won tickets to see Shipwrecked! at Circa Theatre last week. While I usually review shows or events I've been to, I found it hard coming up with enough to say about the play. It was ok, if you're into that style of storytelling.
  • I went laptop shopping and cake mixer shopping this weekend. Yes, I'm planning to buy two toys for myself, hoping to make the most of the current prices before GST rises on 1 October. I've nearly made a decision on both items ...
  • I've found another local Zumba class on Sundays and it's absolutely free! I might even go next weekend. ;-)
How are things with you? What have you been up to lately?

Sunday, 5 September 2010

How old is your baby?

Babies are curious creatures. They elicit polarised reactions from other human beings; some turn to mush at the sight of a gurgling miniature human being and start cooing appreciatively, while others couldn't be more eager to get away from the squirming/slurping/sleeping bundle placed before them.

There are certain protocols that are expected from baby admirers (that is, anyone in the immediate vicinity of their parents or grandparents), regardless of which camp they belong to. It seems easy to get it right: throw out a generic compliment (which the parent always accepts as their own achievement, eg 'he's cute', followed by 'thank you', as though it was something they have done themselves!) and you're off the hook. So long as you get it right, that is.

A few years ago, I was staying at family-run beach accommodation in Samoa. They would serve up communal meals each night and sometimes join us for dinner. One night, a burly baby dressed in a blue stretch-n-grow crawled among the guests, under the watchful eye of an aunt. Someone picked the baby up and asked, 'what's his name?'. 'Felicity,' was the reply. Oops. It was left to another guest to break the embarrassed silence.

A former colleague of mine, Jenefer, had a great strategy for avoiding potential minefields like this. When faced with a pram containing a baby of indiscriminate sex and being expected to front up with a suitable comment, she would ask, 'how old is your baby?'. She figured that the parent would gush, 'oh, she's 11 weeks on Tuesday', or something similar, giving a further clue to go on with. Jenefer insisted her strategy was fail-safe; it was hard to find fault with her logic. I stored it away for future use.

We spent last week near the mountain, where my sweetie grabbed various opportunities to ski during breaks in the weather. One afternoon, I sat in a sunny spot in an upstairs bar at Turoa along with various other non-skiers similarly huddled over books, puzzles and other time-filling activities. A young father with a tiny bundle dressed up in a white bear snow suit, complete with little ears, sat near me. I couldn't tell if the baby was a boy or a girl, and briefly contemplated using Jenefer's strategy before going back to my book, deciding that I didn't really need to know either way. Another guy ambled over to him. Here's what they said to each other:
Observer: How old?
Father: 12 weeks.
[End of conversation]
And that was it. A grand total of four words exchanged and possibly a tiny nod or similar gesture to round off their conversation. No other questions, no politely interested or admiring comments about 12 weeks being very young for a baby's first experience skiing, and absolutely no clues about gender. Nothing at all. Maybe it's different for guys and they're somehow exempt from the obligatory gushing required of women? How can they cut to the chase so quickly and easily and get away with it? Or does this peculiar piece of societal convention just not matter to men?