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

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Green Parrot Cafe

Even though Robin and I are Wellington born and bred, Friday evening was the first time we had stepped inside this famous and long running Wellington eating establishment. The Green Parrot Cafe was opened in 1926 by Mr Eddie, an American seaman who jumped ship in Wellington. It was taken over in 1932 by “big” Tony Marinovich who introduced the basis of today’s menus, featuring the big meals the cafe is renown for. He also installed the grill made from melted down gun barrels which is still in use today.

DSCF3944 The grill made from melted down gun barrels

During the war years the cafe was very popular with American and New Zealand servicemen. The cafe changed hands several times over the years and is now owned by Kosta and Angelo who still offer the traditional 1930s style menu. Well patronised by the general public and politicians alike, it has had many famous people walk through the doors. At the end of filming, Peter Jackson chose the Green Parrot for his “Lord of the Rings Celebration Party”. The large painting hanging on the back wall of the cafe shows many of the famous patrons who have dined here over the years.

DSCF3945 Large painting showing well known customers

When our meals arrived they were certainly the large offerings that the Green Parrot is known for. My groper steak meal was delicious, the fish was moist and just melted in the mouth. Robin declared his sirloin steak first rate, and cooked just as he had ordered it, medium rare. The large meals came with chips, green and potato salads. It was hard going, but we did our best to clear the plates.

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DSCF3947 Two groper steaks arrive for me, and Robin chose steak

The cafe filled up very quickly while we enjoyed our meals, with several large groups coming in. We noticed people walking past peeping in the windows, obviously hoping to spot someone famous inside. We certainly enjoyed our meals, and it was great to finally make it to this iconic Wellington landmark. It took us a long time to get there, but we are so glad we finally did. As we left the cafe, we looked back at the famous Green Parrot neon sign in the dark sky.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Good enough to Eat

This current week, 26 July–1 August, has been Maori Language Week, which has been celebrated in New Zealand each year since 1975. The theme for the 2010 Maori Language Week is 'Te Mahi Kai – The Language of Food'. With this theme in mind, the Maori Cultural Group at my place of work has been organising various food activities, such as selling Maori Bread and tickets for the Hangi Lunch on Friday.

Today was cake decorating day. Representatives from the two main areas in the building were charged with making a Maori Meeting House. They were presented with chocolate cake, biscuits and sweets to construct their building, and they could add other food items if required. All this was done in the strictest secrecy behind closed doors. At 2.00pm the entries were escorted into the cafeteria amid much fanfare. The two judges pondered long and hard and finally reached their decision. This entry took second place. The chocolate cake was cut and shaped into a meeting house with chocolate biscuits on the roof making a very realistic looking meeting house.

DSCF3938 Second place in the competition

The winning entry came from my side if the building. Made of chocolate cake, this entry featured wafer biscuits decorated with icing swirls reminiscent of Maori motifs. The free standing meeting house met the judges approval and romped home to first place. Both entries looked good enough to eat.

DSCF3937 The winning decorated cake

And they were, when a little later the cakes were taken to their respective areas and cut up for general consumption. A couple of Maori phrases from the information sheet seemed to fit the situation quite nicely. “He pai tenai”, meaning “this is good” certainly described the rich moist chocolate cake. And then the phrase “he mea ano mau?”, meaning “do you want some more?” seemed appropriate as I nibbled on my second piece of cake!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What a Whopper

We have been in awe of the full moon that has been been in our night skies over the past few evenings. And it is still there in the mornings too, when we are driving to work. It seems much larger than usual, wonder why? There must be a reason, perhaps the moon is closer to the earth at this particular time. Someone is sure to know the answer.

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There is no sign of the moon tonight though. The skies are leaden, and the rain is falling down in buckets. Never mind, it is winter, after all. And we do know, that up behind all those rain clouds, that big silvery moon is hanging in the sky, just waiting for a break in the clouds so it can shine through and work it’s magic again.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Happy Birthday Helen

It was Helen’s 70th birthday and our SLG friends all joined her in a celebration lunch at the Short Straw Cafe, in Whiteman’s Valley. The Short Straw Cafe is the only cafe in New Zealand built from straw bales, and features curvy, straw bale walls covered in plaster.

DSCF3918 Short Straw Cafe

This cafe is always popular and the the car park was extremely full. Luckily we managed to find one of the few remaining car parks, thank goodness for that. Once inside, we soon found our reserved table. Now, what to eat, that was the question. After reading the menus on the table, Trish, Robin and Les then checked out the cabinets to see what took their fancy.

DSCF3917 Trish, Robin and Les pondering the choices

We had a bit of a wait for our orders to come as there was a large party in the function room. Never mind, it gave us all plenty of time to wish the birthday girl “Happy Birthday” and catch up with each other’s news. We all enjoyed our individual choices, from quiche, all day breakfast, sausages and mash, and hot pot. After a coffee to finish our lunch, we were invited back to Helen and Calvin’s home for birthday cake and a glass of bubbly.

P7250919 The delicious decadent birthday cake

We raised our glasses of bubbly and wished Helen a very happy 70th birthday, and enjoyed a slice of the delicious chocolate cake. Thanks, Helen, for organising such a lovely day.

P7250924Happy Birthday Helen

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Caution – Shared Area

You never know what you are going to find on the road behind the library, where the new extensions are taking place. There is a large sign advising that this is now a shared area between the cars and pedestrians coming and going on library business. As well, the contractors have taken over a large part of the car park with their trucks, delivery vans, and a large container or two. It certainly is a well shared area between the public and the builders.

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On my last visit as I drove behind the library to the car park I was stopped in my tracks by the large boom of a crane hanging over the road. The crane was perched on the back of a truck. Something interesting was obviously about to happen, so there is nothing for it but to check it out.

DSCF3899 What’s this across the road?

Don’t know what the workman making sure that everything went safely and smoothly thought when I got my camera out and snapped a few pictures. The boom, which had a huge hook attached, hovered over a couple of large orange crates. “These are the air conditioner units” he told me, as he attached the straps around the crates. They looked extremely heavy so I stepped back out of the way, wouldn’t want to be underneath if they slipped.

DSCF3900 Two new air con units

In no time at all first one and then the other crate was lifted high into the air and onto the roof of the library. That certainly took some skill.

DSCF3902 Up, up and away

The library redevelopment is on target and will be completed in October. There will be a total roof replacement, and upgrades of cable, lighting and technology, including more computers and Wifi. As a very regular library user and I am looking forward to our new look library, it is a pity that they are not going to replace the rear door from the car park or provide a covered walkway from the car park.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Just what we need for the caravan

How about one of these “made just for the caravan” type of radios? We spotted it recently and thought it might be just the thing for our caravan. But on second thoughts…….perhaps not. And yes, it certainly does produce those radio waves.

P6190860 Caravan Radio

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mist in the Morning

We woke to a still morning without a breath of wind. The surrounding hills were covered in mist and looked quite surreal.

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“Do you think Heathcliffe is out there in the mist?”, I asked Robin. He looked at me as if I was crazy. Where is his romantic streak? He knows that Wuthering Heights is one of my favourite books.

We travelled through the mist as we drove up and over the Rimutaka Hill. There was a recent article in the newspaper which stated that parts of the Rimutaka Hill Road was one of the Wellington Region’s most dangerous road. There are road works taking place on several corners of this road which links the Hutt Valley to the Wairarapa. According to the article, even more dangerous is the Haywards Hill Road, which we also drive over regularly, both in the car and towing the caravan. Robin takes this sort of news in his stride. He is on the road all day doing his truck deliveries, and travels over the Haywards Hill several times a week, so knows the road well.

Once over the hill the rain had really set in. We stopped for lunch at the Wild Oats Cafe in Carterton. It was cosy and warm with the log burner close by and we enjoyed our choice of pizza and quiche. With a nice large latte to sip for me, and a Coke for Robin, plus the weekend paper to browse, it was a nice way to spend an hour or so on a wet Saturday.

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Then it was time to head for home and tackle that hill road again. It might have been better for my nerves if I’d never seen that dratted article and read how the road was rated.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Greedy little Birds

Those pretty little Wax Eyes must have been feeling a bit peckish as they have made short work of the bird pudding we hung in the garden for them on Sunday. This is what it looked like on Monday, covered with birds, all after a taste or two.

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By Tuesday, it was quite a different story. The birds had been gobbling away and there wasn’t much left at all. The onion bag was getting empty, with just a little of the bird pudding in the bottom. Other birds are down on the lawn waiting for the leftovers to drop while the birds are clustered around the mesh bag.

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And when we got home today, it was all gone. With so many hungry mouths to feed we will just have to make some more for those greedy little birds. It is so nice to see them darting about the garden, in and out of the trees, and to know that we are giving them a helping hand during the cold winter months.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Touch of Frost

We woke to a cracker frost this morning, with the lawn covered in white. Also rather white was my little blue car. We don’t often leave the cars outside, but my side of the garage was full to overflowing with copious amounts of weekend laundry. By the time we surfaced on this rather chilly Sunday morning, the wintry sun had melted the frost on the bonnet of the car. But both the front and back windows were covered in ice. Just as well I wasn’t heading off to work at 6.30 AM as I do during the week, I wouldn’t be able to see to drive.

DSCF3840 Ice on the windows

The frosty start to the day reminded us that we really should make another “bird pudding” to hang out for our little feathered friends. So after lunch I toasted a few bread crusts, broke them up and put them in the kitchen whizz. To this I added a couple of quartered apples, turned the whizz on and chopped them up. Meanwhile, I was melting some dripping and honey together in the microwave. Put everything into a large bowl, add some raisins or sultanas, and some wild bird seed, and mix well. Roll into a ball and set in the fridge. Then, place in a mesh onion bag and hang from a tree. It was Robin’s job to climb up the ladder, and my job to hold it steady for him. Viola – the bird pudding is ready to eat.

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Wax Eyes Feeding Up for the long cold night

They must have been watching and waiting, as no sooner was the bird pudding hanging up, than the little birds arrived. Both the wax eyes and the green finches love it. All this bird activity drives Chardy, the next door cat, demented and she can’t reach a single one. Our cat Muffy doesn’t seem to have a hunting bone in her body. Her idea of a good time on a Sunday afternoon is to curl up on the armchair and have a nice snooze.

DSCF3843 Muffy – whiling away a Sunday afternoon

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Blithe Spirit

What could be worse that having the spirit of your dead wife visiting you and you being the only one who could see her? Having the spirits of two deceased wives come calling! We had a little bit of culture last night when we attended the local Heretaunga Players production of the Noel Coward classic, Blithe Spirit. I just love Noel Coward plays, they are so “wordy”, with clever repartee and flowing dialogue. Robin wasn’t too keen to come along. “I’ve already seen it”, he complained. Sure we did, but that was years ago, and at a different theatre. I’d already purchased the tickets, and after all, it is a classic play.

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The play is set in 1942, in Kent, in the upper class home of the Condomines, who invite the local doctor and his wife to dinner, along with Madame Arcati, the local medium. A séance takes place and things go from bad to worse when the spirit of Elvira, Charles first wife, is called back from the other side.

Noel Coward wrote the play in 1942 in just six days, when he saw the terrible effects of the blitz on the Londoners. Everywhere he went he encountered doom and gloom, not surprising under the circumstances. He hoped that his play would cheer people up and it certainly did. Even Robin, tired at the end of a busy work week found it amusing, I definitely caught him chortling away several times. I just knew he would enjoy it! I certainly did.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Goodbye, mate

We said farewell to our friend Graeme today, one of our good friends from the Caravan Club. The service started with the Elvis song, “Huka, huka, burning love”, known affectionately as “Graeme’s Song”, as he loved to join in the chorus. Graeme and Kathryn came to their first caravan rally way back in January 1999, at the Hydrabad Motor Camp. We were put into a team with the newcomers and our task was to construct a race horse out of driftwood gathered from the beach. In the evening the teams brought their horses along to take part in a race meeting. Our horse, aptly named Phar Lap, did reasonably well for a beginner. Also at this rally Graeme and Kathryn were introduced to an all involved water gun fight. At a recent rally everyone was asked to recall something memorable about caravanning. Graeme commented that their first rally was certainly memorable and full of fun. He felt right at home with people who enjoyed themselves doing silly things.

He loved getting away to rallies, and had a dry sense of humour which came to the fore when they were rally captains a few months ago. We were all asked to bring a small potatoe along, goodness knows why! Graeme and Kathryn set up a trio of gnomes on a table, handed us all a Spud Gun, and then the great Gnome Shoot began. Pellets of potatoes flew through the air, with some actually making contact with the gnomes.

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There are two types of blokes in the caravan club, the Ford lovers and the ones who can’t live without their Holden's. It is not unusual for one side to make disparaging remarks against the other’s choice of vehicle, and send e-mail jokes to one another. Graeme was a Holden man through and through and his Holden Commadore was his pride and joy. It made an excellent tow car, and over the years has towed his caravan many thousands of kms attending rallies and travelling throughout New Zealand.

We enjoyed his company over the years, and it was an honour to know him. He left is much too soon. Surely he will be looking down at us from the happy camping ground in the sky, no doubt thinking those words from a John Williamson song, “Look at those old farts in the caravan park”.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tree 0ne – Chainsaw Nil

The young man looked every inch a logger as he walked down the hill towards the huge towering Macrocarpa tree. His chainsaw was nonchalantly hanging from his fingers, the hard hat was tucked under his arm. Across his shoulders he had draped his special chain-saw proof leggings to stop him sawing his legs off, and he carried various lengths of strapping. He was off to do battle with the tree. “How long will it take to fell a big tree like that?”, we asked. “About half an hour”, was the reply. We were getting ready to pack up the caravans and leave, but this looked interesting. Perhaps we’ll stay a bit longer and watch. Other residents of the motor camp had the same idea, so a group of us were spread along the fence line, looking at the action taking place down in the valley.

The logger climbed up the tree and the whine of the chain-saw drifted up the hill as he started lopping off the lower branches. Then he cut a piece out of the huge trunk. Bang, bang, bang, he hammered a series of wedges into the cut. After a walk around to inspect the handiwork this process was repeated again. Still nothing happening. More sawing and more banging took place. This tree wasn’t budging. The boss trundled slowly down the hill in his light truck and then the pair of them looped a strap around the tree trunk and fastened it securely to the back of the truck. Aha, we thought, this will do it. The ground down there was quite soft and we could just imagine the wheels spinning as the boss put his foot down and jerked the strap tight. That certainly made the branches shake, but the tree stood firm. Again and again they tried, but to no avail.

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Then it was onto Plan B. The boss went back to his workshop and returned with a chain winch. We watched as it was looped around the trunk, attached to the winch and the winch attached to a handy tree stump, then slowly tightened up. Robin had his camera ready to snap the tree as it toppled over. We waited, and we waited. “That’s hard work”, Geoff commented, as the strap was slowly wound tighter. “It will be dangerous if it snaps”. Inch by inch the ratchet pulled the strap ever tighter. Then we heard the loud crack as one of the strops snapped with the strain, and flew through the air. Luckily no one was struck by the flying missile.

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After all this everyone drifted away. It was obvious that it was going to be a long drawn out job. So when we left the campground for home the score was tree one – chainsaw nil. No doubt the young logger will get his revenge and the tree will just be a pile of firewood when we next return to this camp.

Monday, July 5, 2010

That’s very cosy

It was very cosy at Otaki this weekend, with just a couple of caravans able to attend our rally. Never mind, the sun was shining, and we enjoyed each other’s company. We were staying at Bridge Lodge, just south of Otaki, in rustic surroundings. As well as a small number of power connections for campers and caravans, this establishment offers low budget accommodation to local workers, and there were some staying here who were working on the railway double tracking extensions. Birdlife flourishes in the surrounding trees and we heard them chirping away happily from dawn to dusk. We saw plenty of fantails fluttering about eating insects on the wing, pukekos looking for titbits to eat in the long grass, plus the resident chicken keeping her beady eyes open in case someone decided to put some crusts out on the lawn for her.

Our cat Muffy needed a comb through, so that was the first job we did in the morning. Now that she is sporting her winter coat, she is lovely and fluffy. Muffy is a very placid cat, and just lies on my lap as I turn her this way and that, combing her long coat to get the tangles out.

P7030882 Combing Muffy

A trip to the local supermarket for some last minute provisions (and a Lotto ticket so here’s hoping we strike it rich) brought us face to face with a wonderful WWII Jeep in the car park. The owner told us how he had found it lying unwanted and decrepit on a farm in Martinborough in the 60’s. Of course, he rescued it and took it home. That was the start of a long restoration process, with lots of the missing parts having to be made by hand. He certainly did a wonderful job. These days, with the smart paint job and everything bright and shiny, it looks just like it did back in the war years. The owner told us that his Jeep creates a lot of interest when he takes it to town, and we can certainly see why.

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Our Saturday evening entertainment was watching a Top Gear video. The presenters on this English show have a real a dislike of caravans on the roads and over the years have done some rather dastardly deeds to them. Their latest idea to ease caravan road congestion was to sling one underneath a huge air balloon and travel the country looking for a caravan park to land in. As to be expected, all did not run smoothly and the balloon with it’s low slung caravan came to quite a sticky end. As far as Top Gear is concerned, that is one caravan less on their roads.