On hair maintenance

My last hairdresser was young and inexperienced. But she was convenient and for a while, inexpensive.

She moved to Thailand.

To save money, I forced my husband to help me with DIY colour. And after a few tears, it turned out okay. The colour was too dark, and it faded out to mahogany.

So it wasn't worth it.

After beach and sea and (okay, let’s be honest) neglect, I realized that my hair desperately needed tending to.

My first choice, the new local hairdresser, is on vacation until next week.

I decided to try The Other Salon. At the mall. I remembered a friend giving it a positive review.

And I thought it would be less expensive than the Very Good Salon, also at the mall. And I hoped it would be less expensive and more convenient than my mother’s New Zealand Salon.

I arrived at the salon. I was ten minutes late. After filling out the marketing paperwork, I began to discuss my colour with my hairdresser. She assured me that she had been working as a hairdresser for four years.

It seemed like it was her first day on the job.

There were four or five other people around my chair discussing my colour. I guess they had just switched over to a new colour range. Or maybe I was asking for something complicated, since it involved lightening. At this point, I thought about leaving and going somewhere else.

But since I’d waited until the last minute (read, wedding the next day) and childcare options were limited, I had to make do.

Now, I admit I am, shall we say, a little particular. I hate anything that looks the slightest bit red. I like warm colours. And so on.

Well, I got to look at a couple swatches for the base colour. But I didn’t get to look at any for my foils. They said caramel. I said warm beige. I began to feel a little more nervous.

At this point, someone else tried to sell me $40 to $60 worth of products. Now, even if my hair is in bad shape, I hate being bombarded with questions like, “what products are you using?” By more than one person at the salon. And then being forced to listen to a hard sell. If I am interested in your products, I will ask you about them.

And I don’t need comments from my hairdresser about how my cut has grown out. If it’s been six months since my last cut, I will admit it, and I have no interest in discussing it further.

Two hours later, after much discussion between five people, I was waiting for the toner to finish, and I still had not received my cut. But it was time to go and pick up the child from playcentre. So I had to leave with wet hair and no cut. Oh, and I had more dye on my face and ears than when my husband and I did my colour ourselves.

The colour turned out brassy. It might improve in a few days, so I will withhold my final review.

It was just as expensive as the Very Good Salon in the mall and my mother’s New Zealand Salon.

What would you do? Would you go back to the salon and tell them the colour isn't good enough and ask for more toner? And maybe a free cut, as two hours and fifteen minutes should be long enough for a cut and colour? Right?

Or would you just post a rant on your blog?


Now's good.

ME: I’m ringing about a $3.00 error on my last statement.

TELSTRACLEAR: $5.75 for two hours is the right charge.

ME: My plan is $2.75 for two hours.

TELSTRACLEAR: No, it’s not.

ME: I’ve had the same plan for four years. I’ve got the policy right here.

TELSTRACLEAR: Hold on. Let me go talk to someone who knows something.


TELSTRACLEAR: Are you still there? Sorry, I was still looking at the screen from the last customer.


We fought the law. And we won.

My biggest fan (Hi, Dad!) pointed out that I didn't let you know what happened with the blackout protest.

It was successful.

Many thanks to all of our supporters. Yay, us.

Lost and found

Yesterday we took the Playcentre kids for a ride on the train. We went south two stops to a little track by a gully. It was delightful.

On the return, I was watching the child and his mate play-scuffle with his backpack. Then in the scurry of getting off the train, we forgot the child’s backpack.

Another mum suggested that the backpack would be with lost items up the line. We couldn’t find a number in the phone book, so we drove up the line to enquire. The clerk said, no, they don’t keep lost items, they go back down the line to Wellington. And she said that we needed to call Toll NZ, but she couldn’t give us the phone number. It’s in the book, she said.

We returned the library books, bought petrol, and then we returned home to ring Toll NZ. Toll NZ said, you need to talk to metlink. But she gave us the wrong phone number.

We went to the internet, and behold, the exact number that we needed.

We rang and we spoke with a lovely Scottish gentleman. He told us, through a thick brogue, that he had heard about the backpack, and even though it isn’t the usual policy, the backpack should be waiting for us at our home station.

And it was. With all of its contents.

New Zealand. Often layers of bureaucracy to wade through. But many happy endings.


Dear Pak'n Save

I am sorry I was grumpy with you earlier today.

As you helped the guy who came up to your counter AFTER me, I waited, somewhat patiently. And then I showed you my receipt and asked you for a $3.23 refund, for my scanning error.

It was for the chive cheese slices, that I bought for my husband’s lunches. Because he thinks making his lunches will save us money.

As I said at the time, I had rung up the cheese slices twice with my self-scanner, BY MISTAKE.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love self-scanning, so I can keep an eye on my running tally. And apparently self-scanning and self-packing is how Pak'n Save helps me save money.

I was eager to get out of there and get home. You were eyeballing items in my shopping trolley and crossing them off my shop receipt, BY HAND. I asked you if you would like to do a rescan of my $207.76 worth of groceries (we’ve got the technology, after all).

I’M JUST DOING MY JOB, you said. I said, all this, for a $3.23 refund, and you were quite short, and you told me again that you were JUST DOING YOUR JOB.

I could have pointed you towards my perfect scanning re-check record at Pak'n Save. Or asked you about the customer being right.

However, I admit, after two hours of shopping in a crowded supermarket with an almost-four-year-old, I was not at my best. At the end of those two hours, I had realized that I had blown my supermarket shopping budget by $60.

So I returned a number of expensive items to the shelves. The kilo of dairy-free margarine (because you didn’t have any more of the 500g size in stock). The almond butter. The coffee. The vanilla extract. The baker’s chocolate. I’m sorry my receipt with all those voided items was so confusing.

Near the end of those two hours, I also selected and scanned a multi-pack of multi-grain sour cream and chive crisps, also for my husband’s lunches. And I said to myself, hmmm, what about those chive cheese slices. Maybe that’s too many chives for my husband’s lunches. So I took the chive cheese slices back, because, if I change my mind, I always return things to the proper shelf, and instead I chose and scanned cracked pepper cheese slices.

I didn’t know that the chive cheese slices had been scanned twice. Because it was actually my almost-four-year-old doing the scanning and I wasn’t checking his work THAT closely. Yes, I know only over 18-year-olds are allowed to use the scanners. Okay, in fact, I was supervising him VERY CLOSELY. And I checked his work again before paying. But somehow, in $207.76 worth of groceries, I missed one $3.23 item and overpaid.

It’s not like bottles of wine often don’t ring at the right price. The difference is usually at least $5. I’ve started shopping for bottles of wine that are mismarked in my favour.

I digress.

I really did not appreciate the way you slammed my $3.20 refund on the counter (we don’t have pennies in New Zealand). And then mumbled about me under your breath.

The $3.23 refund was so not worth the hassle of interacting with you. Is annoying a good customer, who admittedly is having a bad day, a new PAK‘nSAVE marketing strategy? Annoy them enough and they won’t ask for refunds?

What happened to “Everything we do, we do to save you money”?

I’m happy that you’re working and not just collecting the dole, but a little sympathy for my predicament, AS THE CUSTOMER, would go a long way. It’s called customer service. You know?


Thank you, United Future Party

Dear Mr Dunne

Since you helped form the United Future Party, your supporters have said that you are a brilliant centrist. Your critics have said that you are an opportunist.

In many cases, you and I have not seen eye to eye. I think you have moved too far to the right, and I disagree with you on a number of issues.

As such, I am surprised to find myself thanking you for accepting yesterday’s petition to repeal Section 92A of the Copyright Amendment Act.

You may support the petition for different reasons than I do. I don't mind. I believe it is coalitions like ours that make New Zealand politics so very interesting.

Um, thank you for your support, Mr Dunne.

Sincerely yours
Juli Ryan

MP Peter Dunne accepting the petition


200 posts from my mother

I usually don't like it when blogs blog about other blogs.

I reckon, if the blog is in your blogroll, then it's a blog you like.

But I must give a shout out to my mother, who has written over two hundred posts. She started her blog while she was here in New Zealand, continued to blog in Texas, and now she blogs from Florida.

Check out her amazing photos and funny quips at From AA to NZ.

My mother


Stealing is not okay. I am FOR copyrights.

You may have noticed that a few of us on Facebook and Twitter have our avatars blacked out.

We are protesting against the absurd copyright legislation (Section 92(A) of the Copyright Act) that will come into effect Feb. 28 in New Zealand. This excellent post sums up the issues.

We are not for piracy. I think most of us are actually FOR copyrights and protecting artists’ work.

We are against the draconian idea that people ACCUSED of copyright infringement will have their broadband access denied by their ISPs.

Yes, you read that right. They’re not just going to take down your video or close your YouTube account. The ISPs are going to take away your internet access, and it will be at the discretion of the ISP. One ISP has said that they will cut you off just on an accusation of copyright infringement.

No day in court. No due process.

And no court would impose this sort of punishment.

What qualifies as piracy? A simple format change (such as downloading a CD that you already own onto your computer for your iPod) is a copyright infringement. Under this act, if I were to watch a video on YouTube that was not endorsed by the copyright holder, my internet connection could be cut off.

Please join us in protesting this bad law. There is information about how to create an avatar here.


An excerpt from my first novel

Ben’s Noble Square apartment was stale with used corn oil and cigarette smoke. His little bedroom was like a prison cell.

In bed, he used to read me the Tao Te Ching. We’d lie there naked under Guatemalan blankets, and his voice would be tender. I’d rest my head on his chest, and the words would flow over me, like cascading water caressing the mountain’s curving slope.

When he had these gentle moments, he seemed benign, almost like he was normal.

He used to make me hibiscus tea that he brewed in a mason jar, and he made me spaghetti sauce with bay leaves and sugar. “Vegetarian style,” he said. Once he made me a chile relleno casserole. He taught me how to grill flour tortillas over a gas flame on the stove. He pickled vegetables--carrots were my favorite. He gave me mangoes and pineapples and plums on ice. Sprirulina smoothies. Fresh-squeezed limeade and lemonade.

He had devised a way of making a living. He kept house for people on disability, a constantly changing number of people. There was Luis and Kim and Eric and Larry.

There was always coffee brewing. “Coffee and sugar,” he said. “Those will be the things that’ll be the hardest to give up, during the revolution. Better start stockpiling now.”

Before I knew him, Ben lived in Pilsen, with his alcoholic father, his father’s Mexican wife, and their children. Apparently, his father was a well-known dissident, and Ben and he had fought with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and El Salvador.

And, for a while before I knew him, Ben lived in San Francisco. In the mornings, he would practice Tai Chi in Washington Park. He learned the art of massage from people that he met at Rainbow Gatherings.

He wrote me beautiful love letters on an old typewriter, possessive and insistent in his adoration of me.

He had a tattoo, though I can’t remember where. Was it on the back of his neck, or was it on the calf of his leg?

He danced with wild crazy abandon, flailing himself about like grease on a hot griddle.

He gave me odd presents, scavenged from neighborhood dumpsters. Mexican parkas, hats, cloth bags.

He liked to think of himself as a punk. He listened to the soundtrack from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, singing along in an exuberant way that he must have thought was theatrical. But he liked Bob Marley and the Residents (or was it the Replacements?) and the Ramones. He loved the Ramones.


On mice and valentines.

The child loves mice. Mickey Mouse. And Maisy.

But I admit it. I hate mice. I’m afraid of them. They freak me out when they creep along the baseboards. I don't like to hear them scamper in the attic. And I don’t like see them when they’re dead.

In my last life I was an elephant.

Rats and mice are definitely part of urban living. My flat in Columbus, Ohio had mice. So I got a cat. And there were mice in both of my San Francisco flats.

Of course, mice are part of rural living, too. Our village is overrun with minions of mice.

And at this time of year, when the weather is starting to turn colder, all the mice want to come inside our house.

And my husband kills them for me.

That’s a bloody sweet valentine.


Top Chef

In New Zealand, we’re a bit behind the USA. In most things. Movies often get released months later, and we are at least a season behind you on TV.

I want to know why TV2 and TV3 pretend that spoilers aren’t out there on the internet.

These are probably the same people who used to get upset in English class, when someone read ahead, and then in discussion (accidentally) gave away the plot.

It’s just plot, people.

Anyway, last night TV3 aired Episode 2 of Top Chef.

It’s the episode when Padma Lakshmi told Ariane, “I hated your dessert. I spit it out in my napkin.”

Seriously, after five seasons? This is the best line that Padma can come up with? And we had to watch her spitting it out? And in the end Ariane wasn't eliminated?

What a clever twist.

I’ve covered my eyes. I can’t see the internet.

You’ll have to take my word for it. I wasn’t reading ahead.

I just wanted to check Padma’s bio.


Vaccinating is a good idea.

I read this story about immunisation in New Zealand. We aren't very good at immunising our children.

When the child was six weeks old, New Zealand rolled out its Menigococcal B vaccinations. We felt like guinea pigs, but we did the four rounds of the vaccine. We felt the risks in the vaccine were outweighed by the risks of contracting the disease, which is epidemic in New Zealand.

Whooping cough (pertussis) is also epidemic in New Zealand. One case of whooping cough was confirmed at our playcentre, and it resulted in hospitalization.

When I was pregnant, I found out my MMR vaccine had worn off. After the child had his vaccinations, I got the MMR vaccine, just in case. It wasn’t very much fun, and I have even more sympathy than I did back when the child got his vaccines. (We were VERY liberal with the Pamol.)

Anyway, my point is vaccinations are recommended because meningitus, whooping cough, and the measles are serious diseases. Please make sure your child is immunised.


I'd rather be a tulip.

In New Zealand we believe in social levelling. We even have a saying about it.

We chop down tall poppies.

If people think you are being presumptuous, they don't hesitate to CHOP YOU DOWN.

I was hopeful worried that people at Playcentre think I’m a tall poppy.

Because I care what people think. I do.

Internet, I’ve been laughed at reassured. I'm not a tall poppy. I am sufficiently humble.

So, having failed (for the moment) to invent any more excuses, I will endeavour to complete the next level of Playcentre course training.

Before the end of the term.

I’ll do it after I get off Facebook soon.


I'm so narcissistic.

As if 25 random things weren't MORE THAN ENOUGH, I've been on Facebook, doing even more memes. And now I'm sharing them with you, internet. Because that's the kind of friend I am.

Here are Another 48 Things I Want You to Know About Me:

  1. Were you named after anyone?
    No, but my initials are the same as my grandmother’s.
  2. When was the last time you cried?
    New Year’s Eve. NYE is always a letdown.
  3. Do you like your handwriting?
    No. My second grade teacher is the reason why I need to go to therapy.
  4. What is your favourite lunch meat?
    Ham. Except today I bought too much and now it’s not my favourite any more.
  5. Do you have kids?
  6. If you were another person, would you be friends with you?
  7. Do you use sarcasm?
  8. Do you still have your tonsils?
  9. Would you bungee jump?
    If I had a chance to win $50,000.
  10. What is your favourite cereal?
  11. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?
    Yes. But I only own one pair that unties.
  12. What is your favourite ice cream?
  13. What is the first thing you notice about people?
    Their mood.
  14. Red or pink?
    It depends.
  15. What is your least favourite thing about yourself?
    Quick to anger.
  16. Who do you miss most?
    My grandparents.
  17. Do you want everyone to complete this list?
    If they are narcissistic enough.
  18. What colour pants and shoes are you wearing?
    I’m not wearing pants or shoes.
  19. What are you listening to right now?
    Birds and cicadas and the washing machine’s spin cycle.
  20. If you were a crayon, what colour would you be?
  21. Favourite smells?
    Vanilla, patchouli, citrus.
  22. Who was the last person you talked to on the phone?
    Another playcentre mum.
  23. Do you like the person who sent this list to you?
    Yes, she was one of my first friends.
  24. Favourite sport to watch?
    Gymnastics or ice skating. Or anything not on TV.
  25. Hair colour?
  26. Eye color?
  27. Do you wear contacts?
  28. Favourite food?
  29. Scary movies or happy endings?
    I don't like scary movies. I have an overly active imagination.
  30. Last movie you watched?
    Into the Wild.
  31. What colour shirt are you wearing?
    I’m wearing a dress.
  32. Summer or winter?
  33. Hugs or kisses?
  34. Most likely to respond?
    Writer friends from college.
  35. Least likely to respond?
    My brother (I'm trying to egg him on).
  36. What book are you reading now?
    I just finished American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. Now I’m trying to finish Love in the Time of Cholera.
  37. What is on your mouse pad?
    I haven’t had a mouse pad in years. I used to have one with a cat on it.
  38. What did you watch on TV last night?
  39. Favourite sound(s)?
    My son laughing. The many sounds of the sea. Tui. Anything acoustic.
  40. Rolling Stones or Beatles?
  41. What is the farthest you have been from home?
    New Zealand.
  42. Do you have a special talent?
  43. Where were you born?
  44. Whose answers are you looking forward to getting back?
    Everyone’s. I am a voyeur.
  45. How did you meet your spouse/significant other?
    At my best friend’s wedding.


Mexican burgers.

Working in a hamburger chain helped teach me the art of making a good burger. It’s all about using the best possible meat.

New Zealand's grass-fed beef is among the world’s best. And safest. As a lapsed vegetarian, I say, yum.

Lately I love this “Mexican” twist on my old favourite.

Mexican burgers
400g premium lean mince
½ onion, finely diced
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp chilli sauce
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
Colby, cheddar or edam cheese slices (optional)
1 tbsp oil

Combine mince with all other ingredients, except oil. Divide into 4 equal portions. Flatten into burger patties.

Prepare selection of salad ingredients, eg lettuce, tomato, pickles.

Toast or grill hamburger buns.

Lightly oil and heat a barbeque plate. Cook burgers until cooked through (these days I don’t like mine as rare as I used to), about 4-5 minutes on each side. In the last minute, if using, melt Colby cheese on top of patties.

Assemble buns and salad ingredients. A quality mayonnaise hits the spot.

Serve with homemade oven fries and fresh fruit salad for dessert.

Much better than it looks in this photo


Let's Go USA

Dedicated to my grandfather, because he encouraged me to keep writing
It’s a good thing I’m not a travel agent.

I like thinking about all the different possibilities. How about a side trip to Mexico? Or a stay at Laguna Beach?

I hate making decisions. Especially when they’re non-refundable.

Of course, if I was a travel agent, my clients would be making the non-refundable decisions.

Then I’d be annoyed when they couldn’t choose between two, like, totally similar hotels, right next to each other.

“I think we’ll stay at the hotel with the toddler wading pool. No. Wait. NOW we want to stay at the hotel with Starbucks and Pizza Hut in the lobby.”

Hold me.

With all the bad economic news, I’m having Grapes of Wrath anxiety attacks.

I'm afraid we'll arrive in Orange County, and migrant workers from Oklahoma will be living there in shanty-towns, with all their belongings strapped to their cars.

And then we’ll go to Dallas and it will be a Dust Bowl.

I didn’t say it makes sense.

I feel guilty for planning a trip to Disneyland.

I’m not going to stay at a luxury lodge. And I didn’t make $30 million last year.

And yes, I know there is medication for this sort of thing.

It's called duty-free bourbon.

I need a nap.


That 25 things list

If you’re on Facebook, no doubt you’ve seen that 25 things list that’s going around. You’re supposed to write a note with 25 random things about you. I’ve been tagged, so here’s my go:

  1. I met my husband, Adam, at my roommate’s wedding. She married his brother, who was also living with us. So my roommate is my sister-in-law. And our kids are cousins.
  2. After I met Adam, I didn’t want him to visit me in San Francisco. I was happy with my life and I had a feeling that everything would change if he came to visit. Everything did change (but for the better).
  3. When I was five, my kindergarten teacher told me not to write with my left hand. She was mean. I was probably meant to be left-handed. She also told me to take the scissors out of my mouth. That was probably good advice.
  4. When I was a kid, I didn’t like carbonated fizzy drinks like Coke or Sprite. I still don’t really like them.
  5. I don’t like lollies either. Adam and my son love them. I'm a chocolate girl.
  6. My son’s curls remind me of my brother’s when he was little.
  7. I don’t have any tattoos. I like them on other people, but I’m too chicken to get one myself.
  8. When I was five, I wanted to grow up and be a cashier at Kroger (the local supermarket). At the time, it seemed like a powerful position. When I was ten, I wanted to be an international lawyer. I had lots of penpals and I dreamed of going travelling and making the world a better place.
  9. In the 90s, after the usual waitress-temp training wheels, I made good money working in marketing communications and multimedia. It was a golden age. The pay was high and the expectations were low.
  10. And I paid off all the credit card debt that I had accrued during college (thanks, Citibank). Now I don’t believe in using credit cards. We save up to buy things, the old-fashioned way.
  11. I want to publish a novel. I have two first drafts, and I’ve started working on a third.
  12. I love going to the library and the book store. I feel at loose ends if I’m not reading a book. Usually I’m reading a few at once.
  13. I love the toy house that my parents bought for my son. It’s a Pintoy one. I’m always asking him if we can play with it. And sometimes I play with it by myself.
  14. When I was a little girl, I loved my Barbies. I had the Dream House and the swimming pool and so many clothes. I loved to create elaborate plots and I would control their lives play with them for hours.
  15. I still sometimes wear my nose-ring. I don’t wear all black any more though. These days I like to dress like a hippie chick bohemian.
  16. If I could, I would wear pajamas all the time. My husband calls me Pajama Girl.
  17. I don’t like the same music that I liked when I was younger. Now I like mainstream divas like Brit Brit and Beyonce. I've always liked Madonna though.
  18. I hardly ever play the piano or the violin. But when I do, it makes me very happy.
  19. I was afraid to drive in New Zealand. For the first two or three years I lived here, I walked or I took the train. I couldn’t remember which side of the road I was supposed to be on, and the roundabouts and the give way rule? So confusing.
  20. I love walking and hiking and tramping. I don’t like biking. My son is a keen biker. So I think I will have to learn to like it.
  21. I love popcorn. One of my earliest memories is hearing my parents making popcorn (after I was supposed to be asleep). Oh, and I love pizza. And burritos and tacos. And chips (French fries). And curries and laksa. OK, I live to eat. My husband is an amazing cook.
  22. Since my son is allergic to dairy, eggs, peanuts and sesame seeds (yes, we’re one of those families), we make a lot of our own food. We can’t buy pre-packaged convenience stuff or get many take-aways. At first it was really difficult, but reading all those labels when I was a vegetarian has served me well. And my son can have soya, almonds and potatoes now, which makes life MUCH easier.
  23. I never learned how to put on make-up. So I don’t wear it. But I love having it done professionally.
  24. I don’t like crowds or large groups. I want to listen to what everyone is saying, and I get frustrated if everyone is talking at once. But I love to talk and have everyone listen to me.
  25. The first time I got drunk was with Peach Schnapps. Just the thought of a fuzzy navel sickens me to this day.