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It’s been a while since I’ve done a BlogThis challenge, mainly because it’s been a while since I’ve read through all the things in my Google Reader and FOUND the BlogThis challenge before the challenge had ended! Here is the challenge for this week:

With today being Good Friday what better time than to issue a challenge about all things ‘good’!

So friends, tell us about a good deed you have done for someone or vice-versa. Or how someone elses’ good deed that you have learned about has affected you.. did you learn from it? How did it make you feel?  Was it a disaster? Did it uplift you?

My favourite good deed at the moment is to participate in Operation Beautiful. The mission statement on the website is this:

“The mission of Operation Beautiful is to post anonymous notes in public places for other women to find. The point is that WE ARE ALL BEAUTIFUL”.

I love the idea of giving an unseen woman a little self esteem boost, and reminding her that beauty isn’t about what’s on the outside, I think we all need reminding about that sometimes. So I have made my own little ‘operation beautiful’ kit which I carry around in my bag at all times. It’s a cute little tin that arrived in a care package from a friend a while ago, and inside it I have all my little notes, pre-written and ready to go, and some blu tack for sticking them up. Mostly I post them up on bathroom mirrors but I’ve left a few on car windscreens, or stuck to the soy milk at the supermarket or on a park bench by the lake.

I don’t know if anyone reads them, or if it makes a difference in anyone’s day, but I like to think that it does.




I haven’t been very good at keeping up with this blog over the last few months. I considered scrapping the whole thing all together and focusing on my Vegan Blog instead but decided at the last minute to keep it up and running. I’ve broken up with so many online journals over the years and have always regretted not keeping them going so I’m going to work through the lack of motivation and see where we end up.

We had some visitors from Perth here with us this week and it’s been really lovely. It’s really nice to live somewhere that people actually want to come and visit, we are so lucky to live in this glorious holiday destination, it’s so easy to forget. Anyway, Amy and Conrad arrived on Tuesday afternoon in Queenstown and we had dinner and coffees and caught up after over a year of not seeing one another. It was fabulous to sit in my favourite coffee shop with actual people, instead of just sitting with my head in a book like I usually do. They slept in town and explored the city for a couple of nights before heading out to our little house by the lake.

They stayed here two nights, and didn’t once complain about the smorgasbord of vegan food we had organised for them.. which was a relief, it can be a little intimidating inviting omnivores to stay! After two days here we headed off on a little road trip together to explore some parts of the South Island. Last night we stayed at a great little place in Te Anau. We explored Milford Sound by day and by night we ate Italian food and watched dodgy old bond movies on telly. This morning we ate breakfast in a local bakery and then they drove off into the sunset, continuing on their adventure and leaving me here, waving frantically from my deck as they sailed away.

The house feels strangely quiet now that they are gone, but it makes me even more excited for our next set of guests who are arriving in May! Anyone else want to visit us? While I will feed you vegan food, I promise not to attempt a conversion of your meat eating ways (although Amy and Conrad DID depart as new recruits to the vegetarian lifestyle, I promise, I had nothing to do with it!).

Here are some pics of the mini adventure:







Maybe I am watching too many movies lately, but the seagulls that have started hanging around my house the last few days are really starting to creep me out. There are hundreds of them and I’ve no idea where they came from, one day there were none and the next they were everywhere!

I’m hoping that it’s not some kind of animal kingdom sixth sense warning thing about the next big flood, like the way dogs can predict earthquakes. The lake has been steadily rising the last few weeks and I’m really starting to get nervous that we might get flooded out. The last big flood was in 1996 and the water level was so high that our loungeroom was completely submerged – obviously we weren’t living here then, so technically it wasn’t “our” loungeroom but you know what I mean.

The big flood before the last big flood was about 200 years ago though so I’m hoping we have another century or so to go before we really have to start worrying, but I just can’t help but sneak a peak at the water level each time I walk through the house, just in case.

You might remember my post a little while ago, where I mentioned signing up with couchsurfing.org in an effort to start getting over my social phobia. Well, today was the day!! I’m embarrassed to tell you how many times I almost called the whole thing off, how many times I composed emails in my head detailing all sorts of weird and wonderful reasons why it was just impossible for us to host him, or how many times I agonised to Luke about any number of ridiculous things that I thought would go wrong the second the stranger walked through our front door.

In the end I’m ashamed to admit that Joel arrived on our doorstep, not because of my gracious – and brave – invitation, but by sheer dumb luck! He emailed me yesterday to say he was on his way, cycling madly all the way from Te Anau, and that he would arrive either today or tomorrow, he left me his mobile number at the bottom of the email and asked me to sms him our address.. which, of course, I didn’t do. I know, I know, shame on me! In my defense, I didn’t actually have any credit, but I do have a home phone so I could have just called him, but I was stupidly paranoid about the whole thing so I just kept putting it off and putting it off and putting it off, until about 6pm when I noticed a very worried looking man cycling up and down my street, his bicycle overloaded with camping gear and water bottles and saddle bags packed to bursting point. What a sorry sight he was!

My heart gave an almighty, panic stricken, jump when I saw him, and I did consider just ignoring him altogether, but you’ll all be pleased to know that I didn’t leave the poor man to fend for himself (which, for the record, wouldn’t have been so bad, there is a caravan park just down the road) and instead I took a deep breath and went outside and introduced myself.

So here he is, lovely Joel, who isn’t at all intimidating or scary and in fact is just a lovely little sunburned French man trying to have an adventure. What a mess I must have looked, the strangely nervous, barefoot, dreadlocked hippy girl, all a flutter at his arrival! I made us some chamomile tea (like any good barefoot, dreadlocked hippy girl would!) and we sat around my loungeroom chatting and watching the sunset over the mountains. I offered him dinner but he had already eaten – thank goodness for that because I’ve no idea what I would have made for him! – And now, 6 hours after his arrival, we have compared life stories, taken photos of each other, exchanged email addresses, compared our New Zealand panoramic photography, become facebook friends and I’m in the process of convincing him to settle in Queenstown so we can be coffee buddies.

He is tucked up in bed now – exhausted from cycling over 100kms today – and I am sitting here, marveling at my own absurdity, it’s moments like this, when I am awash in the happy glow of socialising with friendly people that I really have to wonder about myself, I mean I practically gave myself an ulcer worrying about this very night, and now it is here and it’s absolutely fine!

This weeks blog this challenge was a bit of a tricky one for me, as soon as I read the challenge I knew what I wanted to photograph, the trick was finding a way to photograph it so that it actually looked decent.

This item was my ‘something old’ at my wedding:

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It might sound a little morbid and creepy but it’s actually a small vial which is filled with my Nan’s ashes. When she first died I carried her with me in this little silver vial, as I backpacked all the way around South East Asia (it was always quite stressful when we were heading through customs, I would always worry that I was going to be accused of drug smuggling at any moment!).

On my wedding day we tied the vial to my wedding bouquet and I carried her down the aisle with me as my something old. Being referred to as ‘old’ would have annoyed her so much that it was a bit of an inside joke on the wedding day, and that’s part of the reason why she was the first thing I could think of when I read that the blog this challenge this week was to photograph something old.

These days she sits on my desk, tied to my pen bucket with the white ribbon I used to tie her to my bouquet on my wedding day. It’s a nice physical reminder that she is always with me, even though I don’t believe that she would be any less with me if I didn’t have the vial, it’s a comfort to me though.

 

I was thinking yesterday about my 101/1001 list and how unmotivated I’ve been lately with crossing things off. Admittedly I have been working pretty hard on my NaNoWrimo – which is number 48 – and that definitely counts for something, but I thought it was about time that I took a stab at something else on the list. So, early this morning, just before 2am, which is about the time that Luke and I are starting to think about going to bed, we decided to take a drive to Dunedin and watch the sunrise at the beach.

Watching a sunrise was one of the things on the list but I also had to visit the beach one more time before I could cross number 42 (visit the ocean at least four times) so we decided we may as well cross both of them off in one go. I frantically made up some roadtrip CDs, grabbed T’s work in progress CD, a picnic blanket, some water, and my book, and off we went.

For those of you who don’t know New Zealand, I’ve attached a map so you can see just how much of the country we covered. We got home about an hour ago, so we actually covered this distance twice today:

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The sunrise itself was pretty disappointing, after driving all through the night, chugging down Red-bulls and singing (badly) to keep ourselves awake we arrived at the beach to discover POURING rain and freezing cold gale force winds. It was so cold that my feet are STILL thawing out 10 hours later. So, we snapped some photos to prove we were there and watched the sunrise from the warmth of the car. We explored the city for a couple of hours, then had some breakfast at a local vegan cafe (Why don’t we have one of those in Queenstown?) did some op shopping, and then drove home again. We had beautiful weather on the way home which was nice after the freezing rain in the morning. It was a really great day, but now I am exhausted, so instead of telling you about it, I’m just going to post some pictures!

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This one’s for you Sharni!!

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And home sweet home

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So, that is two more things crossed off my 101/1001 list, even though technically we didn’t see the sun actually rise, because it was behind clouds, I’m still counting it, because we did watch the night turn into day, so I think that counts!

I’ve also crossed off number 13 on the list, which was to have 101 vegan meals, because as of three days ago I’m officially 100% vegan. I’ve been vegetarian for a few years now, but I have been eating vegan 95% of the time, it got to the point last week where I realised that I was hanging onto cheese and chocolate as a bit of a crutch, so I’ve eliminated them from my diet completely (except dark vegan chocolate!) and from here on in I won’t be eating any animal products whatsoever. It’s quite a feat! You never really realise how many things have animal products in them, today on the way home I picked up a packet of Salt and Vinegar chips only to realise they had milk in them! I looked through every single chip flavour in the place, and in the end the only one that was vegan was the plain salt.. very strange!

Anyway, that’s news from me. I haven’t slept in 30 hours so I’m going to bed!!

Well it’s been 41 hours since the start of NaNoWrimo this year and so far so good. I’ve managed to stay super motivated and have churned out a lovely 6590 words so far. I credit my super successful start to Freedom, which has severely curtailed my procrastination impulses.. thank goodness for that! And, while writing 6590 words I’ve also managed to make a vegan soup, bake a walnut loaf, update my “other” blog with said recipes, watch 2 movies and get more than 16 hours sleep! All in all, things are coming along very nicely! Perhaps it’s the view that’s contributing to my super creative vibe at the moment..

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Lets hope I can keep the momentum going with the word count and that my story continues to inspire me, instead of making me want to bang my head repeatedly on my desk, which is what happened when I got to about 8000 words in last years story.

In other news, I had my first ever trick-or-treater on halloween which was very exciting. I was so shocked when someone knocked on my door that I almost fell off my chair! It’s only the second time someone has knocked on our door in 3 months so you can understand my confusion! I answered the door to find this little guy:

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I was so happy to have a trick-or-treater that I asked him if I could take a photo. Unfortunately I didn’t have anything to give him which I felt pretty bad about, I would have offered him an orange but I figure that is probably worse than getting nothing at all! He took it pretty well though, and I promised him that I would have lollies for him next year.

In rodent related news, I finally worked up the courage to come out of the bedroom for a whole half a day until my Mum sent me a nasty email about how mice can chew through walls and are probably climbing up the legs of my bed and crawling on me while I sleep and then I had a mini nervous breakdown and went back in to the bedroom (though, even the bedroom didn’t feel very safe thanks to her!). I’ve managed to coax myself out today, and so far so good, although I’m really hoping that my super electromagnetic mouse scarer-awayer arrives tomorrow.. I just don’t know if I can take much more of this!

Anyway, it’s 5:30 which means, it’s time to re-activate Freedom for the next 2 hours and see if I can churn out another 2000 words before the end of the day. Wish me luck!

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Well the rain may have brought the mice, but it was also responsible for some more glorious new flowers blooming in our yard so perhaps it can be forgiven. I did manage to get outside this afternoon but I’m back to hiding out in my bedroom at the moment.. there hasn’t been another mouse sighting yet (although this probably has more to do with the fact that I am hiding out in the bedroom than the mouse being gone) but I’m not taking any chances.

In non rodent related news, there is only 28 hours left until the NaNoWriMo kick off. For those of you who aren’t in the ‘Wrimo loop, basically the challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, starting November 1st. Here is the lowdown from the website:

What is NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and—when the thing is done—the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.

In 2008, we had over 119,000 participants. More than 21,000 of them crossed the 50k finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.

So, to recap:

What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month’s time.

Who: You! We can’t do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let’s write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.

Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era’s most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work.

When: You can sign up anytime to add your name to the roster and browse the forums. Writing begins November 1. To be added to the official list of winners, you must reach the 50,000-word mark by November 30 at midnight. Once your novel has been verified by our web-based team of robotic word counters, the partying begins.

So, through the month of November one of two things will happen, either I will be so focused on my ‘Wrimo novel that you won’t hear a peep from me, or I will be so hell bent on procrastinating that I’ll be blogging, tweeting, commenting and facebooking like never before. Either option is fine, last year during a fit of NaNoWriMo procrastination I started my vegetarian food blog and I’ve managed to keep that alive now for the whole year, so good things do come from endless procrastination, even if it doesn’t happen to be the thing you are actually supposed to be working on.

Last year I didn’t make it through to the 50,000 finish line but this year I’m hoping to be a ‘Wrimo winner.. especially since successful completion means I can cross something new off my 101/1001 list, which I haven’t done in a really long time and really need to start working on again.

Anyway, wish me some novel writing luck!

I think I may have jinxed us with my Springtime post last week. Yesterday afternoon we were unexpectedly enveloped in a snowstorm. Out of nowhere the temperature dropped, and the rain – which has been falling non stop for days and days and days – suddenly turned into snowflakes.. it was pretty spectacular actually. Unfortunately I was only able to get a couple of photos before my camera ran out of batteries, so I didn’t get to take any shots of the storm in full force but here are a couple of pics anyway:

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A not so nice side effect of the strange weather was finding a mouse in my kitchen today. It’s pretty usual really, considering we live in the country, and it’s been raining for a week, and I’m sure that a regular person wouldn’t find it all that troublesome but I am not a regular person when it comes to mice. When it comes to mice I am a fully fledged scream-like-a-girl-and-jump-on-a-chair lunatic. The way I feel about rats and mice is almost bordering on a phobia actually and I’m ashamed to admit that when I saw the mouse I didn’t just scream like a girl and jump on a chair, in fact, I screamed like a girl, jumped on a chair and then ran away and locked myself in the bathroom for half an hour. I’m not really sure what the logic behind the bathroom escape was, but what can I say? Fear is not rational!

I haven’t been back into the kitchen yet, when I finally managed to coax myself out of the bathroom I was only able to get as far as the bedroom and that is where I have been for the rest of the afternoon. Luckily my laptop was already in here otherwise I’m not sure what I would have done with myself, although I have to say I’m starting to get a bit hungry!!

On the up side, I have managed to spend a lot of time researching happy vegan ways to get rid of the mouse. I did consider trying out Hugh FearnleyWhittingstall’s method of burning sage and asking him to leave, but I can only spend so many afternoons locked in the bathroom before I start to lose my mind – and to be perfectly honest, I’m kind of afraid he will smell my fear and decide to get his friends to gang up on me if I take that approach – so, as an alternative to the sage burning hippie method I have ordered myself one of these.

It fulfills my requirement that the mice don’t die, and it’s non toxic, chemical free and environmentally friendly (aside from the small amount of electricity required to run it I suppose).. and Michele, the customer service lady has assured me that she will mail it tomorrow so that I can come out of the bedroom and start roaming around the house as soon as possible.

It’s just a pity that tomorrow is Friday.. looks like I’ll be spending my weekend in bed!

With Jaz over at Glooart talking about the best things about Autumn, I thought I would join in the nature love fest and share some springtime love. When we first arrived in New Zealand it was the dead of winter, it was cold.. REALLY cold, and we pretty much set ourselves up for a couple of months of hibernation.. our town, which is very small and very quiet at the best of times, spends winter as a ghost town with all the holiday houses empty and locked up until summer (oh the hard life of having a summer home!). This weekend is the first long weekend of the warmer months and you can really see our little village starting to come alive, speedboats dragging squealing children in rubber tires, kayaks floating across the lake, children walking dogs and adults walking children.. it really gets me excited for the holiday season.

Anyway, as spring blooms around us, it brings warmer weather – oh the joys of sitting outside in the sun! – and with the sun comes glorious flowers.. life abounds!! And here are some photos to prove it!

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