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

Friday, 31 December 2010

Seeing the local sights

A happy band of campers queued up in the afternoon to take in the sights on our bus trip, an optional extra for the rally. The trip took us down town and we saw how all the rich people live in their sea front apartments and posh houses.  Real estate is a booming in this region.  The port is kept  busy with the many cruise ships which come calling.  The bus then took us into the hills and we arrived at Minden Lookout.
DSCF5103  Our bus
Although it was a short climb to the top of the lookout, we were all puffing in the clammy conditions.  The views were a little hazy, as we looked out over farmland one way,  and across to the port and Mount Maunganui in the distance.
We climbed back into the bus and commented that the seats were certainly not made for our ample proportions!  Through lush green farmland, and a short trip along the state highway, and we turned into our next destination of McLaren Falls.  What a delightful place this is.  There are many places to camp along the river and the views are very pretty.
The falls themselves always attract people who like to clamber all over the large rocks.  The water flow is much reduced at the current time as it is drawn off for the local power scheme.
DSCF5108 Playing on the rocks at McLaren Falls
Back on the bus again, and we drove over the toll road. This is only one of two toll roads that operate in New Zealand.  Then it was a short drive back to the rally site.  It was a most enjoyable afternoon of sight seeing.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

On the Road again

Only four of us were representing Heretaunga Caravan Club at the 21st National Rally at Mount Maunganui.  We all met for a bit of R&R at Rotorua, enjoying evening dips in the thermal hot pools.  Pity about the weather though, it rained, and it blew, then rained again.  The TV news showed bad weather throughout the country, with flooding and road and bridges washed away, so we probably got off quite lightly.
DSCF5093 All set for the National Rally
Firemen were striding around the Mt Maunganui College grounds on our first morning.    A fire engine was parked outside the college grounds, manned by a couple of officers talking on the radio. 
DSCF5094  Ready for action
Wonder what the trouble was?   We soon found out – the fire alarm in the gym was ringing loudly, and that certainly stopped the campers in their tracks.  Up they wandered to the gym, clad in their dressing gowns and clutching their soap and towels,  all set for their morning showers.  No showers were available while the firemen were there doing their thing.  After checking the whole building out, it appears that steam had set the alarms off.  At last the campers could get on with their morning ablutions. 
DSCF5097Looking after our safety
After all this excitement we gathered in the hall for the Official Opening.  The hall was a sea of colour as club members arrived dressed in their official club colours.  People were clad in blue, white, yellow, purple and our own extra bright orange.  Representatives from each club gathered with the respective club banners and followed the piper as they made their way into the hall.
DSCF5099 Robin with the Heretaunga Caravan Club banner
The local Mayor did the honours of opening the rally.  He related he knew all about camping as he grew up in a motor camp owned by his parents.  In fact, the mayor met his future bride while he was doing the afternoon rubbish collection around the camp, and was still happily married, he was proud to say.  A special presentation was made to  Ron and Averill from the BOP Caravan Club on attaining 500 rallies, congratulations for this great achievement.  
PC301149 Ron and Averil with CCNZ President Peter Spicer
Click, click went the cameras as club photos were taken to commemorate the occasion.  Our friends from the Wairapapa club took our photos and we returned the favour and took theirs as they lined up.  Now the official part of the morning was over, I was happy to remove that orange tee-shirt and wear something a little less bright.
PC301157The  Heretaunga contingent

Monday, 27 December 2010

A little bit of Ireland

We needed to go out for a drive to blow the cobwebs away and decided on a circular rural route through Apiti, and back down the beautiful Pohangina Valley.  First stop was the Apiti Lookout.  This gave good views of the surrounding Ruahine Ranges.  A herd of young heifers were crowding around the lookout platform, and they seemed to like checking out all the visitors who stop.
DSCF5058Young heifers checking out the visitors
This is also a good place for cell phone coverage, which can be a problem in hilly rural areas.  We noticed that everyone who stopped at the lookout had their cell phones in their hands and were feverishly texting away.
DSCF5061 View from the lookout with the Ruahine Ranges in the background
We travelled along unsealed dusty roads as we slowly made our way up and down hills and around tight corners, passing through the tiny hamlets of Umutoi and Utuwai.  Narrow one-way bridges criss-crossed over streams when we dropped down into the lush Pohangina Valley.  Driving in to the Totara Reserve Camp we were astounded to see that it was completely empty, not a single camper was staying there over the holidays.  This camp had been badly damaged with flooding some time ago and we wanted to see if any improvements had been made.  A large sign stated that a new ablution block would be built shortly.
DSCF5067  Totara Reserve
Further down the valley was a little piece of Ireland – the Waterford Cafe and Bar, run by a couple of transplanted Irish folk, who each speak with a lovely lilting accent.  We stopped there for coffee and cake and to soak up some Irish ambience.
DSCF5077 The Irish pub in Pohangina Valley
The bar is full of Irish posters on the wall and a collection of Waterford crystal.  I rather liked this poster of Irish Bogs – who would have thought there was so much variety!
DSCF5070 A collection of Irish bogs
Grand-daughter Emma lives close by so we popped in to see her and Michael, and met Michael’s new puppy.  She is so cute, but has no name yet, discussion is still being held on this important decision.
DSCF5078 Holding the puppy with no name
We said our goodbyes and started the journey home, over the hill road to Coylton, through Cheltenhem and finally arriving back at Kiwitea.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Boxing Day Races

The highlight of the social calendar for son-in-law Robert is a trip to the Boxing Day Races at Awapuni, Palmerston North.   Dressed in his stylish suit, and wearing his new “horsey” tie (a Christmas present of course), he looked every inch a country gentleman.
Our grand-daughter Megan was very keen to go to the races too, but had to visit the doctor first, to check out her very sore throat.  Megan was taking no chances, so was dressed up to the nines for the doctor’s visit.  It turned out that she has tonsillitis, but  the doctor gave her the all clear to continue on with a day at the races.  Robert did quite well with his betting during the race meeting and came home with more money than he went with, so that was a good thing.
DSCF5056 Dad and Megan, all dressed up
Megan and her Dad are very keen horse trialists and have an impressive selection of cups on display.  Megan won the Manawatu Hunt Junior Member Award, and the Kimbolton and Kiwitea Pony Club cup.  Robert won the Manawatu Hunt First Season Hunter on his new horse Storm.  The other large club was for a quite different category altogether, Megan won the Oroua Federation CWI cup for the 5th Form Best Award in Dressmaking at High School.  Nicky is also the proud winner of a cup, the tiny one in the middle.  “Most obsessed Twilight Fan Award” was presented to her at a social work function.  There are a lot of different skills and talent in this family.
 DSCF5038The family cup collection
Robert has spent much of his working life around horses, and the neighbours presented him with a fun little pony for Christmas.    It is small so won’t need much in the way of feeding, and seems to be missing a few parts, so that will save on shoeing costs too.  Press the button in the ear and it brays and whinnies quite vocally.  Don’t think it will carry him on the next hunt meet though!
DSCF5057Robert’s new pony

Don’t let the Chicken in!

It’s certainly a different sort of life, out here in the country in Kiwitea.  Whenever we go in or out the back door, we two townies are admonished with cries of “Don’t let the chicken in”.  The family obviously don’t have to be told this basic instruction as they have been living with the chicken in question for some time now.  Henny Penny isn’t shy and easily chased away like your average type of chicken.  Oh no, Henny Penny rules the roost.  She isn’t afraid of the resident cat, Fanta.  And as for those fraidy-cat farm dogs, Henny Penny runs rings around them.  They may well round up the sheep, tell the cattle where to go, and be unafraid of the horses with their heavy shod feet, but they had just better watch their manners around her!  It is her aim in life to walk into the house and hang out with the interesting people who live inside.  If only one of those townies staying in their big white caravan  forget to shut the door to the house behind them, then she would be a happy chicken indeed.  And then again, perhaps they will leave the door open on their caravan too, then she could pop inside that as well and have a quick look around.
DSCF5021 Henny Penny
The family hosted a Solstice barbeque the other night.  Everyone brought plenty of food along for the pot-luck tea, and son-in-law Robert was busy cooking up all the meat.  Sausages, lamb chops, and the most delightful tee bone steaks were soon sizzling away.  A lot of this meat was processed from stock fattened on these neighbourhood acres, so it really was home grown.   
DSCF5033 Robert hard at work on the BBQ
One of the neighbours brought along her young 10 week old pup Chase, whose breeding is half German Shepherd and half Blue Heeler.  Judging by the size of his paws, Chase is going to be a very large dog indeed when he grows up.  He was playing happily as young pups do, getting pats from the youngsters, chasing around chairs and generally enjoying the summer evening outside with all those delightful smells.  Henny Penny wasn’t having any of this.  How dare this young upstart come on to her property and think that he can do whatever he wants!  A few pecks kept the puppy in his place, but being young, he soon forgot who the real boss of the BBQ was.  The last straw came when one of the guests offered Chase a left over bone from his plate.  Henny Penny immediately confronted the pup and snatched the bone from his mouth.  “There – take that, you insolent young pup in wolves' clothing.  I’m the boss here,” she seemed to be saying.
DSCF5034 Henny Penny on the attack

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Country Christmas in Kiwitea

There was a loud knocking on the caravan door this morning at 6.30am.  “Get up, Nana and Grand-dad, we’re going to open the presents now”, Emma declared.  And how old was this excited child who could hardly wait?  Why, she is only 21!  Christmas is alive and well on the farm in Kiwitea.  The presents were stacked up under the tree and Emma nominated herself to have the very important job of handing the gifts out.
DSCF5037 All shapes and sizes of gifts under here
The gifts were duly passed out and the recipients wasted no time in taking off the the wrapping paper.  This was tossed in a heap in the middle of the room and the pile of discarded wrapping paper got bigger and bigger.  Never mind, we will pick it all up at the end.
DSCF5041 The pile of paper is growing
Our Christmas morning breakfast is a family tradition of warm croissants with freshly sliced ham off the bone and cheese.  All washed down with rich plunger coffee and how about a glass of orange juice as well?  How delicious!  It may be Christmas Day but Robert still had to move some stock from one paddock to another.  Tui the “eye dog” was more than happy to have a run around and take those lambs to where ever Robert wanted them to go. 
DSCF5049 Tui working the lambs
While Tui was busy working, the elderly Border Collie Babe was enjoying herself lying on the grass as she gnawed on a bone.  Henny Penny the chicken wanted a taste too, but Babe was keeping that bone for herself.
DSCF5044  Get away, it’s my bone
We don’t usually have a big traditional Christmas dinner.  Lunch was another family tradition, chicken cooked on the barbeque.  (Something I prepared earlier, as the TV cooks say).  Made from chicken breasts sliced thin, wrapped around a dried apricot soaked in Campari – that’s what I found in my daughter’s drinks cabinet, or you could use brandy, sherry, or whatever you can find in the cupboard.  This little parcel is then wrapped up in streaky bacon and secured with toothpicks.  Robin was in charge of cooking them slowly on the BBQ, turning them frequently.  They smelt wonderful, and tasted delicious.   We enjoyed them with potato salad, pasta salad, and green salad, and toasted each other with a glass of bubbly.  These chicken roll-ups taste just as nice cold the next day, that is, if there are any left over.  For dessert we enjoyed a slice of rich decadent homemade chocolate cheesecake, one of my daughter’s specialities.  Now that was a Christmas lunch worth having!
DSCF5050 Robin cooking the chicken and bacon roll-ups

Friday, 24 December 2010

Thursday, 23 December 2010

All packed up and ready to go

“We’re all going on a Summer holiday”, that’s how the song goes.  Muffy wasn’t very impressed when we put her in the carry cage to take her around to the cattery  for her own two week holiday.
DSCF5007 Muffy in her carry cage
It was a short drive to Follyfoot Cattery to drop Muffy off.  We had to wait our turn while the young couple ahead of us bid a tearful farewell to their two cats who were staying in the cattery for their first time.  Muffy wasn’t the least upset about  her own visit.  Once in her new home for the next two weeks, she had a sniff around, then sat down patiently waiting for us to say goodbye.
Follyfoot Cattery is home to rescue ponies, a goat or two, and several dogs, all living happily in a rural environment.They were such pretty ponies looking perfectly happy in their paddock.
Then it was home to hook up the caravan and head off on our holiday.  Let’s hope we haven’t forgotten anything.  It was a 189km drive to our stop at the “Lozell Ranch” over Christmas.  Robin backed the caravan into place beside the garage and we were soon settled in.  Robin had the difficult job of adjusting the Sky Satellite dish, just a little bit this way, then that way, until he was satisfied with the picture.
DSCF5019 Our home for the next few days.
The welcoming committee was there to meet us.  Poor old Babe is getting quite elderly now, and her formerly loud bark is now no more that a throaty whisper.  She spends a lot of her time sleeping now, we were told.
DSCF5029 Babe the Border Collie
Fanta the cat was keeping up a running commentary of meows at us.  I think she wanted us to take some notice of her and  give her some attention.
DSCF5026 Fanta the cat
The family have lots of horses on the property and no doubt we will be be taken on a walk tomorrow to admire them.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Summer Solstice

While the lives of our friends in UK and Europe are at a standstill  and in the grip of a mini ice-age, on the other side of the world down here in New Zealand we are celebrating the Summer Solstice.  The Carter Observatory, the National Observatory of New Zealand reports, “The Summer Solstice is at 13:22 (1:22pm) on December 22. This is when the sun is at its most southerly point in the sky and therefore reaches its maximum altitude for the year at the middle of the day”. 
The sun is hiding this morning under all the grey clouds but the temperatures are still very warm and humid.   The pohutakawa trees are coming into full flower, and this usually heralds a long hot summer. 
.We will be taking part in a family “Summer Solstice Barbeque” tomorrow night, at our daughter’s home on the farm in Kiwitea.  Yes, she admits it will be one day late, but who is counting?   Happy Summer Solstice, everyone.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Two Sisters come calling

Dot and her sister Mary called around in the late afternoon after a busy day visiting their elderly Dad in hospital.  Dot had flown over from the ice bound UK last week, and Mary was visiting from Auckland.  We thought they might welcome a bit of R & R after a hectic week of hospital visits.  “Come for tea”, we invited them.  (Tea in the New Zealand language does not mean afternoon tea, or high tea as in UK, but refers to the evening meal).
DSCF4994 Dot and Mary
The local temperatures were still running at hot and humid so the cook of the household decided to prepare cold potato salad, and mixed green salad.  Robin cooked up the pork steaks, while the cook sautéed mushrooms and cream sauce.  This was followed with strawberries, jelly and ice-cream.  (We should invite guests more often as we don’t usually have dessert much these days).
Dot was quite keen to get her internet fix and check up on a few things, so we sat her down in front of our lap-top.  She was pleasantly surprised to see the photo on our screensaver.  It was a view of Dot, Derek and myself travelling over the Llangollen Viaduct aboard their former narrow boat Gypsy Rover.
DSCF4996 I recognise that boat!

Monday, 20 December 2010

87 not out

Bonnie is the matriarch of the family and has just turned 87.  We all met at a restaurant  for a celebration birthday lunch, organised by second son Gary, and Debbie who live locally. Bonnie asked who the spare seats at the table were for, and the reply was, “We have some friends coming”.  Mmmm, the plot thickens. 

PC191138 The birthday girl with her  flowers

We were the next to arrive – no big surprise here as we often drive up from the Hutt Valley..


Third son Neil then arrived with Michelle, who had driven down from Palmerston North.  The table was filling up nicely.  The big surprise of the day for Bonnie was when daughter Kaye walked in the door, with her daughter Hannah.  Kaye had flown up from Nelson to surprise her Mum.  So it wasn’t friends who were invited, it was the four children and spouses.    We were dining at the Mediterranean Food Warehouse, and most chose the house speciality of pizza.  The smell of pizzas baking in the wood fired pizza oven was delightful, and the huge pizzas were soon delivered to the table.  Any uneaten pizza is put in a doggie bag to be taken home, to be enjoyed later.  We finished our meal with another of the specialities, gelato ice-cream, which is made on the premises each day.  With choices ranging from chocolate, several fruit flavours, and cream brulee, there was something for all tastes. 

DSCF4990 Bonnie and her family

It is not often that all four siblings can get together, and Bonnie was delighted to have her brood gathered around her to celebrate her special day.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Scouting Memories

Robin was a boy scout many years ago at the Westown Scout Group when he was growing up in New Plymouth, and rekindled some of those memories yesterday, thanks to his scouting buddy Gary.  The post man delivered a BIG parcel from Gary yesterday and inside was the book “100 years of Scouting Memories – Scouting New Plymouth and North Taranaki”.
He spent a happy afternoon on the back deck engrossed in the book.  Robin, Gary and another friend John attended the scouting movement from cubs right through to Scouts.  He smiled over photos showing the three of them in their Scout Troop all dressed up in their uniforms with the scarf and woggle around their necks. 
The three friends  travelled to many Troup Camps and District Camps together, including one memorable 10 day Otago Jamboree right down in Waiora, Dunedin in 1962. This involved a train ride from New Plymouth to Wellington, going across on the Inter Island Ferry to Christchurch, and boarding another train to travel down to Waiora.  Imagine this trip with 1100 excited, mischievous and noisy youngsters.  He tells of a legendary pillow fight taking place on the way home on the last stage of the journey when there were only Taranaki boys remaining on the train which left the carriage looking like a snow storm had hit!  
That was the life – childhood friends together all having fun.  And learning valuable life skills along the way.  It’s good to have these happy childhood memories.

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Thursday, 16 December 2010

Nappy Valley – can we have a rally without caravans?


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Wainuiomata was known as “Nappy Valley” as young families settled in this affordable housing development which escalated due to the spectacular growth of the Valley post-World War II.  In the 1950’s the air rang all day every day with the sound of hammering and sawing, and facilities in the Valley at the time were stretched to cope with the influx.
DSCF4958 View of Wainuiomata from the top of the hill
From the single primary school which had served for nearly 100 years, this grew to 10, two colleges and two intermediates to cater for the population explosion.  These days the growth has now settled and four primary schools, a college and an intermediate have been amalgamated to serve the needs of the students.
DSCF4960 Sign at base of Wainuiomata
We were visiting Wainuiomata to catch up with fellow caravan club members Bill and Barbara for afternoon tea.  We had a surprise in store with them, as our overseas member Dot from Gypsy Rover fame had just flown in from UK to catch up with her Dad, so we took her along too.
 DSCF4968 Dot and Jenny
There was plenty of chatter as we caught up with everyone’s news.  Then two more cars arrived, and out stepped Peter and Elaine, and Don and Pamela.  Goodness me, the gangs just about all here in Wainuiomata, it’s almost a rally.  Can we have a rally without the caravans, we wondered.  Perhaps not, we will just settle for a good old chin wag instead.  Dot told us of all the news from UK, and about the Auto Trail motor home her and Derek have ordered.  Peter was in good form and kept us laughing with his seemingly endless supply of jokes.  There was plenty of hilarity as the cameras were set up and both Robin and Peter rushed to join the group before the little lights stopped flashing. 
PC151137 Here we all are
We all stopped to admire Bill’s lovely goldfish pond.  This work of art was all painstakingly dug out by hand, and looks great with the little foot bridge and the shrubs planted around the edge.  Then it was time to say our goodbyes and head off to our respective homes.
DSCF4963 Bill’s fish pond
Flashing lights stopped us at  Silverstream for breath testing.  Not surprising as it’s the silly season time of year with lots of festive drinking going on, and the police are out to catch the drink-drivers.  Not us though, with a non-alcoholic afternoon tea under his belt, Robin passed with flying colours.

Monday, 13 December 2010

The Birthday Hat gets an Airing

Three vans from the caravan club stayed at Bridge Lodge, Otaki, for the weekend for our Christmas Rally.  Bridge Lodge is a rustic style camp, and we parked under a large totara tree.  Muffy was keeping a wary eye on two young semi feral cats which had the run of the property.  They keep the rabbits down, we were told, so they must be good hunters. 
DSCF4926 Under the totara tree at Bridge Lodge
Bridge Lodge complex is multi functional and is also used for school visits, conferences and group bookings and weddings.  There is an imposing altar on the lawn which dates back to when the complex was owned and run by the City Mission.    However, the days of this property are numbered, as it is under a compulsory acquisition order to allow for a future roading development. 
DSCF4931 The outdoor altar at Bridge Lodge
We dined out at the RSA restaurant on Saturday evening, joined by Eileen and Geoff  who live locally.  This establishment was looking very festive with all the Christmas decorations.  A small Santa was waiting in the foyer to welcome us inside.  (What’s that hiding in my large blue bag?  All will be revealed later).
The dining room was full of twinkling lights, Christmas posters up on the walls and a whole group of jolly reindeer lined up waiting for the sleigh.   That old question of what to order kept us all busy for a while as we pondered the choices. 
 PC111127 Lots of red nosed reindeer
It was an easy choice for me, as I believe you can’t really go past a good old fashioned roast and veggies.  Robin chose steak, and was very pleased with his meal, and everyone else enjoyed theirs as well.  As the staff were busy in the kitchen, Robin decided to set his camera up on a spare chair, engage the delay function, then rush back to his seat to take our group photo. 
PC111133 In the RSA dining room
Eileen was having a birthday so I pulled my special “birthday hat” out of the large blue bag and placed it on her head.   She sat there quite happy, looking very regal as she posed for a birthday photo.  I think I’ll have to doctor those candles to make them sit up nice and straight for the next birthday celebration, they look all higgledy piggledy and out of control!
PC111129Happy Birthday Eileen
The next morning Eileen and Geoff and their visiting family called around to the camp for morning tea and fruit mince pies.  Geoff obviously was trying to upstage the the birthday hat from the previous night and came along wearing his “Bah, Humbug” Christmas hat.
DSCF4937Geoff in his Bah Humbug hat
It was another good rally, small in numbers but brimming with fun, friendship and Christmas good wishes.