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

Saturday, December 31, 2016

More Arrivals at Foxton

More and more caravans and campers have been arriving at the Drop In rally at Foxton Beach School, just in time for the New Year festivities.  They have been rolling in, finding a good place, and settling down in little groups of friends around the school grounds.  It will be interesting to find out the final count.  I climbed up the rise to get a better view and tried the panoramic setting on the camera to get all the vans in.

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Household chores are minimal while camping – do the dishes, make the bed, shake the mats outside.  There is no water available here so Robin brought along a large container to top up our supplies.  To to make the job easier he used his secret weapon, his battery operated submersible pump.  It works wonderfully well, and saves the previous job of lifting a heavy container up and trying to pour the water through a funnel into the tank.

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Making short work of topping up the water

Caravan friends Dave and Rae are staying at a camp around the corner, and have biked around to catch up with our group.  They kindly invited us to join them for a meal at the nearby Bowling Club restaurant last night.  We all jumped at the chance to have an night off from cooking duties.  And the prices are very reasonable too.

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Dinner at the Bowling Club

The evening was so mild that we sat outside on our return, enjoying the pleasant conditions.  This is the life!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Drop In Rally at Foxton

Its not too far up the road to Foxton, and that suits us fine at this time of year.  It’s best to limit our time on the busy roads over the Christmas season when cars are whizzing every which way, all in a hurry to get to their holiday destinations.  We joined the 40 or so vans camping at Foxton School who had “dropped in” for all or part of the rally, as it suited individual plans.  Three vans from our caravan club managed to get sites close together, with a fourth arriving a little later.  So we are all nice and close together for when 4zees rolls around.

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At Foxton School

Foxton is well known for having problems with their water supply and we had read about a temporary solution offered to residents.  Somewhere around was a stand pipe which allowed residents to fill containers with fresh drinking water – but where was it?  We drove around looking in likely places, and finally came across it, but with no signage pointing the way it was difficult to spot.  The long term solution is to drill water bores much further into the ground, we understand.

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The “Strawberry Man” drove around the school grounds ringing his hand bell – the back of his little car piled high with punnets of luscious strawberries.  Campers appeared from everywhere, money in hand, to purchase some of these delicious summer fruits.  Its certainly a hard life when we are reduced to having strawberries on our breakfast cereal, just to make sure we get through them all.

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Strawberries for breakfast

We were all sitting outside yesterday when I felt the earth move.  Vibrations ran up the legs of our camp chairs – did you feel that, I asked the others?  Yes, it was another earthquake, this one was reasonably small and centered in Cook Strait, and so far no damage has been reported.  A little later dark clouds came rolling over and it looked like it was going to pour down with rain.  Chairs were quickly put away, and roof vents were lowered, just in case. 

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A promise of rain

Later in the evening we took a walk around the neighborhood to check out the flashing Christmas lights.  They were across the front of the property and up the driveway.  A sign invited people to walk around the back of the house to see even more lights.

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Christmas lights in Foxton

And then to our surprise, the home owners invited our small group to check out the decorations indoors.  It was a Christmas wonderland indeed, flashing lights, Christmas furnishings and ornaments everywhere.  Even the “littlest room in the house” had a Christmas theme.

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Ho ho ho, a Christmas toilet

It was a lovely experience, and the home owners were very warm and welcoming, telling us of their plans for new decorations next year.  We walked back to the school with the rain gently falling, ready for a last cuppa before bedtime. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Year that Was

What had we been doing during 2016?  Going away on club caravan rallies it seems, 12 of them to be exact.    We visited sites up and down SH1 from Raumati to Himitangi, and travelled over the hill to the Wairarapa several times too.  It was a big surprise when I won the (artificial) cow milking competition while camping at Lutz Farm, squeezing those rubber gloves with all the skill of a milk maid.  Not too bad for a townie!

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Milk Maid duties

As well as the caravan club rallies, we joined in to the big NZMCA Easter rally held in Levin, nice and close to home for us.  These are always huge, well run, and have great entertainment in the evenings.  We also enjoyed three longer trips way during the year, a couple of weeks apiece, and got to stay at several “new to us” sites.

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Easter Rally at Levin

What else?  Several Probus and 60s Up bus trips in the earlier part of the year.  Our Super Leisure Group kept us busy and we had fun meeting up with our friends, going on outings and of course the lunches which are an important part of these days out.  And looking back we discovered that we had  visited eight museums over the year, everything from dinosaurs in Palmerston North, and the Firth Tower Museum in Matamata.

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Firth Tower

It’s been a great year for train trips too.   We boarded the Spiral Snow Steam Express to National Park in August, and had another steam train  trip, the River City Express to Wanganui in October.  But the ultimate of train travel would have to be our trip on the Ghan travelling right through the middle of Australia in September.  With great service and restaurant food, comfortable carriages, interesting off train excursions, it was certainly the experience of a lifetime.  And to keep in with the rail theme,  returning home after our Aussie Adventure we decided to travel home from Auckland on the Northern Explorer instead of flying the last stretch home.

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Ready to board the Ghan train

Robin joined the Menz Shed and enjoys his time spent there. He has also been busy with the Cancer Society, driving patients to hospital for their treatment, and has recently applied to be a driver on the Health Shuttle.  And I’ve been busy with my various groups and sewing up a storm with my quilting projects.

There's been a bit of sadness too, this year, especially when we had to say goodbye to our beloved Birman cat Muffy.  But we let her go knowing that at 20 years of age she had enjoyed a long and happy life.  Muffy came away with us when we embarked on our 3 month South Island Odyssey caravan holiday in 2012 when she was a grand old lady at 16 years old, had many new experiences on that trip.  She is sadly missed.

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Muffy relaxing  “down south” in Invercargill

Then I had a major health issue – many hospital trips were involved from February to the completion of treatment in August.  Luckily that is all behind us now, so we can happily keep travelling around our beautiful country.  We are looking forward to more safe and happy travels in 2017.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Our Christmas Day

Our Christmas Day at home was a very laid back affair – just as we like it.  We started the day with the family tradition of croissants with ham and cheese – very yummy indeed.  The small hard frozen croissants were left out overnight and just like magic, they increased in size.  When cooked, we filled the with ham sliced off the bone, added cheese, and popped them back into the oven.

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Croissants for breakfast

Our Weber BBQ was heating up and Robin prepared the skin on our pork roast to turn it in to delightful indulgent crackle before placing the meat on to cook.  He had to do a bit of surgery as he inserted the probe of the thermometer inside the meat – this tells us when the meat has reached the optimum temperature and is perfectly cooked.

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That looks painful

Meanwhile, I was busy doing housewifely chores in the kitchen, doing last minute things for our Christmas lunch.

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Plenty to do in the kitchen

We were joined for lunch by our caravan friends Dot and Derek, who brought along various contributions for our meal.  The veggies were cooked, Robin cut the meat, the gravy was made, and we tucked in – it was all absolutely delicious.  And then we toasted each other with a glass of bubbly.  We found just a little room for Christmas Pudding and custard, and sat and chatted, too full to move.

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Cooked to perfection

Phone calls had been made, snap chat photos were posted to the cell phone showing the family having fun in Kiwitea.  Then in the late afternoon Robin’s brother, wife and daughter popped around for an hour or two, so it was great to catch up with them too.  And yes, we will be heading away in the caravan shortly, for a leisurely trip with friends.  This will give Robin the chance to show off his Christmas gift of a new coffee mug, brought all the way from England, just for him.

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For all those who will be on the roads over Christmas and New Year, we wish you safe and happy travels.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas from New Zealand

Merry Christmas one and all, hope your day is a really special one.  It’s summer down here in the Antipodes, so that means BBQ Christmas Lunch.  Although summer hasn’t quite put in an appearance yet this morning – it’s cloudy with a few sprinkles of rain.  Never mind, we will go with Plan B and stay inside.  There is nice pork roast cooking on the Weber BBQ and it is smelling delicious!  Bon appetite!

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Friday, December 23, 2016

It’s a Jungle out there

It’s Friday, and we wanted to get the last minute shopping done.  There is no way, I told Robin, that we should be out and about the shops with crowds of people on Christmas Eve.  Long gone are the days when we were at work all day, and had to squeeze the shopping in on the way home from work, or even worse, in the evenings.

Strawberries were top of the list and we like to get these from “Shirley’s”.  But the rain came down in a deluge during the night, and we wondered how that would affect the picking.  Luckily there were plenty of these luscious summer fruits available, and there were also plenty of customers queued up ready to buy their Christmas strawberries.  They are essential summer eating with a bowl of ice-cream, or on top of a pavlova.

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Strawberries from Shirley’s Strawberry Patch

Fresh vegetables were next on our list, and we drove into our local market garden shop, “Garden of York”.  Once again, the place was packed, and we patiently waited till a car park became available.  Into the trolley went lettuce, tomatoes and avocado for salads, cauli, broccoli, fresh peas and beans for Christmas lunch, and some fruit.  The queues curled right around the shop and almost out the door – we had never seen so many people!  Looks like they all had the same idea as us, shop on Friday and leave Saturday free for other things.

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Garden of York

Lastly we had a quick trip in and out of the supermarket, as fast as we could.  Not much was needed here, milk and cream, but I couldn’t resist a box of cherries.  As we went through the self service checkout, we noticed some cash left behind in the change dispenser.  So my good deed of the day was to race after the elderly lady who was in front of us, and hand her back her money.  There was no way I could let her go home without her cash, and as she thanked me, she admitted that she had forgotten all about it.

So that’s the shopping completed.  Tomorrow we can do some food prep, check out the Weber BBQ, put a bottle of bubbly in the fridge, have a quick tidy up inside the house, and any other small jobs that need doing.  And not have to join the crowds out getting last minute shopping – it’s a jungle out there.  Then we will be all ready for a relaxing Christmas Day on Sunday.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Family Time

It was a damp and misty morning when we loaded the presents into the back of the car – what’s happened to our sunny summer weather?  .  We were off the Kiwitea  to drop the Christmas presents off to the family. 

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A misty morning

But we had a couple of stops to make on the way.  First stop was at the very busy Tendertips Asparagus packing shed to purchase a nice big kilo bunch of asparagus to take up to daughter Nicky.  I know she will enjoy that.

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Nice fresh asparagus here

Then we stopped at Sanson to purchase six Cream horns as our contribution to lunch.  Viv’s Kitchen was busy, as usual, and our order was carefully packed in boxes for the journey.  The staff are all very pleasant and helpful, and dressed in the style of the 60s – very fetching indeed.

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Viv’s Kitchen, the place to go for Cream Horns

The further north we drove, along country roads, the more misty it became.  Soon we reached our destination,  carried the gifts into the house, and placed them under the Christmas tree.  My goodness, there were heaps of presents there already.

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Emma and the Christmas tree

Cooking smells filled the kitchen, Emma was whipping up a batch of Chocolate Brownies and Chocolate Peppermint Fudge, how yummy.  After a catch up it was lunch time,  and the Cream Horns were quickly demolished.  Then it was time to don our gumboots and do the obligatory walk into the paddock to admire the horses.  It was just as well we had remembered to pack the gumboots in the car.  Emma is very proud of her foal Fire Dancer and we took carrots out to give the horses a treat.

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Robin feeding a carrot to Fire Dancer

Soon it was time to pack up and head for home - we had a bag of gifts to take, plus some of that yummy fudge.  As we headed back through Feilding we reflected that it had been a lovely day indeed. 

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Feilding clock tower

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Just to keep the Neighbors talking

Living in our village, as we do, there is always plenty going on close by.  Not that we are nosy, of course, but you just can’t help noticing.  Visitors come and go, and sadly, because this is a lifestyle/retirement village, ambulances come with regular monotony.  And we gave the neighbours something to talk about several days ago when an ambulance came calling to our home.
 
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Parked outside our door

Robin had been feeling off colour for several days, so I rang the doctor’s surgery to hopefully get an urgent appointment.  But when I mentioned “chest pain” they insisted I ring 111 for an ambulance – so I did.  The ambulance arrived very promptly, checked him out and then whisked him away, leaving me to follow in the car.

The Emergency Department staff were wonderful, and soon had him hooked up to monitors, took blood, doctors and nurses came and went, and later in the day he was sent upstairs to the Assessment Ward.  After a very noisy and interrupted overnight stay, he was then sent for a treadmill Stress Test. 

The good news is that he didn’t suffer a heart attack, and there was no sign of angina, so the chest pain was unexplained.  We are so grateful for the medical care received, and realise, that had his heart been damaged as first thought, we could well be facing quite a different Christmas altogether.

As Robin says – he has passed his Warrant of Fitness, and has a document to prove it!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Menz Shed Christmas BBQ

The ladies were invited along to the end of the year Menz Shed Christmas BBQ.  We weren’t too sure if the BBQ would be taking place, as torrential rain fell all morning.  But just like magic, the skies cleared, the sun came out, and everything was looking good in the afternoon for the BBQ.  The blokes gathered under the pergola and presumably spoke about secret Menz Shed business, well away from the ladies.

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And the hostess took me inside their home to look at her extensive doll collection.

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Just some of the doll collection

The BBQ was fired up and the blokes got busy cooking up a storm.  A whole pile of sausages were sizzling away, together with meat patties and chicken kebabs.  Soon the hungry hordes were lining up to fill their plates with barbecued delights, and a great selection of salads.  Followed by a plentiful selection of desserts.  The noise level dropped considerably, as it does, while everyone concentrated on eating their dinner.

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Alan and Brian – the men in charge

After our meal there was some serious business – presentation of the “Shedder of the Year”.  The award went to John, a lovely unassuming man who wasn’t expecting this honour in the least.

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John was Shedder of the Year

The local Menz Shed is a haven for blokes to potter about, try their hand on some of the machines, and socialize.  But they also undertake community projects and have been working hard over the last few months making sturdy wooden toys for children who would otherwise go without at Christmas.  Over 70 toys, wooden trucks, spinning tops, pencil holders, buses and trolleys have rolled off the work benches.  “Building them was the easy part”, spokesman Paul reported to the local paper, “it’s the finishing and painting which takes the most time”.  These gaily painted gifts will bring joy to deserving  local children.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Sunday Morning Car Rally

Handed an instruction sheet, we got into the cars, ready for an adventure along the local roads.  Dot and Derek were our back seat passengers, and Robin was revving the car up, keen and eager for the time keeper to send us on our way.

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Turning left at the driveway was the first clue.  We travelled along country roads, stopping here and there to retrieve  bags of goodies hidden inside letter boxes.  And answering questions along the way, such as what was the name of that school, look for two signs close together, (cows crossing, as it turned out) and recording the name on the front of the next two story building we pass.  It was so busy I didn’t think to take photos as we drove along.  The other two cars crossed our path from time to time, and had us wondering if they were going the wrong way, or perhaps it was us!  Eventually we arrived back at our hosts home in time for lunch.

Then it was prize giving.  Dot was the prize winner for the various games played over the weekend.  Well done, Dot.

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There was a sweepstake running on the Saturday evening WBO World Heavyweight Title Fight between Joseph Parker from New Zealand and  Andy Ruiz from Mexico, and Geoff and Eileen were declared the winners in their prediction.  And Geoff, Eileen and Glenys won the car rally.  After the winners had been rewarded with a chocolate Santa, Sandra then passed the basket of goodies around so that everyone got a little something.

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Sandra, Glenys, and Dennis, with Selwyn looking on

We started packing up after lunch and headed home, then unpacked and cleaned the van, all ready for the next trip away.  Many thanks to Don and Sandra, our hosts had done a marvelous job or organizing the Christmas Rally for the club.

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Camped on the front lawn, surrounded with roses

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Wrangling the Rotisserie

Christmas mince pies were handed around for Saturday morning tea at Koputaroa, and very nice they were too.  Then it was time to work those mince pies off and take part in a few games on the back lawn.  The disc bowls were flying through the air as Glenys and Dot club battled it out while the judge looked on.

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Glenys and Dot, with Derek adjudicating

Quoits were next, and I can attest that it is not as easy as it looks.  Dot and Derek  try their luck at this game.

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Dot and Derek fling quoits

After lunch it was time to get the BBQ fired up again and cook the rolled loin of hogget.  Poor old Don had suffered a mishap so couldn’t attend to this very important job  – but he gave plenty of advice and our blokes rallied around to wrangle the rotisserie and cook the meat for the evening meal.  The long piece of meat was threaded on the spit, but didn’t seem to be turning properly.  The consensus was that it needed to be re-threaded.  Luckily SIL Nick was there to lend a hand.  Oh dear – the operation reminded me of Lance Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army who used to say “they don’t like it up em”.  With everyone holding on for grim death, you would think that the meat was still alive and kicking.

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How many men does it take to hold a loin of hogget?

With the meat back on the rod, and a few adjustments made to the rotisserie, various checks made to make sure it was turning evenly, the blokes could sit back and relax for the next couple of hours.  Beer and nibbles made the waiting game easy.

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Crisis over, relaxing in the garage

And it was worth waiting for – just look at that meat, crispy skinned, smelling delicious, and perfectly cooked.  All they had to do now was take it off the BBQ, remove the rod, and carefully carry it inside.

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It smelt as good as it looked

The tables were set in the conservatory, and while Dennis sliced the meat, and Sandra made a huge jug of gravy.  Everyone arrived with their contributions of vegetables, salads and desserts for the meal.  By the look of the side table groaning with food, we won’t be going hungry.

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Almost ready for our Christmas Dinner

And what a meal it was – a real joint effort with everyone helping out.  As for the desserts, pavlova with home grown raspberries,  fruit salad, trifle, ambrosia, and we can’t forget that wonderful Christmas Pudding – no wonder we left the table full to bursting!