Five for Friday: Things I love (that you might not expect)

1) IRD.  

This one is first because it’s probably the most unexpected thing to like.  What is IRD?  IRD is the NZ Internal Revenue Department, i.e. the tax man.

Seriously, I like the tax man.  I don’t mind paying taxes – I’m a practical person and appreciate my roads and my health care and the museums I visit and don’t mind subsidising other people’s kids going to school (well-educated kids make better citizens), or even other people’s sports arenas, ’cause, hey, I have my museums.

And IRD are nice, and sensible.  I’ve never talked to an IRD representative who hasn’t been polite, well informed, and able to help me with my query in a logical, practical way.  And they get to talk like real people, not like auto-bots following some script.  And they make taxes do-able, on your own.  All of these things mean that when I talk to IRD, I actually feel happier after I do.  Yep.  IRD leaves me with that warm fuzzy feeling

(the same does not apply to the US IRS btw.  The IRS, thanks to their stupid “US citizens living abroad must file taxes for the rest of their natural born life” policy, sucks.  May no seam they ever sew runs straight, and the ones that do run straight turn out to have caught extra fabric underneath.  May their zippers break as soon as they install them.  May their machines always knot on delicate fabrics, and drip oil on whites.  May their hand-sewing needles always break, and their unpicks catch and rip the woven cloth.  May their beautifully constructed garments get eaten by goats on the first wearing.  Or get poo-ed on by an ostrich.  And all of this applies x1,000000 to the accountant lobbyist groups, who are the real evil)

2) Spiders.*

I love spiders.  They are cute and fuzzy and have 8 legs.  Also, there are spiders in Hawaii with little happy faces on the back.  I kid you not.  And the Hawaiian word for spider is nananana!**  How could you not love that!?!

*this particular entry may be slightly influenced by the fact that I’ve never lived anywhere where poisonous spiders are  a problem.  A few more trips to Australia and I might change my mind).

**clearly that theme song got used for the wrong superhero.

3) Unpicking.

I know, it’s the worst part of sewing, because it usually means you’ve made a mistake.  And I don’t love the mistake part.  But I actually quite enjoy the unpicking bit, especially when you can figure out a way to unpick really easily.

Liking unpicking is a very helpful attribute as a sewing teacher, because it means I’m always happy to help my students with it!

4) Things that taste like cardboard.

OK, not actually cardboard, but I really love foods with dry, not-quite crunchy textures and very subtle flavours.  Even better if they have a uniform texture.  Crackers all full of seeds and whole grains?  Meh.  Extremely flavourful, cheesy crackers?  Meh.  Totally un-flavoured rice  crackers? Yes!  Are they slightly stale?  Yes?  Who cares, I will still eat them!

My sister the chef doesn’t eat gluten, and while she was visiting she bought some gluten-free corn crackers.  She ate one, made a face and said “This is horrible!  It tastes just like cardboard.” Then she handed me the packet and said “You’ll love them.”  And I do.  They are now my favourite.

I just like the way things like that don’t overwhelm your mouth with flavour and texture.  You have to really stop and pay attention to the tiny grains, and to the subtle sweetness of the corn.

But on the flip side, I also like…

5) Sardines

Now, someone else must like sardines, because every single supermarket has them, and not just one type, but multiple brands, but in multiple flavours.  So I can’t be the only person in New Zealand, or the US, buying sardines.  And they clearly used to be desirable, because early mid-20th century British books are full of characters who think that sardines are the best thing ever.

But when you tell most people that you like sardines, they react  with levels of disgust and horror  that might be a little more appropriate if I were confessing that I regularly eat live goldfish. (only the once.  And it wasn’t even a goldfish).

I don’t actually regularly eat sardines.  I love eating them when tramping, and I every once in a while I randomly crave them.  And then I have sardines.  Preferably on crackers that closely approximate the taste and texture of cardboard.



  1. I like sardines, but maybe it doesn’t count if you live in a country where people think you are strange if you don’t eat pickled herring in a dozen varieties.

    • I suspect you’re right about that not quite counting 😉 I can’t say I’ve had the opportunity to try pickled herrings and find if I actually like them.

      • Elise says

        There are no kippers (pickled herring) in New Zealand? I love love love sardines, kippers, and even anchovies. Any flavorful fish out of a can. The husband cannot stand the smell, so they are my special treat when he is away!

    • I’m a sprats girl. Best gift from Latvia and Estonia! Not that you could only get them there. (Also, Laima makes all these great sweet things, so I’ll actually always pick that if I can.) I haven’t had sardines in ages, but I used to love to put them on pizza. There had to be a very clearly designated sardines side so that the members of the family who weren’t keen on them would be safe.
      Presumably, I’m the despised person who loves anchovy pizza.

      • Elise says

        I will make you feel better: I have tubes–TUBES–of anchovy paste to put on everything. And I have the gall to feed it to my daughter. anchovies are the best.

  2. Marguerite says

    You are not alone – I love sardines! Try toasted sardine sandwiches with tomato sauce 🙂

  3. I love sardines too. When I was a child on Sunday night for dinner we would often have sardines and cheese grilled on toast in front of the fire while watching The Wonderful World of Disney. A lovely, comforting memory of the early 70s.

  4. Maire Smith says

    Sardines on fresh buttered toast, with a little extra salt, are divine. So are sardines eaten straight from the tin.

    IRD are lovely, yes. They were bad when I was 16, but then they sorted themselves out. I’m pretty sure they think their job is to make sure we all pay the right amount – no more and no less – and that we are mostly trying to do that, so they should help us.

    Do you have Ray and Lyn Forster’s fantastic ‘Spiders of New Zealand’ book? My lovely partner gave me a copy a few years ago. It’s beautiful, and it sounds like you might enjoy it.

  5. Ohh, I like stale-ish stuff too. Have you tried candy paper (the stuff around the candy ufos) or the wafers that go under gingerbread? Love those with and without the topping. And, good to hear there are nice tax wardens in existence. The state in Germany taxes emigrants’ pensions on earnings gained abroad. So, one day, I might go to NZ when I leave, because your lovely IRD has no tax delivery agreement with them. 😉

  6. Cate says

    You should check out the Australian Peacock Jumping Spider! cute and non posionus. I like spiders too, I’m the only one in my office who isn’t scared of them so I have to frequently catch and release any in our office.

    And don’t worry, there have been no confirmed deaths from spider-bites in Australia since we developed an anti-venom for the funnel-web in 1980.

  7. Elise says

    The IRS isn’t so bad–my favorite uncle works for them. So there. The US tax system *is* really terrible, though. Beyond the problem of catering to the extremely wealthy, another issue is that I believe that it is only the US and Somalia that forces its citizens to pay taxes and to never relinquish citizenship. Thank you for mentioning all of the good things that taxes contribute to.

    3 cheers to sardines, and 3 cheers to cardboard. When I was eating gluten, I used to love digestive biscuits. No longer possible, so it’s cheering to know that you can continue to enjoy them–and to enjoy them for me.

  8. Spiders are adorable! And so are bats and snakes.

    I’ve never had sardines before, so I don’t know if I’d like them.
    I don’t think I’d mind unpicking so much if I had a quality seam ripper that was actually sharp.

  9. Tenicatita Lopez says

    Your remark about unpicking made me chuckle! I spent 15 years or so working in a university theater department’s Costume Shop. Whenever I sewed anything that needed to be taken apart, I became so frustrated & angry because I had put it together so securely & well! (This included new garments as well as alterations to garments from the wardrobe.). My friend Cindy & I had this deal; if time was not an issue, we took things apart for the other person, because it was not nearly as frustrating for someone who didn’t make it. Since we were both Costume Shop wizardesses, & knew the easiest & best ways to undo or take anything apart, it made the “undoing” less painful for both of us! I used to love taking apart costumes for alterations.
    I also go to second-hand shops to take things apart to harvest nice fabric & to take sweaters apart to harvest nice yarn. Call me crazy, but taking apart things has a zen- like quality for me; I feel so satisfied taking things down to their basic elements & then giving them new life!

  10. I love sardines! I used to love this cheap brand in tomato sauce that you can get at Asian markets. Now I like a little more variety. Alton Brown champions sardines, but I can’t seem to convince anyone else around me. Canned tuna is the big player, but apparently it only shifted to tuna when sardines were starting to get overfished from their popularity.

  11. letthemeatcake says

    I agree on the spiders….I would NEVER EVER kill a spider…i have no merci for lets say a mosquito…i know I do not have the right to end the life of this soul in the pysical form of a mosquito….but hell, they are getting on my nerves and those buggars exist in abundance and they are reproducing themselves fast….i”m part of the human race and therefore I”m higher in the food chain than a bloody mosquito….so if i get them thats just bad luck for ’em…but a spider….oh no, I’d spend all the time it takes to let it crawl on a piece of paper and set it free in the garden…they are just cute

    • I don’t find them cute per se, except the reall small ones, but yeah, no killing for me, either.
      I sat in a train this week and there was suddenly a little spider with a yellow butt dangling from a thread in front of me, getting in my way; so I carefully shook it down to the floor.
      A minute or so later, I noticed one of a pair of boys sitting across the aisle from me killing it with his boot. And then he smeared it on the floor to make extra sure. I felt like he killed a little part of me. So I frowned at him, but unfortunately, I don’t think he noticed.

  12. Mini Robson says

    As an Australian can, Indeed, confirm that spiders are to be feared here.

    An episode of the children’s show ‘Pepper Pig’ was once banned because it taught children not to be scared of spiders. Spiders are to be avoided and feared, especially the redback ones.

  13. Barbara Stevens says

    Sardines on toast – my secret fave. But I have horrific memories of a poor kid in my class at primary school whose Mum gave him sardine sandwiches for lunch regularly. Everything in his lunchbox reeked of sardines. He ate it all – his Mum was a pretty fearsome woman, and none of us would have been brave enough to complain either!

  14. I like the IRD, but then I get a refund each year due to horribly low pay; I used to work for them too and of all the call centres I worked in they were the only one that believed in customer service.
    I love all NZ spiders except White Tails, I got bitten once by one and even though they’re not poisonous the effects are not nice at all!
    On plain crackers I love corn Cruskits, especially with a thin layer of cheese; not sardines though, I grew up with them and no longer appreciate them very much. I do however love chicken dripping with marmite on toast.

  15. The IRS is pure evil. As are many of the states internal revenue services. Maryland once lost one of my old tax files and demanded that I pay again despite having evidence that I actually got a refund that year. (um, dudes? If the system says I got a refund than that means I filed. Hint.) I had to resubmit all the paperwork plus provide the W2s, again. Because they are idiots.

  16. Very thankful I don’t have to deal with the IRS – frankly, I’ve found the IRD bad enough. I was the one who found out that if you wait on hold to be allowed to speak to an operator for TWO HOURS they hang up on you automatically, without ever answering the phone! But apart from that they’re not so bad, I suppose. Certainly not deserving of your well-thought out execration 🙂

  17. OMG this resonated! I love puffed corn crackers – the big plain ones. Don’t tell everyone but if you shove them in a toaster and retrieve them just before they turn into a carbonised meteorite, slap copious quantities of butter on them – they’re just like good for you (ish) popcorn! Aldi do excellent sardines BTW! And the nice tax man once rung us to tell us our accountant was a wally and wasnn’t answering his phone calls. The tax man actually saved us money.’ We now affectionately refer to anyone at the tax office as Trevor Bond, not a fan of spiders, cos they will carry us away at night – we live in Australia!

  18. I love anchovies as a flavoring, like on pizza. But not sardines. And like a lot of people in this country, I occasionally enjoy eating raw herring with onions…
    And my experience with the people from the Dutch tax office is actually pretty similar to what you describe about the IRD. Some of the rules are confusing and sometimes just annoying but there’s a reason for taxes and everyone I’ve ever dealt with has been friendly, helpful and well-informed.

  19. Summer says

    One of my cats loves sardines. He is not allowed to have them anymore, though, because he will refuse all other food.

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