Friday, July 30, 2010

National Poetry Day

Today is National Poetry Day in New Zealand. It's also Friday, and the end of a busy working week, and I'm feeling rather tired.

In the US they get a National Poetry Month. That seems much more civilised to me. Even a week would be good. I never seem to get to any Poetry Day events, since the main one in Christchurch always takes place at lunch time, at the university, where, if I did manage to slip away from work for an hour, there is never any spare car parking.

There is also Poetry for Pudding, at Borders Bookshop, but that is a purely "bring your own" event, no guest readers, and I'm just too tired to make the effort to go and hear the same people I hear at every open mic night.

But I couldn't let the day go past without at least posting a poem here. I offer this in honour of my day spent sitting at a computer. I had the line "the city is a spreadsheet" in the back of my mind for quite a long time before coming up with this poem. It will appear in "Flap: The Chook Book 2" which will be launched by my small poetry group, the Poetry Chooks, on October 16th. It first appeared at Blackmail Press in their Secrets issue.


The city is a spreadsheet
laid on the plains block upon block.
There are some in their airless offices
who affect nothing.
Don’t count on it.

In the hidden mathematics of the city
there are unexpected connections.
You might add a small number
at a crucial junction
and buses run late all over town.
Hum a tune and you might see
a single bird fly over,
or dancing break out in the streets.

And watch that girl with the blue hair,
when she enters the equation,
how it changes everything.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

More from Orana Park

We arrived just before giraffe feeding time...

but the otters are really my favourites...

although the new baby rhino is pretty adorable, too!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Up Close and Personal

It is close up week at Carmi's Thematic Photographic, so I thought I would post these photos I took at the weekend in the walk through kea aviary at Orana Wildlife Park.

These birds are very curious and not at all scared of humans, I was quite surprised how close they would come to us. They are mountain parrots, and are known for the damage they cause to cars parked at ski fields, where they will strip the rubber away from windscreens.

When they fly, they display the gorgeous orange on their backs and undersides of their wings.

Orana Park is New Zealand's only open range zoo. Many of the animals are in fields separated from the visitors only by a wide moat. These are a habitat for water birds, including the swan who posed obligingly for my new banner.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Morning and Evening Doings

There was such a spectacular sunrise this morning, I just had to record it on my camera, even though I was on a tight schedule to get to work.

So - I was leaning out the window taking photos, and I dropped my lens cap (who designs cameras without a little cord to attach the lens cap by, anyway?). It rolled down the roof and slid out of sight. I didn't have time to do anything about it then, but when I arrived home just before dark, I got my daughter to help me to get the big extension ladder out of the garage, erected it with some awkwardness against the guttering, and climbed up to retrieve the lens cap. It wasn't there. I looked very carefully, climbed down again and we telescoped the ladder back to its compact form. Then I looked around and just as I was about to give up, spotted the lens cap on the grass. It must have bounced over the edge of the guttering, instead of dropping into it as I had thought.

This week is Te Wiki o te Reo Maori (Maori Language Week). So, when I arrived home, before the shenanigans with the ladder, I noticed little sticky notes all around the kitchen.
window = matapihi
oven = umu
microwave = umu ngaru iti
(Which I didn't know before, but it makes perfect sense: ngaru is wave and iti is small).
I asked my daughter what's the Maori for ladder. She didn't know but promised to look it up.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday Poem

I was hesitant to join in the Tuesday Poem when it started, as I didn't want to commit to posting a new poem every Tuesday. It would mean either that I would have to have a new one of my own, or one by another poet, either well known enough to me to get copyright permission, or one that was out of copyright. I wasn't sure that I could keep coming up with another one that I liked every week to fit those restrictions.

And then the group filled up, as they restrict themselves to thirty members at a time. But that doesn't mean that I can't post a poem on Tuesdays if I feel like it, or link to the Tuesday Poem site either.

I found a lovely book at the library - The Bedside Book of Birds edited by Graeme Gibson who is, incidentally, Margaret Atwood's husband. I have a bit of a thing for birds at the moment, and can't help wondering if it is something to do with living in New Zealand, which is a land of birds, which take the place of mammals in our ecosystem.

In the book I found this extract from a Portuguese writer Alberto Caeiro, who lived from 1879 - 1915 (and must therefore be out of copyright by now)

Rather the flight of the bird passing and leaving no trace
Than creatures passing, leaving tracks on the ground.
The bird goes by and forgets, which is as it should be.
The creature, no longer there, and so, perfectly useless,
Shows it was there - also perfectly useless.

Remembering betrays Nature.
Because yesterday's Nature is not Nature.
What's past is nothing and remembering is not seeing.

Fly bird, fly away; teach me to disappear.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

And Is There Honey Still for Tea?

The tidying of the pantry continues. I thought I had my supplies of honey down to six jars. And then my daughter, who had been flatting and moved home, did some unpacking, and produced another jar of honey. Next, I emptied a box or two of herbal tea, and started to poke around the remaining umpty-eleven boxes of various sorts of tea, and there at the back of the shelf I found a small wooden crate containing three more jars of honey! (I think many of these have been bought on holiday, visiting road side stalls and the like).

So yes, there is honey still for tea in this household. (For those who don't know it, that's a reference to a poem by Rupert Brooke, a poet who died in World War 1).

I have been permitting myself to indulge in honey on toast for breakfast - probably somewhat less healthy than my usual cereal, although at least the toast is wholemeal.

I also used some making this dessert, from a recipe I clipped from a magazine more than forty years ago - it was a teenage magazine called "Petticoat", published at a time when it was thought teenaged girls, who may have left home, actually wanted to read about cooking, decorating tips etc and not just gossip about "celebrities"

This recipe predates the metric system - so, 1 lb is about 450 grams, 4 oz about 125 grams etc - teaspoons and tablespoons should be about the same, 5 ml for a teaspoon and 15 ml for a tablespoon, though I believe in Australia a tablespoon is 20 ml. Don't worry about it, it's not too critical to be exact.

Date and Apple Torte
1 lb peeled,cored cooking apples
4 oz stoned dates
2 oz shelled walnuts (I always leave these out)
1 egg
4 oz Barbados sugar - whatever that is, just use whatever brown sugar you can find
4 oz wholewheat flour
2 heaped teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
half a teaspoon salt
1 oz butter, melted
1 tablespoon clear honey

Dice the apples, chop dates and walnuts. Beat the egg. Mix everything together until the flour is absorbed. Turn into a greased baking tin about 8 inches square and two inches deep (about 20 cm square and 5 cm deep)

Bake it at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (about 200 degrees Celsius, although actually I think I baked it at my standard 180 degrees along with the roast meat, and it came out fine), until it is firm and brown and the apples are soft, about 50 minutes.

This is good hot or cold with cream or ice cream - and I tell myself it is healthy with all that brown sugar and wholemeal flour.

It looks as if I'll have to make it quite a few more times to make a dent in the remaining ten jars of honey!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


There seem to be endless books, websites, and paid professionals around aiming to help us to declutter our homes and lives. Mostly, it seems, by throwing things out. And sometimes we do need just to say, "I'm never going to use that again" and toss it.

But I can't help having serious reservations about that (apart from the fact that I live with other people. And what the professionals never seem to touch on is - what if the other people in your household don't see clutter as a problem? What if they actually want to keep all their stuff?). Anyway - it strikes me that if we just throw out a heap of stuff, all we do is make room to buy more. Whatever urge made us accumulate stuff in the first place may not have been dealt with by throwing half of it away.

I've been decluttering on a small scale, in a rather different way. I've focussed mostly on the pantry. And I have thrown out very little - rather, I'm searching out overlooked items in the pantry, and using them up. It gives me an appreciation for the abundance that I have already, and it is making my cooking more creative. Instead of cooking the familiar standbys, and repeatedly replenishing a few familiar ingredients, I'm having to think "what can I make with that?"

So far I have used:
a half a jar of dried beans
half a packet of stuffing mix
a small jar of maraschino cherries
various packets of sauce mix
a packet of chocolate cake mix - I don't know where that came from. I never use cake mix, I bake from scratch.
several jars of honey - there are still six left. We had clover honey, blue borage honey, kamahi honey, pohutukawa honey, manuka honey, more kamahi honey, and just honey.
redcurrant jelly
dijon mustard
light sour cream
butterscotch and brandy sauce
half a jar of crumbs from breakfast cereal biscuits (Weetbix, which my New Zealand and Australian readers will know about)
some travel size jars and sachets of jam (jelly, for any Americans out there)

Recipes to follow!

I have also been using up all the odd jars and bottles of shampoo, moisturiser etc that have been hanging around - including little travel sized bottles brought home from hotels and bed and breakfasts. My skin feels well cared for, and my pantry is beginning to look quite neat and tidy.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Deans Bush

I was going to post these photos with yesterday's post, but decided there were enough already.

The Riccarton Farmers' Market is held in the grounds of Riccarton House, a lovely historic home very near the centre of the city. It was owned by the Deans family, early settlers* who had the foresight to preserve a beautiful piece of bush (native forest) right near the heart of the city (probably thinking of future timber supplies considering that "conservation" wasn't a familiar concept back then).

I took a walk through this lovely area, which is now predator fenced, after looking at the market. It was difficult to photograph in the low light without a tripod, but I managed a few.

These kahikatea are the oldest trees there, about 300 - 600 years old.

I loved the way the shafts of sunlight lit up the damp air

Gnarled tree roots are another favourite of mine

*Very early settlers. The English arrived in the "First Four Ships" in 1850, only to discover that the Deans brothers, from Scotland, had arrived overland from elsewhere in New Zealand and settled on the best farming land!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Shopping for Sunlight

I was sitting at my computer on Saturday morning, wondering whether to go out or stay at home, and thinking perhaps I couldn't be bothered. Then I read Tony Hoagland's poem The Word at Mary's blog, Creative Voyage, and it was just the impetus I needed to get out of the house:

Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,

between “green thread”
and “broccoli” you find
that you have penciled “sunlight.”

So I headed off to the Riccarton Farmer's Market to shop for sunlight, something that has been in short supply around here lately. This is the first weekend in a while that we have had two sunny days - but on yesterday, there was no guarantee that the sunshine would continue, so I'm glad I grabbed it while I could.

Pots of sunlight

The empanadas were delicious.

The children played while their parents were busy shopping. Who remembers doing this as a child?

Feeding the ducks

This little dog apparently waits patiently in the saddle bag of his owner's bicycle every week.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Frost, and Making Things

The first of the month came, and I turned the page of my wall calendar both at home and at work. It's that time of the year when the makers of scenic calendars seem to feel the urge to use photos appropriate to the season. The trouble is that New Zealand houses tend to be hard to keep warm, and when I am wrapping up to stop from turning blue the last thing I want is to gaze at a scene of frozen mountains, bare trees and icy rivers.

Next year I need to plan to swap calendars with someone in the Northern Hemisphere, so that in winter I can gaze at Greek Islands, or fields in Provence, or some of Di's wonderful photos of Turkey, or Italy.

My family history writing fizzled out about halfway through June. Without the incentive of an internet site to post to, it's harder to commit to writing every single day. But I still got a sizeable chunk done.

This month, I feel the urge to make things. I haven't indulged in craft for a long time. I have some half finished quilting and knitting projects that probably need a lot more than a month to finish up. I will probably work on one or two, but I am also on the lookout for small projects that I can make in a spare hour or two.

Yesterday, I made one of these small origami books. (I will take photos over the weekend, when I'm at home in the hours of daylight). My version was very simple, with pages of gradated origami paper in shades of green. But I find myself thinking about all the possibilities of stamping the paper, colour washing it, printing it on the computer before I fold it. And i'm trying to work out, if I wrote a poem in one of these books, should I do it before or after I fold the paper, and how would it progress across the pages. Would it twist and turn? If I wrote stanzas onto the pages before folding, how would they rearrange themselves when I assembled the book?

For more detail photos of the book, go here and scroll about halfway down the page.

(The photo at the top of this post is a very frosty pile of leaves by the path outside my house this morning).