When is too old to start tap dancing?

I’ve been having such a nice week. I’ve been gardening, op-shopping, cleaning the house, cycling, doing karaoke, playing the piano, and watching tv. And yes, I had the windows and doors closed when singing karaoke and yes, it would have been very embarrassing had anyone heard. On the gardening front, I’ve caught so many slugs and snails in my beer traps that I’m beginning to wonder how any vegetables survived at all?

Lately I’ve been considering taking up tap dancing. I’ve never done any tap dancing before and never did ballet or anything else as a child but I’ve always been enthralled by the tap dancing numbers of the 1940s and 1950s and Eleanor Powell, Fred Astaire, and Ann Miller – to name just a few. Tap dancing is quite versatile: you can do it on your own or with a partner. It’s also a form of music in many ways in that you’re dancing and creating music at the same time. I want to do this (fast-forward to 2 minutes in to see the tap routine).

Ok, I realise I’m never going to be able to do that but I can still dream. What do you think? Can 40-somethings learn how to tap dance?

A vintage tartan skirt

I’m taking some much-needed time off this week and today I went op-shopping (to non-Antipodeans op-shopping = charity chopping). I haven’t been op-shopping for ages and ages and I got some fantastic bargains including this gorgeous tartan skirt.


I could tell from the tag and the zip that it was very old but I wasn’t sure how old because I’d never heard of the label before. I Googled it when I got home and it turns out this is a brand from the 1960s called “Sportaville” and made in London.


The skirt is older than I am and in perfect condition. It has been very well-looked after and probably never worn by the looks of it. I will certainly wear it. I absolutely love it and it’s pure wool so perfect for a Scottish winter.

The perfect bridesmaid dress

My sister has wonderful taste. I’ve been having a spring-clean and I found my bridesmaid dress from her wedding about 19 years ago. It’s a simple halter-neck dress made from a purple tie-dye chiffon over a satin lining. She had them specially made. I don’t know why I haven’t worn it since. It’s beautiful and a classic dress which doesn’t look out of place today, almost 20 years later. Maybe I’ll wear it to my work Christmas dinner. I could even wear my new purple boots with it.


A hedgehog house

A hedgehog house

We got a hedgehog house for our garden. I hope a hedgehog finds it suitable and moves in. I think it looks very inviting. That old pot next to it has been dragged with us all over the world, from city to city and country to country. I think we got it in Christchurch.


My war with the slugs and snails continues. I haven’t lost any of my new seedlings so far but I do put a lid over this compartment each night.


I planted a sweet pea in an old bicycle basket a couple of months ago and put it in the glasshouse. It’s grown a bit out of control but there aren’t as many flowers on it as I’d hoped; maybe it hasn’t reached its peak yet. I love reusing old baskets and containers as flower pots.


Sticky poo on my new shoes

Sticky poo on my new shoes

A very kind person solved my tap problem by posting the missing part through my letterbox this morning. Thank you so much! It was particularly fortunate because I later stepped in dog poo and the hose made the cleaning up much easier than it would have otherwise been. It turns out the plumber did not install a non-standard tap. I’m just a moron🙂

I’ve been wearing my new purple boots non-stop every day since I got them. Ben refused to let me wear them to bed though. Not fair! They have been supremely comfortable and still no blisters or anything. My only complaint is that they’re not dog-poo-proof. I stepped in a particularly sticky and fresh dog turd today and, as always with the bad ones, I smelt it before I saw it. The grooves are so deep on the bottom that I had to use Ben’s toothbrush to get rid of it all.


The next shot is *after* scraping off most of it with a stick (and before using Ben’s toothbrush).




This is what plumbers do to you

This is what plumbers do to you

This is how I feel right now. And no, it’s not because I haven’t had a day off since the 4th of September although that probably doesn’t help. It’s plumbers. They’re the bane of my existence. Every single time they come out to do a job they stuff something up. Every. Single. Time.

First there was the plumber who we called to fix a water leak but who did nothing other than decide it was the central heating that was leaking (which it wasn’t). He then handed the job over to British Gas who proceeded to destroy the neighbour’s kitchen ceiling and not actually fix anything at all.

Next our toilet started leaking, the plumber had a look, didn’t fix it, but left the cistern lid sitting on the bathroom bench. Now for most toilets this wouldn’t be an issue except that our toilet’s cistern is hidden in a cupboard with no handle and it took me days to figure out how to put the lid back. When the next plumber came and also forgot – they all forget – I at least knew what to do. But the same plumber also put the front of the toilet back the wrong way so that instead of the flush button being on the right of the toilet, where it usually is, it was on the left. This was immensely irritating.

Then last week I had to call the plumber again to replace a washer on an outdoor tap. They ended up replacing the entire tap but now none of my hose attachments fit it. I have about half a dozen different attachments but because it’s a universal fitting they’re all the same. Yet the plumber installed a tap which doesn’t fit this universal fitting.

Doctor Who, Sherlock, and drowning in beer

Doctor Who, Sherlock, and drowning in beer

We introduced the kids to the 2005 Series of Doctor Who last weekend and it was an instant hit. They haven’t seen any Doctor Who before and now they’re fans for life. I wouldn’t be surprised if Daniel gets himself a Tardis one day. The special effects haven’t changed much in 40 years and some of the aliens look like they’re wearing recycled Teletubbies costumes but that’s all part of the appeal. If it wasn’t funny and borderline silly, kids would find it scary.

Ben and I also started watching the BBC’s Sherlock which has my favourite actor, Benedict Cumberbatch, in it. He’s the best actor of his generation and he’s brilliant as Sherlock Holmes. Martin Freeman is equally superb as Doctor Watson. The screenplay is also very good and funny in parts. How have I not discovered this show before?

I have good news regarding the war with Mr. Slug. A couple of days ago I put some bowls of beer in the greenhouse and look what I’ve caught so far:



1 snail
1 slug
1 wasp
3 x unknown flying insects

I did feel a bit bad about the snail and the slug but I suppose there are worse ways to go than drowning in beer.

Vegetarian boots in purple

Vegetarian boots in purple

I blogged recently about my birthday present to myself – vegan Dr. Martens – and I got a lot of compliments for them. They did look very nice but sadly I decided to return them because they were too uncomfortable. The vegan Dr. Martens are made narrower for some reason. Evidently vegans have skinny feet. Who knew? My feet have a healthy arch and it just wasn’t going to work so I returned them and bought a pair of boots from Vegetarian Shoes instead. All I can say is WOW! My new boots are the best boots ever! I’m never taking them off. I’m even going to wear them to bed.


I got the Airseal Para Boot Bucky in purple. The material is softer than the Dr. Martens but still thick and tough-looking. They’re also made in one of England’s oldest shoe-making factories. I’ve been wearing them for a total of about 2 hours so far and there’s not the slightest hint of a blister.

Now that I have a pair of purple vegetarian boots my life is complete. It was lacking before.






The company have a video of how these boots are made in the UK factory.


My garden

My garden

I lay on the trampoline today looking up and this is what I saw.


Very soon now the trampoline is going to turn into a gigantic bucket of leaves – they’ve already started falling – but I’d still rather have the trees.

Here’s my garden produce on the dinner table tonight:


Everything on that wooden chopping board came from my garden. Isn’t that wonderful?

I’ve also got cyclamen in my garden. I’m amazed that they grow in the ground and without any attention from me. Years ago when I lived in Brisbane I struggled to get them to flower and look healthy. Here I just dig them in the ground and do nothing and they look beautiful. That’s my kind of plant.


Can I outwit a slug?

Can I outwit a slug?

I’ve been planting lots of seeds over the past month or so and they germinate and start to grow. But then something comes along, probably a slug, and demolishes it in one go. They don’t eat the weeds. Oh no. They leave the weeds and eat the thing I want.

I’m not going to be outwitted by a f**king slug, so now I’ve got a mini-greenhouse for my greenhouse and have surrounded it with salt.


I planted these seeds just a few days ago and some have germinated already. So far, so good.


Take that slugs! Rachel – 1. Slugs – 0.

The best birthday ever

The best birthday ever

A conversation at school this morning.

Elizabeth (to her friend): It’s my mum’s birthday today and she’s 41.
Elizabeth’s friend: Wow, my mum’s heaps younger than your mum but your mum looks heaps younger than my mum.

The best birthday present ever :)

I had a nice day today. I did one of my favourite things which was cycle to Newton Dee for chocolate.


This evening, much to Daniel’s disgust, we went out for dinner to the best Vegetarian café/restaurant in Aberdeen – The Foodstory Café.


I had vegan stuffed courgettes and it was amazing.


A funny birthday card:



Ready Player One

Ready Player One

I’m going to review this terrific book I just finished but I must digress a bit first to explain how I came to acquire it. It arrived mysteriously in the post in a parcel addressed to me about a month ago. I thought it was an early birthday present but didn’t know who from so Ben made some enquiries and it turned out to be a thank-you gift for washable nappies.

When we left Auckland I discovered a box of old washable nappies which had been through two children – Daniel and Elizabeth. We never bought disposable nappies for our kids. I may have bought one pack once but even on holiday we used the washables. It saved us thousands of dollars and also meant we weren’t sending all that rubbish to landfill – a win-win from every angle. I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away and so we gave them to an old friend in Christchurch who had just had a baby. Her baby was the third bottom to wear these nappies and now she’s had another baby and they’re getting used on a fourth bottom. They must been getting pretty thin by now.

Anyway back to the book which was a gift from this friend as thanks for those washable nappies.

The book is called Ready Player One and is a science fiction novel set in the future, decades from now. Humans have predictably trashed the planet and climate change has turned much of the population into refugees. The real world is so awful that most humans now live in a computer program called the OASIS. Children even go to school in the OASIS. The creator of the OASIS has died and left his billions and control of the software to whoever can find the Easter Egg he hid somewhere inside this virtual world.

The book is about the desperate hunt for the Easter Egg which involves deciphering lots of puzzles with clues that reference the technology and popular culture of the 1980s. I grew up in the 1980s and so this aspect of the book was particularly entertaining for me. There are also lots of battles between good and evil and an interesting yet grim illustration of how the future could look. The thought that humans may live entirely inside a computer program in the future was particularly scary. Reading the book made me want to spend less time in front of my computer than I already do for this reason.

It was written by Ernest Cline; his first novel. There are a few bits that were unbelievable and a bit silly but overall I thought it was terrific. It’s also being turned into a film. Can’t wait to see it.

Vegan Dr. Martens

Vegan Dr. Martens

It’s my birthday on Friday and so I decided to buy myself a surprise birthday present: a pair of vegan Dr. Martens. I’ve never owned a pair of Dr. Martens before but used to lust after them as a 19-year-old. Now that I’m no longer a broke university student and can afford to buy a pair I did exactly that! I got the vegan 1460 Cambridge Brush.


They arrived today and they’re beautiful boots but really tight across the top of my foot. Is that normal? Will it cut off the blood supply to my toes causing them to go gangrenous? Possibly, but it’s more important to look good than to be comfortable.






The school garden

The school garden

I spent most of my day off yesterday working in the school garden. Somehow it doesn’t look much better despite my best efforts. It’s just an ugly garden. Most of my time was spent removing a rogue bamboo which spreads faster than any other plant I’ve seen. I do like bamboo and I wouldn’t mind it normally but there are other plants in the bed and it completely takes over. So I got rid of all of it and put in some heather and violas.


I originally thought those two spiky plants were New Zealand cabbage trees but locals tell me they’re some kind of South African plant. They just look ugly in this garden. They’re not very leafy and look straggly. It’s probably not the right climate. Anyone know what they are? I’m tempted to dig them out.

I planted the small shrub on the very left in this next photo as well as the violas. There’s so much concrete and asphalt in the playground and it desperately needs soft and leafy things to balance the harshness.


This garden bed had a small tree in it and nothing else so I put in some herbs and an artichoke. It’s a battle keeping them watered because there’s no tap in the school playground. How can they not have drinking fountains? It would be illegal not to have drinking fountains in a school playground in New Zealand and Australia.


I’ll post some pics again in the spring to compare back to these and see whether it looks any better.


Jumping and shaking

Jumping and shaking

We cycled to Newton Dee again yesterday and I got this jumping shot for my friend, Stew. Stew is going to give me a cameo in one of his films one day🙂


This week is my company’s annual grand meetup but I’m not going because it’s in Whistler. I know what you’re thinking: Whistler!! Why isn’t she going to Whistler? Everyone loves Whistler. 

Whistler is about 120km from Vancouver which is right next to the Cascadia subduction zone. Subduction zones produce the world’s biggest earthquakes and Cascadia will produce a magnitude 9 or higher. There’s a 7-15% chance of Cascadia rupturing over the next 50 years.

I thoroughly enjoyed last year’s Grand Meetup in Park City and have been looking forward to this year’s ever since and so I felt bummed when the location was announced. Now it looks like I’ll never go to a Grand Meetup ever again because they’re all going to be in Whistler for the foreseeable future. All I can say is I hope Whistler really sucks. I hope it rains every day and that a pack of bears surrounds the hotel  and holds everyone hostage; I hope the food tastes like crap and they run out of coffee; I hope the beds are full of bugs and the swimming pools green; I hope the toilets don’t flush and the wifi is crappy. But of course I’m sure it’ll be wonderful and everyone will love it and as long as I’m not there there’ll be no earthquakes. If I go, there’ll be an earthquake for sure.

We’ve just passed the six-year anniversary of the start of the Christchurch earthquake sequence. The very first earthquake was a magnitude 7.1 on September 4th 2010 at 4:35am. Since then there have been over 14,000 earthquakes in the region. I’m not sure how many I personally have felt – too many to count – but one thing I can say for sure is immersion therapy doesn’t work. I’ll be very happy if I never experience another earthquake ever again for the rest of my life. I’ve been there, done that, and I think I’ll skip that experience again, if possible. There are parts of the world I will never go – the Pacific Ring of Fire, Turkey, Italy, China, Iran – because of the earthquake risk. It’s just not worth it in my view.

When I shut my eyes and concentrate I can still transport my mind back to one of those Christchurch earthquakes. I can still hear the sound and feel the shaking and relive my fear. Some people forget things like that but I don’t. I know exactly what it feels like and it’s unpleasant. I also remember the anxiety that follows – it’s not like other natural disasters that have a start and a finish or, as in the case of weather-related disasters, some warning either from the Met Office or just by looking at the sky. Earthquakes come without warning and they go on and on for years and you never know when the next aftershock will strike. Sometimes the aftershocks are worse than the initial quake. For every second of every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week they can strike. There’s no warning, no down-time, no relax and recover time.

Here’s a nice animation of every quake in Canterbury over the past five years.

Castle Fraser

Castle Fraser

My aunt and uncle have left now – I thoroughly enjoyed having them here. We went to Castle Fraser on Thursday and I’m only just getting around to posting the pics. I haven’t been there for over a year and it was wonderful. The walled garden is one of the best I’ve seen with a very productive vegetable garden and lots of fruit trees.





It’s an attractive castle from the outside. I like the gateway into the courtyard and the asymmetry.



There’s a nice view from the top.


Here are the servants’ bells.


This is one of the bedrooms and you can see the rope hanging on the left which would have activated the corresponding bell in the servants’ quarters. Very high tech🙂 The big tub is a bath and the ceramic bottle on the bed is an old hot water bottle.


They currently have a 19th century wedding dress on display which was worn by Blanche Mackenzie Fraser on her wedding day.


Most of these old castles also have what is called a Laird’s Lug which was a way for the Lord to eavesdrop on conversations in the great hall, and Castle Fraser is no exception. It seems humans have been eavesdropping on each other for centuries; only the technology has changed.

I asked the helpful employees at the castle why this one is called Castle Fraser and not Fraser Castle and apparently this is something the Fraser family chose to do to make the Fraser name seem more important. They also told us that no-one knows where the Fraser descendants now live but they think some left for Australia. The property is owned by the National Trust now.

But what do they do?

We watched Mr Bean’s The Ultimate Disaster Movie with the kids recently. They’ve seen it several times and love it. I find it painful to watch but entertaining nonetheless.

There’s a scene in a men’s bathroom with urinals and Elizabeth, who has never seen urinals before, said,

Are they those things you use to wash your bum when you do a runny poo?

I think she thought they were bidets. Ben said, “No, they’re for peeing in”, to which Elizabeth replied, “But what do they do?”. Obviously flushing urine away is not enough for young people today. Perhaps urinals should provide wifi, charging slots, and blood pressure monitors as well.


The beach in Aberdeen

The beach in Aberdeen

We went to the beach today and I took some photos. Can you see all the ships on the horizon?




The next photo is a building at Castlegate in Aberdeen. It’s quite striking and is, I think, what is called an example of Scottish baronial architecture. It looks very Aberdonian to me and contains nothing exciting at all – just serviced apartments.


Crathes Castle

Crathes Castle

My aunt and uncle are visiting this weekend and we so enjoyed our trip to Crathes Castle last weekend that we decided to do it again.


Much to my amazement we were told we could take photos inside provided we didn’t use the flash. The National Trust never let you take photos and so I’ve never taken any of the inside of Crathes Castle until today. I took a couple of the famous painted ceilings.



They also have a very old baby walker.


I managed to get some terrific jumping photos and can’t decide which of the following two are better so I uploaded both of them.



Daniel played with someone’s dog and loved it. He wants a dog but I don’t have time to walk a dog every day.






The view.


A walk in the forest.



One of the views on the way back home.