All in the stars

July 8, 2010
Love Signs book

Bible of a 14 year old Peregrine

When I was a teenager, the horoscopes in the back of my coveted ‘Just Seventeen’ magazines provided all the guidance and answers I needed to satisfy my hormonal angst; when will I meet my future husband, will Tracy ask me to her party, will I have 5 children or 6 when I “grow up”? I even bought a second hand copy of Linda Goodman’s Love Signs when I was about 14, which offered “love matches” between star signs – my friends and I would read it and compare notes, desperately calculating the star signs of our school friends, especially the hot guys on the football team.

I haven’t had any interest in star signs since my early teens and am very sceptical when it comes to anything of the mystic world (though I have a very spooky tale to tell you one day about a friend who went to see a psychic) and have no idea whether Linda would say that my Libra and the Sticky Man’s Pisces are a good match or not.

However, every now and then I glance over the horoscope section in my cheap magazines and smile at how just about *anything* can be read in to the little two sentence prediction. So it was with some amusement when I read this in the back of my latest magazine;Librans are facing a period of upheaval in their domestic, professional and emotional lives, everything will seem calmer after the 10th and a visit to the ocean can help re-balance your Libran scale.

Well! If there are any other Librans reading – have you been having a tumultuous time of late?

As you may have gleaned from my extended absence, the Peregrine household is indeed facing a period of “upheaval”. I started a new job 3 weeks ago, subsequently little Pepi, who had happily been looked after by my friend for the past year, is now being looked after by a new child minder and, 3 days in, is not exactly loving it, unless a tight, vice-like grip around the Sticky Man’s neck and crying “cuddles, Daddy stay” means she is having a ball?

We received a letter from our letting agent advising us our rent would be increased by $30 a week, our response to which has been a pretty swift two-fingered salute and we are moving on. Onwards and upwards (or southwards, in reality) to Hilsborough to a more modern, hopefully warmer house. Our new letting agent however, has a rather unorthodox manner of conducting business, via text. Her latest; “hv u spoke 2 landlord bout keys” – verbatim. The Sticky Man walked about with a face like a slapped arse all of last weekend when it seemed this text loving agent had waltzed off with our $3000 bond/deposit/fees. It appears all is now ok and we move on the 10th – oooh, just when things are “supposed to seem calmer.” And we’re heading to a friend’s bach in the Coromandel in a few days, so my Libran scale can be rebalanced… I may help it along with a few glasses of pinot noir.

So – bear with me folks, as I struggle to post frequently in the midst of this “upheaval.” I am happy to see that many of you are still popping by to check I haven’t disappeared in to the ether. I should be making the most of Pepi’s nap time and carry on packing, but I think I will make a cuppa and read some of your lovely blogs.

In other news; my folks arrive from in 3 weeks’ time, which we are all very excited about. I think we have confused Pepi somewhat. Having thought that Grandma and Grandad lived in the phone or on the laptop, we had a chat this morning and I asked her where she lived, to which she dutifully chirped “Nu – zeeeee – lun” and when I asked where Grandma and Grandad live, she replied “plane.”

The Wonders of Parks and Parking in Auckland

June 15, 2010
Parking Sign

Yes - I am blogging about parking. Rock on*.

Life doesn’t get any more beautifully bizarre than this and highlights yet another reason why I love New Zealand.

I met a lady in our local park a few weeks ago and we started chatting after we realised our daughters share the same name (which, as I have mentioned before, is not Pepi but a slightly less unusual but nonetheless quite rare celtic name.) After a few minutes of small talk we really clicked and had a proper chat while our gorgeous girls played on the climbing frame. After asking where I worked, I told her the situation I was in; coming towards the end of my contract with no sign of it being renewed, no real response from the dozens of part-time roles I had applied for and facing the fact I may have to reluctantly work full-time in order to stay in the work force, my new park buddy suggested I send my details to her workplace as they were always looking for good, experienced, part-time staff. So I did. And now I work there.

I am just on a “trial” to see if I enjoy it (I’m trying something quite different and we all want to check it’s the right role for me). Two days in and I am feeling positive about it. It’s a small friendly company which is great and the staff; Poms, Scots, Yanks and a few Kiwis are all fantastically friendly, so things are good.

The only downside is that the office is slap bang in the middle of the CBD (Central Business District) which means my journey to work is a bit more painful and the parking situation is excruciating.

Auckland’s CBD is quite odd. When the Sticky Man and I first arrived in Auckland that hot and humid January two years ago, we headed to the “city centre” to check it out a few times and we were seriously disappointed. There really is only one main street; Queen Street, with a few smaller streets running off it and a handful of decent shops. We would wander around aimlessly, trying to find the main hub and would look at one another in despair when we couldn’t find any decent café’s, restaurants or shops. We have since found a few great places to go in town, but more importantly we now know that Auckland is best thought of as a collection of villages. Parnell, Ponsonby, Mt Eden and Newmarket are where you will find the better shops and restaurants and what these areas also offer that the CBD doesn’t, is abundant and reasonably priced parking.

So – back to my original point, parking in the CBD. A nightmare. Ironically when I met my now-boss a couple of weeks ago for a casual interview, I left plenty of time but could still not find anywhere to park and in a panic, parked somewhere allowing me only 60 minutes (which cost $8). I was 4 minutes, yes 4 minutes late back to the car and was fined $60. An expensive interview. There are hardly any free places to park, which is not unusual in a city. There are a few metered spaces to park on the roads, most with a maximum time of 60 minutes and these spaces are like gold dust. The multi-storey parking buildings are so confusing – most of the spaces seem to be reserved for corporates, which means you can drive around an empty-ish parking lot (wasting valuable time, if you are trying to park before an interview) and still find no spaces without a “reserved” sign painted in them.

I have decided the only way to guarantee a space is to get to a multi-storey car park at the crack of dawn and hope for the best. On the two days I have worked so far, I have arrived before 7.15, paid the friendly attendant my $12 for my early bird special and happily found a space. It means I arrive at the office a good hour before the rest of my team, but the afore mentioned parking attendant told me if I arrive any later, I probably won’t find a space.

Yes – there are good buses and trains and I could run/walk/cycle the 8km from my house to work. And I would. Happily. If it wasn’t for the wonderful world of childcare and having to collect my little pumpkin from her childminder by 5pm. The Sticky Man, who has kindly been doing the drop-off/pick up until now, has taken on more responsibility at work and can no longer leave early enough to collect our littlest one. So, much as I would like to save the earth and take a greener route to and from work, nevermind saving that $12 a day, it’s just easier to go by car.

*Thank you signfail.com for letting me use your amusing image.

Interviews and Interfacing

June 1, 2010

I finished work yesterday. I could tell you how sad I am that things ended the way they did, how invisible I felt in those last few weeks, how after a year’s work, my last day in the office wasn’t marked by any kind gesture or words of thanks. But I won’t wallow in self-pity. It isn’t healthy or productive. I have started meeting with recruitment agencies and interviews are going well. I am being given some much needed positive feedback and my bruised ego will recover from this. At times such as this, when my confidence has taken a battering and I feel emotionally wobbly, I question everything; who am I? What am I good at? What have I achieved? What do I want to do in life? I need to remind myself of my achievements, my talents and the wonderful life that I have outside of that four letter word; work.

So – on to something much more interesting; communication.

With the end of my contract came the end of the luxury of having a work laptop. I had to return it which means I now have to coax our personal laptop out of the Sticky Man’s hands in the evenings if I want to check my email/FB/blog. I am not joking when I say coax – I literally have to beg to use it for 10 minutes and am scowled at if I am using “his” laptop for longer than the requested time. Up until now, it has not been uncommon for us both to be sitting feet away from each other on the sofa of an evening, glued to our own laptops, occasionally sending each other links to news articles that we find interesting. I am often told by the Sticky Man that if I’d like him to do something like book time off work or take the car in for a service, that I should “send him an email” rather than just asking him. Is this normal?

Don’t get me wrong, the Sticky Man and I talk about things, like what to have for dinner and revel in telling each other about Pepi’s latest tricks (singing “twinkle twinkle little star” is her most recent party trick, if you’re interested) but we rarely sit down and actually “talk” as there always seems to be something to distract one or both of us. I am a talker and a listener and love a good debate, whereas the other half is a thinker, a reflector and is quite happy saying very little. I have suggested having a few nights a week where we don’t use laptops and just talk to each other or read books. This is normally met with a look of incredulous disdain.

In other news, I am nearly at the end of my 6 week sewing course (for absolute beginners) and am feeling less overwhelmed than I was after the first lesson. I have even bought a pattern for a dress for Pepi. The pattern states it is “very easy” but after having to google nearly every second word of the instructions (Naps, anyone? Fusible interfacing?) I am not convinced. I am making the dress out of cheap calico first and will then attempt to make it out of some “proper” material, so watch this space!

Me and my girl

May 24, 2010

Have I mentioned winter has arrived in Auckland?

Just you and me, with Daddy away catching fish with friends. A whole weekend of Mummy and Daughter time. And I needn’t have felt apprehensive. You keep me focused on the here and now and help calm those niggling worries that swirl around my head. I love our time together, my little chatterbox, you are talking so well now; little sentences where new words pop up each day. I tell you over and over how much I love you and smother you with kisses and cuddles. Each day, I look forward to you waking with your beautiful smiles, giggles and sparkly eyes, just excited about the day ahead. I learn from you what is important in the world, taking time to cherish the simplest things.

You laughed and chased the butterflies at Butterfly Creek, sang happily to your self as I drove home through torrential rain that you brightly exclaimed was “noisy”, slept soundly for your afternoon naps and behaved perfectly at my work mate’s party where there were no other kids to play with.

We will quickly skip over the part where you ate one too many crisps and grapes and decided to decorate my work mate’s pristine floor while I tried to *catch* the majority of the spill in my hands while whispering frantically to my friend for “help!”

I loved sharing a room with you on Saturday night when we had a sleep over at our best friends’ house and as I lay awake nervously fretting about work and money, health and distant loved ones, the sound of your sweet breath calmed me like a drug. I wanted to pick you up, lie you next to me and breathe in your scent, embrace your warmth but I knew I couldn’t be selfish and left you to sleep in your cot.

I took Daddy’s place at your swimming lesson and you performed so well, little fish. You love the water and could spend hours floating on your back, your ears submerged which, for some reason, amuses you so.

Bathed and pyjama clad, we sat and read books on the sofa while we waited for Daddy to return, laden with fresh snapper. You raced to the door to greet him as he turned the lock and he declares that you have grown up in 2 days; more words, more hair, taller.

I pinch myself that you are ours, our beautiful, intelligent, affectionate girl. You are a gift and we are lucky, so unbelievably lucky to be your parents.

Something to keep me warm at night

May 10, 2010
electric blanket

Best Mother's Day present ever

When I worked full time and wished each working day away in desperation for the weekend, the weeks seemed to drag by. Now that I have that much coveted work/life balance (though for how much longer is anybody’s guess) the weeks are, as Pepi would say, “zooming” by.

Can it really be over a week since I blogged? Shame on me.

This is a brief round up of what we’ve been up to;

Play-dates and Playdough
I invited a couple of friends and their little pickles round to our house for a “play-date.” We had fun with some home-made playdough, which despite being quite moist and needing about 4 bags of flour, was very easy to make and has lasted really well all week in its air tight container. I think the adults enjoyed it more than the kids – we all found the smell quite nostalgic and the smooth, supple texture, like that of a stress-ball, felt so therapeutic to squeeze, we carried on playing with it long after our girls moved on to something more interesting.

FB and the Blues
We watched the BBC news online with increasing horror as the UK turned Blue and at the time of writing a Tory/Lib Dem coalition looks likely. I made a comment on FB along the lines of, “look what happens when we leave the country for a few years” and there ensued a mini debate amongst friends from around the globe…. What’s the old adage? Never discuss Religion, Football or Politics with your friends as it’s bound to end in tears.

Sew Cool
On Wednesday night, I began my “Sewing for Absolute Beginners” course. Initially, I felt that perhaps, the course was just that little bit too advanced for me! The instructor Barbara, who is in her late 60’s, really knows her stuff and apparently worked in London and Paris, dress-making for some of the big couture houses in the 1960’s and 70’s.

The first instruction she gave to us, after handing out some straw-like material and a packet containing paper was “I will need those patterns back once you have cut out the fabric for your skirt.” Well – hold the phone Babs! That one sentence raised a whole host of mental concerns from me; so, we’re making a skirt, right, so why are we making it out of this weird looking cheap beige material, what’s a pattern, how do we know what to cut out, eeek!

I am one of those pedantic students who needs to be shown or told the bigger picture of the task in hand before beginning. Once the initial panic subsided, I managed to stumble through the two hours, pinning, cutting and darting the calico and if I hadn’t inserted my bobbin in backwards (Babs was very patient as she took the Bernina apart and un-wedged the spool for me) I would have been able to start actually sewing! I think I am going to love it – how great will it be to actually make clothes for me and Pepi and to try my hand at making bags, cushion covers and curtains!?!

Date Night: The Sequel
We babysat for some friends on Saturday night which, excitingly, means that the Sticky Man and I have a “free pass” to go out on a date some time in the next few weeks. There are a dozens of films I am keen to see; The Hurt Locker being the main contender, though I fear that has been relegated to the DVD world already.

Running, Bugs and Electric Blankets
Despite feeling slightly unwell all weekend, sneezing and coughing with a dry, itchy throat, I was well enough to take part in the latest Run Auckland event yesterday, though knew I would be very slow. My aim after the last event, where I ran 10km in 1 hour 1 minute, was to break the 1 hour barrier. But alas no – we managed a very slow time of 1 hour 7 minutes, which included two toilet breaks for my friend who is 20 weeks pregnant. It was a lovely course, out at Bucklands Beach and the views were gorgeous.

Yesterday was Mothers Day here in NZ (confusingly the dates are different here than the UK) so I was treated to breakfast in bed; my gorgeous girl “helped” her Daddy make me French toast. She is very clever as she also managed to go out and buy me a very exciting present, my first ever electric blanket! Woo. I never thought I would own one of these little beauties – before moving here, the only person I knew who owned one was my 96 year old Grandma. But, as I have mentioned many times, these Kiwi houses aren’t designed with winter in mind and our bedroom with it’s two outer walls, wooden floors and badly fitting windows regularly drops to single figures overnight, so this little blanket should come in very handy, thank you very much!

Will work for tips

May 4, 2010
Pepi painting

Tasty Paint

Eeek – I have just spent the last hour an a half looking for a part-time permanent job in Auckland. There is not much out there unless I want to work in a café, care home or day care centre, but I have given it my best shot and fired off a few applications, so wish me luck! I am still hoping that something may come up at my current workplace but I keep hearing that fateful phrase, “part-time isn’t really going to work for us”.

Hmmmm….

The Sticky Man and I had a bit of a chat about it last night and though we do want to try and buy a house here (without having to sell our flat in Brighton) and save a bit of a nest egg and travel back to the UK in the next year and, and, and… we also realise that on one and a half incomes (and potentially just one income in a few weeks time if I don’t get offered another part time contract) we can’t do all of this and that the number one priority is and always will be the well-being and happiness of Pepi.

So if that means being skint for a few more years but spending time being her Mum, then so be it. It is by far the best, most rewarding job in the world and I am lucky to have found it. The tips (cuddles/kisses/smiles) make it all worth while.

Oh and she can say “I love you” which makes my heart melt.

Time out

May 3, 2010
Time out

A useful tool?

I am not convinced about the whole “time out” form of discipline. Does it really work for young children?

For those of you lovely readers without kids and who haven’t watched an episode of Supernanny, the idea is that when your little one is naughty, you put them somewhere away from their toys – a step, seat, mat and get them to stay there for a minute for every year of age. As Pepi is 20 months, I am supposed to leave her in time out for about a minute and a half.

But I am really struggling with it. Not because I don’t want to discipline her – I do. Especially when she flings her lunch on to the floor and grins at me waiting for my reaction, or when she puts mouthfuls of playdoh in her mouth after being told not to, grrr. It’s more that I am not sure it works. At least not at this age.

As we live in a single story house, there is no step to put Pepi on for time out, so on the few occasions that I have tried it, I have put her in the hallway with all the doors closed so there are no toys and importantly nothing dangerous for her to hurt herself on. I make a big deal of it, saying you are going in to time out, that it makes Mummy very sad when you tear pages from books etc, put her in the hallway, sit her down and leave. When I get her again, up to two minutes later, she is still sitting there, happy as Larry, seemingly without any qualms about being alone in the hallway, hardly noticing that she is being “punished”….

What’s the deal? I think she is too young for time out and without being so naïve as to think our daughter is an angel, she doesn’t hit, bite or throw tantrums (yet), so I think I might pick my battles and find another way of disciplining her until she is old enough to understand the concept a bit better.

Other friends put their 20 month olds in time out a lot – up to 10 times a day for any mis-behaviour such as not sharing toys, not getting dressed without a fuss and their little ones cry and scream like the world has ended when they are put in time out. But are they learning a lesson from this?

Am I missing something? I would love to hear your thoughts. How were you disciplined as a child? How do you discipline your kids now?

A Thoroughly English Weekend

April 26, 2010
St George

George slaying that dragon to earn sainthood

For the first time ever I celebrated St George’s Day last week. I am not normally particularly patriotic. Sorry if that sounds a bit negative, but it’s true. In recent years I think patriotism in England has unfortunately become a complex and controversial issue, often confused with football hooliganism and/or racism. Where once the sign of a flapping Union Jack on someone’s car windscreen would represent patriotism, it is now associated with anti-social behaviour or potential siding with the BNP.

However, encouraged by a few English colleagues, I switched my work days to be in on Friday and we all (four of us) dressed in the required red/white/blue paraphernalia. Unfortunately, this coincided with an informal chat about a potential job opportunity at work but I think I managed to explain away my bizarre appearance. We spent the day telling our Kiwi colleagues why we had strung up Union Jacks and St George crosses around the office and after a quick google search were able to explain just who St George actually was (a dragon slaying, maiden saving hero by all accounts).

Like most other countries in the world it seems that St George’s Day even in New Zealand is mostly forgotten or ignored. On St Patrick’s Day a few weeks ago, the entire organisation headed out to celebrate and the city of Auckland became a sea of green and gold. Why is that? Kiwis are anglophiles in general and in June, there is even a public holiday to mark the Queen’s birthday.

This weekend was more importantly ANZAC weekend, remembering those brave souls. I haven’t yet made it to the dawn service at the Auckland War Memorial which is supposed to be a fantastically moving event.

Anyway, on Friday night after we headed out to the Cock and Bull pub for a few beers and a stomach lining roast beef, yorkshire pudding, gravy and chips, we headed to the Bluestone Room in the centre of town, which is a pub that reminds me of the dark and cosy, vaulted pubs in Brighton along the seafront. It was full of the kind of folk you’d normally cross the street to avoid though – tanked up, red faced young men with union jacks emblazoned across their chests, but the atmosphere was good natured. Disappointingly the face painters (who we’d been looking forward to visiting) were long gone. After a few cocktails (Mojitos – not very English, but we couldn’t stomach any more ale) we headed home feeling pleased and yes, quite patriotic as we sang Rule Britannia! in the back of the taxi.

I woke up the next morning feeling distinctly knackered. I wasn’t hungover per se, just exhausted to the point of needing lots of coca cola, saturated fat and a 2 hour nap at lunch time. The fatigue continued for the rest of the day but I’d made plans to see Julian Clary at The Edge on Saturday night. I am not a huge JC fan, (the friend I went with had suggested it back in January and I’d agreed to go.) I find him only vaguely amusing and had read some very lukewarm reviews of his Lord of the Mince tour, so wasn’t overly excited about the night out.

My expectations were met and I thought he gave a very mediocre performance. The audience was obviously full of die hard fans who forgave his numerous “stumbles” and hesitations as he forgot his lines. There were a few funny moments when Julian engaged with the audience and pulled a couple of people up on stage and I do admire anyone who puts themselves in that position of being onstage purely to “make us laugh.” But I have to admit, I have laughed more at Pepi‘s party tricks (her latest being walking backwards, which she does with a look of mischievous glee on her face until she bumps in to something) than I did at the jokes on Saturday night.

So yes, I had a fun-filled thoroughly “English” weekend and the Sticky Man was on babysitting duty twice. And because of my need for naps, he was also on daytime duty quite a lot but even so, didn’t complain once and found the time make us delicious non-anglo Japanese style chicken teriyaki and salad for dinner last night.

Gotta love him.

All hail the Pickled Weasel

April 22, 2010

Here is the fabulous tunic made for Pepi by the equally fabulous Pickled Weasel, modelled by our little pumpkin.

Pepi in her tunic

At the park

Isn’t the tunic gorgeous? I found the Pickled Weasel’s blog earlier this year and was immediately inspired by this working Mum who manages to find the time and energy to be so creative. She made this tunic for her own gorgeous little munchkin and when I emailed her to tell her how much I loved it, she kindly offered to make us one and posted it all the way to NZ from the UK, how cool is that? I love the material and it’s reversible and gets about 20 comments from passers-by whenever our little one wears it.

Back of the tunic

Going for a walk

I have been encouraged by seeing the creativity of people like the Pickled Weasel and you other creative types, to start a sewing course next month, in the vain hope that I too can rustle up some cute outfits for my girl. I have no sewing ability at all (have never been taught) so I am hoping that pure determination will see me through.

Pepi in her tunic

Just crusin' in my tunic with my buggy and my bear

Go and visit the Picked Weasel’s blog and see her other creations for yourself. For some annoying reason, I find it really difficult to comment on her blog, Blogger doesn’t seem to like me or my WordPress account. I have looked in to it and it’s a fairly common problem, but is a shame as she writes lovely posts that I’d like to comment on.

Pepi and bear

Thirsty bear

Words you don’t want to hear

April 16, 2010
Rennies

In sickness and in health

From you husband. Uttered at 1.30am. After being woken by him fiddling with his mobile phone.

“I think I am having a heart attack.”

Knowing the Sticky Man like I do – I wasn’t overly alarmed, but was nonetheless intrigued to know why he thought he was having a heart attack. Apparently he had pains across his chest and abdomen and towards his “left side”. I mumbled something about it probably being heartburn and tried to go back to sleep. I lay there, trying not to worry too much about the Sticky Man’s heart yet was unable to sleep. So, I got up, went to the toilet, fetched a glass of water, checked on Pepi and by the time I got back to our bedroom, the Sticky Man was softly snoring.

The next day, feeling slightly tired from the middle of the night “drama”, I asked how he felt. Fine. So we’re assuming it was heartburn. I then asked what he’d been doing with his mobile phone anyway, as that is what had woken me in the first place. He was apparently sending me a text to tell me he was having a heart attack. Presumably so that when I woke the next morning to find a corpse lying next to me, I would feel better that he had thought to text me and let me know. Honestly, after 15 years together, I still don’t understand this man sometimes.

When I was heavily pregnant and enduring the delights of back pain, swollen ankles and kick-boxing from our little Pepi, I entered the marital bedroom one evening to find the Sticky Man writhing on the bed in agony. Moaning and groaning and clutching his heart, it appeared that he had once again indulged in one too many chocolates/biscuits/packets of crisps/bottles of beer over the course of the evening. I remember being slightly more sympathetic then, having only recently learned in pregnancy how uncomfortable heartburn can be. I waddled off to find the Rennies, all the while listening to him exclaim that it was awful, he thought he was going to die, we needed to go to A&E etc and that Rennies wouldn’t help. Anyway, he reluctantly took two tablets. I then continued to get ready for bed. By the time I returned from brushing my teeth, I came back to the bedroom to find him eating a biscuit! Apparently, the Rennies had worked, he felt much better and was in fact a bit peckish.

Two words; Drama. King.

Thankfully Pepi doesn’t yet show too many signs of inheriting her father’s dramatic genes. The other night, she lost her balance while trying to grab a toy from the toy box and landed face-first on to our brick fireplace hearth. We rushed over to see whether she was concussed but she just rubbed her head and carried on reaching for the toy. That’s my girl.