31.7.09

Want to buy a van?

In NZ, there is no legal requirement to have auto insurance. Instead, you need to get a Warrant of Fitness (WOF).

If a vehicle is of a certain age (read old), you need to get a WOF every six months.

A WOF testing station checks that your lights and horn work, and that there is no rust on the key structural points of your car. There is no emissions testing. The WOF costs about $40, and of course the cost of any repairs.

Until you have a valid WOF, you are not allowed to drive your car, except to the garage to get repairs, or to the testing station.

You also need to register your car (get a rego). For an older car, my husband’s rule of thumb is to make sure the car passes its WOF before he gets the rego. The rego is about $100 for six months.

If we fail to have a WOF and a rego, and we park our car on the rural residential street in front of our house (because we don’t have off-street parking), we can get charged $400 in tickets (this happened to us).

We can park in our driveway, such as it is, and avoid getting a ticket. Which is why I just asked my husband to move the van that has been a street sculpture for the last two or three school terms.

My husband thinks I’m being paranoid about the guy that I noticed checking out the van yesterday. I’m not taking any $400 chances.

How cute would I look driving this?

23.7.09

Juli Ryan. Dot com.

This is one of those geeky posts about blogging that no one really likes.

I bought my own domain name.

Yup, that’s right. I spent money on my blog (please don’t tell my husband).

Now Wellington Road will be coming at you (hopefully seamlessly) from Juli Ryan dot com. You shouldn't have to do anything.

But I didn't back up (because I like taking risks) and my blog roll was wiped out. If your blog used to be up there, and it isn’t any more, do let me know.

22.7.09

Guilty pleasures. Oh, Edward.

So, mentally I am a teenage girl. I have been reading the Twilight books. Go ahead and think less of me, but I really like them. I have read them each in a day or two, and I just can’t put them down.

My favourite is the third book, Eclipse. It is about a girl who has to choose between two guys in opposing worlds. My husband is totally like Jacob (the werewolf). But who can resist Edward--vampires are so very appealing.

The writing is terrible. It is full of clich├ęs. Stephanie Meyer clearly has a way with words and a decent vocabulary and is a skilled storyteller, so it “breaks my heart” to read through so much cheese for every genuine moment.

You will see almost every twist of the plot coming. Meyer doesn’t make the most interesting choices, which is a let-down time and again. And she seriously needs to edit and polish and not make the first draft her final one.

Then again, she is a bestselling novelist. What do I know.

150 pages to go. Bracing myself for the disappointing finale.

19.7.09

Hiding behind the curtains.

When the sun goes down in NZ, nearly everyone closes the curtains. I think it's for privacy.

My husband says, no, it is for warmth, because almost no one has double-glazed windows.

But everyone who pops in at Wellington Road seems surprised by our neighbour’s house. Because we can look right into her open-plan lounge and kitchen.

My husband says people are shocked because they are not up with modern design. And it is nice that our neighbour can look out of her house, rather than being surrounded by four walls.

But he is very sure. She doesn’t have double-glazed windows.

So I think our neighbour is an exhibitionist. And I like it.

This house looks a million times better since she moved in.

18.7.09

This song is so hot.

But it's just about to be overplayed. Bastards!


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Edited to add. No copyright infringement intended. This is just something that inspires me. If you want it removed, please let me know and I will take it down.

17.7.09

What the child is saying.

Wipe my bottom. Obviously, this is something you only want to hear from someone you gave birth to. I warned the child that when he goes to school, he will need to wipe his own bottom. And he looked at me like, I will totally hold it until I get home.

Food! Food! Food! The child tweets like a little bird when he needs something to eat.

Have a nice day, Dad. The child says this as my husband heads out the door to work. It is just as sweet as I love you.

That’s not my name. My name is Jet. Um, okay. And let me guess, you’re a Transformer? I think my husband let the child watch the Transformers to get back at me. Because robots in disguise? I don’t get it.

Mum, it’s your favourite song. I love it. The child knows my favourite song. Even though it’s been overplayed, and I don’t like it any more. Boom boom pow.

Do you want some cuddles? You would have to have a heart of stone to say no to this. Although sometimes the child’s timing is a little off, like when I have my hands full of pizza dough, or I’m sitting on the toilet. Yeah, we’ll have to work on that.

16.7.09

Whose side am I on?

I thought I was against fortifying bread with folic acid. Well, I guess I can live with it.

I’m definitely against that big company adding palm oil to chocolate blocks (and charging the same for 50 grams less).

But I’m confused about why we need that expensive postal referendum. Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

Um, yes?

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Edited to add. Of course, fair trade organic chocolate is what we prefer at Wellington Road. We take our chocolate very seriously.

15.7.09

Let's play monopoly!

Broadband service in NZ is expensive and slow. And I’m still not sure how anyone can compete with NZ Telecom.

At Wellington Road, we are able to use TelstraClear, which offers cheaper, faster broadband service in our area.

But a recent decision by the Commerce Commission looks likely to wipe out the very slight broadband competition in NZ.

Coincidentally, just the other day Slingshot rang me up to try to get my business. And I was even less grumpy than usual.

Slingshot: You don’t need to change your provider. But we can give you better rates on toll calls.

Me: But we don’t make toll calls.

Slingshot: How about the Internet? Do you use broadband or dial-up?

Me: Broadband. (pause) Hello?

Slingshot hung up on me. It’s like they already have given up.

Here's an alternative proposal for the Commerce Commission. Buy back Telecom at two or three times the price you sold it for and be done with it.

14.7.09

Roasted pumpkin soup.

My first cup of pumpkin soup was made from a packet, in a household that had never seen a fresh vegetable.

Making pumpkin soup from fresh vegetables makes all the difference. My husband cuts up the pumpkin for me. However, I believe that my experience with carving jack-o-lanterns will probably come in handy, if it's ever put to the test.

Roasted pumpkin soup
1 small pumpkin, cut in chunks and peeled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
½ tsp ground turmeric
3 cups chicken stock, heated
½ cup coconut cream
1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tsp grated lemon zest

Heat oven to 200 C. Place pumpkin in oven pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes until soft.

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat and add onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric. Cook until soft (5-10 minutes). Add pumpkin and stock and bring to boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Blend soup until smooth. Return to saucepan and reheat. Stir in coconut cream, sweet chilli sauce and lemon zest. Season to taste.

Not a complete failure. The child did eat the roasted pumpkin.

9.7.09

Burglary or scam?

Last week one of the local papers reported another burglary in the village. $1,000 in cash was allegedly stolen from someone’s house.

This sounds suspicious. Like maybe someone is making an insurance claim.

I mean, who keeps $1,000 in a handbag at their house? Someone who is paid in cash?

At Wellington Road, burglars would be lucky to find $20.

7.7.09

My glass is always half empty (but not on the inside).

In my last post I forgot to mention all the AMAZING things about living in New Zealand. I am truly the luckiest woman in the world to live in NZ, and to have had such an easy time gaining residency, and my husband is totally a saint for putting up with me. And I have the most angelic son.

I get to look at the sea from my bedroom window. The sea is maybe 100 metres away. And in the middle of winter, my son and I can play in the garden, and actually be too hot. Every day we have beautiful, healthy food to eat. And we have social welfare, such as healthcare for everyone. And only 4 million people to share it all with.

Yeah, it’s a good life. I just point out the negatives to keep it unspoilt. Do come and spend your tourist dollars. But don’t stay too long. Unless you are family, or you have skills and you are in great health and you are willing to work for less.

Love,
Juli

5.7.09

My country, ‘tis of thee.

As the war in Iraq began, I was not happy with the way things were going in the US. I was living in liberal San Francisco, but I still felt disenfranchised. I was even called un-American.

I had been to visit New Zealand, and I decided to return.

But when I did, I wasn’t sure that the remote, provincial paradise was the place for me. Our house was cold, I had to step back a few rungs in the workplace, and it was difficult to make friends with the insular Kiwis.

During those long Bush years, there was palpable anti-American sentiment in NZ. And a lot of it seemed to be directed at me. Kiwis mocked my accent, denounced my customs as too American, and made anti-American jokes.

But I didn’t reach out to other American expats. In my first five years in NZ, I didn’t meet any Yanks at work or over the Internet. And I certainly didn't want to meet them through the US Embassy.

Not only did I feel ashamed of my government’s policies, I was also embarrassed by the entitled brash arrogance of my people. The ugly Americans.

Things have changed. I have met some wonderful Americans living in the village. I'm enjoying some earnest American expat blogs. And I’m relieved to be so much happier about the direction my country seems to be headed.

Happy Fourth, y’all.

2.7.09

Kia ora, New Zealand.

In New Zealand, there are two official languages—English and te reo Maori.

Okay, three. Also NZ Sign Language (NZSL).

In most countries, your effort to speak the language is appreciated. Not so in NZ.

When I try to speak te reo, I am constantly corrected.

There seems to be an idea that you need to apologize for your bad pronunciation. Fair enough.

But if you are not a fourth generation European New Zealander, you really have no hopes of saying anything in te reo right.

1.7.09

I'm hooked on Outrageous Fortune.

I don’t watch Shortland Street, but I am a fan of New Zealand’s Outrageous Fortune.

It’s a local drama about a family of criminals who start trying to live an honest life. Sometimes it’s cheesy, but it’s often quite funny. And I like how the soundtrack features New Zealand music.

Rumour has it that a US version is in the works. I can't wait to see what the Yanks come up with.

Here’s the trailer for the fifth series, which is now airing in NZ.



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Edited to add. Sorry, probably NSFW.