5.12.12

It's a wonderful life.

Every year, I panic about Christmas. I get so overwhelmed. I don’t have that much to do. But I'm a worrier.

I'm going to be honest with you. I don’t like Christmas. All my life, I thought I liked Christmas. I've finally admitted to myself I don’t. In fact, I’ve never liked Christmas—the hustle and the bustle and the scrambling. It's too intense for me.

I keep hoping that Christmas won't happen. Because I am a chronic procrastinator, and I hate shopping. If you see me at the shops, I'm sorry if I seem crazier than usual. Soon it will be over.

I'm trying to slow down and enjoy it.

Anyway, I have some great news. My good friend Neil (who is from New York) is coming to New Zealand for Christmas and New Year’s. I'm so excited (and nervous) about his visit.

If you know me, I am a lazy, neurotic hermit. But since Neil and I have a lot in common, I think we'll have fun.


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20.11.12

Sweet Tart Vegan Orange Syrup Cake



It’s that time of year. PARTY TIME! And in New Zealand, time for cake stalls at school fairs. 

I prefer a lemon tart to almost any dessert. But Seven is allergic to everything. (And in New Zealand, cakes reign.) So, for the gala at Seven’s school, I made this vegan orange syrup cake:

Vegan Orange Syrup Cake
with special thanks to the New Zealand Food Allergy Cookbook
3 cups plain flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups milk alternative, e.g. rice milk
125 g dairy-free margarine, melted

1 tablespoon lemon zest
sticky orange topping
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
2 oranges, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 180 C. To make the sticky syrup, dissolve 1 cup sugar in ½ cup water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add thinly sliced oranges and simmer until oranges are soft (about 10 minutes). Put this aside while you make the cake batter.

Sift dry ingredients. In a small bowl, combine water, oil and baking powder. Add to dry ingredients with milk, margarine, essence and lemon zest. Beat until batter is as smooth as you can manage (2-3 minutes).

Grease and line a 25 cm cake tin with baking paper. Arrange orange slices on bottom and sides of cake tin (reserve the excess syrup). Pour in cake batter and bake cake for 45-60 minutes.

When cake is cooked, turn over on wire rack (oranges will be on top) and drizzle over reserved syrup with spoon. Cool before serving.

Variation:  Replace 1 cup plain flour with 1 cup ground almonds.

--
You guys, I know I've been absent from my blog for MONTHS. But I am so excited to share this summer with you. I am full of other wild delicious secrets, and it’s anyone’s guess what will happen. More fun to come. I am dying to show you how sweet summer can be.

26.9.12

Typical Conversation After I Meet Someone in New Zealand

“Are you Canadian?”

“No, I’m American.”

“Where are you from?”

“Ohio.”

“Eh??"

"Ohioin the Midwest. Close to Canada."

"How long have you been living in New Zealand?”

“About ten years.”

“So, you’re almost a Kiwi!”

“Yeah!" Fake laugh. "Ha, ha.”

“How did you end up living in New Zealand?”

“I married a New Zealander…”

“Did you meet here?”

“No, in Hawaii.”

“That’s so romantic!”

“We’re not together anymore.”

"Oh, I'm sorry." Awkward pause.“Were you on holiday?”

“Well...my FRIEND married Adam’s BROTHER. Adam and I met at THEIR wedding. Then Adam visited me in San Francisco. And I came to New Zealand  we went back and forth a few times.”

“Are you going to move back to America?”

“No, Adam and I share custody of Seven. OF COURSE I wish I lived closer to my family. But Adam’s family is all here. Except for the brother who married my friend.”

“Are they still together?”

“Yeah, but we don't talk anymore.”

“Why not?”

“Oh, y'know. Divorce. I don't want to complain to Laurie about her husband’s BROTHER."

"Hmm."

 "It’s OK though. I have a BLOG.”

5.8.12

Not writing

“Don’t you feel more energized now, on your own?” my friend asks.

“I was writing more when I was married.”

After Adam and I separated, I was sucked into a whirlpool of switching schools, looking for work, and moving my house of seven years.

Sidenote: My new neighbours are building a fence on the boundary. WTF? It's taking a long time, and apparently it's still not quite finished. I feel like Peter Mayle, except nobody is speaking French, or inviting me to lunch.

So now I’m treading water. I'm not writing, or writing very little. My two big projects are on hold. I spend my days looking after Seven, driving here and there, doing laundry, making dinners, avoiding friends, falling into bed. Instead of writing, I think about cleaning my house. I should unpack those boxes, clean the oven, wash the windows.

Not writing is agreeable. Pleasant. No rush to drop off Seven at school, so I can meet a (self-imposed) deadline. No struggle to write after Seven goes to sleep.

Not writing is nice. Maybe I will get a job in an office.

Except I feel guilty for not writing. I'd like to enjoy floating on the surface, but I'm jealous of others’ achievements. I resolve to be more ambitious. I really need to make some money.

Anyway, maybe I am depressed. Divorce is confusing. (So is living in New Zealand.)

1.7.12

Moving on.

Checking the rentals section in the newspaper used to be my hobby. Adam and I had already looked at several places, but we couldn’t agree. Adam thought a character cottage that I loved was too small (or something). I hated a Lockwood house with fruit trees in the garden.

But I've always been lucky.

When Seven was six months old, the owner of our flat put it on the market. I had a bee in my bonnet about moving on. I didn’t want people traipsing through our flat during open homes. We had a baby!

The next day there was an ad in the newspaper. I think the ad said three bedroom house with timber floors in the village. Maybe it mentioned a dishwasher. I knew it was the one.

I rang and asked the owner S if the house had a bathtub or a fireplace.

“There's no bath. I’m not sure if the fire even works. And the garden is a jungle,” S said.

“We’ll take it.”

“Go and have a look,” S said, and she gave me the address, spelling out the unfamiliar street name.

Adam and I put the baby in his car seat, and we drove up the coast to the house. Remarkably, we both liked it, and we were lucky enough to be chosen as tenants.


It was a private 1940s house, on a corner, a block away from the beach, at the park end of the village. You could see the sea from the front deck and the bedroom, and through the French doors in front, which nobody ever used. Everyone used the back door, which was not as picturesque an entrance, but whatever. 

You could also see the sea from the kitchen, and even from the back deck, if you knew the right way to look. We only had a couple of big afternoon birthday parties at our house, but we always said its “open plan” had a good “flow”.


Seven and I lived in our house for seven and a half years. Adam lived there for six years. Of course, while we lived there, the house went through some changes. The lounge and the dining room traded places –  a couple of times. Seven’s nursery eventually became the spare room/office.

Using the open fireplace filled the lounge with smoke and set off the smoke alarm. Adam put in a used wood burner that we bought on Trade Me. He spent years taming the jungle in the garden. And he put a door on the garage, which became his “man cave”. (Or “where all his stuff had to go”.) Seven went to the village Playcentre (the co-op preschool).  I made new friends. 


The night President Obama was elected, there was a gale. The French doors swung open and banged against the side of the house. This caused their panes of glass to shatter. So, the owners put in new double glaze windows.

Adam painted three sides of the house. Apparently, the owners didn’t have the money or the inclination to pay him to paint the fourth side.

When Seven grew too big for a baby bath in the shower, we bought a used cast iron bathtub on Trade Me. We put it in the kitchen. There was nowhere else for it to go.The bathtub never had a tap – we filled it by using a hose from the laundry sink.


Seven started primary school. Then he changed schools, so instead of walking with Seven to school, we had to drive. Our marriage ended, and Adam moved out.

The owners bought a new dishwasher. They built a new privacy fence on the front deck. We quibbled over the garden since Adam was no longer looking after it.

“I promise I won’t let it become a jungle – l
ike it was when we moved in,” I said.

Every year the owners raised the rent, by three or four per cent, to keep the house at “market rate”. Before our marriage ended, Adam and I said year after year, “If the rent goes up by much more, we will move on.”

But we didn’t move on. We felt our rental was nicer than other rentals. Sometimes we even felt a bit clever or smug about it. 


And yet, other houses have baths with taps, and insulation. And more manageable gardens. And off-street parking. And street names we don’t need to spell. Those houses are in the school zone. And are cheaper.

This year when the owners raised the rent (I'm embarrassed to tell you how much the rent had become, but it was too expensive for me), just like that, it was time for me to move on.

I was looking for a place (as a hobby) for a year before I found my house. When I first looked at it, I waffled a bit, but I knew it was the one. 


My new house was built in the 1940s. It's not in the village, but it's in Seven's school zone, and it has a bathtub (with a tap), and a heat pump. You can see the sea from the driveway, or from Seven's room (if you know how to look), and it has a very easy garden.


29.4.12

My monthly blog post.

I doubt I ever will be able to post as often as I used to on this website, since the excitement of having a lot to say has twittered away, and my reasons for blogging are changing. Most blogs are losing steam — I feel sad when my favourites fade out. But one does get tired of one’s own voice.

I continue to blog for the love,  maybe not as much for therapy. I'm remembering that my journal is a great place for navel-gazing. But I still want to write to you. I have things to tell you, important things that I've considered carefully while driving Seven to school, doing the dishes, or watching American Idol. I'll keep posting here, as much as I can.

--
Last year after Adam and I separated, in the midst of all the trauma, I felt vaguely enthusiastic about the idea of a fresh start. I believed it was a chance to transform myself, as if I was a butterfly that could just fly away from our marriage.

After leaving our relationship, I realise I have only traded sets of problems, and of course I am still the same neurotic, lazy person. It is humbling to become aware that the issue wasn’t our relationship, but me.

I was probably overconfident. For example, I thought I could do everything myself around the house. Cleaning my hair out of the shower drain isn’t that hard. And I thought I could hire a handyman to do the really difficult chores, like sweeping the chimney, or removing a wasp nest from the garden shed.

But I find myself increasingly baffled by what I need to do. I don’t know how to change the vacuum cleaner bag because Adam always did it. I am perplexed when I need to repair the door of the dryer—should I use glue? 

I tend to let housework slide. The house is a mess. The stove and the shower both need cleaned. And I am STILL looking for a cheaper house—my search spurred on because Landlord raised my rent.

Thinking about the money I need to spend week to week makes me panic. My spare energy is directed at finding stable work. All I want is to claw myself out of poverty, put a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, food in our bellies. I am constantly afraid, anxious about the future. Will I be able to get back on my feet? I scold myself for being childish and wallowing, but I worry I have made the wrong choices in life.

I don't want sympathy or encouragement. I am just trying to say that I am still here if you want to keep reading. And I am OK. I am not beaten. I know I will get through this. Tomorrow is another day.


24.3.12

The give way rule.

For my first few years in New Zealand, I didn’t drive. Wellington is a compact city, so I walked, or I took the train.

Driving on the wrong side of the road was just too intimidating for this fragile migrant's state of mind.

And there was the unusual give-way rule. When Adam turned right at intersections BEFORE the cars turning left, I was understandably confused.

“Adam, you didn’t have the right of way back there!”

“Yes, I did.”

“Are you sure?”

New Zealand motorists were required to give way to all traffic on the right.

But tomorrow, New Zealand will change this rule of the road. Instead of giving way at an intersection to traffic on the right, we will now do the OPPOSITE.

Source: TVNZ

The change is taking place because after 35 years on the books, everyone still found the give-way rule confusing.

Accidents are expected as motorists try to get up to speed with the change. But as accidents frequently occur at intersections anyway, we will risk this confusion for the greater good and tourism.

Kiwis are of course smarter than most. Someday we'll understand the new give-way rule.

In the interim, the exciting game of chance at our intersections keeps our pulses racing.

Does the other driver know the new give-way rule? How long should we wait before we turn? Motorists, place your bets.

I have a bad feeling about this.


29.2.12

New Year's resolutions.

This post is about New Year’s resolutions, a topic which is still timely on Feb. 29. I don’t want to brag, but this is my blog, and as always, I am right on top of things. And if you think about it, being on top of things eliminates any need for New Year’s resolutions.

Laptop
To bring us up to date, after tearful phone calls, ordering of parts, tech visits (more tears), Laptop finally was repaired, out of pity, or to make me shut up. It was an expensive miracle.

After Spillmageddon, I am not drinking coffee with Laptop. Like a pack-a-day smoker who quits smoking cold-turkey, breaking a twenty-year habit isn't easy. One day at a time.

Cups with Lids
Before you comment or email, yes, I've heard about cups with lids. They are a wonderful invention. But I am accident-prone, and I KNOW I could spill coffee from a cup with a lid. It's a gift. My new rule is no coffee (or other liquids) by Laptop. A New Year’s resolution that I can keep.

Productivity
Unfortunately, not-drinking coffee with Laptop has had a negative impact on my productivity. Or so I want to believe. Because once or twice a week, things have interrupted me from my current task, which is finding paid work.

Things. Landlord is panicking about me moving out (one day). So, handymen are popping in. Six had a fever and missed two days of school. I needed to buy new tyres for the car. Taxes. You know, the things that fill regular life.

I thought my problem was general laziness, but realise another issue is low-level, debilitating anxiety. I worry a lot.

Time
I have expanses of time, but as previously mentioned, there are too many interruptions.

Drugs
Considering taking something (?) for my anxiety, but taking drugs to feel normal is no fun. So, my New Year’s resolution is to run more, while Six is at school and at his dad’s. Exercise as therapy.

Oversharing
I also resolved to blog more often in 2012. But New Year’s resolutions really do set us up to fail.

Leap Year
This year is of course a Leap Year. I recently learned that in a Leap Year, women can propose marriage to men. This is silly. Obviously, women can propose marriage anytime. Also this has nothing to do with me, since I'm not looking to get married again anytime soon.

Dating
Last year I was interested in dating a couple of guys. But they didn't feel a mutual attraction to me. And as someone smarter than me once said, unrequited love is a bore. Dating still seems like a sadomasochistic exercise.

9.1.12

My crazy hope.

My crazy hope was that summer would be full of magic (and possibly S-E-X). By this, I mean I hoped summer would be fun.

It was off to a promising start. Six was happily ensconced in his new school. I found a cute new house. And there was a guy--in real life!--whom I liked.

The cute house didn't work out. And the guy wasn't into me. So, I felt broke and a bit lonely. Six was spending Christmas with his dad.

Whatever, I thought. I would use this time alone, be productive, work on the book that I won't publish.

Then I spilled coffee on my laptop, and I had a heart attack, because I need a new motherboard. (Expensive!) Despite the best holiday weather in forty years, I was too depressed to budge from my couch.

"2011, good riddance," I wrote for my Facebook status update. This was maybe unfair.

Yes, last year was a shitty year. But there were a few moments when I felt joy. As if I was living life in a way that was impossible before, when I was married to Adam. Which is the point of being separated--I guess.

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