Thursday, 30 December 2010

Gift vouchers

So, Christmas has well and truly come and gone and some people are back at work before the New Year holiday weekend. I briefly found myself in a shopping mall this morning. It’s not like I set out to buy anything, but I still have Farmers vouchers burning a hole in my handbag that I got for Christmas last year (or was it two birthdays ago?). Looking back through my blog, I see I was trying to spend these same vouchers a year ago. Poor me. :-/

They say that vouchers are the perfect gift if you don’t know what to buy for someone. Just choose a shop they like, or a store with several departments, or even a mall and voila, your gift buying problems are solved! For me, that works very well in theory. The reality is somewhat different because here we are more than a year later with vouchers still in my handbag and very little to show for the ones I've spent. My sweetie is the opposite; vouchers burn a hole in his pocket and are disposed of almost immediately or very quickly after he receives them. I know others who are like that, too.

Thankfully, I didn’t receive any gift vouchers this Christmas. Actually, I begged and pleaded with my family to not give me any. I suspect they think I’m kidding when I say I simply can’t spend them. Even I don't explain it very well.

I’ve heard every form of ‘sympathy’. “You can give them to me if you don’t want to spend them.” Yeah, right. “You should go shopping with someone who likes to shop and then you’ll spend them easily.” Nope, hasn’t worked. “Wait for a big sale – then you’ll find something.” Wrong again; there are sales almost every weekend and I still have $50 left to spend. “You don’t have to buy clothes. Go to another department and spend it there.” Still not working. I just end up winding myself up, getting extremely stressed then going home grumpy at having not bought anything again. Stop laughing - it's true!

This morning's brief foray into Westfield mall ended ok. I still have vouchers to spend but am proud to report no tantrums, whining or tears (so far). It seems a shame to have not bought discounted items during this week's big sale, but there will be another one, right?

Oh, and don't get me started on what I do once I've actually bought something - you'd be amazed at how long it takes me to use new items, but that is another blog post!

What are your thoughts about giving and receiving vouchers?

Monday, 27 December 2010

Post-Christmas post

Another Christmas is done and dusted and the madness that was Christmas shopping has now turned into Boxing Day and summer sales. We overindulged on food and festivity as we juggled Christmas between both of our immediate families and my extended whanau. Wellington turned on a pearler of a day with warm, calm and sunny weather.

We started off with breakfast at my parents' place and opening presents with my almost-3-year-old nephew. Isn't Christmas so much more fun when there are little ones around? He was beside himself with the excitement of opening presents but, just like the cliché goes, was literally more interested in the packaging for one present than what was inside it. A trip to the beach after breakfast to play with his new bucket and spade ended at high tide. Thankfully there was a park across the road with a red swing (like he requested) and slides to play on in the sun before going home again and watching him chase bubbles around the back yard. A sunny Christmas Day was the perfect opportunity for this 101 in 1001 activity, #34 - Blow bubbles on a sunny day.

The rest of the day saw us work slowly but surely through mountains of food and presents, some of which we are still trying to polish off now. It's amazing how we can still be eating chocolate pie, pavlova, tiramisu and chocolate truffles two days after Christmas. Lots of bubbly and a backyard pétanque tournament finished the day off nicely and Boxing Day was spent eating even more ... long lazy days!

How was your day? And how are you recovering now? I hope your Christmas was as wonderful and fortunate as ours.

Friday, 24 December 2010


A beautiful evening + my sweetie + Christmas Eve + beach + sunset = 101 in 1001 #36 - Watch the sun set with someone special.

Working on Christmas Eve

Today is only the second time I have worked through until Christmas Eve. It is the strangest feeling. We need to hang in here until midday when the gates will be opened (they were literally locked this morning), then we'll be allowed to escape into whatever form of Christmas madness we have planned. Let's just say that none of us are doing any work today!

Here's how our team are passing the time this morning:
  • Ferrero Rocher for breakfast.
  • The Absolute Best Christmas Album in the World ... Ever! is playing on my laptop through external speakers. Too bad if anybody doesn't want Christmas cheer - they're stuck with it! :-D
  • Farewell morning tea for a colleague in a few minutes.
  • Some guys are running around with nerf guns. Makes me wish I'd bought my water pistol now instead of waiting until after Christmas.
  • I'm replying to texts from my brother asking what to get my partner for Christmas. Yep, the big day is tomorrow (on the same day as it is every year) and he's only thought to ask about it today.
  • Someone has just come around with a basket of scorched almonds. Ooh, and here comes someone with rum ganache truffles. And fruit tarts!
  • Blogging, reading Stuff, chatting, watching Christmas videos on YouTube and generally laying about.
Happy Christmas Eve, everyone!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Getting to know you meme

It's been a while since I've done one of these. I saw this meme doing the rounds on Facebook yesterday, had a few minutes free, so copied and pasted here.

Getting to know Café Chick:
  1. What time did you get up this morning? The alarm went off at 6:40 am, the usual time for a work day.
  2. How do you like your steak? Medium-rare. Don't bring it to me if it's overcooked!
  3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? Inception (2010). Loved it.
  4. What is your favourite TV show? It was Outrageous Fortune but I'll have to find another one now that the Wests have packed up for good.
  5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? Probably still New Zealand.
  6. What did you have for breakfast? Breakfast?
  7. What is your favourite cuisine? Italian.
  8. What foods do you dislike? Capsicums. Euw!
  9. Favourite place to eat? I don't have one in particular, but I'm pretty fussy ... if it starts with 'food' and ends with 'court', you won't find me there (except to buy sushi).
  10. Favourite dressing? Does chocolate sauce count as a dressing?
  11. What kind of vehicle do you drive? A silver one. (Ford Laser sedan.)
  12. What are your favourite clothes? Pretty summer dresses. I don't wear them much these days.
  13. Where would you visit if you had the chance? Europe.
  14. Cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full? I try to make it half full but some days are easier than others ...
  15. Where would you want to retire? Somewhere by the sea.
  16. Favourite time of day? It used to be after midnight but now I'd say mid-afternoon on a sunny day.
  17. Where were you born? Wellington.
  18. What is your favourite sport to watch? I don't really have one ...
  19. Who do you think will not tag you back? Well, I haven't actually 'tagged' anyone to do this meme but somebody might pick it up and put it on their own blog.
  20. Person you expect to tag you back first? See above.
  21. Who are you most curious about their responses to this? Anyone. :-)
  22. Bird watcher? Yep, I love them!
  23. Do you consider yourself attractive? I used to ...
  24. Pets? None of my own but my sweetie has a cat called Zed.
  25. Any new and exciting news that you'd like to share? Umm, watch this space.
  26. What did you want to be when you were little? A teacher. (And I was.)
  27. What is your best childhood memory? Long summer evenings.
  28. Are you a cat or dog person? Neither - I love birds.
  29. Are you married? Nope.
  30. Always wear your seat belt? Absolutely.
  31. Been in a car accident? A couple of minor dings but nothing that would qualify as a crash.
  32. Any pet peeves? Soooo many! For starters, see this post. Add to that: supermarket or retail staff who greet you by asking "are you ok?". Yes, I'm fine, thanks. However, you could help me ... oh, and don't call me "ma'am" - I'm not as old as you seem to think.
  33. Favourite pizza topping? Cheese, tomato and basil.
  34. Favourite flower? Giant daisy.
  35. Favourite ice cream? Bon bon rocher gelato from Kaffee Eis.
  36. Favourite fast food? Sushi.
  37. How many times did you fail your driver's test? Never.
  38. From whom did you get your last email? Lotsa junk email and advertising at this time of the year.
  39. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card? Oh dear, I'm a dreadful shopper - this would be a nightmare for me!
  40. Do anything spontaneous lately? Walking in the rain.
  41. Like your job? Technically, yes ...
  42. What was your favourite vacation? One month backpacking around Italy back in 2002.
  43. Who's your favourite actor/actress? Probably Morgan Freeman. (I don't feel particularly strongly about this one.)
  44. Last person you went out to dinner with? My sweetie.
  45. What are you listening to right now? Just Walking In The Rain by Johnnie Ray - but in my head. How sad is that? (In my defence, I posted it on my blog earlier today.)
  46. What is your favourite colour? Purple.
  47. How many tattoos do you have? None.
  48. Coffee drinker? Oh yes!
  49. How many children do you have? None.
  50. What was the last book you read? Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I currently have three more books on the go.
Does anyone else want to have a go?

    Sunday, 19 December 2010

    Just walking in the rain

    The Christmas madness continues but there is light on the horizon. We are pretty much done with our Christmas shopping and most of the presents are wrapped and ready. Despite promises that this would be the busiest day for shopping, being the last weekend before Christmas, things weren't too crazy out there and we even managed to survive a dash around the supermarket relatively unscathed.

    Maybe the rain had something to do with it? It's raining pretty hard today but still warm, if a little humid - the perfect opportunity for a 101 in 1001 activity: #54 - Walk/dance in the rain. The experience wasn't quite as luxurious or carefree as I'd imagined it to be (and I didn't dance - it was a supermarket carpark the week before Christmas, after all!) but is probably my only chance to walk in warm rain and not have to care about getting wet.

    To mark the occasion, here is a musical interlude:

    Saturday, 18 December 2010

    Christmas madness

    It's a crazy time of the year, this thing we call Christmas. I'd be quite happy to bypass all the hype and commercialism. I have mostly managed to avoid getting sucked by it all this year but, nevertheless, can't withdraw entirely. This time last year we were getting ready to go away for a week and face another kind of madness: Christmas with the rellies on a remote island. It's hard to believe that it was a year ago already!

    In among all the madness, here are some things that make me smile at Christmas time.
    • A Christmas Story (1983). We tried to find this on Fatso but it's not in their catalogue. For years, our family used to laugh about the ugly leg lamp that arrived and Ralphie's dad's comment when reading the sticker on the box: "fra-gee-lee - must be Italian". (I guess you have to have seen the movie to know what I'm talking about.)
    • Looking forward to an almost-3-year-old opening his presents.
    • Fairy lights. They're everywhere at the time of year!
    • Snoopy's Christmas. Love it or hate it (obviously I love it!), this was the one Christmas song my band played every year and I never got sick of.
    • Cherries and strawberries.
    • This gorgeous Wellington advent calendar.
     How are you surviving this Christmas season?

        Monday, 13 December 2010

        When the going gets tough

        I've had a crappy day. I won't go into detail other than to say that my workload doubled last week after the colleague I work closest with resigned and I'm worried about what type of person she will be replaced by.

        When the going gets tough, certain things can always be relied upon to make things better for me:
        • Chocolate. Enough said.
        • Skoshes and cuddles from my nephew.
        • This song:

        Every Night by Phoebe Snow
        • Going for a walk and visiting duckies.
        What makes everything better for you?

          Friday, 10 December 2010

          Ukulele party

          You may have noticed I've had an ongoing affair with playing the ukulele this year. A colleague and I set up a ukulele orchestra at work a few months ago. We were essentially a group of beginners with one or two people who had some guitar or ukulele experience. Those of us who lacked said experience made up for it in enthusiasm. It was up to me to make the rest happen. We got started with some simple C and D-redemption songs (if you get lost, you can just play C or D at the right time and redeem yourself) and moved on from there. Since then, my purple ukulele has been running red hot and I've been playing several times a week.

          This has been an open-ended goal on my 101 in 1001 list - a bit naughty, really. After all, how do you actually measure something like #92 - Learn how to play the ukulele? (Or maybe that's the teacher in me being far too fussy with defining learning outcomes?) So, here's how I'm qualifying success in having achieved this goal:
          • I have steadily progressed in my playing. I'm now strong enough to start songs and lead a group.
          • I have developed some mighty fine callouses on my left fingertips. (Actually, I'm less than thrilled with that.)
          • I'm now strumming correctly with the tips of my fingers instead of my thumb (most of the time).
          • My chord progressions are much smoother. In the early days, I was ok at playing some individual chords but struggled to change to another. That's so much better now.
          • I no longer need to look at the chords I am playing most of the time. (OK, they're still pretty basic chords, but that's good enough for me!)
          • I have led a ukulele orchestra for nearly six months now and will continue next year. In fact, we totally rocked our staff Christmas party today by playing a 20 minute set! I'm hoping to gather more ukulele enthusiasts for when we start up again in the new year.

          Woo hoo!

            Friday, 3 December 2010

            The week's roundup

            It's Friday, folks! Time for a quick roundup of the week as I wait to go into town tonight for a Christmas harbour cruise. The weather is perfect and the harbour is looking beautiful and glassy - should be a perfect night out on the water.
            • Summer has arrived in Wellington! Let's hope it stays until March.
            • The baby duckies around work have grown up and are now teenagers.
            • My sweetie's cat had an operation on Monday to remove a cancerous growth from his ear. He now hates us passionately and repaid us by peeing on our bed on Tuesday night. :-(
            • Coffee Creation in Petone is still the absolute best place to stock up on fresh coffee for the weekend.
            • I tried to book for high tea at Mojo for this weekend. Turns out they're fully booked until at least 9 January 2011!
            • We had a yummy dinner out at Public last night.
            • It took three attempts to get our workplace Secret Santa sorted. I'm convinced some team members were sabotaging the process. ;-)
            • Wellington has launched a cool advent calendar with discounts and deals from Wellington businesses as prizes.
            • Tui has got their own advent calendar for the boys.
            Have a good weekend. :-)