Sydney Lights

On a recent work trip to Sydney, I was stuck in a meeting room for the better part of five days. By the time evening came around, all I wanted to do was be outside. I was staying in York St in the central city and luckily for me, a colleague was also staying with me and knows Sydney very well. Our routine quickly involved an early-ish dinner and then a good sized walk. Sydney CBD is a great place for walking and felt very safe even though our walks were after dark (it was marginally cooler then). On our first night, we walked down to, and around Darling Harbour. The place was absolutely buzzing, even on a Monday night and reminded me of a larger version of Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour, with restaurants all around the edges of the water. I’d been there in daytime before but at night, it was just beautiful.


On our way back we stopped in at the QVB (Queen Victoria Buildling) which was originally conceived and built as a marketplace and now houses several floors of exclusive shops, a train station underground, some lovely stained glass and scrollwork, a spectacular dome and two rather amazing clocks. Happy to report I could name all the English Kings and Queens in the dioramas, although I did think that it was Sir Walter Raleigh being knighted but later research revealed it was actually Sir Francis Drake.

On Tuesday night, we decided to go a little further afield and head to the Circular Quay and on to the Sydney Opera house. Although I’ve been to Sydney many times, it has generally been for business trips where I’ve stayed out of the central city and have had no time to do anything ‘touristy’. As a result, although I’ve seen the Opera House from the Harbour Bridge, I’ve never actually been up close and personal as it were. That has now been remedied.

Finally on Thursday night, I caught the train across to Milson’s Point and from there, walked across the Harbour Bridge and back. It’s always a nice walk and a treat to be able to walk across the bridge. Here in Auckland, in order to do that, they have to close the bridge! No photos from that walk, but there was a lot of sweat and red facedness as we did the 5.2km at what seemed like a good pace.


This was taken from the Opera House a couple of nights earlier…

The company was excellent – my work colleague and a friend – and the sights were beautiful. Thanks Sydney, it was a lovely visit.

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Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares

So go downtown
Things will be great when you’re downtown
No finer place for sure, downtown
Everything’s waiting for you

I changed jobs a couple of months ago. Major change. In many ways. Probably the biggest change is that after three years out in the wilds of East Tamaki and a 30km commute to the office, I am now back in Downtown Auckland. After a few days of wandering around, mouth agape, feeling like a country cousin in the big smoke, I have a few observations! Here are the top 7 things I’ve discovered about going downtown.

7. Pedestrian friendly. There are a lot of cross walks – lights phased so that you can cross diagonally or any other way and all the traffic is stopped. Also there are lots of shared streets – pedestrians and vehicles share cobbled streets. This makes the city centre much more welcoming than I remember it being.

6. Public transport is a LOT better than the last time I was regularly catching it. There is a train every 15 minutes throughout the day. Trains seem to be mostly on time (occasionally early) are clean and although crowded at rush hour, are significantly cheaper than parking in the city.

5. Downtown is apparently a high class area. Check out these stores, all of which are a 1 minute walk from my new office. (there’s a Swarovski store in there somewhere too).

4. The city is a LOT busier than I remember. Streams and flows of people on the pavements all the time. I guess they managed to revitalise the city and draw the crowds back!


3. There are a lot of unusual and very nice shops. Here’s Queen’s Arcade, right near me. You won’t see any of these shops in a suburban mall, and for the bonus point, there’s a games shop buried in there! And every couple of weeks, this group of women meet to knit. In the middle of the arcade. With their cups of tea and bikkies. It’s very cool!

2. There are all sorts of informative engraved stone plaques on the pavements. I don’t know if anyone else ever reads them, but they’re fascinating! Sometimes it’s street names, sometimes it’s a bit of information about the street or feature. Sometimes it’s a plaque on a small plinth. It adds flavour, although can make navigating the flow of people difficult at times.


  1. The buildings. The buildings are awesome. You have old school buildings, like the one we’re in which is Victorian and ornate on the outside and all steel and wood converted industrial on the inside. Right next to those are modern glass extravaganzas. And then there’s the graffiti-laden backs and carparks in behind the glamorous facades. it’s a fabulous place to work if you like looking at architecture.

    The only thing that makes me sad about being back in the city is the prevalence of homeless people. I love the buskers and some of them are incredibly talented, but for every one of them, there are two people obviously sleeping rough. There’s the guy with the dog. The man with the bushy hair and the bare feet. And the man with the rat. And the fairly clean and tidy person who looks like a backpacker down on his luck. There are those who sleep right by the McDonald’s and those who must come in from somewhere each day who have their carefully hand lettered signs telling a story. It reminds me that everything else is superficial and this is the real detail of Downtown Auckland we should be looking at critically,  and doing something about.

Confronted with the homeless people, I don’t know quite what to do. Should I give money? Food? Can I do that every day? One day I bought some strawberries and gave them to someone homeless – was that a good thing? Did it make a difference? I don’t know their stories, but I’m sure there are very few people who would choose to be homeless. Fortunately for me, there are agencies out there trying to make a difference – go visit them and see what you can do. I’m going to.

Auckland City Mission


The Salvation Army



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Glamping – who knew it could be so much fun?

My husband and I have a lot of kids between us, so we try and make time to have the occasional day where it’s just us – grown up time is what we call it. Sometimes it’s a day at home without the kids, and sometimes we actually go away. It’s been a while since we last did this, and so in a fit of extravagance, I booked a night at Castaways Resort. Based out at Karioitahi just out of Waiuku, they offer three coastal tents and one tree tent as well as resort style accommodation, a restaurant and spa. We couldn’t get a coastal tent within a couple of months on a day which suited us, so opted for the “Totara Tent”, a permanent tent suspended off the ground between two totara trees.

Once we had successfully braved the Southern carpark sorry, motorway (foolish of us to go south on the Friday afternoon of a long weekend) we headed off towards Waiuku and found Castaways and Karioitahi very easily. We were blown away by how beautiful the beach was and after we’d checked in, we went for a long walk. We could just pick out the coastal tents up on the hills above the beach, but they were cleverly set into the hill and they still looked very private.

Unlike the coastal tents, the Totara Tent is back in Waiuku, about 15km away. There are two transport choices – either drive back, or there are free electric bikes on offer. The road is fairly busy and it was very hot, so we decided against the bikes and after an hour or so on the beach blowing out the cobwebs, watching paragliders ride the currents and wishing we had brought our swimming togs, we headed off to our tent.

Tent is a very basic word for what we stayed in. Whilst it was canvas in parts, it was a permanent wooden structure about 1.5m off the ground, with two big old totara trees growing right through the small verandah and up one side of the tent. It is set in a patch of native bush on some farmland and the tent and outdoor bath are far enough inside the bush that it is completely private. There is a small and functional kitchen, bathroom with shower and composting toilet and a huge, luxurious and very comfortable bed. Native birds are all around so we were surrounded by tui song and cicadas chirping, but it was otherwise quiet. There’s power, thanks to the solar panels at the edge of the bush.

Dinner, wine, beer and breakfast are provided, but are of the “cook it yourself” variety. The fridge was loaded with little containers, very well labelled, and with different colour lids, on different shelves according to which meal they were. Not a lot of work required to put the meal together. Pretty soon, we were sitting on the deck enjoying the quiet.

A word to the wise – there is a stereo in the tent, which can take a USB stick or bluetooth from various devices. There is music already loaded, but after subjecting ourselves to some disco and 70’s and 80’s love songs, we were ready for a quick change! It was lovely to have music playing across our clearing when we hopped into the outdoor, suspended bath! Again, our advice would be to have a bath after dark, as the mosquitoes are fairly relentless. We had a second bath the next morning but didn’t last long.

All in all, the facilities were excellent, food was great and it was a little slice of heaven and peace out of our busy lives. Was it worth the money? Yes, and when we compared it to two other similar weekend getaways (Warm Earth in Katikati and the Ipipiri cruise around the Auckland Harbour) we thought it stacked up very well. Would we go again? Absolutely. But we’d book one of the coastal tents – we think the views across the sea and hopefully less mosquitoes would be an improvement. We’d also want to stay for two nights – we were just starting to really relax when it was time to pack up and go home. Another day would have been lovely. The children apparently didn’t miss us at all, so we may have to save our pennies and plan another small getaway.

Note that I wasn’t recompensed in any way for writing this review – I just wanted to share our lovely night away!20160129_174228

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Spring – time for rebirth!

It has come to my attention that it has been FIVE MONTHS since I posted here! Ridiculous! The upside is, I have lots of great new thoughts and ideas and will be back with them very shortly. In the meantime, it is officially spring here in New Zealand, and so I leave you with a beautiful tree in my neighbourhood! Watch this space – like spring, I will be sending up shoots in the very near


photo 1-3



photo 2-3

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No experience necessary. Must have strong stomach.

Job-Vacancy-DetailsIf I were writing an advertisement for a position as a parent, this would be my headline. Back in 1996 BC (Before Children), I naively listed out the qualities I thought a parent would require. These included a sense of humour. Patience. Love. An ability to play. And you know what? All of those things are true and wonderful if you have them. But after 17-odd years parenting, I would require the following skills and attributes for anyone applying for the position of parent. And yes, this is in order, with #1 being the most important.

#7 High tolerance for dirt and mess

Yep, there’s a lot of this. You need to be able to cope with it. You can wash kids. And their clothes. And your house. Dirt is not the end of the world.

#6 Willingness to perform repetitive tasks

Laundry. Dishes. Tidying. Laundry. Dishes. Tidying. Hairy McLary stories. Nursery rhymes. Movies and songs on endless repeat. Enough said.

#5 Physical robustness

I don’t necessarily mean huge, although when I had twins, being tall and strong was a huge help, both during the pregnancy and when I was carrying around and feeding two babies at the same time. Strength has also been useful for those children of mine who occasionally need assistance getting to their bedroom to have some calming down time. When they’re wrestling, struggling, screaming and hitting and they don’t want to be removed from the situation and calm down, it can really help if you can physically move them. As my children tend to be tall and sturdy, this is a huge help! And endurance is useful. Think of those long family outings where you are the one carrying the backpack with the food, sunscreen, water and necessities because YOU are the parent (even when your children are bigger than you are). Endurance, stamina and strength are very useful.

#4 First Aid Certificate

It is very helpful to know if you need to take your child to the doctor, the emergency clinic which has an x-ray machine or the hospital. A First Aid Certificate will give you the ability to run triage. You can then also intelligently tell the medical professionals the cause of the accident, what treatment you have already applied and you can maintain your calm demeanour while they stitch, plaster or otherwise fix your broken child.

#3 The germ resistance of a cockroach

CockroachFrankly, the amount of germs your wee darlings bring home, and the strength of those germs mean that you need to be like the prehistoric cockroach to survive. Each new environment that your child enters will produce new and progressively more vile illnesses. The positive side of this is that your children inherit your germ resistance. Our oldest child was our sickest, and we were the most susceptible to her germs. By the time we got to numbers 5 and 6, not only were they almost never ill (we can count the number of days off daycare and school on the fingers of one hand, and they are seven now) but neither were we.

#2 The ability to sleep, anywhere, anyhow

This comes in handy in three ways. You need to be able to go to sleep quickly and easily. You need to be able to go BACK to sleep easily after being woken up. And you need to be able to make whatever hours of sleep you get, count. Seriously folks, they use sleep deprivation as a torture method. In the main, I go to sleep easily, wake easily and go back to sleep easily. Phew. I once was in bed feeding the twins when they were babies and woke up to discover I had LOST one! Turns out that one of the babies and I had gone to sleep and the other was still feeding. My husband had woken and noticed the sleeping baby and moved him off the feeding pillow back to the cot. Took several years off my life. I have been known to go to sleep standing up. And after years of sleep deprivation, going to an observatory, or even the movies at times, leads only to sleep. You know, I’m relaxed, leaning back and it’s warm and dark.  Turns out this is exactly what I needed to survive the early years. Needless to say, insomniacs should not apply.

#1 A strong stomach

I cannot overrate this. From the post-labour messiness (let’s not go into detail here) to meconium (green runny poo for those not already in the know) to poo which escapes up your divine infant’s back to the smelly milk which “spilly” babies chuck up all the time (and half of our kids were this way inclined) and then to the far more repellent full on projectile vomiting as the wee darlings get older. If you have a weak stomach, life is much more difficult. Our oldest three were all spilly. I remember putting daughter number 1 on one shoulder, and she chucked all over me. I changed my shirt and she promptly chucked again. I handed Daughter number 2 to a cousin of her father’s (who was wearing an especially nice shirt) and recommended that he put a cloth nappy over his shoulder. He uttered the unforgettable phrase “she won’t be sick on me”. I’m sure I don’t need to detail the next few minutes. As she got older, the same daughter had a predilection for being very ill just before she came down with something like an ear infection, and then again on the last day of said illness. Unfortunately, until she was about 3, she would only do this sitting on my knee. I wised up and moved to the bathroom after the first couple of times, but I have to say it was a red letter day the first time she realised she felt sick and was ill in the toilet. I was reminded of this tonight as my youngest suddenly sprinted for the bathroom, saying “I’m going to throw up” and proceeded to be violently ill. Everywhere. That’s what prompted this post actually. I was completed unmoved by the mess as I cleaned him, the toilet and the bathroom up, and thought how lucky I was. A side note is that at 3am, his twin brother woke me up to announce that he felt like being sick too…

I spent a lot of time right next to these the other day...

I spent a lot of time right next to these the other day…

Now that’s not to say that I have coped with every poo or vomit disaster I have come across. In fact, there have been times when I have just LOOKED, jaws agape, and been completely overwhelmed. Sometimes a poo disaster has required two people to deal with it – and I have been the only one there! I have been known to take a poo or vomit covered baby into the shower with me in order to clean us both up. This doesn’t work when you are out of the house. So my biggest advice is have plenty of cloth nappies with you at all times, and take not only a change of clothes for the baby, but a change of clothes for you as well.

Sadly, it appears from this list that I might actually qualify for a job as a parent. Whilst this is no doubt a relief for my six children, it does appear that there is no way I can get out of it now. 17 years on-the-job experience probably counts for something as well. Now it seems I just need to master the extras – patience, spontaneity, an ability to play, a liking for housework. Maybe by the time grandchildren come along, I’ll be there.

What would you add to the employment advertisement for a parent?

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Modern day social interaction

Devices are everywhere nowadays. Every second person has a smart phone, a tablet, some way of instantly connecting to the internet. We have always had a policy in our house of moderation in all things. So some TV is fine, some computer time, some outdoor time, some book time (actually, as referenced in a previous post, if people want to read books, we tend to let them!). One thing we’ve always been very strict on, however, is that when we have visitors, we TALK to them, PLAY with them, INTERACT with them!

A few weeks ago we had a group of friends over. The children were aged between 6 and 13. The grown-ups headed outside to the patio in the warm summer afternoon sun. The children (after some grazing on the flash high tea) headed INSIDE. One by one, our under 5′ visitors came out requesting our wifi password so that they could do “internet stuff”.

My first, admittedly knee-jerk, reaction, was to say no. You are all here socialising. For goodness’ sakes, get outside, play, swing in the hammocks, throw a ball. The visiting children looked at me like I’d grown a second head. Finally, with some misgivings, we handed over the password and a laptop and two tablets were connected. Our smaller fry (the youngest three, 13, 7 and 7) hauled out their tablets as well and joined in the fun. From outside, all we could hear was laughter and chat. When we poked our noses inside, the eight children were sitting clustered around the couch, peering at each others’ devices, all linked up and playing Minecraft, laughing, talking, and totally interacting on TWO levels – the cyber level and the physical level. The two youngest, who are 6, and did not have any devices, were sharing and taking turns on the older children’s devices. After a while, one of the visitors tried to sell my 13-year old son on the benefits of Tumblr by showing him cute cat pictures, and she then shared some deeply personal information with him while sprawling across him in comfortable fashion.

So my question to you, dear readers, is this. Should I be accepting of this new kind of interaction? Were the children playing together? Yes they were. Were they interacting? Yes indeed. Were they displaying good social behaviours – sharing,kindness, tolerance, conversation, jokes? Well, yes. Did the interactions they were having allow them to form a deeper connection? Yes, unequivocally. Am I just a dinosaur? I guess I am. I’m beginning to accept that things are different in this new technological age, and I do appreciate many of the advantages that this age offers. But I still find it difficult to accept a group of kids sitting around and playing on their technology rather than being outside playing or finding a face-to-face game.

So I come back around to my key phrase of moderation. Moderation in all things. I guess as long as the children are still interacting in a positive way, then it’s all good. But I’m still going to continue to kick my kids outside; to get them playing games in person; to do a variety of activities, to play sport, to learn how to talk to adults and other children. And in the meantime, I’ll enjoy the fact that my little boys call their older siblings (when they’re at their ‘other’ houses) to see if they’ll group up with them on Club Penguin.

How do you feel about this? Would you make a different call?

So one of these devices is not actually connected, but this is my three younger boys and their cousin, all happily engaged in playing.

So one of these devices is not actually connected, but this is my three younger boys and their cousin, all happily engaged in playing.

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Family meals

Are family meals still the be all and end all? I read an interesting article from Debbie Mayo-Smith recently. In it, she suggested that it wasn’t the end of the world if your family didn’t have a home cooked meal every night. The article raised a LOT of comment, most of it negative. Many commenters lambasted Debbie for suggesting that it didn’t matter if every now and again, dinner was a scratch effort, or held in many parts. Many commenters were ignoring the fact that Debbie’s children are all adults now, and perhaps the outrage should have been that she was still cooking dinner for them!

However, my children are not adults. They are 7, 13, 15 and 17, still young enough to benefit from family dinners. Now, don’t get me wrong. I firmly believe that family dinners are a great thing. I think it is really important to all sit down together, chat about your day, rag each other, get up and down a gazillion times to fetch drinks, sauce, cutlery and the like. Every parenting tome you dip into and every parenting expert suggests that this kind of interaction is invaluable in keeping your family connected.

But there are two issues here. Only two I hear you say? Well, two that apply to me. The first issue is that of a home cooked meal. I’m Irish by heritage, and the Irish do love to feed people. But does every meal need to be home cooked? Is it OK to serve your family pizza, or noodles, or baked beans from time to time, or are you scarring them for life? I like to cook food from scratch, and so these speedy meals seem to me to be a big cheat. I don’t even use pre-prepared sauces normally. BUT the simple fact is that I don’t always have time to prepare a wonderful healthy meal, and it’s better to have some food than none!

This is issue 2.5 - how a salad often looks in my house.

This is issue 2.5 – how a salad often looks in my house.

The other issue is that we have so many activities on that it is difficult to sit down and eat together every night. When the younger children eat at 6.00pm, some of the older ones don’t get home until 6.30pm, others have to be fed by 7.00pm because of waterpolo training, or other commitments – you see how it goes! Even breakfast is at different times as we leave the house in different carloads. It is generally a given that Monday through Friday, we will not all eat together. On Saturdays and Sundays, we do our best to eat together around sporting commitments, and normally manage to have at least one dinner and one lunch all together. According to all the parenting manuals and common philosophy, our children will be in therapy, and we are missing opportunities to open lines of communication.

Me out on the hammock with my small boys instead of cooking dinner...

Me out on the hammock with my small boys instead of cooking dinner…

But is that true? I don’t feel that it is. We spend lots of time with our children. Whether it is driving them to and from things – sporting events, practices, concerts, dates with friends, playing sports with them – we prioritise them and they know it. We have family game nights, compete with each other over charades, arm wrestling, balancing on one foot, planking and banagrams. I’m not trying to suggest that our family is perfect and this may not be the way for everyone, but…when we all eat together, our meals are often chaotic. With eight of us, there is lots of chat, lots of getting up and down, people eating at different speeds and eating slightly different things – it’s not what I would call quality connecting time.

So in principle, I agree. Family meals are excellent. But I think what is ACTUALLY excellent is seeking to make valuable time with each other as a family. To be significant in each other’s lives and not just as a TV watching zombie companion. To know what is going on with each family member. To show care for each other, whether it is by making the effort to make delicious fresh, home-cooked meals or to ensure that everyone gets to where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be. To take the time to build a fort of sofa cushions and blankets even when you’re feeling like crap. To play games, be silly, hug, sing and above all, show love. “Family meals” is a catch-all. An easy knock-off answer to “how can my family function better?” For each family, this will mean something different.

What does “family meals” aka “family time” look like in your household? What do you do to make your family more close-knit? How do you encourage communication in your family?

This is an extended family photo including my Brasilian cousins!

This is an extended family photo including my Brasilian cousins!

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Endings and beginnings

I’m pleased to see the back of 2013. It was a challenging year business-wise, and a sad end of the year personally speaking. I hit the Christmas break mentally, physically and emotionally wrung out. The lack of posts on this blog recently are a reflection of that. I seriously lacked all creative ability (except for creating Christmas goodies to eat, which went very well). After three weeks off, where I did a lot of reading, decluttering and helping my husband make a patio, I am back at work and finally beginning to feel a little like writing again.20140203-222437.jpg

What was it that made the end of 2013 so hard? Simply, I lost four friends between November 20th and Christmas Eve 2013. Kerri was a school  and family friend, and my age. She was one of the cool Gisborne surfer chicks, but she was never unkind to a nerdy geek. I last saw her five years ago, and was lucky enough to meet her gorgeous nearly grown-up daughter then. When I think of Kerri, it’s always as if a breath of summer blows over me.

Lizzie was the mother of one of my daughter’s best friends. She was my age too. She always made my daughter and I warmly welcome in her home. She seemed like a person who embraced life and found the wonder in it, and with whom you could sit down, have a glass of wine and a good chat. I last saw her at her son’s 16th birthday in October, when she was delighted to still be with us and able to join in the celebration.

Toni was quite a bit older, and I worked with her for ten years at my children’s primary school. She was the school secretary and in my role on the Board of Trustees, I got to know her very well. She could be crusty and grumpy and occasionally absent-minded, but we shared common ground in that we both had six children and a sense of humour. My youngest son summed it up best in the card he made for her family when he said “She always looked after me when I hurt myself. She reminded me to use my manners. She was kind.” She died suddenly and unexpectedly.

Damian had been sick for a couple of months. He was a work colleague who began just before I did, and we learnt the ropes together. Damian was dedicated, committed and extremely good at his job. He had a wicked sense of humour, and liked to wind me up by pretending he’d forgotten to do things.  I think of Damian as a shot of Irish whiskey with a dash of mischief mixed in. I raised a glass of whiskey to him on Christmas Eve, the day he died, and again on New Year’s Eve, the day of his funeral. He will be greatly missed, both as a colleague and a friend.

So many deaths in such a short time hit me hard. It made me sad. I am generally a happy, positive person, but I found these deaths – each new blow – hit me harder and harder. The period of sadness has really made me think. A very wise person said to me that hard times teach us lessons, and at this time of the year, it’s good to take stock and think about what it is we want from life.

Losing Kerri, Lizzie, Toni and Damian has reminded me that life is short. Things can change at any time. All four of them shared a willingness to live life as fully as possible. They made the most of their opportunities and they really loved the people around them. So with their example ahead of me, here are the things I plan to do in 2014. Not resolutions, as such, but attitude adjustments.

  • Have fun. And by this, I mean LOOK for the fun. Find the enjoyment in every moment and roll around in it.
  • Be kind.
  • Practice gratefulness and mindfulness.
  • Make sure all the practicalities – wills, insurances and the like – are in order.
  • Maintain the healthier lifestyle I followed for the second half of last year.
  • Make the most of my opportunities.
  • Love those around me and let them know they are loved.

What are your attitude adjustments for 2014? What have you learned from those people you have lost? And those who are still in your life?


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10 things I’ve learnt from 10,000 Steps

Schneider Electric NZ, my employer, has made a commitment to providing a healthy workplace and encouraging all of us to make better lifestyle choices. As part of this, a 10,000 Steps Challenge was organised through Vitality Works (check them out here). Myself and 114 of my colleagues were issued with pedometers, a website was set up to log our results, and each team was set the challenge of virtually walking the length of New Zealand in 8 weeks. Here’s what I’ve learned from this challenge:

  1. In my normal life, I am not nearly active enough.
  2. Even though I am a busy person, it is possible for me to find time for regular exercise. Occasionally this means my children eat pizza for dinner. I just have to make the time in my day and schedule it in – and most importantly look for the opportunity.
  3. Sometimes giving my kids pizza for dinner is an excellent trade off if it means we get to go for an hour of adventuring around our neighbourhood together. We found a bird’s nest on our last trek, stop and take photos of things which catch our eye and occasionally have fun finding somewhere to shelter from the rain.

    One of the boys thought this was worth a photo. I think he liked the DANGER.

    One of the boys thought this was worth a photo. I think he liked the DANGER.

  4. When I walk with my 7-year olds, I should accept that I need to take a plastic bag to collect litter. They are tidy Kiwis and it is good to see that the messages about rubbish are getting through to them, but I can only carry so many plastic bottles at once. It is funny hearing them tut tutting away at the level of rubbish “why do people leave their bottles lying around?” they ask in a tone of perplexity. Perhaps also hand sanitiser…

    Take that Miley Cyrus! A found sword (aka stick!) and an imaginary bow and arrow on a rest break.

    Take that Miley Cyrus! A found sword (aka stick!) and an imaginary bow and arrow on a rest break.

  5. It seems there are three levels of walking. Light walking or ambling, which is what I tend to do with my 7-year olds. Lots of stopping to smell the roses, picking up litter, taking of photos and exploring interesting looking spaces. Moderate walking, where I can sing along to the music in my ears or have a conversation, but I get a bit puffed. Vigorous walking, where I can neither sing nor talk, although I try. This last has lead to the urban myth spreading in a 3km radius from my house about the crazy singing walking lady.
  6. If I am going to walk, I also need to stretch.
  7. Music makes everything better, even a hard walk. Although walking at dawn, I find I prefer the sounds of the birds waking up. We have a lot of birds in our neighbourhood, especially our native Tui, who have such beautiful songs. In the quiet before the cars are rampaging through the streets, you can hear them calling to each other.

    Trees and flowers in Kuirau Park, Rotorua on a walk a few weeks ago.

    Trees and flowers in Kuirau Park, Rotorua on a walk a few weeks ago.

  8. Sunrises are beautiful. Despite this, I am not and never will be a morning person, and far prefer sunsets. Sadly, the time I can guarantee that I will exercise is first thing in the morning while the rest of the world is asleep.

    The view from my drive yesterday at 0600

    The view from my drive yesterday at 0600

  9. Walkers are friendly folk, and almost always exchange a “good morning” or a “hello”, especially if it is unreasonably early. There’s often a shared grimace and acknowledgement that yes, we’re mad. Runners and cyclists? Not friendly at all. I guess it’s because they have less time to smell the roses and are very focussed.

    I do stop and smell the roses - here is proof. It is also proof that early mornings and I are not good friends.

    I do stop and smell the roses – here is proof. It is also proof that early mornings and I are not good friends.

  10. It’s lucky that we only did this challenge for 8 weeks, as it turns out that you can become obsessed with achieving more steps each week. I wasn’t interested in competing with anyone else per se, but I found that I wanted to do more steps each week than I had the previous week. This led to me setting a 100,000 step target for the last week of the challenge.  I’m slightly ashamed to admit that it is 243 steps from my front door to the end of my driveway and back. Yes, there have been days when to get to the total I need I have just walked up and down the drive a few times. I’m quite looking forward to next week when I can swap out a walk for yoga without feeling guilty (yoga doesn’t give you many steps).
  11. There is nowhere within a 3km radius of my house which does not have hills. I generally have to walk up at least one hill to complete my walk. There are two particularly nasty hills. One looks innocuous, but is long and arduous. The other one looks heinous as it’s short and very steep. It turns out that the shorter hill is one I just have to attack and it is easier than it looks. The longer hill requires continuous pushing and a consistent effort and is always the harder hill. After 8 weeks of regular walking, I still can’t get up it without significant effort. Sometimes the tasks in life which seem the most difficult are straightforward and the hardest part is starting. Sometimes the only way to get through a difficult time is by consistent and determined effort.

OK, so that was eleven things! My big takeaway is really that I can do it. I can exercise regularly, and I am much healthier and happier for it. If I can do it, so can you! Go get a pedometer or find some type of healthy challenge that works for you, find some like-minded friends or colleagues, and go for it!

PS In my final week, I reached an unprecedented total of 114,000 steps. This is a substantial improvement from the 67,000 steps I managed in my first week.

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Being Still

I follow a number of different blogs from bloggers around the world. Themes (or is it memes?) come in ebbs and flows. For a while, Sheryl Sandberg provoked a rash of commentary on working outside the home mothers versus stay at home mothers. The latest theme I have noticed is one of pausing, stopping, reflecting, slowing down, enjoying little moments and looking at life quietly.

First, it was Amber at The Usual Bliss, who discovered her quiet place with the mountains. Then Caitlin Kelly, the broad behind the excellent Broadside blog, went walking in the Grand Canyon and had a few epiphanies about silence. There were a few others as well, and articles in the local paper. This got me thinking. Does my brain ever stop? Am I ever truly quiet, truly still? Am I ever at rest, aside from when I am sleeping (and based on the weirdness of my dreams, I’m guessing that my brain doesn’t rest then either!).

Physically and logistically, with the number of bodies in my house at any one time, I am fairly constantly on the go. When I am not working, playing taxi driver, chief cook or laundry-washer, what do I do? I read, I am on the internet (reading news and blogs) or Facebook, I am emailing. What about when I’m not doing that? I’ve started walking again recently and swimming, and these are the times when I am probably at my quietest.

But even when I try and empty my mind and be conscious of nothing but the water flowing past me, or the sound of the wind in the trees, I find myself counting my steps, wondering what the inside of that house looks like, seeing how much further those people have built their rock wall in the last few days  or concentrating on how my arms are entering the water and lengthening out my kicks. The concept of an empty mind, filled only with quiet peace, is very attractive in this busy world of ours, but does not seem to be something I can easily achieve.

Then the question comes. Do I actually need to learn how to be still? Will that refresh me? Is my brain just a busy one? Do I need “still” in order to have balance in my life?

If it’s not quiet and still, then what does refresh me? The walking and the swimming does, although it is hard going. Writing refreshes me. Seeing beauty in the world around me refreshes me. More and more the time I spend with my children refreshes me – along with all the normal challenges they present!

So perhaps what I need is not to be still, but to be less busy. To place more importance on simple basic things and less on technology and activities. To be more aware of the beauty around me – to stop and really look at it.

My boys and I went for an amble the other day. We had no agenda and no time frame. We played cops and robbers at the park, looked at a large motorway development near our house, and spent some considerable time pondering the meaning of these markings on the pavements. We all had a lovely time, and at the end, the boys wanted to know when we could do it again.

What were these mysterious markings?

What were these mysterious markings?

Waiting for the spirit of the avatar apparently!

Waiting for the spirit of the avatar apparently!

More strange markings...

More strange markings…

This tree made me pause, then stop the car and take a photo. I have it as my wall paper now and it brings a smile to my face every time I swipe to unlock.


The sun broke through the clouds on my drive to work this morning, and those fingers of light came down and touched the stormy sea in the harbour. It wasn’t safe to stop, but the sight of it lightened my drive.

Sunrise walk on the beach

Sunrise walk on the beach

And how about these crazy beautiful blossoms against the bright blue of an early spring sky?

photo-18 photo-19 photo-20

I’m going to try and be more aware. To appreciate the beauty around me. To enjoy small pleasures. What about you? Are you able to be still or do you need to be still? How do you do it?

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