Listen and Learn

A whole new vista has opened before my eyes — or should I say “before my ears”. Inspirational talks, new skills and even controversial opinions are taking my brain by storm. And best of all, it fits perfectly into my day. What is this new love? Welcome to the wonderful world of podcasting.

A podcast? What’s that?

A podcast is an audio file which you can access on the internet. You can listen to it online or download it to hear offline at a later date. Podcasts are often done as a series of installments and the ones that I follow are a bit like audible blogs in the fields that interest me — education, inspiration,  and of course, blogging.

Podcasts are broadcast by all sorts of different people and websites and are available on just about any topic you care to mention. A simple Google search will generate dozens of possibilities.

But I don’t have time to be stuck by the computer all day.

Neither do I. And this was my biggest problem when I first discovered podcasts.

But you can listen to a podcast on any device.

Particularly, you can download them onto your phone. This is a game changer. My favourite listening times are during my morning walk and on long drives. We have lousy radio reception where I live, and a limited CD collection in the car, so I was beyond delighted to discover the podcast alternative.

So how do you do it?

You will need to install a podcast app onto your smartphone from either Play Store (android) or the App Store ( iPhones).

There are lots of different ones out there, and it can be hard to choose.

Think about what features are important to you and what amount you’re prepared to pay. When looking at an app, click on  READ MORE and a full description will appear explaining all the features of the app. Return to the short version and scroll down to see the user ratings and reviews.

Which app did you choose?

I use CastBox. (The latest, version with the orange icon.)

It was simple to download and install. On opening it asked me a few questions about my interests and then recommended some podcasts based on those. However, I knew the podcasters I particularly wanted to follow, and it was easy to type each one into the search box. Up came the link and I hit “subscribe.”

Once subscribed, a series is then in my list. It’s easy to choose a few episodes, download them at home where I have plenty of internet data, then listen offline while I’m walking or driving. Piece of cake!

Make sure you delete them afterwards though — you don’t want too many podcasts taking up space on your phone.

Now I’m not affiliated to CastBox and get no advertising revenue from mentioning them. I actually chose them because they had replied to a comment on the reviews, which mentioned a bug in that app. The reply explained that there was a new version in which that bug had been fixed. I found it and the rest is history.

So now you know. All it takes is a digital device and the right app.

Be inspired, informed or entertained: it’s all at your fingertips.

What are you waiting for? Make a start. Join the wonderful world of podcasting today.

Piece Together a Picture of Paradise


Every December I have the same problem. Christmas Cards. I really want to send them, and I really, really want to include a letter as well.  After all, for some of my friends, this is the only time of year we’re in touch.

But, here’s the thing. The end of the school year is taken up with one thing, and one thing only. The School Production.  It consumes every waking moment (and sometimes sleeping moments too) as we work to get the big show ready. So, no time for letter writing there.  

And of course when it’s all done and dusted, so are my energy levels. Now I have the time, but my brain has shut down. Inevitably what happens is, the packet of cards sits on the shelf and stares accusingly at me, never to be sent.

So this year I did something a little different. Instead of cards I sent some postcard puzzles. Intrigued? I hope so. Here’s the article I wrote on my daughter Jenny, and her clever idea.

Piece together a slice of New Zealand

Young and carefree, Jenny McNamee loved to travel, working where she could and exploring the wonders of the world.  And even when she touched base back home in New Zealand, as a tourism expert she helped  travellers from all over the globe to experience the beauties of her own, lovely country.

But whether overseas or in New Zealand, the same problem always presented itself: Where to find that unique, small, lightweight, easy to pack or post, perfect souvenir?

Fast forward to 2017, and the arrival of baby Harvey presented Jenny with the perfect time to focus on solving the problem.

A search through her diverse collection of stunning photographs… the giant jigsaw on the dining room table… an exploratory click on the internet and “Postcard Puzzles” was born.

A jigsaw and a postcard in one, Postcard Puzzles solve the souvenir dilemma in a unique and playful manner.

You can break it up and do the puzzle yourself, or write on the back and mail it to family and friends.

All the photos are from Jenny’s own South Island collection. With four iconic images to choose from and more in the pipeline, postcard puzzles are available at selected outlets in Oamaru, Garston and Te Anau, or contact Jenny online through her Facebook page


Here’s to the Gum Trees

Our house sits on top of a hill, alongside a gravel road and nestled behind a row of tall, leafy eucalyptus trees planted by my father-in-law 40+ years ago.  

Eucalypts — otherwise known as gum trees — are a very hardy group with plenty of annoying features. They’re not pretty trees: they don’t change colour in autumn nor have blossom in spring. There are no lovely scents or delicious fruits appearing on our trees. The bark peels off at the drop of a hat, it seems. Great swathes of the stuff, which blows all over what passes for our front lawn. Accompanied by myriad dry leaves, these cover the grass and blow into the carport every time the wind picks up.

Gum trees are vigorous. Their roots suck the goodness from the ground all around, and those pesky leaves create a mulch through which very little will grow. That’s my excuse for not having a decent garden.

In autumn, winter and spring,  the tall shadows slide over the house, blocking out the precious sunlight far too soon. On the other side of the row it’s bright and breezy. Behind, in our garden, cold and grey.

And yet we will never chop these trees. For their good far outweighs their bad.

When the wind is howling along the road, stirring up a choking cloud of dust, there’s not a speck on our side of the trees. During summer’s scorching heat that early shade is a welcome relief. So many storms have beaten on those trees: they’ve withstood every one. No windows have been broken, no trampolines tossed, no rubbish bins rolled: the trees are our protection and shelter.  

So here’s to the gum trees. Long may they stand.

The Electric Fan

I don’t remember a summer as consistently hot as this one has been. The month’s temperature map on the TV last night showed it clearly: the South was red (extreme) all over.

It’s weeks since I rolled shut the tunnel-house vents. Inside our house, everything that can be open, is. Most days the temperature is 30ºC or more. We’re tough, of course. No air-con here!

The HRV temperature gauge shows clearly that you wouldn’t want to be in the roof cavity in the afternoons —  it registers 50+ºC whenever the sun is out.

Now I’m not actually complaining about this. I much prefer having a dry, hot summer than the dry COLD summer that we had last year. That was horrible. And I know it could be worse.  At least I don’t have to play tennis in this heat.

But for the first time ever, this summer, I bought a cooling electric fan.  

And for that, I am very grateful.

I’m so grateful for my bed.

Every time I fall into my cosy, warm bed, I remember how lucky I am to be so comfortable.

There are so many people in the world who have lost the place they called home.  Whose beds are buried beneath the rubble of earthquake or storm-smashed buildings.  Or worse, in bombed out ruins.  Man’s inhumanity to man knows no bounds.

Closer to home, even in “Godzone” there are people living in cars, crammed into sheds or on the street.

There but for the grace of God…

So every night I pause to think, and thank God for my lovely bed.

“Give Me Today My Daily Walk”

When I say “I go for a walk every morning,” I’m positive the picture that pops into your mind, is not the reality that is my daily walk.

This is the best way to begin my day. Body and brain, heart and mind — all are refreshed and kick-started into action. It’s the fitness routine that I simply can’t do without

Such a beautiful route

Every day is different as I start walking up the grassy paddock that constitutes my backyard. In December the light will already be well advanced, but now that it’s nearer February, the 6 a.m. daylight is pale. Sunrise over the mountains is still more than an hour away. The dawn chorus is over by now, but the ducklings in their pen by the pond can be heard cheeping long before I see them. They know I’m bringing food and fresh water. The older ducks waddle up, ever-hopeful, but they’re always disappointed. Terry will feed them this evening.

Past the duck pond and into the second paddock. This one is steeper, leading up to the hills which form the rugged boundary of our farm.  Once upon a time I toiled up this hill, but now I speed up to get my heart-rate going. This familiar walk is no longer the challenge it once was.  At the top I’m relieved to see water cascading out of the water tank.  The overflow means that all is well with the farm water supply.

Up I go

Climbing through the wire fence, there are many possible routes to take,  but my favourite at the moment is scrambling up the creek. This is the lovely spring that feeds our house and much of the farm. Sometimes it’s a torrent that I wouldn’t go near, but today it’s a trickle. We are so close to a drought — but so far this little spring has not let us down.

Where the creek meets the water race I pause to gaze at the panorama spread out before me. It’s a familiar, ever-changing, spectacular view of the valley I call home.

The water race is filled in now —  a winding path that takes me across the mountainside. But it was designed to be a deep ditch, full of rushing water, for use at the goldmine in the next-door Nokomai Valley. There’s no hint of this today.  Now the path is filled with tussock and rocks. The cows and sheep have their own tracks meandering along, showing the easiest route to take through the dips and hollows of the seven little streams and marshes that cross the race.

Heading home

The homeward walk is all downhill. It gives me time to reflect on the day to come and give thanks for the wonder that is my daily walk.

Do you have a favourite walk or an unmissable start to your day?  Do, please,  make a comment about it.  

I’d love to hear about your routine.