The year in review 2021

As we approach the end of a year, like many of us, I’m taking a few moments to look back at the last twelve months. It was the second year of the pandemic, and we had a second lockdown here in New Zealand (three months in Auckland, though only a few weeks for us here in Wellington). Although vaccination began later here compared to other countries, 91% of the population is now full vaccinated, with booster shots slowly being rolled out. Vaccination passports were introduced, so when you arrive at, for example, a restaurant you check in with one QR code and then get your passport checked with another, which we are now getting used to.

The news was filled with one awful story after the other, and somehow it made it even more important to look for those small pleasures that brighten up our days, whether it be watching the ducklings grow up on walks through the Botanic Gardens or savouring a quiet moment on a weekend morning. My nephew, wife and son moved up to Wellington from Christchurch, and my oldest great-nephew started university, a fact I still can’t quite get my head around! I moved to a four day working week, enjoyed lots of time in the kitchen cooking and rediscovered Headspace.

There were, for us, fewer trips than usual, but we did get away a few times, starting with a few days down in Dunedin in the summer (posts here, here, here and here). We had a wonderful break down in Queenstown which we returned from refreshed and rejuvenated (posts here, here, here and here), and a long weekend up in Auckland in June to coincide with Karl’s birthday.

In terms of food – well, it is hard to know where to start really. There were lovely lunches at Pickle & Pie, Floriditas, Dixon Street Deli and one of my favourite cafes, Squirrel. There were memorable meals at Peter Gordon’s Homeland in Auckland and Rita here in Wellington, and excellent food at Rātā in Queenstown, Field & Green, Noble Rot, Capitol, and Ortega Fish Shack. We enjoyed beer and empinadas at Sprig & Fern, tasted beer at the Beervana festival and wine at Winetopia and the fun Voyage Through Wine at Noble Rot. I cooked from the Pandemic Pack Cookbook and a lot from Ottolenghi’s Simple, Peter Gordon’s Savour, Diana Henry’s From the Oven to the Table and Sophie Hansen’s books, and made Welsh cakes for the first time.

I read a fair bit this year (you can read more about that here), and joined other bloggers in the #whatsonyourbookshelf challenge. There were several trips to the cinema (favourites included The Dry, Another Round, Bergman Island, My Salinger Year, and The French Dispatch), and a lot of series bingeing (such as Line of Duty and Shetland). The dance year included Java Dance Theatre’s fun Back of the Bus, the newly formed Ballet Collective’s wonderful Transfigured Night and the 2021 season of the Royal New Zealand Ballet, which included a new production of Firebird and the return of Liam Scarlett’s sublime Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Highlights in the garden have included the dahlias, a decent selection of herbs, lots of nasturtiums and some wonderful tulips and daffodils. You can see the gardening year on the weekly Six on Saturday posts. Below is this year’s flowering of dahlia Art Fair and one of my new plants, Happy Days Cream.

I managed to tick off one thing at least on my ‘want to do’ list and that was to attend a flower arranging event at Twig and Arrow. It is something I want to do again and put into practice, but haven’t done anything about, so maybe 2022 can see me do a bit more of this.

I went for walks in the Botanic Gardens, and continued my twice weekly Pilates classes. I listened to many episodes of ABC’s Conversations, Comfort Eating with Grace Dent, and an old favourite 99% Invisible. I’ve got hooked on the Elizabeth Holmes trial through various podcasts including The Drop Out, and picked up old comedies and detective serials on BBC Sounds. I saw two great exhibitions by female artists, Hilma af Klint at the City Art Gallery and Rita Angus at Te Papa, and of course there was the big Surrealist exhibition.

Finally, a big thank you to all the wonderful bloggers out there who have commented and liked my posts, whose lives I have followed through their writing, and the smiles and sometimes tears that they bring. It is a wonderful community of people all over the globe.

You can find Thistles and Kiwis on Facebook, and also on Instagram @thistlesandkiwis.  As for Twitter….am totally inactive these days.  If you want to get in touch, email me on


  1. I agree that it is important to take time to reflect on our past year. I love your reminder to look for small pleasures that brighten up our days — especially when times get tough.
    Thank you for sharing this with us and thank you for joining us at WOYBS. It is greatly appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t even begin to think about this year – what with Auckland always in trouble with covid – not just our recent 100 plus day lockdown but also the February cluster – and then my own health, nothing to do with covid. It was less than a month ago when finally a “light has started shining” but I’m still on a baby steps GP/program of getting some semi-balance of healthy life back again.
    This morning it was magic, I felt almost better – but fortunately I didn’t do my usual thing and dash out to see the world, because around 1pm – “better slid away” – back to usual bit-by-bit mode. But that isn’t too serious as I could see that “light shining”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes the flower arranging thing was fun – going to keep my eyes open for something similar again for next year.

      Thanks for stopping by and hope 2022 will be a good year for you and your family.


  3. This is a delightful look back on the year – I look forward to joining you on your positive journey through 2022.


  4. I very much appreciate your summary of the year, along with the reminders of the delightful places you’ve taken us too. (I vividly remember your flower-arranging outing; such a good idea by both the flower and the food artisans!)

    Thanks to your beautiful blog, New Zealand has become one of my favorite places in the world. Onward into 2022. Your blog will help make the year a good one for so many of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve enjoyed connecting with you through the blogging world this year. Your Saturday posts are always a little bit of sunshine and I confess to being very interested to find out where you’ve been eating and what you’ve been cooking each week. Happy new year.

    Liked by 1 person

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