Showcasing Women in Space with NASA Astronaut Dr. Kate Rubins

The end of 2022 has been a whirlwind of activity and planning. While most people were winding down for the Christmas and New year break, the team at STEM Wana Trust was ramping up and working hard to ensure that we pulled off one of our most ambitious initiatives to date. Delivering on a STEM in the Community series of events with a roadshow featuring a NASA Astronaut!

On a personal level, I have ticked off many achievement badges as part of this project:

Get to work with the force of nature that is Janet Van Jenkins
Collaborate and deliver an event with NASA
Meet a NASA Astronaut
Extend our reach beyond the Bay of Plenty
Get STEMFest featured on national TV
Connect with more awesome women in STEM

It’s been such a pleasure to work with Dr. Kate Rubins, an accomplished scientist and NASA Astronaut and introduce her to some of our STEM loving whānau. We pitched to her the idea of a road trip via the North Island, intentionally offering this unique opportunity to the smaller towns and communities – and she loved it. So, in just seven weeks and with the impending holidays looming, we hustled hard, got our lovely Coordinator Rachael prepped and got all the pieces in place to allow for activitations between 8-10 January 2023 in Palmerston North, Taupō, Rotorua, and culminating in a gala evening in Tauranga.

Panel at STEM Wana Trust x NASA event in Tauranga 10 January 2023. Featuring Janet Van Jenkins, Dr. Kate Rubins, Emma Comrie-Thomson, Kate Breach, and Dr. Sarah Kessans

Tia Lush and Dr. Kate Rubins at event in Tauranga New Zealand

Meeting and getting to spend some time with the very amazing Women in Space Aotearoa New Zealand Kate Breach, Emma Comrie-Thomson, CEnvP, and Dr. Sarah Kessans has been the icing on the cake for many of us (and you all know how much I love cake). The feedback from visitors from all locations has been “inspiring, incredible and mind-blowing”. Our headline sponsor Manawa Energy has just send through this message which sums it up so well “…seeing the incredible line up of inspiring woman on stage. And l don’t think we should underestimate the lasting impacts and impressions these types of events have on young people…”

You can see photos and read the event summaries on our blog:

I’m so proud of our team and our organisation. I’m also very grateful to the people who enable, keep me in check, AND have my back in equal measure, Amanda Crowther, Steven Vincent, and Erin Nicholson – they are the silent heroes.

So what’s coming up for us? How will we possibly top this? Well to be honest, I’m not sure, but could we take a wee break before we think about that please?


Dear Georgia

Dearest Georgia aka Butterface,

The house seems empty without you this morning as I wake up during the time when you and I would be getting ready for our walk. I think I’ve only missed a handful of morning walks with you, and despite the darkness, cold, and rain, I never resented our time together in the morning. It seems apt that I spend this time that we would normally spend together to recount some memories, because I don’t want to forget. I’m sad that we didn’t get time to give you even more experiences and memories, we thought we would have many more years.

We’re all heartbroken that you never got to celebrate your first gotcha day with us. Lana had planned to make you a mince and cream cake and I had got you a new sloth collar. The day would have been spent at the beach followed by naps and food.

In the time that you were with us you have captured our hearts in different ways and we really hope that we in turn gave you the best final months of your (short) life.

While the children may have complained about you not being a “normal” dog in the sense of what they might have expected, I always understood that this was your retirement and so all those frivolous things that puppies might do was beyond you and you just wanted to do things at your pace and in your own time. I can totally relate to that. You suited our family rhythm so perfectly.

This is how I think you ranked the humans:
Me = the bossy one who told you off but who loved getting into your face the most with kisses and hugs
Paul = the affectionate one, who always stood up for you and spoilt you because you could do no wrong
Lana = the one who loved to spoil you with treats and when she thought I wasn’t looking even more treats and managed to take the best comedy photos of you
Lex = the fun one who would run with you and took you to hidden park and who you allowed to wrestle and put you in odd poses and positions without ever once complaining

Thank you for also creating these memories:

– answering to “Roger”, “Idiot Dog”, “Gorgeous Girl”, but not Butterface
– the ability to leap from lying down to begging by the kitchen when you heard the snap of the plastic tub
– the inability to hear your name when you were told to “get off the sofa”
– your love of roast dinner
– the breath of death that could kill an elephant
– impressive farts that always cleared the room
– our early morning walks that never went too far as neither of us could be that bothered
– your sheer stubbornness when you didn’t want to go a certain way
– your ability to be spooked by fluff in the air
– your gentle and docile ladylike nature
– the need to be close to us physically, but not actually touching
– putting up with us when we demanded cuddles and hugs
– the way you would lift your head and look at me when I stopped scratching your chest as if to say “did I say you could stop?”
– keeping me company (being underfoot) when I worked from the sofa
– standing at the top of the stairs and whining when you wanted to go out for a wee
– when you try to chatter but you can’t properly because of your missing teeth
– the way you walked so politely on a lead
– pushing your head against and in between our legs when you wanted a neck rub
– sneaking into the boy’s room or under his desk when there was a storm/fireworks/car backfiring
– insisting on nibbling on grass even though you were told not to
– digging holes along all the fence line even though you were told not to
– the time you ran off down the street and had the human chase after you in bare feet
– leaping up for walks when you heard your collar being jiggled or you heard me say “come on then”
– your sleep whoops and dancing feet as you chased imaginary fluffy things in your dreams
– your roaching within a week of being with us
– chewing through a wall your first time being left home alone
– your random walk-by licks on an arm, leg, knee, shoulder, to show your affection
– the way you would bound down the stairs as soon as you heard a car door close to look outside and then have a drink
– the way you would come and greet the children at the front door when they came home from school
– when you barked at the neighbours dog as it came up to the window – we could count the number of times you barked on one hand
– how you were not really fussed about other dogs and seem more content with your own company
– how you loved meeting new people when they came to the house with inappropriate crotch sniffing
– the time the Crowthers came round for dinner and you had escaped to the back yard through an open door and you ran rings around Paul and in the end he had to rugby tackle you down to the ground by the ensuite windows
– at the beach when you ran along the surf with Lex but didn’t want to get too far into the sea
– at Lake Taupo when you drunk the lake water
– all the times you sleep startled and lashed out and then got confused as to why you were being told off
– the way one ear would perk up when you were half asleep as if you were worried you’d miss something
– how the consistency of your poop became a daily conversation piece
– insisting on drinking rain water from the bucket on the balcony
– going on the balcony when it wasn’t too hot and sunbathing
– poking your nose outside of the window in the lounge
– sticking your head outside of the car window and slobbering all over the leather car seats
– the first time we got you in the car journey home you laid on Lana’s lap and yesterday you did the same thing with Lana
– the way you came into the lounge and always tried your luck to get into the corner gap
– having the softest ears
– how you would get playful and air-bitey when get excited from head scratches
– learning within a few days that the kitchen floor was out of bounds but that didn’t stop you from bending your neck around the cupboard as far as you could
– tolerating impromptu showers on the balcony with Lex scrubbing you and pouring water over you

Your favourite spots to lie in the house in order:

– on the corner of the lounge suite in the gap between the new ottoman and sofa (only when you were allowed)
– in front of the TV
– in between the sofa and the recliner blocking the door
– in the office
– along the black chaise
– by the alcove
– by the bookcase
– by the comic chair
– in the middle of the lounge by the kitchen (most inconvenient)
– on the stairs landing

These are just some of the things I can recall on the first day you are not here, I’m sure there will be more moments that will spring to mind and they will be accompanied by more tears, but I hope the sadness will be replaced with happy memories of what we gained and not what we lost.

That final Thursday we treated you to ice-cream with a waffle cone which you demolished in the back of Paul’s car and you laid on the woolen cot blanket that belonged to Lana and Lex. You seem content to lie there just chilling out as I brought the children home from school early. When you were carried upstairs you were allowed to lie on the black sofa which must have really confused you (because you were not normally allowed on the sofa).

Paul opened the expensive ham, cooked you some sausages and roast pork belly. We knew how much you loved those things and we’re glad you got to indulge that afternoon. You also got to walk around the back garden and even though you tried to paw at the piggie’s hutch you were so well behaved.

When the decision came to let you go before you suffered any further, I knew that I had to hold it together for the rest of the family and that if I could do one final thing for you it was to let you know that you were loved and safe. I was always going to be there with you until the very end and as I held your head and looked straight into your eyes in the last moments in the back of the car at the vet’s car park, it was important that you knew that you are loved and that you saw me and I saw you, my good Georgia-Borgia girl.


How to make Vietnamese Bun Cha (Pork Patties)

Some background…

Bun Cha is one of Hanoi’s famous dishes. It’s the Northern equivalent of South Vietnam’s Bun Thit Nuong. The two dishes are very similar in that it is rice noodles with grilled pork, served with a sweet chili dipping sauce and salad with fresh herbs.

In Bun Thit Nuong, the meat, noodles, and salad are all mixed in a bowl together drizzled with the iconic Vietnamese dipping sauce.

In Bun Cha, the meat is separated from the noodles and salad and served in a variation of the dipping sauce which is slightly thicker in consistency.

Anyhoos, this is an authentic hybrid recipe, in so much that it was taught to me by my mum who is proper Vietnamese.

Ingredients (serves 6-ish or 4 Lushes)


  • 500g ground/minced pork
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 large sprigs of spring onions – finely chopped
  • 1 slice of bread – the bit at the end (chopped into small breadcrumbs)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small chili – finely chopped (optional)
  • Handful of fresh mint and coriander – finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 Shallot – finely chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 cup minced lemongrass (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground salt and chili flakes (optional)


  • Assorted fresh salad (iceberg lettuce, bean sprouts, mint, coriander, sliced cucumber)
  • 2 bags rice vermicelli (Jiang Xi rice stick or Bun Giang Tay – normally in a red packaging)

Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce

  • 1 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons of sweet chili sauce
  • 1 carrot thinly sliced into penny coin size – extra points if you can score them to make them into flower petals

The sauce should be sweet, tangy, and salty (and garlicy). Adjust the amount of sugar, fish sauce, or lemon accordingly.


  1. To make the pork patties (cha), combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. You can leave it to marinate for 30 minutes (if you can wait).
  2. Roll the ground pork into small patties. Think ping-pong ball, but squished.
  3. Grill the sliced pork and patties over charcoal fire for a more authentic taste. Cheat-version: You can also pan-fry them on a medium-high heat using a griddle pan with a dash of olive oil for around 10 minutes. Make sure to turn and rotate frequently for even cooking. They need to be caramelised and crispy on both sides.
  4. To make the dipping sauce, in a small bowl, combine water and sugar and mixed until dissolved. Add fish sauce, lemon juice, garlic, chili sauce and sliced carrots.
  5. Cook the noodles per package instructions. Normally, it’s fill a large pan with water and bring to the boil. Add the noodles (two square portions will serve 6 people) to the boiling water. Cover and turn off the heat. Leave to steam for 10 minutes. Drain the hot water and run under cold water.
  6. To serve, add layer of noodles followed by the salad and then place the patties on top. Drizzle a generous amount of the sauce over everything.
  7. Enjoy! Don’t forget to take photos and share it with me on social media @whoatemycrayons, because “photo, or it never happened”.

The first STEMFest in New Zealand

This month marks my family’s two year anniversary in New Zealand. I have to admit that the time has flown by at a ridiculous rate. If you had told me that within the space of two years I would have helped deliver a world class STEM Festival to my newly adopted country AND set up a new registered charity, I would have scoffed at you and then asked what it was you were smoking? Well, it seems the laugh is on me.

In reflecting on the remarkable things that have happened to me personally and professionally, I have come to the conclusion that it’s been a combination of pure luck, good timing, and being fortunate enough to have surrounded myself with an exceptional group of individuals, all of whom where total strangers to me two years ago and who now I couldn’t imagine being without.

These amazing group of people not only shared my vision, but they embraced it and helped to reshaped it into their own so that it became a collaboration in every sense of the word. I am so much richer for having these awesome humans in my life: Amanda, Marie, Mike, Debs, Kurt and Steven (AWOL from the photo).

The remarkable success of STEMFest has been down to the fact that our vision of an inclusive, joyous, and inspirational event would absolutely capture the imagination of the public and community. We truly believed that “if we build it, they will come”. And they did come — all 3,500 of them. We asked them to bring their curiosity and an open mind and they came away being truly inspired and wanting more!

Thank you to everyone who has supported us, encouraged us, hustled for us, and made us push that little bit harder, because, hey — just look at what we did together!

I’m really excited for the future, for what is in store for “Tia the designer”, “Tia the STEM organiser and advocate”, and “Tia the hoarder of stationery” — so watch this space!

Ka Pai Hoki Koe!


One year on…our transition from Brit to Kiwi

The other day Miss Crayons asked me what the date was. She pointed it out that our one year anniversary in New Zealand was coming up. So, today on the 18th of November 2018, one year on from when we landed on these fair shores, I thought I would attempt a one year summary.

So, I have to admit that the year went way too quickly, so quickly that I almost missed it. I still recall waving our container off as it drove down Postland Road with all our worldly belongings. I also remember being in transit in Hong Kong and then arriving in Auckland and being greeted by the Crowthers and half of the Birchalls.

I also recall that the ‘just two weeks’ bunking down at the Crowthers turned into almost four months. I think it’s taken them all this time to get over the trauma of such a concentrated amount of Lush in one short period. We have managed to maintain our friendship, well that’s what I read in the court restraint documentation.

In our year, we have managed to buy a house, two cars, lots of fish (since died) and four Guinea piggies (not dead). I’ve finally stop whinging about the price of cucumbers, but still referring to currency as pounds.

The children have settled into school, but not without some blips along the way, with Miss Crayons starting college (high school) in the new year and growing up way too quickly. The boy turns out is a talented long distance runner and won a prize and a place on the podium at a coastal fun run the other weekend. So I can see weekends of taking him to running events and people asking me why I don’t run – insert much snort laughing here. The Mister still works for the US company so his hours are erratic, but his commute is only down a flight of stairs so he shouldn’t grumble, but obviously he still does.

I have managed to integrate myself into the tech scene here, there’s no DPiP, but I have found a tribe who felt sorry enough for me to let me join them. So now I am part of a ‘scene’. I have my own office (complete with bunting and party lights) and I get to share it with the BFF, so work life it not too shoddy at all. Still working with some of my fav UK clients but looking to branch out into the local scene in the new year. No knee-touching networking events though, I’m still allergic to those sort of things.

I have decided to bring STEMFest to NZ and managed to convince (bully) some people into helping me organise it. Which means breaking out of the comfort zone, talking to lots of different people and committing to more sleepless nights and voluntary stress levels. You’d think I would have learnt my lesson, but clearly I am not that bright.

The other day I climbed the Mount, so I leave with with this parting photo of my ugly mug on top of a mountain! #LifeIsNotTooShoddy


Say no to Comic Sans

From homemade party invitations to a corporate assets and Government signage, people have made the choice to go for Comic Sans for the following reasons:

1. It’s an informal and fun font
2. It’s easy to read and the audience will understand the message better
3. It’s included in my computer fonts package

Image taken from Huffington Post article.

In reality, because a font that looks like a five year old can read and understand, does not mean that it has the same effect on an adult. The font was originally designed for cartoon speech balloons and lemonade stands, not for tributes, shop signage, van decals or resignation letters. It’s about how you want your brand personality to be perceived. When used in any professional context it looks lazy, unprofessional, and lacks seriousness.

It is all about choosing the right tone of voice that matches the way you want your message to be perceived.

There are many free fonts available that still allow you to be informal, fun, easy to read, and appropriate to your audience. For your convenience a small selection is listed below!

Thank you for converting. Happy fonting.

Click on the image to go to Google Fonts.






Let’s organise a STEM Festival!

When I first came up with the idea for a STEM festival in 2016, I hoped, but never imagined that we would inspire so many people to action to make an event of this scale a reality. With the support of the wonderful Joff, Andy, and new recruit Liz, we have managed to pull off the second festival and made it even bigger and better than before!

We knew that if we could organise a quality, independent, and inclusive event the people of Peterborough would want to attend.

This was proven this year when we released the first 200 early-bird tickets by email and they were sold out within hours! We doubled the number of tickets available for 2017 and we were thrilled when they were all taken up, all 1100 tickets. At the initial count, we welcomed around 750 people through the doors in 2017, even on a wet cloudy day this was a great achievement.

You won’t be surprised to hear that the ‘Make some Slime’ table was the most popular. We had over 300 slime makers during the day. Phew.

750 people through the door
300 blobs of slime made
70 Aldi bananas consumed
50 Workshops and activities
30 Volunteers
26 Exhibitors
4 Exhausted Organisers!

I was also delighted to have Suw Charman-Anderson, founder of Ada Lovelace Day and inspiration for STEMFest attend for the day and meet some of our visitors. It was due to attending an ALD Live! event in London in 2015 that I came back to Peterborough totally buzzing with the (crazy) idea of organising our own little indie event. I talked to Andy and Joff, totally expecting (and perhaps hoping) that they would pooh-pooh the idea, but they got behind it and the rest, as they say, is history!

It was so lovely to be able to (proudly) show her all the amazing exhibits, play a duck challenge game and meet some of the friends and supporters who have helped us make the event a reality.

Last but not least, a huge thank you to our DPiP friends and supporters who continue to offer their time and expertise for free. Without their support we couldn’t have made this festival happen.

Did you know…

It is worth mentioning that DPiP and STEMFest is run entirely by volunteers. We work on these projects and events for free and in between our day jobs (you know, the ones that are required to pay the mortgage and feed the family). It’s a credit to the team that we have achieved so much in such a short space of time, and that there’s no intention of slowing down!

As I write this post, it is tinged with pride and sadness as I know this will most likely be the last time I am involved with STEMFest. I will be moving onto pastures new — pastures located 11,387 miles away to be exact. I am confident that I leave the STEMFest ship in the very capable hands of Joff, Andy, and Liz. Big plans for STEMFest 2018 are already underway, so brace yourselves Peterborough 🙂

I organised a STEM Festival and all I got for it was this T-shirt.[/caption]

Goodbye and thank you for the memories, stay curious and awesome my friends!

Signing off for the last time as a STEMFest co-organiser,

Tia Lush
Founder of Peterborough STEM Festival
Co-organiser of Digital People in Peterborough (DPiP) and hoarder of too many brush pens.


New year, new planner for 2018

This year I has surpassed* myself with my efficiency. The planner for 2018 has been designed and ready to hit the virtual shelves.

I have gone portrait this year, having designed landscape versions in the past. Miss Crayons is not impressed and voiced her opinion on the matter, but that’s mainly down to it being a change and not the design itself.


In the words of a wise cigar chewing white-haired American, “I love it when a plan comes together”.

If you would like to purchase a planner and be in the cool planning gang, you can currently buy it and get free upgraded P&P within the UK!