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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The last Hurrah

Lunch at the Fig Tree Cafe was to be the last hurrah of the 65th birthday celebrations.  It was a family affair, with daughter and son-in-law Nicky and Robert travelling down from Kiwitea for the day, and son Michael flew up from Christchurch for the weekend.  My sister Karla and her partner Tony came too, and also invited were old friends Shirley and Lewis, and Robyn and Barrie, from the Kapiti Coast.  The Fig Tree would have to be my favourite cafe, and the food is delicious.  Set in a former church, the wooden tables and chairs, together with the crockery are a mish mash of styles which just add to the character of this establishment.
PA301087 Michael with his Mum
There were no two ways about it, I just had to have my favourite, the corn fritter stack with bacon.  I probably should have tried something different, but those fritters are just so tasty, and I noticed it was the choice of several others of our group.   Beef and Guinness pie was another popular choice, and the breakfast menu is available all day, for those who prefer their bacon and eggs.
PA301089 Karla and Tony enjoying their lunch
Son-in-law Robert had climbed out of his everyday farm gumboots and looked very dapper in his town clothes, while Nicky was very fashionable in her black and white swirly dress and high heels.
PA301085 Robert and Nicky
We have known old friends Shirley and Lewis for many years, so it was good that they could come down for the birthday celebrations.  In our younger (and fitter) days, we shared the adventure of walking the world famous Milford Track together.
PA301090 Shirley and Lewis
Here’s Barrie but where had Robyn got too?  Perhaps she is up at the counter ordering her lunch?
PA301094 Is my lunch coming yet?
The cafe was busy  but not quite as packed full as I remembered from my last visit.  A sign of the times perhaps.  Never-the-less, our meals were delicious, with very generous servings, and the coffee was nice and hot.
PA301086 Here we all are
After our lunch it was back to our place for coffee and cake.  This was the third and final cake in the  birthday saga, and I can honestly say that I’m all caked out now!  Just as well that I didn’t have 65 candles to blow out.
PA301082 Not another birthday cake

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Elke Bavarian Restaurant

I presumed that none of our SLG friends would have yet been to this new restaurant in town, so that’s where I chose to go for my belated birthday dinner.  Several workmates had dined there the previous month when it first opened and had raved about the food – so that was good enough for me.
PA291081 Elke Bavarian Restaurant
The menu was full of new and exciting meals and we all had fun choosing what to eat.  My melt in the mouth pork cooked in beer, and served with red cabbage and a dumpling was just delicious.  Others had snitzel, beef, or chicken, all cooked with a German flavour.  The waitresses, very prettily dressed in Bavarian style, were kept busy with a full restaurant of diners as they took food orders and served drinks.
PA291077 The bar
The meals were huge and we all declared that we couldn’t possible manage dessert.  Famous last words, the menus came back out and all our good intentions disappeared.  The real German Apple Strudel was a little different to our Kiwi version, but still very tasty and once again, a very generous serve. 
PA291075 There’s that Birthday Hat again
We provided some wine for the table, and the restaurant also stocked German beer, which some of the men decided to try. Most of us declared that we would certainly like to return again and sample some of the other options on the menu. 
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The restaurant had a lovely ambiance and the staff were very welcoming.  There was a fire crackling away in the cosy seating area, and the lovely timber unit had all sorts of interesting nic naks on display.
PA291079 Seating area in the front of the restaurant
After our meal we all returned home for coffee and birthday cake, and even more chat.  We had a lovely evening, enjoyed in the company of our SLG friends, some who had travelled quite a distance to attend this evening function with us.  Thanks everyone, for making this a great night.
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Friday, October 29, 2010

You’ve gotta have a Birthday Hat!

Now, what’s this in the latest birthday parcel?  My goodness, it’s a Birthday Hat!  And what a hat it is.  Shaped like a large cake tastefully decorated with flowers and rosebuds.  Candles lurch precariously every which way, and it is finished with a fetching blue brim.  Don’t I look every part the Birthday Girl?  Thanks to my wonderful friend Merilyn in Dunedin for sending such a fun hat.  I’ll make sure it gets an outing for many a birthday to come.
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Last evening in Himatangi

What nicer way to finish off our weekend away with our caravan friends at Himatangi than an evening  meal at the local Cossie Club Restaurant.  It was just a 5 minute stroll along the sand covered footpaths down by the beach.  Luckily we had made a booking for our group as the place was very full.  At least, we thought we had made a booking, but where was the “Reserved” sign?  “Take that table”, we were told.  But it was set for 8 and there were 10 of us.  “No problem, just pull a couple of extra chairs up”, the cook told us.  So we did, and then had to take 2 extra sets of cutlery from the adjacent table.  It all worked out in the end, but we thought the planning was very casual.
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The menu was quite extensive, which made it difficult for people like me who have trouble deciding.  In the end the scallops won, with several people deciding on them.  Other choices at our table were a couple of huge hamburgers, bangers and mash, and chicken.  The meals were very generously sized, so generous that only one couple could manage a dessert after their big meal, which they shared.
DSCF4535 Here we all are at the Cossie Club Restaurant
Feeling rather replete we all wandered back up the road to the Motor Camp, and met in our caravan for a cuppa.  Peter and Elaine kept us entertained with a slide show of their recent trip to China, played through our TV.   Peter kept up a very interesting commentary as he showed us digital photos of Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City.  We saw shots of the Great Wall, and the Buried Army, boat trips, and a bullet train ride.  So much to see and do, in such a huge and interesting country, and they had a wonderful trip.  It was a lovely way to conclude our evening.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fishing at Himatangi

Himatangi Beach is heaven for fishermen.  Or should that be fisher-people perhaps?  We took a walk along the beach in the weekend and came across a family group winding in a long line.  So we just had to stop and see what they had caught.  The line went out over 2 km, we were told, and it certainly took quite some time to wind it all back.  Luckily there was a handy motor doing most of the work.
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The group were very well organised, it was obvious they had spent a lot of time fishing together .  While the line was slowly winding back on the reel, one person got the holder ready to slip the hooks onto, and another brought out a plastic bin to put the catch in.  On and on came the line, and finally we could see the dangling hooks. Wonder what sort of fish those are?  The children were very interested as the flapping fish were pulled ashore. 
DSCF4531 Ooh, look at that flappy fish
Most of the catch was red cod, with a few tiny sharks caught as well.  “We don’t eat shark”, we were told, so these were returned to the sea.
DSCF4532 Plenty of fish for the evening meal
One of the ladies walked into the surf to collect the brightly coloured motorised Kontiki and bring it ashore.  It was nearly as big as she was.
PA241070 Bringing the Kontiki ashore
Further along the beach were a group of people fishing the old way, with their rods and lines.  One of these people was being difficult and insisted in casting out across the long line belonging to the other group.  The resulting line tangle was not well received, and he was lucky he didn’t get caught up in the hooks on the long line.
DSCF4529 More fishermen on the beach
After our beach walk, what could be better than relaxing with a nice cold ice-cream?  This is the life!
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Birthday Dinner at Kiwitea

It was to be quite a family affair up on the farm in Kiwitea.   Grand-daughter Emma had just turned 21, daughter Nicky and son-in-law Robert had recently celebrated their 25th Wedding Anniversary, and then of course it was my 65th birthday.  We drove up to Kiwitea in the late afternoon to share a celebration family dinner.  First thing to do was to admire the new horses that had arrived since our last visit.  Emma was very proud of her new filly Saffron, who had Palomino blood in her ancestry.
DSCF4489Emma and Saffron
Robert and Michael were busy working with two new young horses, getting them used to halters and being handled.  They were walked around and around in a circle, made to stop, and to stand still.  Robert commented that it doesn’t really take too long for horses to learn basic commands.
DSCF4499 Young horses in training
Emma’s young puppy Sasha was having a great time racing around outside.  The farm dogs were keeping a watchful eye on the young horses being worked and didn’t have much time for such an active young puppy.  A couple of nips from the older dogs didn’t dampen her enthusiasm, Sasha didn’t care though, she just loved being outdoors with all these interesting smells.
DSCF4502 Jack and Sasha
It was time to go indoors and for the birthday girl to open our gift.  We had organised a photo book and were very pleased with how it had turned out.
DSCF4454 21st Birthday photo book
Luckily we had photos taken just after the birth when both of us grandparents were having our very first hold of the brand new baby.  We included toddler photos, including the obligatory unclothed  little one year old one.  There were plenty of photos of all the horses that Emma had ridden over the years, right up to the current cover photo of Emma with her new puppy Sasha.
DSCF4511 Look, it’s all about me!
It is a family tradition that the birthday person can chose the menu for their birthday meal.  Emma had chosen chicken breasts stuffed with apricots and wrapped in bacon, potato salad, (with green salad was added by Mum for a healthy meal), and garlic bread.  This was followed with chocolate cheesecake, topped with a solid chocolate horse’s head.  And not forgetting the ice-cream cake.  It was all so delicious.
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DSCF4520Yummy desserts - chocolate cheesecake and ice-cream cake
Twenty five years of marriage is certainly well worth celebrating and I presented Nicky and Robert with the black and white quilt which I had been busy stitching over the last few months.  Then, Nicky presented me with my birthday gift, so it was presents all round.  A bit more chat, then it was time to drive back to Himatangi. 
DSCF4515 25th Anniversary quilt

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Labour Weekend at Himatangi

Now that we have joined the ranks of the retired, we were able to get away to a weekend rally in the daytime, instead of being one of the last to arrive after a long day at work.  What bliss!  Don and Pamela, and Carol and Graham came a day early and were all ready well set up.  We settled into our site to a camp already almost bursting at the seams.  It was the last long holiday weekend this side of Christmas, and everyone and their dogs, kids, dune buggies and quad bikes looked set to enjoy themselves.
DSCF4484 Himatangi Motor Camp
Peter and Elaine arrived soon after but had a problem getting power.  Dennis the boss called around to sort it out.  Seems it was just a matter of replacing one of those fuse fittings, and it was all fixed. 
DSCF4473 Problem soon fixed
We had an early morning rendition of Happy Birthday sung on Saturday morning by Peter and Elaine clad in their matching white terry towelling robes.  I was a little slow getting the camera out and only managed a photo of them when the song was completed.  Thanks very much for remembering my special day.
DSCF4475 The serenading songsters on the  way to the showers
We had bought a chocolate birthday cake for  morning tea to celebrate my birthday.  The cake was duly cut, and slices  passed around.  Another quick verse of Happy Birthday , and we all settled down to enjoy our chocolate treat. 
DSCF4478Happy 65th Birthday
Once Geoff and Eileen arrived in the afternoon, our full complement was here.  We strolled around the busy camp looking at the large number of cabins and caravans with permanent awnings.  This camp is extremely popular with families who enjoy the beach lifestyle and with fishermen in particular.  “Port Corner” is typical of the type of holiday homes in the camp.  Full of rustic down-to-earth Kiwi charm but perfectly comfortable for weekends away from home to do some fishing.  Port Corner is obviously owned by a keen fisherman and has a sign up stating “I fish – therefore I am”.  And a second one, “A lucky fisherman and the catch of his life live here”.  Wonder if the wife bought that one?
DSCF4480 Port Corner – fisherman’s holiday home in the camp
Walking further around the camp we soon came across the other caravan club booked in for the weekend.  We chatted away to the members of the Egmont Club sitting in the sunshine and they invited us to join them later in the afternoon for 4zees. Not for the two of us though, we had an important family dinner date up at the farm in Kiwitea, so we left everyone else to their 4zees  together while we travelled north.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

He’s counting down now

Robin has two days to go at work so it’s his turn to count down this week.  Wednesday is traditionally a much shorter day on the trucks.  It is organised that way to give the drivers time to attend any meetings that the management may call and to do a stocktake.  Robin suspected that there may well be a “bit of a do” at the warehouse in the afternoon to farewell him.  And he was right!  All the drivers and the warehouse staff gathered together in the early afternoon for a light lunch.  Kevin the boss said nice things and congratulated Robin on his retirement.  Robin was quick to point out that several of the younger drivers had remarked when he first started that “he was not going to last the distance”.  After 8 eight years in the job, he has certainly proved them wrong.  A bottle of Robin’s favourite whiskey and a restaurant voucher were very welcome gifts from the the staff collection.  One more day of work, then it’s “Retirement – here I come”.
DSCF4457 Thanks guys, for the whip around

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tui in the Kowhai Tree

The kowhai tree in our back yard is in flower and is proving irresistible to the Tui.  These beautiful native birds are nectar feeders and they move branch to branch through the tree as they probe the yellow hanging flowers.  As they feed on the flowers, the petals break away and flutter down, carpeting the lawn with golden petals.  The Tui is very protective of the tree it is feeding in and will chase off any other bird that alights in its tree.
DSCF4330Tui left overs
Tui are important pollinators of many native trees and will fly large distances, especially during winter for their favourite foods.  They also occasionally eat insects too.  The sun shines of the  blue/green black feathers and the birds have silver-grey neck filaments.  The early settlers called them Parson Birds because of the dangling tufts of white curved feathers at the throat. 
PA131054 Tui in our kowhai tree
We hear their warbling call as they busily move amongst the flowers.  They combine bell-like notes with harsh clicks, barks, cackles and wheezes.  These clever birds  often mimic sounds such as the calls of the bellbird.  Hopefully they are busy building a nest close by and we will have baby birds in the near future.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Count Down Completed

I’ve been counting down to this day for ages. Today was my last day at work. When you think that I started work at 15, that makes 50 years of earning my keep! (With just a small amount of time off while I had two babies, then back to work quick-smart. That was the only way we could get ahead and buy a house). After paying all those taxes over the years, I reckon I really deserve to retire. There was food galore for the celebration morning tea, so we had plenty to nibble on.
DSCF4406 A nice selection of morning tea goodies
My friend Gloria presented me with a beautiful bunch of pink roses, and she told me she hoped she wouldn’t cry. I’ll probably be the one to cry, I thought to myself.
DSCF4407 Gloria gave me these lovely roses
Janine the Team Leader then gave a little speech about my time in this organisation and the good work I had done. After 8 years here I had certainly seen a lot of changes happen in the workplace. I was presented with a card from everyone wishing me well, and a voucher to spend at my favourite quilting shop.
DSCF4409 Speech from the Team Leader
As I am a “temp” I am employed by the agency which has the contract to supply staff to this organisation. Our consultant Kim is a bright and bubbly young lady, and as I wrote in my letter of resignation, Kim is the best consultant we have ever had, always ready to assist the staff any way she can. Kim came bearing flowers on behalf of the agency, and presented me with a beautiful colourful bunch, and her best wishes for a happy retirement.
DSCF4414 More flowers, thanks Kim
I must admit that after morning tea my work output took a bit of a dive. But I think I deserve an easy morning, don’t you? At lunchtime I packed up the last of my belongings, said my goodbyes, dropped my door passes off at the office, and walked out for the last time. Any regrets? No way! Just think of all the places we will go in the caravan, and the adventures just waiting to happen. It’s time we turned into a pair of “Grey Nomads”.
PA151059 I don’t need these any more

Thursday, October 14, 2010

An Afternoon for the Boys

There is still a week to go till Robin finishes work, but he decided to organise his farewell get-together with his fellow drivers this week. The boys called around in the late afternoon to have a snack, washed down by a beer or two, and no doubt discuss how to put the company to rights. Big changes are in the wind, and the general consensus is that Robin has chosen a good time to leave. He had originally planned a barbeque, but the wind had quite a cold bite to it, so it would be no fun sitting outside. Lucky that I was home to attend to kitchen duties and heat up the snacks for them all, while Robin offered everyone a cold beer. Russell was sporting a sling after a visit to the surgeon. He will be off work recuperating for several weeks to allow his surgery to heal, so it was really good that he managed to drive himself here for Robin’s afternoon.

DSCF4389 Russell, Craig and Brent

The drivers made short work of the mini spring rolls, the spicy samosas and the crumbed prawns that I had cooked up for them. Those prawns were delicious, especially dipped in chilli sauce – I managed to get a few for myself.

DSCF4390 Ben, Robin and Terry

With only one more week of work to go, then Robin can silence that alarm clock which wakes us up at 5:00am. It will be bliss to know that the early morning wake-up calls will finally be a thing of the past. Now, I wonder if retiring workers still get a gold watch from the big boss after years of faithful service? As they say on the Tui ads - “Yeah – right!!”

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Gardens, Sculptures and Fluffy Bunnies

The rhododendrons were a blaze of colour as we walked around the Efil Doog gardens.  With  2000 rhododendrons, as well as magnolias, azaleas and camellias, the gardens are magnificent.  Where ever we looked, there was yet another beautiful tree in blossom. 

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Robin was keen to experiment with his camera’s macro setting, and spent a long time taking various close up photos.  He really wanted to capture the bees going about their business.  Try as he might, the bees just didn’t co-operate with him.

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Scattered around the garden are all sorts of interesting sculptures.  We came across this poor hapless leprechaun down by the lake which gave us all a chuckle.  Looks like he is in a spot of bother, don’t you agree?

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The duo of donkeys over the fence were keeping an eye  on us visitors.  Sorry, no carrots or apples to give them.  Then we found some adorable rabbits that all wanted to say hello to us.  They were so cute and not at all shy.  We suspected that they might be bred for the table, but didn’t want to ask.  We wouldn’t be able to eat something as cute as this.

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It’s not often you come across a giant tortoise amongst the trees.  And I just love these glorious magnolias.  The flowers look so striking as a contrast to the bare branches.

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There is certainly much to see here, including a bonsai collection, dove cote, ponds with their water plants, and sculptures at every turn.  The large flat lawn area  would be just perfect for wedding photos.  The wind was rather cold so we are all rugged up for the obligatory group photo in front of yet another rhodo.  Then it was time for a nice warm cuppa to chase the chills away.  Out came our folding chairs and thermoses from the car boots.  Just as well there were no other visitors to see what we were getting up to as we tried to find just the right spot out of the wind.  First we sat here under this tree, but no, it was too windy.  How about we all move over here?  Then a shower of rain came over.  Oh well, just get the brollies out and pull the rain hoods up – luckily the shower soon passed over.  Finally settled, we poured our hot drinks, nibbled on a piece of cake, and chatted nineteen to the dozen about our interesting day out.

DSCF4383 Our SLG friends

This garden has been assessed by New Zealand’s Garden Trust as a “Garden of Regional Significance”, and is well worth a visit if you are in the area.  There is plenty to see, and it is a lovely place to bring a picnic lunch and stay awhile.