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Showing posts from 2017

Christmas is coming

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There's not much energy to spare at the moment, but I did find some time to put up a few decorations in our room over the last few days.

When I lie in bed, I'm now looking straight at this:


Settling in at my parents' place

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On Saturday we moved to my parents' place, where we expect to spend the rest of the year.  We're here to help them sort their belongings and downsize prior to moving to a smaller place in the New Year.

We've stayed here for a long period of time once before, but this is the first time we've arrived expecting to stay many weeks.  To help make that work for us, my parents kindly agreed to let Martin and some friends largely clear the room we're staying in before we arrived.  This means it's easier for me to navigate the room than usual, which I'm really enjoying.  We also brought a few pictures for the walls and even pot plants and have set ourselves up very nicely :-)

I'm really happy with the setup and have posted a number of photos below.

Wildness Chocolate

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I recently heard about a really cool chocolate company - Wildness Chocolate.  I was really impressed by the founder, Marie Monmont, when she was interviewed on Nine to Noon on Radio NZ National.  Kathryn Ryan asked her what she looked for in her suppliers and she said:
number one: no child labournumber two: environmental sustainabilitynumber three: quality I pricked my ears up, as that's pretty much my priority order, too!

Some cool things I've been watching

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I'm continuing to enjoy spending a lot of time watching the bear cam: it's such an amazing opportunity to be able to watch what's going on all the way over in Alaska in real time!

There aren't many salmon jumping any more and the bear numbers have definitely thinned out.  The bears that remain are super-fat: it's delightful to watch the way their bellies roll when they shake themselves!  However, I seem to be noticing more other species there now.   This morning I spent about half an hour watching this amazing bald eagle.

Happy Birthday to me :-)

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It was my birthday on Friday and both Martin's parents and my parents came over for dinner to celebrate.





Abortion - some thoughts

Back in 2014 I wrote two posts trying to look into what the Bible has to say about abortion (here and here).  Since then it's something I've continued to think a lot about and I've come to believe this issue has some important facets that I don't often hear acknowledged.  I'm sharing them here as much to have my thoughts recorded for the future as anything else, but hopefully they will also be of interest to some of my readers :-)

The facets I'm thinking of are:
The main thing people who are pro-life or pro-choice seem to disagree on is the status of the foetus. One group says it's a baby, the other says it's a piece of tissue. That difference is crucial, as it determines whether an abortion is murder or the removal of unwanted tissue.  Something I think is often missed in 'debates' about abortion is that no one actually thinks killing babies is OK or that removing unwanted tissue is evil.  People on different sides of this issue disagree abo…

A living sacrifice

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In recent weeks I've been feeling like God wants me to take new steps in being a 'living sacrifice', a term Paul used in his letter to the Roman Christians that we have recorded in the New Testament:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.Romans 12:1-2, NRSV
I feel like God is calling me to be less conformed to the patterns of living I've settled into and to be more deliberate in living for him in terms of how I use my time.

Some happy things :-)

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I'd like to share some thing that have made me smile recently :-)




Grieving things I've lost: I'm not part of anyone's world

A few weeks ago I listened to an interview with Jennifer Brea on living with CFS,*  in which she mentioned the ongoing grief of living with chronic illness.  Again and again things don't happen in your life that do happen to the well people around you, so again and again you find yourself grieving new losses.

* the interview's well worth a listen, and what I'm discussing here is only a tiny part of it.

I really resonated with that, but I'm not so sure that was a good thing!  Ever since I've found myself ever-so-much-more aware of the background grief I think I always live with, and the thing that's hitting me the most right now is that I'm not part of anyone's world.

I don't mean no one cares about me - I know lots of people do! - but almost no one contacts me, people almost never turn to me when they're wanting to talk something through with someone, and certainly no one thinks of me when they're wondering who they could do something fun wi…

Stained glass for Father's Day

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For Father's Day this year I had a bit of a stained glass theme :-)


How to research your vote

With the New Zealand election less than a month away, here's some notes I put together for a new voter.  I'm putting it here mostly for my own records, but also in the hope someone else may find it useful :-)

There are no good people

On Radio New Zealand National, Kim Hill recently interviewed Reni Eddo-Lodge about her 2014 blog post Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race and its aftermath.

Listening to her speak, Martin and I realised that Christianity has something really important to offer here.  Reni Eddo-Lodge is concerned with the way we white people simply do not notice our own racism.   One of the things that prevents us from doing so is that we are perpetually dividing the world into 'good people' and 'bad people'.  When it comes to race, racists are clearly the 'bad people'.  This means that, when a person of colour calls out racist attitudes in a white person, that white person isn't in a good place to hear that message as they're likely to assume they're a good person and hence know that they can't be a racist.

But one of the core tenants of Christianity is that none of us get to be the 'good people;.  I came across this again just today in …

So many good things to look at right now!

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I'm loving all the flowers I have in my room at the moment:

Boldly asking God for my needs

At the moment our church is doing the New Zealand Bible Society's Six Month Bible Reading Challenge, reading through the New Testament section of the Bible over the course of six months.  At the moment I'm most of the way through Mark, the second book within the New Testament.

As I've been reading, I've been struck by how often Jesus seems to commend people for boldly asking them for what they need.  The first time I noticed it was this:
but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him [Jesus], and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she…

My disability isn't only a social construct

I keep on coming across comments like the following:
Disability is a social construct. It exists due to the society in which the person lives and not because of the impairment someone might have. Such statements are kindly meant and are true to a point; but they greatly overstate their case and, in doing so, make me feel like a freak.  Yes, society can be structured in such a way that certain impairments cease to matter.  But in my case, no matter how the society around me was structured, my disabilities would exclude me from most of it.  By denying that reality, this statement about inclusion leaves me feeling seriously excluded.  If someone asserts my disability only exists because society hasn't accommodated it, yet I can think of no accommodations that could overcome my disability, what does that say?  That my disability is just in my own head and I need to get over myself?  Or that, even in the world of disability rights, no one has realised that people like me even exist?

Have I accumulated too many 'have tos'?

Recently I've been finding it really hard to fit everything I want to do into my schedule, and doing anything spontaneous has become well-nigh impossible.  Grump!  I think I know what the problem is and I'm one week into a trial to test my theory and see if I can improve things.

I think the heart of the issue is that I've accumulated too many 'have tos'.  I have too many regular activities, meaning that there's no space for anything else.  An easy mistake to make when you only have four hours a day to get everything done, but a highly problematic one!

What should I do about this?

In the first instance, I've come up with a fairly simple plan.  I've listed out all the things I do regularly and had a think about what I can stop doing.  My idea at this stage is to cut out as much as I can, with the expectation that I'll later add back in anything I'm really missing.   I've come up with an 'a list' of things that will be fairly easy to cu…

Papier mache bathroom bin

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A bit over a year ago I realised I found our bathroom rubbish bin rather ugly.  I decided to replace it with a colourful home-made papier mache one and started collecting supplies.  A few months ago I made a cardboard form and then started the actual papier mache maybe a month ago.  Yesterday it received its final coat of varnish and this morning I installed it in the bathroom.  That's a crazy amount of time to wait for an new rubbish bin, but I'm really pleased with the result :-)

Bicycle rain poncho for Project Glow Wear

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I've just finished a huge project: a rain poncho for Martin to wear whilst cycling :-)


It was prompted by Project Glow Wear: a competition put on by the Greater Wellington Regional Council to encourage people to make clothing and accessories that include reflective elements.  They provided reflective fabric to all entrants (something I'd never even thought to investigate how to buy) which was definitely what tipped me over into deciding to enter.

The bears are back :-)

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Last year I wrote about the many hours I spent engrossed by the activities of the bears at Brooks Falls in Alaska.  I've been keenly watching the feed in recent days and weeks, waiting for them to reappear.  Today, there they were!  There don't seem to be any salmon yet, but I have seen a mum with three cubs checking out the possibilities :-)

Click on the image below to join me in watching (if you don't see an image, try here instead).



Enjoy!

Separating thoughts from feelings

A while back my dad introduced me to the blog of Lynne Baab: a Presbyterian minister who, until recently, has been lecturing in pastoral theology at the University of Otago.  She's recently been running a series that I've found really, really helpful.

In it she shares how she's come to realise that negative thoughts she struggles with are often presentations of strong emotions she wasn't really aware she was feeling.  In the first post she describes what a difference learning to recognise and more appropriately respond to those emotions has made in her life.  She argues that doing so is
a Christian spiritual practice because it helps me bring my feelings into God’s presence, as modeled in the Psalms. It helps me love and serve God more fully because I am less distracted by negative thoughts and feelings. I realised that I, too, often struggle with negative and disturbing thoughts (most commonly in the form of an emphatic conviction that I'm a bad person who dese…

We could all sleep in one bathroom

I've recently read Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo.  It's a true story following the lives of a number of people in Mumbai, India, who live in a slum near the international airport.  The title comes from the billboard at one edge of their slum, which promises 'Beautiful Forevers' to those passing through the airport.  There was much that was challenging in the book, but the thing that really got me was the size of the dwellings.

The main family we follow in the book live in a hut so small that several family members sleep outside every night.  There is simply not enough space on the floor for the whole family to lie down flat.

If you removed the bath from just one of our bathrooms, there would be plenty of space for all three people who live in my house to lie flat.  And that's just considering one of our bathrooms - we have a separate toilet, another bathroom, three double bedrooms, a separate kitchen and a large lounge/dining area as well!  No on…

The Zero Carbon Act

I've recently been looking at the Zero Carbon Act prepared by Generation Zero, and I'm pretty excited by it.  They've drafted an Act of Parliament that, if adopted, would set in place plans to enable NZ to get to carbon neutrality by 2050.

I'm really pleased that someone is doing this work :-)  We see climate change as one of the biggest near-term threats to the flourishing of our global neighbours, so it's really exciting to see people doing solid work to try and prevent it.

They've basically taken an existing UK act of parliament (from 2008, no less!) and altered it a bit to take into consideration New Zealand's unusual carbon emissions profile.  Whilst for most countries the majority of greenhouse gas emissions are carbon dioxide itself, around half of ours come from the methane and nitrous oxide produced by the agricultural sector.  The different kinds of gases last in the atmosphere for differing lengths of time, so they propose a 'two baskets'…

Sustainable agriculture: eating the 'Third Plate'

Martin recently came across a fantastic interview about sustainable agriculture.  In it, chef Dan Barber talked about what he's come to call 'Third Plate' eating.  He thinks of what Americans have been eating since colonisation as the 'First Plate' - basically a large piece of meat with a few other things on the side.  More recently, he's seen the rise of the 'Second Plate' - the development, inspired by sustainability concerns, of swapping locally sourced and/or organic meats and vegetables for the conventionally grown ones.

Dan Barber was essentially serving 'Second Plate' food at his New York restaurant when a visit to the organic farm that grew his wheat radically changed his outlook.  He visited in the off-season and was startled to see the entire farm covered in unfamiliar crops: no wheat in sight.  What he was seeing were the cover crops, without which the land would be unable to produce wheat later in the year.  They were also mostly hu…

Some surprising visitors

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This afternoon I heard a bird fly past my window - it was loud and looked, from the corner of my eye, to be large.  I assumed it was a kereru that had been feasting on our guavas. and eagerly craned for a better look. To my surprise, I saw this on the neighbour's porch:


A pukeko!!  A pukeko had flown past my window!  We get them on the lawn sometimes, as we live near Te Auaunga/Oakley Creek, but a flying one is something new!

Moth orchid excitement!

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Last October, I was given a moth orchid.  It was a gorgeous plant and I was delighted - but also a little daunted.  Orchids have a reputation for being fussy plants and I felt pretty sure I would kill it.  I had to keep reminding myself I was under no responsibility to keep it alive - I should just enjoy it for as long as I had it and leave it at that.

Your yoke is easy and your burden is light

As I mentioned earlier, it feels like there's a lot of big stuff going on around me right now.  I've just been doing my Lent reflection and I felt God guiding me into His truth as I prayed.  I'm writing down the chain of thoughts I had - as much to remind myself of them as anything.

Hazelnut chocolate Easter eggs

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No one seems to be selling fair trade Easter eggs in New Zealand this year, so last week my friend Anna and I again got together to make our own.  We use fair trade chocolate: this way we can be confident our Easter treats are a blessing not only to those who receive them but also to all those involved in their production :-)

Over the years we've developed a number of home-made Easter egg recipes.  We first learned how to make marshmallow chocolate Easter eggs.  Last year we added creme eggs to our repertoire: both classic creme eggs and vegan peppermint chocolate ones.  This year we made hazelnut chocolate Easter eggs: a milk chocolate shell filled with a paste that tastes a lot like the filling in Guylian seashell chocolates.  Click here to jump to the recipe.

The violence inherent in the system

I've never been quite sure where I stand with respect to violence and the use of force.  Instinctively, I tend towards non-violence.  Yet I am aware that, regardless of what I my personal preferences, my whole way of life is daily supported by very serious state-sponsored violence.

I was reminded of this the other day as I listened to this excerpt from one of my favourite podcasts, This American Life.  It features US border guard Francisco Cantu reflecting on his experiences guarding the US Mexico border.  It's not pleasant listening, but I recommend it.  It's 26 minutes long.

In New Zealand, we're surrounded by ocean, not desert.  We're so far from the nearest neighbouring landmasses that the only practical way for a desperate person to come here is by air.  So, instead of border guards with guns, we use Advance Passenger Processing at foreign airports.  We carefully decide who it will be to our benefit to allow in and rigorously deny entry to all others.*  I don&…

Aquafaba for glazing pies

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Today I discovered another use for aquafaba*: glazing pie pastry!  People use aquafaba as an egg or egg-white substitute in meringues, marshmallow, baking etc., so I thought it might work for glazing, too.  I'm really pleased with the result :-)

* the water in which chickpeas or other pulses have been cooked


I simply brushed aquafaba over the top before baking and, as you can see, it came out a lovely golden colour.  Aquafaba is something we generate at least once a week, so I'll definitely be using it in the future: I'd much rather use something I'd otherwise throw away than use half an egg and be left wondering what to do with the rest!

A different kind of Lent

We're nearing the end of the Christian season of Lent: the 40 days that lead up to Easter.  Over recent years, this is how I've generally come to observe this season:
I restrict the variety of things I eat and drink.  This tends to feel both boring and constrained.  I then use those feelings as a prompt to turn to God and to remind myself that he is sufficient for me.I do some kind of extra Bible reading in the morning.  This year I've been working through Lynne Baab's reflections on the Psalms.I do an evening reflection (a kind of 'examen').In place of doing more interesting activities, I take time to list a bunch of things we no longer need on TradeMe.  The money this generates is passed on to Tranzsend for their annual 'prayer and self denial' appeal.  This year, in terms of 'not doing interesting activities', I felt it was particularly important not to write any research-heavy blog posts during Lent.  Posts like theseones take a huge amount o…

Fair trade jelly tip ice cream slice

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Since Martin and I moved to only buying fairly traded cocoa products, I've gradually been figuring out how to make chocolatey treats that aren't commercially available fair trade.  A year or two back I figured out how to make jelly tip ice creams.  Recently I thought - why stop there?  With jelly tip ice creams you encounter the jelly first, then the ice cream: wouldn't it be yummier if you could enjoy jelly and ice cream together all the way down? The jelly tip ice cream slice was born :-)


A layer of raspberry jelly, topped with vanilla ice cream, cut into bars and smothered with chocolate.


Recipe

Neighbours Day 2017

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Our street had a really good Neighbours Day celebration yesterday.  We got some council funding to help with costs, conditional on us writing a report on how things went.  Below is my report, along with some photos of the event.


A sashiko sunhat for me :-)

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I realised a while back that my sunhat, whilst fun and very me, doesn't actually shield my face from the sun very well.


What to do?  I thought it'd be a fun challenge to try and make myself a new one from things I already had lying around the house.  It felt like it'd be a great use of  resources, too :-)



A swim at Pt. Chev.

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On Monday, we went for a swim at Pt. Chev. beach with our good friend Anna.

We had the absolute perfect day for it - sunny and warm and still.  It was lovely going down the path to the water, with native trees arching above us.  It was glorious being in the water.  As ever, the other people there were friendly and encouraging: one lady sunbathing on the beach even said it'd "made her day" seeing the three of us swimming together.  After our swim we had ice creams whilst Anna waited for her bus :-)



Shopping for human rights

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Last updated 23/7/2018
Whenever we shop, we're buying things made by people.  Some of those people are treated well in the course of making our things; others are treated very badly.  The more people who buy things made by people with good jobs, the more good jobs there'll be.

How we buy creates the world in which our global neighbours live.
How can we buy things in a way that helps the poorest people in the world flourish? For Martin and I, we've decided to:
Preferentially buy things produced in low income countries.  People in places like New Zealand have lots of job opportunities but people in places like Bangladesh have very few.  If something we need is available from both rich and Majority World countries, we will buy the one produced in a Majority World country in order to give the job to the person most likely to be left destitute otherwise.Buy things produced under the best labour conditions available - even if they're bad.  Many things produced in poor countri…

Upcoming opportunities to build community where you live

Neighbours Day 2017 is coming up on the weekend of March 25/26. This is a great opportunity to get to know your neighbours and build community where you live.  You can sign up here to get emails with ideas of how to celebrate (the most recent newsletter for our region even told us how to apply for supermarket vouchers to help with associated costs!), or check out the official website here - it has a number of resources to help you get started.

Your celebration could be as simple as inviting your nearby neighbours over for a cuppa, or you could band together with other neighbours to organise a full-on street party!  You can see photos of Neighbours Day celebrations in our street from 2015 here.   We typically find people from about 1/3 of the houses in our street come along and we've made a number of friends through it.

Also, Tuesday week (the 28th) is Shrove Tuesday - the last day before Lent.  This is typically celebrated with the e…

A week visiting my parents

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Recently we spent a week at my parents' place.  It wasn't really a holiday, as Martin went to work every day as usual, but it was a great way to spend lots of good time with them.

Whilst we were there, I also spent a lot of time admiring their beautiful garden.

How to buy chocolate without supporting abuse of cocoa growers

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I am extremely concerned about the high levels of abuse in the cocoa growing industry.  I am not willing to pay for people to be abused just so I can have a treat!
My bottom line is this.  If the workers who grew the cocoa for a particular chocolate brand didn't earn enough to feed themselves and send their children to school, or if they were subjected to serious abuse, then I won't buy that product.  As far as we are able, we are committed to living lives that allow our global neighbours to flourish. How do I identify which chocolate is good to buy?  Below I state my minimum labour standards, discuss briefly how I assess common claims made by chocolate brands and why I love certification, and then expand on these at greater length.

Minimum labour standards
When I look to buy any chocolate/cocoa products I first examine whether the workers who grew the cocoa earned enough to live on and whether they were subject to:
Slave labour;Child labour*;Unsafe use of agrochemicals.* …

Okara for a speedy, no-fuss sourdough starter

I very much like sourdough bread and keep a stash of sourdough starter in the freezer.  However, reviving it is a delicate process and I'd love to be able to make sourdough bread without that fuss.

Recently, I've stumbled upon a way to do just that!

In order to reduce our impact on climate change, I've started making soy milk at least once a week: I drink it 'as is' in the summer and make it into pudding in the winter.  Every batch of soy milk generates a cup or so of 'okara' - the depleted soy beans.  It turns out that these ferment really easily.  Other people have taken advantage of this to speed up the fermentation of idli or just to make the okara morepalatable.  I've recently realised I can use it to make a speedy sourdough starter!  I haven't found any internet references elsewhere describing how to do it, so here's my method.

Whangarei holiday Christmas/New Year 2016/17

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A week or so before Christmas, Martin and I headed up to Whangarei to spend time with his parents.  We broke the journey resting for a few hours in Wellsford Library - the staff their were hugely generous, giving us a meeting room all to ourselves and generally being really helpful.