Posted by: Joan Spiller | July 23, 2016

In honour of my granddad


It’s been a year now. Since the death of Russell Spiller. And I just want to spend some time remembering this special gentleman & the role he played in both my life, and so many peoples lives ..

Russell was kind, funny and generous. If he could, he’d do ANYTHING for you – and I don’t just mean family, if he saw anyone in need: he’d be there offering all that he could.

I rarely recall him being grumpy – except for occasions in his final months – frustrated that his body had stopped behaving the way he wanted it to. Old age did not sit well with Granddad. (I can totally relate, I suspect I will be much the same!)

My most common memories of Granddad are as follows, in no particular order:

This phrase:

Now, what else can I tell you?” Always alert / interested in things around him and the world, that was one of his enduring phrases, for me.

Another?

Right hand down / Kick her in the guts, Trev” – hailed loudly, as he waved me from the driveway of the ancestral home out into the traffic on Kennedy Road.

I was there just last weekend visiting Nana.. it didn’t feel the same, not being waved away .. Something I always knew would feel odd when the time came..

Anything for you!” usually followed by “kiddo, or #1 granddaughter” was also common for me.. but I also heard him say the first bit to others.

And he meant it .. it was amazing to witness that generosity and kindness. And many’s a time I found myself thinking “I want to be like him”, as I grew up.

Because he really was an amazing role model. Person.
And grandparent.

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One of the other things I especially loved loved loved about Russell was his joy for life, there was an almost child-like excitement about trying things / new stuff¬† – “whacky-doo” he’d say, when presented with something that he thought was pretty awesome. Or new. Or different (etc!)

Such as this dessert for his 90th, when I took him and Nana to 1024 for lunch.

love

Look at the glee – the delight.
I love it. And miss it.
A lot.

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Just do it! Nike move over – Granddad coined it first!

I recall a few times thru’ my life sharing what I was up to with assorted family members. And I’d get everything from “Oh dear, are you sure?” from my worry-wort Grandmother to “you’re mad” (a variety of ’em would roll with that one, lol)

But from Granddad I could always rely on a barrage of questions, a curiosity and excitement in what was to be my next adventure.

I try often to do what you said to, Granddad – and give it a go ..
Thank you for such sage counsel.

I am not sure how exactly to finish this post. I could dredge up memory after memory because there are SO many, but I think I’ll roll with the most typical, wonderful thing he said: as a minimum every Xmas – but pretty much anytime he had a meal with the bulk of us around:

It is nice to be in the body of my family” (uttered while beaming around the table benevolently at us all)

I could not have wished for a better, more beautiful and loving patriarch to grow up with.
I love and miss you so very much, Granddad.

RIP, your number one granddaughter

Memoriam

 

Posted by: Joan Spiller | July 14, 2016

Being kind – even when it isn’t easy!


Many (many) years ago I worked in a bank. At a time when customers were terrified of “us”, a bit of a nuisance and life working at the bank (9-5) wasn’t meant to be complex or even remotely hard.. I worked in a bank.

I actually spent much of my time lurking behind microphishes (films? What are they even called these days? Oh .. defunct? LOL) while handling inquiries from tellers who needed advice on some transaction outside of their authority.

And I loved it.

Now, without a word of a lie – most of the other staff were double my age (or more!) And that could have been a problem – except they actually saw my job as a hassle, so didn’t seem worried lol

I was the customer services manager.
Irksome, indeed!ūüėČ

Anyway, the below .. (I hope it’s readable? It’s very old and an odd file format sent to me from my Father) was published in Readers Digest and other mags around NZ (long before social media had it’s day!) in the 80’s

Altho I must confess, my Dad fashioned the article after I told him about my day..

That aside, I often think of this experience, so have decided to share it.

ty

TY

I recall that day so clearly, even now.

While I don’t know if I agree with Dad’s final sentence (that was indicative of his views back then) ..

For me?

How I see it is that when you work as a minion in a large (or any, I guess) organisation, like I did then – you’re generally not thinking about profits, or such wicked topics.

Actually?

You’re waiting on pay-day, you’re thinking about trying to pay bills, maybe hoping to get ahead, maybe even just stay afloat.. You’re¬† worried about your marriage. You’re thinking about things that are real to you.

Profits of large organisations – they’re not so real to most / many.

Bit of a different message really ..

BUT the other real message: from where I stand now (and where I was pretty much standing way back then) is to not be an asshole to someone who did nothing to deserve rudeness or disrespect.

To not be so busy (ESP when doing something they had a right to expect of you!) or horrible as to make that customer feel they inconvenienced you.

And even moreso, if they’re “inconveniencing you” because of ill health or disability.
To me? That’s just .. not OK.

I think the simple message – however it is written? Is be kind, if you canūüôā

 

Be kihnd

 

Posted by: Joan Spiller | June 29, 2016

The one about depression (Shhh!)


Anyone with half a real ear to my world, would know that I had a pretty .. rubbish ..¬†time of it in ’14/15. From a house-fire, to little/no income, multiple deaths of loved ones (animal +¬†human) and health issues .. The list COULD go on, but I am just trying to make a point (not point it all out!)

So yeah, while I generally dislike “labels”, I suspect that is purely because my parents didn’t allow for them – viz it makes me so “ugh” uncomfortable when someone tries to apply one to me.

Cos if I had to apply a label to myself for the last few years? I would probably use words like “anxious”, “stressed”, “sad”, “worried”, “fretful” and so on.

You see how I can’t even say “depressed”? Mmm, maybe more on that later ..

I suppose the other reason I dislike “titles” when it comes to ill health, is that they can so often end up defining you – at least, in other people’s eyes. “Oh – you know, (cue: sideways head, shoulder shrug and slight smily-grimace) – he / she’s got .. voice lowered: depression.”

As an aside, and I wonder if people realise = but suspect they do not. Quite possibly the worst¬†words to hear when you’re bordering on losing the plot – is what was said to me on many¬†many occasions:

“Oh Joan/ babes / hon. (etc) You’ll be fine.. you always are.”

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Cos ya know what? When in that space, you actually don’t know¬†if you will ‘be fine” (for all you HOPE you will be.. ) you really feel anything but “fine” and OK.

Tis fair to say the below¬†pic summed me up all of 2015 .. and while I am not really one to bog myself down / allow myself to be sad or unhappy (refer earlier, it’s not the done thing in our family) the reality is: I rarely felt anything but anxious and distressed¬† ..

And part of me, as I type this – feels “glad” most of you didn’t know just how desperately miserable I was.

But ………

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whywhwywhy is it so bad to admit to not being fine? Why do we try to protect people who care about us, when we ourselves are breaking apart?

Anyone who knew me in the real sense, was – I think, despairing with me. I can’t explain how bad it felt when I was standing ankle deep in mud, sobbing at the base of a broken downpipe, dux tape in hand – trying to stem the flow of water from my tank when CJ came home. The look of total sadness on her face: seeing her Mother in such a state. It.Was.Foul.

And for all I tried to hang on to the pleasant times, and I did have some – you can’t help it when you have animals around – they were just not enough: in balance.

Seque..

I’ve never really been one to think about depressed people. In our family, as previously mentioned – depression means you’re weak..

And weak is bad..¬†It’s that simple.

I also don’t really know how to deal hella well with people who admit to how they’re feeling. So I get it – emotions are awkward.

I find my approach to helping someone in need is to do something for them rather than offer sage (ish) counsel or to sit and encourage them to talk thru’ what they’re feeling –¬† at least then I am busy.

And hopefully helping!

It’s something else my parents eschewed as the done thing. Help, silently and whatever you do (mentally, financially or whatever) do it – but do it quietly.

Another segue… Screw the Brits, and their stiff upper lip.

That whole “it’ll be ok / harden up” concept¬†alone is (I guess?) a HUGE reason for so many suicides and /or anxious people.

Cos how DARE we admit to being anything other than “fabulous” or (at worst) “OK”, during the course of life –¬† where so much can change so quickly – and with little warning .. Oftentimes leaving people dazed and confused (my state for 2 or more years!)

TDqUCF8

Yet we are measured, judged and given attitude about what goes on for us, including all those things we had limited (or no) control over.

Ask yourself this: how is this OK?

anxiety

So yeah, sure – “it’s just a state of mind” ..

Well to you I then ask this: what isn’t?

Just wow so bad

And to people who offer the sort of statements above?

How dare you.

This truly leaves me speechless (with rage!) for all I have no idea what imgur is – I am guessing it is where idiots hang out? I am Grrr

As I said, I found quite a few photos around the traps while writing this post .. and tbh, it’s been a long time coming. A sad indictment of the fact I couldn’t face being unhappy / sad – honest..etc

I felt I had to “pull myself back up” and be ‘OK‘ / back on track (etc) before being able to think back to the bad stuff .. emotions .. and such..

Cos none of you wanna hear “meh I’m sad” over and over .. I know *I* don’t!

BUT .. (She’s off again!) Want to know what doesn’t help ANY of us?

HOBBY horse time!

Now and then you see these stupid posts online – “look up” blah blah as tho to suggest when you’re using your phone, you’re bad. Or missing out.

Cos you’re engaging in a format of comms that someone else has decided is not OK.

Truth be told? There’s been days when sending snaps or whatsapps (etc) to friends is all that kept me going.

And then you get this sort of article posted online..

Now to be fair? To an extent I agree..

Many’s a night I have fretted away some time, keeping busy doing chores and worrying before posting my “feels” online be it facebook, snapchat, twitter or whatever.

And when you finally crack and say something you really feel:

Your newsfeed grinds to an excruciating halt! But hey, post a picture of your dog (or magpie, cake, coffee or wine) – boom: LIKE city – woohoo!

Post something about the fact you’re struggling – bam: Seems normal every day intelligent people don’t know what to do / what to say.

Ironically, I also get that.

Refer earlier – we don’t do “sad” or needy or whatever. And phew – we now have options vs. “like” when it comes to Facebook..

Makes it so much easier to be a good friend..
Sort of.

I guess this is where your real friends come into action. And perhaps when you realise how few you really have.

Because, truly all this being honest crap, it make us uncomfortable.

It isn’t fun.

And life (online) seems to be all about the perfect selfie, the funnest event, the best place for a check in, the latest and greatest..

OMG – how to handle the fact someone is posting an “I feel like shit” type of post?

I also learned last year just how lucky I was with some of my friends & family.

I hope everyone has them (and seeks them out) when they’re in a bad space / needing someone.

They are the ones that love you when you don’t love you. They visit, they do stuff for you, give you comfort (in a variety of ways), they don’t judge you – they’re just there.

Some give you “action” support – which you value so much cos that’s your thing¬† (in my case) others force you to relax in their generosity, leaving you to be cossetted / able to escape for a time ..

Either way, it’s special. And in my case, was truly a life saver.

Oh and one final point to make for someone who is “helping” a friend who’s not themselves.

PLEASE think more than twice, when you’re delivering the (apparently mandatory) speech about how “you’re strong and breathing, you’ll be OK”.. Or before you merely post a heap of “xxxx” on their post.

Cos what if the options that person is considering attractive don’t involve breathing or kisses?

They sure as hell can’t feel your x’s so yeah – this may seem rude, but maybe THINK before you trot out your next platitude to someone who dares to expose their concerns and emotions to their “friends”.

wow

You could make or break them..

Lots to think about.

Depression – in as much as I knew it – is one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced. And if this post helps even just one person understand it (in as much as I fully do not understand it) then I am happy I persevered with the post.

Cos it has not been easy to doūüė¶
depression-is-like

If you’re still here, thanks for reading. I do hope I’ve given you something to think about.

This has been an amazingly painful post to write, it’s taken many, many months to come to fruition. And the confusion is perhaps apparent.

But if I can write this and help someone/s – it – everything – was not totally wasted.

Posted by: Joan Spiller | June 26, 2016

My top (10) posts – whaddiya reckon?


WordPress tells me these are a few of my “most liked” posts. Interesting to see (for me, anyway!) I don’t even remember the kumara bake recipe, off to check it now. Clearly the marmite post belongs, I mean heck: who doesn’t love black gold?

Top 10 red 3d realistic paper speech bubble isolated on white

Top 10 red 3d realistic paper speech bubble isolated on white

Posted by: Joan Spiller | June 24, 2016

Buckwheat salad – Recipe


CJ gave me this recipe and it’s now a firm fave for when I want a healthy but tasty¬†salad ~¬†with a difference. It’s gluten free, and simple, too!

All you need is:

200-300g buckwheat
50-100ml vegetable stock
1 red capsicum – finely diced
1 tomato (de-seeded and diced)
1 small red onion – finely diced
1 T lemon juice
1 T vinegar
3-4 T olive oil
fresh chives to taste (snipped) or you can use spring onion greenery if that’s easier
100-200g feta cheese

Wash the buckwheat with hot water then roast in a dry pan for 1-3 minutes.

Add the stock and let it simmer for a few minutes (until the stock water has been absorbed).

Put the buckwheat aside and dice the capsicum, tomato and feta cheese. Chop the onion and greenery..

Mix the oil, lemon juice and vinegar with freshly ground pepper and salt.

Combine the lot and serve!

Very tasty when the buckwheat is still warm.. but it’s also so good cold.

Variations:
Add slow roasted beetroot or corgette or anything really
Scatter rocket through it once cold
Add chickpeas ..

It’s very versatile but the basic one is still my fave simply because it’s so tasty and so easy!

PS I crumbled the feta into it¬† as I prefer a little of the taste of it in each mouthful as opposed to a “wham” feta filled mouthful..

Enjoy!

Posted by: Joan Spiller | June 6, 2016

Easy roast tomato tart – Recipe


These not only look great, they taste amazing. Better yet? They’re simple .. requiring only a few ingredients (however everyone will think you’ve slaved for hours to prepare these visual feasts!)

All you need is:

A fistful of rocket (arugula)

200g puff (flaky) pastry

3 very ripe (not squishy tho!) tomatoes – thinly sliced

4T basil pesto

200g fresh mozzarella – sliced as best you can

To prepare:

Preheat your oven to 200C (no idea what that is in F – hot!)

Roll out the pastry to a 22cm x 30cm oblong and place on a large, greased baking sheet.. Lightly score a line about 2cm in from the edge of the pastry. This will form an edge around the tart as the pastry is cooking.

Be sure to do sharp cuts (i.e.: don’t drag the knife through it) on the pastry to allow the edges to rise well.

Spread the pesto evenly over the inner square of the pastry. ¬†Try not to get anything over the score “line”.

Place the sliced cheese evenly on top, then add the tomato slices in an attractive layer.
Season with freshly ground black pepper and salt.

Place in the oven and cook for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is well risen, golden and cooked underneath..

Scatter the rocket onto the tart, drizzle with a deliciously peppery extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately.

You’re welcome!ūüôā

(Didn’t I tell you this was easy!?)ūüôā

Posted by: Joan Spiller | May 7, 2016

Moist Feijoa Cake – Recipe


I love this highly perfumed fruit. But apart from gorging oneself on them raw, it can be hard to know how use them. Muffins, cakes & chutneys are my preference. What are yours?

I’ve got a really¬†good chutney recipe¬†if you‚Äôre keen to give it a go, I highly recommend it, as do a lot of others .. It’s feisty, it’s tasty and it’s easy to make! My kinda cooking : )

However for something sweet – you can’t beat this simple cake recipe! (Note the theme? I like simple, good food!)

Ingredients:

125g softened butter
1 c white sugar
2 large free-range eggs
1 t vanilla essence
1/2 c milk
1 & ¬ľ c white high grade flour
2 t baking powder
1t mixed spice
2 c peeled & halved feijoa (Simply cut in half and scoop out the innards)

Topping:

2T brown sugar mixed with 2T pecans and 1t cinnamon (Can sub in walnuts but James will kill me for saying this!)ūüôā

Method:

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat s’more.

Sift flour, spice and baking powder into the egg and sugar mixture.

Gently fold milk into the batter. Lastly add the vanilla essence.

Be careful not to over mix the batter here. Delicate is good!¬†And a little visible flour won’t kill the cake, trust me.

Pour into a greased and lined 20x30cm deep cake tin.

Place feijoas on the surface of the cake batter, pointed end down, pushing til the top is level with the cake batter.

Sprinkle with the sugar / nut & spice mixture.

Bake at 180 degrees C for 50 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. It can vary so don’t be set on 50 mins, check it from 45 onwards and STAY strong!

Serve warm or cold.

If warm: serve with softly whipped cream. If cold: dust with icing sugar.

Or do both?ūüėČ

Posted by: Joan Spiller | March 20, 2016

My encounter with a homeless hitch-hiker


Meet Ollie, a 13yo dog owned by a homeless person wandering NZ in search of .. what, I don‚Äôt actually know.. Can‚Äôt be ‚Äėhome‚Äô, they don‚Äôt have one. Could be ‚Äėwork‚Äô, they need and want it.. but in the absence of either,¬†wandering is their lot in life.

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Let me back up.. I was driving north Friday evening (in a hurry), exhausted after a busy week at work, when I first saw them trudging up a steep stretch of the highway. Rides not forthcoming (who picks up a scruffy looking hitch-hiker with a dog?) these two were resolute in their movements, albeit very slow.

I couldn’t help myself. I drove up to a layby and turned back.

No one but me (and Tinker) in the car, it was an easy fit. She was caged in the boot “just in case”, Ollie got the back seat, Dad‚Äôs pack went in the boot of the car and Dad sank (grateful, if a little quiet), into the front seat of my car.

I chattered away, trying to help¬†him relax. Clearly exhausted he engaged and smiled at me ‚Äď in as much as he could (No teeth: top or bottom), while we drove¬†North.

I felt bad as I was only able to take them 30 or so km before I had to leave the main road, to pick up my pups from the boarding kennels, however I felt their gratitude as they left the car .. we waved farewell and I drove away, never expecting to see them again.

In fact, I did see them a short time later.. they‚Äôd made a few km but I had a carful of dogs and Ollie‚Äôs Dad sounded like he had things in hand (‚Äúyes thanks, we‚Äôre off to see friends up the line a little‚ÄĚ) so I didn‚Äôt stop.

FFW to Saturday morning, and somewhat unusually РI decided to head to town early to do some grocery shopping. I hadn’t eaten, had a coffee or anything .. As I say: unusual!

Just a few hundred metres past my house – who should I see but Ollie & his Dad, slowly navigating the ‚Äúcurb‚ÄĚ (ie uneven sloping ground, well away from¬†the road while cars flew by at 100+kph) I rounded the corner and stopped..

Do I go back and take them a little further on their journey to .. where?
Or do I head into town in my pursuit of coffee and ignore them?
Would they think me weird for trying to pick them up a 2nd time?

With these and more questions whizzing in my mind, I spun a u-turn and headed back. All the while wondering how the dogs with me would handle this vehicular intrusion!

Had to smile – in an odd way (cos it was sweet) as I pulled over and went ‚ÄúHey it‚Äôs me!‚ÄĚ (while tired eyes looked up and tried to smile and recognise the crazy lady of yesterday) .. 2 weekend cyclists slowed down and went by, asking me ‚Äúare you alright ma‚Äôam, can we help you?‚ÄĚ

They asked the wrong person, I’m fine.
Ollie and his Dad, not so fine..:(

My guess is no one would ever bother to ask them if they’re alright.

Turns out they’d not gotten far, last evening, before darkness fell. So they spent a cold night on the road / in a pup tent together, before setting off around 5am this morning.

I told Ollie‚Äôs Dad that I was heading to town (hoping he didn‚Äôt notice I’d effectively come back to get them – hitch hiker stalking? lol) to get coffee and asked if it would help if I took him to town. I suppose anyone¬†in need of a ride will say yes to whatever is offered and so off we went ..

Along the way I asked a few Q‚Äôs and during this time¬†I learned just how horrible their situation was. In a nutshell,¬†they had no friends “up the line”, they were just moving around / heading North trying to find work here and there.

Once in town, I bought him a large (sugary РI figured energy won’t go amiss) coffee and said I’d been thinking about taking a drive so why didn’t I take them to Woodville.

Pre this, I made an excuse to stop at a nearby shop where I bought a variety of nibbles for him and basically forced them to accept it before we drove on.

It’s fair to say he was not used to being treated nicely: Life was hard..

You see, he’d not only lost his job (last year) he’d been evicted from his rented quarters, when he couldn’t pay his rent after losing his job.
And so the road became their home. And their life?

And this has been their life for more than 8 months?!

It took all my self-control not to take them home and force them to live / stay here.

That would not have worked tho.. I 100% got a sense of pride in his manner. He kept trying to offer to¬†pay me petrol money, he was determined to show¬†me he had things sorted – ie fresh water for Ollie. He also said that he was sharing food with ‚Äúhis best friend‚ÄĚ.. clearly (trust me, the man was thin, the dog was fine, if a little sore and tired)

Ollie’s Dad was going without, to ensure his 13yr old (a rescue mutt) faithful companion was OK.

It ‚Äď possibly, literally – broke my heart.

Both were in need of a bath, a rest, food + love & hope.
And they had none of the above.

Tis fair to say that my life hasn‚Äôt quite gone to plan in recent years, and at times, I‚Äôve relied on the help and support of a generous and kind¬†assortment of people / friends. This man¬†hasn’t been so lucky but I hope that¬†one day Ollie‚Äôs Dad will think back to the time some strange woman kinda bullied them into taking help and think fondly of it?

But I dunno – all I gave them was a brief respite, food and a ride. Ok I may have given them my phone number should they ever be nearby and in need.

Was it enough? Not really.

I keep thinking about them, wishing I could help more ..
But what else could I have done?

Not sure there’s an answer to this question but it’s one that is weighing¬†heavy on me this weekend.

homelessdog

Posted by: Joan Spiller | December 31, 2015

You can’t oven-fry eggs (& other lessons from 2015)


My annual recap of the ‘year-that-was’ could be a depressing¬†read and (let’s be honest)¬†depressing sucks.¬†So instead, I’m gonna¬†talk about what this year taught me. And hopefully humour will be how I end my¬†annus horribilis¬†..

As per the title of this post, I discovered you can’t fry eggs (nicely, that is!) in the oven. Lesson learned after setting fire to my kitchen in early November. As I type this, it is nearly the start of 2016 and I have no *functional stove¬†(incl. range hood), the bench and around / wall behind the cooker area needs to be replaced and my lounge, kitchen and hallway all need to be repainted.

Wonder how long that will take? Another lesson: patience? Clearly .. 

I have also learned that birds crap .. A lot. I think I already knew this, after rearing the hen babies¬†in a crate in the living room when we first moved here. And let’s not forget the ducks in the kitchen .. and the shit, always. The. Shit. But the cuteness overload (anyone who’s seen my magpie videos will, I think, agree!) is worth it.. most daysūüėČ

Another lesson – not a new one but always a sad one, somehow: People are not always nice, even nice people. Sometimes people turn on you – for reasons you don’t understand. And – as hard as it is, your best bet is to walk away and accept that they have problems and should not be one of yours.¬†People, or problems.

Coffee is good. Does this need explaining? I think not. I will let you know when the memorial service for my coffee machine (unfixable, post fire) will beūüė¶

Again, not news but somehow, so very hard to accept: People die. Friends, and worse: family, people you love.. Leaving you feeling so very sad about the fact they’re gone .. Oh sure, they’re “in a better place”, and actually for my grandfather, I think this is¬†apt – he was not enjoying¬†being old and unable to do what he wanted.¬†But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss the ever loving hell out of him, all the time.

Something you may not have known: Goats actually are the devil. I miss Joshie &¬†Billy.. Sam, less so (he was always an¬†arse, lol) Bella, not at all. She was not into humans – her focus was on the neighbour’s sheep. Sometimes it feels that all I did was spend time, money and effort on fencing for these sodding creatures. And they in turn spent their days trying to outwit me (and succeeded, every time) and escape lol

And so, the¬†funny farm is goat free.. And it’s OK.. but I do miss Josh & Billy so much. Dealing with their deaths was a lot harder than I expected it to be, for “just a goat”.¬†

This one will perhaps shock some of you but .. The sound of rain is actually not at all relaxing .. when you have multiple leaks in your roof! I see people posting ‘tranquil rainfall’ gifs and I want to stab myself in the ears so I don’t hear them! The rain of this winter was one of the biggest challenges faced here, and I am very, VERY glad summer¬†seems to have finally arrived.

Insurance is important. A lesson I guess I never realised would need to be spelt out, I’ve always had *insurance. But yeah, trust me, after the fire and no insurance – I have a new found realisation of how important it is. It’s been an expensive /¬†harrowing experience sorting things out, post fire, without insurance.

And what’s so gutting is I’ve had all my insurances¬†for over 30 years with this same company and to have it lapse just before the fire .. well lets just say I felt justified in thinking the world was out to get me right about¬†this experience.

Another not new lesson / notion is that some people are awesome and you’re lucky to have them in your life. I have a few of these people.. some old (snicker, now you’re wondering if I mean you) and some not so old .. (I did mean in length of relationship,¬†but the slur can remain! Some of you I HAVE known a long time .. and yer old hehe) and I count myself fortunate indeed.

Be it random workmates (who I pretty much forced into being my friends), to total strangers (some I literally have not yet¬†met F2F) and all sorts of other people in between .. I hope you know that when I call you, snapchat you, when I tag you on facebook or when I send you a text: it’s cos you mean something to me. And I appreciate you being in my life.

Not something I ever expected to learn, it’s now something I am well aware of: You cannot (AT ALL) relax when a magpie baby is hungry. Tinker suffers (and in turn, we do too!) from Hanger. Hungry rage! Just as well she’s cuteūüėČ

I’ve also learned that money may not buy happiness, but it can fix a lot of stuff that in turn makes¬†you happy (or less distressed, sad, worried) so that expression is pure bollocks I have decided.

Anyone who is a “landlord” will appreciate this. Me and the bank co-own a property in HB.. and I’ve learned that prospective tenants are always mad keen gardeners, lovely people and always likes to pay their rent on time or even early .. Except for the one I got¬†who was completely INSANE. Poster child for “perfect tenant”, to start with .. this one left¬†the country / abandoning the property, having done a ton of damage, only to threaten me¬†with all sorts of stuff, when I came¬†onsite to fix things up. AND he owes me rent *fume*

Of course we ALL know health matters.

No one was more surprised than me, when I had a mid year check up only to be told I had dangerously low iron levels and dangerously high blood pressure. I knew I was gritting my teeth often but yeah .. seems it was taking its toll. 2015, that is..

As someone who regularly gives blood, the iron thing was actually a shock .. a transfusion later, I feel fine, so thankfully it doesn’t seem to be an issue now. Of course, I can’t afford to go back to the doc to check but let’s think positiveūüėČ

We’ll not talk about the 24/7 pain thanks to planty fasciwhatsit. Suffice to say every waking moment (and it wakes me, from sleep) I am in pain. And when I mow my lawns (my ride on broke down so lawn mowing now is back to being a 2.5 hour job every few days!) it takes me 2 days to recover back to being sore vs agonisingly sore. God. I am SUCH a whiner but there it is … my life is just .. actually .. a pile of donkey shit. Very annoying.

Speaking of annoying .. Big brothers .. they’re actually awesome. Many of you will already know this but I doubt I ever really appreciated my brother growing up (he was a bit of a drag, lol) and we went in different directions as young adults, so I’m¬†quite chuffed at how we’ve become closer in recent years. And I was thrilled to be able to cater their wedding as my gift to them this year. An epic and exhausting experience, it was nonetheless, great fun. And he’s been amazingly helpful to me here with fixing a variety of problems .. lesson learned: appreciate your siblings. I do. Now.

Also awesome? Animals. Esp dogs. Sure,¬†they’re not cheap¬†to maintain, feed, take to the vet etc – but they’re probably all that’s kept me alive¬†this year.

Someone once asked me how I coped, living on my own /¬†didn’t I get bored or lonely. I was shocked to think they imagined me alone and lonely, cos I never ever feel that way. Oh sure, now and then I think “might¬†be nice to have some company”, but then I take the dogs for a walk, watch an assortment of the animals that surround me and¬†I’m not even remotely bored .. or lonely.

A really big lesson for me? Stupidity isn’t as simple a “thing” as it sounds. I’ve done some stupid stuff and seen some stupid stuff, this year. And have realised that desperation and fear lend themselves to stupidity at times, so will probably¬†regard “stupid” acts differently to how I once would.

In the words of Forrest Gump “that’s all I have to say about that.”

I can honestly say that 2015 has been one of the worst years of my life. I’ve spent so much energy and money on problems that at times, I’ve felt unsure¬†how to even¬†go on.¬†Melodramatic maybe but yeah, it’s how this year has been for me.

Raised “stiff upper lip”, it isn’t the done thing to let people know if you’re struggling – and I actually feel .. distressed being this honest .. oh, is that why I try to only post pics and videos of fun things all over snapchat and facebook etc but¬†to be fair,¬†I DO take delight in a moment of something wonderful.

But at the same time, most¬†days I’m freaking out, in tears and I’m struggling. With it all. And that sucks cos not having your shit sorted at my age?
Uncool in the extreme. Esp when I once felt I HAD life sorted, lol

So yeah: 2015 you utterly and officially suck.

2016, I beg you.. Please.. Be better. I don’t think I could cope with a rinse and repeat.

*Oh yeah and why did I let my insurance lapse? I’ve been asked before today .. I defy anyone to live 3 years with part time or no work and still be able to live life, pay their bills etc. It was a choice between that and paying my mortgage, ’nuff said?

Doh. I forgot, I was aiming for humour tonight. Sorry .. But anyway, here’s to the¬†new year. May it be good.

For both of us.

Posted by: Joan Spiller | December 5, 2015

Call me the minimalist (for now, anyway)


I can only imagine how hard a real (i.e.: bad) house fire is to deal with cos tis fair to say I am finding this kitchen disaster hard work! Spending a week living in a soot coated house was.. unpleasant. I found my breathing got worse with each day, my eyes were gritty and I coughed .. constantly.

The day after the fire I cleaned my bedroom from top to bottom, so the animals and I had a safe place to sleep but yea, it was clearly¬†not enough.. I’ve just come back from 2 days in Wellington where¬†it was so nice to be able to breathe freely!¬†

While I was away,¬†cleaners took over the house.¬†Their job? To remove soot / ash from walls, sills & ceilings.¬†Not sure I’d rate them more than a 5.5 out of 10 but it is better than it was, so that’s something, I guess.

And so it is I am now (Just after 7pm Saturday) sitting in my “office” at a bare desk, with nothing in the room except for the printer, my deep freeze and router.¬†If I look out into the living room, there’s an assortment of dogs asleep, an empty coffee table, a couch and a bookcase.¬†In my kitchen there is nothing but the fridge, burnt out stove (ground zero) and the cat food on the windowsill.

Cos everything I own is crammed into 2 bedrooms and the shipping container, having been painstakingly cleaned by me, prior to the cleaners coming in. I do not wish to sound irritable but OMG I am over it, lol

Lucky I don’t DO Xmas / host Xmas or I would be a complete write off by now LOL As it is, I can handle a tomato sammie on Xmas day so long as I have my dogs, magpie, rat, cats, hens & ducks around me .. well, maybe not around me .. but aroundūüėČ

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My spare room doubling as my office, kitchen and .. assorted..
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 My pantry shelves..
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The wwoofer room, can’t even host wwoofers as they’ve nowhere to sleep and I can’t cook for them! Grr!

On a plus note .. erm, hang on, gimme a minute to think of something ..
(Go look at someone else’s blog, I may need more than a minute!)

Posted by: Joan Spiller | November 25, 2015

House fire (Damn you 2015, I WILL win!)


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Tis fair to say I’d call 2015 one of the most horrid¬†years of my life, with assorted “dramas”, from weather / house issues to car problems (that’s a polite word for it!) to money woes, as my job ended a wee while back now..

I’ve boxed on, as one must. Animals help – you can’t stay sad while hand rearing a pet magpie or cuddling up to a dog that thinks you’re the best. thing. ever.

As well, I’ve been often¬†buoyed by good friends.

Friends who listened to me when I needed to vent, spent time with me, took my mind off things and were .. just plain good friends. You know who you are – and I appreciate you, very much.

However,¬†nothing could have prepared me for the latest “drama” .. for all¬†I am trying to laugh it off /¬†make jokes, I suspect¬†the fact I burst into tears every few conversations makes me realise it did shake me up a tiny bit more than I would have liked.

Let’s fast forward a few hours, to the kind hearted fireman telling me I am the luckiest woman alive (that was a nice word: alive!) and we’ll go from there ..

I was really struggling yesterday, the iron infusion thingie hadn’t kicked in, the constant pain of this stupid damn plantar fasciitis foot (and an ingrown toenail for good measure grr) was really getting me down.

I had done a few chores, then come inside to make lunch (Yummy arancini!, least I think they were .. the hens got them in the end!) I decided to take a codeine pill as I waited to finalise my lunch.

Mistake #1?¬†Using¬†old oil. I was told today that oil heats up faster, the more you use it? I always “recycle” my oil, using it for less “mucky” things initially, then ending with crumbed stuff cos then the oil is trashed fully .. a fake economy, it would seem. Did you know??

Mistake #2? Taking a pill that can make you drowsy, turning the oil on to warm up and then sitting in the sunshine.

Next “minute” (some 40 or so, I think) I was woken by Roxy who had leapt over my prone body, barking madly. I feel bad for growling at her cos she startled me .. because¬†a few¬†seconds later, all the smoke alarms went off throughout¬†the house ..

I’d say¬†we’re even, Rox!¬†

And so yeah, now …¬†I have a confession to make.

I always imagined I’d be super cool, a hero even .. in the event of a fire or similar “disaster”, but the truth is? I’m a coward with a perfect “flight” response gene, hero be damned!

Cos¬†I woke up, confused – wasn’t meant to be asleep, remember. I proceed to tell¬†the poor dog off – as all the alarms go off / every¬†dog is¬†barking ..

I smell smoke & run toward the kitchen..

Next thing, I can’t breathe, thick black smoke is enveloping me as I try to see into the aforementioned (crazy¬†dark!) kitchen. It’s early afternoon, it’s not dark, I’m confused (half asleep) but then it¬†dawns on me ..

FIRE! O M G – PANIC!!

Flames were leaping off the stove top, up into the rangehood. The smoke was acrid and the whole thing was .. to be honest, quite scary.

Suddenly wide awake, I grabbed my car keys &  cell phone. Called the dogs and ran out of the house by way of the lounge doors while calling 111.

Seems I wasn’t making much sense, I recall the person (jerk lol) saying to me “PLEASE MA’AM, SPEAK SLOWLY”.

Personally? I feel GARPLEZ¬†ASLEEP¬†FLEAEBLE¬†FIRE ARGHWAHH¬†DOGS CRIEBLE¬†HELP” was quite acceptable .. hmpfh.

Fast forward again, through the longest 15 or so minutes of my life:

I ran outside, locked the dogs in the car (no mean feat, with Roxy who has to be chased then carried to the car lol) I then ran back into the house and grabbed Rex the rat, (in his cage!) throwing him / it onto a safe place on the property, then ran around to the other side of the house and grabbed Tinker out of his day cage, throwing him into a cage before chucking him unceremoniously next to Rex.

I covered them both with a towel (to calm the bird mostly but this also would have been horribly stressful for Rex) and then drove down the driveway as ordered, to wait for the fire trucks to arrive .. ie to flag them down.

I felt SO shit for leaving the cats unaccounted for, saw one leave the house as I drove away .. but the other – didn’t see her, so I felt sick on many levels as I sat on the roadside in my car with the dogs, waiting for the fire brigade to show.

Never before has time moved so slowly, I swear.

Long story short .. the house did not burn down: it sustained significant damage in the kitchen and we survived.

As the lovely fireman who showed me thru’ the place after they’d given it the all clear, said: I’m the luckiest woman alive. Alive remember .. That’s me..¬†I may be jobless / broke and have major dramas going down but I’m alive, as are all my pets.

And that is kinda cool.

Day 2 of this wee drama & I’ve had a bit of good and a bit of bad. The good was lovely, a kind friend and her daughter coming to take me to dinner last night. That hug was the best, thank you Di. How’s the jetlag, Anna? JUST what you needed! (not!)

My daughter has been a very supportive ear, listening to all my rants and raves thru the day. And tears / fears.
Thank you CJ, I love you.
Rather a lotūüėČ

Kimmie .. you ALWAYS get to hear my life story and this last 24 hours is no diffs, you have your own drama going on right now, and I appreciate your ear / time.

Others have also called / been in touch / offered to help and if I stopped to name you all, this post would be too long – I am thankful to you.
Please know that.

On the downside, I’ve also had horrible¬†news of lapsed insurance and had the assessor thru’, who was not overly encouraging in his “oh this and that all is needing replacing (walls etc)”, it didn’t seem so bad .. til he came thru with a critical eye, truth be told..

Watch this space, there may be some begging required to stay sane thru’ this coming few weeks .. (I will run out of gin tonight!)

NOT helped by the cleaner company man saying he wouldn’t be staying in the house as it is, filled with ash and assorted carcinogens..
Come on, it’s just a bit of ash, no?

Anyways, it is time to have a drink with my Mother. . . On this, the anniversary of her death, 6 years ago.

You know,¬†I keep saying (all year long!) “it’s gonna get better” ..
Please can that be soon?

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My trusty coffee machine, wrecked  :(

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Had to go get assorted ingredients to make meals that do not need any heat / oven, stove etc today

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The cleaner guy came by to prove to me just how bad the place looked.. those 4 smudges are the hallway ceiling..
Thanks bud (sigh!)

I try to be thankful (check the date) but .. am not feeling it :(

JGBlock-WorstEver

2015, you need to back the hell off. I’m tired, so very tired ..
But I want to survive.
Damn you

Posted by: Joan Spiller | November 23, 2015

Banana cake – Recipe


Banana cake

Let’s face it – we’ve all bought bananas &¬†then a week (or 4!) later gone: “doh, now what?” when faced with over-ripe black skinned gooey goodness in the fruit bowl.

This recipe has evolved over many¬†years, from what I recall was a fairly dry cake in my youth (Mum’s recipe called for 2 eggs & 50g butter – Ration recipes .. ugh!) to this gorgeously moist, tasty cake .. and I am not even a banana cake fan .. but this one, I can eat.

You need to take charge of the cooking time, it varies from oven to oven .. otherwise, everything else in this recipe is fool-proof!

250g unsalted butter (@room temp)
1 &1/2c white sugar
4 large eggs (or 5 med sized) again at room temp
2t vanilla essence
4 large, over ripe bananas (mashed)
2t baking soda
1/2c hot milk
3c white, high grade flour (sifted)
2t baking powder

Preheat your oven to 160 (fan) or 175 (no fan)

Grease and line the base of your cake pan, 23cm is about perfect for this amount of cake mix

Beat butter & sugar then add eggs (one at a time, beating as you add)
Add the vanilla and then the mashed bananas
Heat milk and dissolve baking soda in it before dumping into the wet mix

Sift flour & BP together then gently combine the wet & dry, be careful not to over mix, lift and gently fold it all together

Pour into your prepared cake tin and bake until cooked. I find it takes about an hour but start checking it at 45 mins

Ice with lemon icing once cold or dust with icing sugar and serve hot, with a dollop of ice cream for dessert .. yum!

Enjoy!

NB I love to top with lightly toasted nuts. Pecans are my fave but walnuts will do fine too. Simply scatter pecans on top before you bake it, for a toasty crunch of wow!

This freezes well and also keeps for several weeks in a sealed container, as it’s so moist .. in warmer climates, it may go mouldy on about week 3 so maybe chuck in the fridge.

Posted by: Joan Spiller | October 5, 2015

Unassuming toasted sammies – Recipe


So named¬†by my last, lovely wwoofer, Matt – these are something I’ve made for years but they had no name – ’til now! Below¬†is one I made today .. they are different every time (perhaps part of their charm?) Better tho? They taste amazing!!

Imagine a pizza meets your fave toasted sandwich and go from there ..

Sammie

(Pic is pre toasted) 

They’re simple to make in that you can throw whatever you have into it,¬†however MY preference is to:

1. Schmear some sour cream on both sides of your bread (Can omit but it does make it so good!)

2. Spread a little olive tapenade* atop the bread and sour cream (if there was spring onions in the sour cream that wouldn’t go amiss!)

3. Scatter the buns with finely diced onion, red capsicum, fresh or sun dried tomato, spinach leaves, jalapenos, salami, caramelised onions, blue cheese .. anything you like basically.

4. Season well.

5. Pop under the grill or in a sandwich press and bake ’til the cheese melts..
(I am wicked & drizzle oil over the bread to ensure a crusty toasty finish)

That’s pretty much it .. you can use bread (heavy / whole grain is better than white in my xp) or a good ciabatta or sour dough bun .. it’s the beauty of this meal = everything works!

Enjoy!

*You could use a tomato relish if you prefer but I adore olives and Matt the wwoofer couldn’t decide which he preferred!

Posted by: Joan Spiller | August 29, 2015

Feeling: Thankful


Without wishing to wax too-oo lyrical (i.e.: make a total berk of myself) I would like to go on a bit about how lucky I feel, to have such a fantastic brother and some very good friends, to boot!

Richard (that would be the brother) has just spent the last 24 hours here labouring on the funny farm, quietly doing what he does so well: sorting stuff out.

The good friends (In this instance: Bernie & Donna) turned up yesterday afternoon with a trailer full of dry firewood from their own supply, after hearing I had run out.

AND they fixed the gate from hell, while here. That in itself is note-worthy, CJ and I hate our gate lol

So yesterday .. 

Started out like any other day except .. not really ..

First cool thing was that Tim, CJ’s fiancee decided to check on the roof since¬†he was home sick, from work. I am thankful he did as he found a whole pile of nails without washers, which explains why the roof kept leaking in all this rain we have been having. (He’d previously fixed the leaking “skirt” around the chimney)

Second cool thing was the cavalry arriving, in the form of my oh-so-clever¬†big bruvver. Car laden with tools and “stuff”, Richard set to assessing the major problems about the place and then spent many,¬†many¬†hours fixing them all.

There are actually no words to describe how good it feels to be listening to the rain (I. HATE. RAIN) knowing it is going into the tank for our Summer water consumption as opposed to under the house causing damage, by way of leaky pipes.

Nor can I tell you how incredible it feels to know that the rain that is slamming into the house as I type, is not likely to be coming thru’ the roof and into the already water damaged ceilings.

It’s ..¬†AMAZING.

I think the brother was quite hopeful of getting home at a reasonable hour today, alas РI had other plans ;) HECK I had a handy-man about, who would let that go easily?? NOT me!

While here, Richard made and installed a shelf for me in the laundry, he set up my portable strawberry garden, he (obviously!) fixed all the plumbing / roof / spouting issues. He made a new gateway for my cows to go thru to the 2nd paddock (after I witnessed them sinking belly-deep in the mud to go from one to tuther, last week!) He fixed my trough.. (For many months now, I’ve manually filled the trough .. not any more, it’s fixed & doing what it should.)

He did so much and I can never repay him for what he did, but I hope he knows how thankful I am.

To my incredible / generous friends, Donna & Bernie – a slab of cake and some sausage rolls seem a lousy¬†exchange for the warm house you’ve guaranteed me for¬†this next few weeks. Thank you.

I have the doors open to every room, the fire is blazing and although it feels “wicked” to be so extravagant, I know you’re both right – this is what has to be done for the house to dry out .. and I am incredibly thankful to have you two ladies on my side.

Where would I be without these, and other wonderful friends?
In the loony bin, methinks!? 

Oh and a wee shout out to 2 other lovely ladies who listen to me bang on daily about the rain, the mess, the leaks, the .. everything.

Kimmie and Bernadatte, ¬†you’re just both so¬†awesome¬†and I am very thankful to have you listening, lamenting along with¬†me and being my friend.

It’s¬†fair to say that this year I have, at various times, struggled to find things to be thankful for, Cindy – you have helped me in how I approach this .. as have other friends, some new, some old (some old &¬†returned! erm Mary I am not calling you old, I mean we’ve known each other since dirt was aro.. oh that’s not helping?)

Whatever, ALL of you help make up the good things in my life and so it is that tonight I can say, hand on heart:

thankful

In my case – a wonderful assortment of friends and family.
And to all of you I say a very, very heartfelt thanks.

 

Posted by: Joan Spiller | August 15, 2015

A rather horrid time of it ..


As I write this, I’m sequestered in a beautiful & warm¬†home well away from the horrors that have besieged me (and my house!) of late. Yes, I’ve run away from home, no I am not 8 years old lol¬†

I reckon I could be forgiven for gapping it though.

An hour before I ran away er, came away for a weekend in the city, raw sewage was spewing forth (sounds better than “shit & toilet paper visibly creeping its way across the ground”, right?), it was raining (duh, it always rains!) the roof was leaking / the ceiling crumbling in¬†my¬†living room, my black goat Sam was hurling himself at the gate of the pen he was in / screaming bloody murder at the injustice of being safe.

And to top it off (in one day, no less) my coffee machine blew up in grand style (hiss & roar + puff of smoke, sort of thing)

There’s actually more – but I will leave it there, for fear this simply sounds like a moan..

Oh wait – maybe that’s what it is!?¬†Ugh .. I hate people who moan and whinge all the time, now I are one?¬†

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For all I try to jest .. this has truly been a horrible year for me.

Between seemingly endless car problems (my car hit the +100k miles mark – apparently I’ve now got a new engine / tyres etc after¬†all the work I’ve had done on it .. let’s hope this means it lasts a few more years and justifies its $4000 cost, in 6 months?) and the myriad house problems, I’ll confess, there have been days¬†it’s been hard to be .. happy.

Add in the very worst thing possible: my kind, gentle, amazing granddad dying last month РI admit to feeling kinda broken..

Blog PicGranddad R

Someone said to me last week “you need to focus on the good thing in your life”. And sure,¬†I have a lot more to be thankful for than many ¬†.. however, on that same day, I rounded the corner to my property in time to see my gorgeous goat Billy get hit by a 4WD @high speed .. and killed. Obviously.

He’s never gotten out before, his one and only time: he paid the ultimate price..

Billy

I confess, I don’t really know where this post is going, maybe it’s a download in the hopes of better times ahead? Maybe it’s just a whinge..

Whatever it is, I sure as hell hope things change soon, cos tis fair to say the tether is visible and I can’t see anything beyond it.

BadTattoosMisspelledArmItsGetBetter1

It’s get better, soon – yeah?

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