Yoga. I just don’t get it!

It’s been a busy few weeks and there doesn’t seem to be much let-up on the horizon but I wouldn’t want you to think I haven’t been getting on with #50Before50. In fact, I’ve made great progress. I know because my spreadsheet and graph say so. Yes, I am that sad. I love a great spreadsheet. Nothing makes me happier than creating new columns and making sure they’re all properly aligned and that the headers are all in the same font. Again, I really am that sad. I’ve calculated the rate at which I should tick things off if I did them at a constant rate and them compared this to the rate at which I’ve already achieved things and I’m well ahead of where I need to be! This is great as a) I need to be ahead so that when there are quieter times such as holidays or busy work periods that I do not fall behind and b) I imagine things will slow down. It’s relatively easy to drink wine and eat cheese but much more difficult to get to Antarctica and walk down the street wearing only body paint. Some of those things are going to need a lot of planning…

So, a little summary of where I’m up to:

  • White wines – 36 out of 50 drunk
  • Red wines – 16 out of 50 drunk
    • It’s definitely getting harder and not helped by having to exclude a few that I’d already counted because they looked like they were from a unique vineyard but actually there were just from a range with a different name from the same vineyard as another wine… It can be so complex that my head hurts! I won’t give anything away but the video explains a bit more about one of the wines…

      I just love this photo of one of my wines – the barman was so happy to oblige. Taken at the Grand Mercure Hotel in Wellington
  • Metro restaurants – 5 out of 50 visited
    • This is not as easy as it seems either because the French Cafe is closing! Argh. My supper club is going there but on a day I can’t go. Who wants a cost meal for 2 with me there before it closes its doors? Top eatery so far was Ortolana – absolutely tip-top. Both Ponsonby Road Bistro and Amano scored highly but sadly they were let down by slow service.
  • Sunrises – 3 out of 50 seen
    • So it’s winter which means they’re later, but unfortunately that means there aren’t so many due to rain or clouds. A few weeks ago I got up for a faint pink hue over Rangitoto from Kohimarama Beach but last weekend was a real coup – a stunning orange ball over the Waitemata Harbour observed from Te Wero bridge at the Auckland Waterfront.
      lAt Kohimarama Beach for sunrise
      At Kohimarama Beach for sunrise
      Sunrise over Rangitoto from Kohimarama Beach

      Waitemata Harbour
      Sunrise over the Waitemata Harbour
  • Random acts of kindness – 7 out of 50 completed
    • I’ve decided with these that I am not going to say much about them as the purpose is not to say “look how great I am, aren’t I just the most generous person in the world?” But they are progressing nicely, the recipients of the acts have been happy and I have been giving a little card with each one so that people can see what it’s all about. The cards seem to have caused as much excitement as the deeds themselves!
  • Nail colours – 4 out of 50 done
    • Mardi continues to choose my colours for me. I’m currently on Midnight Swim which is dark blue and glittery. I like it but my mate Jon says it makes me look like a vamp. I don’t think he meant it as a compliment.
  • Recipes – 1 out of 50 cooked
    • Well this was just stunning. I’ve long been a fan of Ottolenghi and generally his recipes are delicious and not too complicated to cook. I think of all recipes, I’m most happy making desserts so I purchased a copy of his book Sweet, co-authored with Helen Goh and I made the Beetroot and Ginger cake to take to a workshop I was attending which happened to fall on my birthday. Never before have I added vitamin C tablets to a cake but it kept the beetroot red and the cake was absolutely amazing. It was a definite 10 out of 10 from everyone who had a piece and was totally demolished in about 5 minutes.
  • Cheeses – 12 out of 50 eaten
    • Having decided that “eating cheese” shouldn’t just be a taste at a farmers’ market, I plumped for qualification being enough cheese to cover 2 crackers. Last weekend I was invited to friends’ for dinner. “I will bring the cheese” I declared. Four cheeses (three particularly delicious morsels from Over The Moon), 8 crackers, homemade quince paste and a delicious spread from Maggie Beer later and I felt like I would be ill. Never mind, one of the crackers sported a piece of camembert that looked like a penguin. Yes, I said a penguin.
  • Happy Birthdays – 14 out of 50 learnt
    • So I’ve done the obvious European ones. The last few I’ve added have been Asian languages. Man, it’s hard to get the pronunciation right. Have a listen here for the one in Mandarin and see what you reckon! As soon as I move on to a new one, I forget the last one. I think I’ll be going back to primary school and making flash cards.

      HB to me
      Happy Birthday to me!
  • Monopoly streets – 3 out of 26 visited
    • I have trips planned to Nelson, Christchurch and Dunedin so that will be a few more ticked off. Getting round all of them is going to be a big big challenge, especially the 4 stations which are all a bit remote!
  • New things to see or do in NZ – 2 out of 49 done
    • No new ones since the White Lady Van but my mates Chris and Sarah have promised to take me to Whatipu next time the weather is nice on a day I’m not working. They have an old car (don’t tell them I said so) that they don’t mind driving on the gravel access road. I’m not so keen in my Italian-branded vehicle.
  • Tree art project – in progress
    • Here the progress has been great. I’ve chosen my trees and I know it will take a while to knit enough to cover the trunks but I’ve acquired some needles and wool from friends and charity shops and have started to knit a long colourful rectangle that I will eventually use to wrap around one of the trunks. How I’ll sew it onto the tree I have no idea but I’ll think of something. Some kind friends have already sent me some squares of knitting or crochet which they have contributed which will make this a very special project when it’s finished. I’m also saving buttons, ribbons and so on to add embellishments. I am genuinely excited about seeing the finished articles in a few months’ time.
  • Yoga – in progress
    • The video says it all. I just don’t get it. I do like that it helps flexibility and I’d love to be able to touch my toes again. I like that it helps with balance and not falling over so frequently as one gets older will indeed be helpful. I like the stretching, the quietness and to some extent it’s helping me relax and unwind. But, I don’t get all the stuff the teacher says. There’s all this stuff about “feeling the breath” and “breathing the movement”. Then the names of all the positions and the various different types of yoga. What is all that about? So, at the moment, I don’t know what to think. I wouldn’t say I don’t like it. I wouldn’t say I look forward to it either. I sort of feel like I should like it more than I do and so I feel bad saying that I haven’t fallen in love with it. On the other hand, I think that if I had been destined to fall in love with it then I would have stumbled across it before now. But, I’m being open-minded and I’m reserving judgement until I’ve been a few more times.

So that’s where I’m at! The yoga video is taken just after the first class – it’s a winner. The sunrise one is just short and was recorded on the beach so the sound is not great but it does at least prove I was up that early!


Helen xx



Owls, sunrises and yarn-bombing

It’s been a busy few weeks. I haven’t known whether I’ve been coming or going at times and I have often thought I’d just quite like to spend a few days doing nothing. Still, the busy-ness keeps me from languishing and procrastinating or thinking too much about the sad events of earlier on in the year.

In terms of the challenges for my #50Before50 quest, I am making good progress in some areas and less in others. The wine drinking is coming along a treat and I have made steady progress with eating cheese and dining at Metro restaurants. One challenge I have not really tackled so far has been watching 50 sunrises. I happened to see three while driving to the gym before work but I feel a bit of a fraud counting these as they were incidental. And so it was that I managed to persuade my friends Jenny and Cate to force ourselves out of bed last Saturday to see the sunset from Te Mata Peak in the Hawkes Bay. The weather was not promising so we chatted on the way about whether it would count if we didn’t see the sun itself. We all agreed it would be fine as we weren’t about to admit we’d got out of bed at the unearthly time of 6.40am ON A SATURDAY only for it to not be allowed. Personally I would have been heartbroken. We needn’t have worried because it was totally amazing – just the best sunrise ever. Let’s remember I don’t really have a comparison as I have seen very few in my life due to my tendencies to be a night owl.

Sunrise from Te Mata Peak

If they are all as beautiful as this then the other 49 will be worth it but I now realise I need to be doing more than one a fortnight in order to get them all in… Ideas of great viewpoints from where to see them in Auckland would be much appreciated.

In other challenge news, I’ve found a cluster of tree trunks in my garden that will be great for yarn-bombing and creating a piece of tree art. My mate Mary suggested I ask people to help me by knitting some squares which I can then sew together and then stitch around the trees. I will embellish the pieces with buttons, ribbons and pom-poms and another friend even suggested I use old pieces of jewellery, beads and earrings. I am really grateful for all these suggestions as I really do totally lack imagination. I can’t wait to see how this artwork will unfold and morph over time into something totally fabulous. Nic my wonderful neighbour has given me some wool and Cate some more wool and a selection of needles so I’m all set.

Do enjoy the video where I wax lyrical about the sunrises…

Until next time xx


Well it’s been a long time but I’ve at last been reunited with a gong I bought in Vietnam several years ago. Hitting it with the stick and hearing the marvellous noise it makes has been a bit of an obsession for the last couple of days. It takes me back to being 6 years old and staying in this funny B&B with my parents. All of the children staying there took it in turns to sound the gong to signal breakfast in the morning. That is, until my brother hit it so hard that the stick broke and so the gong was no more. This is the same holiday where we, along with some new-found friends (who have remained friends for life) turned all the tortoises in the gardens onto their shells. I recall my father being angry when he found out about this and it has been with much relief that I found out from my mate recently that his tortoise can right himself. So maybe I am not a tortoise murdered after all. Phew.

Anyhow, it’s been a busy few days. I went to Sydney for work which was actually really hard work. People seem to think it is glamorous to travel for work and it I will admit I do largely enjoy it, I am very fortunate and it is great to see new places. But, by and large, it’s exhausting. But, I was lucky enough to stay on a couple of days and do this great cycle tour with Graeme from Bike Buffs. He’s an eccentric who plays music from his bike so everywhere we went we got strange looks, most people thinking it was great and doing a little jig, a few looking at us with contempt. He made us do some jumps off a wall while he laid down and took photos to make it look like we’d jumped off the harbour bridge. If only my eyes were open in my photo… The other fun shot involved him doing a pano. We started out at one end and once he’d panned past us, we had to run behind him and reappear in the other end of the photo. It’s a pretty cool shot even if I do say so and I can’t wait to try it out with some mates. If you get to Sydney, give this tour a go! It was great fun. We saw things we wouldn’t have seen otherwise, including Wendy’s amazing secret garden and, of course, it was pretty special to cycle over the bridge (twice).

While I was away, a few things happened at home – new deliveries, additions to the decor – but I won’t spoil the surprise of the video, even if I do appear slightly deranged at one point…

Until next time x

Not the most flattering photo* but fun nonetheless. * does anyone look good in hi-viz?
Opera House
Guess where?
Black wall
Ok, so my bed needs attention but how amazing is my black wall?

I’ve lost my marbles

Cheese and Thunderbirds!

Well, it’s been a busy week of cheese, restaurants, Monopoly places, wine, learning Happy Birthday in different languages and visiting Wellington for a top weekend with my friends. I persuaded them to help me knock off my first of 50 things to do in NZ so off we went on the Weta Workshop tour. If you have never been here then you must! It’s amazing. There was also the Thunderbirds Are Go tour which was just fantastic. I now fancy an alternative career as Lady Penelope.

The videos and photos speak for themselves. The videos are quite long but they do tell a tale! The first is full of excitement at my over-indulgent shopping… The second is equally unrestrained in my description of Weta.

The Doctors’ riesling, only 9%

Enjoy! xx

Cheese, wine and tumble dryer fluff

So #50Before50 has kicked off. I’ll be honest and say I am already totally obsessed with the challenge but, so what? Why not? There are far worse things to spend time doing and the focus is good for me. Just over a week since conceiving my idea, I have already ticked off 2.6% of the list. Yes, that’s right, I have spreadsheets, note books, notes on my phone and photos – all to document this adventure because, of course, not only am I getting older and forgetful but I also have the comedy show to do at the end so I need to gather material. There may even be a book in it. You never know… I’ve been posting my photos to Instagram and tagging wineries, cafes, cheese companies and so on, in the vain hope that at some point over the next couple of years I’ll be noticed. There will need to be some sponsorship for the children’s party and, perhaps people will become interested in what I’m up to and help out.

15 of the 51 items on my list have more than one element. For example, there are 50 cheeses, 50 sunsets, 100 wines, 50 places and things to do in New Zealand and one of those is to visit all 26 Monopoly board places. Therefore, altogether there are 861 individual things to do. I realise I already know 2 people called Helen Evans to whom to send birthday cards in 2020 and I can already say Happy Birthday in 3 languages. This week I’ve seen two sunrises, eaten one cheese and drunk 11 different wines. I’ve collected one handful of tumble dryer fluff for the cushion I am going to make. It all adds up.

Tumble dryer fluff
The first handful of tumble dryer fluff has been collected!

Next I will work on a timeline. Some of the things can be worked on right away; others need to be left until my 50th year or close to my birthday. Some of them need to be done in a particular order. I’d definitely much rather do the nude modelling after I’ve reached 50-something kg! Ditto for walking down the street after having my body painted. And there’s no point having the bra made until I’ve had the breast reduction. But yoga I can do now while the water-based activities will need to wait until the weather is warmer. As for the sunrises, a friend’s father pointed out that I can see one every day when I do the Lapland trip as the sun doesn’t get up until 11.30am. That was music to my ears!

The amazing thing about the challenge is that people are following my example and it’s catching on. My sister is now doing 40 things before her 40th birthday and she only has 10 months to go and one of her friends is also joining in! A friend and previous colleague is also doing his own #50Before50. I’m really chuffed. Of course my own challenge started after hearing about my friend Sonja doing her 30 things before 30. When I add the hashtag #50Before50 on social media, I see other people around the world doing wonderful things like climbing mountains and one even had a photo shoot with Annie Liebovitz. I don’t think I will be scaling those heights, but you never know… People have been really open to joining in and helping out. I wanted to photograph every bottle of wine which is easy at home or friends’ houses and even some bars, but it isn’t common to see the bottle at a cafe or restaurant. I’ve been asking waiters if they’ll bring me the bottle and everyone has obliged so far – one was working his first day and thought it was brilliant; one poured the wine with great aplomb and arranged the bottle with the candles and flowers from the table and another asked to follow me on Instagram. Mardi at The Nail Studio, who has been doing my nails for ages, was totally fine with choosing me a random colour for my manicure. She reassured me there are at least 50 colours available without me resorting to fluoro yellow and she’s even going to come to some dinners with me. I’ve found volunteers to come to my first Auckland restaurant from the Metro list, people have been nominating their favourite charities so I can add them to the charity list and friends have set about recommending places to do the yoga, surfing, flying a chopper or plane and so on. It’s almost infectious!

This week I was working in Hawke’s Bay and staying with my really good friend Jenny. She is one of the biggest hearted people I know. She took me under her wing very early on in my time in NZ and she has been one of my biggest supporters over the years. Jenny will definitely be reading this and she won’t mind me saying that she is perhaps not quite so adventurous. But, she’s been egging me on over the past few days with ticking some things off the list. She even stood in the middle of the road to get a photo of me under the Marine Parade sign in Napier as this is one of the Monopoly streets. We’ve been to some of our favourite restaurant haunts – Pipi’s in Havelock North and Mister D in Napier, along with Hunger Monger in Napier which was a new one for us. At every one people have been unfailingly kind and accommodating. As I go to the Bay several times a year for work and pleasure, I hope to do more of my adventures with Jenny and other local friends and I also hope to persuade her further afield. I’m sure she’s always wanted to walk the Inca trail…

Lest We Forget
Lest We Forget – the flower pot in Napier filled with poppies for ANZAC Day

Wines consumed (8 whites; 3 reds):

  • Cable Bay 2012 Viognier
  • Mission Estate 2016 Syrah
  • Gibbston Valley 2010 Pinot noir – I’ve been cellaring this one for years so it was great to open it at last and a relief to find it was totally sublime
  • Loveblock 2017 Sauvignon blanc – thanks to the lovely people at my local cafe Deco
  • Clearview 2014 Viognier
  • Vidal 2017 Sauvignon blanc
  • Julicher 2017 Riesling – thanks to the staff at Hunger Monger
  • Amisfield Lakes Hayes 2017 Pinot gris – drunk at my favourite Hawkes Bay restaurant Pipi’s where the waiter was super helpful
  • Mud House 2017 Sauvignon blanc
  • Peregrine 2017 Pinot gris – thanks to Rosie at Mister D in Napier who was fabulous
  • Te Mata 2017 Syrah – also at Mister D and consumed with my first cheese…

Not included on the list of wines is the Montana pinot gris I drank at a friend’s house. Turns out that despite this vineyard being one of New Zealand’s oldest and one which put NZ sauvignon blanc (and hence wine in general) on the international map, they have decided to import grapes from Australia! I guess this explains why they have reverted to using their Montana label which disappeared when they re-branded a few years ago as Brancott Estate. Each to their own but Australian wines are not included in the challenge so off the list they go!

Montana Pinot Gris
Montana Pinot Gris. Not a New Zealand wine, so excluded from the challenge!

Cheese eaten (1 so far):

  • Origin Earth Washed Rind – beautifully presented and accompanied by the most lovely homemade crackers and quince jam at Mister D
Cheese # 1
Cheese number 1 – Origin Earth Washed Rind, eaten at Mister D’s Dining in Napier

Nail polish colours (1 so far):

  • Denim Patch

Monopoly NZ places visited (1 so far):

People called Helen Evans to whom to send birthday cards in 2020 (2 so far):

  • My sister-in-law
  • The lady in the student office at the University to gets my mail by mistake

Happy Birthday languages (4 so far):

  • English
  • Welsh
  • French
  • Te Reo Māori

Sunrises seen: 2 so far

Not a bad start, even if I do say so myself. Do enjoy the video. I recorded it on Marine Parade but the wind from the sea caused havoc. The first bit is fine then it totally falls apart but that gives it the usual rustic charm…

Until next time xx

50 Before 50

It’s been a long time. It’s weeks since I arrived back from my cycling adventure of a lifetime but it’s been a surreal time. On the one hand, I’ve been constantly greeted by people congratulating me and saying I should be proud of myself. I am, truly. I think it is completely amazing that I not only managed to complete the trek but that I was able to raise so much money into the bargain. And I fell in love with cycling! I would never have imagined that would ever have happened to lazy old me but it did and I am so grateful. I have even celebrated with buying an e-bike on which to commute to work and do some of the shorter trips I usually take in the car. My ride home from the bike shop and my subsequent return trip to work a few days later were both scary and exhilarating at the same time. I still need to get used to cycling with traffic and in the dark and I have yet to refine my route but it has been brilliant. Special thanks go to Maurice at the Electric Bicycle Hub who was so helpful and to my mate Jon who put me in touch with them even though he has never cycled at all!

On the other hand, there is a huge part of me that wishes I could do the Sri Lanka cycle challenge all over again and pay more attention as some of the details of the places, the people, the sights, the food, the smells and so on are already fading. Then there is the part of me that really wants to do it all again because to some extent it was escapism and now it is over I feel a big hole in my life. And that big hole means I have time on my hands to mull things over, dwell on Tonya not being here any more, think about my life’s failings and generally be a misery to all those around me. I have had days at work where it has just been easier to state up front that I am feeling grumpy so that people have no expectations of anything else. None of this has been helped by my having a lot to do – at work, at home, everywhere around me. But, this is not me. I’m not this miserable, grumpy, depressive sort of person. I’m an optimist and I love that. So, it’s time to turn it all around. I truly believe that happy people are productive people and that you are the controller of your own destiny. While I’ve sat here in recent weeks bemoaning all these things I need to do, I could have actually been getting them done! So, in 2018 school language, it’s time for a reset.

Yesterday I met with a friend and colleague who is a very busy junior doctor. She apologised up front for not getting a research project finished which we are doing together. But her job is as busy as mine and she has been juggling loads of balls at work and in her life outside medicine. As we sat chatting, she reminded me of a challenge she had set herself in which she was going to do 30 special things in her 30th year. Her 30th birthday is nearly upon her and she has just a few things left to do from the list. One of them is to write a letter to our Prime Minister – how cool is that? Another is to drink a $100 bottle of wine. My advice here would be to drink the wine before writing the letter. Or should that be the other way around? She’s already completed things like sleeping in a fort, sampling all the drinks on the menu at her local cafe and having a spa day. So this all got me thinking – I could set myself a similar challenge.

In two years’ time I shall be 50 years old. It is so difficult to believe that my life keeps moving on at such a pace. Sometimes I feel that someone has pressed the fast forward button. How on earth did I get to almost 50 without really noticing? It sounds so old! I don’t feel 50. I don’t feel I look 50. While it could be seen as thoroughly depressing at face value why not just turn it all around? Embrace it. Celebrate it. Shout it from the rooftops. So, I am going to do a 50 Before 50 challenge. As 50 is significantly bigger than 30, I reckon it will take me two years so let’s make a start. I’ve thought hard about the list. I want to do things that take me out of my comfort zone; things that challenge both my mind and body; big things and little things; things that will benefit others while I have fun; scary things; fun things; odd and unusual things; things that I’ve wanted to do but haven’t got around to doing.

So here it is – my List. I’ve always loved a good list and so did my good mate Tonya. I have made this list for me, but recognised her in a few of the goals because we would have been 50 a few months apart and I’ve no doubt if she’d still been around that we would have done some of these things together. Some of the things are pure self-indulgence just for me but many of the things on the list are intended to be done with other people. I will be looking for recruits (or shall I say victims) to help me in these quests! Yes, there are 51 things on the list on purpose, in case one of them is not possible. They are in random order. Some of them need careful planning whereas others will be able to be done spontaneously. I am going to have just the best time ticking them off over the next couple of years. Some of the individual items themselves involve doing 50 things and I’ve not yet refined all of those lists completely so there is still some chance for suggestions. For example, I will definitely be looking for nominations for 50 charities to whom to make a donation.

As I cut and paste the list here, I do so with a huge sense of excitement. This is probably the first challenge I’ve set and designed myself. That’s not to say I didn’t take advice and some of the best suggestions came from my posse of friends and family. I can’t wait to get on now with tackling this list. I can’t wait to take the photos and tell the tales. I know you’ll all be egging me on just the same as always and it goes without saying that we’ll have a complete blast!

Finally, to Sonja – thank you so much for inspiring me. I feel it might be a turning point for me. I’ve bought you that $100 bottle of wine. You deserve it.

Enjoy x

50 Before 50

  1. Drink 50 white wines and 50 red wines from 50 different NZ vineyards
  2. Dine at all 50 restaurants on Metro magazine’s Top 50 Auckland restaurants list
  3. Visit 50 places or do 50 things I’ve never been to or done in NZ
  4. Go to a yoga class
  5. Cook 50 new recipes from my cookbooks
  6. Watch 50 films I haven’t seen before*
  7. Sign up as an Uber driver
  8. Get my body painted and walk down the street
  9. Tell 50 people I love them
  10. Carry out 50 random acts of kindness*
  11. Find 50 people called Helen Evans and send them all birthday cards
  12. Give $50 each to 50 different charities*
  13. Watch 50 sunrises
  14. Make an artwork out of 50 photographs of me, one from each year
  15. Knit a piece of tree art
  16. Climb a tree
  17. Make a piece of pottery
  18. Have a bra made for me
  19. Design a pair of shoes
  20. Sleep under the stars
  21. Hold a birthday party for 50 disadvantaged children
  22. Go skinny dipping
  23. Take part in a boxing match
  24. Donate a kidney
  25. Have a breast reduction
  26. Climb Macchu Pichu
  27. Go to Lapland
  28. Have a surfing lesson
  29. Try stand-up paddle boarding
  30. Have a scuba diving lesson
  31. Fly a helicopter or plane
  32. Go abseiling
  33. Paint my nails 50 different colours
  34. Do the Oxfam half trail walker (50km)
  35. Go clay pigeon shooting
  36. Learn to say Happy Birthday in 50 languages*
  37. Hold a comedy show
  38. Go to Antarctica
  39. Visit a Welsh tea room in Patagonia
  40. Find 50 people born on the same day as me and send them all birthday cards
  41. Go on an Air NZ mystery trip
  42. Hold a murder mystery party
  43. Get to 50-something kg
  44. Be a nude model for a life drawing class
  45. Build a den in my living room and hold a sleepover
  46. Eat 50 different cheeses*
  47. Have a professional photo shoot
  48. Drive a race car around Hampton Downs racecourse
  49. Make a cushion from tumble dryer fluff and recycled underwear
  50. Swim in the sea 50 times*
  51. Serve Christmas lunch at the Auckland City Mission

*suggestions welcomed!