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

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Washer-woman Woes

There is no question about it, I’ve been suffering from the washer-woman woes when my washing machine just decided to stop going.  It all started like this.  It worked perfectly well when we returned home after our long Easter break away.  Two loads were washed, rinsed and spun all ready to hang out.  Mind you, the washing had to be hung in the garage, as the weather was not the least bit conducive to hanging it outside on the clothesline.  Then I hand-washed an item, and decided to give it a spin to get rid of the excess water.  The lights came on, but nothing happened.  Oh dear, what’s wrong?  “Robin”, I called in distress, “the washing machine doesn’t go”.  Robin’s technical expertise concerning washing machines wasn’t much better than mine.  “It’s not going”, he declared. “and I think it’s that switch”.  So we had to go down town, and seek out a new washing machine.  There were all  sorts of shiny new machines on display in the appliance store, but I wanted the brand I was familiar with.  No problem, we could have it delivered the next day.  But….. we had a joker up our sleeve.  In Robin’s hand was a sales flyer from a competitor’s store offering the same  machine with $200 off the price.  Could our store match the competition, we wanted to know.  They could, and they did, so the deal was done.  Bright and early next morning our new washing machine was delivered.  The technician quickly unhooked our old machine, and put it in the back of the delivery van.
DSCF6034 Out with the old
The new machine was carried inside, the water pumps attached to the taps and the power cord plugged in.  It was tested to make sure that everything worked, and that I understood all the bells and whistles, and the documents handed over. Thank goodness, my washer-woman woes are over.  After all, as I’ve said before, “Happiness is clean laundry”.
P4272183 In with the new

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Easter Bunny came calling

We may have been far from home over Easter, but luckily the Easter Bunny tracked us down.  These lovely little bunnies managed to find their way into our caravan, just in  time for Easter Sunday.
DSCF6019 Look what the Easter Bunny brought us
Then Eileen came calling bearing Easter Eggs.  “For keeping their battery charged with the generator”, she said.  It was no trouble at all, Robin is always happy to help.  And it gave him a chance to use it during the weekend and see how it performed.  Even more Easter Eggs were on offer - there was an Easter Egg Hunt organised for Sunday morning, much to the delight of the handful of children who were present.  They could hardly wait to start hunting, and had visions of pockets bulging with Easter eggs.    But, they were told, there is only one egg each, if they find more than one they have to help the adults who will also be looking.  As expected, the youngsters rushed over to the area where the eggs were hidden, and soon found their allocation, while the adults ambled along.  Eggs were tucked in corners, and hung from bushes.  Here’s my one, tucked away up high.  Sadly, I didn’t find it myself, but had to be directed to the right place, Robin told me to look up!
DSCF6024The great Easter Egg Hunt
A Pot Luck Tea was organised for the evening meal, and everyone delivered their main and dessert over to the school staff room.  As usual with these sorts of catering arrangements, there was a great variety of dishes on offer, with no double ups.  There was everything from from Sausage Rolls to Scotch Eggs, casseroles, curried sausages, bacon and egg pie, and rice and noodle dishes as well.  The desserts were rather nice too.
Pot Luck Tea Plenty to choose from
All those taking part in the The decorated Easter Hat competition were asked to wear their creation to the meal.  The children took part in an afternoon activity to help them make their own, while the adults decorated their own hats away from prying eyes.  There were all sorts of colours and styles, we noticed that Dame Edna Everidge had put in an appearance, together with one wearer claiming he was only “10/6 in the pound”.  It was all good fun, and great to see so many people taking part.
Easter Hat Parade The Easter Hat parade
It seems that the Wellington Caravan Club are turning out a group of young “card sharks”, as the three older children kept us all entertained after the meal showing us their card tricks.  As three rows of four cards each were dealt out we were instructed to “think of one, concentrate hard, and remember it”.  The cards were then reshuffled and laid down several times, when finally we were presented with the card we had chosen in the beginning.  The children did an excellent job, and enjoyed showing off their card skills. 
Romany Rambler at Poroutawhuao School   Romany Rambler before the rain came down
The weather deteriorated on Sunday night, and the rain came down.  Packing up in the rain on Monday morning was not much fun at all.  Everyone was scurrying around with their wet weather gear and gum boots as they dismantled soggy porch awnings and wound up the caravan legs, before departing for home.  We had a very enjoyable combined rally weekend, and it was great to meet up with friends from the other clubs once more.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter at Poroutawhao

Fifteen vans from Wellington, Wairarapa and Heretaunga clubs arrived at Poroutawhao School, just north of Levin, to attend the combined Easter rally, hosted by the Wellington Caravan Club.
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Being a non power rally, it gave Robin a chance to try out his brand new Honda generator.  It was up to the challenge, and happily charged up both Geoff’s and Peter’s batteries, and our own. 
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As with any new purchase, there was a group of men gathered around checking out the wattage, power and dimensions while they discussed the merits at length.  There is always a lot of “man talk” going on at these rallies.
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The host club provided a pancake breakfast for everyone on Saturday morning.  They were busy cooking, flipping and serving pancakes while the hungry campers lined up with their plates.  We had the choice of maple syrup, golden syrup, or jam, with or without cream to add to our pancakes.  And the catering staff were quite happy to provide seconds or even thirds to those who wanted more.
DSCF6005 The pancake makers
The nights were a little chilly and with no power-points available for our electric blankets, some dug out their trusty hotties to warm the bed.  It looked so funny the next morning when we came across these two which Rae and David  had hung out to drip dry the following morning.  Pink for her, and blue for him, we were told.
DSCF6003Hotties do grow on trees
There are always chores needed to be done and topping up the water is one of them.  As we were staying in school grounds, the nearest tap was way over by the school buildings.      So it was a matter of filling up a 12 litre jerry can and trudging back to the caravan with a heavy load of water.  Several trips were needed to replenish the water supply.
DSCF6015 Refilling the water tanks the hard way
Robin hooked up the funnel with a bungy cord to keep it upright.  This bit of lateral thinking allowed him to pour the water into the tank single handedly without getting me to hold the funnel for him.
DSCF6013 Look, no hands needed
We were lucky with the weather and had mostly nice days, sometimes a little cloudy.  Not too bad for Easter, as the weather can sometimes be rather wintry. There was plenty of time to socialise and catch up with everyone.  David’s “Super Dad” hat ensured he wasn’t  taking any chances with getting sun burn on his head while sitting outside.
DSCF6022 Super Dad David
The school grounds were very roomy, and we had the use of the teachers staff room for evenings.  We could hear the traffic whizzing by out the gate on State Highway One and were very pleased to be safely camped on the school grounds for the long weekend.
 Caravan PanaramaPlenty of room for the caravans

Thursday, April 21, 2011

From the Coast to the Country

One of the benefits of joining the ranks of the retired is being free to get away to rallies early. No Easter traffic rush for us, as we headed away on Wednesday.  Leaving home we drove around the picturesque Pauatahanui Inlet.  The estuary is home to a large number of fish and provides a safe haven to the young of many varieties.  Young Kahawhai feed in the shallow water, while the larger adults enter the estuary during high tide to feed on crabs.  Spotties have an interesting life, as the young start out as female, then change to male as they grow.  Yellow Eyed Mullet, Trevally, and Spotted Dogfish also make their home in the shallow estuary. 
DSCF5979  Pauatahanui Inlet
Driving up State Highway One the sun was sparkling on the sea and Kapiti Island was away in the distance.  Kapiti Island is now a predator free bird sanctuary is is home to a number of endangered New Zealand birds.
DSCF5986 Kapiti Island
Our overnight stop was at the country property of our friends Geoff and Eileen.  We had our own private caravan site surrounded by paddocks, with horses munching contentably on the lush pasture over the fence.
DSCF6002 Camped in the country
Help yourself to some feijoas, we were told, they are ready when they fall on the ground.  So armed with a plastic bag, we walked down to the orchard area.  Sure enough, there were feijoas everywhere, just waiting to be collected.
DSCF5992  Robin checking out the feijoas
That evening we dined at the lovely old Manakau Hotel.  Just as well we had booked a table as the dining room was very full.  Farm implements from bygone days and paintings old dilapidated old barns decorated the walls. 
DSCF5998 WAll art in Manukau Hotel
Once again, the dining dilemma raised its head, what to choose?  Robin and Geoff both decided on chose scotch fillet steak, Eileen had a lovely piece of salmon, and I went Indian with lamb curry.  The meals were delicious, with Heidi the waitress running around doing the work of two people, as the other staff member had rung in sick.  She graciously agreed to take our photo, but had to drag over a beer crate to stand on.  “I’m too short”,  she commented, “so I need some extra height”.
DSCF5996 Geoff, Robin, Jenny and Eileen
Eileen found a friend when Lulu, the pub cat, came to visit.  Lulu rather liked all the attention and been doing the rounds to all the tables.  As we were the last ones to finish our meal, Lulu called over to our table get some extra pats.
DSCF5997 Eileen with Lulu

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Our “Devine” Afternoon

  We had yet another trip “over the hill” to the Wairarapa on Sunday when we met up for a day out with our SLG friends.  We lunched at “Devine Cafe”, at Clareville.  This building used to house an antique business some years ago, and it was obvious that it started out life as a church. 
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Our group of eleven friends spent some time looking at the menu and humming and haaing before making up our minds on what to chose for lunch.  There was a good selection on offer, with everything from toasted sandwiches, lambs fry and bacon, or a mixed grill.  Robin chose Eggs Benedict, and declared it very tasty indeed.  My mushrooms flavoured with smoky paprika served on toast  got the better of me and I couldn’t quite finish them all, but they weren’t wasted, Robin took care of the last few remaining mushrooms for me.    
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After a lot more chatting it was time to move on.  We asked another group of diners departing at the same time if they would mind taking a couple of group photos for us.  No trouble at all, we were told, as they snapped photos with one camera after another for us as we lined up outside the cafe.  Just look at the shape of those windows – don‘t they just say ‘’’old church?”
 Group Outside Devine Outside Devine Cafe
After lunch we returned to Ann and Les’s home.  The men followed Les downstairs for a game of pool.  Memories of their youthful years playing pool in smoky pubs surfaced as they endeavoured to sink the balls into those pockets.  It wasn’t quite as easy as it used to be and, they said, and most commented that they seemed to have lost their touch. 
DSCF5969 Shades of mis-spent youth in pubs
While the men were reliving their mis-spent youth, the ladies were being instructed in a game of rummy.  This is a game using  numbered tiles, and I think I came last.  I’m not really one for games, but I gave it a go, then left the others to it.  It’s obvious that some of our group are very competitive indeed, from what I could hear going on around the table.
DSCF5970 The ladies playing rummy
Our afternoon concluded with a delicious afternoon tea – what, more food!  Thanks Anne and Les, we had a lovely time. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Now, that is just the sort of meal you need simmering away in the crock pot on a cold wet Saturday spent at home.  The beef was started bright and early this morning, with carrots, parsnips, onions and the all important cabbage to be added later in the day.  Served with potatoes and mustard sauce dribbled over the corned beef it really will be a comfort meal on a cold day with a definite English flavour.  Perhaps with a steamed pudding for dessert?  The inside chores have been quickly attended too, and it is much too wet to do anything outside, so Robin has already staked his claim.  “There is rugby on the telly today”, he told me, so no doubt he will be well settled in front of the TV this afternoon.  Guess I’ll be busy in the kitchen mixing up that steamed pudding.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Increasing the Battery Capacity

Who can remember when caravans didn’t even have an on-board battery?  There was probably a gas stove in your caravan, but if you couldn’t find a power point to plug in to, nothing else worked.  These days, things are quite different.  We have a three way fridge, (power, gas and battery), two way hot water system, (power and gas), two way TV, (power and battery), a gas stove and battery operated lights.  When we occasionally camp off power, our small solar panel helps to top up the battery, but what happens in cold and wet conditions?  Last weekend when we were camping off power at Kaitoke, it all came to a grinding halt.  The temperature dropped dramatically overnight, but that didn’t bother us, we will fire up our recently installed diesel heater, right?  Wrong!  The heater may well be diesel fired, but it required the  battery to make it start, and run.  The battery was able to start the heater but after quarter of an hour of running the battery showed only 10 volts so was unable to maintain a modest load.  Robin suspected that it had a collapsing cell under load, so decided that the time was right to replace it, and to think about increasing the battery capacity at the same time.  A long involved visit to the battery specialist proved that nothing is ever easy. The first step was to work out what load was required, and working out which appliances drew what power.  Then, shall we just replace our existing battery, or get a matched set and join them together?   Decisions, decisions.  Robin decided to get two new AGM 100ah sealed batteries and then spent a couple of days head down under the seating area putting everything in place.
DSCF5878 Do they work?
The first battery fitted neatly inside the existing battery box.  The other battery was placed beside it on the other side of the under seat framing.  To keep it securely in place Robin constructed a timber cradle for it to sit in. 
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As the new batteries were so much larger in capacity he had to buy a heavier battery charger to be able charge the larger size.
DSCF5950
Another purchase was a pure sine wave inverter to be able to run electronic equipment off the battery bank such as the satellite decoder and the TV.  The existing inverter is a modified sine wave and is OK for running his CPAP machine but puts out a too noisier current for electronic equipment hence the PSW unit.
DSCF5943
This was fitted to the wall just above the folding TV arm.
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Will the new batteries make our off power rallies more comfortable?  Will the heater work OK?  The test will be over Easter when we are staying at school grounds at Levin for a joint rally with Wellington and Wairarapa Caravan clubs.   If this fails then there is always the generator!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Changing Seasons

Our hot Summer days have stepped aside and now the mornings and evenings are decidedly cooler.  With the drop in the temperatures Autumn has arrived,  and the large deciduous trees planted in parks, gardens and along the streets are turning into a riot of colour. 
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Just across the road from us the green leaves on this large tree are turning yellow and are fluttering down carpeting the lawns and filling up the gutters.
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Autumn must be the season for sunflowers as these beauties were standing tall and proud a little further down the street.
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And it is the season of plenty in our own backyard with our grapevine laden with fruit.  The visiting birds like to take a share of the grapes for themselves, and the wasps are very partial to a taste as well.  Guess I’ll be making some Grape Jelly very soon.
DSCF5959 Our grapevine

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Music and Marching Girls

There were plenty of admiring glances at the Governor General’s official car, parked at the rear of Government House.  Black and shiny in the sunshine, with the Coat of Arms flag fluttering in the breeze, and the Royal Crown fixed to the bumpers, there was no doubt that the Jaguar was used to carry very important people indeed.  By the end of the day it will need a good polish to remove all the  smeary fingerprints made as people peer through the windows for a view of the interior.
P4092132 The Governor General’s car
The Wishbone food cart was discretely placed in the garden out of view of Government House, handy for those like us who rushed out the door in the morning and never took a packed lunch with us.  The smoked chicken and avocado sandwiches looked good to me, and Robin chose roast beef with horse radish sauce. With a cup of coffee to wash it down we were all ready to enjoy our al fresco lunch.   Luckily there was a spare bench overlooking the Reflecting Pool, and we sat in the sunshine and rested our weary legs to enjoy our lunch.  There were children everywhere and the pool was a magnet to them.  We watched as toddlers ran up to the water, to be pulled back just in time by vigilant mothers.
P4092084 The Reflecting Pool
We followed the sound of music and made our way to the large front lawn.  People were relaxing in the sunshine as they listened to music, some were sitting on the steps, and others sprawled out on the lawn.  The Central Air Force Band looked very dashing as they went through their repertoire.
P4092136 Air Force Band
Then it was the turn of the award winning Lochiel Marching Girls.  This sport seems to be confined to New Zealand and Australia, and started in the 1930s.  It became more organised in the 1940s and a system of scoring was developed to ensure teams could compete against each other.  Marching combines military precision with intricate formations.   Teams march not only in competitions but frequently appear in parades and social occasions.   There could hardly be a more Kiwi flavoured afternoon pastime than listening to a band playing and watching the Marching Girls go through their paces.
P4092134 Lochiel Marching team
P4092135
What’s happening now?  That looks like two rubbish bins being carried onto the lawn.  Indeed it was, and the bins were set upside down on top of bases.  The sound of drumming filled the air as the two bandsmen played those bins for all they were worth.  That’s certainly different!
P4092141 Rubbish bin drums
After keeping our toes tapping for some time, the Air Force Band and the girls marched off the lawn.  But the musical afternoon wasn’t over yet.  The men in kilts from the Wellington City Pipe  Band set themselves up on the patio and started playing to the crowd.  The sound of bagpipes is very special to me, and for whatever reason, can make me feel very emotional.  It must be that Scots blood in my veins, I think.   There is nothing more moving than the sound of  bagpipes and drums.
P4092147 Wellington City Pipe Band
It had been a wonderful day, looking through Government House, then watching the bands perform.   The weather was nice and warm, and the crowds of people very well behaved.   People were still arriving and joining the queue to look though the house as we were leaving, and we had heard there was a two hour wait to get in.  Thank goodness we had arrived bright and early, we commented, as we set off to catch a bus to take us to the station, for the long train journey home.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Government House - Open to View

After two years of closure for major strengthening and refurbishment costing $40 million, Government House was open to the public this weekend.  The project seismic strengthening, removal and replacement of the roof and stucco panels, removal of asbestos, repainting, and upgrading the services such as water, power and fire protection.  Government House is the official residence of the Governor-General, NZ’s representative of the Queen.  The building was completed in 1910, and is one of the most nationally significant buildings of New Zealand. We joined in with the eager arrivals at waited for the gates to open at 10.00am.  The man behind us in the queue commented that he had lived in Wellington for over 50 years and this was the first time he had been to Government House.  He went on to say that his family arrived in New Zealand as Polish immigrants after the war.  “New Zealand is paradise”, he said.  We know that.
 P4092081 Government House
Upon entry, we all went through security and bags, cameras and cell phones all went on the conveyor belt to be x-rayed, and one by one, we walked through the metal detector.  Those who had forgotten to take their cell phones and cameras out of their pockets set off the alarm and had to do it all again.  The tour started in Ballroom, with two magnificent glittering Czech crystal chandeliers suspended from the handsome plaster ceiling taking pride of place.  The fittings in the ceiling have been strengthened against earthquakes, and bulbs replaced with eco light bulbs. 
P4092085 Chandelier in the ballroom
The Ballroom was set with tables laden with all sorts of gifts which had been presented over the years, including crystal, porcelain, and silver.    Most of these items are usually packed away and I was told that the various heads of departments all came up with suggestions of what to put out on show for the Open Days.    This wonderful engraved crystal falcon was presented by the Amir of Kuwait.
P4092096 Crystal falcon
Another table held a selection of dinner services used in Government House.  A lovely Minton set takes pride of place. 
P4092090 Minton dinner service
At the far end of the ball room, a painting of Queen Elizabeth looks down over the two blue velvet thrones.
DSCF5891 The two thrones
We walked up the staircase to the landing with sunshine streaming in through a pair of  stained glass windows, featuring the Royal Coat of Arms, and the date the building was completed.
P4092116 Stained glass windows on the landing
In front of the windows was a table set with a lovely Dresden figurine, and the sunlight showed up the delicate piece perfectly.  This piece was gifted by the Griffin family, (from Griffin biscuits fame).  I was horrified to see a woman tapping away at the ornament to see what it was made of – shame on her. 
P4092118  Dresden piece presented by the Griffin family
The State Dining Room was a sight to behold, all set for a formal dinner, The long table looked wonderful with crystal, silver, and monogrammed linen.  A lot of measuring goes on, we were told, to make sure that everything is lined up perfectly.  Paintings of royals from Tudor times onwards lined the walls of the Dining Room.  Oh look, there’s my old favourite King Henry 8th, together with paintings of his daughters Elizabeth and Mary. All the paintings in this room were donated by Lord Norrie, who served as the 8th Governor General.
P4092122 The State Dining Room
On our way out we spotted a wonderful marquetry table made by Anton Seuffert. in the late 1900s.  Such amazing workmanship, and we were told that Te Papa Museum holds several more pieces of this New Zealand craftsman.
DSCF5917 Marquetry table by Anton Seuffert
There was still a huge queue waiting to get in, as we exited the house.  Thank goodness we decided to go bright and early – those still waiting had been told there was a two hour wait to get in.  Now, lets see about some lunch.