Girlfriends for seasons

“Honour the friendships that allow you to pick up from where you last left off, regardless of how long it’s been since you connected. The friendships that survive hiatuses, silences and space. Those are the connections that never die”. @la_passionate

I’ve always had this underlying feeling that friendships are for different seasons in your life, as well as for reasons.

My entire life, especially while growing up, friendships have almost always been one of my main important focuses. I place a lot of emphasis on the friendships I have made.

I’ve even categorised these friendships into very specific groups: primary school friends, high school friends, university friends, Dinner Club friends, dancing friends, antenatal mum friends, childcare friends, online mum friends, social media friends, work friends at multiple work places, family friends, school mum friends etc as though all of these friendships only exist how they each started in the groups I met them in.

I have always made time for my girlfriends. I have always prioritised the effort and work that we put into maintaining friendships that are not as current and prominent as they used to be. But I guess as I’m growing older I definitely have let some slip by the wayside. I don’t mean I’ve cancelled them or ended friendships, rather realised that as a woman, a mother and as a person, we change, our lives change and so too do our priorities. These friendships still exist and each time we catch up, we pick up where we previously left off.

It is not that a friendship becomes any less important, only it changes with time and the amount of energy that is put into it. I guess I have slowed down with being the main instigator into keeping friendships alive. There is nothing wrong with that but it can be exhausting doing all the chasing and making contact. Rather the quote above spoke to me, provided some peace and understanding about the longevity of important and everlasting friendships.

If we have put in the ground work, the hard work in those early days of friendship, experienced things that only us as friends have shared than surely that will be enough to sustain and therefore pick friendships up where we last left them off.

As we age we become less selfish about our individual needs and instead more selfish about the bigger picture. Not everything is about just us anymore, but in the same sense it is. We have other relationships to prioritise, marriages, partners, family and children as well as working and busy lives.

For me there is no better friendship than that with a close group of girlfriends who share secrets, laughs and amazing memories.

Aging can be so confronting, so each time we catch up with past friends, we are reminded of how differently we used to be. In many ways that seemed important at the time, we cherish those fond memories and the trip down memory lane over the friendships we created in our younger years. We reflect on drama, laughs, sharing memories and adventures, all the while feeling happy with where we are now.

We share so much in good friendships that we end up intertwined for the rest of our lives and to me that is the mark of a good friendship. One that picks up where we left off, transporting ourselves back to the times we shared together.

The best thing about social media for me has been staying in touch with all of my friendship group areas. Linking my past and present friends and even finding new ones. For all the bad rap social media gets, maintaining positive, mature friendships and sharing parts of ones lives, it is a precious tool to remain in contact with special people that you may not see as much anymore. I am glad though to experience social media as an ‘older’ user, without having to worry too much about online bullying and other trivial but often harmful consequences.

I love to meet my friends friends. After all , if I love my friends as much as they love their friends, surely we too would also be a match? When I was young I used to think I had to have a certain number of exclusive friends to love. No one new could infiltrate my friendship circle until a position became available. What a narrow minded way to live?

As I grow older and more comfortable in myself, I really do welcome new friends, young and old. I value getting to know new people who see the world differently to me and have experienced journeys unlike my own.

I love to learn about a new friend, what they love, what makes them tick and who they are. I used to find it hard to still be friends with someone who had different views or opinions, other than my own. I now welcome the challenge of being able to understand where someone comes from without necessarily agreeing with them.

Whether I meet new friends through work experiences, school play dates, or randomly through other people, it has become one of my favourite things to do. Make new friends.

I love the overlapping of friendship groups and socialising with new friends as well as old. While it is exciting to meet new people there is nothing more special than the comfortableness of an old friend who understands you, knows you and enjoys just hanging out with you.

All I know is that I could never have navigated through my life so enthusiastically and lovingly without the female friendships I have developed over the years. These friendships have been amazingly enlightening, thoroughly beautiful, questioningly painful but always special friendships that I have held close to my heart.

While male friendships and relationships are equally as important, I have always needed and cherished my girlfriends.

My friends have always given me a sense of worth, of self and of complete freedom to be myself even when struggling with an issue or life experience that only a true friend can share and help solve.

Honesty, loyalty and kindness. My three big factors of a true and lasting friendship.

And to all my girlfriends, past, present and future, I thank you for always being there for me.


Cultural Appreciation

Kiaora tātau

Ko Ysgyryd Fach Te Maunga (Abergavenny in Wales)

Ko afon wysg Te Awa (Abergavenny in Wales) 

Nō Takapuna, Tamaki Makaurau Ahau

Ko Rubick-Edwards-Trask Tōku Whānau

Ko Rotorua tōku kainga ināianei

Ko Jane Tōku Ingoa

I was born in Takapuna, Auckland where I spent the first eight years of my life. My whanau moved to Rotorua when I was eight and apart from University and travelling overseas, it has been home ever since.

I’ve always said if you have good friends and family surrounding you in Rotorua, then there really is no better place to live.

My father is English / Welsh and my mother is a fourth generation New Zealander.

My DNA results show that I am English, Welsh, Irish, Scottish, Northern European, German, Yugoslavian and Northern African.  

0% Māori.  

Even though it is not my own culture, I feel drawn to it. I feel growing up in Rotorua, you cannot help but feel attached and a part of Māori culture that surrounds us and informs our cultural living, learning and working environments.

Recently on social media and in the news ‘Cultural Appropriation’ has been once again highlighted. There has been an excellent discussion led by Makaia Carr and Taaniko Nordstrom on Instagram and a well written article by Debra Hunt titled “Hey, white women: Māori culture is not your birthright”, which both prompted and encouraged me to explore my uncomfortable feelings and beliefs around Māori culture and my journey in te ao Māori. (The world of Māori).

I chatted with a good friend, Sophie Williams, who holds a Doctorate in Dance, researching Māori Practices carried into Theatre Spaces,  (Dance is a passion we share) and is currently completing her secondary school teachers training. Sophie is someone I trust and love knowing that what I shared would be safe and respected as discussion and with encouragement to do better.

When we know better, we do better right?

We discussed three pieces of artwork I have in my home. Three pieces that up until yesterday I loved simply because they are of three beautiful Māori people.  She got me to question why I had such artwork in my home. My reply was that I love them, I feel drawn to them. I love the woman baby wearing her baby, something that I loved doing with my own boys when they were young.  I love the two of the older Kuia and Kaumatūa that have for the past five years graced my walls. I have nothing but adoration for them.   But my friend’s questions made me feel uncomfortable that perhaps I have them for the wrong reasons?

How would I feel about my grandparents portraits hanging in the halls of a complete stranger’s home? Were the original paintings done under the promise that they would never be sold for profit? And if so, then, had I bought into that by buying prints many years later?  I have done some investigating and found that although many of the Māori subjects being painted were happy to do so, paid for their time and loved the paintings of themselves for their whānau, they had no idea that in the future these would be sold for profit to complete strangers with absolutely no ties to them or their whānau. Many descendants of these portraits are in mixed minds. Some are completely against the selling of prints as artwork and some love to know that their ancestors are gracing the homes, museums and walls of many a stranger’s home.

Did whānau give permission for these to be reproduced as they have been for many years? And just because they have been, does it make it right?

I know I’m not so sure about having these artworks in my home anymore and that is something I will work through. Although I love them, I don’t want to be celebrating someone’s artwork if it causes another’s distress.

It made me question why? Why do I have these portraits of someone else’s whānau on my walls and not the portraits of my own? I thank my friend for her patience with my own learning and her guidance with my questions.  

It is not that we cannot or should not own or purchase Māori artworks but to have consciousness and awareness that the artworks chosen come from Māori artists who are happy to sell their own art.

Cultural Appropriation means ‘the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.’

I don’t want a part in that anymore. 

Cultural Appreciation ‘is when someone seeks to understand and learn about another culture in an effort to broaden their perspective and connect with others cross-culturally.’

That is what I want to be a part of.

Digging deeper into my own thoughts and history, regardless of how I feel now, I have ancestors that settled here in the mid 1800’s, a part of New Zealand colonisation and a part of my own cultural uncomfortableness. I acknowledge that this is a part of my history, even though it makes me feel all kinds of emotions.

My father’s family arrived much later in the 1960’s after first settling in Australia from the United Kingdom.

I’m taking a look into my own uncomfortable feelings.  I’m acknowledging my ancestors for their part, regardless of my love for them and their part in my journey of being here. I don’t hate them for their journey, after all they would have known no different.

We do not choose who we are born to. We do not choose our whānau or our family history that we had no part of. We do not choose the colour of our skin upon birth nor our upbringing or experiences that we have no control over.  But we can choose to steer our souls on a journey of acceptance and appreciation of other cultures. Understanding that being white does bring privilege regardless of others thinking it doesn’t. Flipping the coin when you hear something you don’t agree with or that doesn’t fit well with your thinking. Be brave and question. Challenge and be heard.  

I love te ao Māori . I love the culture, the language (which I must admit I have attempted to start learning about three times now and never seen it through because of life’s interruptions) and the way it weaves into our town Rotorua.

I feel vulnerable, courageous and scared but reflective in my learning. I have a long way to go.

I also reached out to Cian Eylse White, Wahine Maori Artist, who had the following korero to help support my kaupapa.

Cian says, “growing up in Rotorua, I was surrounded by Te Reo me ōna tikanga (Te Reo Māori and it’s principles), Marae, Iwi, hapū and cultural practise such as tangihanga (funerals), Pōhiri (traditional welcoming) and whānau hui (family meetings). It was also true that standing in the front row of my primary school kapa haka next to me was my Samoan best friend to the left, and my pākeha friend to the right. Over the years I’ve delved deeply into my cultural roots, having studied Te Reo Māori at university and utilising my arts and Te Reo Māori degree to create my own theatre and film company for wahine Māori voices, WAITĪ Productions.”

She had this to say about cultural appropriation in our country.  

“Over the years I have also supported my pākeha mates who have grown a fondness and a mutual respect for te ao Māori. However, as time goes by and I see the uptake of Te Reo Rangatira by pākeha women in positions of power, I can’t help but feel duel feelings- of pride and anguish. Pride, because I feel when pākeha feel connected to our culture, Māori create strong relationships and allies to continue to promote our unique fundamentals and revive our language. Anguish- because some Pākeha women in said positions of power do not understand that while the culture is to be respected, understood and valued, it is not to be owned, appropriated and/ or assimilated. Ka riro i te wahine Māori tērā (The role is for the Māori Woman to carry out).” 

“These days, I have little patience for Pākeha fragility IE “Why CAN’T I own it though? Isn’t it kiwi culture?!”, and more aroha for those, like yourself, who are learning how to embrace, elevate and engage with the culture without claiming it as your own (you can appreciate it without appropriating it). At the end of the day, I’m still learning too, we are all on a never ending journey of learning. With that learning journey comes moments of elation, devastation, humiliation and celebration. How do I help my Pākeha mates to feel safe in the discomfort of understanding their role in the history of NZ? I love, unconditionally and strive to be honest and truthful with them i runga i te aroha (in a loving manner).” 

Cian agreed that in terms of buying Māori artworks or products that “at the ore of it all, it’s about consciousness. Being aware of the process and [being] respectful.”

My friend, neighbour and local Te Arawa Rotorua Councilor Mercia-Dawn Yates assured me that reaching out is part of our continual learning.

“My Nana and Papa role modeled how to share our language and culture, so I try to emulate the same way of being.  It is simply by being present to your surroundings and who you’re with. Treat others as you would have them treat you.   Offer tautoko / support instead of criticism, be available to help and if possible offer to record the correct pronunciation for your friends if they ask, especially for Te Reo.  With regards to our culture, this too is part and parcel of ensuring my friends understand ‘the why’. Often situations are less intimidating when you have a sense of what’s going on.”

With inspiring, confident and caring Māori women standing alongside me on my journey I feel well supported to ask questions and delve into learning’s that will question my beliefs and my appreciation for all cultures.

I feel ready to continue my journey, one I can share with my own whānau and continue to have both these uncomfortable and reassuring conversations in order to move forward with our appreciation and understanding.

I must continue to remember that the Māori culture I love so much isn’t mine and to always ask for clarification and truth when I am unsure about navigating and learning through it. After all I want my boys to feel a part of the bi-cultural community they live in and to feel just as passionately as me to have cultural appreciation, not contribute to being a part of cultural appropriation.

Embracing change

Putting yourself out there for new opportunities can be one of the scariest things we face in life.

I didn’t write an article last week as I couldn’t quite put my words to paper. There was a lot going on in my daily life and in my mind. I have been doing a bit of relief teaching at my sons primary school and I am really enjoying the new challenge of teaching younger aged children. It is hilarious teaching a bunch of five year olds. One child asked if I was wearing my pajama pants (I wasn’t!) and another informed me the desk I was sitting at ‘wasn’t actually my desk!’ I got a million hugs though and enjoyed helping them to learn little things.

I started unplainjane.co.nz as a place to write. And I love what I have written so far. But as I look forward to my future and my whanau, I have decided to embrace a new challenge. I have applied to go back to teaching, not secondary this time, but at a primary school. I’m terrified of a new set of challenges, but excited to possibly take on this fixed term position.  

Obviously I have to get the job first, but it felt liberating applying after weighing up the options over the past week.   Hopefully I even make it to the interview process stage.  It was the first time in a very long time I have compiled a resume and application letter and I felt happy to complete it.

I love to teach. I love to inspire and I love motivating students to be the best they can be. I always thought that needed to be in Physical Education or Dance and at a secondary school or a dance studio, but now after a taste of what our wonderful primary teachers face every day,  I’m ready to try a completely different age group.   

I guess as a teacher with over 15 years experience I feel I have the teachers skill set to transition into primary teaching in a highly enthusiastic way.

After teaching high school students for so long in Dance and Physical Education I truly believe I could offer the new entrants students a holistic, energetic and passionate style of teaching for their first few months at Primary School.

While I am secondary trained, I am adaptable and hopefully will be quick to learn new curriculum areas. I am organised and looking for my next challenge.

I am passionate about all students, no matter their background, interests and qualities that they will individually bring to their learning and classroom environments.

I feel that my dance and physical education back ground will make me an excellent addition to a junior teaching team and I also feel strongly that all students no matter what their age should be involved in regular arts and physical movement.

I took a break from secondary teaching in 2018 in the hopes to take on a new direction in the newspaper and media world. Unfortunately due to Covid-19, my dreams of becoming a journalist haven’t quite eventuated but that is not saying I wouldn’t jump at the chance to get back into writing for newspapers in the future.

So only time will tell what is next in store for me?  I will continue to write, although maybe not every week. Juggling change in life can be a bit scary. I’ll keep you posted if I get an interview!

*edited to add: I got the job! Wish me luck!

Support Local Series: Cafes

Rotorua Cafe / Coffee Culture

1. Scope Cafe: Tutanekai Street

Scope Cafe is small in size but makes up in the warmth and welcoming nature of owners Dana and Steven and their staff. The food is yummy, choose straight from a delicious selection of home baked goods or select scrumptious food prepared by their passionate and friendly chefs. The staff know their regulars well and are a bright addition to anyone’s day. The coffee is perfect and the service excellent. Get in quick or book a table, this popular spot fills up fast!
Coffee Used: Altura
Milk Alternatives – Yes
Reusable Cups – Yes


2. Capers Cafe & Store: Eruera Street

Capers has been a long time favourite spot for many locals in Rotorua. It has a distinct setup which includes a fully stocked store. The restaurant offers delicious food (breakfast, lunch & treats) and coffee, as well as drinks and dinner options. You can choose to meet friends and stay awhile, or grab a takeaway while browsing their store which has a beautiful selection of present ideas and boutique products. You are bound to see someone you know while at Capers, the staff are friendly and passionate about their customer service.
Coffee Used: Organico Coffee
Milk Alternatives – Yes
Reusable Cups – Yes


3. Revolver Coffee @ Vetro Mediterranean Food Store: Amohau Street

If you are after a coffee or snack and want to do a bit of food shopping as well, this is the perfect place to stop. The staff are both lovely and kind and the coffee is good. The store has many Mediterranean food items which are fresh and authentic.
Coffee Used: Revolver Beans
Milk Alternatives – Yes
Reusable Cups – Yes


4. Picnic Cafe: Whakaue Street

Picnic Cafe makes the best omelettes in town. The coffee is yummy and the service efficient. With views out to the Village green and down towards the lakefront, it is often easy to get a park right outside.
Coffee Used: Allpress Coffee
Milk Alternatives – Yes
Reusable Cups – Yes


5. Okere Falls Store: State Highway 33

When you are heading in or out of Rotorua, this coffee spot in the heart of beautiful Okere Falls is a bustling cafe, store and beer garden. Service is quick and cheerful and the staff love what they do. The food is wholesome and the layout of the gardens is quirky and different. Locals and visitors alike flock to support their favourite cafe.
Coffee Used: Rocket
Milk Alternatives – Yes
Reusable Cups – Yes


6. Grounded Cafe: Devon Street

Grounded has the best coffee in the suburbs! The baking is AMAZING and the banter and casual comfortableness makes you feel like you belong there, right at home. The owners love to chat and the cafe has a beautiful set up to stop, sit down and take a break, all while enjoying a hot cup of coffee.
Coffee Used: Inca Fe Beans
Milk Alternatives – Yes
Reusable Cups – Yes


7. Waipa Cafe – Mountain Bike Rotorua

This little pop up coffee container has become a permanent fixture down at Waipa. Visitors and locals literally ride up to order a coffee to go, or enjoy after a mountain bike ride, walk or adventure in the forest. Sit and enjoy a quiet brew in the sunshine while watching the children bike safely on the kids little warm up track. The staff are friendly and the raspberry brownie is to die for!
Coffee Used: Rocket Coffee
Milk Alternatives – Yes
Reusable Cups – Yes


8. Zippy Central – Pukuatua Street

One of my husbands long time favourite cafes and they have just added almond milk to their coffee menu! Friendly, down to earth staff in an iconic setting. I have fond memories of visiting this cafe as a teenager. One of Rotorua’s longest serving cafes.
Coffee Used: Coffee Supreme Beans
Milk Alternatives – Yes
Reusable Cups – Yes

9. Secret Spot – Waipa

Who doesn’t like a shinny dip with a cup of fresh brew after a mountain bike ride!? Delicious coffee, awesome hosts and the most stunning scenery in a private oasis. You can also stay longer for a hot swim.
Coffee Used: Manuka Brothers’ Coffee
Milk Alternatives – Yes
Reusable Cups – Dine in and stay for a hot ‘shinny dip


10. Abracadabra Cafe – Amohia Street

A popular cafe with the choice of cafe style seating inside or choose a cosy colourful room which is available for booking for small groups. There is also a back bar with more seating and an outside flow for children to spill out into and a garden area to play in. The owners and staff know their customers and provide a range of delicious food flavours and coffee that will impress.
Coffee Used: Kokako Coffee
Milk Alternatives – Yes
Reusable Cups – Yes

Self Happiness

No one else is responsible for your own happiness.

It becomes all too evident as we age that our own happiness is less dependent on how others make us feel and more about what we are doing to take care of our own positive feelings.

It feels strange that as we grow in age, emotionally and physically, so too does our confidence and realisation that we do indeed build our own destiny.

We build up our own resilience and bring to it hope.

I often find myself thinking if only I had the confidence I have now at 38 back when I was 18, then I’m sure I might have taken a different path in life.

But as we age we also realise how much our confidence and belief in ourselves comes from our life experiences, that it isn’t instant and instead grows alongside us as we strive to find out who we are and how we fit into the world we live in. 

These life experiences or decisions can be good and bad, happy and hard, ones that sometimes challenge or break us and teach us something important.

I like to people watch. I like to smile at strangers and wonder what makes them tick. I worry endlessly about other people and if their lives are making them happy. 

It took me many years to realise that only I can make myself feel happy and emotionally supported. By surrounding myself with like-minded people, friends and family who live to build each other up, challenge each other when we need to and realise that we are not responsible for another person’s happiness and how they might feel about themselves.

We need to balance work and life. Not just working to live and living to work.  Finding passion and direction in ones chosen area of work can be difficult to find, let alone manage to ensure it doesn’t take over who you are as a person.

For years I struggled with wondering who I was if I wasn’t a dance teacher?  Only with age and the next stages of life, have I managed to self believe I am more than that, more than who I thought I was.

It’s about finding people who get you. Who can call you out if and when needed and expect you to do the same in return.

It’s about challenging yourself to a life of learning, in whatever area or direction or state of mind you find yourself focused on. Being kind and good isn’t enough.   Showing kindness and understanding to others is far more important. True growth, acceptance and learning only comes from falling, failing and beginning over and over again.

I used to rely on how others felt about me, thought about me or talked to me to get me through my day unscathed and believing I was happy and supported.  I hate conflict, it makes me uncomfortable but from conflict comes growth and this should never ever stop. Growth should be a continual state of being until the day we take our final breath.

I make mistakes. My boys see that. I pick myself up and begin again. No matter how I am feeling, exercise, good food, sleep, water and sunshine seem to be my life’s recipe to being completely myself.

Talking and sharing helps. Explaining how you feel and how things affect or annoy you. Communication still remains one of life’s biggest challenges between people in relationships, friendships, work environments and schools.

I challenge you. If you are still looking to the people around you to determine your own self-worth and happiness, look inwards.  We need others to support us without relying on them to be the reason we are happy. If we react to how they make us feel, think, behave or act then surely our emphasis for our own happiness is in the wrong place.

Other people can contribute to your happiness. But once you realise that someone else can’t and shouldn’t be expected to make you happy nor place such expectations on them to be responsible for your own feelings and emotions, then this is truly freeing.

You determine your worth, your choices, your behaviour and your thoughts.  You get to decide on what makes you feel happy, not who.

I guarantee once you make that realisation, your confidence will grow, your mindset will expand and you will not only feel happier inside, you will be better equipped to help others feel happier. You are not responsible for how someone else feels about themselves but you can contribute kindly and in a supportive way.

Break down your own self and the beliefs you have about who you are. Relinquish how others make you feel as important to how you view yourself but continue to work from the inside to promote the things, thoughts and important ideals you feel passionate about and how you can share them with others.

We are all unique and we can all contribute to this world, starting with the belief and confidence in ourselves.

You have to be strong for yourself first.

Black Lives Matter


I’ve been in tears this week because I singlehandedly can’t fix racism.

I’ve argued. I’ve researched, I’ve watched, I’ve listened.  I’ve stayed silent online because I am fearful and not wanting to say the wrong thing.

Black Lives Matter.  George Floyd mattered. They matter to me.

George Floyd’s brutal killing by police is so inconceivable.  And yet it still happens.

This past week I’ve sat in my own incredible uncomfortableness of being white. Of having white privilege, in a world where I never signed up for it, I never chose to be white. But I am.

Being white means realising, accepting and understanding just what that white privilege has meant for me. I’ve faced racist comments and experiences for being white that have affected me deeply.  But not every day and not collectively for my culture.

I’ve cried. I’ve called people out. But I’m not perfect.

Yes, my parents raised me to be thoughtful, kind, compassionate and respectful. They taught me never to hate and to work hard in my life. I am so thankful for them.

White privilege is not to be confused with working hard for a living, having hardship and / or traumatic experiences in your own life history. You can be white and feel and have all of those things too.

I am anti-racist even though simple prejudices have graced my thoughts and mind in the past. It is inherent racism that we have grown up with.  But it is wrong. So very wrong.

This will be a short article this week. I have stayed silent because I didn’t know what to say or do. But I can’t not write about what has consumed me this week, my thoughts, my behaviour, my feelings towards all people of colour who have experienced racism and hate throughout their lives. 

This happens in America, but it also happens here in New Zealand. People judging others by the colour of their skin.

I am white. I can’t change that. But I accept my white privilege.  I acknowledge it and how it makes me feel.

I am bringing my boys up to be kind and caring towards people of colour, towards everyone. To treat everyone the same while still acknowledging that they are privileged in so many ways.

Not one person is worth more than another because of the colour of their skin. I truly believe that.

But Black Lives Matter. Here and now. Here and in America.

I am learning.

I am listening.

I am reading, researching and discussing.

I am uncomfortable.

I am caring and trying my hardest to call out racism when I know it is wrong.  

Racism feels wrong to me and regardless of who is being racist to whom, I will call them out.

Do not take my silence as nothing. I stand for anti-racism.

I just get incredibly overwhelmed easily. I feel deeply the emotions and worries of others and that is why I care so much.

“There is no sound louder than war,” from the song ‘Up to you now’ by Ben Harper is a quote I have tattooed on my arm.  Metaphorically there is no sound louder than the collective noise of people standing up together for a common cause.  


Filling your cup

There really is nothing more important than the self-realisation that you have all you need.  The importance of filling your cup instead of rejoining the hype and craziness of the pre lockdown rat race.

This week has felt weird. My husband has been back at work for a while, my boys have returned to level two schooling and most of my friends are back at work.  I find myself pleased I started this blog during lockdown, because it gives me a focus other than my day to day mum life each week. While I’m not ready to return to full time teaching any time soon, I have put my name down for relief teaching a couple of days a week. After all, now that I’ve survived teaching my own sons, how hard can other people’s children be?

Level two feels like a semi return to normal. It feels like lockdown went so fast now that we are out of it, even though at times it was endless.  It feels like we are on the right track to managing and containing Covid-19 in our country as long as everyone stays vigilant with hand washing, hygiene and contact tracing.

My hands have broken out with eczema from over use of hand washing and hand sanitizing, everywhere I go. However, I’m happy to have raw skin if it helps to keep coronavirus and other bugs at bay. 

My five year old got into an argument this morning after hand sanistising at the school gate and not understanding why he had to hand sanitise yet again almost instantly at his classroom door. I must admit he has a point.

So while everyone gets used to this new kind of normal I realise there are definitely lessons I have learned during lockdown that I want to continue bringing into my normal routine way of life.  

I have found it increasingly important not to rush back into as many activities and stressful expectations as before lockdown.  I want to take the lessons that we’ve learned as a family; the ones about slowing down and enjoying each other’s time, extra cuddles and finding fun games and whanau activities to share together. We have all exercised together for fun and because we had to, I have even enjoyed cooking at home.

Since level two, I’ve had a dinner out with my girlfriends last Friday, which I’ll admit was much needed girl time after nearly eight weeks in a household of boys. It was so special to spend physical time with these women because we have all helped each other survive and get through the past eight weeks online.  We have chatted on messenger, facetimed, held virtual quizzes and drinks and just been there for each other through the ups and downs, as we all navigated family life in lockdown.  We had a great night, it felt wonderful to dress up and get out of the comfortable home clothes but it also felt strange being out of the house.

We have also had takeaway’s a couple of times as a family and went out for a family dinner in the weekend.  These were nice too but left my husband and I with new goals, that although we want to support local we also don’t see the need to eat out as much as we used to. 

For me returning to level two meant that I could go to the beach.  We took off to our home away from home, Mount Maunganui and the first thing we did was rush down to the beach.  To feel the waves on my feet, the sand in my toes and the sunshine on my face, as we raced each other down, to our favourite spot. Being back at the beach meant absolutely everything to me.  It felt so nice to be grounded again next to mighty Tangaroa.  

We caught up with family who had celebrated milestone birthdays during lockdown and it was magical to hug these people we love so much.

I have marvelled at the way my children have adapted to only a few days of level two schooling, proud of their maturity as they accept the differences and embrace the return of their closest friends.  I have smiled as they said could they stay home and keep homeschooling and reveled in their excited faces as they describe their day, when I pick them up at the school gate.

I haven’t raced out to get everything I have missed done; I haven’t rushed out to buy things I don’t need. In fact lockdown has proved to me, just how little we actually do require.   I’ll admit, I have had my hair coloured to hide the extra greys that came from homeschooling and I look forward to getting my nails done, but I can’t say I’ve missed a lot else. Apart from family and friends, my lockdown bubble really did have everything I needed to survive and be happy, once I got used to the change of everyday freedom.

My favourite lockdown lessons that got me through the tougher times were family, food and fun.  The endless laughs and inside jokes, the memories and the food recipes that managed to taste okay!

I am savouring the time to go slow. To not have endless jobs to do, or appointments to keep, things to buy unnecessarily or rushing from one thing to the next.  I feel closer to my children and closer to my husband. After all we didn’t kill each other with all that extra time.  

I look forward to supporting my husband and his business, my children’s emotional and physical development and I now feel more rested to be able to do so after our lockdown experience.

My take homes?   Choose things to fill your cup: don’t rush to buy endless material items that quite frankly we just don’t need. I repeat. For me: Food, family and fun.   I would have liked a few extra special people in my tiny bubble but that was pretty much all I missed. For me, the beach, lakes and forest, catching up physically with family and friends are what I have missed.

I knew that for as long as it took me to adapt and relax into lockdown levels three and four, as much as I moaned about homeschooling and being trapped at home, once again, I surprised myself by just how much I got used to it all, just in time for level two to change it all up again.

I look forward to having more topics to write about and comment on.  I look forward to riding my bike, dancing with my friends and weekend adventures with my boys.

I look forward to spending precious moments with family and friends whom we missed so much when we couldn’t see them and look to spend time not money making memories.

I’m going to spend the next wee while filling my own cup. Filling it, so I can fill the cups of others. Filling it to the brim with things that make me smile, make me happy and content. I’m enjoying these autumn days and nights at home reading, playing cards and spending time watching more TV than I usually do.  I know life will begin to pick back up but I just don’t want to lose what I’ve treasured and what I have enjoyed about our compulsory lockdown.

I hope that whatever brings you joy you can fit back into your lives while appreciating just how lucky most of us are in New Zealand.

Reusable Addiction

I’ve become a part time eco warrior. My mission… Help rid the world of disposable coffee cups.

I have a dream where cafes will one day never serve coffee in any form of disposable cup.  I don’t care if it says you can add it to your compost or if it’s made from recycled product.

What are our takeaway alternatives? There are many kinds of reusable coffee cups to choose from. Labeled Keep Cups, or artistically crafted coffee cups made from beautiful and lovingly molded clay.  Alongside these options there are simpler counterparts that you can pick up from almost any store or petrol station. 

I see people using household mugs and mason jars as alternatives or actually taking time in your day to stop and have your coffee inside the café if you forget to bring your own reusable cup.  

I am a little addicted to reusable cups. I’m the first to admit it. I want to buy them all, gift them to friends and share the reusable love!  Drinking coffee, that first sip, which is ever so important, seems to escalate in enjoyment when drunk out of a cup you love!

During level four we had to forgo our daily café coffee fix.  Since returning to level three I have become judgmental and stubborn in choosing the cafes I support.

I have three favourite cafes.  Why? Firstly, good coffee and secondly great staff that seems genuinely interested in all of their customers.  But thirdly and most importantly for me, accepting of reusable coffee cups.   

I’ve only been drinking coffee for a year.  I started my coffee journey in a time where reusables are common and normal. I won’t lie and say I have never used a disposable cup, that is almost impossible, but I make a huge effort to always have a reusable cup on me to avoid buying coffee in a throwaway useless cup.

I understand cafes are torn. They don’t want to lose business in a café culture that we have glorified as our right to drink coffee no matter the cost.   Let’s start glorifying reusable cups instead of the disposable ones in our photographs and social media. 

I don’t want to lose our earth under the weight of a throwaway takeaway coffee cup culture. Not now and not in the future, even if I won’t be there to see it.

Customers need options but they also need education. Someone to show them the ropes or at least own a funky coffee cup they can fall in love with time again. Perhaps phase out disposable cups slowly, introducing the importance of reusables. Some cafes provide incentive for reusable cups giving a discount on coffee. While I don’t personally think this is necessary it is incentive enough for some to make the switch.

Some people protest that it’s hard to use a reusable. Wrong. It’s easy to clean and rinse your coffee cup as soon as you can after consuming it, that way it’s ready to be used again later in the day.

Like anything, good habits need to be encouraged and take time to evolve. Leave a clean reusable cup next to your keys or handbag each evening so it becomes practice to take one with you the next morning.

The following statistics shared on UYO.nz (Use Your Own) Instagram blew me away. New Zealanders on average use 810,440 disposable throwaway cups PER DAY! This is roughly 5,670,000 single use coffee cups used EACH WEEK in New Zealand. During the five weeks of level four lockdown, 28,365,384.60 disposable cups were NOT used while cafes were closed. That’s 28 million cups, from just five weeks, that would have otherwise been used and discarded almost instantly.  This is why my passion is fired up.

We simply do not need to use them.

Unplain Jane

When level three arrived, I felt torn. I felt happy that I could now go and purchase a coffee but stubborn in my belief that unless a cafe was prepared to accept a reusable coffee cup (albeit using strict and safe guidelines) then I was not going to buy disposable cups of coffee ever again!

Dramatic I know. But after seeing the numbers of daily and weekly waste from disposable cups alone, I know that I and New Zealand has a very long way to go.

I interviewed Laura Cope (otherwise known as Kitty) from UYO.nz who has been fighting this mission for a lot longer than I have. She gave incredible insight to what makes UYO.nz keep going and its promise to help share the reusable cup (and takeaway packaging) message to everyone who comes across them.

Laura created the UYO café guide in 2017. She began the guide as UYOC (Use Your Own Cup) and has since changed the name to UYO (Use Your Own). 

Laura says, “Use Your Own [stands for] container, conscience, community, cutlery, democracy. The reason why I focused on cups in the beginning was because they offer a gateway into these other areas. Once we see that behaviour change is possible, effective and accessible, we feel empowered to repeat the actions.”

Laura Cope, UYO

Laura is the brains behind the campaigns social media success.

“I run giveaways on our social [media], working with our Instagram followers and responsible influencers to bring some carrot, as well as stick, to the movement. I interact with community projects to provide or create funding that can develop reuse schemes. I talk. A lot.”

“UYO also exists to connect others and work with others to enable solutions to single use waste issues within communities, public institutions, anywhere that there are proactive humans who could do with a little help to kick start change. A great deal of my time is spent thinking of ways to collaborate with existing movements, or responding to all and any requests to collaborate, celebrate, support.”

I have been inspired by UYO. Laura’s passion for change for our country is inspirational and motivating for many every day New Zealanders. If we see others make small changes, it inspires us to feel supported to do the same. If we are socially influenced into making positive changes for our environment, then this is the kick start everyone needs to get behind! 

Since lockdown, Laura says “Over the last two years, the movement to reuse has become mainstream. Cafes are seeing the economic benefit of reducing their investment in single use packaging. They are witnessing the public’s shift in perception around single use branded cups – that having them in a bin, rolling about the street, even on social media, is no longer the status symbol and brand promotion tool that was the case in the early 2000’s. And something to remember, café owners and operators are human; they are parents, partners and are aware of the immediate waste and larger climate change impacts of single use. As a majority, they do not want to create litter.”

Even in Level three Laura understands the huge stress and sacrifices that cafes are facing.  “The stresses on cafes and eateries to keep their staff happy, paid and feeling secure are massive. Working out how to operate contactless, two metre coffee pours has been yet another of many, many issues facing the industry. It took a little time for them to get used to managing the Covid guidelines in order to open their doors at all. But, very rapidly, cafes created, under their existing food plans and within level three guides, adapted methods to welcome personal reusables. The moment that Government made public their support of personal reusables, the amount of cafes that notified their customers, especially via social media, that ‘keep cups’ were back exploded.”

My own admiration of UYO is how often they give away reusables to help people change. Without public shaming or online bullying which of course is unacceptable, Laura loves to gift reusables to individuals or cafes that might otherwise need a little encouragement to make the switch.   She reaches out to cafe users through social media to offer them resuables instead, “no strings attached” and prioritises her spare family income to do so.

When I mentioned my reusable addiction, Laura was quick to remind me that it doesn’t matter what we use for our reusable options, more so that we are using something other than disposable cups.  For Laura, her favourite reusable cups are simply a “peanut butter jar wrapped with hemp twine, and another surrounded in rubber bands. These are my go-to reusables.”

So while Laura understands my love of a ‘pretty cup’ to inspire me to make change, she maintains it is not necessary to spend a lot.

Her advice? “If I were to buy a new reusable cup, however, I would choose one that works for me. That is durable, made to last. Something that I will love and value because it can perform well and makes me happy. Buying local, from New Zealand artisans would also be way up there. We have many of them on the UYO website. Supporting local artists is one of the extras that the UYO guide evolved towards.”

There are many cafes throughout New Zealand that have made the positive change to not use any disposable coffee cups or packaging at all. UYO has a handy guide on their website that helps you to locate these cafes.  You can search and find positive change in many corners of our country. 

“Each of these cafes is creating the new normal. They save thousands each year on their outgoing costs, reduce by thousands of cups the burden on our local waste systems and demonstrate that truly sustainable methods of getting a brew on the run are absolutely no extra work at all, either side of the counter.” Laura concludes.

UYO makes it all sound so simple. And you know what? It actually is. Make small changes become good habits. Inspire others to do the same.

Unplain Jane

Moving into Level two and beyond, Laura notes it is important that “how we act, how we do and don’t spend our dollars, the movements we support, the lifestyle and consumer choices we make, the way we use our voices, will be, and always has been, the key to societal change.” 

“Remembering that for us in Aotearoa we have the luxury of access to a democratic system is vital. We need to set aside a little time each week to learning how we can have our say and remind ourselves the Government work for us. Nothing will change if we don’t drive it.”

For more information about UYO check them out on Instagram @uyo.nz or online at www.uyo.co.nz. You can also check out a joint project and sign a petition for the @takeawaythrowaways campaign.

If you value your daily coffee that much, surely you can value our planet as well. These small movements must mean something.

This passion for finding alternative ways to get our daily coffee fix is a real challenge for disposable cup warriors and I am proud to have joined this movement. We need to take away the option of disposable coffee cups.

I feel empowered that with knowledgeable and passionate proactive movements like UYO and #takeawaythrowaways leading the drive, that I can continue to make change and encourage others in my life to do the same.

After all we have nothing to lose. 

Level 3 is not Level 1.

I didn’t really know what to write about this week. There isn’t a lot of variation in the news apart from Covid-19 angled stories of late.

I am a little over thinking about Covid-19, stuck between being sick of wondering when things will return to normal and suspecting we are somewhat already there.

For the past four years I’ve attempted to document my everyday outfits for 100 days in a row each year. I document this on my personal Instagram account which is why it is something I have now made a regular yearly thing. For a small part of the year, it gives me a focus each morning to keep on top of my own mental health and my friends seem to enjoy it.

As a self-confessed fashion obsessed female, I love how clothes make me feel and how I can express myself through them, even on days where I just want to throw on a pair of track pants and a baggy jumper. And believe me, some days I do just that.

This year the majority of my 100 days has fallen into our New Zealand Level Four / Level Three lockdown. It has been especially important to continue the journey regardless of the opportunity to wear comfy home clothes all day.

It has given me a little routine focus, something from pre-covid to think about each day, to get up and get ready for even though I have absolutely nowhere to go except downstairs.

Yesterday I hit a rut and a little rant accompanied my daily outfit picture.

“Today I really questioned why i’m still doing this when I could just stay in PJ’s all day, because truth is the boots come straight off and the jacket goes back into the wardrobe. But I think I need it. I need the little focus. I need to feel like I’ve made an effort. And I need to complete this 100 outfits challenge for my mental health in what has been the most challenging in the four years that I have done this. I’m sick of being home. I’m sick of coronavirus. I’m sick of people ignoring the rules of this new level three, either because they just don’t care or they think they are above it or it doesn’t apply to them. I’m sick of seeing everyone expand their bubbles on social media and do things that quite honestly, don’t fall into level three rules. Level three is not level one. And if everyone doesn’t work together and get over themselves we are going to be stuck here for a very long time. Or worse, back in level four.” Unplainjane.

Covid-19 level three is not level one. We are not out of the woods yet.

I really do not understand the ‘rule breakers’ line of thinking. We have been repeatedly told to treat everyone including ourselves as already having ‘coronavirus’ and to live like we are trying to contain the spread.

Expanding our bubbles doesn’t mean having small celebrations or a get together, just because you have missed seeing your friends and family for a little longer than normal.

Level four was extremely hard. But so is level three. It should not feel a lot different for most of us really to being in lockdown. Unless you are required to be back at a physical place of work to ensure our economy can hopefully begin to function again, then you are working from home, homeschooling at home and continuing to live in a semi-lockdown existence. With just a few more food choices.

I miss my parents, I miss my in-laws and my friends. I miss the normality and routine of our usual school / work and home life. I miss the weekend adventures. I miss my boys playing sports and seeing them enjoying time with their friends. I miss making travel plans and having something (or anything!) on my calendar to look forward to.

But I know that all the above is worth waiting for. Worth fighting for. Don’t give up.

We have come so far New Zealand, together, uniting against this virus in a way that has slowed it right down. But we can’t get complacent. Not yet. One community outbreak too early and all the hard work is undone. So even though I might not have Covid-19, or you might not have Covid-19 or no one around you has it, doesn’t mean you get to change the rules before we have been told to.

Yes our economy is struggling and will continue to do so, only rebuilding slowly and safely as instructed and when possible. But I know I would much rather that, than tens of thousands of deaths in our country when we were so close to the finish line. Twenty New Zealand deaths may not seem like a lot when you compare us to other countries but imagine if we had lost over 30,000 lives like overseas. Let us not forget we have helped to save lives by our actions.

Don’t give up New Zealand. For our people and our beautiful country, stay strong and stay safe.

Stay in level three until we are told otherwise.

Backyard Tourism

On a sunny day there is nowhere more magical to me than my home town Rotorua. Like anywhere else in New Zealand the natural beauty seems to be highlighted by the glimmering rays of sunshine bouncing off our forests and lakes.

We take for granted our natural resources and cultural hot spot that has drawn tourists to our city for decades. Our people are our heart.

We live side by side with tourists sharing the beauty of these lakes and forests, allowing each tourist to feel a connection to this place we call home.

The geothermal activity and living breathing Maori culture is interwoven through every aspect of our people. Te Reo is alive and well and being cultivated by all as we embrace the uniqueness of our bi-cultural city.

Like other special places around New Zealand we are one of the few cities that make its livelihood largely based on international and domestic tourism.  We rely on showcasing our natural wonders, adventure based activities and our culture to create income for so many families and people living in Rotorua.

I am scared and sad for our city. The hustle and bustle usually found on our city streets will take a long time to return. Many businesses, tourist ventures, hospitality services and families will be affected by the pandemic Covid-19 and the road to recovery we now face.

The flow on effects from businesses forced to close will be massive. I talked to Haley Hodge, a local Rotorua Tourism, Geography and Social Studies teacher who has been inspiring her students about tourism for the past 16 years.

When I asked her what she felt was the biggest issue facing tourism in New Zealand since the outbreak of Covid-19 on our shores and the subsequent level four lockdown, she had a lot to say.   She feels that “the issue that will cause the greatest impact to many tourism businesses in New Zealand and specifically Rotorua is the closed borders and the long time it will take for international tourists to return when our border restrictions are lifted.”

Haley continues “International tourism contributes $18 billion a year to New Zealand, it is the largest export industry in the country (more than dairy or forestry) at 20% of  New Zealand’s total export earnings, so this will hit New Zealand hard. This is not just an impact for the tourism industry, it will have a flow on effect to many other industries in New Zealand; without income, tourism businesses won’t be able to spend on expansion so perhaps the building industry will feel an impact; without hospitality businesses being open (or in later alert levels, busy) the food production businesses may feel an impact etc.”

“Another huge impact is the staffing. Tourism is an industry that employs a huge amount of people (8% in New Zealand and approx 23% in Rotorua). Many of these are low wage positions so this will be a massive blow to families that live week to week and who are now relying on the wage subsidy and/or have lost their jobs.”

Haley is quick to add that of recent times “many New Zealand tourism businesses have become more environmentally sustainable and as a consequence, many have shifted from the model of having 100 tourists come to visit and spend $10 each, to instead attracting 10 tourists that spend $100 each, meaning less environmental impact, whilst maintaining or increasing income.  This poses a problem now that the big spending tourists will not be visiting from overseas for a while. These are the tourists that we as locals, seldom see, the ones that pay $2000 a night for [boutique] lodge accommodation and $500 for personalised activity tours etc.”

“This is traditionally not the sort of spending that New Zealanders are known for. So even if New Zealanders are encouraged to ‘see their own country before seeing the world’ as I’ve seen [advertised], I worry that our kiwi bargain hunting nature will not go anywhere near being enough to plug the hole left by international tourism.”

Haley acknowledges that domestic tourism is already a huge contributor to tourism revenue, spending more money than the total of international tourists (New Zealanders spend more than international tourists at $23 billion a year in NZ) and she understands that “tourism businesses will target marketing and shift their product to promote more domestic business, but sadly, I believe, it won’t be enough and we will feel the economic impact of these measures for a long time to come.”

By encouraging New Zealanders to “shop local, including doing things in our country that you have always wanted to do – go whale watching, go zip lining, go see a Maori cultural experience, go visit something that you’ve always thought was ‘only for foreigners’” Haley believes “you might be surprised at the high quality / entertaining / well worth the money product you’ve been missing out on.”

She says “don’t always expect a local’s discount! Use your Air NZ credit to fly somewhere in New Zealand (and pay the little extra if necessary) instead of waiting for borders to open up to take that quick trip away to Sydney that you had to put on hold, for example.”

Haley is positive when she talks about saving Rotorua’s major livelihood industry.  I asked her what our council can do to help save businesses affected. 

“The Rotorua tourism industry employs 23% of our city’s workforce and earns $845 million a year so this will have a big impact and again not just on the tourism businesses but on those that supply and service them also. The Tourism Industry Aotearoa surveyed hundreds of tourism businesses this week and some suggestions of what local governments could do to help included freezing rate increases, providing fee and concession relief.”

“I think our RTO (Regional Tourism Organisation) Destination Rotorua, does a fantastic job of promoting our region domestically and internationally, the council can’t stop this now to save money, keep spending to keep our profile domestically and internationally so our recovery isn’t so long, but be mindful of the businesses that have lost income and not increase membership rates to supplement this marketing.” 

Last night’s live programme “Rebuilding Paradise with Paul Henry” focused on tourism and the gigantic economical impact that the affects of Covid-19 has had on this $41 Billion dollar a year industry. While only $17 Billion comes from international tourism it is a huge chunk of the tourism revenue pie. 

Paul Henry spoke to Stephen England-Hall, NZ Tourism CEO about how he could see New Zealand’s tourism industry go from ‘surviving to thriving’.

With over 300-400 thousand New Zealander’s employed in the tourism industry across Aotearoa, the impacts and effects will be felt far and wide.  How will Tourism NZ, led by CEO Stephen England-Hall help tourism operators to survive and navigate through the uncertainty they are currently facing and will do for some time?

There is a possibility of over 100,000 potential job losses in the tourism sector. What innovative ways will tourism operators be able to survive?

Stephen England-Hall mentioned that after conversations had recently, it is important in the future that our tourism “industry gives back more than it takes.”  He says the tourism industry needs to be “good for our environment, good for our communities, uplifting of our culture and of course, ultimately, provides back economically too.”

It will be important that local and national tourism operators look to move away from marketing not only to overseas tourists but also provide packages, activities and adventures more tailored to everyday New Zealanders.

The priority now is ensuring that as many of these tourism ventures survive as possible. How can tourism operators protect their businesses, look after their staff, reduce costs and look to ways to improve business in this new normal way of living once we are post Covid-19?

Domestic tourism makes up over half of the tourism revenue each year and therefore it will be important to maintain our interest as we make more careful choices about where to spend our money? Money that is usually spent on overseas travel and adventures can hopefully now be spent locally and nationally on holidays in our own country.  

Many other factors will play a part in the rebuilding of the tourism sector.  Kiwis face uncertainty over their own employment, loss of income and the direction our country will take to recover economically in the wake of a Level four lockdown from Covid-19. 

When Paul Henry asked specifically about Rotorua and Queenstown, my ears pricked up more, after all this is my original worry.

Stephen England-Hall replied that he was “absolutely” worried.  “We are very concerned about those parts of New Zealand whose economies are largely based or almost entirely based on the tourism industry. ‘Cause not only is it just the peoples jobs or businesses… at risk, but the flow on impacts communities.”

Cafes, restaurants, bars, transport (airport /buses / taxis / Uber), entertainment venues, sports events or games are all impacted by the reduction in numbers who would of potentially visited our city in the coming year.

“The flow on is huge.” Paul Henry interjected.

Not only does Rotorua along with other tourism based cities and towns need to look at how to keep New Zealanders visiting in the next twelve months, nationally and internationally, we need to continue to market New Zealand as a destination worth saving up for, worth returning to once the border controls are open and international travel can resume.  

Our New Zealand brand needs to stay active. We need to continue to be in the forefront of the rest of the worlds minds so that one day tourists will once again return to New Zealand as a safe and amazing place to visit.

Perhaps in the short term a South Pacific overseas travel bubble may open up and be introduced which would allow travel between Australia, Pacific Islands and New Zealand. This would potentially help to boost tourism revenue for our neighbours as well as ourselves. Slowly and surely as more countries gain control over the Covid-19 situation and / or a vaccine is introduced, more countries can be added to our overseas travel bubble as well. It is something to hope for anyway.

Start planning and saving up to explore your own country. There is no better way to have quality experiences and holidays while also helping our communities survive.