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

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bird Pudding

We have been doing our bit to help the birds with a bit of extra food this winter.  Bird Pudding is on the menu and is now hanging from a tree on a long cord.  We chose to hang it from a particularly slender branch so that the neighbourhood cats could  not climb out and make a meal of the hungry birds.  Our recipe is one suggested by the New Zealand Forest and Bird Society.  It is a mixture of beef dripping, toasted bread crusts, honey and birdseed.  Mixed all together and contained in a mesh onion bag, it is proving to be irresistible to the native Silvereyes, also known as Waxeyes.  It is so lovely to sit and watch them daintily pecking away at the fat ball.  According to our Readers Digest Book of Birds, Silvereyes did not arrive in New Zealand  (from Australia) in large numbers until the mid 1850s.  The Maori people had never seen this bird before and called it “”Tauhou” meaning stranger. 

 

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Silvereye feeding on the bird pudding

We have also noticed Fantails taking quite an interest in the climbing vine on the garage.  They have been making a real racket as they dived in and out.  Fantails feed on insects which they catch on the wing, so there must have been quite a collection of juicy insects that took their fancy.   These birds like to follow people walking along bush tracks and swoop around catching the insects that the walkers have disturbed.

 

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A particularly cold winter

Even though the weekend was cold and chilly, Robin still had outside chores to do.  The grape vine badly needed pruning.  Now that the leaves had all dropped off and blown away in the wind, it was time to get the secateurs out.  Snip, snip, snip he went, taking the growth back to the old wood and a viable bud.  The wheelie-bin was soon filled up with the discarded bits of vine. 

DSCF1630 Robin pruning the grape vine

This winter has been particularly cold, the coldest in our end of the Hutt Valley for 35 years, we have been told.  Robin doesn’t usually feel the cold, but he certainly has this winter.  Only one side of our electric blanket has been working for a while  - no prizes for guessing that it is on my side of the bed!!  So after putting up with this state of affairs for a long time,  Robin had finally given in.  We went out shopping and purchased a new electric blanket on Sunday. We decided that we wanted a known brand, with dual controls, not one of those cheap overseas imports.  Lucky for us we found  exactly what we were looking for, and even better, the shop had a sale on.   50% off the normal price was certainly a bargain.  Now I won’t have those cold feet creeping over to my side of the bed any more.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Eagles Tribute

An Eagles concert for only $15 a seat?  It was obviously not the “real” Eagles band, but rather a tribute band that was touring around.  We saw them last night at the Upper Hutt Cossie Club with friends Kathryn and Graeme.  Luckily we got there bright and early well before the starting time, and secured a table with a good view of the stage while we waited for our friends to arrive.  Several other groups had the same  idea and had already claimed their own tables around the fringe of the small dance floor.

We watched with interest as  the group set their equipment and did various sound checks.  One of them climbed up on a step stool and pinned up a large backing sheet; by the time he had it done, one end was sagging down so back he went again.  People  started arriving in droves for the concert and the hall soon filled up.  There at last were Kathryn and Graeme, joining us at our cosy little table which we had been guarding from throngs of Eagle music lovers.

Eagles 

The opening song was a real Eagle’s classic, Hotel California, and that song set the scene for the evening.  One after the other the tribute band belted out Eagle’s songs and our feet were tapping as we sang along.  There is something about this type of music where you know all the words!!  We looked on as “Grannies a Go-Go” were the first on the dance floor.  Three rather elderly ladies wearing  brightly coloured flower leis around their necks swayed elegantly on the otherwise empty dance floor.   Others in the crowd soon joined them and we even  had a couple of turns on the now crowded dance floor!  The concert finished the way it began, with another rendition of Hotel California.  What a great night, and really good value too.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Something extra in the mail

There I was, tapping away on my workplace computer early in the morning, when we were all told to grab our bags and coats and evacuate the building. A suspicious powder had been found inside an envelope in the mail room. Then the fire alarm came on. Well, that certainly got all the staff moving quickly. Several fire engines and police cars were parked on the roadside with their lights flashing. Further down the road we could see several ambulances waiting. This sort of threat is taken very seriously.

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The firemen worked methodically. We watched as they suited up in their HazMat suits before entering the building to check out the worrying find. They looked rather like a group of yellow clad space travellers.

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The remaining firemen roped of a portion of the road. They then lifted out a portable shower from the HazMat Breathing Apparatus Tender. This was set up in the roped off area and a hose attached to the fittings. We all hoped that they didn’t expect the staff to run through this cold shower.

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Luckily it wasn’t for us after all. When the yellow clad firemen finally left the building they all took turns standing under the fast flowing cold water.

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The staff were given regular updates from a nice friendly policeman. We were told that the suspicious powder had been taken away for testing, and was found to be unthreatening. After almost 2 hours of standing around we were allowed back inside. Just as well it was a nice sunny, if rather cool, winter’s day. Everyone needed a cuppa after all that excitement.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

More scenes of Christchurch

We discovered many different sculptures and works of art during our weekend in Christchurch.  Here is a small selection.

Flour Power,  created by Wellington-based artist Regan Gentry and inspired by the changing face of Canterbury.  This 13m-high sheaf  has a point to make. In Canterbury, fields of crops have given way to fields of houses. Rows of wheat have been replaced by rows of streetlights.

P7183411 Flour Power, snapped on a foggy Christchurch morning

This is the “Bridge of Remembrance” a memorial to those servicemen who died fighting in in the Great War.  Can you see Robin, Merilyn and Colin, the tiny figures posing under the arch?

DSCF1599 The Bridge of Remembrance

As we wandered along the banks of the Avon River, we came across the Centennial Waterwheel turning slowly in the current.  This wooden replica wheel is standing on the site of the original flour mill built in 1859.

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Captain Robert Falcon Scott was leader of the ill-fated British expedition to the South Pole, which set out from Christchurch in 1910. After reaching the pole in 1912, Scott's entire party perished on the return journey. Facing impending death, Scott wrote in his diary that: "Englishmen can endure hardships, help one another and meet death with as great a fortitude as ever in the past."

P7183425 Memorial to Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his team (sculpted by his widow)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Christchurch Capers

Christchurch reminded us of the lovely city of Cambridge, one of the “must see” places on our big OE last year.  The fine old stone university buildings set around a quadrangle tell of earlier times.  And is not punting on the Cam, but rather punting on the River Avon.  The willow lined river meanders through the city.

P7183420 Punting on the Avon

No visit to Christchurch is complete without a tour of the Cathedral, set in the middle of the aptly named Cathedral Square.  In 1850 the new settlers dreamed of a city built around a central cathedral and college, following the English model of Christ Church, Oxford. In 1881, the nave or main body of the cathedral was completed and opened amid city-wide celebrations.  However, it was not until 1904 that the cathedral was finally completed. 

DSCF1578 The cathedral doorway

 P7183414 A beautiful wall hanging behind the altar

Sunshine filtered though a  lovely stain glass window and the cathedral tiled floor is echoed in the large tiled mosaics which line the walls.  As a acknowledgment of living in a new land, there are some woven Maori Tuki Tuki panels on the walls.

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DSCF1579 There was an option to climb the tower for a small charge.  Luckily for Robin the morning was so foggy we would not have seen anything at all from the tower.  He does not have a head for heights so the weather was an easy way out for him.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Visit to Christchurch

We left Wellington last night on an Air New Zealand flight for Christchurch. By the look of it we could have been en route to Fiji, Samoa or Tahiti as the plane was painted with exotic island fauna in a very bright shade of green. However, a trip to Christchurch to catch up with son Michael was what we had paid for, and that is where we ended up. 

P7173405Christchurch, here we come

Michael collected us at the airport  and dropped us off at our hotel, which is very centrally situated but obviously caters for young budget travellers. The size of our room was tiny, with a double bed hard up against walls on three sides. A flat screen TV was attached to the wall at the foot of the bed.  There was an interesting space capsule of a bathroom in another corner. It was rather disconcerting that the room is windowless. The big draw card of this hotel is that it offers free Internet for savvy travellers in the bedrooms, and in fact had several terminals downstairs that people travelling without lap tops can use for free.

DSCF1577Our tiny bedroom, with the bed touching 3 walls

We woke up to a very foggy Christchurch morning and met up with old friends Colin and Merilyn. They had driven up from Dunedin to attend a show, and we spent several hours with them. After a while wandering around catching up on each other's news we ended up at the Art Centre for a coffee and muffin, still chatting. The fog had finally lifted and we came across some "Street Theatre". Seated on the tallest unicycle we had ever seen was one half of a comedy duo. As he pedalled back and forth keeping up a great line in patter, his partner jumped up on an upturned suitcase and the two of them juggled with clubs. The large crowd then watched in awe as the cyclist jumped down from his unicycle. "Bet you wondered how I was going to get down", he asked the crowd as he landed safely on the ground.

DSCF1597 Street Theatre

We walked along the meandering Avon River on a round-about way back to our hotel, and Colin and Merilyn came upstairs to view our tiny windowless room. We wondered if taller Colin would even fit in the bed without his head and toes touching the end walls. Luckily they were staying somewhere much nicer than us!! As we walked back downstairs to see them off, we still had plenty to talk about. Old friends are great friends, and we have known these two for a long, long time.

DSCF1585 Robin, Colin, Merilyn and Jenny at the Art Centre Cafe

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Trip to the Doctor

You would be excused for thinking that we had a dog in our household lately, with all the barking that has been going on.  No dog, just my very sore throat, and cough, cough, coughing day and night. After putting up with this for 5 weeks or so and not getting any better, I took a  trip to the doctor today after work.

Attached to the door at the doctors surgery was a sign.  “Patients experiencing coughs and sneezes must wear a mask upon entering the premises”.  Guess I qualify for that.  But what way around do they go?  One side was white, and they other side was green. The receptionist put me right, and I sat there in the waiting room  with the mask covering my mouth and nose.   “You deserve some antibiotics”, the doctor told me “for putting up with all this for so long.  And some Paracetamol for your sore head”.  Luckily the cough hadn’t progressed to anything worse, so I should be as right as rain after taking my course of antibiotics.  Just as well, we have a busy weekend planned.  And I don’t have to wear my mask out in public!!

DSCF1575 Who’s hiding under this mask?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Muffy goes Camping

Last weekend was a first for us, and Muffy.  After a lot of procrastination we decided to finally take her on a caravan rally.  During the week prior to going away we fitted a pretty pink harness on her.  No response to that, she just ate and snoozed as usual.  Then we clipped a light lead to her harness.  Mmmm, that certainly felt different.  When she felt the pull of the lead she promptly sat down.  The big thing for us was that she was not distressed at all kitted out in her harness and lead. 

Packing up the caravan took a little longer this time, what with adding both wet and dry cat food, a food bowl, and a litter tray.  Muffy is usually transported in her carry cage, and meows the whole way.  For this journey we decided to attach her lead to the backseat seatbelt and would you know it, she didn't make a sound the whole trip.

DSCF1569 Snoozing in the caravan

Muffy is generally an inside sort of cat, and as the weekend was rather wet, she spent most of her time inside our caravan.  She curled up on the couch, and snoozed on the bed, much like she does at home really!!  She had a few forays outside to sniff at all those exciting smells, safely attached to the lead.   The camp managers have a dog, so we had to make sure that he wasn’t going to bother our precious cat.

DSCF1560 Now, what’s over here?

The weekend was soon over and we packed up in the rain and headed home.  Muffy had a great weekend away, and we were very pleased with how it all worked out.  We will definitely take her camping again.

DSCF1573 This looks like home to me!!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Antiques, Wine and Cheese

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We took a trip into rural Wairarapa on Saturday afternoon, with the snow capped Tararuas  making a wonderful backdrop to the country setting.  We went to visit an antique dealer who sells her wares from her home.  Two rooms are set aside for display featuring lovely old timber furniture, silver and china.  I particularly loved a old wooden cradle, you could just imagine a new settler in the colonial days rocking the baby in their cottage in front of the blazing fire. 

DSCF1554  Antiques in the country

Then in the evening we had a “Wine and Cheese”evening.  Everyone had to bring a bottle of wine, and some cheese to share.  Something a little unusual was the criteria.  Carterton Motor Camp has a nice roomy dining room and we pushed two large tables together to accommodate our group. One by one the wines were opened and tasted, and the platters of cheese were passed around the group.  My cheese offering was certainly unusual, so unusual that some were reluctant to try it.  Because it was green perhaps?  I had found a recipe for cream cheese and spinach spread, flavoured with garlic and nutmeg.  It was certainly tasty but the colour was rather off-putting.

DSCF1565 My green cheese spread

Unfortunately I  had been suffering from a bad cough all weekend, always worse in the evening when the temperatures drop.  So Peter and Elaine came  to our evening get-together all protected in case I was suffering from the dreaded swine flu.  Written on their face masks was “oink oink”, the magical words to keep the germs away!!

DSCF1564 Elaine and Peter with their face masks

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Chilly Carterton

The weather man promised cold weather for our caravan club weekend away at Carterton, in the Wairarapa.  Never mind, we weren’t going to let the winter chills spoil our weekend away.  Four of us decided to have a meal out together on Friday night for a change.  Our friends Kathryn and Graeme recommended the Buckhorn.  This establishment has a Western flavour through and through, from the Indian brave standing at the entranceway, to the wild west murals painted inside, and the various mounted animal heads looking down at the diners as they ate. 

DSCF1536Buckhorn Bar and Grill

We woke up on Saturday morning to hear the “whoosh” of a hot air balloon overhead.  We could see the gas flames clearly  illuminated against the early morning sky.  These balloon rides leave not far from the Motor Camp, and it is our burning ambition to experience a balloon ride one of these days.

DSCF1545 Wairarapa Early Morning Balloons Ltd off on a flight

Peter and Elaine had come along to the rally with a new car.  So all the men gathered just like bees around a honey pot.  They checked under the bonnet,  the wheels, the boot capacity, and the interior.  There is nothing like a change in vehicle to interest the men.

DSCF1550 Checking out the new car

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Who’s a pretty girl, then?

DSCF1403Comb in hand, ready to start work

Our Birman cat Muffy loves to keep close to us.  And she lies quite happily on my lap when I groom her.  First I lay her on her back and gently comb her tummy and inside legs.  Then she gets put on one side and I start at the legs and work up to her spine.  A quick flip over and then the other side is done.  Lastly I sit her up and groom the ruff around her neck.  All the while Muffy is “helping”, licking her fur at any bits that are handy.  When all the work is  over she looks even more beautiful than before.  But then, we are biased!!

DSCF1411All done, so who’s a pretty girl then?

I recently stitched Muffy her own “pet grooming bag” to keep her brush, comb, and bits and pieces in.  Made with black and white cat fabric, it has a stitchery panel on the front.  So she now a special  bag of her very own, just like the big people in the family.

DSCF1495 Muffy’s pet grooming bag.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Moonlight in the Morning

It is pitch black in the morning when we leave the house to go to work.  We were treated the beautiful sight of the full moon giving off a ghostly glow in the dark morning sky.  Guess you really need a tripod and have a very fancy camera to take an outstanding photo of the moon, but this is what I managed to snap with my digi camera this morning. 

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There is plenty of the winter season left to get through, but now that the shortest day has been and gone, we can look forward to the days slowly lengthening.  Roll on summer!!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy 65th Birthday

It’s big sister Kathleen’s 65th birthday today.

Hope you are having a lovely birthday celebration up there in sunny Hastings.

DSCF0125[1] Happy 65th Birthday Kathleen

Friday, July 3, 2009

Eyes Right!!!

It’s Friday, and I played hooky from work this afternoon. It was time for my appointment with the Eye Specialist. About 18 months ago I suffered a detached retina and today was my annual check-up. I collected Robin from work and we drove into Thorndon, Wellington. They may specialise in eyes, but it was clear that even Eye Specialists are worried about Swine Flu, as there was a sign on the door asking patients who were suffering from flu symptoms to reschedule their appointments.

I was given eye drops to dilate the pupils and the nurse took pressure and focus readings. Then it was time to meet up again with the eye specialist who had repaired my detached retina and saved the sight of my left eye. He shone a bright light into each eye and gazing intently into my eyes told me to look up, then down, left and right. “Everything looks fine”, he told me, “there is no way that retina will come away again as it has been lasered all the way around. Come back and see me again in 12 months”. That was great news. I hadn’t really been worried but………

DSCF1510The Bordeaux French Bakery and Cafe,

The Bordeaux French Bakery and Cafe, was right next door. So it was no surprise that we ended up in there for a coffee and a delicious French pastry each. Robin fancied a rather large custard slice and my citrus tart was divine. The young man who served us had a cheeky French accent, was it real, we wondered?

DSCF1509 Afternoon tea

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

World Heritage Site

Way back in August last year we travelled across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct with our friends Dot and Derek on their narrow-boat Gypsy Rover.  The aqueduct is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and was the UK’s nomination for World Heritage  status.  A news flash sent through cyber space from our boating friends confirmed that this structure is Britain’s newest World Heritage Site, after a six year campaign for recognition.

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is the longest and highest aqueduct in Britain.  Built over 200 years ago by Thomas Telford and William Jessop, the 18 stone piers topped with a cast iron trough soar 126 feet above the River Dee.  Over 16, 000 canal boats cross over it each year.  Many people like to moor their boats and walk across the towpath in the sky for a different taste of the aqueduct.  And we were there last year, experiencing both ways of crossing.

Copy of P8221549 Jenny, Derek and Dot crossing the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Congratulations to all concerned for the nomination and subsequent honour of such a wonderful achievement.