12 Things I Adore About Aotearoa (New Zealand) in Takarua (The Winter)

  1. Winter wardrobe

As a pleasantly plump mother of four, I can assure you that you will not see me out and about in daisy dukes, a midriff or a bikini. I spend all summer waiting for the temperature to drop so I can get back into the wardrobe I prefer.

I am a huge proponent of control top nana knickers, and winter gives me an amazing opportunity to don the Spanx® and some thick tights and a pair of knee-high boots.

I also love scarves, and luscious warm winter jackets.


  1. Earlier bedtime for all of us

In the summer in Auckland where we live, the sun does not set completely till late in the evening. Convincing my children to go to bed while the sun remains in the sky is a nigh on impossible task.

The long dark winter nights mean we all get snuggled in earlier. The cool nights also mean we can wrap up warm and cosy and sleep well, as long hot muggy days give way to long muggy nights in the summer here.  Winter makes us all sleepy and want to hybernate a bit.

The sun sets fairly early in the evening during the Auckland winter

The sun sets fairly early in the evening during the Auckland winter

  1. Crisp winter mornings

Early starts in the winter are great. Love the feeling just as the sunrise is peeking up over the Eastern bays as I commute the five or ten minutes it takes me to get into the office before the school drop off traffic kicks in. I get in, put on the kettle and the heater, light some soy candles and get ready for another wonderful working day. It’s fresher and nicer than hot muggy summer days in the office as far as I am concerned, and I relish these winter mornings.

Winter morning in Christchurch

Winter morning in Christchurch

  1. Foggy mornings that herald crisp sunny winter days

When the air is still and thick with fog, it generally means that the fog will burn off to clear blue skies and a crisp and still winter day that makes me stop and face my closed eyes toward the sun and feel truly humbled and blessed.

A thick fog generally means a beautiful clear day in the winter here.

A thick fog generally means a beautiful clear day in the winter here.

  1. The drive to the slopes

When Grumpy and I first started dating we liked to go down to the mountain for a ski. We spent a lot of time in the central plateau in our first couple of years of marriage, and I felt that the air was thick with magic and wonder as we drove up to Ohakune after skiving off from work at 3:00pm if we could. The shadows grow long as we travel south and dusk danced across our field of vision as we listened to Lisa Loeb and Supergroove CDs.

  1. Citrus, neeps, lovely leafy greens, and various seasonal fruits and veggies

I really like winter produce in this country. I enjoy the hearty leafy green veggies, mature carrots and potatoes, mandarins and lemons. Winter brings us a bounty of beautiful fresh produce every year here in Aotearoa.

  1. Winter wonderland weekends

Heading down to the snow. It is a time-honoured tradition for any and all Kiwis who are in a fortunate enough position to be able to afford it. Hitting the slopes in Ruapehu or Wanaka, or just arriving at the snow to drink mulled wine and play board games with friends and family, I love winter weekends away.


  1. Slow cooker comes out

Soups, stews, casseroles, dahl, curries. Throw everything in the pot before packing the kids off to school and enjoy a soothing slow cooked supper and the smells that fill the air as you walk through the door. Great stuff.

  1. Rocking to the rhythm of the rain

I adore the sound of the rain on the roof at night. It does make me rather sad to think of the thousands of people around the country that aren’t in adequate housing.  A lot of people (families, children) live in garages or uninsulated homes and cannot afford sufficient heating.  Please think long and hard about this, and research any charitable organisations you might consider donating to who are saying they are addressing poverty, or child poverty, as not all charities are doing a very good job of managing their charity dollars.  I’d put a plug in for the salvation army and even Unicef New Zealand.  Yes, the problem of poverty is so bad that we do have an on the ground United Nations presence in this country.  Just like war torn and drought ravaged nations around the world do.  Makes you think…

  1. Tea ritual

My tea ritual is important to me any time of year. It is, however, even more satisfying in the winter when I arrive in my door, slip into my most snuggly jammies, put on the kettle and watch the steam dance off my delicate china teacup as the wind and rain whip about outside, and I am safe with my tea all toasty and warm.

  1. Low season everywhere but the slopes

New Zealand empties out a lot in the winter. If you want to go someplace like Waiheke or even up to Matakana or the Bay of Islands, the throngs of tourists will not be cramping your style. Beaches are all but abandoned. Bush hikes are deserted. Tourist traps are cheap and cheerful compared to the summer months. It’s nice. It feels like New Zealand in the 90’s when I first got here.


  1. Warm cozy weekends off grid

Probably our single most favourite thing about the winter as a family, is the weekends we spend at our off-grid house just outside of Matakana. We have a large log fire that heats our water, wetback, and then the under-floor heating on the second floor landing. The decks are large and it feels like the most magical place on the face of the planet. Peaceful, away from all the worries of the world. Absolute perfection.

WinterSunriseMatakana WinterMatakanaLookingupatpines

The Best Bits

It is 3:38 am.

The baby woke me up and I can’t get back to sleep and I am just thinking about the bits that I like.

What do I mean?

Well, you know how there’s a bit in a bunch of songs that you like, and that’s your favourite bit? Or a bit in heaps of different movies that you like, or a bit about your kids, or a bit about food, or that bit about whatever activity that you can possibly think of that really makes you feel warm and happy and makes your brain think, ah, I really like that bit!

That is what I mean.

So, I am going to time myself and type freestyle till 4:00am about just some of the bits that I like:

  • That bit in Cat Stevens: “Can’t Keep It In” When he says: Now don’t you run don’t you hide… The whole song is one of my favourite bits from the very first note till the last one, I adore that song so much, but that particular bit is so great.
  • The smell of earl grey tea and the warmth of the cup in my hands as I sip it and feel relaxed and uplifted at the same time… I do like me some tea.  Yes sir-ee.
  • That bit in the Titanic movie when she realizes that wealth and “privilege” is kinda like its own prison, when she looks over and sees the young girl learning table etiquette. I’ve always liked that bit.
  • That bit when I walk in the door and my baby sees me, smiles and gives me massive cuddles.
  • That bit when I go away and someone watches the house for us while we are gone, and we get back, and it is pristinely clean and feels so good to be home.
  • That bit where we get to New York and head to the park to sit under our favourite willow tree by the turtle pond and give our baby their first ice block.
  • Any bit that involves newborn cuddles.
  • That bit when someone I thought didn’t like me says something absolutely complimentary. That’s a great feeling.
  • That bit when someone who I don’t have a great deal of faith in (so someone I don’t like very much) says or does something really awesome and cool and I can’t help but hold them in higher esteem for it. Pleasant surprises are so great when it comes to dealing with people.
  • That bit where I leave Steve in the hotel to watch the baby and I stand in line ALL NIGHT to hold his place in the line for the keynote at WWDC and meet at least five fabulous friends who are glorious geeks and we stay in touch FOREVER!
  • The key change in Woman in Chains, and watching how much all my children enjoy singing and dancing to Tears For Fears songs.
  • That bit where my eldest son delivers a wry/dry and hilariously insightful take on something that leaves me splitting my side laughing and beaming with pride at his comedic timing and ability to deliver some seriously excellent material as a total straight man. He’s been doing that as long as I can remember, basically since he could talk he has been a master of sardonic wit.
  • When my daughter snuggles in and hangs out with me and says “Guess what?… I Love you.” Heaps of times for no reason.
  • When she wins an award or certificate because, although she wins heaps of stuff like that, every single time she is SUPER excited and gracious and beaming with pride.
  • When my 4 year old just about loses his temper and brings it back and controls it and makes awesome decisions to be good and not lash out or lose it. And then he gets praised for displaying fabulous self control and he beams as bright as the sun about it and gives me huge four year old cuddles.
  • That bit when someone you respect says something nice about you behind your back and it gets back to you.
  • That bit when someone who was mean, or dishonest or bullied you turns their life around in some meaningful way and becomes a better human being, and maybe even contacts you to say: Hey, I know I was a jerk, and I am pretty sorry about that” and you can be super proud of how far they have come and you get to feel extra good about letting go of the pain they handed you, because in that moment you TRULY understand that hurt people hurt people, and it is always nice to see someone’s hurt healed up a bit or a bunch.
  • That bit where my husband pulls me into his arms and kisses me passionately in public and the kids are like: You guys are SO gross, everyone can see you!
  • That bit where I wake up in the middle of the night, and can’t get back to sleep, so I listen to my baby and my husband making sleeping sounds (tonight it was a symphony of snoring and James giggling in his sleep)
  • That bit where I look up at the clock and only have a few more seconds until I have to stop writing…

And those are just a small handful of some of the best bits… There are so many more best bits every single day.  And it was really nice to stop and just write some of them down.

Can you blame your parents for being a ‘drama queen’?

An excellent and well crafted blog on the genetics of dramatics. Ooooh, I like that, got a good ring!

Ongoing chatter from a materials girl curious about matter

The ADRA2b gene variant can cause individuals to perceive emotional event, especially negative ones, more vividly than others (image source) The ADRA2b gene variant can cause individuals to perceive emotional event, especially negative ones, more vividly than others (image source)

I’m using the term ‘drama queen’ for both genders by the way, it’s not just a female issue as the name implies, but we all know those people who seem to blow things out of all proportion, who overreact to a negative situation as if its much worse that it actually is and those who are eternal pessimists.

The question is, do certain types of people thrive from creating drama around themselves or is it a learned behaviour determined by our upbringing and surroundings?

New research published in the journal of neuroscience strengthens the hypothesis that different people see the world differently and that genetics could influence how sensitive you are to emotional information in addition to environmental factors that shape your childhood.
Research by Assistant Professor Rebecca…

View original post 485 more words

Me and my Big Amygdala Read an Article This Weekend…

I read an article posted on a friend’s wall this weekend.

The article shared 22 traits that are conducive to being an empath. The reason it grabbed me is that I have noticed myself, and at least one (if not more) of my children seem to actually feel other people’s feelings, and reading that article opened up the floodgates to me reading a collection of articles on the subject.

My husband would like to call it woo. I guess it is spiritual and, to him, airy-fairy. Even he can’t completely discount this gift or curse, as he’s been at the receiving end of me being a highly sensitive human nearly every day since we’ve been together.


Phteven has put up with weepy Dee, OTT Dee, talk to EVERYONE Dee… and after reading these articles, I guess he’s also been putting up with empath Dee?

Some studies have shown that people who identify with the traits of being an empath and/or are highly sensitive, have a larger and more active amygdala. That same group of studies say that bigger amygdala tend to have a positive correlation with larger social networks. These studies have their critics as well.

I’d hazard a guess that my Grumpy has a rather less active amygdala than mine, yet he’s one of the kindest (and most logical) human beings on the planet. He can’t remember or often even hear song lyrics though. Me and my big amygdala remember lyrics to songs I have not heard for 10 years.

So, why am I sharing this today?

There’s a number of reasons:

  • I found it really interesting
  • I need to force myself to post blogs more regularly and this subject just seemed interesting enough to expand upon
  • I have always enjoyed diagnosing myself and others, which drives some people mental. Being able to identify with things that others may also be able to identify with makes me feel a little less broken. This being an empath article was shared by someone I respect, and I felt a little less alone and had a bit of an “ah-ha!” moment reading through it
  • Its Monday, I like to keep it light on a Monday

So, I guess the thing to keep in mind as I go about my day and you go about yours is this:

We’re all different. We all have “superpowers” that we ought not be ashamed of.

Grumpy has a long list of super-powers, including his ability to be logical and remain calm. Meanwhile, his irrepressible wife is prone to outbursts of laughter, or tears, depending on the situation.


It is my considerably useful super-power to be able to actually feel other people’s joy and pain. The feeling other people’s pain bit can be a heavy burden indeed, and I think many, if not most people can identify with that feeling on some level.  Animals do it too.  My pets always knew when I needed a cuddle and were there by my side if I was sick or sad.  So, perhaps there is some simple scientifically explainable series of events that happen when we pick up on other people’s feelings.  Perhaps we are noticing subtle changes in stance, behaviour or maybe it is chemical?


I guess the difference between me, and the vast majority of people is that I am not actually able to shut it off or ignore the feelings of people around me and carry on with my day. I feel bound and determined to spread joy and comfort wherever I go, or I feel like a bit of a failure as a human being.

I’ll go ahead and hypothesise that my compulsion to be vivacious and uplifting wherever I go is due to the fact I know what it feels like to be surrounded by or bombarded with negative feelings. I don’t like it. I do like infectious kindness and joy, so that is what I aim to share. If I am unable to do so, I stay in bed and hide from the world, as my miserable is pretty contagious just like my happy.

There is no real scientific basis for any of this remember, just my own Monday meanderings.

I’ve scattered some links to articles in this blog already, but here’s a list of some interesting scientific, pseudo-scientific and total woo-tastic articles on the subject of being an empath as well as articles on the hippocampus for any budding neuroscientists out there this Monday morning.

Click to access 2006_AnnRevPsy_v57.pdf


https://theknowing1.wordpress.com/traits-of-an-empath/  (This one is WOOOOOOOtastic, not science at all)

http://www.spiritscienceandmetaphysics.com/new-study-links-social-anxiety-to-being-empath/ (Grumpy would call this woo too)

Worst Mum in the Village

Yesterday evening, on my way to bring my two eldest children to their music lessons, my 10 year old son Daniel turned to me, earnestly saying: “You know mum, I just have to inform you that you are actually the worst parent in Greenhithe” To which I replied: “Really?  That’s interesting.  And why is that?” “Because every other kid in my class doesn’t have to pack their own lunch.”  He shook his head gravely.  “They can if they want to, but all they have to do in the mornings is get dressed and brush their teeth, and their parents do their lunch box.” I laughed, and laughed, and then laughed some more.  Tears started to come out of my eyes the laughter was so strong. DysfunctionFunny When the car was safely pulled over before I booted the children out curb-side so I could get some groceries while they attended their lessons, I looked into my eldest son’s beautiful big brown eyes and said: “If that is your biggest complaint in life, we’re going to have to expose you to a bit more real life stuff.” “I know, I know, life’s tough and full of Stuff.”  He said. “Yes it is.  And you don’t have it tough at all kiddly wink.” And with that I booted him unceremoniously out of the car and headed up the hill for groceries. We provide all the ingredients for a healthy lunch in this house.  We believe in independence, chipping in, honesty, integrity, and self monitoring.  Our children are encouraged to pack their own lunch, suitcases, and take care of their own homework and the materials they need for after school activities.  Twice a week, every week my daughter yells and cries because she can’t find her dance shoes.  My response to these outbursts is always the same: “They aren’t my shoes, and it isn’t my job to look after your things.” I say to my beautiful blonde diva daughter. “You’ll thank me when you’re older and can take care of yourself.” And so it goes in our home.  We are all extremely busy.  There is a calendar for each of the four children, my husband, myself, and each of the two Tesla electric vehicles.  It is my job to look after my engagements, and to ensure the kids get to their playdates and activities.  It is my children’s job to be children, take care of their own things, and grow more and more independent every day. And for this, I am the worst mother in the entire village.  Apparently. Guess I am okay with that. Have a great day whatever you are up to.

The Sudden Death of David Goldberg

It is well after midnight.

Our one-year-old son is in bed between my husband and I as he is both teething and has the sniffles. He’s waking every 20-30 minutes. It will be a long night.


We discuss the annoying necessity of being politic and diplomatic, which is not really a strong point for either of us. Genuine, enthusiastic, passionate, knowledgeable or engaged we can both pull off effortlessly.

Suffering fools and/or “playing the game” does not, however, come naturally to either of us.

He is crafting messages, responses and presentations. Some of these are for people and entities we admire and trust, and some that make us sigh and roll our eyes, but engage we must, and engage we will.

We discuss the week ahead. It is as full as any we have grown accustomed to lately. That means we will be working from the crack of dawn till hours after the sun retires for the evening.

I ask him for the hundredth time if he has sent off the raw footage for editing or to the partners that hosted us on a recent PR trip up and down the country. He asks me if I have finished my personal bio or written the copy for one of the several websites. The answer to both of these questions (nagging) is no, but the list of things we HAVE accomplished is as vast as an ocean stretching endlessly out around us both.

This is all completely normal stuff for married couples that work together, or even in the same industry as far as we are concerned.

We each act; as sounding board, champions, devil’s advocate, support, hindrance, help, annoyance. Yet, we are a team.

I get to live every day in the knowledge that I have a partner who cares about the same things that I do. He supports me in good times and in bad. He helps to make sure our kids, household and lives keep chugging along.

He is also working vehemently and tirelessly on projects that we both feel, will make the world a better place. This makes me weak in the knees and so proud of him that I worry my heart might beat right out of my chest some days.

Sometimes we drive each other crazy with frustration or poor communication. Sometimes we get to the point we can’t even stand the sight of each other.

Most of the time, however, I can’t imagine a life where we aren’t attacking the same problems, or working towards the same goals, albeit from completely different angles.

We were married in 2004.  Just like they were.  We met in geek circles as did they.  We have eerily similar original last names, as do they.

We have four exceptional and unique children with exceptional and unique needs (all children are exceptional and unique and need exceptionally unique things as far as I am aware, just as an aside). The Sandberg/Goldberg team were sensible enough to have two children who they both nurture and support in equal measure if reports are to be believed. We are blessed with a diverse and amazing group of friends who all have integrity, make us laugh, keep us honest, and do not tolerate douchebaggery. The outpouring of Love and respect I have read lead me to believe they choose to work and play with similarly good and engaging people.

Life makes sense when we are together. I am no longer completely sure where one of us begins and the other one finishes, as we both occupy so much of the each other. Two halves of a whole, but not so much with distinguishable borders, like a coin or the well-known yin and yan symbol. At this point in our lives, I’d say we are more like an alloy. Melded quite inextricably together with heat and pressure.

Enough metaphor.

The reason I am writing this blog is that I am undeniably shaken and heartbroken by the news of the kind, clever, gloriously geeky Dave Goldberg’s passing.

Sheryl Sandberg is firmly in my top twenty, of smart girls to look up to.

These two are, or I guess more accurately now, were, the ultimate Silicon Valley power couple.

Humble, kind, successful, powerful, respected… and torn from each other when he was only 47 years old.

USA David-Goldberg-Facebook-Sheryl-Sanberg-husband-pic

I am not suggesting Grumpy and I are a power couple, or in any other way anywhere near the league of team Goldberg/Sandberg.  What I am saying, is that I have always found their relationship inspirational and relatable.  Days without my husband are unbearable.  We have seen each other nearly every day for well over a decade now, and that works for us.  I cannot begin to imagine life without this.

We are partners. We are equals.  We are astoundingly different human beings with obviously different personalities and strengths.

The idea of losing the biggest part of me is unfathomable.

The clock ticks well past 1:00am. Phteven is still working. Our four year old has joined us in our bed because he’s had a bad dream. The ten year old was not far behind him.

While I finish off this blog to be handed over for my husband to edit, he gets up to administer a dose of antihistamine to our oldest son so we might all get some much needed sleep.

Tomorrow I will be exhausted and probably pretty grumpy as is often the case these days.

But I will be thankful. I will be thankful for the moments as they occur and as they pass, and I will be thankful for every day I get to be a part of team West.

Rest well David Goldberg.