Listening to … Damien Rice

I’m so excited!  Tonight I heard the new song from Damien Rice.  My friend Bridget introduced me to Damien when I was living in Dublin.  We’d got talking about music and discovered we had similar tastes and she asked me to go with her to see Damien in a concert at the Olympia Theatre.  I still have the ticket, and it’s not even faded.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Damien had at that point released a few EPs and his debut album “O” was just out or about to come out (I can’t remember which, it’s 12 years ago, after all!).  The concert at the Olympia Theatre was one of the most memorable I’ve been to.  It was the first time I’d been there, and the concert was on Damien’s birthday.  He slowly got drunk on stage as he celebrated with everyone, and when he was presented with a cake at the end, it turned into a food fight on stage.  The antics were, however, overshadowed by the brilliant performances.  It can be hard to go to a gig when you’re not familiar with the songs.  But I was drawn in so quickly by the songs, the melodies, the mix of guitar and cello (which has always got me), along with the other instruments, that by the end of the night I was a fan.  When we left the theatre by the side door and walked back down the alley to Dame Street we discovered Damien had moved out on to the footpath with his guitar and was “busking”.  For a good 20-30 minutes before the Garda arrived and moved on the traffic that was spilling out on to the road.

After “0” came “9” – about four years later.  I was back home in NZ by then and ordered my copy from an Irish website so I could get it more quickly.  So it’s been 8 long years for him to produce a new album, which is due at the end of October.  The track I heard tonight brought back the talent I saw on stage.  Falsettos, use of strings, a touch of punk attitude, and a song that builds up with tension.  There’s always a feeling of rawness as his songs build and that’s still there.  So yes, I’m excited and am anticipating the album due at the end of October!

 

Anniversary Day

In about about 6.5 hours, it will be exactly four years to the day, minute, hour  when Canterbury was rocked by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake that started a chain of aftershocks which included the catastrophic February earthquake and over two years of shakes, and shudders.  Our lives changed like nobody would predict and we live daily with the ongoing effects.  I wondered how to er… ‘celebrate’ the anniversary, and decided to look at it as positively as I could.  So, without further ado:

Things I’ve learned in the four years since 4 September 2010, 4.35am

  • My dodgy ticker can be quite strong
  • Rumbling noises can stop me in my tracks
  • It is important to have a wind up torch and spare batteries for your radio
  • Have an alternative heat source and a food kit
  • I can be very calm in the face of utter chaos
  • Although I live alone, my family are close
  • Flexibility is the new black
  • I quite like open spaces and warm sun
  • I am quite forward thinking
  • A house is bricks and mortar.  A home is where you, your loved ones and your friends are
  • I don’t have deep alliances to anything made out of brick, no matter how pretty it is/was.*
  • History is what you make of the future as well as what has happened in the past
  • I am over gravel, and uneven muddy carparks
  • We should encourage ideas outside the square
  • Cantabrians love to eat – we have more food venues than pre-quake
  • I like cool spaces like off beat alleys with bars, and remodelled warehouses**
  • Human spirit is amazing
  • If we work together, we can achieve ANYTHING
  • Insurers are not fun to deal with, but shooting the messenger never helps
  • There are a lot of good people working in all industries to bring our city back
  • Road cones are a proverbial pain in the ….
  • Always add at LEAST 10 minutes to a journey if you’re on a time deadline to cater for road diversions***
  • As well as a caring family spread around New Zealand I have the most amazing group of friends anyone could ask for here in Christchurch
  • I wouldn’t live anywhere else in New Zealand****
  • and finally, as I know everyone’s journey has been different and some have been very hard – I am very grateful as I am one of the luckier ones.

 

Footnotes:

*I would be upset if the Eiffel Tower disintegrated.

**am slightly wary if it’s a brick alley way.

***GPS or a fully charged phone are useful in these situations

****I would be tempted by a fully paid up move to Spain, however!

Basilica of the Blessed Sacrament

Basilica of the Blessed Sacrament

 

Favourite Places

It’s a year since my trip to Europe began. I was out for dinner with friends on Friday night and all of us have had international travel in the last year, some just very recently. The talk turned to photographs. Most of us haven’t managed to get around to printing and putting photos in albums, journals, frames. Discussion came up about your “top 10 photos” for a dining evening to share photos with others.

I printed 100 photos while I was in the motel for my EQ repairs, thinking it would keep me busy… but alas I struggled to put them in an album, which I wanted to double as a scrapbooking project.

Streamlining to 10 photos? I don’t know about that. Today I spent the day finally putting a photo book together on the computer. I’m sick with the start of a head cold, so wasn’t going anywhere or doing anything else. My 20 page photo book grew to 32 pages. I’m quite happy with the result, but there are so many photos missing!

It got me to thinking what would be my favourite place out of where I visited? I re-visited a few places on this trip. Of the new places, Strasbourg, Bordeaux were beautiful and Faenza had a special meaning. Of the places I’ve been, Paris, Barcelona and of course my other home, Dublin, rate as great places. “Too difficult!” I say.

The same with New Zealand. One of the most beautiful spots I’ve been to in New Zealand is Moeraki. I’d love to base myself there and write a book. However I adore Central Otago and the wine regions both there and in the Nelson area. The Coromandel is also beautiful.

Anyway, just for the blog, here are a few photos that made the book.

Trinity College

Trinity College

Le Tour Eiffel

Le Tour Eiffel

La Bicyclette!

La Bicyclette!

Courtyard within Castillo

Courtyard within Castillo

La Cite, Carcassonne

La Cite, Carcassonne

Menu plans pay off

Those who read my blog will know I dabble in a bit of healthy living and financial savings stuff (though I don’t really blog about the latter – I let the experts do that). One thing I have picked up over the years though is that menu planning is a great way to combine the two. Firstly you can plan the menu and therefore decide what is going to be eaten for the next week ahead including snacks. Secondly that is offset by monetary savings as you buy to a list, based on the menu plan. For me, because I plan my snacks as well, it saves me money on treats in the cafe. As I have 3 fabulous cafes to chose from in my workplace it’s important to not get to 3pm and not have something sorted. It’s too easy to go and buy a muffin/scone/cake/fudge. In fact sometimes worse than the cafes is the access to a fabulous pantry department that sells AMAZING food. (The Van H salted caramel chocolates spring to mind…).

Yes it’s hard being a foodie where I work sometimes. And I am a foodie. I love cooking, I even love the grocery shopping part. However it’s all about balance. My motto is “everything in moderation and chocolate every day!” I jest, to a degree. I do eat a lot of chocolate.

Sorry, I digress.

I am making a concerted effort to eat well at the moment. As it’s still very cold, exercise is still difficult for me, so the diet has to be main focus. However, on a cold night when you get home from a long day at work (it’s very busy and I have a lot going on) it’s very easy to just sink in to the couch and eat junk, not cook or buy takeaways. I stuck to my guns tonight though. I had planned to try a new recipe and had taken the chicken out of the freezer. So it was time to put the mini-oven on, put the meal on and within the hour I was eating a fabulous meal. I felt invigorated, re-energised and satisfied that I’d eaten something substantial, healthy and not succumbed to the easy option. If I hadn’t had a menu plan and known what I was going to do the job would have been twice as hard. I have been known to come home and ignore the defrosting meat and not cook (a BAD option, I know). This has often been because I only vaguely knew what I was going to cook. Perhaps because my day was stressful I made the concerted effort to do what was right, knowing I’d feel better, more rounded and mentally happier for following through. It’s a bit like going to yoga. The effort of getting there is hard, but it’s always worth it afterwards. On that note… I am going to yoga tomorrow after work. Yes that’s right. Friday night yoga. I’ve done it before when I’ve been unable to attend a Tuesday class and it is actually the best way to wind my week up. Let’s hope I’m still thinking that at 5.30pm tomorrow.

For those of you who like food porn – here’s a shot of my dinner tonight.

Happy menu planning!

Garlicky greens, potato gratin and grilled chicken

Garlicky greens, potato gratin and grilled chicken

Turning “bad boys” into “good guys”

When I lived in Ireland, my flatmate and his girlfriend used to call anything that was decadently naughty to eat (in the sweet genre) “bad boys”. We often had “bad boys” at supper time, while watching good quality british comedies on the tele.

One of the biggest problems I have with food is my sweet tooth. I LOVE chocolate, and ice-cream and, well anything that looks good. Gooey caramel is also a favourite and Salted Caramel is also one of my new favs. So when you’re trying to lose weight you try to avoid stuff like that. Although I have found complete denial ends in a binge for me, so I try to restrict myself. Self-control isn’t my best when I know there is a packet of chocolate biscuits in the house, however.

So I was really pleased to see this recipe in the latest Healthy Food Guide which arrived in the post yesterday (a fabulous magazine I subscribe to).

My nieces are all into various diets, some are gluten-free and others are doing the raw food diet. I could give them these, as there’s no gluten, no dairy, and they are raw. They have peanut butter, dates, cocoa, cranberries and almonds (I skipped sultanas which were in the original recipe and just added a few more dates and cranberries). Blitz in a food processor with a little warm water and voila … really yummy chocolate treats. I have tried one and as I used a dark quality cocoa they are quite rich, so one was more than enough. If you use no-added sugar or salt peanut butter, they’re even healthier, albeit still a “treat”.

I have my sweet treats for work for the week sorted. I have celery and carrot and hummus for the savoury snacks and a menu plan to aid both the finances and the waistline.

Chilled Choc-cranberry Bliss Balls ready to eat

Chilled Choc-cranberry Bliss Balls ready to eat

Working out my verse

I’ve had a busy couple of weeks. After working a 6 day week and having one day off, I had another full on week at work before flying up to Auckland to surprise my cousin for her birthday. She has three little children (the youngest just 16 weeks old, the other two under school age) and a month ago my aunt, her mother, passed away. I had been planning to go up for her birthday before my aunt passed away and having lost my parents, I know how strange those “firsts” are – particularly ones so soon after the event. It’s different but you haven’t necessarily processed all the reasons why.

The jaw-dropping reaction to her seeing me pull up in the driveway (that bit wasn’t quite planned!) was classic and we were both in tears, hugging each other within minutes. I had a fabulous couple of days, having lots of cuddles with the children (the middle boy being my god-child) and I flew home to Christchurch on the Monday to a squawking cat and the cold southerly.

Why does it seem that short weeks are so much busier than normal ones? We are in the midst of our busy period for my department so there was no shortage of things to get done, and I’m happy to say I’ve completed the week not only still sane, but with the to-do list well under control. However the cold, the busy-ness of the week and the feeling that I’ve not been home to do stuff (tired evenings don’t count!) I must admit I was seriously contemplating two things this morning before going to work:-

a) if the cat wakes me at 6am tomorrow it might not survive
b) can I spend the entire weekend in my pyjamas?

In reality the cat will survive, but have some terse words spoken to her when she demands her breakfast and alert human company. I will also get out of the pyjamas as there’s errands to run, and people to see. Still, the winter-hibernating bear in me would LOVE to return to my youth where you could, actually, get away with such a thing as staying in your pjs all weekend.

The other thing that happened this week, was the death of Robin Williams. I don’t usually get too caught up in celebrity passings. I haven’t known them. Many times the celebrities reported are people I feel shouldn’t headline the news. Mother Theresa, yes. Important people (leaders), yes. Even People Who Have Done Stuff … which in New Zealand also means anyone who has achieved anything in sport! But I feel like many of the “celebrities” (who haven’t done stuff) are not worthy of running the top line of the news for two or three days. With Robin Williams though, I felt different. I truly felt the world was a sadder place. Maybe because I’ve grown up watching him. I loved Mork and Mindy. I’ve seen most of his movies, and not only was he a comic, but he was a genuine actor. I went to Dead Poet’s Society because of Robin Williams. I fell in love with Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard in that movie too, as they were my age, and cute. That particular movie hit home with me for some reason. Maybe it’s because I love words and literature (not so much poets, as such). Maybe it’s just the whole story line. Maybe it’s because the boys were cute. I actually enjoyed Robin Williams in his more serious movies – Good Will Hunting, Awakenings. I was a bit disturbed in One Hour Photo.

The thought, however that someone so overtly full of passion, fun, love, laughter took his own life is deeply sad. I know many comics and other genius types are often melancholic or depressive types. It’s some strange conundrum or like some dud deal from God. Maybe you can only see the real beauty in life when you have seen darkness. I know from my own experiences with health I see life differently (carpe diem, in fact). Maybe we need these opposites in our lives to appreciate the whole picture. It is so tragic though for it to have come to this.

I’ve been a little melancholy myself this week with the news. Perhaps it’s winter, perhaps it’s the cold, perhaps it’s being tired. All in all though, those pyjamas have seemed rather attractive. It’s seeing the reason to just take a deep breathe, and know that I will get up, get dressed and just take the day that comes, that makes me lucky.

I surfed around trying to find a good clip of Robin Williams and returned to DPS for this clip. It’s 5 minutes long, but it’s the full scene from Mr Keating’s first class. I’m still working on the final draft of mine, but what will your verse be?

Listening to…. Elbow “Real Life (Angel)”

Elbow is one of those bands that have crept up on me, as they’ve been around for ages, and I confess I don’t own any of their albums but the more I hear of them the more I seek out back catalogue tracks on the inter web.  I love One Day, it’s very anthemic, but this latest song from their most recent album is just something really sweet.  I found this vid of the band performing, which I prefer to the official video.

Hard to sum up in one word, but I find Elbow generally, and this track, emotive.  You feel emotions when you listen to them.  Lots of varying emotions depending on the songs, but emotions.

Enjoy.