Esquire Theme by Matthew Buchanan

15

Feb

Here is a new Tumblr I’ve started with my husband Matthew. It is a review site for illustrated books we love. We’ll be posting reviews regularly — follow along!

Here is a new Tumblr I’ve started with my husband Matthew. It is a review site for illustrated books we love. We’ll be posting reviews regularly — follow along!

09

Dec

Japan (part two)

So where was I? Tokyo!

I’ve been lazy in writing this post because I’ve had trouble getting my head around Tokyo and the contrasts of Tokyo. Our first day in the city we headed to Daikanyama, an upmarket leafy suburb. We found a tiny little cafe with a daily set menu for lunch, and spent the afternoon wandering in and out of alley ways and boutiques, happily content after our midday beer. And then, bam, we wandered into Shibuya — crazy Shibuya with people and lights and music and a feeling like we were at the centre of the world. 

And the rest of our week followed in similar fashion, we’d find some quiet artistic little community to wander around in, looking for coffee and drinking beer, and then veer away for a moment in search of something, and there it was again — the crazy full-noise Tokyo. And every time, like the plunge into a cold pool, it was the contrast that thrilled me. After a morning spent at Studio Ghibli, all autumnal and magical and small, we popped off the metro to find Roppongi full of western retail sparkle, and gloss. Fantastic.

Favourite things? Going up the Mori Tower to watch the sunset over Tokyo and picking out the places we’d been and were planning to go, it felt like we were getting to know this city. Tokyo Disney, for reasons I can’t describe, I mean it wasn’t real but it made me feel like I was eight years old and still believed in Santa. 21_21 Design Sight, not for the exhibition but for the exhibition space, and because we saw the house we are going to build next. Our dinner at a tradtional tempura restaurant; it was a delight, and it contrasted really well with the karaoke binge we finished our night with. And the food halls, Shinjuku Isetan especially, I would fly back to Tokyo for another chance to walk through there and load my arms with artfully packed gyoza, macaroons and eclairs.

So, yeah, our trip to Japan was everything and more. And a huge part of that was the five friends we shared it with; they opened our minds and shared the load and they were just so much fun.

23

Nov

Japan (part one)

Japan has been on our travel list for a long time, patiently waiting near the top while other locations jumped the queue with priority cards for family or other reasons.

This year we decided it was time to “knock the bastard off”.

And here we are in TOKYO! 100% caps because that is the way Tokyo rolls, and please don’t forget the exclamation mark.

We spent our first two days in Japan in Kyoto, mainly to get a feel for the old Japan before we were distracted by the bright lights big city of Tokyo.

Kyoto is a flat city with grid streets and a canal running through it. It is an easy mix of mid-rise office buildings, rows of townhouses stacked like upturned shoe boxes, and the older wooden Geisha districts. All of it covered in a fine mesh of overhead wires.

Until 1868 Kyoto was the seat of power of the Shogun, so it was rich with temples and shrines, and wealthy merchant houses from that era. We spent a sunny Sunday morning riding mamacharis through Kyoto showing off our bad-ass bike skillz and snapping our cameras like Japanese tourists, who funnily enough, don’t carry cameras round their neck when they’re at home .

I like being here. The smallness of things (doorways, low handbasins, beds), the kanji and kana script, and the lack of western tourists all contribute to the feeling of being of being an alien in an alien land.

But it is the food that is providing the best moments of surprise and delight. Dishes are served and what you expect to be hot is cold, or salty is sweet; what is gingerly nibbled in anticipation of disgust is gobbled down with calls of Oishii! And what isn’t good is just washed down by another handle of ice-cold quality lager.

Yesterday we (Matt and I are lucky to be traveling with five great friends) sped from Kyoto to Tokyo on the Shinkansen bullet train. So far so good, am really excited to be here. And we are going to Tokyo Disney today, so… yeah!

18

Aug

Harper’s grand entrance

I need to write about the birth of my second baby Harper before she is old enough to notice that I haven’t — and then adds that to the hand-me-down clothes, the lack of baby photos, the second child syndrome — and then I’ll be the worst Mother ever.

Harper’s birth was a little different to most because we’d elected to have her by c-section. After Elliot’s surprise 10lb 1oz we kept a close eye on Harper’s scans, and when she was estimated to be 10lb 8oz (±1lb!) at due date, I literally crossed my legs and shook my head, no. 

The risks to the baby, and to me, from a natural birth far outweighed any rewards — and to be honest, after experiencing one birth the old-fashioned way I am still left mystified as to what the big fuss about natural birth is. 

So we made an appointment with our specialist on the 31st of March. I asked if he took the 1st of April off work — like buildings that are built without a thirteenth floor — but no, babies are born with scant regard for a lifetime of poor jokes.

Walking up to the hospital at our allotted time was strangely surreal — just an ordinary walk up the road on an ordinary Tuesday morning. Except the most miraculous thing was about to happen to us in just a few short hours. I had a strange desire for balloons or fanfare, maybe even just a rainbow.

Much like a natural birth, an amount of uncomfortable waiting preceded any real action. Then things started happening with a speed and precision that impressed me. Robes were donned, forms and details were checked and triple checked, and then suddenly the vague shame of being wheeled on a bed through the hospital’s public area to theatre.

A spinal was administered, drapes were draped, and the table tipped to the left at a very jaunty angle for some reason I now forget. The theatre was full of people, and I would swear that they were all as excited about Harper’s arrival as we were.

There was a bit of fiddling around with something or other behind the drapes, and then we heard our little girl cry out for the first time. A hearty, healthy squall of rage and indignation, and we were thrilled.

Moments later we were marvelling at the sweet newness of her. A beautiful, 9lb 10oz baby girl with an irrepressible shock of strawberry hair. She was so alert and aware, like a little sparrow. Any doubts we had about loving another baby as much as we did Elliot were blown away by her first tiny breaths.

02

Jul

I never used to pay more than a passing interest to the weather forecast — it is what it is, and that is that. Winter is cold and wet, summer is warm and dry — enough information.
But now I have children I find myself checking the forecast obsessively because I need to know if we’ll be playing at the park after soccer tomorrow, or if the nanny will make the walk to the library on Friday. And my most frequent checks are for the weekends, because sunny days mean relaxed mornings at the zoo or at the park, but wet days mean grouchy car journeys to crowded, fuggy, indoor places like the museum, or the shopping centre (don’t judge; they have undercover parking, coffee, and the girls love that bright, sensory overload of consumerism). So we have a lot riding on that cheery little sun icon in the weather forecast.
Last sunday was a grizzly day; Matt and I thought we should watch old movies and drink tea however the girls thought that was a terrible idea. So we did some baking. We each had a bowl, some spoons and an apron, and ingredients were weighed and measured with care, and stirred with varying degrees of care.
It took longer to clean up than to do any baking, and Harper furtively ate far too much of Elliot’s silver dragee batter, but it was a lot of fun and our baked goods were a delicious treat.

I never used to pay more than a passing interest to the weather forecast — it is what it is, and that is that. Winter is cold and wet, summer is warm and dry — enough information.

But now I have children I find myself checking the forecast obsessively because I need to know if we’ll be playing at the park after soccer tomorrow, or if the nanny will make the walk to the library on Friday. And my most frequent checks are for the weekends, because sunny days mean relaxed mornings at the zoo or at the park, but wet days mean grouchy car journeys to crowded, fuggy, indoor places like the museum, or the shopping centre (don’t judge; they have undercover parking, coffee, and the girls love that bright, sensory overload of consumerism). So we have a lot riding on that cheery little sun icon in the weather forecast.

Last sunday was a grizzly day; Matt and I thought we should watch old movies and drink tea however the girls thought that was a terrible idea. So we did some baking. We each had a bowl, some spoons and an apron, and ingredients were weighed and measured with care, and stirred with varying degrees of care.

It took longer to clean up than to do any baking, and Harper furtively ate far too much of Elliot’s silver dragee batter, but it was a lot of fun and our baked goods were a delicious treat.

15

Jun

Where is the love?

Two years ago as the global recession loomed I tried to predict what effect it would have on us as a family and as small business owners. Would we lose our contracts? Would we lose our house? It was a scary time, and I’d have stayed awake nights worrying about it had I not been so sleep deprived.

Among the headlines of the time predicting economic chaos were the recollections of the Great Depression as a time of “making do” and of community. I wasn’t there and hindsight paints a rosy picture, but I’m sure this recession hasn’t provoked a similar reaction in our 21st century society. In fact I think it has hastened or exaggerated our tendencies to intolerance and grumpiness.

It is difficult to write about being grumpy without sounding, well, grumpy. And I’m certainly no Pollyanna, so I’m not writing this whilst I admire the view from my high-horse; neither am I a business analyst with any qualifications other than my own observations.

However it seems to me that in the context of business we have lost our sense of humour. There is a pressure to perform, there are questions over deadlines and a scrutiny of expenses that wasn’t there before. (These are all good things, there aren’t many companies that can, or should, be so relaxed about their shareholder investment.) And I understand that working in that environment is stressful and many are fearful of losing their jobs, but does that explain why doing business has become a battle even when the prizes are often not financial? Why are we so quick to pounce on others’ defeats, and why do we complain so loudly and publicly over small slights?

And it isn’t just in business, as consumers we are becoming more demanding and critical. My hands sweat when I go to press “send” on an email newsletter because I know any error or omission will generate an avalanche of reply emails ranging from the smug to the smugly abusive, all of them aching to point out the problem. (Please note: this never happens to me, I am perfect.)

The news media is full with the expressed “outrage” of consumers who haven’t had a perfect consumer experience. I love this site that celebrates "Angry People in Local Newspapers" , it seems to capture us at our disgruntled best.

In our business, we were lucky to earn our customer service stripes in the simpler days before Twitter and Sideswipe, the days when Fair Go limited its investigations to cowboy carpenters and rogue insurance brokers. I shudder to think of the damage one disgruntled customer with an Internet connection can do to an inexperienced business now.

I am not suggesting, as consumers or clients in a business relationship, that we meekly accept when we are short-changed — it is important that both sides of any deal feel satisfied. However do we need to be so quick to condemn or criticise the small repairable problems? Should we aid and assist, and in remembering that those who serve us are not droids, show a little compassion? Or at least refrain from making our complaints so public, and recognise that the damage we do may be well in excess of the original mistake.

31

May

Our girls are growing so quickly, literally bursting at their seams. It seems I am always buying new shoes for Elliot and then tucking away her old scuffed ones (still full of life) for Harper. On Sunday I filled a bucket with napisan and soaked and scrubbed those shoes (and mine too) ’till they gleamed with all the shining promise of a brand new day. When they’re dry I’ll wrap them in tissue and Harper can have ”new” shoes too.

Our girls are growing so quickly, literally bursting at their seams. It seems I am always buying new shoes for Elliot and then tucking away her old scuffed ones (still full of life) for Harper. On Sunday I filled a bucket with napisan and soaked and scrubbed those shoes (and mine too) ’till they gleamed with all the shining promise of a brand new day. When they’re dry I’ll wrap them in tissue and Harper can have ”new” shoes too.

24

Apr

Action Manu

Last weekend I was part of a team competing in the V48HOURS film competition. I am happy to say we made a super film (Action Manu), got it in on time, and are all still friends, phew!

It was a thrill to work on a collaborative, creative project like that, even if just for fun and giggles. Especially when it was such a different product from what we produce in our day jobs.

It was also kinda nice to be part of something good, and not be in charge or responsible. It took a few deep breaths to fight the urge to organise, but once I got the hang of being a hanger-on, I loved it. Which made me think again about chucking in this small business stuff and once more immersing myself into a larger corporate machine. Ahhh, the bliss of a monthly wage, regular hours, and a raft of people above, below, and beside you — with the added comfort of in-house legal counsel in case you make a boo-boo.

Although I did read somewhere that, much like elderly spinsters, there is a point of no return — once you’ve been spoilt with the power of your own autonomy you are, well, spoiled.

Anyway, the film we made may not have been the best in Auckland but it was a credible effort. And when I consider that many wannabe professionals can spend up to a year trying to produce eight minutes of film that may not be that far from what we produced in 48 hours, I feel incredibly proud.

If I had a CV I’d be putting Action Manu on it.

P.S. You can see our film in the V48HOURS Screening Room from April 30.

31

Mar

Our lovely Harper turned one year old today. She has completed her first lap, experienced all four seasons, and has made it to her first birthday. 
Just a short while ago I was looking forward to having babies, and now two years later I have had my babies. We’re now raising two little girls. The pushchair that we researched and agonised over buying is now too small, the baby clothes hardly worn have been packed away for our future nieces (fingers crossed), and the toy box is ready to be cleared of rattles and teething rings in order to make way for puzzles and books and, oh-god-no, Barbies or Bratz or Dora.
And I know this is the natural order of things, babies learn and grow and every achievement is a step towards independence. It is a wonderous thing to see, and we are cheering them on with all our might, but I can’t help but wonder “who stole my babies?”. (So tempting to make a dingo joke here, Meryl Streep is stuck in my brain). It has been said a few times before but, gosh, children grow up so fast.
Anyway, happy birthday Harper. You are our sun-shiny girl. I hope that one day soon you aren’t so scared of the gigantic stuffed monkey we gave you. Love.

Our lovely Harper turned one year old today. She has completed her first lap, experienced all four seasons, and has made it to her first birthday. 

Just a short while ago I was looking forward to having babies, and now two years later I have had my babies. We’re now raising two little girls. The pushchair that we researched and agonised over buying is now too small, the baby clothes hardly worn have been packed away for our future nieces (fingers crossed), and the toy box is ready to be cleared of rattles and teething rings in order to make way for puzzles and books and, oh-god-no, Barbies or Bratz or Dora.

And I know this is the natural order of things, babies learn and grow and every achievement is a step towards independence. It is a wonderous thing to see, and we are cheering them on with all our might, but I can’t help but wonder “who stole my babies?”. (So tempting to make a dingo joke here, Meryl Streep is stuck in my brain). It has been said a few times before but, gosh, children grow up so fast.

Anyway, happy birthday Harper. You are our sun-shiny girl. I hope that one day soon you aren’t so scared of the gigantic stuffed monkey we gave you. Love.

19

Feb

Best supporting actress

I was never going to marry an astronaut and stand hands clasped, eyes glistening watching rockets shoot off into space. And I never saw myself sitting by the phone waiting for a crackly call from base camp #3, pen in hand to tally the extremeties lost this time round. It isn’t that I don’t understand the call to the final frontier or the need to conquer  - it’s that I don’t understand the desire to sit at home with the burden of the risk and no chance at the glory.

So I married a particularly clever and handsome computer-designer-web-person. I have no idea what he actually does but I’ll bet he doesn’t pay much for ACC. The risk analysis of his office would be shortish; perhaps a magic mouse could fall untethered from the desk and stub a jandal clad foot? Perhaps a Life chair could be incorrectly set resulting in lower back strain? Who knows, but I feel safe in expecting him home at night.

This past week I’ve been minding the fort while Matt has been traveling to work-related events. Solo parenting isn’t as technically difficult as you’d imagine, a few changes to routine and you can juggle it. What I’ve found to be the biggest challenge is the aloneness of it. After seven years of living with a person you may forget they are there but you’ll never forget when they are not.

Anyway, just tonight Matt and his colleagues were awarded a prize(!) for their work and tomorrow he will be winging his way home in time for us both to celebrate the marriage of two very good friends. And whilst I don’t deserve an Oscar for my supporting role I do wonder what I can do with 5 nights of parenting credits?