Showing posts from 2014

Some photos from Christmas Day 2014


Reflecting on the 'Sydney Siege'

As the hostage situation in Sydney went on the other day, our Facebook feed filled with people saying 'too close to home', followed by expressions of horrified sympathy for the people in the cafe, their families etc.

They made me angry.  The conflict between Western nations and Muslim people (which this was at least piggy-backing on) has been hurting and killing innocent bystanders for years.  Why were people only identifying with the pain this caused when it happened physically close(ish) to us and to people in various ways 'like us'?

But as I prayed, God changed my perspective.  People in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen have for years had to deal with having loved ones killed just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time - and often at the hands of our allies.  Now that this was happening to people 'like us', Kiwis and Ozzies were starting to imagine what that felt like.  I prayed that that imagining would expand their hearts.  That we would exten…

The Feast of St. Nicholas

Today, December 6th, is the Feast of St. Nicholas.  In the region around the Swiss city of Basel where I once lived, this festival is celebrated with special bread people called Grättimänner.  Every year since I returned to New Zealand I've wanted to make them, but kneading the bread was a bit much.  This year, with our cool new Kenwood Chef beater, it felt a lot more do-able :-)

(Yup, that's me with the inevitable 'to-do' list on my lap...)

They look a bit munted, and they came out a bit dry (maybe I baked them too long?), but I'm still really pleased with them :-)

Things that go bang

Yesterday we were quietly resting when we heard a funny noise - a loud bang, like something falling over.

We couldn't find the source, but later Martin noticed some water on the floor near the hot water cupboard.  When he opened the hot water cupboard he found this:

Over the winter, I've been putting my kefir bottles in the hot water cupboard overnight to get good and fizzy.  This bottle had only been there maybe 4-5 hours and had got fizzy enough to break open at the bottom, shoot up in the hot water cupboard and knock down one of the slats that form the shelves!

I guess the weather's warm enough for them to get fizzy on the bench again now :-)

Fair Trade scorched almonds!

I'm rather partial to scorched almonds, so I was delighted to discover yesterday that TradeAid are selling Fair Trade ones!  (Or almost - from the picture it doesn't look like they're as chocolate-heavy as actual scorched almonds, plus they're cocoa-dusted rather than shiny).  I can't wait to try them :-)  They've also added chocolate-coated raisins to their range.

Buy online or find your local shop here.

Responding to Islamic State

Yesterday Martin wrote an email to our Prime Minister with the subject line "Thoughts on Resisting ISIL." I'd like to share it with you here:

Dear Mr Key, I am aware that you face some difficult questions regarding New Zealand's foreign policy and our reponse to ISIL, and would like to contribute to the flow of citizen's comments which I hope you are receiving. My high school choir teacher was (later) killed by separatists in the Philippines who bombed an airport he was travelling through.  His son pursues 'revenge' against them by helping others in the area build a strong civil society with no room or need for radicalism. In that vein, let me urge you to strenuously pursue non-military contributions in addition to the current military support you have proposed.  I was struck by this recent article in the WSJ, arguing how rule of law and legitimation of small businesses can push back radicalism, and imagine you would relish that agenda.  I am also…

The world is a big place

I try to expose myself to ideas from different places by listening to the BBC World Service, reading blogs and literature from other places and talking to foreigners I meet about how they see the world.  Yet I still frequently slip into tacitly assuming that everyone sees the world more or less the same way I do.

I was reminded of this today, while listening to a BBC documentary about gay refugees from Iran.  In New Zealand, people who think that gay relationships are wrong tend to advocate two options for gay people: heterosexual marriage (generally after some kind of curative treatment) or celibacy.

Apparently, in Iran, there are two options, too - but they're different.  Celibacy wasn't mentioned as an option (although maybe it is one) but the two main choices are heterosexual marriage (at least sometimes after some kind of curative treatment) or gender reassignment surgery.  I was so surprised!  I would never have thought that there were societies where people were against…

Home Improvement

Martin (with various helpers) has been a busy beaver in recent weeks!

The structure at the corner of the wheelchair ramp on which we keep various plants had to get moved when our house was being painted at the beginning of the year.  It was in pretty bad condition so we decided to make a new one rather than reinstalling it.  And now, 8 months later, it's all done :-)

It's not nailed to the ramp: the green wooden struts sit a bit above the ramp and keep the slats in place and the slats rest on the edge of the ramp.

I think it looks very nice and tidy :-)

But that's not all.  Martin can't carry me at the moment because of his recent back surgery, so the commode wheelchair is currently in frequent use.  Getting it from the bedroom to the toilet has always been challenging as the space it needs to get through is pretty tight.

To free the area up a bit we decided to replace our linen-and-tools cupboard/shelving unit with a much smaller unit.  We found a lovely unit on Tra…

Hope in the future

Last week I was reading Psalm 52:
Why do you boast, O mighty one,
of mischief done against the godly?
All day long you are plotting destruction.
Your tongue is like a sharp razor,
you worker of treachery.
You love evil more than good,
and lying more than speaking the truth.
You love all words that devour,
O deceitful tongue.

But God will break you down forever;
he will snatch and tear you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living.
The righteous will see, and fear,
and will laugh at the evildoer, saying,
“See the one who would not take
refuge in God,
but trusted in abundant riches,
and sought refuge in wealth!”
But I am like a green olive tree
in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
forever and ever.
I will thank you forever,
because of what you have done.
In the presence of the faithful
I will proclaim your name, for it is good.
As I listened to it, I realised how unlike the psalmist I am.  When I see people doing bad stuff I don't look at them, mystified, and think &…

'Ethical' Kiwisaver schemes

See update re. Koinonia at end of post
The Kiwisaver scheme to which Martin currently belongs is being closed down, so we're on the hunt for a replacement.  Ideally we'd like to invest in a scheme that invests in something socially positive, but if we can't have that then at least we want to exclude investments in things that are really harmful.  To see what our options are I've been trawling all the Kiwisaver schemes that pitch themselves as 'ethical'.  I thought I'd share what I'd found here in the hope of saving someone else some work.

All the 'ethical' schemes exclude investments in alcohol, tobacco, gambling and armaments except Craig's Investment Partners' 'Balanced SRI' Fund (which only aims to "have a diversified portfolio of investments that are deemed to be environmentally and socially sustainable") and OneAnswer's 'Sustainable Growth' Fund (which excludes investments in tobacco, gambling and arma…

I made bread!

We're wondering about buying a fancy electric beater (one of the ones that can handle bread dough) so we've borrowed one off Martin's boss for a couple of weeks to try it out.  We were worried it might be too heavy or noisy for me to cope with so wanted to have a go with one before we bought one.  It's worked out beautifully so far and today I used it to make bread for the first time :-)

I used to make bread a lot back in the day but these days I can only manage no-knead bread.  However, today I made normal bread!  It was so much fun - seeing it rise like magic, smelling all the rich yeasty smells - all things that I've been shut off from for years!  Yay!

It's been awesome, and hopefully we'll be buying one of our own soon, using a mixture of our own money and some money we got when my Grandma died.  She was a great baker so it feels like a fitting tribute :-)

Despising the day of small things

On Sundays I'm in the habit of trying to read or listen to something that will give me some kind of Christian teaching.  A few weeks back I was listening to the talks from the plenary sessions of the Tertiary Students' Christian Fellowship's annual leadership training camp.  The talks focussed on Israel's return from exile in Babylon, and the final one included one point that I've been mulling over ever since.

The prophet Zechariah was one of the exiles who returned from Babylon to the largely destroyed city of Jerusalem.  The city no longer included a temple: it didn't even have walls.  Some of the exiles were trying to rebuild the walls of city but others were saying that that was pointless: the walls were so pathetic that even a fox could get through them, so why bother?  In this context, God says through Zechariah:
“The hands of Zerubbabel [the governor] have laid the foundation of this house [i.e. the new temple]; his hands shall also complete it. Then you …

Eye pillows

I've been doing a lot of sewing recently, but most of it has been making presents for people who read this blog so I can't put up pictures.  However, yesterday I finished these:

An eye pillow for my namesake Heather's 19th birthday and another for Christmas for my cousin's wife.

I haven't done much beading before and I'm very pleased with how they turned out :-)

Glowing flowers

I've been loving the way these flowers on my windowsill have seemed to glow in the afternoon sun on recent days :-)

Submission to Baptist Union Working Party

Yesterday I (Martin) scrambled to put together a submission for the Baptist Union, and thought I would put it up here for a few church friends to see.

The Union appointed a working party to discuss their position on same-sex marriage and the constitutional questions arising from their initial attempts to set a position.  Their website was little help in finding more info about submissions, but Google directed me to GayNZ who had a helpful article.

Heather reminded me on Saturday that Sunday was the deadline, for which she paid the price of being kept up late as I tapped it out.  Even as I went to sleep I was thinking of things I might have said better, but such is life.

Here is my submission:

Commercial Fair Trade Chocolates!!

I've long regretted the inavailability of Fair Trade chocolates in New Zealand.  Bars of chocolates are available, but boxes of chocolates are not.

No more!

Tom Brinkel of Brinkel's Cake Art in Wellington makes delicious Fair Trade chocolates and truffles.  Go to 'chocolate gallery' to see the selection and make your purchase.  They're also currently available on TradeMe for $5.99 for a box of 9 with flat postage to Auckland of $5.50 no matter how many boxes you buy :-)

Unfortunately he hasn't yet found a source of Fair Trade white chocolate so not all his flavours are Fair Trade (despite what it says on the website).  These ones are, though:
dark chocolate truffleskirsch and raisinbourbon vanillabanana liqueurlavenderroasted almond and honey fudge I haven't tried them all yet (I only got them today and I'm trying to make them last!) but the roasted almond and honey fudge is particularly good :-)

Election 2014 - who should I vote for?

According to Radio New Zealand National this morning, the three big issues in the election this year are health, education and the economy.  I haven't listened to the programme yet, but, if they mean what I think they mean, those certainly aren't the issues I'll be voting on.  As far as I'm concerned, New Zealand is already doing fantastically well in all three areas and it'd take some monumental stuff-ups by a new government to do anything much to change that.

Our health-care system is great!  I heard on the BBC yesterday that most public hospitals in Nigeria don't even have running water.  In that context, we don't have a lot to complain about.  We do have issues with diseases related to poverty (like rheumatic fever in Northland), but dealing with poverty is what will fix that, not tinkering with the health system.

In the latest PISA survey, New Zealand ranked above the OECD average in performance in maths, science and reading.  Rich count…

Big Fair Bake

The Big Fair Bake has come around again. It's an annual competition to bake something using at least two fair trade ingredients. You take a photo of yourself with your baking and the fair trade ingredients and submit it along with a statement about what you baked and why you chose to bake fair.  Here's my entry.

I baked Fair-nando bananas in their skins and served them with hokey pokey icecream, crushed roasted almonds and a chocolate sauce made with TradeAid cocoa.  They were yummy and we could really enjoy them, knowing that no one had been abused growing the cocoa or bananas.  I've heard that workers on regular banana and cocoa plantations are often treated really badly.  Men get punished for trying to get protective equipment to use when spraying bananas with chemicals that make them infertile, and children are even kept as slaves on cocoa plantations and beaten with bicycle chains if they don't work hard enough!  I don't want people to go through that just s…

Abortion - part two

This is a follow-up to my previous post on abortion.  Since I wrote that I've had many conversations on the topic of abortion and these, plus further reading of the Bible, are helping me figure out what I ought to think about abortion.  I think I've finished my reading of the Bible on this topic for the moment: my next step will be do read about what the early church thought about abortion, and my conclusions are all provisional until I've done that.
I'd like to start with my findings thus far, then move on to my 'working' as to how I got there.
Killing of people is wrong, but killing of non-persons is fine.  Pro-choice people argue that the embryo is a non-person until a particular point of gestation (or until birth or even, in some cultures, for a period after birth - I'm thinking here of places where it's considered OK to 'expose' newborns), pro-life people argue that it is a person (generally right from conception).  Thus whether/when th…


I rather like sauerkraut and enjoy making it from time to time.  The other day, someone wanted to know how to do it.  Here's what I told them :-)
Chop cabbage quite finely (I use the grater function on my food processor, but otherwise cut it as fine as you can by hand).  Measure it by packing it down tightly into some kind of measuring cup/bowl, then put it into a bowl that fits it with lots of room to spare.  Add one dessert spoon salt per 2 cups (packed) of cabbage and toss to mix it well.

Pack it tightly into wide-mouthed jars.  I use 1L glass jars (like mason jars) and one big cabbage fills 3-4 of them.  Put something into the mouth of each jar that's fairly rigid and goes right across the surface of the cabbage.  I use lids from honey pots - the kind of lid that's a bit flexible and kind of peels off the container that it comes on.  Here in NZ you get that kind of lid on containers of honey, yoghurt and icecream.  You want something a bit flexible so you can poke it t…

Abortion - part one

This is a super-long post: in no way a 'little note'!  However, if you do have time to read it through and comment on it I'd be very appreciative: this is stuff I'm trying to think through and I value the contributions of my community in helping me do that :-)
[Updated 19/7/2014 to say most Christians are pro-life, not pro-choice.  It's good to know that at least one reader got far enough through to be surprised at that statement.]

The Green Party recently released its policy on abortion, which basically consists of wanting abortion to be available to any woman who wants it.  You can read the full text towards the bottom of this page.

My initial response was twofold:
'Good on them'.  Our current abortion system is a huge mess.  Nominally you can only get an abortion if the pregnancy causes serious danger to the woman's life, mental health or physical health; if there is a foetal abnormality; if the pregnancy was as the result of incest by a parent or gu…