31 December 2015

Summer in the city

People leave Wellington en masse at the end of the school year. But I like it here, especially over the summer holidays. It's like this place gets a massive people enema just when it is at its most appealing.  For a few days, there's no work to think about, little chance of rain and even less chance of running into someone you don't like very much. Even the wind has disappeared and that's something to celebrate. It has been calm four days running, so our windless day quota has been met for this decade but put a wine in my hand and let's call it summer. The quiet too is something to appreciate when you're a parent of children who like to yell at each other all the time. I try to be Calm Mum and the irony is not lost on me that it almost always ends up with me yelling the loudest of us all so I can be heard over their yelling just to tell them to stop yelling. We had no neighbours for a few days and I conducted a test to see if their arguing would eventually stop on its own if I didn't intervene. One child will eventually come into the house to find me to help sort out the problem/dry some tears. What I learned is that I need a better hiding place. After a period of thinking that I am getting redundant as my children grow up, it turns out I am still needed for some things. Paying school and activity fees, conflict resolution and being Santa.

Speaking of which, Christmas lists are not worth the paper they are written on, are they? Knowing my children as well as I thought I did, I got them to write their wish lists one week out from the big day because a) I hadn't had much time to think about Christmas before then and b) it would give them less time to change their minds. Ha. Ha. HA! It's most pleasing to spend hours scouring the internet, trawling through listings, ringing all the local sports shops and venturing into crowded malls to find a pair of elusive roller-skates that your child has been non-stop begging for ever since she went to a friend's roller-skating party six months ago, only to hear your beloved child say after a Christmas breakfast of a mouthful of a stodgy marshmallow snowman that she wanted rollerblades. The very ones that her sister got for Christmas. She loved this book though. Partial win.

We spent a couple of days over Christmas up at my husband's family's block of land, far enough away from Wellington to feel like you've gone somewhere but not so far that we are bereft of all conveniences like a hospital which, as it turned out, was required 30 minutes after we arrived. After a few decent attempts already, one child finally fulfilled her year-long ambition and broke her arm in spectacular fashion falling off the trampoline. So that's a fun way to start the summer holidays and to end the year, in a full arm cast, with not much for a one-armed bandit to do except to turn it into a game to keep her cast clean and dry. We stayed long enough to enjoy a lovely Christmas with family but not so long that we'd end up being the last to leave so we could avoid having to clean the toilet.

Here's a picture of my husband and children returning from hauling one very large and least Christmasy-looking tree up to the shed because it's not Christmas without a tree to decorate in plastic baubles and our children's handcrafts.
The offending trampoline is in the naughty corner
Happy New Year to you all wherever you may be and however you choose to see it in. Thanks so much for reading and leaving me comments or just reading then clicking out, whatever your style. I'm honoured you chose to spend that two minutes on me. Truly. See you again in 2016.

22 December 2015

The Day the Crayons Quit

Three days until the gift-bearing big fella comes and I'm still out there pounding the pavement on his behalf. He gets all the kudos while someone else does all the legwork, it hardly seems fair. Until you meet Bret McKenzie in Iko Iko, which is what happened to me today. Technically, I didn't actually 'meet' him. He was standing in the middle of the shop looking quite normal and not at all famous when I saw him and stared for longer than is polite trying to work out why he looked so familiar. We didn't speak to each other and I didn't even think to take a surreptitious photo of him which was completely a missed opportunity. It's quite reassuring to know that even famous people who happen to be one half of the world's fourth most popular folk duo also leaves his Christmas shopping till the last minute.

So, did he buy anything, you ask? No, but I did. I found this book, which half of the world already knows about anyway, I am sure, given it was sold out in quite a few places already. I can't believe it's already been out for a couple of years and I've only just heard about it. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt is a delightful story that injects distinct personalities into different crayon colours. It will have children seeing their crayons in a completely different light.
Pink crayon got some sass
Perfectly pitched for boys, the central figure is a little boy named Duncan who likes to draw pictures of dinos and other animals but I think any child will absolutely love it, especially if you have a little artist in the family, as I do. Oliver Jeffers' accompanying illustrations are cleverly child-like and humorous. This book is destined to become a favourite in this household. I just wish I had thought of writing it first.

18 December 2015

The space in between

This post has taken such a long time to compose, mostly because the words just wouldn't come. This time of the year always makes me feel contemplative and instead of staring at a blank screen as I have done so many times since my grandmother passed away six months ago, at last the words are coming.

Even after a dicky hip reduced her mobility and melanoma claimed part of her nose two years ago, she continued to live independently but we all knew there would be no coming back from her declining health that eventually forced her into a rest home. The matriarch of a sprawling family, she was a binding force that would bring us together from far-flung places to celebrate her milestone birthdays. We'd all had time to prepare and go and say our goodbyes before ill health could take its toll and reduce her to a frail, white-haired woman with a whisper of a voice.

Born at the tail-end of WWI in Hawera, she died just half an hour away from her birthplace, with a few of her most treasured family photographs and images of her beloved Saviour dotting the walls in her tiny room that backed onto a lake. Even with round-the-clock care and family coming and going, she died alone, as it happened. Strong-willed, determined and always one for not wanting fuss, maybe she designed it that way. 

When I think about what a treasure our family has lost, it helps me to look instead at the dash, the space in between her birth and her death. Although it is hard to forget how she was the very last time I saw her, reflecting on the space in between brings so much comfort. We'd jokingly refer to her sometimes as the Queen. Ever the Royalist, she followed all of the news out of the Palace with great interest. We all really hoped she'd be able to reach her 100th birthday to receive a telegram from Lizzie.

Hers was a life lived through great change. She grew up through the Depression, raised her own family on rations through World War II and witnessed huge advances in technology. Regardless, she had simple tastes, preferring to listen to the horse races on the wireless and peeling potatoes for her evening meal in front of the fire while she directed her outrage at someone's scandalous behaviour on Coro. 

The youngest of six children, she lived her life on her own terms. At a time when most girls her age were accepting marriage proposals, she went on a roadie with her brother riding his motorbike over shingle-covered backcountry roads. Even when it came time to settle down, she took an unorthodox approach, stealing one of her friend's boyfriends. His Protestant parents didn't approve, not because she was a boyfriend stealer, but because she was Catholic. In an era when marrying outside of their own religion was shunned, Grandma told his parents "I am marrying Bart, not you". That was Grandma, she was not one to conform or mince her words, and you could always be sure of an honest opinion even if you didn't ask for it.

She and Granddad moved into a house not far from Parihaka and raised their three sons and a daughter, my mother, on a farm against the backdrop of Mount Taranaki. When Granddad died suddenly in '78, the light in Grandma's eyes faded a little. As stoic as that generation is, she picked herself up and carried on, packing up her life and making a fresh start in Opunake. She loved her children, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and there have been many over the years - and she never forgot a birthday. Her mind was sharp and her soul was young, too young to be rattling around in an old woman's body. She was the proof that you can live a long life on a sugar and salt-laden diet interspersed with the odd cheeky shandy.

A woman of strong faith, she had waited 37 years to be reunited with her great love, and was laid to rest alongside Granddad in their beautifully peaceful spot with a view of the mountain. Together at last. We'll miss you Grandma, place a winning bet for us at that big racecourse in the sky.

23 September 2015

When coat racks give perspective

It's all quiet in the house and my only day off this week is looming large with piles of housework and even though I vowed this would not happen, it is exactly how I will be spending the day after all. All around me I just see the wanton destruction that a decade's worth of family life has done to this place. This house is a large-scale reflection of what is happening to my face and body. No amazing family holiday for us in some wonderfully exotic location this summer, I need to work just to be able to repair or replace all the broken stuff.

Our jug leaks and the automatic off switch is broken so if it hasn't already lost its contents all over the bench, it threatens to boil dry anyway and all the curtains in the bedrooms are just hanging by a thread from being left down permanently because the pull cords are broken. We've killed another broom and there's something stuck up the vacuum cleaner pipe that can't be coaxed out in either direction. My guess is that it is two years' worth of loom bands. Our entry, I'll admit, has never been a particularly welcoming space, but it's looking like squatters took up residence in there. The front door is swollen from months of wet weather and we have to kick the door sometimes just to open or shut it, which is always good for a bit of dramatic effect when someone knocks at the door. For the third time someone pulled too heavily on our poor coat rack, and three weeks later, it's still on the floor, in the same spot that it was when it fell out of the wall, just with a few more coats and bags dumped on it because it's still the coat rack. I will fix it, three weeks is more than enough of a clue that no-one else is going to do it.

Strangers can tell that children live here because there's a waterlogged soccer ball rotting in the overgrown garden. Somewhere in the corner there's a neglected pet bunny. Children also live here because there's a purple shoe in the lounge that I just tripped over to reach the half-eaten packet of Chit Chats I left out from binge-watching Breaking Bad the night before. I'm finishing off those biscuits as I write this. It's my coffee. A family lives here because there's a pile of washing to sort but never any clean, matching socks to wear and discarded rolls of toilet paper on the bathroom floor even after many patient attempts to convert the last person to finish a roll to put it in the bin. A family lives here because there are photos on the wall of a young couple filled with hopes and dreams for their future. If the grubby walls and marked furniture aren't proof enough of realizing those dreams, there are also some photos of babies growing up right before our eyes and if I stop and reflect on those images, none of the mess, the broken bits and parts that just frustrate me even matter. He tangata he tangata he tangata. A tidy house can wait. Except for the coat rack. I am going to fix it now.

14 September 2015

A lesson in book censure

Nothing is more appealing to a curious child than a cupboard with a lock. More appealing still is knowing that the key to that cupboard is always kept in the lock, ready to be turned at any time when no-one else is looking. To a book lover, even more amazing than that is finding a pristine-looking book tucked in amongst all the important household documents. This was how I discovered, at age 9 or 10, 'Lady Chatterley's Lover'. When my mother found out that I was reading it, she wasn't particularly happy about it. She didn't want me to read it, but she didn't stop me. This is a very important lesson. Had she taken that book from me with no explanation given, I would have found ways to find it and not because I was an especially disobedient child, but because I would have been curious to know what was in the book to garner such a response from my mother. As it turned out, and perhaps just as my mother was hoping, I was far too young to understand any of the sexual content so I found it to be a very underwhelming book. In fact, I wondered what all the fuss was about.

Let's give our children more credit where policing books is concerned. To jump the gun with our responses to what we perceive will be damaging to them is to do a disservice to their intelligence. Over the past week, a young adult fiction book freely available to the public was banned from sale or supply in New Zealand after a complaint from conservative lobby group, Family First. 'Into the River' won Book of the Year and the Young Adult Fiction category in the 2013 NZ Post Children's Book Awards. It contains sex, drugs and obscene language. It also contains issues relating to racism and bullying. Aren't these topics that we should be talking to our pre-teens and teens about? I have not read the book, but now I really want to. I am not even the target demographic. This book was written for male teenagers, which is by and large, a difficult audience to reach. Surely something that encourages this demographic to pick up a book can only be a good thing?

Many of us may remember reading 'Clan of the Cavebear', 'Go Ask Alice' and the 'Flowers in the Attic' series, to name just a few. All of them contain confronting subject matter yet the overriding memory from these novels is not that they contained adult content but that they were powerful stories. The very fact that 'Into the River' is an award-winning novel demonstrates that Dawe's work has been judged by his peers to be a story deemed worthy of being told, shared and discussed.

The best way to get even the most reluctant reader to pick up a book is to ban it. With all the attention surrounding 'Into the River' over the past few days, Family First may have just done the complete opposite to what it had intended and actually promoted sales, given that it can still be bought from overseas websites.

What 'controversial' books did you enjoy reading as a teen?

11 September 2015

Help! The Wolf is Coming!

If you are looking for a birthday or Christmas gift book idea for a toddler or preschooler, consider this board book by Cedric Ramadier, which quite literally, turns reading on its head. When we received our review books from Gecko Press a little while ago, this was the first one in the bundle that Aimee picked up. She was aged 5 at the time. She was drawn to it by its simple drawings which can tell a story within themselves but we discovered that this is also a very interactive book that engages the child with instructions for when to turn the page. The reader will find themselves tilting and turning the book every which way as the wolf inches closer.
It sounds very ominous, and yes, for sensitive children, it may well incite a little fear depending on the reader's tone of voice, but it is a great book to introduce them to the concept of building anticipation through a simple narrative. There is no better endorsement of this book than when my two year old nephew was introduced to the book just recently. He loved it so much that even after reading it to him three times, he cried when the book was taken away from him. Guess what he'll be getting for Christmas?

Reading level: All ages. Perfect for reading aloud to preschoolers.
RRP: $19.99

02 September 2015

{Free Printable} Father's Day Kids' Quiz

Even though it's still wet and cold, I love that winter is officially over. It has been quite a rough season in the Paper Moon household and I am looking forward to getting back onto an even keel again. Spring is my favourite season; I love the promise of new beginnings, longer, warmer evenings and that my daughters were all born at this time of the year, which means launching into birthday party mode.

Father's Day is also fast approaching and for the last couple of years, it has become a little tradition for the girls to fill out a simple questionnaire for their Dad. Each year yields different responses as they get older and their relationships with their Dad develop. I still laugh at the answers my daughters gave the first time they did this. There are many questionnaires available on the internet; I first saw this idea on Mousehouse's blog and simply changed some of the wording on her Mother's Day questionnaire to make it more suitable for Father's Day. It's quite a revelation to see how children view their parents and serves as a great memento of this fleeting ride raising children.

This year, I decided to make a shorter version with more white space so Aimee could practice writing independently. Feel free to download my printable for your own personal use. Try it, laughs will be guaranteed.

12 July 2015

Triangle crochet blanket

It has been a while since I have blogged about anything crochet-related but I can finally share a blanket I started over 18 months ago. I am not usually one to leave things unfinished for so long! Inspired by all the fabric triangle quilts I was seeing on the internet at the time, I started to make a child's blanket out of crochet triangles. It measures about 87cm x 114cm and is a mixture of acrylic and wool.If you are looking for a relatively quick project, this is not it. When I discovered that it takes me around 40 minutes to single crochet just one triangle, the enormity of the blanket project I was about to embark on hit me and I had to push through a few moments of ennui - and also downscale the size of the project to a baby blanket. It is now the second winter since starting this blanket and the cold nights we've been experiencing over the past few weeks have really been the motivator I needed to forge ahead and complete it.What I find with crochet is that I can never be sure exactly how much yarn I will need for any particular project. I used up some of the yarn in my stash and needed to buy more pale pink and grey only to discover that not just those particular colours, but all of the yarn I was using in this blanket has now been discontinued. Sad face. There is something to be said for not leaving unfinished projects languishing in a bag for over a year. It meant that I had to use the remaining yarn in my stash and resulted in enforced placement of some of the triangles where I would have otherwise chosen a different colour for greater balance. Similarly, the very simple double crochet border and pink single crochet edging was a result of not having enough yarn to work the border I really wanted to use. I had got almost two thirds of the way through the border before I realised I would not have enough yarn and had to unravel it all. In the end though, I am happy with the simpler edging so maybe this was just how it was meant to be.
Aside from how slow the triangles were to work up and running out of yarn, the other issue that I faced was finding the best way to stitch them all together. If I was more certain on colour placement from the beginning, a join-as-you-go method would have been ideal and I should have left long tails on each of the triangles to make the process even more simple. Since I had woven the tail of each triangle as I completed it, I put the right sides of the triangles together and slipstitched them. It results in a standard ridge-like join on the back of the blanket.In part because of all of the issues I encountered, I do feel such a great sense of satisfaction to have finally completed it. What are you working on at the moment? I'd love to hear from you.

09 July 2015

The Bakehouse

A wonderfully evocative work of historical fiction, The Bakehouse by Joy Cowley is told from the point of view of Bert, a man in his 80s carrying a wartime secret. In the company of his great-grandson, he reflects on the events in Wellington leading up to one critical moment that changed the lives of several people forever.

The year is 1943 and while New Zealand lies far from the front-lines, there are signs everywhere of the threat of war. American servicemen are prominent in the city and with news reports updating the steady march of the Japanese in the Pacific, 11 year old Bert, with the help of his sisters Betty and Meg, decides to convert the disused and largely forgotten bakery hidden in the hills near their house into a bomb shelter. There, they encounter a young Kiwi soldier who has deserted the NZ Army and so begins a game of subterfuge with very real and devastating consequences for them all.

The story itself is compelling, with the threads of loyalty and betrayal running through the heart of it yet if the book is dissected further, there are so many linguistic features and themes that would generate great discussion in a classroom setting including the effects of war on ordinary people, the role women played during this time, the relationships between family members and the issue of morality when confronted with a complex, adult problem.

Given this is the centennial year of the landing of our troops at Gallipoli in WWI and classroom learning this year has focussed on conflicts and life in New Zealand during wartime, I knew my eldest daughter would have an interest in this book. It does not disappoint.

Reading level: 9-13 (note: adult themes relating to sex, while not expressly stated, are contained in the book)
RRP: $19.99
Released: August 2015

Thank you to Gecko Press for sending us a copy of this greatly anticipated novel for us to review. For your chance to WIN yourself a copy, head to Gecko Press's Facebook page. They are having a month of giveaways to celebrate their 10th year in publishing. The timing could not be more perfect!

29 June 2015

Styled Canvas Challenge: Breakfast in Bed

Would you look at that? Almost July already, which means it has been nearly 30 days since I first started umming and ahhing over whether to take part in Styled Canvas's new monthly styling challenge. You already know that I love watching home makeover shows like The Block franchise and if you follow me on Instagram, you'll see that I've enjoyed putting together a few scenes for the 7 vignettes series that is run by Jen from Interiors Addict. One of the criteria for this particular styling challenge was to borrow at least three items from businesses, friends or acquaintances to use in the photos. Part of me was excited about the concept (I even had a list of places here in Wellington to approach) but most of me was intimidated by the thought. Would homewares stores be happy to lend me some of their products? Expensive products. To little old me. A jandal-wearing, messy up-do non-stylist driving a car with a dent in it. Would I have to wear makeup to go and see them? Would I have to hide the car? It was too much for me to cope with. Mel's whole idea is to push people out of their comfort zones so I may be brave to approach businesses next time. Unless it's laundries, because no-one deserves to see the shambles that is where we wash our clothes. So, I was quite relieved to find that Mel had relaxed her criteria which made the decision easier to join in for this month's Breakfast in Bed theme with items I already own or borrowed from other parts of the house.
The theme Breakfast in Bed has been taken to mean breakfast pillows, in part because I wanted to do something a little different from a scene of enjoying breakfast in bed. I tend not to have hot drinks anyway so this probably a better reflection of what a relaxing Sunday morning would look like for me. I read blogs and spend time on my own one. I have also been going through some photos and thought they'd be a good prop.
I've never shown my bedroom to you before, it's quite a personal space after all. Or in my case,  generally very untidy and just a bit grim. That charcoal duvet cover is so old and sunfaded now and really needs replacing but you'd never know in these photos. We don't usually have that many pillows on the bed either, I borrowed some from the lounge and then wrapped up another pillow from Sienna's room in some of my favourite Leanne Culy rata fabric for this photo. Photo styling hack 101.

It's quite a grey wintery day here at the moment, and there is nothing better than being snuggled up in those flannelette sheets when the weather is cold. Red is one of my favourite colours so you'll often find it sneaking in somewhere in the rooms of our home. The woven bag on the floor was a gift from my husband. It had been laying forgotten in the wardrobe and that book has been sitting on my nightstand for a while, gathering dust. My favourite item in the room is the Infratherm lamp that my husband bought me many years ago. I love industrial pieces and the warmth of timber together.
Usually, the space above our bed is empty because I am still waiting for the money fairies to deposit great lumps of cash under my pillow so we can go and buy a Julie Heffernan or Jane Mogensen artwork but here in the real world, we just put up a fabric map of Europe with packaging tape. I plan to turn that fabric into a floor cushion one day.

So, there is your little peek into my bedroom, taken from angles that hide the floral mattress base, all the cardboard boxes of children's art and old schoolbooks stored under the bed and deftly ignoring the other side of the room that looks like a student flat. Don't forget to check out the other entries for this month and maybe I have given you some courage to have a go interpreting next month's theme when it is revealed, or if you're quick you can join in for the Breakfast in Bed challenge. Entries close tomorrow.

16 June 2015

Travels of an Extraordinary Hamster

Hamster lives in the woods with his friends Mole, Snail, Hedgehog and Rabbit. When Hamster announces that he wants to visit his cousins on the moon, his woodland friends persuade him to go on a trip to the North Pole instead. What follows is a series of encounters and unlikely friendships with penguins (let's just overlook this geographical inaccuracy), a polar bear and even a whale.

Hamster is selfish and often insensitive and forthright. When I read the story with all three of my children, they immediately noticed his boorish behaviour towards his friends and understood that his inappropriateness was part of the book's appeal. In Hamster, I couldn't help but recognise one or two people I have met throughout my life, but at the same time, he is funny and my daughters and I giggled all the way through his adventures with his friends at the North Pole.
The story is told through beautiful colour illustrations offset with dialogue in speech bubbles. The chapters are short and punchy and set out in a way that would appeal to even the most reluctant of readers. In fact, we read this book in one sitting, simply because we were all eager to turn the page to look at the next series of images.
French author Astrid Desbordes has teamed up with illustrator Pauline Martin before to write an earlier book about Hamster called Reflections of a Solitary Hamster, and we will be looking that title up after falling in love with this character.

Thank you to Gecko Press for sending my family a copy of Travels of an Extraordinary Hamster to review.

Reading level: 7+
RRP: $24.99
Released: June 2015

13 May 2015

{Renee Reviews} - When I Am Happiest

Most of you who have followed along here for a while know that I have three daughters. They are all now in school and my eldest two in particular seem to ebb and flow with their enthusiasm for reading. It is so strange for me to see this since I have always been a bookworm and even though I want my daughters to feel the same way about reading as me, I know it is unwise to push them into something which can make them switch off altogether. My youngest daughter, Aimee, really turned a corner when she started school towards the end of last year. Never have I been more excited to see her proudly show me her reading book for that particular day and actually want to sit down and read it to me. This is what I want to encourage, the enjoyment of reading, of having that interest in plot development and how stories can transport us to a different time and place or echo parts of our own lives. I have seen such a change in Aimee's enthusiasm for reading and hope it will continue to grow. I still hope that my eldest children will want to pick up a book and read for enjoyment, but it's a work in progress for them and with Aimee at an emergent reader level, at least this way, I can still get to read aloud to them all at bedtime. In my hope to encourage my children's love of reading for pleasure, I have been lucky enough to partner with Gecko Press. They are a boutique publishing house here in Wellington and their books are very distinctive because of their beautiful covers that often have quirky illustrations. The books they publish are generally English translations of award-winning overseas titles, but there are a number of New Zealand authors and illustrators amongst them as well, including Joy Cowley, Margaret Mahy, Elizabeth Knox and Jack Lasenby. Importantly to me as a parent, the books seem to intrigue children to pick them up in the first place which is often the biggest hurdle. From time to time, Gecko Press will send our family books for us to enjoy and we will select from them the ones we would like to review. We are not compensated in any other manner and all views expressed are mine and those of my daughters.

'When I Am Happiest' by Swedish author Rose Lagercrantz is one in a series of three books about a young girl called Dani. The story contains black and white illustrations by Eva Eriksson and short chapters, which is a key factor to help a child move on from picture books, but who may not be quite ready to tackle longer novels. 'When I Am Happiest' is a tale based on camaraderie, family and love which is brought to the fore when Dani's dad is seriously injured in a road accident. I wondered how my sensitive child would respond to this event, but it led to some good discussion about mortality and what would happen if something happened to me or her dad and also the importance of searching for the good in the bad.

I thought you might like to read Renee's thoughts since she is the book's target audience. She writes:

I think it's a very extraordinary and purrrfect book. I enjoyed the story because it has a mixture of emotions. I felt sad when the father got run over. I laughed at the riddle How many eyes does a herring have? Please comment if you think you know the answer. Anyway, I think it's a good book for 7 year olds and up. It has lots of nice pencil illustrations.

Reading level: 5-7
RRP: $19.99
Due for release in July 2015

Thank you Gecko Press for sending us a copy to review. Book images taken from the Gecko Press website. Feel free to take a guess at Renee's riddle. There are no prizes, but you will make a 7 year old's day.

07 May 2015

The Bachelor NZ Ep 16: The Finale

Here we are, the moment we have all been waiting for. T minus 21 girls, eight weeks and a bazillion sparkly outfits and extreme dating locations and we are down to the final two. I. Can't. Stand. It.
Tourism New Zealand should do quite nicely out of this series, I should think. Not so sure about Suzuki, they are still nana cars. And Lindauer, woweee. I shudder to think how many throats that beverage was lubricating at Bachelor parties around the country last night.

Art's abs get in one last round of exercise before he takes his girlfriends to meet his parents as they and his eldest sister have joined him on the Gold Coast. Matilda walks in and sees his family seated together like the interview panel from the Dragon's Den. Art's father leaks out a "Wow" at the sight of her. Good start. They start firing questions at her. Art's mother has quite a formidable presence and she takes Matilda aside for an arm wrestle and also to chat. She wonders if Matilda is too much of a 'yes' girl. Some of the questions are quite direct. Art's sister thinks Matilda would fit well with the family. Given that Art has already told Matilda previously that he would be checking to see if his sister approves of her, this is a good sign.
Afterwards, Art and Matilda head to a wildlife hospital and a koala does a Poppy on her the entire time they are trying to have an intimate discussion. Then, it poos on her bare midriff. The feralness of it all. If this was the American version this scene would never have made it to air, but this is New Zealand and we find that kind of thing hilarious. A broken arm and defecated on by a marsupial. This girl deserves to win.

They enjoy a dinner and Matilda goes into hustle mode, stating that they would be more compatible because Dani has never been in a serious relationship before and probably doesn't know the difference between lust and love. Ouch. Then it's off to the beach for a roll in the sand.

Ding, ding. Round two. Dani arrives at Art's place to meet the in-laws. The family is still seated intimidatingly around the outdoor dining table and muttering amongst themselves. Similar questions are thrown at Dani and when Art's mother takes her aside to talk to her, she asks if Dani thinks she will be the last one standing. Dani is really convinced that she will be and if Art wants to get engaged, she would be fine with that. Her intensity is matched by Art's mother's gaze. Dani discloses that she is in love with Art. Art's mum kisses Dani on the lips as they leave. They are obviously a very close family, but I notice that Matilda only got a hug. Is this a telling sign? Dani says to the camera that she hopes after she tells Art how she's feeling that Art will say that he loves her as well and wants to be with her. No, no, no Dani, this is not how the show works. You must wait until the final rose declaration to learn whether he is feeling the way you do.

They head to Seaworld and go swimming among the dolphin wee. Anything Matilda can do, Dani can do better.
Art and Dani enjoy a romantic poolside dinner date at The Hilton with lots of fairy lights and reflective surfaces. Dani reveals that she is in love with him and Art squeaks out a "OMG. Thank you". That went well, then.

Art needs to choose a ring. Thank goodness this show has been full of product placement so he knows who to call. Michael Hill - Jeweller does house visits now. Not only does he give Art a ring, he offers some sage marital advice. I think he should stick to marriage guidance.
The music becomes more dramatic as we see each of the girls and Art getting ready for the finale. Art describes Matilda as beautiful, funny and warm. He says Dani is vivacious, positive and stunning. Who will he choose, there are no negative adjectives there to tell me which way this thing is going to go. There are violins playing and Art, dashing but sweaty in his suit on this hot Gold Coast day, walks onto McLaren's Landing. He stands alone on the sand under a pergola held together with the broken dreams and despair of all the girls he has bid adieu to on his journey of love. The camera is trained on a patch of sand where the girl who will have her heart broken will appear.

It's Dani. The girl who gave him her heart, her soul and the nation so many great facials. He starts by telling her all of the things he loves about her and that a life with her would be an ongoing adventure. Then he says BUT, which is all Dani needs to hear to know she is not going to get familiar with his face ever again. Dani is not expecting this speech at all. She composes herself enough to wish him and Matilda well, saying that they will have a wonderful future together if it beats what they had. He apologises for hurting her, and she is clearly devastated. They walk to where he says his final goodbye and then she walks out of his life and probably straight to the carpark to key his car.
Art shuffles off to kick some sand and wait for Matilda so he can stop feeling bad about taking the bubble out of Dani's bubbliness. If Art's paleo business flounders, he should consider a career in speech-writing. His words to Matilda are pitch-perfect. Matilda had been worrying all day that it wouldn't be her, and he responds with "It's always been you". He presents her with the Super Bowl championship ring and they walk off into the sunset busting out dance moves and with Art singing this song:

To all the girls I've loved before
Who stepped out from behind the car door
I'm glad they came along
Cocktails would have been better with a bong
Shivani would have been easier to score

Fiona, Michelle and Nikki
Natasha, Rosie and Cristy
And Lisa didn't stay that long
Their Bachelor game wasn't strong
And Danielle L's too old for me

Hayley wanted to be my wife
She couldn't rap to save her life
Amanda and her smily face
And her golf game's a disgrace
I've got no other words to rhyme with wife

To all the girls I've once caressed
Kristie thought she was the best
She's the girl who just wanted love
But I gave her the shove
She's gone home to study up on Black Doris plums, I guess

To all the girls who cared for me
Alysha, Poppy and Natalie
Chrystal had no heart
And laughed at my bowl cut
But she still got some jewelry

To all the girls who spent time with me
Carissa, Brigitte and Danielle B
There was controversy along the way
And despite the rumours, I'm not gay
With six sisters peeing sitting down comes naturally

Dani had so much more to give
I thought she was really attractive
And though it was wrong I know
I strung her along for the entire show
I hope her step-mum doesn't find out where I live

Matilda proved her love for me
By breaking part of her anatomy
And when the koala did a poo
And used her puku for a loo
I knew that it was meant to be

06 May 2015

The Bachelor NZ Ep 15: Getting cosy on the Gold Coast

Please ensure your seatbacks and tray tables are secured in their upright positions, we are about to land at the fantasy dates destination. The show's music is ramped up a couple of notches to let us know how exciting it is to be in Australia. Where the sun is shiney and the skies are always blue except for the ominous storm clouds just before the rose ceremony that portent the end of the blonde triple layer love sandwich that Art has been snacking on.

Dani gushes to the camera that Art treats her in a way in which she's never been treated before. She's 22, there's still time. They attempt to surf on the Gold Coast waves of love and then head aboard a luxury yacht where there's lots of "Ooh, sunset", "Ooh, nice view" and other idle chitchat interspersed with Dani ravenously launching at his face. They come up for air to enjoy some dinner and Dani feels that their chemistry is written in the stars because Art is Taurean and she is a Cancer which are really compatible. I had to check that detail and she isn't making it up. Art invites Dani to spend the night on the yacht but is unsure how Dani will respond to his invitation. At a guess:

Art goes to great pains to reassure her that the overnight stay will be just at pyjama party levels of sordidness. All sorts of euphemisms are used to avoid using the 's' word that rhymes with ex, because 7.30pm timeslot.
Hands where we can seem them, Dani.

She agrees to spend the night with him but disappointingly, we don't get to see them with their early morning bed hair or what they have for breakfast but it will be something ridiculously healthy sprinkled with some rose petals and an added helping of Adonis goodness. One assumes.

Matilda heads on the next date, walks along a marina and loves what she sees, but she's easily impressed. Art romances her with a cruise on a rickety gondola, which quite sensibly, is motorised. They head out for dinner and Matilda gushes that it's amazing. Am I missing something here because it looks like someone ran out of time to set the table properly. It is basically a couple of glasses of water, some rose petals dumped on the table and the previous diner's left their dance of the seven veils costume on the corner.

Matilda says the food is lovely and deadpans that it is just like the food she cooks at home. Art misses the joke, so Matilda has to clarify that it's not at all like what she cooks at home. Awks. They head upstairs to the "amazing" penthouse and go out onto the balcony to spill some more superlatives about the view. The dessert platter looks good and Art tests whether everything on the plate is edible. It's not. To Art's credit, he blushes when he tries to eat a red sliver of plastic. Art says he was nervous that he was not going to meet someone he really liked on this experience but he couldn't have been more wrong. Is he talking about Matilda specifically? After seeing Dani and Art on their date, I just don't know anymore. They get to the crux of the chat and he invites her to spend the night but she declines the offer and then spends the rest of the episode agonizing over whether she has made the right decision. Bed. Lie in it.

Alysha has the final date and stands right in front of a Helicopter tours sign and asks what they are going to be doing. Oh, Alysha. They fly inland to a health spa retreat and proceed to step into a hot tub where Arthur has obviously been watching those home birthing videos again and reenacts the blood and gore by pouring some oil and good red wine INTO THE WATER. Alysha tries not to throw up at the grossness.

They take a shower and I'm feeling like I need one too watching this. Alysha says it feels private but there's a camera trained on them and we are all watching so it is very voyeuristic.

We know Arthur likes his trees, so there's the obligatory shot of him losing control at the size of the ones they see on their post-shower bush walk. There's a decent picnic set out for them on a deck overlooking an amazing vista, but coming from New Zealand, I'm just paying lip service. It's becoming clear that South Islanders aren't particularly knowledgeable about fancy fruit because Alysha has not heard of quince before. They chat and Alysha does her best to make no eye contact whatsoever and so kissing seems like a good way to pass the time. Oh, and spending the night together.

Now we are down to decision-making time and Mike casually interviews Art from his matching Barcelona chair. Is it easier or harder now there are only three girls left? Well Mike, it doesn't make it easier. So it's hard then. Right, glad we established that. Moving right along to the rose ceremony. The geniuses at the TV3 wardrobe unit colour-code the girls so it's clear who spent the night with Art and who held out. Matilda, dressed in virginal white, looks anxious and sweaty.

The suspense is building and in classic cliffhanger fashion, the show makes us wait until after a commercial break to find out who gets a rose. Matilda wins the first rose and then returns to hold hands with her bestie, Dani. Dani gets the last rose, sending Alysha home. Dani and Matilda hug in happiness, overjoyed with the knowledge that they get to share their boyfriend for a few more days. Alysha's stoic but there are oily, red wine whirlpools of anger in those baby blues of hers. She forces a smile and musters up something nice to say. They walk stiffly to the front door and have another stilted conversation and I am screaming at her to do the right thing and stab him in the head with her stiletto. Right between the eyes, there's still time! But, no, she's a classy married woman until the very end.
We also get a sneak peek at what I imagine is the promise ring, because we can be pretty sure there's not going to be a proposal at the end of this show. I literally gasp when I see it, and not in a good way.

Tune in tonight for the last episode. Who will win the final rose? Will it be Dani the Despo, or Matilda the Hold-out? It's going to be MASSIVE!

30 April 2015

The Bachelor NZ Eps 13 and 14: Hometown visits

Open wide and say ahhhh nice houses, we're on to the hometown visits. Art manages to squeeze in a game of tennis with another guy who isn't important enough to introduce to the nation before he heads off to find Dani and - no tongue on greeting each other? Just a hug on Herne Bay beach by way of hello? I did not see that one coming. The prospect of meeting one set of your four girlfriends' parents would crush anyone's libido. Wait. What? Step-mum and step-dad are going to be there too? Two sets of parents and Dani's twin sister. Intense.
The ghetto.
Dani worries that Art will find her father quite 'full on'. Apple. Tree. While the women are busy falling over themselves to welcome Art, Dani's dad and step-dad adopt some typical "You don't impress me" posturing and I am busily scoping the minimalist interior for signs of which set of parents live here. I deduce that it is her father and step-mother's house purely because he seems to know where the bin is when a glass gets broken. The relationship between the four parents seems very convivial. It's not hard to tell who Dani gets her affectionate nature from.

Her dad has a chain smoker voice but a heart of well, I'm not entirely sure. He takes Art out into the garden for a game of dArts. I know. Art spins him a line that he really likes his daughter but Robbo's not really listening because he's thinking about the body he used to have while standing next to Art's impressive set of guns. Meanwhile, Dani presents her real mum with a bracelet courtesy of Michael Hill JewellerTM because apparently this is what you do when you're busily breaking The Bachelor's face and want to demonstrate that you've missed your mother while doing so.

Art is grilled by both sets of parents but in particular by Dani's step-mother, Amanda, who struggles to understand the concept of competing against other women to find love on a television show. Art pretends to look like he cares. She asks who is going to be the one to raise the children. One step at a time, Mandy. He's only interested in the act of making babies with Dani, not actually having the babies. If Dani does not win the final rose, we will know where to point the finger of blame. Amanda is scary.

To ease the post-interrogation stress levels, Art and Dani go shopping in a very suspiciously empty shop before farewelling each other.

With one hometown visit under his belt, Art looks more prepared for what to expect on his next family visit with Matilda. She is also waiting for her boyfriend at the beach. Before they arrive at a holiday home on Waiheke Island where Art will get to meet her father, Ken, and friend Georgie, she coaches him to laugh at her Dad's jokes. Ah, Dad jokes are a real litmus test aren't they? Matilda's parents separated when she was 13 and are no longer on speaking terms so with just two people to meet, this visit should be a cakewalk for Art.
Much idle chitchat, so awks

They walk in the house to meet Ken and Georgie who have flown in from Australia and for once, Art is not the most awkward male in the room. Good old Ken obviously doesn't like awkward silences so launches into some historical babble about a vege shop and I am dying. The boys bond over the BBQ while Matilda and her friend make salad and small talk.

Ken warms into his role and, like Art, seems to be very genuine and articulate. What is happening to me? This episode is making me lose my cynicism. He is very protective of his daughter and they have a private chat where he keeps her feet firmly on the ground by asking her whether she will be okay if she is not the last one standing. No bedazzled piece of jewellery for you, Ken.

Matilda takes Art to visit her old primary school and shows him where she broke her other arm. Mentioning an event that happened over 15 years ago is the only exciting thing to happen on this visit.

Poppy's house is either not up to filming standards, or she rents and her housemates aren't happy for it to appear on the show because Poppy meets Art on a communal farm complete with paleo chooks where she used to do volunteer work. Art meets her best friend, AJ, and her mother, Sarah, who has flown over from Australia. Poppy greets her mother like a 5 year old and then leaves her friend standing there awkwardly waiting for a hug.

Art and Sarah have a chat together and Art cries that he can't have four girlfriends. AJ falls a little bit in love with Art when she hopes Art stumbles on one of her questions to gauge his suitability, but he answers it with aplomb instead. Sarah is charmed by her prospective son-in-law and tells Poppy that he is TPG and I agree but only if it means totally phunking gormless. Disappointingly, it means The Perfect Guy so Poppy gives her mum a bracelet.

Art and Poppy go out for a cocktail and have a little conversation where Poppy confides that she has had her guard up because of the fact she is reminded that there are still six other girls, five other girls, three other girls and by this stage even Art loses patience with the glaring error in her basic maths speech and cuts her short. With Dani lightyears ahead of her in the kissing stakes, Poppy has her work cut out for her and this is her last chance to leave a lasting impression.

By hometown visit number four, Art has got some real swagger going on. Alysha is waiting for him outside the only open shop on Invercargill's main street (probably). It is a stone's throw away from the emergency contraceptive dispensary and Art notes that for later (possibly). They head into a chocolatier to make their own chocolate because aphrodisiac. Things get dirty in the Deep South and Art obligingly licks chocolate off Alysha's neck. Risque. He's still a good boy underneath it all and brings Alysha's mum some flowers to help compensate for the stink stirling silver heart-shaped necklace that Alysha gives her later on.

Alysha's dad really likes Art but real men don't talk about these things so we can only guess that he approves because he gives the sheep a few extra bits of bread. During the family meal, he gives a father of the bride toast and Art looks scared.

After dinner with the family, Art and Alysha have some time to themselves rugged up in the paddock next to the house with a motorbike and some goalposts in the background. At last, a hometown visit I can relate to.

Who has made enough of an impact on Art to remain in the front of his mind as he makes his decision on who will come with him on the upcoming fantasy dates?

Cue panoramic shot of Auckland just to remind the viewer that we are now back in the big smoke. There are some highly staged shots of each of the girls gazing pensively into the distance in their evening gowns for dramatic effect. There are only four girls remaining, each as desirable as the other and we nod empathetically at how extremely difficult it will be for Art to make his decision.

It feels like an age has passed to reach this point. Alysha and Matilda receive roses. Dani and Poppy look like they are going to pass out on the floral carpet. Then, HIGH DRAMA, Art asks to speak to Dani in private. He questions how serious she is about him. What the blind hell?! Has being on this show made him a bit thick? I can't blame him, after six weeks of this mindless television, I feel less capable of functioning in the real world myself. Dani launches into an impassioned speech about how much she wants him that he cannot possibly doubt how MUCH SHE WANTS HIM. And so, after a glorious beginning and showing promise of a real connection with Art, Poppy's journey of love is over.

We are down to the final two episodes. The girlfriends are flown to the Gold Coast for the fantasy dates in which Art hopes each girl will truly be able to reveal the extent of her seriousness about him. Can't. Hardly. Wait.

24 April 2015

The Bachelor NZ Ep 12: More tedium. Help me Tom Cruise.

Still all here? Right then, get ready for the tip-off, the Harlot Gobtrotters' starting five are warmed up and ready to play the love game with Art. Mike arrives to check on his relevance levels and it turns out he is actually needed to spare Alysha the split second she'd have otherwise needed to get up off the beanbag to retrieve the date card from him. They play the usual highly annoying game of guessing whether it's going to be a single or group date. Dani, as always, hopes it's her. Despo. This time it's Matilda going on the one-on-one date. She is standing outside a hangar waiting for her man as all good girls do and he turns up in a jeep and looks tired from driving it all that way from Splash Planet.
Matilda has a thing for guys in uniform so she's having palpitations at the sight of him in his khaki overalls and says he looks like Tom Cruise except there's no hot air force guys playing shirtless volleyball in their downtime or sexy supersonic jets anywhere, just a crumbly bi-plane and a hobbyist pilot, which sums up the RNZAF nicely.

They go up in the air in the flying machine, and marvel at the water colour. Truly. We really cannot blame them for the lack of decent conversation when they are both probably packing bricks that the engine could cut out at any minute.
We know Art just loves his gardens so they then drive to the Fountain Gardens in Tauranga where Matilda exclaims that it's CUUUUTE and Art has just finished reading Cinderella and agrees that it is like a fairytale place. They take a rowboat out on a teeny tiny pond with a water sprinkler for a fountain and it's then that it is confirmed for me that the Fountain Garden is just one major disappointment. They row in circles and she comments on a rainbow and he corrects her and says "Actually, it's a double rainbow". I feel my lip start to twitch and have to calm myself from all this banality. She tells him he is a rare breed in that he is funny, nice, good-looking and not a dick. He tells Matilda that he hasn't met anyone who has made him laugh as much as she does. I tell the both of them through clenched teeth that they deserve each other, the pair of insipid twangers.

We return to the remaining girls and Poppy says "Chrystal is in a wonderful mood" when she arrives on the jetty with the next date card which is code for "she has indulged in a few too many Lindys" but who can blame her? I'd hit the bottle too if I had to endure being on this show. It turns out that two girls are going on a fishing date with Art and Alysha is thrilled to learn that it will be her and her bestie, Dani.

Dani's just excited to pound Art's face some more and at the prospect of a bit of rivalry she chimes 'Two girls, one rose, one stays, one goes'. I can only hope.

Back at the Garden of Futile Conversation, Art says "Matilda likes her food". Dear lord, Tom Cruise, you did not just say that? That rowboat just had uneven load distribution, that is all.
They enjoy some dessert and then Art gives Matilda even more of a legitimate reason to be weighed down, with a whole pile of diamonds on a silver bangle. Nice move.

Meanwhile, PLOT TWIST. Chrystal reveals to Dani that Poppy has properly pashed Art, so now Poppy's little secret is out. I do wonder if Poppy had wanted their intimate moments to remain just between her and Art why she would choose to tell Chrystal out of all of the girls, who by her own admission says she is not very good at keeping secrets.

We return to the Garden of Strategically Placed Lanterns where Matilda and Art go for a walk since her arm is still broken. I think her brain may be slightly broken too because she has full use of her legs and still decides not to run far, far away from him. Then my favourite thing ever happens. A cat wanders into the scene and stays there on its back for so long, I have to look away. This cat is so available, I wonder if it is actually Dani in disguise.
When Art and Matilda kiss for the first time, there's piano music and even violins playing so we know that this is the Kiss to End All Kisses. The other girls had better be worried.

Art carpes the diem out of the next date with Dani and Alysha. I find the whole situation even more bizarre than the concept of the show itself and it is not easy to watch. Alysha is really dark about having to spend her day sharing Art with another girl whereas Dani behaves as though it is completely normal to be vying for the attention of one man, a man who likes to kiss fish.
Nothing wrong with that.
This third-wheel date gets even more uncomfortable as they head ashore to eat some of their day's catch and Art takes each girl away to spend some alone time, presumably within view of the other girl. Dani takes her moment to remind Art of how much she likes to kiss him. She pretends to care if Alysha can see them but really, she doesn't care at all. Alysha, of all the remaining girls, is the most guarded. She converses with Art without making much eye contact at all and is much more reserved but is still happy to climb into his face. Neither girl gets a rose on the date, meaning just Matilda is safe at the evening's rose ceremony.

It's the last cocktail party ever and no-one is sad about that. The girls are discussing Poppy withholding details on her kiss and Poppy feels affronted at being called a liar so confronts Dani in particular. It's a bit frosty in the room but they'll all be back to being buddies next week no doubt. Chrystal ends up without a rose, which is sad for recapping purposes and I don't know how I am going to get through the next few episodes without her snark to inspire me.

Special mention: Poppy's cleavage.

Next week, we're into the home stretch and it's into the lion's den for Art as he visits the in-laws.

23 April 2015

The Bachelor NZ Ep 11: So many screenshots, not much storyline

Mike Puru's timing is impeccable as he finds the girls all pining away together at the dining table to deliver the next 'envelope of lurve'. Dani hopes it will be her going on the single steamy date. It's not. Instead, Alysha gets to drive herself to an aerodrome in Whakatane where she finds a helicopter lounging casually next to Art. They head to White Island, which is a very cool place to visit if you're into volcanic geomorphology and have a helmet fetish, which Art so clearly does.
Alysha throws around intellectual words like 'pluming' and 'acidic' and I think she may just be the perfect match for her boyfriend who knows everything there is to know about anything ever.

They fly to a cliff top for a picnic which consists of beer because gannet colony. Also, New Zealand. Because of his amaze body language skills, Art can tell she is holding something back and she says she was living with her ex-partner in Japan and then trails off. Somehow he deduces from that that she is still married. CONTROVERSY. Being separated isn't that much of a big deal. Going by the promo for this episode, I was hoping for something slightly more scandalous like she is actually a man.
They share a kiss in the ocean and thank goodness that they are in water when it happens because it's sizzling if the music crescendo is anything to go by.

Back at the apartment, the girls are snorting lines of scones and macarons except for Chrystal who eats men for breakfast and Natalie pulls out the next date card which reads "Who's really looking for a love match?"
Dani is.

All the girls except for Alysha and Poppy are going. The Old Forest School looks like a really great setting. Art goes dressed for Book Week as his favourite character and saunters out wearing a tennis outfit and a blue sweater draped over his shoulders.
Bruce Patman and Mike share a joke.
Matilda tells Mike several times how cute Art looks in his tennis whites, and Mike doesn't disagree. I love Mike. There could be a whole paragraph of tennis puns here but I am too tired and really can't be bothered. 
Fangirling on the sideline
The girls play a couple of games and the circus clown music starts to play. Chrystal is hilariously terrible but at least she joins in on this date. A for effort, Chrystal. Art literally skips to high five Dani, his doubles team mate between points and I wonder how long it will be before he is at his annoyingly patronizing best. Not long at all, as it turns out as he offers some sage hitting advice to Chrystal.
You are terrible at tennis, but I still think you're ace.

Afterwards, they order some food from a burger van, and Chrystal does little to scotch concerns about how high maintenance she is by insisting those burger people give her cutlery to eat a burger. Art steals her away to show her his school report. I only wish that was a metaphor. She laughs in all the wrong places and Art probably regrets showing his bowl cut to the resident mean girl but she gives him a gold star and flashes him her cleavage, so totally worth it.
Art then invites Nat to spend some time alone with him and they must have to reshoot this scene several times because in the short distance from Tippy, the converted wagon they were sitting in, to the front door of the building, it magically turns to nightfall. Now we know for sure we are in heartland New Zealand when a) there's a party in an old shed and b) the only brown guy in the room is playing a guitar.
Nat and Art sit on a school benchseat and try really hard to enjoy the romantic serenade with tv cameras in their faces and all the other girls getting tipsy in Tippy laughing off the awkwardness of watching their boyfriend with Nat. It looks like the budget for Tiki Taane's appearance fee only extends to one song so Art manages to pull Natalie away from the other girls' prying gaze to get deep and meaningful, but Natalie can't relax enough to do either so their alone time flatlines in record time. Someone please put this poor girl out of her misery. It is very hard to watch.

Rose ceremony time. Dani's tongue has missed Art's tonsils so very much and pops in to say hi. Their kiss goes on for such a long time that Dani needs to chug a drink to replace lost fluids afterwards. The other girls see this blatant PDA and they spit tacks. It's glorious. Art is busy feeding each girl the same line that he likes them and can see a future with all of them so it is getting much harder to predict who is going to be sent home. Even so, it is little surprise to see Natalie without a rose because brunette. We're down to five contestants and since they are all blonde, the big question is will Art remember who they all are? Will I?