Thursday, 24 December 2015

So, December

There seems to have been a whole lot of nothing happening this month - but a whole lot of something too.

There have been days when it truly felt like summer was here - even the coconut oil in the pantry thought so, and others where it has been decidedly nippy.

There have been jobs to apply for and interviews to go to...and still no offers. Always the bridesmaid it seems. Maybe next year ?

There has been some organisation - Christmas cards posted on the first of the month, and masses of disorganisation too - shopping and wrapping right up 'til Christmas Eve. 

There have been new Christmas Lights to discover, and friends to see. Baking to bake and traditions to keep.

There have been cats to befriend and dinners to enjoy, beaches to discover and concerts to enjoy

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Dinner deliciousness

When we were in England last year we were really impressed by the number of businesses offering ready to prepare healthy meals delivered to your door once a week. The options were endless. Hello Fresh was the one which impressed us the most, but we didn't get the opportunity to try them out. Their veggie boxes looked divine. Not long after our arrival back at this end of the planet a company launched here too, but only offering meals for carnivores and families initially. But over time that has changed. 

So, we decided that we would try a Food Bag this week. Well actually we decided about two weeks ago, but we had missed the order deadline for that week, so we had to wait for last Sunday for our delivery.

We got the veggie option (obviously). Dinner for four nights. We started on Sunday instead of Monday, and so tonight we've had the last (although there are leftovers for lunch again). They have all been pretty easy to put together - even with our rubbish stove, We did set the smoke alarm off last night - and it was pretty close tonight as well.

Stupid oven which is a fire risk and has only two temperatures - you might remember me mentioning this before. 

So anyway, this is what we have been eating.


And now, we missed the deadline to pause the order for this week - so we are getting another delivery this weekend. Oh well. On the plus side the oven might be fixed by then...if not it could be "Hello Tenancy Tribunal, and goodbye to this landlord"

Monday, 7 December 2015

DNA Soup - the difference between ethnicity and nationality

I've just been sitting here, enjoying a little lull in my job hunting chaos. Taking time for me. Anyway, I just realised I've not shared much about our DNA results. In fact I haven't shared anything.

Some of you will not be interested at all, so read no further - I wont mind.

The study of genetics is a science. The DNA testing companies have programs and databases and data-sets and scientists and are making this knowledge available to genealogists and family historians around the globe. They are bringing this science and it's discoveries to us, ordinary folk, in an effort to help us understand or learn where we came from. It also should enable us to make contact and potentially meet relatives we never considered we had before. 3rd cousins, 4th, 5th, 6th and beyond where the connection to a common ancestor goes back many generations. It doesn't matter how simplified the DNA testing people make their results, it is quite baffling. I'm a big picture person and I like to understand the whole thing. But I don't, and it frustrates me.

I'm a bit of a detective, but there are some things I can't unravel and solve and I sometimes I wonder why I didn't study genetics when I was young - maybe that would have helped now. BUT, the whole process of trying to unravel connections and find common ground, and understand our results is making my brain keep working - and that has to be a good thing, Right ?

Anyways, I know my family tree. Hours and hours, and years and years of research by both my Dad and myself has led to us having a pretty comprehensive tree, back to the 1600's on some branches. In more recent years I have collaborated with cousins I have "met" online - and now mostly in person - as well. So here is what I know:

  1. Both of my parents were born in New Zealand
  2. Three of my grandparents were born in New Zealand, one was born in England
  3. Four of my great grandparents were born in New Zealand, three were born in England, one in Ireland
  4. Two of my great great grandparents were born in New Zealand, eleven were born in England, three in Ireland
  5. At least 30 of my 32 great great great grandparents were born in England, Ireland or Wales.
So ethnicity-wise what would you expect ?

I'm not going to be identified ethnically as a New Zealander. I know THAT. We are all immigrants - all of us with European heritage are populating remote former colonies because our ancestors were travelers. Emigrating by choice or by force from their homelands. Some of us may have acquired other more local ethnicity markers post migration. But not me. I KNOW that.

So knowing that I am a New Zealander by nationality because my forebears chose to sail to the opposite end of the planet for a new, better life is one thing. Were they travelers before that too ? Where did they come from before they settled in England (or Wales or Ireland). I can trace one line back to the France/Belgium border. They probably emigrated to England with other Huguenot families as they were silk weavers in Spitalfields for some generations after their arrival in London. I have one other branch which is just a big brick wall right now - where did they come from ?

Some of these places maybe ?

...not quite what I expected either, I can tell you ! We each get our DNA from our parents, 50% from each, but in a unique mixture. Each sibling will have a different mix to the other.  

I figure my brother must have quite a different match. Where did all those Great Britain markers which I can see in my tree for generations go for example ?

Ethnicity aside, Ancestry and other providers also "find" for you among their other tested account holders, potential matches who share the same markers as you. They did ! And they keep adding to the list frequently as more people are tested. They correctly matched me with my daughter, my parents and one 4th cousin who I already had been in contact with for almost 15 years. They do match you as well with positive/negatives - people who match by chance, rather than by descent. So it is tricky to establish who is who.

However, I have been able to identify and contact other 3rd, 4th and beyond cousins who I had no idea about before. Of course I knew they would be "somewhere" because I knew that my direct ancestors were not the only ones in their families to have had children, grandchildren and  great grandchildren. I just had no idea how to start trying to find them. 

If you suppose that one great great grandcouple had say 5 children, and they in turn each had 5 children and so on, that would mean the starting couple could have 25 grandchildren and 125 great grandchildren and 625 great great grandchildren. (Did I work that out right ?) Anyways, 600 or so 4th cousins !! in just one branch of the tree ? That's a lot of people out there around the world sharing parts of my DNA.

I've also been able to determine that I have more matches with my Dad's side of the family than with my Mum's. All the more reason to get my brother spitting in a vial.

My cousin in the States told me about where you can upload your raw data from the initial testing provider and find matches in a much bigger pool. I've uploaded ours now and found her (my cousin in the States) as well as some others who I think are the same as people I matched with on Ancestry, and a 4th cousin in New Zealand who had tested with a different provider. They have an amazing number of tools to study the matches and I am still trying to understand them all and how they might help solve the puzzle.

I was relieved though to confirm through one of their tools that my parents are not related - except legally by marriage.

That's it for now. More next time, when I have unraveled some more. But if you are a keen genealogist, or you are just interested in where you came from, get like Nike and Just Do It.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Searching and Planning

I have a plan.

But, I'm not whispering a word just yet in case I jinx it, and anyway I cant put it into action until I find a blinking source of steady income.

I seem to spend my days trawling through listings on seek, applying for jobs, fielding calls from recruitment agencies, giving phone interviews and thinking that maybe this one will lead to the end goal.

There have been a few interviews, and to be honest to have got that far has been great for confidence - but brutal when of two candidates in a holding pattern at the point of final decision, I am not THE one.

Everything happens for a reason I believe (even when I might sound grumpy and despondent to my friends) so it will all fall into place when the RIGHT opportunity is offered. I just wish it would happen soon - this side of Christmas would be beneficial :o)

I've also been making a nuisance of myself highlighting "issues" with our rental property to the property manager, with mixed results. So we still have an oven that has two temperatures; stone cold and searingly fiery (is that too much superlative ?) and now we appear to have little bugs which live in timber. Oh yay. But we do have clear drains and smoke alarms fitted - although with the state of the oven, I'm always anxious I will set them off while cooking dinner each night. 

For a couple of baking fanatics like us, the unsatisfactory kitchen facilities have been a real gripe. We feel grumpy that we felt slightly pressured to take this place when offered as we had seen others (better) but people kept telling us how terrible the rental market was, and how competitive etc. Then the property manager wasn't as upfront as she could have been either. Grrr. And to top it off we have a stupid fixed term the moment.

Never mind though, I've become quite adept with "managing" the stove and haven't killed us yet with uncooked dinners, or set the place on fire. I even baked yesterday - and was quite successful.

I've started planning and making for Christmas too, since it is my favourite time of year.

And I have been spending an untoward amount of time contacting potential DNA matches since receiving our test results and updating and expanding my family tree database.

Aside from all this, I'm finding my way around - sometimes without the help of my TomTom, the traffic is just traffic, I'm enjoying the rain - such a novelty after 12 months in Christchurch !

Saturday, 7 November 2015


Since hearing about these cafes overseas I have pondered jumping into the business - but someone beat me to it !! 

The Cat Lounge opened today in Glenfield, so we had to go. You need to book, and you get an hour to spend with your new feline friends for just $10.

Remember to share the love though and don't hog all the kitty limelight - there are a maximum of 20 people per session and they don't just go to look - they want to play and cuddle too.

Today was opening day and the kittens especially seemed pretty tuckered out from all the adoration and attention. 

We'll be going back again, and also to BaristaCats when they open in the CBD. So, anyone interested in exploring this business venture with me ?

Friday, 6 November 2015

Sunsets and Fireworks

So it was Guy Fawkes last night - actually you would be forgiven for thinking it was Guy Fawkes week though. I don't understand why we still "celebrate" this. It is an English thing - we weren't even a colony when Mr Fawkes decided to try to blow up Parliament. 

In Australia, sales of fireworks to the public Cracker Night ended 29 years ago, Big organised professional displays are the best and safest way to experience pyrotechnics - but not in New Zealand. we still have people selling them from the back of vans, and poky little corner stores. 

Admittedly you can only get them for a few days now, but that doesn't stop people spending far too much money buying them up and then letting them off for nights on end and saving them for Christmas, New Year and whatever else. Kids still get hurt, and animals too, and scrub fires take up precious time for our fire-ys.

Aside from all this, it was an experience to be able to see them all across the suburb on a gorgeous evening, with no wind last night. That was a bit of a novelty.

So here are some pics - plus some of a couple of pretty cool sunsets we've had in the last week or so.

Rewiring the neural pathways in my mind

Forty or so years of living in Wellington, and then in Christchurch has subliminally trained my mind to be ever on the alert.

Now, I have to keep reminding myself that every time the house creaks or I hear a low rumble in the distance from a truck or train that I don't need to be on full alert for the inevitable. Earthquakes don't happen in Auckland - or if they are felt they will have been centred far away, and much more devastating for those near the epicentre.

Tsunami could be a risk here, although the Gulf Islands may act to dissipate some of the effects. Tornadoes too seem to be a weather related risk in some parts of the greater city, infrequently.

Volcanoes though...the entire city is built on them. Extinct they say, and definitely dormant since some time before the arrival of european settlers. But the evidence is everywhere. Mt Eden, Mt Wellington, Mt Roskill, Mt Albert, One Tree Hill, Rangitoto, Lake Pupuke, Orakei Basin...

So, forgive me if I'm jumpy - but I still forget

Friday, 30 October 2015

October is almost over

It has been a month, since we moved into a new home for "now". This house is not as great as our Christchurch home. In fact the owners seem to be like chalk and cheese. Where our Christchurch landlords loved and cherished their former home, and were quick to address any problems, this one seems to be a moneymaking scheme and no pride is taken in it's appearance. For less rent than we were paying in Christchurch this one has been a bit of a disappointment so far.

Still, we are comfortable enough - even though the kitchen is a nightmare (ONE power outlet and a rubbish oven), and the water pressure in the bathroom is pretty much a joke. I just don't get landlords who spend nothing on their property. Don't they realise it would increase resale value, and maybe even get better tenants in the future ?

Psst, been here a month and only just realised we can see this from where we park the cars. Doh !

Also have noticed a few other things about life up here in the big smoke:

  • The traffic isn't as bad as what everyone tells you
  • There are amazing parks - everywhere !
  • Public transport is pretty good, so far
  • Farro is like Moore Wilson but there are more of them
  • There is an ACTUAL Park and Ride (at the airport) - like a real one as in "they are everywhere in the UK"
  • The dawn chorus is really noisy - it is ages since we've been woken by such chatty avians
  • There are birds everywhere, I'd forgotten how noisy Mynahs are since there are none in Wellington or the South Island
  • It rains - we've had more precipitation in a month than we had in the whole year we were in Christchurch. Mostly only drizzly showers, but a few proper heavy downpours. I've missed that.
I would just like to say as well, that job searching is not my favourite thing.