Dot, Queen of Riverstone Castle

May 17, 2014

When Neil and Dot Smith chose to move their family from the top of the North Island to well down the east coast of the south is was Northland’s loss and North Otago’s gain.

They were among the first dairy farmers to see the opportunity irrigation on the Lower Waitaki plains presented.

They bought one of the worst, stony, barren, wind swept properties and with hard work and skill have turned it, and other blocks they subsequently purchased, into some of the best.

One son followed his parents into farming, the other Bevan and his wife Monique established the award-winning Riverstone Kitchen on the farm.

The Smiths are not just good farmers, they’re good community people and entrepreneurs too,

They know how to work hard and save hard and nowhere is that better illustrated than in the time and effort they’ve put in to fulfilling Dot’s dream of building a castle.

Now Dot can add author to her long list of accomplishments.












The pink, flowery cover shouldn’t put off men, Dot Queen of Riverstone Castle isn’t a “women’s” book.

It’s an easy, entertaining and inspirational read which covers her modest, but happy, childhood; overseas travels; marriage; farming, including  through the ag-sag;  other business ventures; more travel, the development of the Riverstone complex and the castle.

Dot’s always worked hard and she’s faced tough times, including the loss of most of her savings in the collapse of Hubbard Management Fund. But in life, and through the book, her irrepressible spirit and sense of fun shine through.

Dot Queen of Riverstone Castle, written with Nathalie Brown.

Published by Random House also available as an e-book.

Graham Beattie posts:  Dot – She’s a visionary, an entrepreneur and dreams big in North Otago’s Waitaki Valley  and talks to Mark Sainsbury about the book here.

In other media:

* Dot talks to Jim Mora.

* Dream of living in castle comes to life

* Dot’s castle inspires dreams.

* And TV3’s 3rd Degree featured Dot’s building a castle.

Losing and keeping friends

April 30, 2014

Discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass yesterday was sparked by:

* Time magazine’s list of 10 ways to lose friends


Kevin Roberts’ much more positive 10 ways to keep your friends


Facebook fears, food fads and a furious pear

April 15, 2014

Discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass today was sparked by:

* Here’s what Facebook’s doing to your brain: it’s kind of shocking

* The Most Challenging Dinner Guest Ever: And 5 Delicious Meals To Feed Them (and yes I do understand that allergies aren’t fads, but let’s not the facts get in the way of an alliterative headline) from The Kitchen.Com


* The Furious Pear Pie



10 words to live by

March 18, 2014

Conversation with Jim Mora on Critical Mass this afternoon was sparked by:

Ten words everyone should live by at

Grammar no-nos and gadgets

March 4, 2014

Discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass today was sparked by:

These Famous Authors Made It Okay To Commit Grammar No-No’s among whom is one of my favourite poets, e.e. cummings.


What We Can Expect in Gadgets This Year  – I covet the solar rocking chair and the in-wall extension cord.


Sol3 Mio

March 1, 2014

Interview of the week

Jim Mora in conversation with Sol3 Mio  and obviously enjoying their music and humour.

Uncommon thoughts on common things

February 18, 2014

Discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass today was sparked by:

* 50 Reasons We’re Living Through the Greatest Period in World History by Morgan Housel at The Motley Fool.

* Robert Fulghham’s Journal – he’s the author of All I really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten at the start of which you’ll find the Story Teller’s Creed which he posts here.


* A working mother writes to a stay at home mother and a stay at home mother writes to a working one by Carolyn Ee at Healthy Doctor.

Fake signs & two types of people

February 4, 2014

Discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass today was sparked off by:

 Fake signs in the London Underground


There are two kinds of people in the world




Arguing better, Good Wolf & dullest blog

January 21, 2014

Discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass today was sparked off by:

*   Three destructive behaviours we all fall back on when arguing and how to fix them.  The suggestions solutions sound easy in theory, the challenge will be to remember and apply them in practice.

* The Good Wolf Manifesto – food for mind, body and spirit (check out the story behind the blog name on the about page and what success looks like on signing off the Good Wolf for 2013).

* The Dullest Blog in the World - 393 comments on tidying some pencils - I can only shake my head in wonder.

Critical Mass

December 17, 2013

Discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass today was sparked off by:

* A Peculiar Christmas Feast and the 4th Wise Man from Valerie Davies, one of my favourite bloggers.

* Pixar’s 22 Rules to Phenomenal Storytelling

* What 120 things you should do every day to improve your life


* If you need some inspiration for your resolutions try the New Year’s resolution generator.

Grammar test, Food Switch & buy-nothing Christmas

December 3, 2013

Discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass today was sparked by:

You can’t write proper English under pressure – which tests your grammar, spelling and reactions.

Food Switch – an app for your mobile phone which scans bar codes of food products, gives you their nutritional value and suggests healthier alternatives for those higher in fat and sugar.

Buy Nothing Christmas - suggestions for gifts using your hands, heart and imagination rather than money.

Lessons & quotes

November 19, 2013

Discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass today was sparked by:

* What we can learn from tradies.


100 quotes about women.

I especially liked:

Women like silent men. They think they’re listening. Marcel Archard

It was a man’s world. Then Eve arrived. Richard Armour

Even if man could understand women he still wouldn’t believe it. AW Brown


Vocab test, weird food and Daily Oats

November 5, 2013

Discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass this afternoon was sparked by:

* Vocabulary test.

I thought I was quite smart until I got to the end of the fourth column and came across legerdemain  which I recognised but couldn’t define and sparge which was totally unfamiliar.

I scored 33,300  when I did it first last week and 33,500 today – not sure why I’d improved. Perhpas my subconscious had mulled over some of the words I’d met the first time or maybe I wasn’t as tough on myself the second time.

* 10 of the weirdest things eaten by travel bloggers.

The weirdest thing I can claim to ahve eaten was what my host in Argentina called small bowel – I decided he meant small intestine but it didn’t make it any easier to eat.

I also ate viscacha in Argentina. It’s a small burrowing animal which looks a bit like a cross between a possum and a rabbit.

* Daily Oats - this was chosen for the tenuous link with the Melbourne Cup though the blog author is a horse lover rather than a racing aficionado. It includes:

How bad is your horse addiction?

You are Very Bad if!

 *if you have hay under your hat as you walk in the house.
*If you examine every piece of rope or twine for its halter potential.
*If you take someone’s temperature and think 102°F is normal.
*If you always keep carrots, apples, and sugar cubes in your refrigerator and ginger snaps on the shelf.
*If you prefer the smell of stable to perfume. . .

and All I’ve learned in my life I’ve learned from my horse:

• When in doubt, run far, far away.
• You can never have too many treats.
• Passing gas in public is nothing to be ashamed of.
• New shoes are an absolute necessity every 6 weeks.
• Ignore cues. They’re just a prompt to do more work.
• Everyone loves a good, wet, slobbery kiss.
• Never run when you can jog. Never jog when you can walk. And never walk when you can stand still.
• Heaven is eating at least 10 hours a day… and then sleeping the rest.
• Eat plenty of roughage.
• Great legs and a nice rear will get you anywhere. . . .




Nerdy book club, face recognition and annoying husband

October 1, 2013

Discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass today was sparked by:

* Nerdy Book Club – by and for people who love reading, and reading books for children and young adults in particular. The post heartprints by JoEllen McCarthy resonated in particular because I love Peter H. Reynolds’ books too.

He blogs at Stellar Cafe and Creative Juices and you’ll find out more at his website.

* Thanks to Richard, who comments here, for pointing me to the Mail Online’s story on Scotland Yard’s elite squad of ‘super recognisers’ and this test to determine how good you are at face recognition.

* My Husband is Annoying – she stated the blog in 2009 to vent. Her marriage has survived the blogging  so the vent must work and he mustn’t mind.


Last words & water blob

September 17, 2013

Conversation with Jim Mora on Critical Mass today was sparked by:

* Famous last words.


* Paging Fun Mums, a site with a wealth of inspiration for anyone who wants to entertain children.

Among the posts are one with instructions for making a water blob.

Go boldly girls

August 29, 2013

Victoria University student Katherine McIndoe, won the senior prize in the Royal Commonwealth Society’s 2013 essay competition.

Her essay was a letter to the lost girls.

Commonwealth Essay Competition 2013

“To boldly go”: a letter to the lost girls

To the lost girls,

My name is Katherine. I’m a girl, just like you. I have grown up in New Zealand, and I go to university. Ever since I was little, I have had this feeling that I can do whatever I want to do, that my future is not my fate but something that I can choose. I see no obstacles, only opportunities. No one can force me to do anything that I don’t want to do, no one can tell me how to live my life. I am my own person, and I am happy.

Your lives have not been so lucky. For you, there were no opportunities, only obstacles. No excitement at the idea of an unknown future, only hopelessness. You have suffered more than I can possibly imagine, and the difference between us? None. There is only a similarity: we were all born girls. For me, it’s just part of who I am. For you, it was a death sentence.

This is a letter to the lost girls of the world. I’m writing to the girls whose lives are taken as babies because their families don’t want a “useless” female child. I’m writing to the girls whose childhoods are taken from them in the form of trafficking, forced prostitution, and forced marriage. I’m writing to the young mothers who die all too frequently in childbirth, whose deaths are preventable and pointless. I’m writing to the girls who are denied sustenance in times of hunger, while their brothers are given the scarce food. I’m writing to the girls who are beaten in their own homes, and whose governments don’t recognise their right to safety. I’m writing to the women and girls who die from HIV Aids, contracted after they are sold, coerced, and tortured into the sex trade. I’m writing to the girls who have acid flung in their faces for perceived insubordination and faithlessness, and to those who douse themselves in gasoline and set themselves on fire to escape institutionalised domestic abuse. I’m writing to the silent girls, the voiceless girls, the lonely girls, and the lost girls – and there are more every day.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen told us in 1990 that over 100 million women are “missing” from the world, and today, 2 million more vanish every year. Throughout Asia, the ratio of men to women is disproportionately high (in Pakistan, for example, there are 111 men to every 100 women). This sort of disparity belies biology and reason, given that in many places women are proven to live longer and healthier lives. There is a huge gap where, logically, millions of women should be. But they are not there. Where do these women go?

The simple answer is that these “lost” girls go missing because of gender discrimination.

Every year in China, 39,000 baby girls die before the age of 1 because they are denied the same medical attention as baby boys. Sex-selective abortion, too, is a common practice that contributes to skewed sex ratios. Globally, maternal mortality is responsible for the preventable death of one woman per minute, and widespread trafficking of women and girls also robs communities of their women. And for those who make it through early childhood, normalised rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence await many girls as they grow up – for example, 21% of South African women are raped by the age of 15, while a woman or under-age girl is raped every 20 minutes in India.

This is “gendercide”, an undeniable, calculated attack on the women of the world, and it needs to be addressed. Undoubtedly, the only way that humanity can address it is if we “boldly go”. This requires us to display something abstract and intangible – courage.

Courage, to me, is at the crux of any true societal change, because problems like gender inequality are not easy to solve – they require us to be bold enough to ask difficult questions and to acknowledge awful truths.

The fact that so many girls are being lost to gender discrimination is utterly wrong. Every once in a while, when the world’s leaders come together, the “gender issue” is raised, and these statistics are read and sighed at. Undoubtedly, nearly every person who reads about the preventable death of babies or the sexual assault of young girls is disgusted and saddened, and rightly so. And yet strangely, gendercide – one of the most shocking, widespread, and fatal examples of discrimination in history – is not front page news every day. It takes a particular incident, like the horrific rape and murder of a woman on a bus in New Delhi in December 2012, to raise international interest. So the problem is twofold: firstly, women are treated as inferior all over the world, and secondly, this violent form of discrimination is so commonplace and ingrained that it is enormously difficult to make society see it as the emergency that it is.

In the face of such inertia, what we need is courage, passion, and a willingness to confront unflinchingly things that we would rather ignore. We can’t be measured and reasonable, and we can’t drag our feet, claiming that a problem of this magnitude demands distant solutions decades down the track. We have to be unreasonable,we have to be angry, we have to be uncompromising, and we have to be bold. The time has passed for incremental, unhurried development: there is a need now for courageous action. We need to go boldly in the face of those who accuse us of naivety, shout down all those who laugh at our idealism. Yes the “gender issue” is ingrained, multi-faceted, hugely problematic – but that is precisely why it must be addressed urgently. Frankly, I don’t think that it is naive or ignorant to suggest that we hurry up and start fixing it.

There are some bold people endeavouring to do just that. Maria Bashir, a prosecutor in Afghanistan, goes boldly in the face of death threats to herself and her family in order to fight corruption and the degradation of women in the country she loves. She fearlessly prosecutes those guilty of crimes against women, day after day, because she knows that courage and a single-minded refusal to back down are the strongest possible tools in the fight against institutionalised discrimination and violence. Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the head by the Taliban on her way to school in 2012, exercised her right to education and continues to do so with bravery and pride, showing the world that she is not afraid and her voice will not be silenced. EdnaAdan, a lifelong advocate for women’s health, campaigns for the abolition of female circumcision and pours her own resources into the maternity hospital that she built in an area of her native Somaliland devastated by civil war. She fights for safety and adequate healthcare for girls and mothers because she refuses to accept any violation of women’s bodies and the preventable death of so many women.

She is unflinching and uncompromising, and her courage saves lives. These women truly epitomise what it is to be bold.

One hundred million women are missing, if not more.Millions of women who did not have the chance to be bold, who can no longer raise their voices in bravery and defiance.

However, it is not these women – those who are the victims of violence or assault or trafficking – who are not being brave enough. It is the rest of us, those who have the opportunity, education, and freedom to use our voices without fear of persecution and violence, who need to be bold on their behalf. We need to be bold so that they, and we, can live in a world where girls don’t need to be so brave, where there is no gender discrimination for us to fear.

I’m sorry that the only thing that separates you and me is luck, an accident of birth. I’m sorry that you were not cherished as the extraordinary girls that you are. I’m sorry that there are hundreds of millions of you, and I’m sorry that your numbers continue to grow.

The poet Carol Ann Duffy wrote about a poker game between some tough women, figures drawn from history and literature. She describes how, even as these women played their game and made their moves, standing behind each was“a line of ghosts unable to win”. You and your predecessors are these ghosts, these women standing behind us as we hold the cards. But it’s time that you won. It’s time that your silent screams were heard and acted on with the courage they merit. It’s time that we go boldly, so that you are the last girls to be lost to your families, communities, and the world.

Jim Mora interviewed Katherine on Afternoons today.

40 maps and being Mum’s enough

August 20, 2013

Discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass today was sparked by:

40 maps that explain the world.


Why being Mom* is enough.

The second one is from the blog Finding Joy by Rachel who writes:

It’s a website dedicated to seeking joy in life, specifically in motherhood. Intentional living, if you may. And that life philosophy? Well, you need to know a bit about me to know what I write about.

My life and how it relates to joy? I’ve had a decent share of challenging, nitty-gritty, time in the storm days. My husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2005. {He’s now in remission.} We’ve lost jobs, had severe financial stress, and dreams that have been lost. And in January 2011, my littlest son, Samuel, was been diagnosed with Celiac Disease.

Through all of this the I’ve learned the value of living a life loving the little things – the moments – tucked in the fabric of the everyday. And in that is a quest to live joyfully and fully. Now. In this moment.  No more waiting for things to get better, no lamenting the time lost, but rather finding joy in everyday – even when the everyday doesn’t look perfect. It’s in choosing to live today to its fullest, being thankful, and above all grateful. Gratitude is a choice and is something one must learn. And so on this site it’s a celebration of the little things, the moments in life, that matter.

In diaper changes, paying bills, doctor visits,schooling, cooking, gardening, parenting, cleaning, working, laughing, organizing, crying, praying, and in just well, everyday daily life.And that’s what this website is about — my constant journey to find joy and to share with you that you, in the midst of your journey, are not alone. Let’s just call it a spot to breathe in a busy and crowded online world full of should do this and should do that’s — it’s a site of encouragement for mothers and a bit of intentional living mixed in. . .

* I used Mon in the link, because that is how it’s written there but Mum in the heading because  the version spelt with an o irritates me. Don’t ask me why, it’s petty, illogical and unreasonable but it grates.

The post, though, is a heart warming tribute to and affirmation of motherhood and the many ordinary little mom/mum moments which are often overlooked but really do matter.

Poverty doesn’t cause abuse

August 15, 2013

The first topic of discussion on Afternoon’s Panel on Tuesday was Paula Bennett’s proposals for countering the scourge of child abuse.

One of the panelists, Gary McCormick, asserted that the root cause of the problem was poverty (starting at about 9:01).

Host Jim Mora said there was disagreement about the extent to which poverty is related to child abuse.

McCormick disagreed.

Guest Anthea Simcock from Child Matters then came on (about 12 minutes) and said while poverty was related to the issues it was not the primary cause and child abuse wouldn’t be fixed by fixing poverty alone.

McCormick came back in (13:56) and told her she was wrong and poverty was the cause of the problems.

She countered that by saying it was a co-existing factor but not a causal one.

He came back and eventually said he refused to believe what she was saying.

This is a prime example of someone not letting the facts getting in the way of their convictions and he’s not the only one.

Lindsay Mitchell blogs:

John Minto says that Labour needs “a kick up the backside” for not pushing the message that poverty is the “key factor” behind child abuse.

He says there are NEVER any excuses for child abuse but there are REASONS behind it.

Unfortunately reasons becomes excuses very easily.

Can I take you back to just a couple of things that people like John Minto ignore.

Child abuse rates are not high amongst all groups with high poverty rates. In fact they are lower amongst poor Asians.

Household incomes of Maori and Pacific families are growing faster than the median, yet the rate of Maori child abuse is not declining. . .

Poverty is a problem but a lot of very poor people love and care for their children and some who aren’t poor abuse them.

The problems of poverty and child abuse both need to be addressed but it is wrong to assert that solving the former will solve the latter.

Critical Mass

July 30, 2013

Discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass today was sparked by:

Ogooglebar’ … and 14 Other Swedish Words We Should Incorporate Into English Immediately


22 things journalists know to be true

Streets, roads and swearing

July 2, 2013

Discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass this afternoon was sparked by:

* What’s the difference between a street and a road?


* How to swear without swearing.


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