Posted by: Joan Spiller | January 25, 2017

So .. New year, new job, maybe?


I’ve done a lot of soul-searching recently, exploring a few possible career options as I try to work out what I want to be when I grow up. Part of the problem of being a ‘generalist’, is I can do most things reasonably well..

If I was an exceptionally gifted engineer, my career path may be slightly more obvious to me. Or a nurse, a teacher, chemist – you kinda know where to go once you have a title, ya know?

So, as I say – I’ve been thinking about my ideal job and I’ve GOT it!

Drumroll please..

I – Joan Spiller – am going to become an evil overlord!

In preparation for my new role, I’ve compiled a wee list of some things *I* would do that perhaps differ from your everyday evil overlord:

  • All ventilation ducts in my lair will be too small for anyone (or thing) to crawl about in.
  • My oh-so-noble half-brother (whose throne I shall doubtless usurp in my new role) will be killed.. Not kept anonymously imprisoned in a cell  in my dungeon.
  • I will have no problem shooting my enemies. Faltering is for wimps after all.
  • That said, I will not gloat over my enemy’s predicament prior to killing them. It will be swift and only moderately painful, til they gasp their last..
  • When I’ve captured my adversary and he says, “Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?” I’ll say, “No.” and shoot him.
    Hmm actually, on second thought, maybe I’ll shoot him then say “No.”
    Evil overlords can have a sense of humour shhh
  • I will not include a self-destruct mechanism.. unless absolutely necessary. And if it is necessary, it will not be a large red button labelled, “Danger: Do Not Push“.
    The big red button marked “Do Not Push” will instead trigger a spray of bullets on anyone who is stupid enough to ‘push’ it.
  • I will not interrogate my enemies in the inner sanctum of my lair – a cheap hotel room well outside my realm will suffice.
  • I will be secure in my superiority. And thus I will feel no need to prove myself by leaving clues in the form of riddles.
    Or by leaving my weaker enemies alive to show they pose me no threat. (Refer to #3)
  • All slain enemies will be cremated, or at least have several round of ammunition emptied into them (rather than being left for dead at the bottom of a cliff)
    As well, the announcement of their deaths (and all necessary celebrations) shall be deferred until after the aforementioned disposal is completed successfully.
  • I vow to never utter the sentence: “But before I kill you, there’s just one thing I want to know..” So desperate .. so sad..
  • I will not have a daughter. Doubtless, she would be as beautiful as she was evil, but one look at the hero’s rugged countenance .. And she’d betray her own mother!
  • I will keep a special stash of basic weapons and train my troops in their use. That way, even if the heroes manage to neutralise my power generator and/or render the standard-issue energy weapons useless ~ my troops will not be overrun by a handful of savages armed with spears, corn cobs and rocks.
  • No matter how attractive certain members of the rebellion are, I shall be wise enough to know that there is probably someone just as attractive who is not desperate to kill me and ignore aforementioned attractive members. So to speak ..!
  • My pet monster will be kept in a secure cage from which it cannot escape and into which I could not accidentally stumble.
  • All sweet-natured (and of course: busty) tavern wenches in my realm shall be replaced with surly waitresses of dubious hygiene, who will provide no unexpected reinforcements and/or romantic sub-plot for the hero .. or his side-kick.
  • I will not fly into a rage and kill a messenger who brings me bad news just to illustrate how evil I really am. I appreciate that good messengers are hard to come by.
  • If an enemy I have just killed has a younger sibling or offspring, I will find them and have them killed immediately .. instead of waiting for them to grow up harbouring feelings of ill will towards me in my dotage.
  • I will make it clear that I do know the meaning of the word “mercy”; I simply choose not show them any.
  • I will be neither chivalrous nor sporting. If I have an unbeatable “super-weapon”, I will use it early .. And as often as possible, rather than keeping it in reserve.
  • When (not if!) I capture the hero, I will make sure I also get his dog, monkey, pigeon, or whatever annoyingly cute little animal he has that is capable of untying ropes and nicking off with keys and rescuing him.
  • If an advisor says to me “My liege (lady), he is but one man. What can one man possibly do?”
    I will reply “This..”
    And kill the advisor.
  • If I learn that a callow youth has begun a quest to destroy me, I will find and slay him while he is still a callow youth .. why wait for him to mature into anything more scary?
  • I will treat any beast which I control through magic or technology with respect and kindness. Thus if the control is ever broken, it will not immediately come after me for revenge.
  • I will hire a team of skilled realtors architects and surveyors to examine my lair and inform me of any secret passages and/ or abandoned tunnels that I might not know about.
  • If the handsome prince that I capture says “I’ll never marry you! Never, do you hear me, NEVER!!!”, I will say “Oh well”
    And kill him.
  • I will not strike a bargain with a demonic being then attempt to double-cross it simply because I feel like being difficult.
  • Deformed mutants and odd-ball psychotics will have their place in my Legion of Terror. However before I send them out on important covert missions that require tact and subtlety, I will first check to see if there is anyone else equally qualified who might attract less attention.
  • My Legion of Terror will be trained in basic marksmanship. Any who cannot learn to hit a man-sized target at 10 meters will in turn be used for target practice.
  • I will design fortress hallways void of alcoves or protruding structural supports that intruders could use for cover in a firefight.
  • I will spare someone who saved my life sometime in the past. This is only reasonable as it encourages others to do so.
    However, the offer is good one time only. If they want me to spare them again, they’d better save my life again.
  • When my guards split up to search for intruders, they will always travel in groups of at least two. They will also be trained so that if one of them disappears mysteriously whilst on patrol, the other will immediately initiate an alert and call for backup, instead of quizzically peering around a corner.
  • If I decide to test a lieutenant’s loyalty and see if he/she should be made a trusted lieutenant, I will have a crack squad of marksmen standing by in case the answer is no.
  • I will not tell my Legion of  Terror “And he must be taken alive”, instead the command will be “Do try to take him alive if it is at all reasonably practicable.
  • If I am fighting with the hero atop a moving platform, have disarmed him and am about to finish him off and he glances behind me and drops flat, I too will drop flat rather than turning around to find out what he saw..
  • If I’m eating dinner with the hero and put poison in his goblet but then have to leave the table for some reason, I will order new drinks for both of us .. far easier than trying to decide whether or not to switch with him.
  • All my vats of hazardous chemicals will be covered when not in use. As well, I will not allow construction of any walkways above them.
  • My dungeon will have its own qualified medical staff complete with bodyguards. That way if a prisoner becomes sick and his cellmate tells the guard it’s an emergency, the guard will fetch a trauma team instead of opening up the cell for a look.
  • If I’m sitting in my camp, hear a twig snap, start to investigate, then encounter a small woodland creature, I will send out some scouts anyway just to be on the safe side. (If they disappear into the foliage, I will not send out another patrol; I will break out the napalm.)
  • I will classify my lieutenants in three categories: untrusted, trusted, and completely trusted. Promotion to the third category will be awarded posthumously.
  • I will exchange the labels on my folder of top-secret plans and my folder of recipes. Imagine the hero’s surprise when he decodes the stolen plans and finds instructions for gluten free muffins  😉

OK so what do you think .. overlord or no?

#Options are good 😉

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Posted by: Joan Spiller | December 20, 2016

Mars bar cheesecake – Recipe


This recipe dates back to one of the best jobs I ever had, with the coolest people ever! Twice. The 1st time was 23 years ago in Akld, with some incredible friends / colleagues. The 2nd, with some lovely colleagues in Welly. Good food .. good memories!

I’ve updated it since posting originally to make it a little less decadent. But if you wanna up the ante, increase the mars (or moro) bars and use chocolate chip cookies. That’s the basic difference..

No idea of tin size, sorry. I just tend to use a large spring form tin (For ease of removal!)

The ingredients:

6 Mars bars
400g cream cheese – do not use lite, yuck
300 ml cream
5T sweetener (whichever you like to use, be is sugar or stevia or whatever)

200g crushed plain cookies
100g melted butter
1t vanilla ess

The method:

Eat one mars bar – for quality assurance purposes..

Line the tin you’re using, with a square of grease proof paper. Set aside (ideally in the fridge).

Melt butter, add vanilla ess and using your hands (to ensure max. mixage!) mix into the crushed biscuits / cookies, then pack evenly onto the bottom (no sides needed) of the cake tin.

Chill this while you make the filling.

Beat the (best done at room temp) cream cheese and sugar til it’s smooth. I use a wooden spoon but you could use a blender ..

Next fold through the (whipped) cream then throw in the chopped mars bars.

Mix everything together, pile into tin, smooth it over, cover and chill.

IMPORTANT: MAKE SURE THERE’S NOTHING SMELLY IN THE FRIDGE!

Best left for 24-36 hours, to allow the caramel to ooze out of the choc bars, looks gorgeous when it does that – with a marbled effect. But as a minimum, allow it to chill for 8 hours.

To serve:

Place on table, call out it’s ready and stand back! I only JUST managed to get this pic once it was served at work the second time.

Garnish ideas:

Chopped mars bars
Grated dark chocolate
Chocolate dipped strawberries

D) all of the above!

Enjoy!

Posted by: Joan Spiller | December 19, 2016

When I die – 2016


Many of you will know that when Mum died it was very unexpected. I went from my bed to a stony driveway, cradling my Mum’s head in my lap as ambulance staff delivered the worst possible news.

From there, our world was turned upside down and revolved around picking caskets, songs, flowers, clothes, locations (yes plural – it was complicated!) for her funeral..

Like, somehow it .. mattered.. When all we wanted to do was sit and cry at the sudden loss of our Mother, a wife and cherished Nanny.

I find it ironic that so much importance is placed on what happens upon someone’s death – and yet so many of us fail to plan for it. And in doing so? We leave grief-stricken loved ones making choices that maybe they’re not quite ready to make .. or (most likely) hadn’t even thought about.

Because let’s face it – none of us like to think about the death of a mate, family member or .. anyone really.

And so, in the interests of making the whole death process easier for those left behind in my life .. I have decided to document what I would like done when I kick the bucket.

Don’t get me wrong, dying is the last thing I want to do! (See what I did there?) HOWEVER, if a bit of awkward planning and fore-thought by me means that those left behind can go on auto-pilot and just “make it so”, then this is a good thing, for all it seems somehow .. macabre to do.

Anyway, let’s get into it:

First and foremost, I have no interest in being a cabbage / kept alive by machines. Shut me off – don’t waste the money and energy on anything more than remembering me once I’m gone .. please!

Regarding the service:

Suffice to say non-religious – it would be hypocritical to do that. But (oddly) semi-formal is fine.. I am not interested in a marae setting – that will not work for most of the people who I think might like to (or feel they ought? lol) attend my funeral.

I guess for me, the basic problem is that most churches are meh, but at the same time: most funeral homes are sterile / hideous..

So I actually dunno what to suggest there .. Can you have a funeral @ a winery?!
OK maybe not 😉

I guess a funeral home it has to be.But please, make it a nice one. But ultimately, also perhaps it’s OK to just go with convenience. So wherever!

What are the accepted thoughts on caskets? I don’t really care if it’s open or closed. But suspect closed may be easier all round. Open is kinda .. icky? I say this based on both witnessing the funeral of Mum and also a dear past person’s Dad around the same time. This isn’t so helpful.. but maybe really, I am saying I don’t care, so do want you feel is best

I actually think I would like to be buried in a 2nd hand or recycled (guessing there is such a thing!?) coffin, so yeah – the cheapest (but I still want it to look nice!) is fine by me.

I don’t think I much care what I’m dressed in. I DO NOT want to be buried with any (of my three whole pieces, hahah) jewellery, that’s weird and wasteful. I prefer that CJ gets it, and then can decide what to do. Sell / take the cash, keep as is or remodel – I am totally cool with all of those options – it matters not to me, once I’m gone.

Oooh, one thing that I do care about – I wanna be buried barefoot! UGH @ shoes!
Hated them whilst living, don’t want a bar of them when dead! 😉

Burn or Bury?

Don’t miiiind about cremation but think I prefer a grave – for all I know this means I can’t go in the family plot in Napier, as it only has space for ashes now. So I guess if burial is the way to go – all I ask is that it’s someplace nice  .. with trees ..

I think the issue I have with cremation is the way it’s handled, you’re kinda left on your own (thinking back to Mum’s) during the final stages of “here we go, dead body / coffin .. have fun and let us know when you’re done” .. whereas a burial you do the deed, then are ushered away while it’s sorted out, or you can stay and watch the burial, so there’s a bit better closure ..

Maybe that will improve with time? But yeah, cremation isn’t actually easy, in my experience.

To anyone organising my funeral – please just occasionally stop and think “do I need to do this or not” when people suggest stuff! Cos it can be kind of crazy what is suggested, and you do just give in to things because it’s all a bit bewildering and you have no head space to stop and think. Clearly, anyway.

A few things I DO care about or want are:

A song CJ long ago once said would be perfect for my funeral – I would like played. I just love the words: “turned a young one into a woman” .. I kinda like to feel I played a part in making CJ the amazing woman she is today even if I was completely unsure what I was doing almost the entire time lol

And as the song says: “there is no other love than a Mother’s for her child” .. For all CJ is no longer a child, she’s forever going to be MY child and oh how I hate the idea of not being here for her. (On a side note? I love that I can’t even type that sentence without crying .. )

I would like my headstone (assuming we go there!) to read: “Don’t be sorry I’m gone. Be happy I was here”. Plus the usual name, date and anything people feel needs to be added – Ie “Coolest Mum ever”? 😉

I like to hope some will be happy I was here (and sad I am gone!)

Hmm.. re flowers – well, everyone knows me: Dull lol.. I’d prefer white (assorted lilies, orchids & greenery) Definitely not multi-coloured..

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Oh and can we ask people to donate cans of pet-food to their local pet shelter, instead of sending flowers? If that can be done – do it, please. I think that goes in the newspaper notice.

Now in advance I say this – I am sorry. But something I do want at my funeral is bagpipes .. I just love them.

As the coffin leaves the building, have them across the street / off in the distance piping me out.. (ie not too loud lol) NO idea what they would play, but yeah I love ’em! A funeral director will be best placed to get the piper sorted.

Another song I love and always wanted played at my wedding (never happened lol) is “Ave Maria“. If that could be included somewhere, yay – if not, well.. I won’t know  😉

Now when it comes to readings etc – I only want 1 thing ..
For all others can add to this!

For me, please read the verse: “Risk Freedom” by Leo Bascaglia.

For context – this is something I read when in my early 20’s. I actually wrote it down and carried it with me on a scrap of paper in my wallet, as I mustered up the courage to end my marriage / make a new life on my own.

Reading it kept me sane as I thought to myself “I need to take a chance.. for CJ and for me!”

It also allowed me to forgive making mistakes and to realign / adjust what I was doing in life .. Cos let’s face it – perfect and “sorted”, I most certainly never was / am not!

To my daughter, CJ – I need to say this:

You knew her almost as well as I did: you will recall how Nan/Mum was. So very protective & oddly fearful. So you can imagine: it was a big deal for me to be brave and take risks! To try things that were scary and new ..

And sure, I stuffed some things up beautifully, there is no denying.. But one of my biggest fears was to get old and think to myself: “If only ..” or “What if .. ” And so I tried lots, even tho that didn’t always pan out as I imagined.

BUT I just love how you are so much more adventurous than I ever was – and I hope you appreciate the fact that I tried so hard to bite my tongue when you were off doing crazy stuff *grin* But I also got to see the awesome experiences you had, as a result of who you are and – I like to think – this is in part due to how I raised you – that idea makes me happy.

Cos you’re the woman I wish I could have been. You’re beautiful, wise, strong, intelligent and so many more things that I just can’t express. And I am so very proud of you. I hope you know that.

I did think of another song I wouldn’t mind having played:

Seasons in the sun – Maybe just as music before the formal twaddle starts? Over to you there!

I have to admit, I’d be kinda curious to hear what anyone who wanted to speak at my funeral might say – damn tho, I’ll miss it!  So yeah, up to you if you want to allow people to speak, maybe it will help you understand your Mum a bit more?  For all I think we kinda get each other 😉

As to the other way more tedious things that will actually matter to some people around the time of my death..

My Will is in my filing cabinet among a bunch of other papers that apparently matter! In there you will find bank details, and all sorts of info from the details of my accountant to my mortgage broker. There’s also a list of names of people who you need to contact, they will help you. Call them all. Immediately!

Right, onto the more generic stuff once more:

One SIMPLE thing about my life at the time of writing this, is that my daughter gets everything on my death. Unless she and I die (at the same time) then my brother Richard gets it.. This is noted in my Will.

Which leads neatly to logistics – my Will is lodged with Public Trust. They have an 0800 # (assuming they don’t go broke or get morphed into some other place before I die) so maybe start with Scott Errington – even if he isn’t working there any more, he will be able to help and his number will be in my cell phone! If that doesn’t work, call Phil, he’ll find someone to help.

Going back to the funeral, I could be tempted to suggest a late afternoon funeral so I (hah – denial, much?) can then have gorgeous canapes and drinks afterwards instead of some nasty cup of bitter coffee or tepid tea and a manky dry scone ..

Buckets of booze may be a nice thing to have after what I hope will be a really shit day (for at least, CJ) but yeah you get the idea – I don’t really mind what happens here!

Oooh *whimsy time* I wouldn’t mind birds or something being released at the gravesite, that would be kinda cool. Maybe some manky old street pigeons? LOL I dunno, it just seems apt to involve birds somehow.. perhaps not chickens.. Ok fine no birds lol..

Which leads neatly into what happens to the animals. This job I give to CJ with input from Kim Martin (Sorry Kimmie! But yeah you will know what I’d like so can guide CJ there).I have nothing to say further, because if I ask you to do something and you can’t, it’ll be shit. Just do what is best for my fur and feathered babies please.

So yeah, I think that’s about it when it comes to what I think may make my death easier. Except perhaps for the exact words of that poem I clung to for most of my adult life ..

Here it is:

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.

To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.

To reach for another is to risk involvement.

To expose your ideas, your dreams, before a crowd is to risk their loss.

To love is to risk not being loved in return.

To live is to risk dying.

To believe is to risk despair.

To try is to risk failure.

But risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. The people who risk nothing, do nothing, have nothing, are nothing.

They may avoid suffering and sorrow, but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live.

Chained by their attitudes they are slaves; they have forfeited their freedom.

Only a person who risks is free.

Would now be a good time say that, despite the bad stuff – I consider myself to be incredibly lucky. No one can ever appreciate how happy I have been, being Mum to CJ .. caring for assorted pets .. taking adventures. Being a friend to a few very awesome people. A workmate to assorted folks and who knows what else – the crazy goat /dog / duck / magpie lady, a wwoofer / helpx host, a hitch hiker picker upperer.

Please forgive this long & somewhat morbid post, but this needed to be documented because making life easier or better for CJ is something I am totally into!

PS CJ?

I love you, I know you know that but I am also so very, very proud of the woman you have become, so much more than words can ever describe. Thank you for being the best kid a Mother could ever wish for. You are without a doubt, the best thing I was ever involved in, in my lifetime and I am thankful to have been your Mum.

Love,
Always.

Mum

Posted by: Joan Spiller | December 12, 2016

Parmesan shortbread – Recipe


A blend of cheeses with a hint of chilli + melt-in-the-mouth (while being super crunchy) – these treats are very moreish and make a great xmas gift or addition to your party platter.

To make these wicked but delicious addition to your cheese platter or party plates, you need:

2c high grade white flour (not self-raising)
1.5c cold / salted butter
1/2t chilli flakes (or powder)
1/2t hot (dry) mustard
100g Parmesan cheese
1c cheddar cheese

It’s really simple:

Chuck in a food processor and blitz til combined.
Remove from bowl, roll into a ball.
Roll in cling film and set aside for an hour in the fridge.

Simple, as I said!

After an hour, (or more, up to you!) roll the dough out and cut into whatever shapes you want.I actually rolled mine into ‘logs’ then rolled the logs in a little extra grated Parmesan cheese then re-chilled ’em.

(You can freeze them at this point, so they’re great for emergency catering at this time of year!)

When I want to cook them, I simply thaw then slice into rounds as you can see from the top picture.

Bake at 170 deg C for 10 or so minutes.
They should be a nice, golden colour.

Leave to cool on the tray, they harden up once cool so don’t keep baking them, waiting for them to go hard – tis similar to shortbread in that regard!

Keep (and they will, for ages, which is pretty awesome) in a sealed container but that is only if you don’t scoff them as soon as their temperature will allow 😉

Enjoy!

Posted by: Joan Spiller | November 4, 2016

Bruschetta – Recipe


I call this dish “summer on a plate”, it’s just one of those gorgeously delicious, simple meals that everyone needs to try! I have never met anyone who doesn’t love it, I made it recently for a Chinese guy who positively raved about it (as he should!) 😉

In order to ensure I can always make this meal I will buy a loaf of good quality ciabatta or sour dough, cut it into “meal-sized” portions then free-flow freeze it. That way, any time I want bruschetta, I simply get out a portion of bread, leave it to thaw and can be eating Italian heaven within minutes, if I am in a hurry.

What I’ve taken to doing in recent years though, is actually putting the tomatoes and a bit of finely diced capsicum, red onion & a pinch (or more, to taste) of chilli in a bowl with some salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil and leaving it for a few hours ..

So in other words I prep lunch at breakfast time!

For all the tomato collapses a bit, the taste is worth it and I recommend this over fresh chopped tomatoes, any day!

So, like I said it’s simple:

Chop up some tomato (1 decent sized tomato makes enough for a good sized meal for one person), slug in some oil, salt and pepper plus the additions if you want them.. Set aside (covered but not chilled) for up to 4 hours.

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When you want to eat, pre-heat a pan .. drizzle a tiny bit of oil into the pan and ‘grill’ the bread .. I’ve tried a dry pan, it’s fine but it is harder to clean hence the oil..

Add in any herbs now (to the tomato mix, in the pics here I’ve just sliced in 3 basil leaves).

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When the bread is cooked, rub a little raw garlic on it (only a little or it tastes bitter!) pile the tomato mix on top and serve .. It doesn’t need oil, seasoning or anything because you did that earlier!

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Oh and you can mix or match as you please ..

Once I had some ripe avocado so I added that underneath the tomatoes – DELISH! I also love to smear soft goat cheese on the toasted bread .. or melt mozz cheese on it .. or some feta mashed up with a little sour cream and lemon zest + pepper .. You can do what you like, it’s all good!

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But the simple one is delish, if you can’t be bothered with additions ..

Enjoy!

PS there’s only one tablespoon of oil in that pic above, the salt draws the moisture out of the tomatoes and you get this feisty, tasty juice to pour over the bread, it’s amazing!!

Posted by: Joan Spiller | October 22, 2016

Bircher Muesli – Recipe


muesli

One of the coolest things about hosting wwoofers (yes, I know – this seems very random when talking muesli, bear with me!) is the feedback some give, and it always makes me chuckle at the “omg her food is so good” comments, because if only they knew how simple it is to serve these yummy meals – they’d perhaps not be quite so lyrical in their waxing 😉

Breakfast is an important meal, especially for someone who’s about to work hard for me, so I try to make it a good, satisfying and wholesome meal. I recall once in the 80’s travelling around Australia with someone who only ate junk food, so we had pizza, burgers and other things, meal after meal after meal after sodding meal..

Eventually, I couldn’t take it any longer, I walked into a cafe near our accommodation one night and begged them to steam me a plate of vegetables and bring me fresh butter and salt to go with it lol Now it’d be easier to find good cheap eats on the road, it was less simple 25-30 years ago! So I figure wwoofers, travelling on a budget may not have access to “expensive” things such as fruit and nuts, so it’s another reason I like to give them this breakfast meal.

It’s easy to make, it’s actually very economical (or can be as fancy as you want / can afford) and it’s DELICIOUS! You can even make it gluten free. Just substitute the yoghurt with coconut yoghurt. Or use coconut milk to soak the oats in and omit yoghurt of any kind.

The recipe will SEEM complicated but I assure you – it is not. It’s just done in several steps (which ultimately makes it easier, I promise!)

I’ll talk about the steps, then I’ll describe the most common “way” I make my muesli. You can make so many variations to the recipe, that you’ll better understand once you’ve finished reading this entire post.

Step 1:

Put 1 cup of wholegrain* rolled oats, 1/4 cup dried fruit (I  use currants) and 1/3 cup coconut flakes or shreds (doesn’t matter which) into a container and cover with cold water. Seal and place in the fridge. Your breakfast “base” will be ready tomorrow. (You can use it earlier than waiting overnight, but it’s so much nicer to let the mix sit awhile)

Step 2:

Toast about 1/2 cup (in total) of your fave nuts and seeds. I favour pumpkin seeds, almonds, linseed and coconut thread. Store in an airtight container once cooled. Buy or make some yoghurt. Whatever flavour or use plain, up to you. I tend to use unsweetened natural yoghurt. Greek is kinda wasted in this dish, I feel.

Step 3:

It’s now time to create your breakfast! Muesli is best served immediately it’s had the fruit added so this is the final step before eating. And it’s so simple:

Chop up whatever fruit you like to eat.
Mix with some of the oat mixture and a generous dollop of yoghurt then serve topped with nuts.

I told you it was simple, yeah?

My fave fruits to use are: Banana, apple, pear, any berries but blueberries are great (only fresh fruit works in this dish) and grapes. I tend to cut the fruit up quite finely so you get a mix of flavours in every bite, not a chunk of apple now, and banana next, sort of thing.

The oat mix will keep for 5 days if chilled. Do not add to it, you must always make a fresh batch or you will end up with fizzy fermented muesli. Yechhh!

The reason I use currants is they’re like plump little sweet yet tart explosions through the fruit mixture, you can use anything, I’ve used apricots before – they’re good. But again: whatever you like: use it. Don’t have any? No biggie, just go plain.

So, these quantities (the oat mix and 750g yoghurt) plus 1 banana, 1 apple, 1 orange, 1 bunch of grapes and a punnet of berries – will make not just one, not two – but **FIVE large breakfasts .. As I said: it is very economical, as well as healthy, simple and delish.

You can add any fruit or top with whatever array of seeds, nuts and grains that you like. The only things I don’t think work well are sesame and peanuts. But that could be a personal preference thing.

As for ratios: I find equal parts oat mixture and fruit – and slightly less yoghurt but again: do what you prefer, it will work either way so long as you do step 1 properly. Oh I also love to squeeze citrus juice over the fruits as I cut them, just to give them a nice zing and ensure they stay super fresh.

So there you have it: Joan’s take on Bircher muesli.

Bon Appetit!

*It is crucial that you do not use quick cook oats. They turn to moosh and are not at all nice.
**If making single serves, either buy small pieces of fruit or seal in a container in the fridge and use over the course of a week.

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! 😉

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 can 🙂

 

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 do 😦
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 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! 🙂

(Didn’t I tell you this was easy!?) 🙂

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’re 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 & ¼ 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!) 🙂

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? 😉

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’t actually know.. Can’t be ‘home’, they don’t have one. Could be ‘work’, 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’s 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 – 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’d made a few km but I had a carful of dogs and Ollie’s Dad sounded like he had things in hand (“yes thanks, we’re off to see friends up the line a little”) so I didn’t stop.

FFW to Saturday morning, and somewhat unusually – I 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 “curb” (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 “Hey it’s me!” (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 “are you alright ma’am, can we help you?”

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’s Dad that I was heading to town (hoping he didn’t 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’s 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 – I 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 “his best friend”.. 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 – 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’t quite gone to plan in recent years, and at times, I’ve 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’s 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 days 😉

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 be 😦

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 cute 😉

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 positive 😉

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 around 😉

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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!)

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