Success is getting what you want; happiness is liking what you get

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Camping at Paekakariki

The first thing we noticed when we arrived at the Camp was a brand new barrier arm system.  Robin went to the office to book in (and pay for) our Christmas holiday and he had to choose his own 4 didget number to access the barrier arm. We have no problem with this, and think the barrier arm is a good idea.  It will keep the camp safer for the paying customers, and visitors will need to register at the office, ensuring that management know just who is in camp.

DSCF2418 What’s this we see through the windscreen?

Being summer, the pohutakawa trees are a riot of crimson blossoms, the stamens tipped with yellow.  The pohutukawa tree (Metrosideros excelsa) with its crimson flower has become an established part of the New Zealand Christmas tradition. This iconic Kiwi Christmas tree, which often features on greeting cards and in poems and songs, has become an important symbol for New Zealanders at home and abroad. Also in camp is one of the rarer yellow flowered pohutakawa trees – not often seen.  The  yellow-flowered cultivar "Aurea" descends from a pair discovered in 1940 on Mōtiti Island in the Bay of Plenty.

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The motor camp has many crimson pohutakawa trees and one of the yellow flowing variety

The camp was very quiet when we first arrived on Christmas Eve, but is slowly filling up now.  Tents are springing up everywhere, and the Dog Bay has campers with all breeds of dogs.  Two large Newfoundlands keep a quiet eye on the comings and goings as people walk past on their way through the camp, and Holly, the fluffy white Bichon at the end of our row keeps a wary eye out on these two huge black monsters.  All the dogs are tethered at their camp sites and usually they are very quiet and well behaved.  Muffy, our beautiful Birman cat, is spending her Christmas in camp with us and is quite interested in all the comings and goings of camp life.  She is not too keen on dogs or noisy children, and likes to walk around outside to see what there is to see, safe with her harness and light lead.  Then she is quite happy to lie down under our deck chairs and have a nice little snooze.  Or even better, come back inside and sleep on our bed.  Cats certainly have the best of lives, don’t they!

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Happy campers

Monday, December 28, 2009

A little adjustment

Robin spent a bit of time climbing under the caravan, to make an adjustment to the waste hose.  When we visited the Leisureline factory last Easter, the factory manager had given him another length of ribbed waste pipe.  This was to replace the existing pipe and bring our system up to date with what is now implemented in the brand new caravans.   So it was a matter of measuring, cutting, clamping, adjusting, and finally screwing everything in place.

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The adjustment now makes it easier to empty the grey water waste. Using the old method we had to move the waste hose around to chassis which meant getting down on hands and knees and also put a kink in the hose we were using, this did not allow for efficient drainage.  As we are getting older getting on ones hands and knees seems further go than previously.  Now the waste can be released and come outside the line of the van so fitting hoses and turning on taps is much easier.  That’s the plan anyhow, proof will be when fully trialled.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Willie Woodpecker

Robin received a very special (an unexpected) gift on Christmas Day from Kathryn and Graeme – his very own Willie Woodpecker.  Graeme had owned one for some time and Robin had long admired this cheeky little bird.

DSCF2426 Willie Woodpecker

So what exactly does Willie do?  Simple, you push Willie Woodpecker’s head and he bends down to pick up a toothpick for you.  Just what you sometimes need after a hearty meal.

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This handsome black and white woodpecker performed his task perfectly.  Robin was thrilled with his gift.  We think every home and caravan should have one.  We will have to bring him out when we are trying to impress the dinner guests, won’t we.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Day on the Coast

This Christmas for a change we decided to dine out on Christmas Day.  The four of us joined the other 120 or so diners at Cobb and Co Restaurant at Paraparaumu.  There was a big sign up at the entrance stating, “No casual diners, bookings only for Christmas Day”.  Just as well as the waitress found our names on the list.

DSCF2424 Luckily our names were on the Christmas Dinner list

A nice young waiter showed us to our window table and ran through the options with us.   No, he didn’t mind working on Christmas Day, he told us, he would rather be working than spending Christmas Day with rellies he hardly sees and doesn’t really know.  And, the higher hourly rate for working on Christmas Day certainly helped make up his mind. We had a choice of pumpkin soup or shrimp cocktails – an easy choice for us all as the weather was much too warm for a bowl of soup.  The very generous main course consisted of ham, turkey and roast pork, with roast pumpkin, kumara and potatoes, broccoli and cheese sauce, peas and carrots.  Kathryn and I tried our hardest but couldn’t manage to get through it all.  Dessert was a plate containing Christmas pudding and custard, a slice of pavlova, a brandy snap with cream, and ice-cream.  By this stage we were all struggling to get through it.  The price for our meal included a free drink, chocolates and sweets, Christmas mince pies, coffee and a slice of Christmas cake, and Christmas Crackers.  We were certainly getting good value for money, we thought.

 

DSCF2419 Graeme and Kathryn, Jenny and Robin, enjoying Christmas lunch

The steady hum of conversations filled the restaurant as various groups of people were enjoying their Christmas meals.  There were several very  large family groups  with the grandparents right down to babies, many groups of 4 like us, and lots of twosomes.  The young waiting staff did an excellent job delivering meals and drinks, and we can only imagine what was happening behind the scenes in the kitchen.    There was no way we could do justice to the mince pies and remaining sweets so we wrapped them up to enjoy back at camp.  It was so nice to spend Christmas Day with friends and not worry about the preparation, cooking, and cleaning up, for a change.

DSCF2425 Some of the Christmas decorations at Cobb and Co

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas everyone

Christmas greetings to you all from us in sunny New Zealand.  Special warm wishes to our friends in the Northern Hemisphere who are caught up in all the ice and snow.  Guess your white Christmas has arrived.

We would like to share this Christmas poem with you.  It was written by our grand-daughter Megan a few years ago when she was just eleven and we think she did a wonderful job.

 

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Happy children all over the world

Reindeer and Father Christmas land on the roof

In the house Father Christmas

Stumbles while putting presents under the tree

Trees covered in tinsel with an angel on top

Merry Christmas to all those in the world

Angels singing Christmas carols

Stars show the way to baby Jesus

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Demented Turkey at large

There we all were, quietly sitting at our desks this morning at work.  Our fingers were flying as we concentrated on the documents on our copy holders, keying the figures into the computer.  We were doing data entry keying, trying to get everything up to date before the Christmas break.  What’s that strange noise?  “Gobble, gobble, gobble”, we heard, loud and clear.  There on the carpet just by my desk was a demented white turkey. “Jingle bells, jingle bells”, he sang with gusto, with the occasional gobble, gobble thrown in the song for good measure.  As he sang his Christmas carol he did his own little turkey dance, leaning dangerously to one side as he turned around.  We all laughed as we watched the demented turkey strut his stuff!   Don’t think the team leader was very impressed though – perhaps she just doesn’t like turkeys.  Especially ones that can sing and dance!.

 

DSCF2413 Jingle Bells, gobble, gobble

Sunday, December 20, 2009

86 not out

86 not out is a good achievement -  Robin’s Mum Bonnie turned 86 today.  We collected her from her home in Waikanae and took her out for afternoon tea at one of our favourite cafes, the Red House Cafe, at Te Horo.  With Christmas just a few days away, it was no surprise to find the cafe decked out in Christmas finery.

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Christmas Tree at the Red House Cafe

After checking out all the goodies, and making our choices, we settled down in this historic building which previously was the old General Store.  The owner of the cafe has maintained the ambience of the old building, retaining the original counter, wooden floors and memorabilia.

 

DSCF2407 Robin and Bonnie

It was a big surprise to Bonnie when Number 2 son Gary and his family arrived shortly after.  We had kept it a surprise as we weren’t quite sure what time they would arrive. So it was hugs and gifts for the birthday girl, and greetings all around.  By this time my coffee was long gone, so another cup was in order.  There was plenty of chat and catching up with everyone’s news, and news of other rellies.  Then we had to discuss the government, the state of the economy, and generally putting the world to rights. 

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Gary and Bonnie

It was a very enjoyable afternoon spent is pleasant surroundings.  Happy 86th birthday, Bonnie.

Friday, December 18, 2009

We’re both “normal”

We are both “normal”.  But of course you know that already, don’t you? 

We are however, talking about our hearing.  Received a phone call the other week which asked “anyone in the household over 50?” Here we go, I thought, what is this person trying to sell me?  It turned out it was a call from National Hearing Care and they were offering free hearing tests, and the young lady told me these tests were funded by the Government.  So we duly went down to the clinic to have our hearing tests done.

My turn was first and the audiologist explained what would happen.  I sat in a sound proof booth and a range of very soft high pitched noises are played through the head phones, with each ear tested separately.   Press the button each time I heard a noise, I was told.  The sounds were extremely quiet and got softer and softer, disappearing, then coming back again.  Did I miss the ones in the middle, I wondered?  At the end of my test the audiologist explained the results to me.  I was well within the normal range, with just a tiny bit of hearing loss, probably age related.  Whew……it’s good to be normal.

Then it was Robin’s turn to be taken away and shut up in the sound proof box.  Being an inquisitive soul, I asked the receptionist to tell me about the free hearing test programme, and where they got our details from.    It turns out that National Hearing Care is a commercial operation (from Australia) and the tests were not government funded at all!  She was horrified to hear that I had been misinformed by the call centre and contacted her manager straight away.  As for the telephone calls, these are randomly dialled through a computer programme, and the call centre staff speaks to those who answer their phone.   Only the initial hearing test is free of charge, and any further tests or hearing appliances come at a cost.  Just as well I made enquiries, I think.

Robin’s test came back within the normal range too.  So it is nice to know we are both normal.  The only deafness he suffers from is “marital deafness”, but then, don’t all wives have this complaint about their husbands?

 

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Are you listening Robin?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Working on the river bank

I wonder what it is about men and machines that I find so interesting?  I saw this bulldozer working down on the banks of the Hutt River, which runs the length of the Hutt Valley.  Hutt Valley was named after William Hutt, MP.   The river’s headwaters in the southern Tararua Range are a major catchment for the region’s water supply, and runs the length of the and discharges into the Wellington Harbour at Petone.

Wellington’s first settlers arrived at Petone in January 1840, intending to farm the broad Hutt Valley. Less than two months after they arrived, the Hutt River overflowed, inundating their huts and tents. After several more floods during the next few months, most of the settlers abandoned the Hutt Valley and moved to Thorndon, now part of central Wellington.  In 1898 a major flood covered the entire valley floor. This led to the construction of the first major stop banks for protection, some of which are still there today.  Upgrading was done in the 1950s-60s, and they are now high enough to contain a 1-in-100 year flood.

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One method of preventing rivers overflowing their stop banks is to lower the river bed by removing gravel. Speeding the passage of flood waters through an area can involve straightening river channels and removing obstructions such as vegetation.  This work is done as regular flood control maintenance.  I watched the machine  busily working away as it went backwards and forwards up and down the river bank.  Being across the river it looked just like a Tonka toy in the distance.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Caravan Rally

The last rally for 2009 had rolled around – just where had the year gone, we wondered.  We gathered at Kapiti Holiday Park (the Old AA Motor Camp for those who remember)  in the KIngsley Place bay.  All sites have their own individual small ablution block so there is no  meeting up with strangers in their dressing gowns in the  middle of the night.

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Geoff and Eileen arrived on Saturday morning and I must admit that Eileen caused a bit of a stir amongst the other ladies present.  She very competently backed their car and caravan onto their site, with Geoff relaying instructions through the open car window.  “No trouble, easy to do”was the verdict.  Now we have witnessed that “girls can do anything” bit of driving, I will no doubt be asked why I don’t have a go with our own car and caravan.  The answer would have to be, “because I’m too scared!!”

DSCF2369 Backing onto the site, with nary a cross word spoken

We pooled cars to drive to our Christmas celebration dinner, held at the RSA (Returned Servicemen’s Assoc) restaurant (the Achilles Room) on Saturday night.  During the day we had arranged for all to assemble a Christmas Cracker each, adding a small gift.  These were then mixed up and handed out at dinner.  The crackers were pulled, jokes read out, paper hats put on heads, and the small gifts opened up.  The smorgasbord meal was very nice, and the roast leg of pork with crackling was voted absolutely delicious.  There was a little misunderstanding with the serving staff who were jealously guarding the roast pork, but that was soon sorted out.

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Geoff and Eileen, Robin and Jenny, at the restaurant

Robin was delighted to find a model of HMS Achilles in the club rooms.  Robin’s Dad and his Uncle both served aboard this ship. His father when it travelled to Japan at the conclusion of WW11 as the New Zealand contingent to witness the signing of surrender.  He had often heard tales of his father’s time in Japan.

 

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Golf in the afternoon

Wednesday is always an early finish day for us van drivers at Toops, so that we are available for any meetings that the management require us to attend.  No such meeting yesterday, but something much more interesting.  One of our wholesalers invited the van drivers out for a golfing afternoon, a nice appreciation of our hard work during the year.  Six of us, together with two from the wholesalers and our boss Kevin boarded the taxis which took us to Manor Park Golf Club.  All the keen golfers bought their own clubs, while a couple of us who hadn’t played for many years used borrowed sets. 

We were all presented with a new cap each, embroidered with the Toops logo with “Golf Day 2009” underneath, and 3 golf balls each.  The cap had a handy green magnetised marker.  Once we were split into two teams we were all raring to go.

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Our nine holes of golf took approx 2 hours to complete.  We played in fine but slightly breezy conditions which was very pleasant considering the weather that we have had lately.  I blame my lack of prowess on the fact that I haven’t played golf in nearly 30 years.  But never mind, it certainly beats working!

After a refreshing shower and change of clothes we boarded pooled vehicles and went for  dinner at the Silver Spoon Restaurant, Silverstream.  No complaints about the meal, my bacon wrapped scallops, followed by scotch fillet steak and salad certainly filled the spot.  I’m always a pushover as far as ice-cream is concerned, so there was no way I would not have ordered the dish of three different flavours with chocolate sauce.  After all, Jenny was dining out last night too so there was no way I was going to miss out, was there?

Taxi chits were provided to get us home safely – a boon these days when everyone is concerned with not driving after a few ales.  Thanks for a great afternoon.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Off to get the Christmas Ham

Christmas is getting closer so we took a trip up to Haighs Meats in Ohau, south of Levin, to collect our Christmas ham.  Two hams, actually, we ordered one large one to be cut in half.  That certainly suits us better as we take one piece away in the caravan over Christmas/New Year (the caravan fridge is smaller than our one at home).  Then, we have the second half all freshly sealed up waiting for us for when we return home. Haighs Meats only use New Zealand female pork, (it’s sweeter, Charlie assures us) and the meat is all free range.  We haven’t tried their hams before, but can certainly vouch for their special award winning sausages!  (In fact, we drive miles out of our way to buy them).  The traditionally cured hams are smoked with manuka and rosemary, so we are really looking forward to tasting our Christmas ham. We’ll let you know what we think!!

While we were on the road we stopped for coffee at Paekakariki.  Our Kiwitea family were driving down to Wellington to have an early Christmas get-together with the other side of the family.  Paekakariki was a good place to catch up with each other, have a coffee, and exchange gifts to take home and put under our respective Christmas trees.  Then we said our farewells and continued on our journeys.

DSCF2333 Jenny, Robert, Emma and Nicky

The main trunk line runs parallel to State Highway One for quite some distance, and we noticed a lot of activity on the track.  The workmen are obviously re-laying the railway sleepers as we saw a couple of huge piles of discarded sleepers all jumbled up at the side of the track.  They are also double tracking the line from MacKay's Crossing to Waikanae and electrifying that section as well.  There were men and machines everywhere.   The workmen were dressed in orange overalls and the long lengths of orange netting denoted where the repairs were taking place.  With all this work going on, it was no wonder that were saw signs advising “Trains replaced by Buses” further down the line.

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

70th Birthday Celebrations

We helped Calvin celebrate his 70th birthday in style last night.  The venue was the Brasserie, a new restaurant in our part of town, situated in Members Stand of the iconic Trentham Racecourse.  Trentham Racecourse opened in January 1906.  During WWI, soldiers trained on the Racecourse, then went on to take part in the ill fated Gallipoli campaign.  This created permanent ties between the RSA (Returned Servicemen’s Association) and the racecourse.

DSCF2319 Up this way to the Brasserie in the Members Stand

The restaurant has lovely views over the racetrack  and gardens.  We toasted Calvin’s birthday and wished him many more.  The long buffet had plenty of choices, from French Onion soup, ham on the bone, roast turkey, fish, lamb, and a great selection of nicely cooked vegetables.   And what about dessert?  Christmas pudding, fruit salad and mini pavlovas finished our meal off nicely.  Tea and coffee were also on offer.  It was a beautiful meal, in elegant surroundings, enjoying the company of good friends.  What could be nicer.

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After dinner we returned to Calvin and Helen’s home to present our SLG joint gift and cut the birthday cake.  Luckily Calvin didn’t have 70 candles to blow out or we would have been waiting for ages while he got enough breath to tackle a big job like that!

PC040275 Happy 70th Birthday Calvin

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Warm spot on a cold day

The summer weather has still not kicked in.  The weather is still cold and damp with a definite chill in the air. But our Birman cat Muffy found a nice warm spot to keep her toes warm.  Sitting up on the bonnet of my blue Holden Astra (nice and warm from a quick trip) was rather like having under floor heating, isn’t it.  Trust a cat to find the warmest place around.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The first day of Summer

It’s hard to believe that today is the first day of Summer when the rain is coming down in buckets and we can’t see the hills for low clouds.  Even the birds don’t seem to be out and about today.  I put some food out between cloud bursts and only a few cheeky sparrows came.  They were later joined by our pair of resident blackbirds who must be nesting close by.  We just haven’t worked out what tree they are nesting in yet.

The rain didn’t keep the men from Tree Services away though.  Two large trucks parked across the road and several men in orange reflective vests and hard hats got out and placed traffic cones on the road around their vehicles to warn passing traffic.  Out came the loppers as they attacked the smaller overhanging branches.  Then the noisy whine of the chainsaw could be heard.  All this noise and activity looked very interesting so I donned my rain coat, grabbed my camera and went out to have a look.

 

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The workmen seemed mildly amused to see me when I arrived in the pouring rain withy my camera at the ready and snapped a few photos.  A couple of them stopped to see what I wanted and were happy to explain what they were doing.  One of them climbed into the bucket which lifted him up to the higher branches.  Out came the chain saw again and he swiftly lopped off the overhanging branches.  When each tree was trimmed to their liking they then had to get rid of all the debris.  That was no trouble at all – they were towing a small mulcher behind one of the trucks, which made short work of all the lopped off branches.  “This is just the baby mulcher”, a workman explained, “we’ve got a much bigger one back in the yard”. 

 

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The rain kept falling, and the workmen kept trimming trees, as they slowly moved along the street.  If this is the first day of Summer, where is the sunshine?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Green Machine

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As we have a large Land Cruiser to tow our caravan this picture took our fancy.  Maybe this the way things will be when the oil runs out!  Would be a bit slow travelling over any large hills like our Rimutaka Hill.  Would probably need more than one of them I think.  What would we do for tucker for them and think of all the dung.  Jenny would want to give them names!

It could be used to move canal boats too!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Let’s visit Glendhu

The gale force winds at Martinborough last weekend precluded any “sitting outside in the sunshine”, like we usually do. Perhaps a trip in the car would be in order? So out came our trusty road atlas to see where we could go, preferably somewhere new to us. We had not travelled the road down to the coast to Glendhu, or seen the Glendhu Rocks, so why not go exploring down there? Just out of town we spotted a couple of cute pigs in the front of a life style block. I really needed to stop and say hello to them. They must know a pig lover when they see one as they both came trotting over to say hello back to me.

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I love pigs, aren’t they cute.

Our 50km trip took us on sealed roads passing Tablelands – nothing much to see there. We turned on to the gravel road and came to a crossroad with a jumble of road signs, following the signs to Pahaoa and Glendhu. The narrow road took us across quite hilly bush clad country, it was slow driving as we went up hill and down dale. The white flowering Manuka bushes looked like the hills were sprinkled with snow. We noticed several groups of bee hives placed besides the Manuka bushes. Manuka honey is a strong flavoured honey with health giving properties and is a New Zealand speciality.

DSCF2235 Just follow the sign and we will get there

Where was the coast, we wondered. We must getting nearer as we drove beside the Pahaoa River. Now, what is this formidable looking sign? We have never come across anything like this before. Obviously the farmers have experienced heavy stock losses. We don’t qualify as thieves or poachers and as long as we keep off private property we won’t be trespassing either.

DSCF2234 A few more miles and we finally arrived at the coast, with the Geddhu Rocks glistening white in the sunshine. The wind was still blowing a gale as we gingerly climbed down the bank and walked along the river bed. The surrounding land was private property belonging to the Glendhu Station but travellers are free to go down the river to get to the sea.

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On our return trip back Robin kept looking for a couple of strange objects he had noticed earlier. What on earth were they? They looked like a couple of containers perched precariously on top of some large wooden poles. If they were ever used for storage they have obviously outlived their usefulness now.

PB210251Another 50kms on the return trip and then we were back in civilisation again. There is nothing so interesting as travelling to a new unexplored area, along a road we had not driven before.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fondue fun

Our caravan club spent the weekend at Martinborough, that South Wairarapa town founded by John Martin,  (1822-92), an Irish immigrant who purchased the large Wairarapa sheep station "Huangarua" in 1879.   This was subdivided  into 593 sections to create the a town. The street names such as Venice, Panama, Suez and New York  and the central square and streets laid out in a Union Jack pattern, were inspired from a world tour John Martin undertook.  These days Martinborough is well known for producing award winning wines.  The hot summer conditions together with dry stony soil has proved to be excellent for growing grapes and the region is dotted with boutique wineries.  Some of the vineyards have powered turbines to move the air around on frosty mornings.

DSCF2225 On of the many vineyards in Martinborough

Our Saturday evening get-together was quite intriguing.  We had been asked to provide our choice of bananas, tangerines, strawberries, or marshmallows which would be used to make us all a shared dessert.  So on Saturday evening we all gathered together in the camp dining room to see what Kath and Pete had prepared for us.  Set out on the table were dishes with chopped fruit, bowls of marshmallows, and two bowls of warmed chocolate.  We were having a fondue party!!

DSCF2246 It’s fondue time

Tea lights burning under the bowls kept the chocolate at just the right consistency.  I couldn't decide which was nicer, the normal chocolate, or the white chocolate flavoured with Kirch.  As we nibbled on chocolate coated fruit and marshmallows Pete played his musical competition to test our brains.  It was reasonably easy to remember the song titles,  but remembering the artist’s names was quite a bit harder.  Still, we all did very well, and had fun singing along to the songs while the other campers in the dining room looked on in amusement.  Or perhaps that should be, in amazement!  It was certainly a great night.

DSCF2248 Martinborough campgrounds