Opportunity Costs

“What do you do for work?”

“Oh, well, I quit my job just before Christmas….”

“Good on you!” 

I’ve had half a dozen iterations of this surprising conversation with Kiwis, and it has really puzzled me.  It was the same whether they were a friend who knew me well or a complete stranger I’d just met.  In fact, looking back, I’ve yet to encounter a single negative reaction. 

Why would anyone be offering their congratulations for doing what I cringe to admit I’ve done—voluntarily quitting gainful employment without securing another job first.  Why does what seems like reckless irresponsibility to me sound so praiseworthy to them? 

I finally started asking, and got responses like this: 

“You didn’t like the situation you were in, so you’re making a change.”


“Rather than just putting up with a job that had become a grind, you’re working toward something better.” 

It reminds me of the Freakonomics podcast from 2011, “The Upside of Quitting,” which turned on its head that old mantra that preaches “A winner never quits, and a quitter never wins.”   https://freakonomics.com/podcast/new-freakonomics-radio-podcast-the-upside-of-quitting/

Here’s the podcast synopsis:  “To help us understand quitting, we look at a couple of key economic concepts in this episode: sunk cost and opportunity cost. Sunk cost is about the past – it’s the time or money or sweat equity you’ve put into a job or relationship or a project, and which makes quitting hard. Opportunity cost is about the future. It means that for every hour or dollar you spend on one thing, you’re giving up the opportunity to spend that hour or dollar on something else – something that might make your life better. If only you weren’t so worried about the sunk cost. If only you could …. quit.”

To my mind, I have a “sunk cost” of nearly 8 years of prime career-building years in ornamentals, when I came to the sad realization that here in NZ, within the company I worked for, there was no growth potential in that field.  I can’t go back and remake the decision to spend 8 years there; that time is gone…..sunk in the ocean of time.

And each evening when I would wearily pull out the computer at 8:00 p.m. to try and search for other job options, I felt the “opportunity cost” of staying with my old job.  I simply had very little time and energy to work on making a change. 

So, while I don’t yet have new employment, let me celebrate the time reclaimed during January and February.

This was the first January where I wasn’t juggling childcare and work, and it was amazing.  The kids and I had three golden weeks after we got back from our north island holiday when we slept in, cooked waffles for breakfast, went to the skate park/pool/beach, saw friends….and generally enjoyed one another’s casual company. 

Now the kids have been back at school for almost three weeks, and I have been doing a deep dive into career networking, while also enjoying the best of summer.

I can’t for the life of me get a genuine smile when I ask for a nice photo, but when I request silliness…..
We took a family trip to kayak and camp at Murchison (that’s Naomi rocking the rope swing)
I spent five days tramping at Gillespies Pass with my friend Carrie
I’ve enjoyed several Friday bike rides through the adventure park with the ladies…apparently Friday is a popular day for moms to take off from work, there were about a dozen of us congregated at the top of Kennedy’s Bush last Friday.
And most recently we had an overnight camping trip at Godley Heads in Christchurch

Plus (and this bit isn’t as photogenic) I’ve been spending several hours each day on the job search front.

These experiences, in a nutshell, are the opportunity cost of working at my last job. 

Now, I know that doesn’t count the whole cost. Some of those things I might have squeezed in while working, like the Murchison kayak trip. I’m also currently not earning any income, which isn’t sustainable….and now that the kids are back at school, I’m not even saving the cost of holiday programs. Jeremiah is being wonderfully patient with this leisurely phase of life (thanks, hun).

Still, I’ve noticed another big advantage of reclaiming the energy I used to spend at work. I’ve got a lot more patience to deal with the kids. I don’t actually have that many more hours to spend with them now that they’re in school, but when we do have time together, I’ve felt more playful, which averts a lot of conflict. And I’ve felt more creative and compassionate at resolving conflict when it does happen. I’ve discovered that there’s an opportunity cost (in the form of mental energy) to employment that I never appreciated.

So while I hope to soon be working in a challenging new field, I will still take a moment to appreciate the silver lining of this career pause.

North Island Tiki Tour

“Wow, New Zealand really is mostly rural, isn’t it?” We were driving through small towns in the central North Island somewhere between Wellington and Taupo. More accurately, we were passing through acres and acres of green rolling hills with pastures and trees, where here and there a small concentration of houses and shops congretated to form a village. The downtowns of these little villages seemed bustling and healthy, colorful and full of clothing stores, restaurants and banks, like I imagine the small towns of New England were before strip malls and Walmarts drew commerce away from mainstreet.

I’m not sure what I was expecting of the North Island. Maybe because most of the NZ population lives in the north, I thought it’d be more urban. Maybe because the new David Attenborough documentary is on my mind, with the ballooning trajectory of the global human population, I thought there’d be wall-to-wall humanity out there. But I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t crowded.

We took 3 weeks off at Christmas/New Year, and planned a “tiki tour” of the central part of the North Island. Normally we take two weeks then get back to work, but I remember that when we booked the trip in mid-winter, I was feeling rather dreary about my job, so threw in an extra week of holiday for good measure. This map shows our North Island route, starting in Wellington.
Jeremiah drove the car with all the gear up through the South Island to Picton and across on the ferry to Wellington. The kids and I flew up two days after he left. What a luxury!
We spent an afternoon in Wellington, visiting Te Papa museum and tooling along the waterfront. Lamp posts are decorated with these fantastic crocheted creations, like sea monsters.
We walked through the Capital Building grounds. The “beehive,” as it’s affectionately termed, is in the background. Designed in the 1960s, it would be called “classical” in the sense that it’s so easily recognizable that the term “beehive” has become synonymous with NZ central government…..no Greek pillars here.
Judging from the polished back of the lion, we guessed it was acceptable to ride it.

The next day we drove from Wellington to Taumarunui where we launched on the Whanganui River Journey, a story told in a former post.

I keep thinking Naomi is going to grow out of her carsickness, as Milo has, but it hasn’t happened yet. We were leaving from Taumarunui on our way to New Plymouth after canoeing the Whanganui, when the telltale wretching sound started. She’s quite reliable about getting it neatly into the bucket, and half way through she paused. A perky little voice announced “Hey, there’s a blueberry!” then returned to barfing. She threw up 5 times on that three hour drive, and after that we gave her a sea legs pill before we started out.

We spent 5 nights camping under red pohutikawa trees in a holiday park at Waitara, which is just north of New Plymouth. To my delight, when we moved the tent the outline showed in red needle-like flower petals, fallen from the trees above. It was a wonderful stretch of weather, and the formula was successful. Jeremiah got up early and took his kayak out fishing while mom and the kids slept in, read our books in bed, and generally had a lazy morning breakfasting and beaching. At midday Jeremiah returned, and we spent the afternoon doing something all together.

Tenting in a holiday park is not a wilderness experience, but it has its advantages. This one had fantastic hot showers, and was situated right on the beach, next to a domain with a playground.
I still like building sand sculptures, like this octopus. Milo is into building fortresses in front of the incoming tide to see how long they last before succumbing to the waves. Naomi is into playing in the waves themselves.
One afternoon we went into New Plymouth at low tide to check out the tide pools. They were fantastic, the kind of clear colorful pools where the longer you sit still, the more creatures you see.
Another time the kids and I went to a rocky beach with mountains of driftwood and built a fort. Some sail jellyfish had been pushed up by the waves and dried sticking to rocks. Later we took Jeremiah back to the spot and toasted some marshmallows over a small driftwood fire.
One afternoon we did a short hike on the side of Mt Taranaki, the dormant volcano that presides over New Plymouth (last eruption 1775). Fascinating geology involving several vents and eruptions over thousands of years, wish I could remember it all. We wheedled and commanded the kids to give us a decent smile for just one family photo….this is the closest we got. That’s a marshmallow mustache Milo has.
Mt Taranaki presides over the peninsula.
New Years Eve we went into New Plymouth central park, which is beautiful, brought our lunch and had a play.
That evening was the festival of lights. It is lovely temperature-wise that it’s in the summer, but the catch is that it doesn’t really get dark until 9:30. Naomi wanted glow-in-the-dark face paint, and we told her we’d either pay for the face paint (which, given that it was 8 p.m. already, would get washed off before bed in just a couple hours) or dessert. Our food-loving daughter chose the face paint, without hesitation! The allure of beauty….
Jeremiah has set up a sit-on-top kayak for sea fishing, and he was really looking forward to getting into the water. Unfortunately, the night before he left Christchurch, our garage was burgled, and the thief took his new fish finder, and his dive bag that held his wetsuit, fins, snorkel and other important fishing equipment. So while he did get out on the water, and even got a fish, he didn’t get the full experience he was planning to have…i.e. no kingfish.
Jeremiah managed to slip through the waves at the surf beach, amazingly enough. Milo, Naomi and I spent several satisfying hours redirecting the course of the little creek that entered the ocean at this beach. Fluid dynamics, I think I missed my calling.
Nice colours, huh? No crowds on this beach.
On January 1st we packed up the tent and drove to Palmerston North. This campervan was Plan B, and bigger than we had originally booked. The owners of Plan A one sold it (to my disgust!) before we got to our planned rental period. But this one wasn’t too shabby! Since the forecast for Taupo/Rotorua was rain, we went east first to Napier/Hastings in the Bay of Plenty.
Jeremiah enjoyed grilling most nights that we had the campervan.
Milo’s choice of activities in Napier was the national aquarium, and he was not disappointed. I’ve been spoiled by Boston aquarium though, so wasn’t as impressed.
Ta dah! Napier beachfront is rocky and not ideal for swimming, but the city has some nice playgrounds. Napier was nearly leveled in an earthquake in the 1930s, and was rebuilt in the “art deco” style of the time. I don’t get excited over architecture, but even I appreciated the vintage look on the evening Jeremiah and I left the kids reading in the campervan and walked downtown for a pint (shhh!). It was raining though, so I didn’t snap any photos.
Next stop Lake Taupo. Te Papa museum in Wellington has a fantastic time lapse of the geological catastrophes that have shaped Lake Taupo, and I watched in fascination as the time lapse started 25,000 years ago with lava and ash erupting in episodes with varying degrees of violence. Lake Taupo itself is a sunken crater filled with water, sunken because so much molten material from underground spewed out of the volcanoes that the shallow lava reservoir holding up the earth’s crust sunk, and eventually filled in with water. I guess Yellowstone is an even bigger disaster waiting to happen, but I was impressed with the hot water and steam that still comes to the surface in the Taupo/Rotorua region.
The central park has a lovely walk along Lake Taupo’s outlet river to Huka Falls. Right at the city side of the park is a stream with geothermally hot water, complete with a cafe and changing rooms.
When we first moved to NZ I was on a quest to experience natural hot pools. They sound so magical. In reality, my South Island experience has been of thick mud and sandflies. This stream far exceeded that low bar–no biting insects or muck! We lived it up with our cafe drinks on a showery afternoon.
We had promised the kids a movie at a theater if we ran into a rainy day, and at Taupo, we ran into a genuinely rainy afternoon. We again left the kids reading in the comfort of the campervan and scouted for the local theatre. I happened to pass a rack of shoes outside a store on the way to the theatre, and these red beauties caught my eye. Lucky for me, my feet are the sample shoe size–I slipped one on and it hugged my foot like a slipper. They are the last impulse purchase I’ll make until I get a job, I promise.
The next day the rain cleared and we paid our tourist fees to walk through the Craters of the Moon. It was well worth it. They had built a wooden walkway over a geothermal hot spot with boiling mud and many steam vents, and they did a great job with the interpretive signs talking about the various plants that could grow with hot roots, and the heavy metals that make the soil turn rainbow colours.
Back in the campervan, we drove north.
I was on a mission to do some you-pick berries with the kids. In Hastings, we had hit the area right at New Years, and the establishments were taking some days off. In Whakatane, we found one.
Jeremiah was hoping to get into the ocean for a dive somewhere on the east side, but the water near the shore was cloudy, and we had left the kayak with the car in Palmerston North because the campervan wasn’t set up to carry it. The kids didn’t mind, sand and water is all they need to be happy. Here they were playing some silly game of turning the wet sand into jelly by bouncing into it with their bums.
We stopped in Rotorua on our way back south, and Jeremiah took the kids to the luge. It wasn’t cheap, but they remember it fondly.
Apparently, Jeremiah was so fast he got air over the top of a rise. Milo was cautious to start but soon sped up. Naomi followed the signs that cautioned “slow” carefully, and never lost control of her vehicle. That’s why girls’ car insurance is cheaper than boys’. I took the time to go biking at the Whakarewarewa forest park. It’s massive, and I biked until I was tired out.
We passed Tongariro in the cloud on our way back south, left the campervan back at Palmerston North, and spent another night in Wellington before taking the Interislander ferry back to Picton.
Through Kaikoura, homeward bound.

Incest Explained

“Don’t touch her butt!” Jeremiah rebuked Milo.  Milo and Naomi were romping in the living room in that silly hour that happens when bedtime has been delayed, and there were some shenanigans going on.

“Why not?” he asked, challenging as always.

“You shouldn’t touch anyone else’s butt,” Jeremiah insisted, vehemently but vaguely.

“But Daddy touches your butt,” Milo argued to me, demonstrating the sensual caresses remarkably accurately on his own body. 

“Yes, but Daddy’s my husband,” I said, “and the way he touches my butt has a sexual connotation, so you shouldn’t do it to Naomi, because you’re not supposed to have sex with your sister.” 

Milo was grinning in delight now.  He’d gotten mommy at a matter-of-fact moment and was getting some juicy morsels of gossip on a rarely-mentioned topic.  “Why can’t I have sex with Naomi?”  He cocked his head and the buck-tooth grin challenged me to drop some more pearls of wisdom.  The year 4 students started sex ed last year and he has an anatomical idea of what sex is (“You had to do that TWICE to get me and Naomi, didn’t you?” he has asked me recently. “Yes, Milo, twice…..”).

In lieu of a cheeky grin photo (which I haven’t got), here’s a proud grin photo. Milo’s posing here with his first family dinner creation….and the newly arrived national geographic, though I don’t remember why that featured in the same photo. He’s nearly 10, and along with tough conversation topics, I figured it’s about time to get him on the dinner-making roster.

“If you have sex with your sister it’s called incest, and it’s considered taboo by society, and your children could have weird genetic problems.” 

“What’s Taboo?”  he asked, dancing around like a joker, considering, I’m sure, how scintillating a conversation topic this would make with his next door buddy.  Naomi was also listening in delight, rubbing her bum and waving it around.

He looks rather like a clown in this photo, though the seriousness of consuming his own banana bread has taken over the photo moment.

“It means you’d be an outcast of society and no one would talk to you or play with you!  Now, GO TO BED!” I insisted, pointing to the bedroom. 

They retreated, and I moved back into the kitchen where Jeremiah was making pasta salad.  “I just explained incest to our kids, did you hear?”  I said, fishing for a congratulations on doing some hard-yards parenting. 

“Yeah, thanks, good job,” he grinned. Milo turns 10 next week. Explaining Incest is easy compared to the years we surely have ahead.

Whanganui River Journey

The last two Christmases we did bike trips.  They were good, but I felt it was time for an easier (less kid whinge) activity.  I have good memories of canoe trips with my grandparents on Adirondack lakes, and I don’t remember putting out much effort as a youngster….my infinitely patient grandfather taught me to paddle, but I was doing well if my whirlpools reached to the stern of the boat.  And we spent significant time just watching the water trails we made as we dipped our fingers over the side of the laden canoe.    

The Whanganui River Journey is classed as a “Great walk.”  It’s a 5 day, 145 km route down part of the Whanganui River, one of 9 iconic journeys promoted and maintained by the NZ Department of Conservation.  We figured a silver lining to Covid is a summer with limited tourists, a good time to visit the relatively “crowded” north island.

We rented a canoe and Jeremiah paddled his sea kayak.  After a rudimentary kiwi-style safety briefing we shoved our gear into six barrels, two dry bags and a cooler, and launched from Taumarunui. 

I was at the helm of the canoe with the two kids in front, while Jeremiah had command of his sea kayak. Thank goodness for the little seat inserted into the middle of the canoe, allowing each child their separate domain….there was enough bickering about whose turn it was to paddle on the left and whose paddling was encroaching into the other one’s territory without sharing a seat!

“If you don’t tip within the first hour, you won’t tip until the last day,” was the reassuring outlook from the canoe hire guy.  The Whanganui has a couple rapids approaching grade 2 white water, mostly on the first and 5th days.  While I’m happy to paddle that in a kayak, I’ve never paddled a canoe in any rapids.  Odds are that one in three canoes takes to the drink during the trip, and my aim was to be squarely in the dry 2/3rds of that statistic.  I was comforted by the fact that the NZ Greatwalks are suitable for novices; with a reasonable level of fitness I didn’t expect anything untoward.   

The first couple rapids had me nervous, but they were straight-forward and I was able to direct the canoe where I wanted to go (basically a straight point and shoot, no fancy manoeuvres required).  We splashed through with only a few gallons of water sloshing inside from waves, and my confidence increased. Unfortunately no photos, cameras and rapid navigation don’t mesh!

First day lunch stop. Milo thinks it’s not cool to smile in photos, he actually enjoyed the trip but you wouldn’t know it from the photographic record.

We pulled into our first tent site by mid afternoon, and managed to set up camp before the rain started.  It rained all afternoon and all night, a steady gentle rain. 

I discovered that our 15 year old Marmot isn’t as waterproof as she used to be, and we were very thankful for the cooking shelter.
We’d already opened the christmas presents at home before we left, and we decided to open stockings a couple days early too…I think we were all in need of some CANDY to weather the rain.

Next morning we dressed the kids in their wetsuits, wrung out the tents, and anxiously checked the river level.  It had only gone up about six inches from the night before, and maybe another inch while we packed, but the water had gone from tannin-tea brown to milky capucchino.  Milo surveyed the turbulent flow.  “No logs or dead animals floating along, so it’s ok to paddle,” he stated, quoting our safety briefing.  He’s a funny combination of worry-wort and bravado, that boy; he likes precision in the rules, and as long as they aren’t his parents’ rules, he follows them.  We launched and sped along amid rain squalls and gorge sides cloaked with fern trees and waterfalls.  Some time after noon the sun peaked out and the outlook improved. 

We whizzed past this totally impressive side gusher pouring into the river, and Jeremiah paused to watch two bewildered ducklings ride the waterfall down to the main river.

“Whakahoro campsite, 400 meters upstream.”  The sign pointed up a chocolatey brown torrent lined with treacherous willows.  I raised my eyebrows at Jeremiah.  “I can’t get up that with just the kids in front.  There must be a trail up from the main river somewhere.”  We scoured the bank—thick bush and no trail.  We tied up the kayak and paddle all together in the canoe.  Zigzagging up the current with willow branches clawing at the edges felt mighty precarious, and despite our best efforts we had to pause in a boily eddy.  “I certainly didn’t expect anything this sketchy in a Great Walk,” I panted.  Quite possibly our sense of river hazards has been heightened by our whitewater kayaking experience, especially my own recent encounter with a side-stream willow.  A Danish couple had clawed their way to the submerged landing just ahead of us, and they generously came back to offer help with their bow rope towing from land, so we made it eventually.  Hauling our barrels up the slippery bank, we saw a sign pointing another 300 meters uphill to the campsite.  “Whakahoro” sounds like a swear word (it’s pronounced “faka-whore-o), and I’d certainly suggest giving it a miss in favour of a friendlier riverside site.  On the plus side, we met Becs from Taupo at this campsite, and she very generously carried a pair of our barrels up to the camp each night for the remainder of the trip. 

The side creek had gone down about 30 cm overnight but the landing is still submerged. With that drop went the majority of the water’s energy. I wish I had gotten a photo the previous afternoon!
There were a few showers that night, but the real rain held off. We emerged Christmas morning reasonably dry.
He’s been rocking his blue sleeping bag suit.
Paddling Christmas morning was the best—sunny weather, with the high river speeding us along with little effort.  We counted 176 waterfalls and sang old camps songs, and cruised into John Gould hut in good time to have a swim before cooking dinner.
John Gould Hut is very welcoming with the sunny deck and picnic tables.
Not as cold as south island rivers!
Couscous and ham for Christmas dinner

Next day we were staying in the hut at Te Keiki, where there’s a marae.  Reading the informational panel at John Gould hut, we learned that we’d need to be prepared for a traditional maori greeting—the man of the group would need to say what mountain and river we’re from, along with the necessary family introductions and thank you’s.  The woman of the group would need to sing a song, preferably a folk song from your country of origin.  I spent the paddling day practicing Yankee Doodle, which seemed a bit irreverent but was a favorite with the kids.  Alison Krauss’ “When I went down to the river to pray” seemed fitting, this being a river journey and all, but I doubted I could pull that off tunefully.  I settled on the Amish song “Tis a gift to be simple.”  In the end I was spared.  Marilynn, the hostess/caretaker of the marae, suggested that the whole group sing one song together.  The one kiwi family among the group was more familiar with the requirements of the occasion, and chose a maori song that the kids learn in school. 

Marilynn’s husband is the DOC officer in charge of the hut, and Marilynn is the person in her iwi (tribe) who has taken on caretaker job for the marae, which includes welcoming visitors each day.  Her dad did this role before her. 

The land on which the DOC hut sits is a contested bit of ground; DOC built it without the permission of the maori group who historically controlled the land around the Whanganui River, so the iwi staged a live-in protest where they occupied the hut until a suitable arrangement was reached. Thankfully the arrangement allows for regular people to use the hut. I didn’t realize upon booking that the maori consider that to be their land which they graciously share.

Naomi asked Marilynn about the “taniwhas” on the pole (a taniwha is a monster), and Marilynn patiently explained that the carvings are of ancestors, not monsters. The kids appreciated the anatomically correct male figures.
Marilynn also generously spent some time showing the kids the craft of flax weaving.

In this delicate balancing act for control, Marilynn was most gracious, explaining our roles in the ceremonial greeting and making many allowances for us being from a different culture.  Apparently there is no other marae that allows their visitors to speak, she told us proudly.  Though they still hold the tradition that a woman must not speak and must enter behind the men.  “That’s not very 21st century,” whispered the Danish woman.  I heartily agreed; of all the traditions to bend, treating woman as second class citizens seems to be a logical starting point. 

We started our last day’s paddle expecting the river gradient to increase; this last day had four named rapids to negotiate, as well as a few numbered ones between.  We put the kids in wetsuits and tied every loose bit of gear to the boat.  But the first long stretch was flat, with a wicked headwind, and I worked hard for every meter travelled, aware that our shuttle was booked for 1:30.  We passed the first described rapid in puzzlement—where was the rock mid-stream that we were meant to go left of?  We slowly realized that the water must still be high enough that the challenging waves were “washed out,” the term whitewater paddlers use to mean the features are so far under water that they aren’t tough to negotiate.  The real challenge was the headwind. 

We made our shuttle time, but another family were waiting for didn’t turn up on time.  The canoe hire guy checked his clipboard.  “Powell, that’s the group with two kids in front and the mom in back who’s a really good paddler, right?”  I hesitated; we were waiting for a family with three kids and two adults; they had two canoes, but I wasn’t sure how their kids were arranged.  Jeremiah chimed in; “No, you’re thinking about us.  The family we’re waiting for has three kids.”  Realization dawned sweetly.  That “really good paddler” he was referring to was me.  I let the accolade go to my head; I figured my battered self esteem needs all the help it can get these days. 

Eventually the canoe hire guy organized a local jet boat to launch in search of the other family, but much to our relief they rounded the bend just before the boat hit the water. 

The Danish couple are in the third row (the tall ones!), Becs is in purple and Andrew is peeking out in back. Hurray, we all made it through that last day of headwind!

Looking back on the trip, one of the major enjoyments was the little cohort of people who we spent the evenings with at the huts.  Since Christmas morning the personalities had been the same, and the comradery grew day by day.  There was the Christchurch family Milo called The Freckles, who kept strictly to themselves the first day but by day three had thawed sufficiently to be cordial.  There was a friendly hippie German couple living in Golden Bay, as well as generous Becs and her paddling friend Andrew (not partners, she carefully clarified), who had spent two years teaching English in Armenia, and had interesting things to say about a wide range of topics.  Then there was the nice aforementioned Danish couple, who had interesting things to share about Scandinavia. I find this with all the Great Walks that I’ve done, oddly enough.  We plan the trip to get out into the wilderness, but the most memorable part is the people we meet along the way. 

Back in Taumarunui we treated ourselves to a hotel room, soapy showers, and a nice Indian restaurant.  Stage one of the family trip had been a success. 

Ode to Seven Years

I’ve sometimes wondered what it’s like to be completely happy being yourself. That would be life as Naomi lives it.
Naomi recently turned 7. She loves being a seven year old girl.
For her birthday party she went with some friends to Clip and Climb, a kids’ climbing wall.
She is quite a social creature overall. Here we have 5 mermaids in a row!
This Friday is Book Character day at school, which happily coincides with Halloween the day following, so the flamingo costume (from “Pea and Nut”) gets two uses.
Cheers, my darling. Here’s to being seven!

Delightful mini spheres

This pansy was covered in perfect spherical melted frost drops, glisteningin the morning sun. I passed it planter yesterday on my way into work, and actually doubled back to take a photograph. I wonder what microscopic characteristics of the petal surface make it so hydrophobic.

Caressing the cherry blossoms

Delight of the day: Under grey skies and a miserly easterly wind, these earliest-of-early cherry blossoms signal that winter will end, and it won’t be long until it does. The Hagley Park blossoms aren’t even cracking yet and the cherries in our garden are still barren, but these few trees I pass on the way to pick up the kids from school are always the very earliest ones. Today I reached my hand up to caress them, squeezing them lightly in my palm.
I was surprised at how soft and moist they were. Somehow they look like they’ll be cotton candy dry, but they’re fresh and new and alive.

Mt Herbert under blue skies


Last weekend was the first clear lovely weekend we’ve had in what seems like forever. It can’t really be that long since we had fantastic weather during our lockdown into May, but I’m tired of being cold.  I jumped onto Carrie and Irmana’s planned hiking day Sunday, and we headed up to Mt Herbert, the highest point on the Banks Peninsula. I’ve approached it from the Kaituna Valley once and Orton Bradley park another time, but this is the first time I’d started at Diamond Harbor.

The trail is a straight forward track up through sheep pasture to the summit.  Every year it is closed for lambing August-October, right about when the weather is getting warmer and we’re wanting to plan such a hike, so we squeaked it in just before the closure this time.  It really is a better track to do on a clear winter day anyway….there’s no water and no shelter, so it would be a scorcher in the summer.

We ambled along, chit-chatting about home renovations, flannel sheets, the size of the closets, and children, stopping once or twice for Irmana to stretch her back which has been bothering her. My knee started to niggle and I made a mental note to book a physio appointment.

Last week was the first time someone referred to me (in my hearing) as “middle-aged.”  I thought I didn’t deserve that term until I turn 40, but I have to admit that the wrinkles around my eyes and propensity to retire early to bed under an electric blanket all point to the same direction.  And, if I admit it, so do our conversation topics.

I remember when other people talked about cranky joints and the pleasure of taking a kid-less outing to the grocery store. I listened to them, smiling, comfortably bemused, wondering what it was like to get old.  Ha.

I guess if I am to be uncharacteristically optimistic, “middle-aged” means there’s still half of life left to live.  Here we are, approaching it with a smile.  

Prickly delight of the day

Perhaps it was reading about Mrs. TiggyWinkle as a child, or perhaps it’s because I respect porcupines and skunks and all peaceful, unhurried defensible creatures of the world, but I have a special place in my heart for hedgehogs. The English settlers brought them to NZ because they reminded them of home, and while DOC suggests that we trap them because they have been known to eat bird eggs and even chicks, I welcome them into my yard. They eat mostly bugs and slugs and snails, which I don’t begrudge them.  And they are SO CUTE.  For a person not easily moved by cuteness, I think they’re adorable.  They waddle-wobble as they trundle along at their own pace, pigeon-toed and snuffly.  Also, since they don’t hustle, they’re photogenic.   So here’s to our resident hedgehog, the Delight of my Day.  

Social Isolation: Day 25, squirreliness

“Mom, Mom, I found a fake egg!” Naomi called as she ran across the grass. Half a second later she had squeezed said egg and it was shockingly genuine, and dripping all over her fingers! Best we can figure it was a duck egg, laid by a confused duck under a tree not too far from the Avon River.

We had gone to Hagley park with two goals in mind. Firstly, the kids were excited to find a pile of leaves to jump in. This little gully caught the windblown leaves naturally, saving us the effort of collecting them.

My mission for the excursion was to collect more nuts. We discovered this tree last week and I really enjoyed the few I had gathered on a salad with the last of the garden’s cucumbers and tomatoes, and I wanted more. They’re a good deal of work to shell, but we have an abundance of time on our hands at the moment….. The shiny smooth nuts are addictive to gather, and I felt rich as I stirred them with my fingers, clinking against one another satisfactorily. I kept saying I was just about finished gathering, but then I’d spot another, and another, and I’d be scurrying to hoard them like an industrious squirrel. It was rather like trying to leave a blueberry field when the picking is really good but the containers were full….just this last handful….and this one too….and these are too good to pass up. Mom used to call, “come on girls, I don’t have enough money to pay for more than this!” Except these nuts were FREE!

Torrey pine, from the USA. It grows bigger pine nuts than the ones you can buy in the grocery store.