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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

RIP Bonnie

Yesterday Robin’s Mum was laid to rest, as family and friends gathered in Paraparaumu to farewell her.  At 91 years she had enjoyed a good innings, but sadly, her health and mobility deteriorated over the last few years.  But her four children were all at her side in the final hours.  We suspect that Bonnie held on till daughter Kaye flew in from Vietnam, and they were able to spend the last few days together.

The family gathered together in the afternoon, and cooked up a barbecue for the evening meal.  The young ones are growing up fast, there seemed to be a whole bunch of glamorous young ladies and good looking young men in the younger generation.  It was a good opportunity to take plenty of family photos.

Many thanks to all who sent messages of condolences, they were much appreciated.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Ding, ding, it’s the Strawberry Man

On hearing the ding, ding of the bell, we looked around to see what it was.  It was the Strawberry Man in his little red car, driving slowly around the camp.  We remembered him calling into the camp last year, so grabbed some cash and went out to meet him.

PC290024 The Strawberry Man

These delicious local berries are freshly picked and packed,  and we could choose from strawberries and blueberries.  Why bother choosing?  We’ll have one of each thanks, I told him.  Now we have all these lovely fresh berries for dessert, we will need to buy some ice-cream, Robin decided.

PC290025 Blueberries and strawberries on sale

Peter and Elaine are camping beside us, and the four of us had made good use of our sun shade to escape from the hot summer sun.  It looks a bit like “Leisureline Lane” here,  for as well as our two vans,  there is another Leisureline parked on our other side. 

PC290019 Leisurelines in a row

The manager/grounds man Neill is a bit of a “good keen Kiwi man” who enjoys hunting, fishing and golf.  He was wearing his new fishing tee-shirt, bought for him by his long suffering wife.  Neill usually rides around the camp on his bike as he goes about his duties, calling out greetings as he goes.  He is full of cheeky banter, and the older ladies in camp all love to mother him.

PC280017Neill is a keen fisherman

Robin has been on barbecue cooking duties the last couple of nights.  On the menu tonight was “Surf and Turf”, peppered steak and garlic prawns served with freshly cooked vegetables.  Then for dessert we had strawberries, pavlova and whipped cream, plus that New Zealand favourite, hokey-pokey ice-cream.  Sometimes it’s tough being on holiday!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Just around a few Corners

Our time at the Drop-In Rally came to an end, and we didn’t have to travel too far to arrive at our next stop.  Just around a few corners in sunny Foxton, travelling a grand total of 1km.  We are now set up at the Manawatu Caravan Club grounds, hooked up on power, with an ablution block and laundry at our disposal just a short stroll away.  First things first, and I soon had a load of washing done and hanging up to dry in the sunshine.

PC270009 Now at Manawatu Caravan Club grounds

We certainly arrived on the right day, as the committee had organised a Sausage Sizzle for lunch.  Chairman Phil drove his beach buggy around the camp towing a trailer all set up with a large barbeque, sausages, onions, bread and tomatoe sauce.  And to wash it all down was a chilly bin or two of beer and bubbly wine.

PC270012  Phil’s in charge

There was soon a production line going.  As the cooked sausages came off the barbeque, the ladies served each one on a slice of buttered bread, cooked onions on top, and a squirt of tomatoe sauce, handing them out to a group of hungry campers.

PC270015Cooking up the sausages

A group of us sat out in the sunshine, sipping our drinks, munching on our sausages in bread, and chatting to our new neighbours.  This is the life.

PC270016  Sausages and bread for lunch

The casual camp sites filled up during the afternoon, with our caravan club buddies Peter and Elaine arriving later in the day to park beside us.  They had an extremely slow trip, they told us, with heavy Boxing Day traffic stretching out the trip from the Hutt Valley to over three hours.  We will both be camping here till after New Year.  The weather has been great so far, let’s hope it stays that way for the next week or so.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Camping at Sunny Foxton

It’s been fairly quiet here at the NZMCA Drop-In Rally at sunny Foxton.  We arrived on Wednesday to find just a few vans in residence, so there was plenty of room to park up.  It didn’t take too long to wind the legs down, roll the awning out,  tune the satellite dish into the dot in the sky, and set up the folding chairs.  There, all done, now we can meet up with the others on site. 

PC230010 On site at the Drop-In rally

The numbers increased dramatically today, Boxing Day, as caravans and motor-homes continued to roll into the school grounds.  Seems that most of the attendees had Christmas Day at home, and moved on today.No doubt even more will arrive tomorrow.  We now have a motor-home parked quite close to us, and we have enjoyed chatting to our new neighbours about our respective South Island travelling experiences.

PC260006 There’s a few more neighbours now

We drove up to Palmerston North this morning to spend a little time with Robin’s sister Kaye while she is back home from Vietnam for a short time.  We also popped into the hospital  to see our neighbour who had a hurried trip there a couple of days ago in an ambulance.  Bruce seems to be doing well, and was pleased to see a couple of new faces to chat to, as each day in hospital can seem very long indeed.
   
Hay making is still in full swing and on the way back to camp we saw this stack all cut, baled and wrapped.  Doesn’t it remind you of a pile of pink and green marshmallows?   As well as looking pretty, those pink bales are making a serious statement.  Crop packaging supplier Agpac came up with the initiative to raise awareness and funds for the charity Sweet Louise, for the Louise Perkins Foundation supporting those with breast cancer.  The  idea was suggested by farmers wives and it's been hugely popular, with the bales placed  in prominent positions on the roadside or by motorways.   Part of the sales of the bale wrap will go to the Sweet Louise campaign to assist secondary breast cancer patients, with an extra focus on women in the rural community.  What a wonderful idea.

PC240011Pink bales in the paddock are for a good cause

And just to show we are not too far from the sea here in Foxton, a gate festooned with paua shells.  Paua is the Maori name given to three species of large marine gastropod molluscs, known in the United States and Australia as abalone.  Highly polished  paua shells are extremely popular as souvenirs with their striking blue, green, and purple colours and are used to make jewellery.  Years ago, when cigarette smoking was a way of Kiwi life, most households used a paua shell or two as ashtrays.

PC240013 Paua shells on a Foxton Beach gate

We are moving on from the Drop-in Rally tomorrow morning and travelling a short distance up the road and around a corner or three to the Manawatu Caravan Club grounds for the next ten days or so.  Here we will have the luxury of a power site, and (wait for it) a washing machine to use whenever the fancy takes me.  I can hardly wait!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Here comes Santa

After a hurly-burly afternoon back home in Levin  making a multitude of telephone calls to get the funeral arrangements started, we travelled back to Foxton Beach School to where our caravan was parked up at the Drop-In Rally.  And wouldn’t you know it, Santa came calling in the early evening.  The sirens were wailing, the lights were flashing and in rolled a fire engine with Santa riding shot-gun.  “Merry Christmas” he called out as he threw lollies out the windows to all of us oldies.

PC240015 Here comes Santa on a Fire Engine

We wanted to spend Christmas Day quietly in camp, as the oncoming days will be full of a plethora of arrangements and decisions with other family members.  There were a few presents waiting to be opened in the morning, a long awaited book for him, a few wanted quilty items for her, chocolates galore - of course we will eat them, but why do the family think we need them?  Then there was a gift box of tasty snacks, and what’s this?  A pair of socks each – and not just any old socks.  No, these were bed socks for the caravan, the tag said.  And they certainly look cosy and warm, just the thing for when we are camping off power in the middle of winter with no electric blanket to keep us warm .

PC250017 Caravan bed socks

Our traditional Christmas breakfast is croissants filled with ham off the bone and a slice of tasty cheese and heated till the cheese melts.  We sat outside under the awning eating our croissants, washed down with a nice cup of freshly brewed coffee – a great way to start the day.

PC250024 Just finished our Christmas morning breakfast

Then Robin had to get on with the job of podding the peas – he is very partial indeed  to nice  fresh peas. This is a job he remembers doing quite often as a youngster, podding the peas for a family meal.  Robin then watched over the chicken roll-ups cooking slowly on the barbecue, while I was took care of the rest of the meal, cooking Jersey Benne potatoes (another family tradition) fresh peas and asparagus.

PC250027 That’s a big bag of peas to pod

We joined the other caravanners in the hall and ate our lunch together.  And what a festive table it was, nicely decorated too.  We toasted each other, and ate our respective tasty meals, while we discussed all sorts of topics, putting the world to rights, as people do. 

PC250030 Christmas lunch at the Drop-In Rally

We shared our desserts, and what a lovely selection there was - pavlova, trifle and fruit kebabs.  With a few Aussies in the group, there just had to be a discussion on that long running question of what country invented the pavlova first, New Zealand or Australia?  We decided it just had to be New Zealand, no argument about it.

PC250032Yummy desserts to share

Tomorrow is Boxing Day, and the numbers are expected to swell with more caravans and motor-homes arriving at the Drop-In Rally.  Meanwhile, we are enjoying the sunshine and the lovely peaceful surroundings.
 
Merry Christmas to our followers and readers, hope you all had a lovely day with family, friends, and those you love.  May you all have safe travels in the New Year. 

And many thanks for your kind words of condolence at this sad time, they are most appreciated.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Sad News

It won’t be such a joyous Christmas this year as sadly Robin’s Mum passed away last night.  Bonnie had just turned 91, and had spent the last couple of weeks in and out of hospital, with her health and strength rapidly failing.  With her only daughter Kaye flying in from Vietnam for Christmas, Bonnie held on to the last minute and thankfully the two of them had some time together before the end.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Lights

Our Christmas Village snow scene twinkles away on the dresser every evening.  With lights in the windows of the grand houses and people out on their sleds in the snow and ice, it is very pretty indeed.  But not what we actually experience here for a New Zealand Christmas.  Maybe it would be nice to experience a real White Christmas just once, then I think we would be happy to get back to sun, beaches,  BBQs and camping.

PC100006 Snow scene

Our Christmas lights outside are quite modest, just a few strings here and there along the fence line.  And with our spiral rope Christmas Tree tucked under the eaves, our little contribution gives a bit of Christmas cheer to the village.  Extra lights criss-cross behind the fence in the small patio area.

PC190025 Just a few lights outside

After waiting for darkness to fall, we drove around to see some other local decorated homes.   Cars pulled up, families disgorged, and excited kids kept finding something new to look at.  The home owners happily chatted away and numbers rolled off their tongues as they related how many strings of lights, bulbs and multiboxes it took to do their respective light shows.  Sadly, they have to be vigilant, as it is not unknown for unscrupulous people to try to make off with part of the display. 

PC190017

PC198517

PC190022

PC198519

These large displays, although beautiful to see, must  take an awful lot of time and effort.  Our display is very modest compared to these, but we certainly enjoy seeing them twinkle away each evening. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Where’s Santa Going?

Christmas is different down here in the Southern Hemisphere.  No snow, or ice-skating or hot chestnuts roasting on the fire for us.  Our days are long and sunny and we are more inclined to sip a cold beer than a glass of eggnog at Christmas.  Even our Santa seems a bit more laid back than we imagine a British Santa might be.  There he was, safely ensconced on his Santa Chair in the shopping mall, while he waiting patiently for the little children to come and sit on his knee.  I took a sneaky photo as I walked past, because, after all,  I love Santa too.

PC200028 Ho ho ho – come sit on my knee

Close by was another Santa, although this one seemed to be made of rubber.  I watched as he merrily raised himself up and down in the chimney.  This poor old Santa must have been getting some unwanted attention from various naughty children, as he had a sign warning the youngsters not to push or hit him.  Don’t they know that if their names go on the “Naughty List” they may well miss out on presents?

PC200029 Don’t be naughty – be nice!

How about some local grown freshly picked strawberries for dessert?  This enterprising couple were selling them in the mall – so I purchased two punnets to take home.  Fresh strawberries in a bowl topped with whipped cream – yummy.  Sorry Robin, we don’t have any ice-cream to go with the strawberries and cream. 

PC200030 Strawberries for dessert tonight

With my few jobs all done and  ticked off the list, I retraced my steps through the mall to see Santa get up out of his chair and walk briskly to the door.  He stopped to chat to a group of youngsters who wanted to know where the reindeer were.  “It's too hot for the reindeer today”, he told them, “I had to leave them at home, and drive here in my 4WD”.  One of the youngsters was  quite concerned and really wanted to know more about the reindeer.  But Santa said goodbye and walked out into the car park.

PC200032 Where are the  reindeer, Santa?

And sure enough, Santa walked briskly up to his 4WD and climbed in.  Its just not the same as a sleigh pulled by those reindeer we all love - Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and of course.....Rudolf leading the way with his bright red nose.


PC200034 This Santa travels by 4WD

He is probably rushing away to make sure that the reindeer have plenty of food and water.  After all, they have to be in the very best condition.  Isn't there a very important night's work coming up for them soon?  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Palmy and back

Off we went to Palmy (Palmerston North) and back today, starting off reasonably bright and early.  And just to remind us to be very careful while driving, we came across a two truck accident.  This was on the corner of SH56 and SH57 – quite a notorious corner for accidents, we have noticed.  It looked like a milk tanker and a truck carrying frozen chickens had an altercation.  And with the truck lying on it’s side on the shoulder of the road  it was an easy guess to see who came out second best.

First port of call was to the local hospital where Robin’s Mum had been residing for the last few days.  She was due to discharged in the morning and our job was to provide transport to return her to the Rest Home.  Unfortunately she was feeling rather poorly and we had a long wait for the doctor to arrive to check her out.  It seemed that she had  a bad reaction to one of her medications, and the doctor wanted her to stay another night.  Hopefully, she will finally return home tomorrow.

Next was a visit to the Herb Farm Cafe for lunch with daughter Nicky.  Driving  along the country road we followed a station wagon and we wondered just what on earth was being carried in the back.  Surely not?  Only in the depths of rural countryside would you see a sight like this.  Not one, but two calves were going for a car ride!

PC170045  Spotted on the way to our lunch date

The Herb Farm grow and harvest lots of their own plants and makes all sorts of potions and soaps.  In fact, daughter Nicky is chief cooker-up in the Herb Farm lab. The pretty lavender beds had lots of bees buzzing about.  I love lavender, these plants would be one of my favourites for the home garden.  There are so many different varieties and they always seem to grow so well.

PC170052Lavender growing at the Herb Farm

Nicky duly arrived and we all took time to peruse the menu.  While we waited for our meals to arrive we couldn’t let the occasion go by with the obligatory mother and daughter photo shoot, could we?

PC170051 Nicky and Jenny

There was lots to talk about, Christmas plans, the grand-children – now young ladies, work and recreation, what we were both cooking for the Big Day, and our respective plans for the festive season.  We won’t be seeing them on Christmas Day, so bags of presents were swapped.   Look what we came home with.  Nicky assured me that there was some of her world famous Russian Fudge for each of us in the big bag.  She didn’t make any fudge one year and that just about caused a family riot.

PC170058 Gifts from the family to take away in the caravan

After saying our goodbyes, we started our way home.  The farmers have been busy cutting their paddocks to make baleage, contained in pale green plastic rolls.  The contents will be used for winter feed when the grass growth slows down.

PC170057 Baleage on the farm

Things were still busy on the accident corner, although the trucks had been cleared away.  To be still here so many hours after the accident took place, shows there must have been quite a bit to tidy up.  The workmen were putting sand on the road surface to clear up after a spill, and they were also working on the shoulders of the road, we noticed.   This is not a corner to take lightly.

PC170056 Still at work hours after the accident

We made it safely home, thank goodness.  We unpacked the car, collected the mail (another couple of Christmas cards) greeted Muffy, and decided we really need to put our feet up and relax for a wee while.  We’ll just have something light for our evening meal, the cook decided, after such a big lunch.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Rally Part 2

This year our Caravan Club Christmas Rally was held in school grounds of Peter Chanel School, Otaki.  Sharing the grounds are several historic buildings, including the lovely old timber church St Mary’s Catholic Church, pictured here  between two large pohutakawa trees.  Pukekaraka Catholic Mission was founded in 1844 by French priests.  This is one of the few marae in the country that is not associated with any particular tribe, so is open to everyone.  You can just see the new extension  (completed in 1992) attached to the left of the original church.   We have enjoyed caravan rallies here in the past, and it is always such a very pleasant and peaceful place to come to.

PC130003 St Mary’s Catholic Church

The wheel and stone were once part of the Pukekaraka Flour Mill which was erected about 1854 under the direction of Father Comte, and stood on the bank of the Waitohu River.  These historical artefacts were donated by the current owner of the property for erection on the site of the Pukekaraka Mission.

PC130004 Old wheel and mill stone

There is always excitement when someone turns up with a new caravan.  Or in this case, a brand new motor-home.  Sandy and Bea are the proud owners of “Chez nous”, an Autotrail Tribute. There was a steady stream of people knocking on their door all weekend wanting to have a look inside.  And very nice it is too. We wish them many more happy years of travels and rallies.

PC130009 Sandy and Bea’s new home away from home

We couldn’t have a Christmas rally  without a Christmas Mince Pie or two for morning tea on Sunday.  Elaine warmed them up in the oven and offered the tray  around to the members.

PC140020 Help yourself to a mince pie

It was a rally of two Birman cats over the weekend.  Young Honey is full of beans and can’t wait to get outside and go exploring.  She is so inquisitive it is just as well that she is safety tethered on her long lead, or goodness knows where she would end up.  She had several trips outside and enjoyed checking us all out, and getting her lead tangled as she walked in and out of our folding chairs.  

PC130008 Honey with Dot

Our old girl Muffy isn’t too keen on coming outside any more, she much prefers the security of being inside her very own caravan.  Now she is getting on in years, the outside world has turned into a scary place.  She joined us mid morning but didn’t really want to be there at all, so after a short time we took her back inside again.  Sleeping on her rug inside the caravan is much more to her taste.  Strangely enough, Muffy and Honey have not yet met, we wonder what they will think of each other when they do?

PC140022 Muffy cuddled up to the Santa cushion in the caravan

Most of us stayed on for lunch on Sunday.  The weather had warmed up considerably, and we settled for shade while we munched on our sandwiches.  It was a great rally, the last for the year.  But it won’t be long till it all starts again in January. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Rally at Otaki

It''s been such a busy week and we celebrated yet another Christmas get-together – this time the last Caravan Club Rally of the year.  The committee were in charge, and everything ran very smoothly, they also did a good job of organising the weather for us all.  Nine vans gathered in the school grounds, all raring to join in the fun of a festive rally.

PC130001 Back to school at Otaki

Saturday was a big day for Eileen – she was celebrating was one of those birthdays ending in “0”.  With family members flying in from near and far, Eileen and Geoff couldn’t attend this rally, but called around for Morning Tea on Saturday morning instead.  And they brought a lovely home made lemon cake to share with us too, so they were more than welcome.  There is something about caravanners, we can never say no to home baking.

PC130012 Happy Birthday Eileen

We enjoyed a shared meal on Saturday evening.  In typical Kiwi style, the blokes got the barbecues going, while the ladies prepared salads to share.  We had the BBQ, but had forgotten to pack the small gas bottle for it, so that put paid to that idea.   Derek came to the rescue and Robin, Derek and Don all cooked steaks and kebabs together. 

PC130017 BBQ time

Meanwhile, all sorts of tasty salads were carried into the hall and set out on the table.  Everyone got into the spirit of Christmas and we each decorated our tables with little trees, Santas, and flashing decorations.  With fresh locally grown strawberries, ice-cream and jelly for dessert, we had a delightful meal indeed.  Our Chatter Santa put in an appearance, repeating everything he could hear, including all the laughter at his antics.

PC130018 Salads galore

PC130019Dining in style

Our evening concluded with Selwyn showing the movie “The Boy in Striped Pyjamas”.  Very sad, and the ending left us all speechless as we pondered what we had just seen. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bavarian Music in the Village Car-park

The sound of music was coming from the RV car-park – what was going on?  So I walked around the corner to have a look.  It was the Levin Social Band made up of Edward on cornet, the leader Paul on digital trumpet, neighbour Eddie on violin, and Brian on drums.  Eddie wanted to test how long his motor-home battery would last with two of the instruments plugged into the power.

PC110036 The Levin Social Band

Back home I went to collect my folding chair, and I joined the elite group of neighbours sitting in front of the motor-homes, who had come along to enjoy the music.

PC110037Here to enjoy the music

The four piece band has only been playing together for a year, and their repertoire is mostly catchy Bavarian tunes and polkas.  Band leader Paul was playing a digital trumpet, something I had never seen before.  There are not many of these around, Paul told me.

PC110038 Paul and his digital trumpet

We sat with our toes tapping as the band played on.  There was a complete change of pace when they played “Can’t help loving you”, sung by Elvis in the film Blue Hawaii.  It was so beautiful,  I was enthralled  – how did they know I was an Elvis fan?  Then with a last polka to finish off the session, the band packed up their instruments and headed off home.  What a lovely musical interlude it was, thanks guys.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

60s Up Christmas BBQ

What a busy old time we’ve been having over the last week or so - it’s been one Christmas break-up meeting after another lately.  Today was our last get-together of the year with the 60s Up group, we met in the local Cossie Club for a Christmas BBQ.  And wouldn’t you know, the heavens opened last night and still hasn’t stopped raining.  Luckily the man in charge of cooking on the BBQ had it all set up outside under an awning.  It was a one man operation and he was kept busy turning the sausages and meat patties, cooking the onions and succulent ham steaks and pineapple rings.

PC100001 Cooking up a storm

When the cooking was completed, we moved from the bar to the dining room.  After organising ourselves into tables,  it was self service for lunch, with several different  salads to accompany our BBQed meat.  The chatter soon stopped as everyone tucked into their meals.  We wondered if we were getting dessert – perhaps a Christmas Mince Pie to nibble?  Even better, we enjoyed a mini pavlova, fruit salad and cream, yummy!

PC100003 Derek, Robin, Jenny and Dot at the 60s Up Christmas BBQ

I don’t know what they did to deserve special treatment, but our President Connie walked up to our table with an extra dessert each for “the boys”.  There was no way they were going to refuse such an offer, was there?  Just look at those cheeky grins.

PC100004 Extra desserts, just for the boys

The rain had eased a little as we picked our way carefully through the puddles in the car park.  What’s this?  Looks like someone is looking for a new partner.

PC100005 Seen in the car park

It was a great morning, a nice meal, and lovely to spend time with friends.  We thanked the President for giving us a great year of outings and entertainment and look forward to catching up with club members again in the New Year and starting all over again.