'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Monday, 31 December 2012

Things that Go Bump

I'm up and it's 5.01am on the last day of the year.

I was awoken a few minutes ago by a familiar light tread, and sure enough, when I peeped out of the kitchen window, sitting on the roof and looking in at me was another of my nocturnal visitors.  It was a clear sky after all the rain we've had, and I could clearly see two ears dark against a moonlit sky.  I got my camera, set it on flash and pointed in the general direction:

As I sit here in the night's silence writing I can hear a tui outside begin to sing its monotonous territorial call even though there's only a faint lightening of the sky in the east.  The first car moves along the road.  The wind gently moves the top branches of the oak.  Otherwise all is still and quiet.  I love this time of day.

The possum is now faintly scritchy-scratchy in the ceiling, going back to bed for the day.  Might make myself a cuppa and start mine.  At least it's cooler now than it will be later.  I could always have a siesta when it gets hot.  Still have all the Christmas cards to write, but they will have to wait until I've finished my painting commission.  I'm nearly there and I'd show you, but it's meant to be a secret for a while yet.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Image from tvguide.com
Throw a whole bunch of seemingly similar people together into a similar situation and then use them to tease out and analyse the different ways, useful or unhelpful, of reacting to disappointment.

I enjoyed watching The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel recently.  There are sterling performances from people who I have come to value so much for their other, consistent, sterling performances:  Penelope Winton, Bill Nighy, Dame Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson and Celia Imrie, with relative newcomers Tena Desae and Dev Patel.

I always think it's a bit of a cop-out to resort to voice-over for the-book-of-the-movie, and some of the script was a little obvious or cliché*.  But that aside I thoroughly enjoyed the imagery, pace, direction, and the development of the characters as they react and adapt (or not) in their own ways to India, and what life offers them.
Although the theme was ostensibly one of retirement, I felt it was actually about adaption to change, a theme that is worth revisiting at any stage of our lives.

The last words of this movie:

"The only real failure is the failure to try.  And the measure of success is how we cope with disappointment, as we always must.  Can we be blamed for feeling that we're too old to change? Too scared of disappointment to start it all again?  We get up in the morning, and we do our best.  Nothing else matters.

But it's also true that the person who risks nothing does nothing, has nothing.

All we know about the future is that it will be different.  Perhaps what we fear is that it will be the same.  So we celebrate the changes, because as someone once said; 'everything will be alright in the end.  And if it's not alright, it isn't the end.'"

I've made this sound depressing.  It is not.  It's vibrant, colourful, optimistic and - a well-worn movie description - uplifting.  It seems to me a very good sort of movie to watch at the start of a new calendar.

* Clichés, like proverbs, are often revisited frequently because they are so often true.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

And yet another Possum

This must make the fourth I've caught.  Where do they all come from!?  There are only 13 houses in these two cul-de-sacs, and the river curves around us on three sides and a busy road on the fourth side.  I am astonished.  I would never have thought I'd get so many!  And I still haven't got the Joey, at least I don't think so.

This one looked so appealing, I had to harden my thoughts when I took it up to the dispatcher.  I reminded myself of the baby birds they eat, the eggs they raid, and all the tender growing tips, fruit and buds of the trees they feast on, which can cause the collapse of the forest canopy and reversion to scrublands.

There are probably tens of millions of possums in New Zealand forests, bought here originally for their fur.

They will reluctantly eat leaves and bark, but much prefer fruits, flowers, seeds and insects. Many of our native birds (and our only native mammals, the two surviving species of bat) depend on fruit, and nectar from forest flowers.
And of course if there are no buds, the new leaves cannot grow, and if there is no fruit, there are no seeds for the next generation of trees and plants... and so it goes on.

NZ Department of Conservation article.

Begone, foul dwimmerlaik!

Friday, 28 December 2012

Christmas at Ohaupo

We had a lovely Christmas and Boxing Day.  All headed over to Ohaupo (Oh-how-por) - a small, delightful village near Cambridge, where my elder son and his partner have recently bought their cottage.

It was hot and sultry, with cold drinks in buckets of melting ice, lovely salads, chicken and ham, relaxation and conversation and presents...  The fans and the louvre blinds kept the inside of the house cooler, but even the axolotls looked a bit warm, albeit in a cute way.  Later when the thick clouds came over it was very pleasant on the verandah so we all sat out there and gazed over the farmland scenery and the trees from the back of the house.  A very tranquil Christmas!

No, we didn't put the fan IN the axolotyl tank.  It's just a reflection.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Why times How equals What

Thoughts on being about to begin a new year, yet reluctant to make New Year's resolutions.
 'What happened?' said the child, his words bubbling into the mud and up through the murky water.
    'What happened indeed!' said the father. 'Why times How equalled What, and here we are, no closer to self-winding than before!'
    'What is there to say when one's head is in the mud?' said the father.
    'What is there not to say!' came the answer from the gravelly voice. 'The relation of self to mud is basic to any discussion of TO BE.  Basic. At the bottom.'
   'Our heads are at the bottom,' said the mouse child.  'We're upside-down.'
   'The upside-downess of self,' said the voice.  'A good beginning.  Continue.'

- The Mouse and his Child, Russell Hoban. Pages 105 - 106

Monday, 24 December 2012

Best Wishes and Christmas Cat

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the holiday celebrated at this time, practised within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. 

I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2013, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped to make Aotearoa New Zealand so wonderful a place to live. 
This wish is not intended to imply that Aotearoa New Zealand is necessarily greater than any other country, and is made without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the person receiving the wish. 

Nutrition Facts: This wish is not a significant source of fat, cholesterol, fibre, or any vitamin or mineral. May contain nuts.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas Stuff

I have not bought many Christmas presents this year.  And what I have bought, I've tried to fill a need.  Or, at least a 'need'.
There's only just so much room for stuff.  I love that the kids bought me a Kindle for Christmas.  I've already given away three boxes of books.
Recently I've been feeling better and better with less and less.
Before you think I'm getting at you, believe me, I bet I had a lot more than you, I betcha.
With my primary school-teaching resource stuff (that's all subject areas, remember), and my teaching art to children stuff, and all my books, I have a whole house-load alone.
This house has four bedrooms but only two wardrobes and two closets, and that's counting the hot water closet.  So, there's not much room for stuff to be put away in an orderly fashion.

I'm keeping the art stuff, if the local homeschoolers want my primary school resources they can have them for free, and I'm going to have a 'books and junk' garage sale in early February.

Here's the wonderful Leo Kottke with 'Available Space'... and a few other tunes.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Sunset Strip

Tonight at about 9ish pm it was lovely to watch the hot day rinse away and the cool evening begin. Here is the view through the gap recently vacated by the macrocarpa.  It took about 20 minutes.  At first I was irritated by the street lamp but on reflection, it does give the view a certain je ne sais quoi.*

* click here.

The Wonderful World of Matt

Spotted on Jennyta's blog ... a new, uplifting dance of Matt.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Slaving over a Hot Stove.

I got all my Christmas baking out the way yesterday.

I made a big Christmas cake, the fruit for which has been marinating in brandy on the bench for a week.  There was too much mixture so I made three mini-cakes too.  Do you think walnuts will be ok?  I forgot to buy the almonds...

I coated some dried strawberries (very nice, if you haven't tried them) in dark chocolate, and dipped the ends of some apricots too.  

And I made some gingerbread men.  Unfortunately the icing came out more pink than red and they look more like a girlie girl's pajama party than Christmas. Never mind.  I put beards on some and a big pair of tramping boots on another, to compensate.

And later I noticed through the french doors a dear little female chaffinch hopping along the verandah bench and eating some insects off the wisteria.  
It's very hot today.  Perhaps it's because we have Tropical Storm Evan on the way, downgraded from the cyclone it was when it hit Samoa and Fiji recently.  

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Chopping down the Tree.

When we first came to this house nineteen year ago there was a row of huge, high macrocarpa trees between us and the road.  As time went on, it was clear that the drastic trim they'd been given by the previous owners had allowed canker to get in and all but one were removed, at my suggestion, by the council.
Sadly, after ten years, the last one also got a bug.  Yesterday the 'Arbour Care' blokes arrived to do the deed.  It took about four hours and was done carefully and meticulously, given the narrow strip available to drop into, the nearness of the road (two metres away) and the proximity of my fence (two metres in the other direction).

Here's the process in pictures.  Most of these were taken from my front verandah.

The tree fella wondering why I keep popping in and out with the camera.
There should be a quick way of saying 'I have a blog
and like to take photos of everything.'

The action out on the berm.

The rope, along with carefully placed wedge-shaped cuts,
 is to make sure it falls in the right direction

From now on the process just involved cutting bits from the remaining trunk ...

... until all that was left was a gigantic pile of wood, unfortunately with all the small stuff underneath and the most humoungous slices on top. (Branches and leaves had all disappeared into the chipper).

It took me the rest of the day to lug and roll the wood through the little side gate and into and in front of the carport. The bad news is it still has to be stacked, and later split, and there's no room for the car. 

The good news is that I have about four years of firewood for free.  Yay!

Also there's now an unimpeded view to the west so we can look out of the lounge window and watch the sun sinking down and the sky in all its soft crepuscular glory!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Patella, Paella, Patina, and Possum

I recently bought a lovely new Spanish cooking pan.  I spotted it in the shop and could immediately see how useful and versatile it would be.  It has already replaced my wok as the cookware I reach for most of the time.  But it goes by various names, and so does the food inside.  It could all get very confusing but I remember it this way:

A PaTella is a pan-shaped limpet, a pan-shaped kneecap, and a pan.

A PaELLA is a traditional Catalan or Spanish pan, and also the traditional food cooked in the pan.

A PaTINA is a old Roman pan, the greenish old coating on bronze pans, and the traditional food cooked in the pans.

A POSSUM is just a possum, singular.



My other, newer, PATELLA, PAELLA, or PATINA

My seafood PAELLA or PATINA (before the addition of peas and rice)

PATINA  - a 2nd century Roman pan.

PAELLA:  Recipe for a Spanish Paella:  http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/20747/easy+spanish+paella

PATINA:  Recipe for a Patina:
Ancient Roman Patina of fresh anchovies.
Fresh Anchovies or other small oily fish
2 eggs
1/2 glass of wine
1/2 cup olive oil
pepper to taste
Wash and gut the fish.
Dip them in the beaten egg and fry at high heat in a pan in the olive oil, turning once they are brown on one side.
When both sides are brown pour off the excess oil add the wine and garum to the pan. Reduce this sauce by half.
Turn out into a serving platter and grind plenty of black pepper over and serve.
Do not over cook the fish or they will fall apart.


POSSUM.  The third in three weeks. 

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Conversation with a Neighbour

Neighbour:  "Do you have a pet possum now?"
Me: "Er, no.  Have you seen one?"
Neighbour: "It's just that I heard you talking one evening to one when it was on your studio roof ...  and then the other night I saw you following it when it walked along the top of your fence and across your clothesline and then it went under your house.  You seemed quite conversational"
Me:  "Ah, well, actually there are a number of them, have been a number of them, and I've been trying to catch them."
Neighbour:  "Looked to me like you could have just grabbed them."
Me: "Er, well, yes... (thinks about lying and saying I am the possum-whisperer) ... er ... (thinks about explaining I have a blog and like to take pictures for it) ... (ends up just smiling lamely).

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Happy Christmas to You from Me

My mass-produced but sincere and heart-felt wishes to everyone who pops in here at TLVD, for a wonderful Christmas and love, peace and good health in the new year.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Possum Update

Caught the big male on Friday night..  I took him up to the pest man's house on Saturday early and he told me that the other one was a female.  And that she would have had a joey just old enough to be off her back.
Over the weekend I've been thinking about whether it would have survived, and was wondering what had happened to it because I hadn't heard anything in the ceiling. No noises, that is, until early this morning when there was a thump on the roof... When I went out with my torch to investigate I discovered who is still at large.  Yep.  The joey.  About the size of a big kitten. The torch light must have made it think it was morning because as soon as I went back to bed I heard it climbing up inside the wall and settle down to sleep in the narrow ceiling space above me.  
Time to bait the trap again.

The big male


Thursday, 6 December 2012

Down at the Beach

Some images from last week's dusk picnic on the beach.  We had shark 'n taties and watched the moon rise.

It must be Shirley Valentine...

Looking south-ish towards Whakatane

Looking north-ish - the hill on the far end of the spit
is Mount Maunganui - an extinct volcano.

Getting dark.  Time to go home.