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

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Last Day of Autumn

Today, we have been told with great authority, is the last day of Autumn - and what a splendid day it is.  We are spending the long Queen’s Birthday weekend at the Palmerston North Motor Camp, camping under beautiful large trees showing their autumn colouring. 

At Palmerston North Motor Camp

The leaves keep falling down all over the internal road and the grounds man keeps removing them.  But he is fighting a loosing battle – they are falling faster than he can sweep them up!  The weather is perfect for this time of year, cool mornings and evenings, with warm sunny days, practically windless.  That doesn’t often happen in Palmerston North, a city which is well known for its wind.

Where to from here?

The rally family has kept us busy so far, doing this and that, and we enjoyed a meal out last night at the Palmerston North Cossie Club.  The roast pork on the menu was a real winner, especially as it was offered as a Gold Card special price.  The courtesy van made a couple of trips to transport us all from the motor camp down to the club and back again, with most of the blokes staying on a little later to watch the rugby game on the large TV.  So a good night was had by all. 

With the weather remaining so nice, several of us took a walk through the park at the rear of the camp, walking through the native bush along the railway lines. 

Robin and Geoff enjoying the bush walk

The paddling pool was empty for winter and we were intrigued to read the sign on the wall.  I guess that living in an earthquake prone country, we have to be extra careful when the ground starts shaking!

Lots of young families were checking out the birds in the aviaries.  And we had a good look too, Robin was quite taken with this cheeky bird.

Who's a cheeky boy, then?

Bill, Val, and Jenny at the avaries

The adjacent rose garden wasn’t in full bloom, but there were plenty of roses here and there to stop at and smell.

In the rose garden

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Beer and Honey

It was an early morning start as we were meeting up with our SLG friends for a day’s outing.  Driving down SH1 the coastal route took us past Paekakariki and far away in the distance we could see the hills of Marlborough Sound in  the South Island, about 90kms away.  That doesn’t happen every day – it probably depends on the cloud cover and the light.

South Island in view

The closer we drove to Upper Hutt, the lower the temperature dropped, down to 5 degrees C.  It was just as well we had warm coats with us – we had forgotten just how cold our old home town could get.  Trish was in charge of organising our outing, and first port of call was to Kereru Brewery, a boutique brewery in the old Feltex building.

Kereru Brewing in Upper Hutt

Owner Chris has been brewing beer since 1992 in hometown Boston, USA.  Looking for a different type of lifestyle  Chris and his wife Natasha made the big decision to emigrate to New Zealand.  Why NZ, we asked them.  Because it’s an English speaking country, is safe and quiet, and just about as far away as they could get.  In 2010 they turned their garage and rumpus into a commercial kitchen and built a tiny 50 litre commercial nano-brewery under their house in Silverstream. They named it Kereru Brewing Co. after all the kereru (wood pigeons) in their back yard.  That was soon outgrown and in 2013 they moved to a large factory space in Upper Hutt on Maidstone Terrace and built an 1,800 litre (15 barrel) microbrewery.  Chris gave us a running commentary about the different variety of beer they produce and Natasha poured the samples.

Robin, Calvin and Ashley sampling the brew

We were given a tour through the factory and the steps of beer making were explained, helped along by tastings of this beer and that.  The equipment was bright and gleaming under the lights, and the whole operation looked scrupulously clean.    Traditional beers made  include two pale ales (one a bitter and the other an IPA), a stout and a strong Belgian-style Trippel.  More unusual beers include a German-style sour beer made with karengo, a golden ale with pohutukawa honey, a brown ale with kumara, and a porter with toasted coconut. Hops and grains are sourced from the South Island. 

Chris telling us all about brewing beer

 After our tour most of our group made a purchase or two – Robin being a good keen Kiwi bloke knows all about beer and chose a couple of varieties which he particularly liked.  I’m not really a beer (or wine) drinker although I don’t say no to a shandy on a hot day.

Our purchases

The rain had set in for our drive over the Rimutaka Hill for lunch.  After the atrocious weather conditions of a week or so ago when the hill road was closed, work is still taking place with repairs.  There were three working parties on the hill road, repairing the storm damage where the outside edge of the road had crumbled away.  Our next stop after lunch was to Hillcrest Honey in Greytown.   The owner Robert took us into his factory and explained how honey extraction is done.  The company specialises in delicious Manuka honey – our favourite.

Robert telling us all about honey

We didn’t realise that the wax is collected at the end of the process.  It is cleaned of debris, heated, made into bars and then reused to coat new frames going back into the hives.

Bars of beeswax

Robert then presented us all with a jar of manuka honey each.  Although delicious to eat, this is “active” manuka honey and could be used to treat wounds with its advanced healing properties.  

Our SLG friends and Robert

 We started on the long drive home, back over the Rimutaka Hill, up and over Haywards Hill, and back along the coast road where we caught a glimpse of Kapiti Island in the twilight.  We had a very interesting day, thanks Trish, not about “wine and roses” as the song goes, but all about “beer and honey”.

Kapiti Island off the coast

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

60s Up Birthday Meeting

There was barely a spare seat left yesterday for the monthly 60s Up meeting.  Maybe it was because it was the club’s Birthday meeting, perhaps?  Which meant a special morning tea to celebrate.  The person rostered on to help with tea duties was not available,  so Robin and Bruce were called on to lend a hand moving a few tables into place and setting out the cups and saucers.

P5250025 Robin and Bruce helping out

With extra items available for morning tea this month it was decided to plate up the items ready to hand out – to make it easier when members came up to collect their cuppa.   I offered to help with this task, and armed with a pair of tongs put their choice of sausage rolls or savouries onto the plates already containing sandwiches and carrot cake. The little potatoe topped savouries were the clear winner, most wanted one of those, with sausage rolls a close second.  The group of serving wenches plus Robin on tea pot duty were rushed off our feet trying to keep up with the demand, and when the last of the long lines had been fed and watered, gratefully sat down with our own morning tea.

The entertainment this month was the ever popular Ukulele Ladies of Levin, who played quite a range of tunes for us, including the lovely New Zealand classic,  “Blue Smoke”, written by Ruru Karatiana.  "We were on the troopship Aquitania in 1940 off the coast of Africa when a friend drew my attention to some passing smoke. He put the song in my lap," said Karatiana. 

P5250026 Ukulele Ladies on stage

P5250030 Our friend Robyn is one of the keen Ukulele Ladies

It was a good meeting, catching up with friends, and singing along as we were entertained.  Although once again we didn’t go home with a raffle prize – never mind, we will try again next month.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Foster and Allen Concert

Shall we, shan’t we?  This lovable Irish duo was playing in Palmerston North and we really loved their music so why were we dithering, we wondered.  Our friends D & D already had tickets so we decided buy our tickets on-line and join them for a good night out.  The concert started at the early time of 7.00pm so we had an early  pre-theatre meal at China Town.  But we were beaten in the doors by two buses packed full of oldies who had the same idea – and wouldn’t you know it, they were all going to the concert too.  As we enjoyed our buffet meal, we were reminiscing about some of the old TV shows we had enjoyed over the years, especially those well loved English comedies.  We were trying so hard to come up with the name of a particular show, but our brain cells were on strike.   “You know”, we said around our table, “the Irishman who sits on a stool,” and as I reminded Robin, “we’ve seen him live on stage too”.  Then a voice from a neighbouring table spoke up – Dave Allen.  As I thanked them, I noticed that this couple was the same vintage as us, they must have been having a chuckle as we were going on about our favourite TV shows from years ago!

Then it was off to the wonderful old Regent on Broadway theatre.     Designed in 1929 by Charles Hollingshed of Melbourne, the Regent Theatre opened its doors on 4 July, 1930.   A newspaper report at the time described the theatre as having been built, decorated and furnished regardless of cost and called it "The Theatre Beautiful".
P5230013 Regent on Broadway

But after the decline of movie going a sadly dilapidated and poorly utilised Regent closed its doors in 1991.  Purchased by the Palmerston North City Council in October 1993, the building was restored to its former grandeur and modernised it technically to ensure its place as New Zealand's leading provincial theatre.  With the re-opening as the Regent on Broadway on 1 May 1998 it has come back to life again, fully modernised and better than ever.
 P5230020Decorated ceilings

We found our respective seats watched as fellow ticket holders found their seats.  It was rather like “50 shades of grey” as we looked around, most were older people, with just a sprinkling of youngsters.  The pair of Irish troubadours walked onto the stage to a rapturous welcome.   We were invited to join in as the show progressed, clap our hands and tap our feet – at their age, we were told, they needed all the help they could get!  So we did – we sang along and joined in where required, singing about a little fly in the grocer’s shop, the seven old ladies locked in the lavatory, and joining in the chorus to “All god’s creatures got a place in the Choir”. 

P5230017 Relaxing in the foyer at the interval

While some of the songs were performed, a slide show of the wonderful Irish countryside was shown as a backdrop.  The beautiful Cliffs of Moher and the famous rope bridge at Carrick-a rede were two attractions that we remembered from our own trip to Ireland.  Each member of the backing band was introduced, and they gave us a short performance of their individual talents. 

Foster and Allen kept us entertained the whole evening, from rollicking Irish jigs, to the fun filled audience participation tunes, and the soft and beautiful love songs.  I particularly loved their rendition of the hauntingly beautiful song “Spinning”, and their famous song “Maggie”  brought the house down.  The whole evening felt like we were wrapped in the warm friendly arms of of an Irish hug.  It was a magical evening.

P5230022  Belting out another of their hit songs

This legendary Irish folk music duo began in 1975 when Mick Foster & Tony Allen formed their duo Foster & Allen. For three years they toured cabaret venues in Ireland and the UK. Their big break-through came in 1978 when they released the single A Bunch of Thyme in Ireland which stayed in the Irish Charts for an unbelievable 53 weeks.

Foster & Allen

The duo are number one stars across the globe, scoring 30 new-release charting albums over a 30-year career, the only act in the world to do so.   We loved their Irish wit, and their lovely lilting Irish voices as they sang their beautiful love songs. 

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Time for a WOF

It’s hard to believe, but we’ve had our new caravan for a year now.  (Guess it’s not so new after all).  The time had rolled around the other day to take it down for a WOF – Warrant of Fitness.  The lights were checked, the tyres, the bearings, the hitch, and anything else which was on the mechanic’s check list.  We are pleased to say that Romany Rambler passed with flying colours, as expected.  And being a newish van, the WOF lasts for two years.  So we can “carry on caravanning” to our heart’s content.  When are we going away again?

P5150010 Romany Rambler, back from her WOF check

Monday, 18 May 2015

Another Vet Visit

We are becoming regulars at the vet clinic with Muffy lately.  It was time for a follow up visit to see how Muffy was getting on after a course of antibiotics and mild pain relief for her gums.  We waited patiently in the waiting room until we were called in for our appointment.

P5180001 Robin comforting Muffy at the vet’s

Just like doctors and policemen, vets these days seem almost too young to be suitably qualified – or that is just a sign of our rather mature ages, perhaps?  Zoe the (young) vet weighed Muffy and we were all pleased to see that she had not lost any weight over the last few weeks.  She is now eating a little better, and seems brighter in herself.  We decided that we would not put her through the ordeal of oral surgery, as the risks seems to outweigh any benefit she may receive, especially at her advanced years.  Instead we can keep her on her mild pain relief indefinitely, which really does seem to make a huge difference.  With another undignified bout of temperature taking, listening to her heart, feeling her tummy, and collecting the next bottle of her magic potion, we were free to take her home.  That’s after we had paid the bill, of course.
P5180002On the way out we saw this sign aimed at dog owners – guess it must happen from time to time.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Just Hanging About

It was a long, long afternoon down at Waikanae to continue clearing out Robin’s Mum’s house.  Niece Hannah and her boyfriend were driving up from Wellington with a hire truck to collect a few pieces of furniture and white ware they could use in setting up house.  Three o’clock came and went and we waited, and waited, with texts flying to and fro about the road chaos they were experiencing leaving the city.  All we could do was settle down on the recliner chairs and wait till they arrived.   In fact, we were lucky to have something to sit on, as most of the furniture left home last week.

P5140004 Relaxing on the recliner chairs while we waited

I think we snoozed off for a while - which could have been caused by all those alcohol fumes!  What alcohol, you may well be wondering?  There was a box of all sorts of bottles of plonk in the garage, which hadn’t been touched for years.  As most of the bottles had been opened at some stage we wondered about the state of the alcohol inside.  Rather than take any risk Robin poured the lot down the laundry tub.  And just as well, some had changed colour over the years, and some smelt foul. 

P5140001 All this went down the plug-hole

One special bottle showed signs of evaporation, but was too good to dispose of.  Robin’s Dad travelled to Japan at the end of WW11 onboard the HMNZS Achilles and brought back this bottle of of Sake.  (Sake is an alcoholic beverage of Japanese origin that is made from fermented rice, sometimes referred to in English-speaking countries as "rice wine").  He may want to tip out the contents and just keep the bottle for remembrance, perhaps.  But he did find a couple of unopened bottles too – guess where they went!  
 P5150009 Vintage Sake

It took the rellies almost 5 hours to drive from Wellington to Waikanae in atrocious conditions, in fact we were expecting them to text through to say they had turned back.  But they quickly loaded up the furniture and started the long trip back.   As we were waiting in the house without radio or TV we were unaware just how bad things were on the roads.  It wasn’t till we finally arrived home and turned on the news that we found out the state of things in the Wellington region after the overnight deluge of heavy rain.  Every train line had been cancelled, there had been a massive slip on SH1 between Pukerua Bay and Paekakariki, more slips on the Rimutaka Hill Road, and evacuations from flooded homes in the Kapiti area.  The Eastbourne and Wellington Airport buses were cancelled, and thousands of commuters had been stranded in the city, causing Wellington to grind to a halt. Luckily our trip north to Levin was uneventful, although still very wet, and we thankfully arrived safely home 6 hours after we set off to a very hungry pussy cat.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Clean Up Time

The three brothers plus little old me spent quite some time at Robin’s Mum’s home yesterday.  Settlement date is coming up fast, so we went along to sort out who wants what, decide what items are destined for the Hospice Shop, and clean out and pack up various cupboards.  The bequests have been dealt with, so then it was just a matter of various family members putting their hand up for something they could use, or especially wanted.  The brothers dealt with the heavy stuff, dismantling beds, and moving bulky items to be collected into the garage.  In the meantime  I wrapped up things in the china cabinet, and dealt with the linen cupboard, crockery, pot cupboards, and baking things.

Over the course of the morning we all put our hands up for the odd item.  Such as these two Kiwi Dip bowls I found tucked away with the crockery – they will be perfect for 4zees with our caravan club buddies.

P5090007 I gave these a new home

It’s a bit sad packing up someone’s life, but it had to be done.  Robin’s Mum had many happy years here, until her health deteriorated, and it was time to move on.

P5090002 Waiting collection

P5090004The three brothers loading the table onto the trailer

After all that hard work we were starving so called into the local Subway for a late lunch.  So yummy, and we like the way we can get exactly what we want on our toasted roll.  The pair of us will have another couple of trips down during the week, as there are two  trucks coming to collect items of furniture and the many boxes.   Then there will be the last cleaning bee to make sure things are spick and span, and a rubbish run to the tip.  When settlement day comes, it will the end of an era.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Vaccinations and a Visit to the Vet

We bravely fronted up to receive our free flu vaccinations the other day.  But really, we never felt a thing - the needles in use  these days must be super fine.  Not like the needles used while we were trapped in the dentist’s chair many years ago – I swear they were based on 4 inch nails!  We had to sit quietly afterwards in the waiting room for 20 minutes in case we had a reaction  – luckily neither of us started foaming at the mouth or rolling on the floor, so we could take ourselves back home for a cuppa. 

Poor Muffy has not been herself lately so she has had a trip to the vet.  Although previously her appetite has been good, over the last few weeks she has hardly been touching her food.   Cats tend to sleep for most of the day, but while she was awake, she was quite unsettled.  As a grand old lady of nineteen years, we feared the worst.

She had to endure the indignity of getting her temperature taken – you know where!  And various blood tests to confirm or rule out several nasty options which could be making her feel unwell.  We brought her back home with antibiotics and painkillers to try and make her more comfortable while we waited for the results.
 P5040006 Muffy wanted reassurance after her visit to the vet

Luckily the results from the blood tests did not confirm anything untoward.  My goodness – they were expensive.  Guess we just take it for granted that human blood tests are free here in New Zealand – but not for pets of course.  Muffy has kidney problems, and her teeth are not in the best of shape, which are probably making it painful for her to eat.   The combination of antibiotics and mild pain killers have worked wonders – she is now eating again, getting used to a special food which is easier in her kidneys.  But she seems to like it, and we are happy to pay extra for something to make her life easier.

So……..where do we go from here?  We have a couple of treatment plans to decide between ourselves here at home, then it is back for another visit to the vet next week.

P5040010   Curled up and sleeping after her visit to the vet

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Dogs, Horses and a Builder up a Ladder

A long overdue trip to visit the family in Kiwitea was made in the weekend.  We’ll be there for lunch, we advised, and what a lovely lunch we had.  The weather was warm, and most surprising, not in the least windy.  The Manawatu region is known for wind – after all, that’s where a whole lot of wind turbines are situated on the surrounding hills, turning all that turbulence into electric power for the national grid.

The family lives on a lifestyle block in a house which could only be described as vintage.  There was a whole lot of hammering going on and we went around the back to see Dave the builder hard at work.  The old timber had been replaced with new boards and a bay window was currently under construction.  Over the course of the day the holes started to be filled in.

P5020041  There’s a hole in the house

P5020060 Working from the inside

By the time we left, the roof was on, the bevelled edges were in place, but the bottom boards still needed to be added, and everything was watertight until the next working bee.  The bay window with pretty stained glass top panes will make a lovely feature in the room.

As in every trip up to Kiwitea, there were new animals to meet and greet who had arrived since our last visit.  Young pup Noodle tried hard to boss Patch around, but was soon put in his place by the older dog.

P5020043 Grand-daughter Megan with Noodle and Patch amongst the building debris

P5020084Megan’s young cat Chicken hiding from the grand-parents

With two new foals born on the property a wee while ago I had to change footwear and pull my hardly worn gumboots on my feet.  That raised a laugh  – “look at Nana, she keeps her gumboots in a fancy bag”, Megan chortled.  Of course I do, they are all zipped up safe and sound to keep any nasty big spiders from climbing inside to lie in wait for my unsuspecting feet!   Suitably shod in the obligatory country style, I walked across the paddock to say hello to chestnut foal Luna and darker hued Maddie.  These youngsters hadn’t been handled much so wanted nothing to do with stranger like me.  But with a bit of “horse whispering” from Megan, they sidled ever closer so that I could give Maddie a quiet pat.

P5020046Young foals  Luna and Maddie
 P5020058Patting Maddie – note the townie gumboots

Grand-daughter Emma arrived home and I was dragged across another paddock to say hello to her pregnant horse Sonata.  These girls both love their horses and take part in competitions and  the local hunt.

P5020082 Emma with Sonata

P5020088All saddled up and off for a ride with a friend

Life in the country can be tough, as we found out later in the afternoon.  Two horses on a neighbouring property were being fed some hay side by side when one took exception to his companion and lashed out with a kick.  A loud  “crack” was heard on several adjoining properties and people rushed out to the road to see what had happened.  The smaller horse now had a broken leg and sadly there could be only one outcome – there can be no sentiment as far as a horse with a broken leg is concerned.    Our son-in-law Robert and the other neighbours went over to offer their help in taking care of the problem.  On that sad note we said goodbye to the family and headed back to suburbia.  

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Our Road Trip

Our last little road trip wasn’t too little at all, as it turned out – we travelled 1500kms over 4 weeks.  Attending the CCNZ National Rally was the main point of the trip, which was extended into a bit of a tiki tour taking the long way home.  The plan was to visit some new places we had never stopped at before, as well as a few old favourites.  And although we had a route and timetable all mapped out, we also compromised a few times.  That didn’t really matter at all, the six of us travelling together all really enjoyed the trip.

Easter Safari 2015 Our latest trip

We left early and spent the first five nights at one of our favourite POPS in Hastings, parked up by the apple orchard.  This gave us time to catch up with rellies, replenish Robin’s empty jars at Arataki Honey, visit the Farmers Market, and stop off at Rush Munros for a couple of their famous ice creams.  And at long last we finally got to walk along the boardwalks surrounding the Pekapeka Wetlands.  What a lovely warm Hawkes Bay day is was, the birds were singing, fish were swimming, dragon flies were buzzing around, and the surroundings were so pretty.

P3298659 Pekapeka Wetlands, Hastings

Easter was spent at the CCNZ National Rally held at Putorino – one of those tiny little places which you drive past on the way to Gisborne, but don’t even notice.  Not much there at all, just  the pub, the school, and the sports grounds where we were staying.  The rally was very laid back, with plenty to keep us occupied, and it is always great meeting up with old friends again who we only seem to see on these occasions.  Most of the Heretaunga contingent managed to come away with a raffle prize or two, so we did very well.  It wasn't  too much of a drive from Putorino to our next stop, freedom camping at Opoutama and Blue Bay.  Such a lovely restful place, with glorious views across the bay. 

P4060029 Opoutama, Blue bay

With the last 6 nights being off power, it was great to move on to Waikanae Beach Motor Camp in Gisborne to plug in and recharge everything – and a must for me, to use the laundry.  After a night each at Opoptiki and Edgecumbe, we moved on to Kawerau – three new places we had never stayed at before.  We had been told about evening trials to select rafting teams to represent  New Zealand later in the year, so wandered down to the river to watch a little of this high octane, energetic sport.  Each raft battled the Grade 3 river to get the six man team through the gates strung across the river.  The rafts came hurtling down with the current, aiming for the green gates, and then had to turn and paddle against the current to slip through the red gates, before continuing on their way again.

But the highlight of Kawerau was a trip up to see the Tarawera Falls.  First we had to purchase a Forest Access Permit, then we had a slow, dusty drive through the pine forests over the dirt road, then a short walk through lovely native forest.  And there they were, the falls plunge 65m down a sheer cliff before tumbling down bush lined rapids.  The river bed around the falls is carved into ancient volcanic rocks and the high cliffs are thought to be the eroded end of an old lava flow that poured from the mountain 11,000 years ago. There’s no doubt about it – New Zealand has such beautiful scenery.

P4120008 Tarawera falls, Kawerau

Staying at an avocado orchard in Tauranga was a new experience for us all – another very pretty setting, and we were each given some of these tasty delights.  (Some of mine ended up as guacamole dip for 4zees).  Then on to Bowentown where we enjoyed a three course dinner at the Fishing Club one evening for the grand total of $23 – such good value.  Looking down into the huge Martha Mine in Waihi and the surrounding old buildings was well worth the steep climb, and we enjoyed a ride on the Goldfields Railway  to Waikino and back – such fun, just love these little vintage trains.


Another new stop was at the Paeroa RV Centre – and my goodness, did it rain while we were there.  So much that the ablution block was inches deep in water and had to be closed down overnight.  From here we moved on to the newly opened NZMCA site at Ngnototaha, Rotorua – plenty of room here, and there is a handy garage to use for 4zees during inclement weather.  Two more things got ticked off our “must do” list.  A visit to Wingspan to see the falconers and their birds has been something we long wanted to do, and we were thrilled to both get the chance to have a falcon sit on our leather gloved hand.

P4208781 New Zealand Falcon

We were keen to have a go at Rail Cruising after experiencing something similar at Whangamomona.    The self drive carts cruised along at 20kmph through the Dansey Scenic Reserve, full of beautiful native forest, and onto open farmland.  At Tarukenga Station we got out to stretch their legs while the carts were turned around on the nifty little turntable, and then we headed back to Mamaku Station.  It was a fun afternoon.

P4210103 We’re off Railcruising

One night at the NZMCA site at Taupo Airport, and then we travelled down to Himatangi Holiday Park just in time for the Anzac Weekend caravan club rally.  Some of us set the alarm bright and early on Anzac Day to take part in the Dawn Service.  2015 is a very special year as it is the 100th Centenary, and it was good to hear of record attendances all over the country.

As well as travelling 1500kms we stayed at 4 POPS, 3 motor camps, 2 NZMCA sites,  2 clubs,  1 freedom camping area, 1 sporting complex, and attended 2 caravan rallies.  Met up with friends and rellies, enjoyed several nice meals out, and did goodness knows how many visits to various laundrettes.  Now we are safely home – wonder when we are going away again?