I received a lovely parcel in the courier this morning from Yates New Zealand. As I mentioned in the gardening section of In the Circle, I was placed runner up for the best use of Yates products in the Yates Spring Veggie Gardening Challenge in 2018. The prize was $200 worth of Yates products. You can see the products I won in the photo above.
For those of you outside New Zealand, Yates is a leading supplier of seeds and gardening products. The Yates family and business goes back many generations. I have great respect for the brand, which is why I decided to enter the competition despite being so busy around the garden in spring. Over the years, people from Yates have helped me tremendously, generously sharing their knowledge and passion for gardening. I’d like to share the thank you letter which I wrote to Yates and sent off today.
10 January 2019
To the team at Yates,
Yates Spring Veggie Growing Challenge 2018
I just wanted to say thank you so much for the Runner Up prize package I received by courier today, for the best use of Yates products. As a newcomer to the Challenge, I was elated with this outcome. The products I have been given will certainly be put to good use around our garden.
Although it was very challenging trying to maintain an interesting and active blog while developing the summer garden, I found participating in the competition incredibly rewarding. Admittedly, blogging was extra work I created for myself, but I actually found that it helped shape the garden. Writing about what I was doing around the garden - and what I wanted to do in the garden – gave me a greater sense of direction. I also learnt a lot from Sarah the Gardener and the other participants. Reading other blogs motivated me to be more active outdoors and to try to make the garden even more successful than previous years.
It’s of course difficult to promise that I’ll definitely enter again next spring because it depends on my other commitments and of course whether the competition will be held, which we shouldn’t take for granted. But all in all, it was a great experience and I will certainly do my best to return to the fold in September.
Finally, I wanted to single out a couple of individuals at Yates and thank them. I’d like to say a special thank you to Chris the Horticulturalist who without fail responded to my numerous gardening queries by email. I really appreciate his advice, which is always spot on. I’m also grateful to Shaun, who I met at the Mitre 10 Gardening Club event at Mitre 10 Mega Manukau last November. Sean helped me resolve a number of issues which had cropped up in the garden during spring.
I have the greatest respect for all of you at Yates because you are true experts in the gardening field (no pun intended) and have developed high quality, effective products which are constantly evolving to address new problems, pests and diseases. I can’t wait to use the products in my prize package – many of which are new to me – and will be sure to follow up on them in my blog, which I decided to continue after the competition closed because I enjoyed writing about the garden so much.
Thank you once again.
Are you sick of people asking you personal questions and insulting you to your face? Do you get annoyed at how the right comeback always seems to come to you later on? You’re not alone. Unfortunately, in the past couple of years, I have increasingly experienced both of these. I’ve also been badly hurt by people very close to me and gossiped about in the neighbourhood. I have written a short post on this subject, which you can read here. I wanted to share some further thoughts in order to help others who lack the confidence to speak up in these situations. Intrusive questions often mean that you have to give away more than you want to reveal and you end up compromising your privacy. My poor aunt was forced to tell her busybody next-door neighbour about her son’s recent separation from his wife, even though it was something she didn’t really feel ready to discuss. When people insult you, it can be very upsetting. I used to work in biglaw, surrounded by educated, high-achievers who didn’t behave in this manner. They had much more class. Since I developed schizophrenia, my life has completely changed. No longer protected by the corporate bubble and now living in a low socio-economic area because my condition has impeded my ability to work, I have become exposed to people from all walks of life. While this is character building on one level, it has also made me realise that not everyone is quite as refined as the people I am used to associating with. But no matter how educated you are or where you work, you might still not be able to protect yourself from a family member or neighbour who behaves like this. When I was younger, I avoided confrontation at all costs, because I found it awkward dealing with these situations. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become very straight down the line and call it as I see it. The good news is that it does get easier to speak up when people upset you. By opening up about my experiences, I hope I can help others to learn how to as well.
1. When people ask you very personal questions
This has been a problem with our neighbours, who are very nosy and were all over my mental illness even though we didn’t discuss it with them. They all saw Counties Manukau visit me when I wasn’t well in a health board vehicle. They’re always peeping out of their window, spying on us! They have asked us the following questions:
At the time, I was very unwell, so I just politely said that I would prefer to keep some professional distance between us. Now that I’m much stronger, my attitude has hardened and I take the view that if people behave like uneducated trash, they will be treated as such. In this situation, I think it’s fine to respond by saying:
Another little tip - if you limit contact with people who are nosy, they don’t have the opportunity to ask very personal questions!
2. When people gossip about you behind your back
In my experience with our neighbours, people who ask extremely personal questions are probably gossiping about you behind your back. Unfortunately, you can’t really do much about this, except be flattered that people find you interesting enough to talk about. Some people have no goals and hobbies. They are not looking to improve and challenge themselves in life. I’m not one of those people and find it difficult to understand how people can be like this, but there are a lot of them in this world.
If people are always talking about you behind your back, it’s fine to refuse to speak to them. Diplomacy doesn’t work with people like our neighbours. If you pretend as if nothing is wrong and talk to them when they see you, they will pump you for information about your life and continue gossiping about you behind your back. If you cut all contact with them, it will actually drive them nuts as they won’t know what’s going on in your life!
3. If someone close to you really hurts you
As I have mentioned in a previous post, my ex-best friend set me up with a guy behind my back. I went to a restaurant with her, thinking we would be having dinner together only to have my “date” walk in, unbeknown to me! Not only did she trick me, but she also picked someone that was way beneath her own standards, which said a lot about how she perceives me. I also found it extremely condescending that she chose someone with health issues on the grounds that we “could relate to each other”. She rationalised her behaviour by saying that she went behind my back because I might have shut the door on a possibility. I was outraged that she went over the top of me rather than respecting my right to say no. I ended the friendship.
4. When someone insults you to your face
Incident one. We used to go to a local beauty salon for eyebrow threading. The beautician’s husband was often lurking in the waiting area, despite the fact that it is a female beauty parlour, ironically reflected in the name of the business. As I have mentioned before, I have really struggled with my weight since the onset of schizophrenia, due to the side-effects of anti-psychotic drugs. The beautician’s husband told me that I was overweight and also pointed out that I had pimples. At the time, I was very unwell and too shocked to respond, but later burst into tears. On a side note, he doesn’t exactly look like George Clooney himself. I stopped going to that beauty salon and didn’t say anything to the owner, but the incident bothered me for a long time. A week ago, I actually returned there. I asked if I could speak to the owner in private after my treatment and told her what had happened. I explained that was why I stopped going to her and asked if she could sort it out for me so I was able to return to her, without the same thing happening again. I felt proud of how far I have come, even though it took me a long time to learn to speak up when people upset me.
Incident two. The Combat instructor at my previous gym always used to single me out on my technique in class. He would get off the stage each time and come up to me during the class to correct me. I hated being picked on and it destroyed my confidence. I didn’t like being put down infront of others. I couldn’t complain to the manager because he was the manager. I stopped going to that gym and re-joined Les Mills in Howick. I’ve never looked back. I also run and swim outdoors for cardio mostly, so I don’t leave myself open to being put down in classes. If I do a class, I try to make it a virtual one so there isn’t an instructor present!
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t come up with the right comeback straight away or say nothing at all like me. It’s natural to feel shocked and upset if people behave like this. You also might be weaker if you’re not well, like I was at the time of these incidents. As incident one above illustrates, you can always sort things out later on, even if it’s not as effective as nipping it in the bud straight away. It’s certainly worth doing if it’s still eating away at you as it did for me for a long time. As for the beauty salon, I’ve decided to continue going to the other place I found. It’s a bit like the incident with my ex-best friend. Trust is fragile. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. If someone really hurts you once, there is a chance they can always do it again.
As 2018 draws to a close, now is an ideal time to start thinking about your goals for next year. Need some help with this task? To read about the importance of setting goals, as well as some tips for doing so, please click here.
Here is a list of the goals I have set myself so far for 2019:
1. Mental health
3. Weight loss journey
Ever wish things could be different in your life? Change is possible, if you set some realistic goals and work towards achieving them. In my last post, I reflected on my achievements in 2018. I’m still thinking about my goals for next year but in the meantime, I thought I would write about the importance of setting goals.
Why set goals?
Who should set goals?
Everyone! Age is no barrier. Setting goals is not just for young people! When I was at university studying towards my BA 20 years ago(!), there was an elderly person in one of my English literature classes who had obviously made it a goal to attend university and obtain a degree (or at least complete a paper). As I have mentioned previously, I am currently participating in the YMCA 10k Summer Series. Some of the elderly runners are still doing marathons and half marathons (not to mention making it a goal to participate in the 10k series!). Very inspiring stuff.
When to set goals
Any time! A lot of people like making new year’s resolutions, whereas I prefer to think of them as goals I am working towards. Whether you choose to set your goals at the beginning of the year or at any other time, remember that you can revise your goals at any time. If you realise that you’ve set the bar is too high and your goal is unattainable, lower it. If you have already achieved a goal, set a new one! Don’t forget that it’s perfectly fine to set a goal for the following year (or even later). When I started the YMCA 10k summer series in September, I set a goal to run the course in a time of under one hour by the end of the series in April 2019.
How to set goals
Tips for goal-setting
As we progress rapidly through December, now is a good time to take stock and reflect on the year that has been. It has perhaps been my best one since 2010, when I had my first psychotic episode. I worked very hard this year and managed to get myself to a good place in many areas of my life.
1. Mental health – I had a psychosis in February but by April, I managed to pick myself back up again. When I recovered, an idea came to me. Taking meds all the time didn’t work for me because of the toll it took on my physical health, so I moved away from that and only take them when relapses occur. But instead of only taking meds when I’m sick, what if I took them periodically while I’m well, as a pre-emptive measure to prevent the onset of a psychosis? In June, I took my meds for two weeks and will do the same again in December, when the YMCA takes a break from the 10k series which I am participating in every week (more about this below and also in a separate post in future). At the moment, it is too soon to say definitively whether this method is effective, but I haven’t had a relapse since February last year, which was ten months ago. It seems promising though and I will provide an update on this some time next year.
2. Weight loss journey – I managed to lose 25 kg over the past five months without fad dieting or exercising excessively. As you might recall me mentioning in a previous post, the community gym I joined at the start of the year simply wasn’t working for me, so in July I re-joined Les Mills and started training at the Howick branch. It was the best decision I’ve ever made. I see a trainer called Alice every week for motivation and support. Her brother Dan also helped me for a few weeks when Alice was on holiday earlier in the year. When I first started training at Les Mills back in July, I was 93.3 kg. At my last weigh-in yesterday, I am now 68.3 kg. I would still like to make further progress but am happy that I am out of the danger zone for diabetes. My blood sugar levels are very well controlled now that I have lost weight. The interesting thing is that although I am considerably heavier than my previous goal weight, my body composition (ie body fat percentage) has improved. I am now at 22% body fat, whereas I used to be a trim 60 kg but at 27-29% body fat. I am very pleased with this development and am keen to make even further progress with Alice’s help next year.
3. YMCA 10k summer series – In parallel with wanting to lose weight this year, I also really wanted to compete in the YMCA’s 10k summer series in the Auckland Domain, which kicked off in September when daylight savings began and runs until April, when daylight savings ends. So far, I have managed to compete in every weekly race, inspite of the weather (and there have been some horrible days). To date, my PB for the course is 1 hour 4 mins 9 seconds. I hope to bring my time below an hour by the end of the series in April. Normally I exercise first thing in the morning, but there is something really nice about running at twilight. There is also something about the Domain. It’s a special place for me. I used to run there a lot while I was at university, so it holds a lot of good memories. I can lose myself in the run and it makes me forget all my problems.
4. Garden – I had a very full winter garden this year and my summer garden looks like it could well be the biggest yet. I also entered the Yates Spring Veggie Growing Challenge, blogging about the garden nearly every day. On top of managing the garden and fitting in my training, this was challenging but incredibly rewarding. To read more about my gardening achievements in 2018, please click here.
What is in store for me in 2019? I will cover my goals for next year in a separate post soon.
Recently, I wrote a blog post about how to save money while gardening. I thought that it might be a good idea to write a more general post about ways that we can save money on a day-to-day basis. In my opinion, economising is important no matter how much (or little) money we have for many reasons:
o It helps us manage our funds more effectively so they go further
o It enables us to use the money we save for other essential and non-essential items
o It might allow us to put aside some money (or extra money) as savings for the future
o Saving money or getting a bargain makes us feel good!
o It sets a good example to our children and instils a healthy attitude to money from a young age
Grow your own fruit and veggies
Those of you who are familiar with In the Circle will know how much I love gardening. I have devoted an entire media channel to the subject of gardening under the umbrella of Anita’s Garden. Having a garden can help you to save money. Fruit and veggies are expensive. By growing your own, you’ll save a fortune. You’ll also have access to the freshest, tastiest goods around at the convenience of your door step. Gardening gives you a form of free exercise and it will encourage you to be outdoors and make the most of good (or bad) weather.
Don’t forget that you can also save a bundle while gardening! To read more about economising in the garden, you can read my blog post here.
Advertising in brochures and catalogues
Many shops put out a brochure or catalogue from time to time, advertising specials. Some supermarkets release a brochure advertising weekly specials. Don’t be one of those people who has a “no junk mail” or “no circulars” sign on your mailbox. You could be missing out on valuable information which will save you money!
Reduced to clear goods at the supermarket
Some supermarkets reduce fresh foods such as bread, meat, fish and dairy products a day or two before they are due to expire. Stocking up on these items while you are doing your supermarket shopping will reduce your grocery bill dramatically. As with purchasing any edible item at the supermarket (be it fresh or processed), it’s advisable to check the freshness of the product before buying the item.
Check and save supermarket dockets as they sometimes entitle you to a discount on fuel. Consider using public transport, which also saves you on parking costs.
Weekly phone deals
Fortunately, the cost of having a mobile phone has decreased over the years because everyone has one these days. Keep an eye out for special deals on additional data and calling minutes. Vodafone run a scheme called Fantastic Fridays. Sometimes, you can even “purchase” off-peak data free!
I used to purchase contact lenses from the optometrist. Then I discovered a site called Smart Buy Glasses. I order what I need from this site and it saves me a fortune.
Take advantage of coupon websites such as Grabone, Groupon and Treat Me. These sites offer deals and discounts on dining, entertainment, services and goods. I recently bought a bunch of vouchers to Event Cinemas for just $10 each. The normal price of admission to the local cinema costs $18.50. Ouch!
The website First Table is worth checking out if you like dining out. Bookings made through the website allow diners to receive 50% off food for early dining.
Savings can also be made on the spot. Some restaurants offer lunch specials. Our favourite local Indian restaurant has a $12 lunch special, which includes a curry, rice, naan and soft drink. An absolute bargain!
The Entertainment Book
If you enjoy eating out (or going out more generally), you’ll love the Entertainment Book. This handy book is full of discount coupons for dining, entertainment, professional services and travel. The Entertainment Book comes out every year and coupons are valid for an entire year. Proceeds go to charity, so it’s for a good cause, too.
Most stores have sales from time to time. Save money on appliances, electronics, clothing, shoes and much more by shopping during sales. Sign up for emails from your favourite stores so you receive alerts and know when sales or specials are on.
Barter, negotiate, and haggle over prices
Did you know that you can haggle over prices in New Zealand, not just in Asia? I discovered this a few years ago when I needed to update my laptop and camera at JB Hi Fi a few years ago. I naively thought that in New Zealand, the price tag signalled the end price but it appears that I was wrong! It never hurts to ask if there is a “better price”. All the sales assistant can say is no.
These days it seems as though every store has a loyalty card. It sometimes feels like a hassle to join yet another loyalty programme but you may be missing out on an excellent way to save money and receive incentives. Start by getting a supermarket loyalty card and go from there.
Some universities and training institutes offer services by students at reduced rates. The local MIT offers hairdressing at a salon, dining at cafes and restaurants, barista made coffee, a bakery, a florist and a plant nursery all at heavily discounted rates. Besides, you’ll be supporting students of today, professionals of tomorrow.
Subscriptions to newspapers and magazines
Cancel your subscription to a hard copy version of the newspaper and magazines. Most newspapers and magazines allow you to read articles for free, or at least a limited number of articles such as the New York Times. Alternatively, get an electronic subscription. A subscription to the electronic version might have a reduced subscription rate, such as the New York Times. Not only will this save you money, but it’s also much better for the environment.
The cost of a gym membership can be crippling. The Exercise Association of New Zealand offer heavily subsidised gym memberships to members of the community who have not had a gym membership in the past twelve months. I used this scheme to purchase a gym membership to my local gym, which you can read about in this post. I received my gym membership for half of the normal price, making an annual membership an absolute bargain.
Shop from China
I was always a little dubious about purchasing goods direct from China on websites such as AliExpress. That is, until I started selling plants in my little nursery and needed to purchase lots of plastic plant labels. The cost of sourcing them within New Zealand was just too high and I actually found a better product from China on the AliExpress site. Shopping from China makes sense. After all, most stores in New Zealand import their goods from China. You might as well cut out the middleman and buy direct!
Consider taking your holidays off-peak when prices are lower. You might want to think about taking the family on a cruise as it’s all inclusive and generally works out cheaper than paying for accommodating and dining. You can read my blog post on cruise holidays here.
If all else fails, you can always have a staycation. There are lots of things you can do in your own city. Go sightseeing. Be a tourist in your own town or city. Visit museums, parks, beaches and galleries. Go to the community swimming pool. Ours is free. Alternatively, simply stay at home. Turn your garden into a summer sanctuary. Make your home a place you never want to leave!
This is a very light-hearted drama about a girl’s struggles with her insecurities. One day, she bumps her head at the gym and mistakenly wakes up believing that she is beautiful and thin.
Starring: Amy Schumer, Adrian Martinez, Rory Scovel, Michelle Williams, Lauren Hutton, Busy Philipps, Aidy Bryant, Naomi Campbell
Plot: The film begins by introducing the main character, Renee Bennett (Amy Schumer), a 20-something young girl who lives in New York and works in IT in a grungy basement in Chinatown, the back office of a leading cosmetics retailer, Lily Le Claire with her colleague Mason (Adrian Martinez).
Renee suffers from a low self-esteem stemming from poor body image. This isn’t helped by a sales assistant in a clothing store informing her that larger sizes are available online when Renee goes clothes shopping.
One day, she attends a fitness class at Soul Cycle and hits her head. She blacks out from concussion and wakes up, believing that she is beautiful. Renee annoys her best friends Viv (Aidy Bryant) and Jane (Busy Philipps) by being so obsessed with her image and her belief that it has changed, as this is only the case in Renee’s mind. Everyone one else sees her as they always have.
Renee has the confidence to apply to the headquarters of Lily Le Claire for a position as receptionist. She is successful in her application and starts working on the front desk. Renee impresses Avery Le Claire (Michelle Williams) and her grandmother (Lauren Hutton) with her knowledge of how to pitch a bargain line to be sold at Target and appeal to working class women. Renee even catches the eye of playboy Grant (Tom Hopper), Avery’s sister.
Renee has the confidence to give her phone number to Ethan (Rory Scovel), a man who is waiting in line behind her at the dry cleaners, and they start dating. On their first date, she enters into a bikini contest. While she does not win, she puts on an incredible performance and a man at the bar tells Ethan how lucky he is to be with her as she is such a lot of fun to be around. Ethan tells Renee that he likes her because “you’re so yourself”.
While Renee is on a business trip to Boston, she hits her head again and wakes up realising with horror that she has reverted to her former self. She is devastated. She breaks up with Ethan, only to later apologise to him. He takes her back and makes it clear that he loves her exactly as she is. She also reconciles with Viv and Jane, who accept her apology for being so self-obsessed and vain.
In a speech advertising the bargain line of Lily Le Claire, Renee has a realisation that her appearance did not change at all during the course of the film. She tells the audience that true beauty and confidence come from within, not from the cosmetics they use.
Address: Unit B1, 9 Gooch Place, Howick
Phone: 09 535 2222
Yesterday, mum and I dined at a Chinese restaurant in Howick called San Hou. For a long time, we had been searching for an authentic Chinese dining experience and didn’t care if the restaurant wasn’t fancy. We finally managed to find what we were looking for.
The menu is very extensive and to me, was a little confusing. This was quickly sorted by chatting to the waitress, who helped us decide what to order. She said that basically any of the noodle dishes could be done exactly as we liked, which was a nice thing to hear! There were so many choices though – beef, chicken, pork or fish? Seafood? What kind of noodle? Rice? Crispy? Egg? Or maybe you prefer rice? Soup or dry? You could visit this restaurant so many times and probably still not scratch the surface of what they have to offer.
After much deliberation, we decided on some vegetarian spring rolls ($6), vegetarian steamed buns ($6) and vegetarian dumplings ($8) to begin, followed by chicken rice noodles ($12). The spring rolls were small, crunchy and very tasty. The steamed buns were superb. The texture was light and slightly chewy, and the filling contained some lovely vegetables, delicately cooked. The dumplings were quite unusual and I was apprehensive to try them at first: green almost ravioli like in appearance but delicious. I need not have worried. They were superb, like all the starters.
The main dish, the chicken rice noodles, was divine. The flavour of the dish could be tasted throughout. The chicken was well cooked and there was also some bok choy, which was lovely. At first, after ordering rice noodles I wondered if I had made a mistake and if I should have ordered egg noodles. I need not have worried. The rice noodles were lovely and perhaps a little lighter in texture than egg noodle dishes I have tried at other restaurants. In any event, there is always next time. We will definitely be back for more samplings.
1 Queen Street, Auckland City
Price: $$ (average)
Style: Fast food/burger joint
Today, mum and I had lunch at Lord of the Fries in Auckland City. This restaurant is in fact a caravan with limited seating on picnic tables outdoors. The amazing thing about Lord of the Fries is that it is 100% vegan, yet does not compromise on taste. It serves up a delicious range of burgers, fries (the name of the restaurant takes after its fries, for which the restaurant is most famous and what it first started serving), hot dogs and sides such as onion rings.
Neither of us is vegan, but I had read some good reviews for Lord of the Fries, so we decided to add it onto our list of restaurants to dine at. We enjoyed the morning at Mission Bay. I took a long walk along the waterfront and we had coffee at the Coffee Club, then returned to the city to have lunch.
There was so much to choose from, so we pondered over the menu for a little while. We had a couple of vouchers for burgers and fries from the Entertainment Book. A quick check with the girl behind the counter revealed that we could use them both, which was good. We each ordered Spicy burgers ($10 each), one kumara fries ($7.50), one shoestring fries ($6.50) and one onion rings ($8). To complement the fries, we ordered the Parisienne sauce, which was aioli.
The burgers contained a vegetable patty, lettuce, vegan cheese, pickles and a delicious spicy jalapeno sauce. We had ordered a big size, which is suitable for an adult. They were incredibly filling. The kumara fries were also lovely. It had been a long time since I have had kumara fries so it was a welcome treat. The shoestring fries were perhaps the best I’ve ever tasted. Both fries went well with the Aioli sauce. I have only ever had the pleasure of eating onion rings once before in my life, when Burger King put out a vegetarian burger for a limited time while I was at university. These onion rings were crunchy in texture and absolutely delicious.
I would whole-heatedly recommend Lord of the Fries to other diners, whether they are vegan, vegetarian or carnivore. The food was prepared quickly, was delicious and very filling. The portions are also very generous. Make sure you go hungry so you have lots of room to try different things from the menu!
Price: $$ (average)
Style: Chinese Vegetarian
Comments: Today, mum and I visited the Chinese Buddhist Temple Fo Guang Shan (16 Stancombe Road, Flat Bush, Auckland). The Temple and surrounding gardens are very tranquil. It is a nice peaceful spot to enjoy a quiet moment or even relax with a good book. There is an information desk with news of upcoming events.
After looking at the bookshop, temple and enjoying the gardens, we had lunch at the Waterdrop café. The menu is extensive and contains a well-priced range of Chinese vegetarian cuisine. We settled on having the spring rolls ($5/2 pieces), steamed buns ($6/2 pieces), Sui Mai dumplings ($6/6 pieces) and the fried egg noodles with vegetables and tofu ($18).
All of the dishes were absolutely delicious and tasted quite authentic. We will definitely be back to sample some of the other appealing items on the menu.
Even if you come here with the goal of having lunch or morning or afternoon tea, make sure you leave enough time to stroll the magnificent grounds.