ICELAND in brief.

Iceland is perhaps similar to New Zealand..it has many waterfalls, lush green hills, volcanoes, glaciers and geysers and it is an island. The  roads are two lanes  however unlike NZ they drive on the right. And to be honest it is totally different so do some research and plan a vacation! To discover why Iceland and Greenland are mis-named check out this. They were cunning back in those days!!

Below: Reykavich

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Sydney for EASTER or VIVID –

If you are travelling to Sydney read on..image

I always book a Silver Service cab to take me to the Sydney airport from wherever I am. They are reliable, an excellent service. However they are more difficult to locate on arrival in Sydney so I usually take pot luck with a taxi off the ramp or better still take the train to the city then find a cab…much cheaper.
On arrival I had pre -booked  Corporate Cabs Australia and they didn’t turn up!!

I’ve blogged about Sydney several times, check out this blog for day trip ideas and other tips.

Cafes, there are hundreds to choose from and some are doing very innovative food creations.

Menu items that caught my attention in Sydney this week were:
At my local Clovelly cafe The Top Hat I spied these:

Toast with sour cherry, fresh figs, ricotta and honey served on sour cherry toast.

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Drinks
Cold Drip Japanese filter coffee served on ice

Iced Chai
Affogato Expresso served with scoop of ice cream; Yes we have affogato on menus too, desert menus but this was on their drinks menu-
You could easily swap the Sour cherry toast for raisin bread I think!

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Lot 19 Cafe in Elizabeth Bay –
Poached eggs in clay on ratatouille with grana Padang and dipping toast
Juice
The Horny Bunny – Apple carrot ginger and celery.

I only had coffee and that was excellent and the folk were friendly.

Lunch
Fratelli Paradiso

A fabulous small Italian restaurant serving fresh cuisine, menu sample here.
Calamari Sant’ Andrea
squid fried, rocket, balsamic  22
Crudo
tuna ‘tonnato’  23
Bufala
heirloom, figs 24
Risotto
prawns, clams, cuttlefish, bottarga 29
Movies
I headed to the historic old Art Noveau Ritz Theatre in Randwick – interesting one car park building but no vacancies – not good for business and the street parking was only 1 hour! Anyway I enjoyed the movie; The Lady in the Van with Maggie Smith. A great $9.00 worth- I thought Maggie Smith brilliant, I’d expect nothing less. The story is one most of us would rather not face – about being old and dealing with the elderly!
Re the theatre, it was built in 1937, it is an example of the art deco cinema architecture that found a home in Australia during the 1920s and 1930’s and has 5-6 theatres. It seems to have lost much of its elegance and style which is rather sad but it does run the best art movies.IMG_3612IMG_3609

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The Opera Houseimage
I parked underneath in the enormous car park. They validate your ticket if you attend a show, parking was only $19.00 for 2 hours. So always ask. Sometimes there is a seal basking on the steps – a local resident so watch for him ( or her!)  One of Sydney’s top restaurants is in the Opera House complex. Treat your self before or after the theatre Reservations suggested.
Lunch (Friday – Sunday 12:00pm – 2:00pm): 2 courses $100, 3 courses $130
Dinner (Monday – Sunday 6:30pm – 10:00pm): 3 courses à la carte menu $130

Another fun place to visit is The Grounds at Alexandria. A great selection of eateries  and a few animals to amuse the children. Look out for Kevin Bacon!

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Bus tickets sometimes cannot be purchased on board the buses, so buy an Opal card at a diary and put ten or twenty dollars on it, no expiry date. Efficient way to get in and out of the city. Parking in the city can easily be $50.00 for two hours!!

So this is just a few brief comments on our nearest getaway, Australia.. Air fares are cheaper than ever and Sydney has sooo much on offer. Watch for VIVID in May and June. The sails of Sydney Opera House will be lit with works by Indigenous artists for the first time this year for the Vivid Sydney festival from May 27 to June 18.

To photograph Vivid watch this video. and impress your friends with amazing images.

The shopping is amazing, remember to claim your tax back as you depart Sydney airport. Westfield in the city Level 4 has 3-4 fantastic women’s shoe stores, trust me I know!! There food hall is excellent, yes they have a  Michelin Chinese eatery there. Din Tai Fung Restaurant… I love it. 188 Pitt Street | Shop 504, Level 5.

An Aussie  funny to wind up with. 

”  We live in a semi rural area. We recently had a new neighbour call the local council   P & W office to request the removal of the WOMBAT CROSSING sign on our road.
The reason: ‘Too many wombats are being hit by cars out here! I don’t think this is a good place for them to be crossing anymore.”
True Story from Australia.

Travel Trivia

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I loved my recent trip to Alaska, do put Alaska on your bucket list and don’t die before you get there!! Seriously it is magical. You can read about my week with the bears here.

Some of my comments  apply to other parts of the USA, not just the BIG state; some good some not so good!! But all written with you in mind, hopefully they are helpful snippets.

Tipping…I hate tipping, it almost spoils a pleasant dining experience. You are about to leave a restaurant following a delicious dinner and bingo!! The tip has to be calculated regardless of how good the service is.. Has it already been added?, always check this before adding your tip amount which is expected to run around 15% evidently. However many locals I gather only add 10-12%. I downloaded an app. to my phone which was helpful and I could set it to 15% or 12% or whatever.  There are numerous apps to assist you when travelling.

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I also got caught on a day trip on a tour boat, as we disembarked everyone was handing the crew/person who talked about the sights we enjoyed a tip over and above the fee we had paid!  Really!!

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Under this verandah in Seward were two restaurants – definitely not well sign posted.

Bottomless cups of Coke, Pepsi etc and Unlimited filter coffee seem to be the normal. I can never drink more than one at a time, but a nice gesture in most American eateries.

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The majority of Americans still think filter cona style coffee is great. Mention speciality coffee and they might point you in the right direction!  Alaska definitely has a culture of speciality coffee but there are many places like the Crown Plaza in Anchorage who have no idea! . Some shops sell nothing but coffee, not even simple food! Lots of roadside Alaskan cute coffee buses.. Hotels all seem to have FREE wi-fi. Last time I stayed in NZ or Australia this was not the case. Often only free in the foyers😳 IMG_4695

I love showers with spray heads, I only came across one bathroom with a hose spray shower. Most NZ showers have hose sprays – how else do you wash your underneath anatomy!!  Water doesn’t run uphill!! Oh well  just another American idiosyncrasie !!

Buying petrol, it is so simple in Australia and New Zealand but not in the big USA. Insert your credit card at the pump..it says “wait a Moment,” ( wait forever) go inside they say ‘try again, so you trot our dutifully and try again. No luck. Back inside. I ask is it because I have a Foreign credit card? The woman looks at me as though I am an alien… No kidding. She says to me you have to pay inside in advance. I ask how do I know the cost! “Well you can pay cash! Is there an ATM machine I ask?” “two blocks down the road” she mumbled, I might add it is raining !! Then she says “there is another garage in town you could try!” With that I drove to the next garage..went inside first off and the lady said I will put fifty on your card and if it’s less I will  refund you! OK I said and sure enough I received $5-75 change… All done with a smile. But it certainly was not simple.

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Another day I went to another Gas station and the machine accepted my card and I was done and dusted and refueled in minutes 🙂  On another occasion I was asked my zip code..I knew that wouldn’t work so I tried my sons’ American zip code but Visa knew that wasn’t right!! Back inside and this time the young lass held onto my credit card while I filled up and then she deducted the amount… Simple enough, but honestly American fuel businesses need a shake up!!!

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Food..burgers and chips paninis, Caesar salads , all pretty de ja vu – NZ we have a lot more ‘foodie’ eateries, Pacific Rim Cuisine is definitely a favourite of mine. I suspect NZ food is more expensive than the average traveller wants to spend though. High bar stools and booths are still very popular stateside. The best eateries often look quite dark and intimidating from the outside. Certainly you won’t find a meat pie for sale anywhere, hot dogs are the equivalent snack it would seem and endless chips.

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Key Lime Pie

Fine Dining… Yes definitely Alaska has some fine eateries. Seven Glaciers at the  Alyeska Resort in Girdwood and The Homestead near Homer are both well worth making the effort to dine at. Try specialities such as Halibut and Alaskan Salmon of course but don’t overlook the Kennai Scallops at Mykel in Soldotna, large succulent and sweet or the Black Cod called Sable Fish.

IMG_4088 The best Halibut and chips without doubt was in Whittier In a quaint little waterside café called Varley’s Swiftwater Seafood. I met people in there who had driven all the way from Anchorage for lunch and to enjoy the Halibut  ‘n chips and now I having eaten there I under stand why!! The best anywhere in Alaska.

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I couldn’t help noticing the bullet holes in sooo many road signs. Despite signs saying no shooting near the highways!!

Road side notices in many areas are Double Fines for exceeding the speed limit. I wonder if that would work in NZ.? Maybe at Maramarua which is a bad crash site in the north Island!! I didn’t see any mention of speed cameras and I saw only one patrol car !

In Canada the ferries to Vancouver Island run hourly and the voyage is 90 minutes, with waiting time 2-3 hours. Beautiful ferries, they take cars and people, 400 at a time. But strangely you cannot buy a beer on the ferry or either side in the restaurants catering for the passengers. Very strange I thought. Turns out Vancouver was a ‘dry‘ city for twenty years!! The other interesting thing is there was absolutely no security checks for these ferries. Plane passengers are so tightly screened and yet a ferry with 2-4 hundred passengers and cars no one checked a thing… Is that weird or what??

A cold beer is pretty good on a hot summers day -

A cold beer is pretty good on a hot summers day –

Rental car people; well Hertz in Anchorage anyway. No service – there’s the car and a mumbled thanks on return. How hard would it be to talk to the driver, ask where you’re heading, make small talk. On return ask how was your trip? After all this is one of the last things you might do in a country or city… Leaves a bad impression when they grunt and point to the elevator!! They are just there because they can’t get a job anywhere else! Students on summer jobs are so wonderful, interested in you as a person, happy to be working, great attitudes. Alaska has sooo many of them, wonderful. IMG_4635

Thinking about travelling?

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Recently I have met a few women who live on their own and they are nervous to travel alone, seriously these small group type tours are made for you. I suggest you select a tour that involves your personal interest – fishing, opera, architecture, tramping, cycling, photography, wine and food, farming etc. This way the people on the tours will have shared interests with you –  you might even like them :):)

There are tours for everyone  – use Google to discover one to suit you. I am listing a few tours to give you an idea of the broad range available. Not recommending just mentioning them. Check on Trip Advisor before you book hotels and tours; sometimes it is surprising what you learn. There are far more tours than time and money to partake of. I could travel continually – not sure I want to but I could be tempted. Lotto is the answer!

I know most of my friends travel somewhere exciting every year. Some are photographers and they tend to single out photographic tours or workshops. But not everyone wants to get up an hour before sunrise or miss their G&T at 5pm! Holidays are expensive and you need to consider tailor-made excursions. Some travel 5 star plus, some go on Intrepid Journeys. Some fly economy some fly business. However you travel or wherever you go  there are always helpful hints and ideas to make the voyage easier. I wrote a blog on packing recently, a couple of people said it helped them.

(Comment box at end…please add your tips, thoughts and favourite small group ideas, and share my blogs with your friends..)

I like to make my travel as easy as possible so I am happy to pay extra to have a car meet me in a foreign city. In New York and London especially; so much easier than fighting through hoards of people to a taxi ramp that looks like a wreckers yard or lugging luggage from one platform to another to catch a different train line in a London subway.  The extra $$ means I arrive relatively relaxed, that is worth a lot to me.  Mind you I am travelling alone. If you have a spouse to share the stress and carry the bags I’m sure it is much easier. What happened to old-fashioned porters I wonder??

I will never forget struggling up 50 stairs with my luggage over a small bridge and down 50 stairs when travelling from Florence to Cinque Terre…it nearly killed me! Europe is like that. Actually  elevators existed as far back as ancient Rome; Archimedes was building them in 336 B.C., and gladiators and animals rode lifts to the Roman Coliseum arena by A.D. 80 So why they don’t have lifts is beyond me.

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These days many folk book online but it isn’t actually cheaper, agents get paid by the hotels and wholesalers, not by you.  Recently I spoke to someone who proudly told me they’d booked everything themselves online, a complex trip with airline connections etc. That is all very noble until things go wrong, and they do go wrong. You realise you didn’t allow your self-sufficient  time and you’ve missed a connection. Then you pay;  you pay with a stressful few hours and with a cash outlay, neither are very funny.  If your travel agent makes the mistake he or she pays! Recently I missed a flight in the USA, my print out said it was departing at 11-30am and when I checked in they said the flight left at 9-15am. I showed them the paper  print out and was I sent to a different desk where  3 staff looked at their screen and announced I had to pay US$100.00. I was OK paying  as in the back of my brain somewhere an alarm bell was ringing…I remembered my agent had changed that flight but I hadn’t printed out the new details. All I wanted was to get onto the 11-30 am flight which of course was already over booked  as most American flights  are! Then the staff supervisor said “who changed the flight?” They didn’t know if it was them or my agent, so they refunded my $100.00 ushered me through an express way and I was on the flight quick as  a flash of lightning.The flight I originally wanted in the first place as well ! Had I not booked through an agent I would have been in all sorts of trouble. So I think  agents are invaluable. If you live in Auckland and don’t have an agent I suggest you call Steve at Fortis Travel.  A type of insurance. is the way I see it. I still do a heap of research but they often have hotel specials etc. On the subject of insurance, paying with your Visa Gold card gives you some insurance but some destinations it is definitely insufficient. Read the small print. When I went on safari to Africa for example, I took out additional insurance.

A friend recently arrived at a hotel all booked by her travel agent to be told they had no rooms available! A quick call to her agent and a 3 way phone chat soon had them booking my friend into a suite at no extra charge. And so the stories go.

There are many women who travel on their own ( and a few men).  I suggest you google trips that pertain to your interests. There are many garden tours in Europe and similarly painting, music or art appreciation tours. There are numerous cycling and photographic tours and other  genre too. I have listed a tiny selection here… but these trips are going to be far more rewarding than a 1000 or 2000 person cruise ship in my humble opinion.

 

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APT is a travel company renowned for running excellent coach tours, owned and operated by Australians.

Typical of their trips…10 day Discover with Botanica World Discoveries the wonderful gardens of England and Wales in Spring with this relaxed tour in Southern UK while accompanied by a Botanical Guide. Highlights include The Chelsea Flower Show and 32 hectares of Bodnant Gardens or this one : Discover the pristine lakes, Romanesque architecture and gardens of the Italians Lakes district, before crossing into Slovenia to the beautiful town of Bled. Continue into Croatia then sail along the picturesque Dalmatian Coast.

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 ART….Try this  trip  to Japan.199x199xJapan1-199x199_jpg_pagespeed_ic_9zQUXshaT3LMC-0688-Edit

Chihuly Glass – I’ve seen his work in the USA and London and love it.

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An ‘ornament’ I spotted in Bond Street and regret not purchasing 😦 as we often do when travelling.

 

FOOD AND WINE

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New Orleans

Stories by Ken Burns Tauck’s 8-day Cajun Country and New Orleans tour includes Tauck Exclusives like Stories by Ken Burns, a Cajun house party, private demo at the New Orleans School of Cooking, an authentic streetcar tour, a private jazz experience at Preservation Hall, a private farewell jazz reception and dinner at Arnaud’s, five nights at historic French Quarter hotels and more!

Vietnam

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HALONG BAY IS A BEAUTIFUL PART OF THE WORLD.

A fun tour with Peta Mathias might be the best ticket…

“We start our tour in the north in Hanoi where we find out how to make rice paper and tofu, eat street food which is THE Hanoi specialty, learn how to cook at my friend’s house and drink the famous Hanoi fresh beer. We then jump on a plane to Hué (which is like going from Paris to the South of France),where we stay at the most exquisite French Art Deco hotel. Hué is the ancient Imperial Capitol of Vietnam and is most famous for its intricate imperial cuisine, fabulous imperial sites and is a huge centre for Buddhism.

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Culinary Tour of North India 11 Days / 10 Nights

Our tour starts in Delhi, which offers a panoramic vista of heritage and modern India that you will experience during the city sightseeing tour. Mughlai Food will be our first culinary experience known for its richness, exotic use of spices, dried fruit and nuts.

I loved India and my earlier blog might be useful. How to avoid Deli Belhi etc.

CYCLING

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Take a cycle holiday in France to enjoy the scenic beauty, enchanting culture,  delicious food and fine wine the French countryside has to offer. From the iconic high passes of the Alps and Pyrenees to the gently meandering valleys famous for their wine production, it is possible to find cycling routes in France to suit all abilities and interests.

Ireland

  • Cycle along Kerry’s dramatic Emerald coastline.
  • Meet the welcoming people of Dingle and Kerry and explore the many small villages along the way.
  • Cycle the world famous Slea Head and Adelaideexample – DAY 3 Springton to Tanunda – Enjoy the picturesque scenery and infinite views as you ride into the epicenter of the Barossa Valley • Some of today’s ride includes parts of the world-famous tour down under cycling race.

 

HISTORY

Summer Antarctic Expeditions exploring New Zealand’s remote Islands are popular for the adventurous. Check out Heritage Expeditions. Galapagos to the Chathams and further south from $800.00  a day.

PHOTOGRAPHY –  “have camera will travel”

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Alaska with our best known Kiwi photographer Chris McClennan We are very excited to be putting together an exclusive Alaskan Winter photo tour for 2016 featuring the famous Iditarod dog sled race, the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) and of course some spectacular Arctic landscapes.

Kenya 2017 with Daniel Cox ( I’m going on his Alaska Brown Bear trip this year) read on.. 16 Guests MaximumOPTION 1: FULL SEAT Allows each guest to have a seat and window on both sides of the vehicle. This gives ample room for camera gear and allows for photographing from both sides of the vehicle –  This is what makes this tour so special, an experienced guide and space! Two different pricing structures depending on your vehicle needs/preference.

Antarctica  My dream trip –  this tour flies from Punta Arenas, Chile to Antarctica’s King George Island and back, eliminating days of travel in the challenging waters of the Drake Passage. John Paul Capanigro is a superb photographer, one of the best!

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Photos by John Paul Capanigro

 India 2015 – hurry for this one.. but another dream photo trip. I’ve been to Rajasthan and loved every day! Led by Brendan O’Hagan and organised by CANON NZ for photographers.

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Rajasthan place in the sun.

CRUISING – I have never been cruising so this advice is from a trusty friend.

Major decisionSIZE DOES MATTER”

 Large ship or boutique vessel??  this has a huge impact on your enjoyment. Large cruises offer an exceptional array of entertainment options, dining venues, and amenities and are typically the way to go if you’re traveling with younger children or a large group looking for lively nightly activities.  However I imagine you’re hoping for a more intimate, relaxing luxury experience with attentive service and a sophisticated ambiance so please consider choosing a smaller luxury cruise.  Silver Seas are evidently top-notch. Their small ultra-luxury ships can sail up narrow waterways into the heart of a city, or tie up right at the pier while others must anchor off shore, these factors can make quite a difference to your holiday. I’m saving this treat up for my older age!!

FISHING

I hear Mexico is amazing fishing. Cabo Fishing offers world-class sportfishing charters in Cabo San Lucas Mexico, possibly the best sportfishing waters in the entire world, that is after New Zealand I say. (tongue in cheek!) April May and June are the best times so escape our winter.

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So folks, cash in your childrens’ inheritance and travel while you still can. If you are alone look at the tours I’ve mentioned.. small and manageable. ( Ideal for couples too of course) I can’t keep listing tours but trust me there are some awesome adventures waiting to be had!! And don’t take more luggage than you  can carry; lighweight with 4 wheels, passport and go!! See you there!!

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Happy Meals

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I’m sure many of you remember Happy Meals, one of the fast food outlets coined the phrase I can recall. In fact they started advertising Happy Meals in June 1979. That is 36 years ago… imagine that. Funny how the phrase is  still associated with the advertisement, maybe not funny, maybe tragic!  So our blogging course suggested we write about a HAPPY MEAL we had as a child. Well I wasn’t a child in 1979 but I did have two very small children of my own, so it is no wonder I recall that slogan.

However a Happy Meal that I do remember from my child hood is, I suspect, equally un-healthy. To give you the background; I lived on a farm 30 minutes drive from a rural town on a narrow windy gravel road over two or three mountain streams, across the cattle stop up the hill past the woolshed to ‘home’.  There were horses in the paddock, dogs barking, sheep sleeping on the roads, the odd deer, fish in the stream, guinea pigs, pet lambs, trees full of birds nest to find and The Milky Way was often above our heads.  One way and another our rural childhood was pretty good. I had two older brothers at boarding school and I couldn’t wait to go too.

The highlight of my parents winter week was ‘Saturday Rugby’. We would head into Omakau, where I also went to primary school, and everyone gathered along the side of the paddock and watched rugby. Matakanui was our team and my father was very excited when they won a game, he used to play for this team before he had three children!  If I got bored watching rugby, and I invariably did,  I walked to the pub ( one of three) and said hello to my teacher who happened to live at the local  Commercial Hotel. That’s how life was back then. My parents knew where to find me and everyone knew everyone.

After the rugby the adults adjourned to the bar until 6 o’clock closing. The police car  would turn up at 6pm and the scramble to get out before being ticketed  was, in hindsight, quite comical.  The fun part for me was looking forward to our treat dinner. We would drive around the corner to the pie shop and my mother would go in and return with 3-4 paper bags full of hot delicious smelling meat pies. This was a favourite meal for me as a child. My ‘Happy Meal’. One particular Saturday I recall was very wintry and no doubt there had been much rain! On our way home one of the creeks was in flood and the car soon got stuck in this raging little creek so we all walked home, about an hour, I recall. It probably wasn’t but when you are 8 it seems like a long long way!  Mother carried the pies under her coat, after all slightly squashed pies were preferable to wet pies!! Once at home and dried off Mother reheated the rain-soaked pies ( no microwaves back then) and they were absolutely delicious eaten around the open log fire…. another ‘Happy Meal’ I well recall. 

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Therapeutic activities and filling in retirement hours.

 

        Therapeutic activities and filling in retirement hours.

LMC-3687-Edit                         I think this dear little boat is waiting for its’ owner to have more time to tinker and paint! 

Painting, walking, photography, writing, movies, reading, eating, cooking, mind games;  the list goes on and on. Everyone has their own way of cheering themselves up and filling in their leisure time.  Well; if only they did. People get lonely and down in the dumps quite easily it seems. The saying you can be lonely in a room full of people is absolutely true.

I am not going to give you the answers to eternal happiness either unfortunately. However I did receive a flier in my letter box recently eluding to eternal happiness. Mr Dino in Auckland can solve all “your love and social problems and destroy black magic, evil and bad spells” He offers a 100% guarantee. Really??

All I can do is talk from my own and my friends experiences. I have had a few setbacks In my life and times of darkness; I think most people do by the time they are in their sixties, it is called life.The daily activities we take part in play a big part in our ability to deal with adversity when it knocks on our door. Hobbies are a godsend, these days they are called ‘interests’ funny how word usage changes over the years. I think everyone should be encouraged to have a couple of ‘interests’ outside of their work, one passive and one active. Because when you retire they become of major importance to your happiness and those around you.  If you break a leg the passive interest will help get you through the recuperation and make your days more pleasant.  Well that’s my theory! Even if nothing is wrong and you are in great health after retirement there are over 12 hours a day to fill in. If you have a partner you spend several of those hours together, sharing chat over meals and going for walks.  The rest of the day you need to be focused on activities. Whether alone or in a relationship I believe you need to plan something for everyday; at least in your head, otherwise your head fills with those “what will I do now” negative thoughts. Invite people to dinner or lunch, go to galleries and walks on the beach, invite people to join you or go alone. Don’t wait for your phone to ring! Of course you can play golf and tennis or swim or do aqua aerobics or go to Pilates. You can probably play tiddly winks with someone I’m sure. There is a myriad of sporting activities you can do here and there too.  However they are not usually played every day. Hence you need more than one activity to fill the week.  Many men potter, fix things, spend time in their men caves who knows what they do but workshops and tools seem to occupy plenty of time.

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I suspect Fishing can fill in many hours and does. you are never too old to learn to fish. Fly fishing classes are available or just buy a rod and go down to the water and cast your line. The fishing store will of course guide you on your needs.

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This may all sound very obvious but I hear a lot of women commenting that their husbands don’t have enough to do in retirement. I won’t elaborate what else they say.  However for career  women I am sure the problems are similar.

Travelling probably takes up a few weeks every year if you are lucky,  and the planning and research can take many hours and be very rewarding. Travelling on your own is a challenge but one worth meeting. I have found this difficult  and I have decided small bites are best. I had three days in London on my own recently and it was wonderful. I certainly didn’t see everything but it wasnt my first trip. I stayed in a really good 5 star boutique hotel where they knew my name and asked me about my day, treated me like a real person. I felt part of their family for those days. You don’t get that in large hotel chains! I’m fortunate to attend Photography Congress’s in various countries  so this means you are with like-minded people. There are many tours for artists, photographers, golfers, foodies etc. check these events or tours as at least you share interests with your fellow passengers. Interestingly enough couples invite other couples to travel with them but singles don’t fit this formula. A lot of Cruises are full of older widows and divorcees, I can’t think of anything worse! So if you are going cruising check out the clientale before booking your fare, don’t be afraid to ask the questions. Such as “What % are single women”?

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If you live on your own dinner takes about 10 minutes to eat on your own. Cooking a meal and spending hours creating great food for one’s self is a soulless pastime. On occasions I will have a cooking day just for me but really the enjoyment is not the same as if you have someone to share the food with. Cooking and Eating are definitely not therapeutic for me.  In fact it can make you sad or melancholy. However some people do find cooking therapeutic, just not me. Comfort food is not part of this equation!

Reading is a good way to escape into someone elses’ life, but I personally can only read for short periods, an hour maybe. Sometimes the book you are reading triggers personal thoughts and you drift into another place, returning to the empty pages having absorbed little. Sometimes the escape is exactly what you need.

Movies are I think a great escape and these days the Rialto theatres have many fantastic slice of life movies. The movies are a great place to shed a tear and have a small time of self-pity or indulgence of your emotions…however mostly I find the movies uplifting and shake me out of any melancholy feelings I may have had.   The fact that other people’s lives are such a drama helps one realise how fortunate you are. Some movies I avoid if the story is too poignant to my situation but as the years have gone by I cope and enjoy these movies too.

Painting is not something I have never tried although I sometimes dream I am a painter!   I think this is a great interest for people and one you can dabble in paint at any age. There are many art classes in most communities and you can express your feelings with colour and the stroke of a brush. Studying an interest like painting means you can google artists work and read their stories online . You can  participate in this activity alone or with a group. There are always exhibitions to see; definitely an interest to consider for men and women, you don’t have to be a Ralph Hotere or a McCahon  to enjoy it.

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Word games these days are readily available. Suduku and Crosswords in the paper are popular.  My personal preferences are Brainium ( a type of Solitaire) and Words with Friends on the iPad. These keep your mind active and while away plenty of spare minutes. Words with Friends is Scrabble and you can play with a friend, with an opponent the internet find you or play against the computer. One of my friends plays 30 games at a time and she works!  Games like Angry Birds help with hand-eye co-ordination ( turn the annoying music down ). So check out the huge game world on your computer or iPad. Bridge and Fishing Games are also online options, but don’t forget to turn them off and be sociable as well 🙂

Photography is for me, of course, the most therapeutic activity I can think of. The most enjoyment, fills in the most hours and can be done alone or with others. Anyone can pick up a camera. A woman I know was 88 and in a wheel chair when she took up photography. She did all her creative work in her kitchen using coloured cellophane paper and imagination. Awe-Inspiring images were the result. I will never forget this woman for her determination to pursue her love of photography. See the photos of Jeannie with the tripod on her mobility scooter.

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Photography is  created within your soul, your heart, your eyes. The best way to stop dwelling on a problem or feeling sorry for yourself is to take your camera for a walk.  You are looking for a subject to photograph, not thinking about yourself. The iPhone, point and shoot or an expensive SLR camera, it doesn’t matter, the exercise is the same. You will stop thinking about you! After 30 minutes or more you will be a much happier person and hopefully have taken a few photos of the beautiful world we live in. Seeing is a gift, use it. Look in your garden – look closely there will be insects, dewdrops, leaf patterns as well as the obvious flowers. You don’t need to leave home to create good photos.After you sit back down at home download your photos and play with them with the amazing free software available. Picasa or Snapseed, Photoshop for iPad etc. Turn your image into monochrome or sepia, play with your images, add borders; seriously there are hours of free entertainment to be had. There are tutorials free online, thousands of them.  BLIP is a place you can challenge yourself to take one photo a day and upload it. It is called ’Blipping’ and people love it, you comment on work and they comment on yours – all if desired, under a pseudonym. Never forget the little moments. Keep a simple record of your life with just one photo a day, it becomes contagious but it is an activity that is great therapy and fun.

You can join clubs, not everyone is a club person but there are many amazing groups of people. We all know about tennis and bowls, golf and bridge clubs. Spending time with like minded people is therapeutic. Consider also Ikebana, Floral art,  Computer, Camera clubs, Probus, Art groups etc.

Writing is something I hear people talking about. “ I want to write my memoirs” they say it, but often never quite get started. I urge you to keep a book and write a few ideas down. A page here and there, a concept, an outline or maybe just the subject. These days it is easy to self publish using companies like the online BLURB Books in the USA. They have templates for photo books and text books so you can be creative or just follow a design. You can combine photos with words, it is a most satisfying activity that is not beyond any of you. Seriously contact me if you need assistance.  In New Zealand you can go onto Grab One and buy a half price book template from Kroma for $30-40, or if you use a MAC they have a book making program. I am talking hard cover books of good quality. Blurb are better quality than Kroma but cost twice as much due to the postage from overseas. There are numerous other book publishing companies around too and the great thing is you only need to order one book. There is a book in every one of you…start today!and serious;ly contact me if you need help, I’m on the end of an email every day! lynnmc46@gmail.com

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Many of you know all of this but there are many folks I know struggling with decisions on what to do when retired or laid up with health problems  – this blog is for them ENJOY.

Restaurants so often get the small things wrong :(

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10 tips for  restaurants/cafes.

1/

Why do restaurants serve rock hard butter with fresh soft bread?? It’s impossible to spread so starts the meal on the wrong foot. Iced butter is the worst!

2/

Why do some restaurants have loud throbbing music at dinner hour when the age group of their customers is 65 plus on average – people our age like to talk to each other!

3/

Restaurants that ask for your credit card! Banks tell us never to part with our credit cards as these days a waiter can so easily photograph the number on their cell phone and have a shopping spree!

4/

Restaurants that forget about you after the main course – like you are invisible –

5/

Restaurants that charge  $16.00 a glass of wine not even 1/3 full!  Come on be reasonable! Err on the side of generosity not under it.

6/

Wait staff that are too lazy to walk around the table  to fill water glasses and rudely lean across in front of diners.

7/

Wait staff that clear the plates from some diners before everyone has finished eating.

8/

Cracked and broken china is also far to frequent, and un-hygenic, should we send the food back to the kitchen?

9/

Wait staff with no periphery vision, trying to get  their attention is like hanging on the phone to speak with the IRD! Or staff that ask how the meal is when clearly you haven’t even started eating!

10/

Good wait staff are worth their weight in gold, treat them like royalty :):)

I really  do appreciate and support restaurants with well trained staff, many Auckland restaurants train their staff to a very high standard, amongst them the Hip Group,  others don’t seem to bother with staff  training. Your thoughts and comments welcome. 

Sydney Food fad

Sydney Flavours
Smashed Avocado is served for breakfast brunch and lunch in many Sydney restaurants/cafes. Eugenes in Bronte http://www.eugenes.com.au/ make their Avo smash with Bulgarian Feta and mint…delicious.
Top Hat Cafe in Clovelly also does a great Avocado smash.. and their coffee is pretty dam good too!
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In Auckland The Foundation have a variation of this dish but it’s not as good! http://www.thefoundationespressoroom.co.nz/
Please tell me if you know anyone who serves this delicious food somewhere near you-
Avocados cost almost $5-00 each in Sydney, so we are lucky in NZ as I can buy a bagful for $5.00 here.
Avocado smash is simple to do at home..

RECIPE

Mash soft avocado with feta and a squish of lime serve on five grain or sourdough toast. Optional serve a quail egg poached on top or a fresh farm egg… Alternatively chop in a little crispy bacon.
Salt and pepper of course if you usually use these seasonings my favourite is a salt I buy at the Takapuna flea market on a Sunday morning. The range of BBQ seasonings is extensive , my fave is a mixture of “coriander seeds, black pepper, salt, fennel, mustard, cumin onion capsicum turmeric and sugar” …so it is easier to buy it ready made from the supplier, Shadie Stables Pukekohe ph 092388275, you won’t be disappointed.😀
Happy eating..

kiwigran about travel food and photography

I am Lynn Clayton and own my own website – Lynn Clayton Photography. On my website you will learn more about me and see my favourite images. My American grandchildren call me Kiwigran and many others do too!! I am passionate about photography and my first love is my family and friends. I try and make every day count ( it could be your last) and I always find something to smile about… I hope you will too.

My latest food discovery surprised me on several counts. Firstly I discovered it in a land famous for mushy peas,secondly I had never heard of it and thirdly I reallly really liked it. I am talking about Samphire. Marsh samphire has vibrant green stalks, similar to baby asparagus, with a distinctively crisp and salty taste and is a delicious accompaniament to  grilled sea bass or I think snapper. I came across it in a farmers market in Sussex and again in a restaurant in the same location. Often imported from Israel  and sometimes harvested in coastal England. New Zealanders are still to discover the wonderful flavour of Samphire.

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Remember:
‘There’s a sunrise and sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them’.