Books and Reading, Life Stuff

Reading taste update

Reading has always been like eating and sleeping to me. For as long as I can remember I’ve devoured books. I’m honestly not sure what I started with. The Hardy Boys? But I know at some point I started devouring Nancy Drew novels. I don’t even know if it was because I loved them or if it was because everyone my parents knew could count on that being a well-received gift. And there were lots of them. I kept reading. Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction, trashy novels I’d sneak up in the middle of the night and borrow from my parents’ bookshelves, classics, Norwegian books, English books. I just READ.

And then I read for my degree. I have a Cand. Philol. (Master’s – M.A.) in English. I read literature out the wazoo. Loved it. Read Shakespeare. Read Beckett. Read Romantics, read 20th Century, read Chaucer. I read read read read. Now, I don’t necessarily go so ‘literary’ or classical. Here are the last 15 books I’ve read – I’ll discuss below.

When I finished my degree, I guess I had gotten a real taste for modern literature, and I tried to find everything I’d missed and everything still coming out in that vein. I read every Man Booker finalist, all the literary review books, and anything that smelled a LITTLE of ‘quality’ literary fiction. This way, I discovered Dancer by Colum McCann, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, and many other gems. Good friends all those books.

Then for a few years here at the start of this decade, I read very little on a regular basis. My reading was limited to beach reading. That reading continued to be eclectic. But I’d read a book or two at the beach. Sometimes long ones.

I’ve always loved fantasy, but I stopped reading fantasy about 20 years ago. Nothing felt fresh anymore I guess. And, admittedly, I had my reading hands full with all my required course reading. During those years my ‘offtime’ reading moved from fantasy to legal thrillers, Stephen King, and what I think is loosely labeled ‘Women’s Fiction’ … Not  full on romance, I have yet to hit that treasure trove, but things like Danielle Steele, Maeve Binchy … that sort of thing.

At some point, I discovered audio books. I started looking for Norwegian books, in particular on Audio books, to help keep up my mother tongue, even when I didn’t speak Norwegian to anyone for a year at a time. I also drove around the United States showing my cats (another story), and audio books kept me awake. ‘Read’ all the Harry Potter novels that way.  I discovered that I loved especially mystery/thriller/crime fiction on audio. And that led to actually reading crime fiction.

These days, I am VERY critical of any ‘literary’ fiction I pick up. Maybe I’m getting cranky in my old age. Or maybe the popularity of book clubs and ‘Book Club Discussion Guides’ has created a market for B-grade literary fiction that the Oprahs and publishers and Amazons of the world throw at us and tell us is very high brow. I find so much of it labored, inelegant and pompous. Hemingway would certainly not approve of much of it, I feel.   Funnily enough, I didn’t like Hemingway 30 years ago. Couldn’t stand him. Now I love his writing.

A couple of years ago, I trained myself to get back into reading every day. It didn’t take long, and now I’m right back into it. But I have less patience with books that irritate me, don’t grab me, or are just plain boring or not my style. I have no problem stopping at 30% and picking up something else. After all, it’s not my JOB anymore, I might as well like it!

Do you feel you ‘should’ be reading different material? Do your tastes change? Do you long to read more or less?

Building the Dream House, Life Stuff

Build update – the finance drama

OK – so now that this story has a happy ending, I can talk about this. Because I think it DOES have a happy ending. Our construction loan papers are winging their way from the bank to our NZ solicitor to prepare for us to sign.

This pretty much means that the bank is happy and our solicitor just has to prepare the mortgage for them and us to sign. Then after we’ve paid our required input into the build, the bank will pay our builder’s invoices as they get presented. Well, we present the invoice, the bank releases the money to us, then we pay. When the build is complete we convert the construction loan to a ‘regular’ mortgage and negotiate our payments and interest rate at that point.

As a life decision, this has been easy for us. Financially, it has not been as easy. And I’ll admit it’s a HUGE decision for us. We gave my in-laws what amounts to a reverse mortgage on the property a few years ago. This meant that we effectively took on a second mortgage since we were paying a mortgage on our home in Colorado at the time.

When we made the decision, we figured we’d need about 500,000 NZD to tear down the existing bach and build a home we’d love on the property. We basically pulled this amount out of our armpit, but we were confident. Now, at the time, beachfront ‘nice’ places at the same beach were never selling for less than one million dollars. We had promised my in-laws a separate unit they could use for their life time. And we notoriously do not have inexpensive tastes.

We have been adamant the whole time that this is where we want to live ‘forever’. I am never happier than when I’m at the beach. The same goes for John, although he is also never happy when not working. So he is not ready to go fulltime beach bum. When we decided to go ahead and build we knew that I’d be spending the bulk of my time at the beach and he would be coming as often as he could. I was probably expecting the ‘often as he could’ to be more than it will be now that we know how much we’re really spending, but it is OK.

Most people who know us know that we have a strong relationship. Building has it’s stresses, but we’re feeling confident. I hope not over confident LOL.

When we met with our chosen builder he didn’t mess around with words. He said about 3k-5k NZD per square meter if you want ‘nice’; up to $15k per square meter if you want architectural.

As our plans, which we absolutely LOVED and were everything we wanted, started coming in, they were coming in at a total living area of approximately 210 square meters, and about 400 square meters including deck. Still we figured about 500-600 K — LOL do the math.  Talk about not wanting to actually check. Neither one of us actually remembers consciously putting our head in the sand, but there you go. Here is pretty much exactly what our builder told us:

  • As a very rough starting point, $1500 m2 is very cheap, $2-2500 m2 is more usual and then anything from $3000 m2 and up is more consistent with bespoke designed houses. Source

We figured we’d have 300-400K NZ after the sale of our house in Colorado. This turned out to be pretty much spot on. Luckily. We knew we’d have to ask a NZ bank for SOME money.

Then the initial estimate came in at 1.2 million. More after this lovely pic of the back of our design.

Our house back

The thing is: this whole time we were watching Grand Designs and Grand Designs Australia religiously. We KNEW, once we woke up and thought about it, that our estimate was ridiculous.

We were never going to go the cheapest materials. We’ve deliberately chosen pretty much ALL no- to low-maintenance building materials. Our cladding is a special aluminium cladding that ‘moves’ with coastal winds, doesn’t need painting, and won’t rust in the coastal climate. We’ve done the same with the roof, windows, and soffits (they’re a thing!). Inside, we have chosen seriously hard wood floors to deal with the inevitable tracking of sand from beach walks. If anything, we should have been amazed it wasn’t MORE expensive. – I’ll comment on why we decided to go ahead with the way for expensive build later or in another post.

In our favor have been the levelness of our section, the relative simple design we’ve fallen in love with, and the genius of our architect. She’s known exactly when another inch of deck would mean more steel beams and all that sort of thing.

So when we went to the bank, we knew we were asking for rather a lot. Luckily, the numbers with regards to total value of beach property in New Zealand, my husband’s average monthly salary, the value of the NZ dollar compared to the US dollar and the fact that on paper we own the section out-right were in our favor. The numbers crunch out right. And the bank’s policy is to encourage NZ’ers planning to move back to NZ permanently. We fit that bill.

Still, the logistics of proving income, proving US tax rate, and valuation of our current property has been hard on the stress levels. I tend to be more prone to stress, so I’ve been the ‘The world is ending’ person at every turn, while my husband has been calmly trying to put up with my hysteria. We’ve submitted Social Security statements, W2’s, letters from my husband’s company, deposited the required deposit amount in the bank, provided estimates, contracts, proof of builder’s insurance and probably promised my gay son’s first born as well.

It has NOT helped that our bank liaison person has been relatively inexperienced when it comes to overseas income. I don’t think she was very experienced in professional communication in general. At one stage, she told us that we HAD to have life insurance. Both of us. Despite the fact that currently I don’t have a personal income. The lawyer in me wants to sue her for unprofessional practices at the very least. Perhaps undue sales pressure – she wanted to sell us the bank’s life insurance. But in the end, we think she’s just not that bright, not malicious.

We got our pre-approval letter and offer of lending about a month ago – subject to professional valuation. Our valuation took its sweet time coming, and I was dying.

But it’s now through, our solicitor is preparing the loan documents for us to sign, and the bank is ‘giving’ us $5000 cash as a ‘thank you’. LOL 5000. I don’t blink an eye for less than 10K these days.

Why we went ahead with it, how we’re paying for it, etc will have to wait. On paper we can afford it, and if that’s good enough for the bank it’s good enough for me. My husband must be feeling the pressure, but he will not be alone in paying for it if things work out the way we hope.

There’s no more NYU tuition coming from us though.

Life Stuff, Site news

Why I Keep On Blogging

I like to write about stuff. I write about living, life, gaming, music, photography, online life, parenting, travel, food, and anything else I feel like talking about. This of course makes it hard to fit my blog in a neat category or blog roll. Whatever. It’s my blog and this is how I roll. I used to try to split all my topics up into different places, but I’m stopping that crap. It’s all here. I add category tags, if you come here reading, you can click them.  I’m not just one topic, I’m afraid.
I’ve had a few blogs over the years. When I was younger and before the internet, I kept a diary. I changed from Blogger to WordPress when I decided to consolidate my WoW stuff with my other stuff. Then I tinkered with Tumblr. Then I lost all my files on wordpress – it’s all there in the notes. But most of my old blogs are available – just look here if you are REALLY interested.


I don’t have that many blog followers. Maybe I ramble. Maybe I’m boring. Or maybe I’m just too eclectic or inconsistent for people to follow regularly. Or maybe I don’t follow unwritten community rules. I don’t know. I don’t really mind, although I’m thrilled when people comment.  I really blog for me. Writing has always been a way for me to articulate to myself how I feel about things and how I understand my world (or not as the case may be). Sometimes I need to organize my thoughts to understand my feelings. Sometimes it’s for documenting what’s important in my life. Sometimes it’s to show off. Sometimes it’s a real desire to share something I’ve learned or loved. And I love reading my blogs years later on. So I’ll keep writing and fiddling with layouts and organization. This page was first published as a blog post here.

 

Building the Dream House, Life Stuff

A Pseudo Dream House update – or watch this space

n case anyone is hankering after a build update
 
GOOD NEWS first: My mother-in-law reports the port-a-potty and work shed have arrived on our property!! This is wonderful news!
 
I’d like to write a new update on the whole financing process and how muddled and obtuse it is. But I’m just waiting for confirmation that the bank is happy with the official and impartial valuation which was completed on Friday until I can breathe again. The valuation is for way more than we are borrowing, so that should be good, right? 
 
I do plan on writing about it – I am not squeamish about talking about money. It always puzzles me that Americans don’t talk about money. It’s a very real national trait. Occasionally they’ll get close, but as a whole, it’s very rude to ask someone how much they paid for something or how much their raise was. In my experience anyway.
 
I will write once I’m not so on edge. I’m just a bit nervous about something, so holding off till I have t-s crossed and i’s dotted. John says I’m worrying for nothing, which I’m very good at. Hopefully I’ll know soon and John will be right and we can celebrate with Leo.
 
Screenshots, Transmogrification, Video Gaming, World of Warcraft

Back to Mooncloth

Helvette has been in the Vestments of the Shifting Sands for a really long time now. Probably since Legion came out and we could share discovered looks with other characters on the account. Of course the MAGE got the drop one day.

But today I returned to the Mooncloth robe. I enjoy the blonde, white clothed shadow priest look. When I can SEE it.  I really dislike not having the option to get out of shadow. Sitting in my fishing chair in Dalaran I can barely see Helvette. It looks way too shadowy and transparent. Dislike. But that’s beside the point.  I varied it a little bit – I found these awesome bracers that are sort of metallic arm bands and I couldn’t let only the hands have some purplish in them – it wouldn’t look right. So I changed the belt, left the shoulders off, and gave myself a mask to not look too … good. Here’s the link to my Wowhead dressing room : Helvette’s Outfit and the Item comparison tool. There’s no reason why I’m wearing the Leggings of Absolution – they were just left over from the last outfit.

I still have way too many issues with the shadow priest changes to count. I despise the new lore and the gibbering gnome shadow priest in my class order hall. So insulting.

But … that pet needs getting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I particularly like the 3D model viewer on the Item comparison tool page.

Pet Battles and Collecting, Screenshots, Video Gaming, World of Warcraft

WORKING for teh pet

So I’m playing some World of Warcraft while here in Denver and waiting for The Secret World Legends to come out.  So I started logging characters in and out, boosting, moving servers, everything I generally do when I’m not feeling direction in the game. At some stage I went to Warcraft Pets to update my collection and saw this little guy: The picture is not mine (the pic is linked to the WoWhead profile of its owner)- I having been working at it all day, but I don’t have him yet. Apparently, there’s a bit of a puzzle in a cave in Winterspring to acquire this beauty.  The puzzle requires rare Burning Crusade protection potions, early game inscription scrolls, Noggenfoggin elixir and a whole shopping list of stuff.

Now, some of the things are available online for a hefty price. But what would be the fun in capitulating straight away. My alchemist has been farming recipes, and we’ve been to Northrend to get some sucker fish. Tomorrow, Helvette needs to go to Dire Maul and the Grim Guzzler. Maybe sometime tomorrow I’ll have him 🙂 Yay!

This is a fun way to get back to older recipes and reward those of us who have kept old mats and stuff. Well done Blizzard.

The first person to figure it out handily wrote a guide here.

Life Stuff, Parenting

Put Mom in bio or not?

When I updated my sites and general organization this weekend, I also wrote a quick TLDRfor my main site’s bio page. Quoted here for convenience:

The short story? A forty-something Norwegian by birth, Australian by choice, NZ resident who sounds American. True blue Libertarian, Master of English Literature, nearly finished a law degree, third culture child who never stays anywhere for long. Happily married. Gamer. Trying not to grow old. And beach lover. Crazy cat lady. Belvedere consumer.

I shared my amazement at my own cleverness on Facebook. This morning, a very astute lady I really like interacting with commented:

Friend’s comment:  And a mom?

Me:  I might add it back in. John says it’s sad when women feel they have to define themselves as that … and to work on defining myself with other qualities too. But it’s a huge part of who I am.

Now, leaving the birthing, raising, and loving of my two sons out of this was actually on purpose. But after a lot of thought.  I’ve always said mother of two before. And it’s not because they’re both grown ups now (18 and 20).

My husband always comments how sad it is that some women only define themselves as mothers. Or the title/role gets flung into situations where you would never hear journalists, presenters, or average people say, ‘father of two’.  “The woman, a mother of two, was seen yelling at the grocery store clerk.” “The case was assigned to the new ADA, a mother of 1.” 

He thinks women, me included, should be more assertive about their other qualities and skills, especially when the mother part doesn’t really have an effect on the context of the description. And I sort of agree. I love my boys. I am their mother. I cherish them and enjoy them and I spent 20 years of my life so far raising them. They are a joy. But I am so much more.

After my FB friend queried it though, I’ve decided to put it back in for my online presence. I mean, the topics here are completely likely to cover those two at some point.

I’m curious what other peoples’ opinions are on this.