Podcasts For You

Blog Post Graphic "Podcasts For You"

The Wonderful World Of Podcasts

I’m excited to tell you about the latest podcasts I’ve found. Ever since I wrote about discovering podcasts in Listen and Learn, I’ve gradually been broadening my net and I’ve got some great ones to share with you today.

Whatever your interest there’s a show for you. And the wonderful thing is that many podcasts turn difficult topics into interesting and understandable episodes. What’s more they enlighten and explain in an entertaining way. After being bogged down in the daily grind of teaching for the last few years these podcasts have opened up my mind again. Here are three of my current passions.

Hidden Brain

Hidden Brain opens up the world of psychology to ordinary people like you and me. The first episode I listened to was an interview with celebrated actor Alan Alda, about good and bad ways to communicate. ” Alan is a tremendous actor, so this was a particularly digestible podcast to introduce me to the world of Hidden Brain. It was funny and full of anecdotes, but certainly got the point across. It made me want to read his book too. “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face?” Just the title is enough to get me hooked, now that I know the book exists.

Since that first episode, I’ve listened to podcasts about

  • Envy (Counting Other People’s Blessings)
  • Judgement and memory (Think Fast with Daniel Kahneman)
  • The “double bind” facing women in power (Men: 45, Women: 0)
  • And a fascinating one about how the language you speak can shape how you see the world (Lost In Translation.)

How I Built This

How I Built This tells the stories of entrepreneurs who have built some of the iconic businesses we know and love today. Yesterday I listened to Jimmy Wales describe how Wikipedia came into being. Last week I heard how James Dyson made 5000+ prototypes of his revolutionary vacuum cleaner, one at a time in his back-garden shed, before the first version finally hit the market. Grit, determination, teamwork and the ability to recognise and grab an opportunity when it comes along seem to categorise each of the inspiring people I’ve listened to so far. I need to get more of that, for sure!

Planet Money

I’ve just begun listening to Planet Money, but if all its episodes are as interesting as “The Golden Rules” I know that I’ll love this podcast too. Did you know that a US citizen can still go and literally drive a stake in the ground on public land and stake a gold claim? The law that governs that is still the one that was drafted during the 1800s gold rush. I wonder if we can do that in New Zealand?

As the name suggests, this podcast channel is all about economics, something most of us should probably understand better than we do. I’m all for something that will help me know more about how economies big and small are run.

All three of these channels are part of the NPR (National Public Radio) network in the USA so of course they’re slanted towards American tastes and attitudes. I still found them fascinating, and broad enough so that other cultures could enjoy them too.

There are several other podcasts currently on my radar. If I love them I’ll let you know in my fortnightly newsletter. For a round-up of recent posts, and exclusive newsletter content, please subscribe in the button below or in my pop-up.  It would be wonderful to meet you there.


Quizzing Trivia Online

There’s nothing like a good dose of quizzing trivia to stimulate your mind, exercise your memory and keep your brain active. Pub quizzes, TV shows, quiz games and even the newspaper are all great sources of trivia entertainment. But today I want to introduce you to my favourite: the online world of Sporcle.

What’s Great About Sporcle?

Sporcle is a Quiz Master’s dream: a free website with an enormous number of quizzes available, in a variety of styles. You can go with the flow and click on their popular or suggested links. Categories gives another set of choices, or you can search for a particular quiz or topic. There’s a blog and a quiz lab.  Groups and badges provide extra encouragement and you even have the opportunity to create your own quiz if you’re so inclined.

All these features are great; easy to use and the ads which pay for it all are not intrusive. But there’s another reason why I love Sporcle, and that’s the way it helps me learn.

Quizzing Trivia Teaches New Knowledge

I love trivia but there are many gaps in my knowledge, and Sporcle is an excellent way to fill them in. For years geography has been my downfall at the local quiz competition. To my everlasting chagrin I just couldn’t get my head around where all the countries fitted in around the globe. Not anymore.

Thanks to Sporcle, I can name all 197 countries large and small, and locate them on the map what’s more. I can tell you the 50 states of the US as well (and name all the Presidents for good measure.)

This didn’t come easy. I’ve had to do those particular quizzes countless times to learn all that, so I have to tell you I’m quietly proud of those achievements. It doesn’t stop there. I’ve just mastered the Nato Alphabet, another one of those little lists that I always wanted to know.

To Sum Up

All in all, I find Sporcle an interesting, informative, time-consuming website. It broadens my knowledge, improves my memory and stimulates my brain, all at the same time. It exercises my self-control muscle too: I have to finish this article before I’m “allowed” to do another quiz.

Newsletter Subscribers: That Vital Confirmation Email

Remember To Click On Confirmation Emails, Please

Updated 25th May 2019

I love my newsletter subscribers. Most bloggers do.

These are the folks who love your blog and want to connect with you. They trust you to send useful emails and newsletters they really want to read.

Blogging can be hard. Even though you love writing, you’ve no idea who’s out there reading your words.  It’s like chasing shadows.

But when people sign up for your newsletter, suddenly they become real.  Now, you’re no longer writing to a faceless crowd. Your people have names and you write your words to them. It gives a whole new impetus and meaning to your blog.

That’s why I love my list.

Privacy Laws

There are all sorts of rules around internet security and privacy these days.  Governments are beginning to wake up to the issue of invasion of privacy and they are taking it very, very seriously. 

The EU has adopted strict measures around what online businesses can and cannot do with their subscribers’ information, and that includes bloggers, of course. It’s called GDPR and is the reason you’re now seeing all those annoying “This Website Uses Cookies” pop-ups. 

It doesn’t even matter if you don’t live in Europe. If your readers live there, you have to abide by the GDPR rules. (Sadly, I will have to have one of those cookie pop-ups sooner or later.)

Anyway, it’s only a matter of time before similar laws arrive in New Zealand. This is absolutely right and proper. I personally would not want to do anything to jeopardize your privacy. 

BUT FOLKS, NOW I HAVE A BIG PROBLEM.  Because of GDPR laws I must have a double opt-in on my newsletter. 

This means you need to CONFIRM that you want to hear from me again in the CONFIRMATION EMAIL that pops straight into your inbox.   

Newsletter Subscribers

Right now, I have people sitting in my list who have replied to my newsletter subscription popup… BUT THEY HAVEN’T CLICKED THAT CONFIRMATION EMAIL.

Maybe they changed their minds, and that’s okay. That’s partly what the confirmation is designed for. To allow a change of heart. But, it’s also designed to confirm that you positively want to hear from me again.

Maybe those readers just forgot? Or put it in the “I must do that” basket?

Or perhaps they just didn’t see the email.  It might have gone into their junk mail. 😢I DON’T KNOW.

And, sadly, I am legally not allowed to contact them. If you don’t confirm your subscription, you won’t hear from me again.

Back view of woman on beach at sunset.
I’m so sad to have missed you.

So please, please,  remember to confirm your subscription if you want to join a newsletter or any other group which has a double opt-in. 

Please don’t think I ignored you. Please don’t think I didn’t want to hear from you.

And if you have by a wonderful chance, come back to my website please push that subscribe button again.

I really would love to connect with you.

How To Write Great Comments on the Internet

Coffee cup, iPad and notepad

Do’s and Don’ts + One Simple Facebook Tip

We’ve all seen them. Facebook posts, blog posts, articles, instagram, tweets the list goes on and on. And every single one invites you to comment. In fact comments are everywhere on the internet these days. Sometimes it seems like the Web has become one gi-normous chat room. But how do you make great comments? What are the do’s and don’ts? And why should you even comment in the first place? Well, friend, read on. I’m about to reveal all.

What is a comment?

An internet comment is a written expression of your reaction to a piece of content that you’ve read or viewed. It could be a blog post, an article in an online newspaper, a YouTube video, a Facebook post, a forum, a podcast and so on. Most of these types of content will include an invitation for you to comment and a comment box to make it easy to do so.

5 reasons why you should comment.

Comments are a wonderful way to interact with another person. Here are five good reasons why you should take the time to comment on that post you read today.

  1. You can start or contribute to a conversation. If you spend much time online, you are probably spending time alone. By making a comment you are interacting with other people — sometimes in real time, but often over a period of time so that you keep coming back to the conversation to see what other people have said. This gives you a real sense of engagement with that community, whether it be a blog, Facebook group, friend, in a forum etc.
  2. Your feedback can make all the difference to the writer. As a new blogger I can tell you that I treasure each and every comment that someone makes on my blog because it means that person has not only gone to the trouble of reading my post, but also it has stirred them enough to want to express an opinion. I get very excited about the comments my work receives.
  3. You could learn something new. It’s surprising what you can learn from comments. Last week I made a contribution to a discussion about dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome. When I went back to that conversation the next day, a whole host of others from all over the world had chimed in with different treatments that had worked for them. There were also comments about the many causes of CTS, links to websites, videos and a whole host of encouragement for the woman who originally posted. Since I’m planning an article on carpal tunnel at some stage, this was a great conversation for me to be part of, and you can be sure I’ve saved the link in Facebook so that I can return to it when I’m ready to start writing that post.
  4. You will keep in contact with a friend. Even though the world’s a big place, social media makes it so easy to keep in touch. But don’t just read what your friend has written and press like. A comment shows them that you care about them. I have friends from all over the world and I rarely get to see them face to face. A yearly Christmas card was once the best we managed. Sometimes not even that, and it was so easy to lose touch. Then along came Facebook and voila! Keeping in contact has become so simple. Writing a comment doesn’t take long, but it shows that I care and want to maintain that friendship.
  5. You can make a difference. Your input into a conversation could make a real difference. Your answer in a forum might be just what is needed. Your question might be what someone else was too scared to ask. Your viewpoint might give another person food for thought. Your opinion might be just what someone else needed to hear.

Don’t be scared to make a comment — it’s a great way to connect online, to express your opinion and to start a conversation.

Commenting do’s and don’ts.

DO  be thoughtful. Your comments should show you care, and want to give a genuine opinion or reaction.

DO  be helpful. Carry on a conversation. Answer a question. Provide a link that answers the question. Be a friend.

DO  think about an appropriate length for your comment. Sometimes a short sentence or phrase is best. Other times a longer form will suit. Occasionally it might feel like you’re making a whole new post. Comment appropriately for that type of media.

DO  check out the rules of the group. Many groups have rules about the type of comments that can be given and whether links or promotions are allowed. The rules are usually pinned to the top of the group board in Facebook.

DON’T BE A TROLL. People who leave hurtful, unhelpful or downright rude comments are known in the online world as TROLLS. There are some places where I never bother to look at the comments. Online newspapers are one. I cannot understand why people feel the need to be offensive online in these places. Nine times out of ten, I can guarantee they would never make such a comment face to face. On many blogs these days, there are specific rules excluding Trolls. All comments are marked “Pending Approval.” If you make a troll-like comment it will be excluded and you could even be blocked from that site. On Facebook sites, the rules are often explicit:

Facebook group rules are often explicitly against negativity. That’s not to say that you can’t express a valid opinion, just be very careful how you phrase it.

I’ll say it again: DON’T BE A TROLL.

DON’T “over comment.” There’s such a thing as commenting too much. A good rule of thumb is to only comment on things you’re really interested in, or have something relevant to say. Don’t comment just for the sake of commenting because it can begin to look like spam. There’s a line between making helpful, friendly comments and beginning to seem like a stalker. Use your common sense here.

One Simple Facebook Tip As Promised.

I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We’ve all seen it, probably countless times.

You make a comment on Facebook, press post and THEN realise that you’ve made a mistake. That spelling error glares out at you.Or auto-correct has “helpfully” changed a word, unnoticed until after you pressed send. Or you re-read the original post and realise that you’ve misunderstood and your comment is irrelevant, or worse, inappropriate. So do you either hope no-one notices? (They will.) Or post a second comment along the lines of “Oops! Stupid auto correct! I really meant to say…” (Clumsy).


You can edit your comment. Yes folks, you can just change that comment and eliminate the mistake forever.

How to edit your comment on Facebook.

If you notice the mistake immediately after you published…

On an iPad: simply press and hold your finger on the comment and it will immediately offer you the chance to edit.

On a computer: hover the mouse on the comment and three little dots will appear beside it at the bottom of the text. Click those and you get the option to edit or delete.

If you notice the mistake later…

On both devices click on the three horizontal dots on the top right corner of your comment. “Edit” will be among the options that appear.

The three dots at the top right of your comment allow you to edit or delete.

That’s it. Save yourself the embarrassment of inaccurate posts with the simple application of the Edit Button.

BONUS TIPS: Facebook etiquette links



To Sum It All Up.

Comments can be a great way to show you care. They help you interact with friends, colleagues and groups online. Sensible comments help you engage with a wider audience, and can even help you build a positive online presence, if that is your goal. They help to build your sense of engagement and connection with the world on the web.

Be diplomatic with your commenting. Keep them respectful and fair. Comment when you genuinely have something to say, but don’t comment on everything. Don’t risk looking like a spammer and above all else don’t get a reputation as a troll.

The best quote to remember is one I’m sure we’ve all heard our mothers say.

So, have you been passively reading online? “Liking” your friends posts but never engaging or posting your own thoughts? Are you a quiet observer who follows, enjoys, even takes on advice sometimes, but stays very much in the background? Maybe you even get a newsletter, or follow on social media, but you’ve never hit reply.

Well, make a comment today.

You’ll be amazed at how much more connected you feel to that group or that friend when you begin to interact. Strike up a conversation. Write a reply. Do more than just pressing Like. You could brighten someone’s day — and they could positively make your day in return.


Precious Pears

There are only 10 minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat. Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Harvest season is upon us here on the farm.

While my farming men are busy bringing in the grain, my own focus is on the bounty given to me by nature and the foresight of our pioneer ancestors.

This week the pears are ready to pick and preserve.

Bounty from the past.

When pioneering families settled their farms here in Garston 120 years ago, the land was devoid of trees. Grass, tussock and rocks were the main features of the narrow, river valley they would come to call home. Mountains lining both sides of the valley kept it freezing in winter and scorching in summer. Food was scarce and largely home-grown. The top priority was establishing a large vegetable garden beside a small, rough farmhouse. And next on the list was always planting the orchard.

For many years orchards, both small and large, were lovingly tended up and down the valley, but with the advent of sealed roads, speedy cars and modern supermarkets, the orchards have become overgrown and neglected in modern times. All the same, the sturdiest trees persist and each autumn they dot the valley with fragrant fruit for us to pick and be thankful for.

Harvest in the present.

So it is, that this week I’m harvesting the pears. It’s not as easy as you might think.

Sometimes the season is poor and there is scarcely a fruit to be seen, but this year there’s an abundance of pears on every tree. There are also birds, who can savour the best fruit on the highest branches which are impossible for me to reach. Not content with their share, however, they like to invade my territory on the branches below as well. They don’t eat the whole fruit: oh no! They would rather sample, leave a small hole, and move on to try the pear next door as well.

And then, we have the wind. Autumn can be a windy season around here, and this year is no exception. Many of the pears end up on the ground before they are ripe. These windfalls are often the ones I collect. They are easy to reach, and being still quite firm, have not taken any harm from their fall. However, danger lurks below. There’s a wasp nest somewhere around the orchard and the wasps begin feasting long before I arrive. They go for the half-rotten fruit, preferably already holed by the birds. So I tread very carefully under the trees, and restrict my haul to the unripe pears, preferably well away from the busy wasps.

The windfall pears are poles apart from Emerson’s perfect 10 minutes, and unfortunately, they are most unlikely to reach that happy state. For years, no matter how carefully I stored them or what ripening tricks I tried, many pears ended up going bad before they’re ripe enough to eat.

But I’m ever hopeful and this year I’m trying a new trick. I read some helpful pear hints in “This NZ Life” and they shed some light on my past pear problems.

Apparently, pears ripen from the inside out, so that even if a pear feels rock hard on the outside it may well be ripening on the inside.  So the best thing to do is to chill the pears as soon as you pick them, then bring out a few to finish ripening as you need them.

Pears and bananas in a paper bag to ripen
Apparently bananas and apples emit ethylene which will help to ripen, or at least soften the fruit.

Pears are a-cooking for the future.

Fortunately, if these new ripening ideas still don’t work, cooking will save the day. Poaching the pears in a sweet and delicious liquid will add flavour and soften the unripe fruit. I don’t have the time, skills (or quite frankly the inclination) to spend hours this week preserving multiple jars of fruit. I’ve tried it before and failed miserably every time.  So now I pick a little every day, and while the evening meal is cooking it’s often joined by a pot of pears bubbling gently on the stove. To preserve them, I’ll simply portion the cold pears into containers with the syrup and freeze.

Soft pears are cooked in a matter of minutes. I don’t trust these to the cooktop: they go into the microwave, with a little maple syrup, a knob of butter, cinnamon, vanilla essence and lemon juice for just a few minutes. They form their own delicious juice and taste exquisite. I’ve just finished cooking up the latest batch that did manage to ripen successfully.  I can’t wait to serve them up for dessert tonight.

But most pears will not be so ripe, so here’s how I’ll treat the main crop of windfall pears.

Pears poaching in a pot.
Pears in their sweet poaching liquid.

Simple Sweet’n’Spicy Poached Pears

8-12 firm pears            4-5 tbsp brown sugar or coconut sugar                

1-2 tsp ground cinnamon            1 lemon

Water                                                     Raisins or sultanas (optional)

What to do:

    1. Cut the pears into quarters, discarding core and stem. There is no need to peel.
    1. Put them into a deep saucepan on the stove (cooktop).
    1. Finely grate the lemon rind.
    1. Juice the lemon. (Use a lemon juicer to get as much as possible.)
    1. Add these to the pot.
    1. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon into the pot and add water until the pears are almost covered.
    1. Cover and bring to the boil.
    1. Simmer gently until the pears are soft but not falling apart. This could take 20 – 30 minutes, or even longer depending on the size of the pieces and the temperature of the cooking liquid. Slow is best.
  1. Once cooked, add a handful of raisins or sultanas if desired. Leave everything to cool in the pot. The pears will increase in sweetness and the dried fruit will plump up and add more flavour.

To serve:

I love these pears with maple-walnut ice cream. The walnut flavour goes so well with pears, but really any ice cream would be nice. Sometimes I add an extra topping of chopped, toasted walnuts. Cover the pears and ice cream with spoonfuls of the hot cooking syrup.

To download this recipe as a PDF click the link below.

Simple Sweet’n’Spicy Poached Pears PDF

There’s something deeply satisfying about eating food you’ve gathered and cooked yourself. It hearkens back to our hunter-gatherer roots perhaps? Or maybe nostalgically to what we think of as a simpler time.

Your Turn To Talk

Are you a forager who enjoys finding food in the wild?

Or are you, like me, lucky enough to have an orchard nearby, or random trees growing in the backyard? 

Maybe you have hints or recipes to share.

Let’s start a fruitful conversation in the comments.

Harvesting Stories Abound On The Blog

Mushrooms Galore.

Walnut Trees On The Farm

The Old Apple Tree

Hops In A Hurry

Gathering In The Grain