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

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Wish we were there

Daughter and son-in-law are enjoying their holiday in England, and having a great time.  They have been to Lincoln, seen their first squirrel, and even Morris dancers.  Had a short canal boat experience in Lymm, and explored Birmingham.  Moved on to Liverpool and took their photos alongside the statues of the Beatles.  Now they are in York, they have walked the city walls, and climbed to the top of York Minister.  And not forgetting the Shambles, that fascinating old street in York, chocker with overhanging timber-framed buildings, some dating back to the fourteenth century. 


We are so pleased they are having such a a great holiday, just wish we were there too.  Kiwis just love all the history and pageantry of England, the churches and cathedrals, stone circles, thatched cottages, and picturesque villages.

And while the family are running around enjoying themselves in the British summer, we are home putting up with rain, rain and more rain.  And waiting for the next exciting batch of holiday photos to wing their way to us via Snapchat.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Sunday Lunch at the Pub

What better way to while away a couple of hours on a wet, wintry Sunday than lunching in an old pub.  The Manakau Hotel, halfway between Levin and Otaki on SH1 was offering Sunday Roast Dinners and we were keen to try it out.  Fellow food lovers Geoff and Eileen joined us there for lunch.  With a family party of 30 already ensconced, we were asked to come a little later, and our booking was for 1.00pm.


Built in 1920, the pub has been around for a while.  And had it’s share of ups and downs.  So we thought we would give the new managers a try, make a booking, and enjoy a tasty pub lunch.  And we weren’t disappointed at all.

Manakau Hotel

The family group of 30 were tucking into their meals as we arrived, and we waited for our friends to join us.  What’s for lunch we wondered?  Oh goody, roast pork, my favourite.

Sunday lunch menu

Geoff and Eileen soon arrived, and we sat in the dining room and chatted for a while.  I asked the helpful waitress if she would take a photo for me, and sure enough, she was happy to help.  But what’s this?  We’ve been “photo-bombed” by the manager!

Out for Sunday Roast, with the manager in the background

Large plates of roast pork, gravy, apple sauce and plenty of veggies were soon delivered to our table.  Then the serious business of eating took over, and our plates were soon cleared.   Our dessert was apple crumble served with ice-cream and whipped cream.  It was a lovely meal, and very reasonably priced.  We said our goodbyes, parted company, and had a look around outside.

Manakau is a little settlement with a lot of history.  The hotel was opened in 1920, and the Post Office building, now a private home, some 15 years or so earlier.  And the local school was up and running from 1888.  Tucked away under the trees was the War Memorial, listing those from the area who made the ultimate sacrifice in WW1.  A further plaque has been added with names from WW11.  It is always amazing what interesting things can be found in these little places.

Manakau War Memorial

Friday, 24 June 2016

The Shortest Day and Family Matters

Tuesday was the shortest day of the year down here in little old New Zealand.  In New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, winter begins on June 1 and ends on August 31, otherwise known as "the meteorological winter", combining the months with the most similar weather together. But the expected cold temperatures have not happened and instead New Zealand has been sweltering under a tropical air mass.  Bringing with it torrential rain to many parts of the country.  So the start of our winter in God’s Own Country has been rather warm and wet, wet, wet.

Daughter and son-in-law Nicky and Robert are currently exploring England, and reported that on the longest day, the skies were still quite light at 10.00pm.  Wonder if they were dancing around stone circles too, as that’s what seems to happen when crowds gather over there on this special night?

We drove down to Paraparaumu yesterday coping with yet another downpour of torrential rain and road works.  It was interesting to note what progress we could see on the MacKays to Peka Peka section of the new 4 lane expressway being built. The upgrade is required to provide safe, efficient and reliable access to and from New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington.  We drove under one of the 18 new bridges being constructed on this piece of road – that’s an awful lot of bridges!

One of the 18 new bridges being constructed on the new expressway

We were travelling down to visit my last remaining aunt, Aunt Dawn, who was my Dad’s youngest sister.  The plan was to take Dawn out for morning tea, but Dawn was having none of that.  No indeed, we were told quite firmly, we would be having morning tea at Dawn’s home, then she was taking us out for lunch.  No arguments!  So after a pleasant hour or so catching up with all the news, we braved the rain once more and set out to Paraparaumu Beach for lunch.  Dawn was taking us to one of her favourite casual lunch cafes with the quirky name of  “Fed Up Fast Foods”.  And buying us a fish dinner.


The fresh fish was all the way from the Chatham Islands, and was delicious, cooked in a nice crunchy batter.  Served with tasty chips, and a side salad, it was a lovely lunch indeed.  Certainly a place to remember for our future visits to the area.  With a steady stream of customers buying take-aways, or settling down to eat inside  as we were, it shows that this cafe has a good name.

Dawn and Jenny

The rain was trying to clear as we drove back home later in the day, with plenty of mist covering the hills.    Let’s hope the weather improves soon.

Mist covered hills at Waikanae

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Soup and Rugby

It’s a soup and rugby kind of day.  The weather is rather miserable today, wet and drizzly, and the hills are playing hide and seek all day with the low lying clouds.  Now you see them – now you don’t.  And there is no trace of the much higher hills at the back – although we are sure they are still there.  The saving grace is that it’s not freezing cold, the temperatures have not dropped too low.  We can cope with that, tucked up snug and warm at home.

View over the back fence

It is mid winter after all, and just a few days away from celebrating the shortest day.  No wonder soup was on the menu for lunch, bacon bones, split peas and plenty of vegetables, simmered away in the crock pot (slow cooker).  What could be nicer?

Home cooked soup for lunch

Robin will be settling down in front of the TV shortly for an evening of rugby, no doubt with a beer in hand.  The Welsh Rugby team are travelling New Zealand on a four match tour, and are playing in Wellington tonight.  That should keep him happily occupied for a while.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Armed Offenders on the Prowl

There we were, almost home this afternoon after a day out in Palmerston North, when we were caught up in the middle of a police operation.  No way were we allowed to turn left at the corner and continue homewards.  What on earth was happening?

The road was blocked off.

But wait – we recognised that 4WD and trailer stopped at the corner.  It belonged to Danny, our helpful and friendly caretaker from our village.  Seems he is not getting home any time soon either.

Motorists and neighbours alike gathered about in groups.  There was a gunman on the loose, we were told.  Let’s hope he gets his just desserts, was the public opinion.  No sooner had I snapped this photo, that police officers were walking about telling the public the crisis was all over, and we were free to continue on our way.

A quick check on the internet showed that the story was up in the news section by the time we arrived home.  An Armed Offenders Squad call-out followed a firearms incident near a school in Levin.  The school was put in lock-down as a result.  A cordon was put up on Liverpool St and Balmoral St and police asked members of the public avoid the area.  Those cordons were lifted by 2.30pm.

In a statement, police said the matter had been resolved without incident and they were "talking with a number of people", and also quashed rumours that it was a hostage situation.  "The matter has been resolved without incident and contrary to suggestions in the community and on social media, nobody was taken hostage during the event," the statement read.  Investigations were continuing.

The Armed Offenders Squad gather on Balmoral St following a firearms call out in Levin.
Photo by David Unwin/Fairfax NZ

The Armed Offenders Squad gather on Balmoral St following a firearms call out in Levin.

It’s good to know the police reacted quickly to resolve the situation by the school.   Police cars and personnel, dog squads, the Armed Offenders Squad, and an ambulance or two were all deployed to arrest the offenders and return calm to our streets again. 

Monday, 13 June 2016

Chocolates, Roses and……..Leeks

A phone call alerted us to the fact that there was a gift sitting in our front porch.  We hadn’t noticed as we had returned home via the internal garage door and hadn’t yet been outside in the wet conditions.  Trish, one of our SLG friends had dropped the gift off on behalf of all the SLG members while we were out.  How nice.  There was a rose bush called “Precious Pet” in memory of our beloved Birman Muffy.  (At 20 years of age, she had been with us longer than some marriages last, we often said.)  The rose is to be planted in a pot and placed in our little patio to enjoy, I was told. 


From our SLG friends

And the chocolates are for us both to enjoy while we are dealing with a health issue and the appointments which come with it.  Thanks guys, munching on chocolate will surely keep our strength up.

And just look at this lovely paddock of leeks.  Cooked and served with cheese sauce as a side vegetable, leek and potatoe soup, or added to winter casseroles, it is one of nature’s tasty winter vegetables.  We went along to our local veggie grower of choice yesterday, The Garden of York,  to stock up on the healthy green stuff, and saw these lovely leeks growing big and strong.

Leeks growing as far as the eye can see

Being a committed Tudorphile, I often call this market garden “The House of York”. 

Monday, 6 June 2016

Mushers on the Beach

It was a weekend with a double dose of cream horns.  First we enjoyed those made by one of our caravan club members, and then – morning tea at Viv’s Kitchen at Sanson, home of the famous cream horn!  Our rally captain rang through and made a booking, and 14 happy campers arrived to sample these delights.

This looks like the right place

You can just imagine a crowd of old age pensioners getting into a mess as they demolish their huge cream horns, whipped cream everywhere and scattering pastry crumbs far and wide. We had a wonderful time!

Bill and Val, and Derek, Dot, Jenny and Robin.  Look at the size of those cream horns!

Our tummies may have been filled with decadent cream horns, but that didn’t stop us from eating lunch a little later on.  Some of us bought a delicious meat pie from Viv’s Kitchen to enjoy for lunch, very tasty they were too.

Lunch in the wintry sunshine

We had to burn off some of those calories so took a walk down to Himitangi Beach after lunch.  Now that’s not a sign you see very often.

At the beach

Sled dog racing?  This is New Zealand, not Alaska.  But for keen sportsmen, there are ways and means around the problem of lack of snow cover.  The Ridge Runners Sled Dog Racing Club race on bikes, and it certainly looked a lot of fun.  Bikes, dogs, harnesses and keen owners were everywhere.  These club members generally race through forests, and today was an exhibition to show the general public what the club gets up to.  Some people run in front with the dog, while the dog pulls the bike along with a passenger on the back.  There are various options of racing, and bikes can be two or three wheeled.

Getting ready to ride

The dogs were having the time of their lives, and were excited to get the harnesses on and get going.  The owners racing along side their dogs were more puffed than the canines, who didn’t really want to stop.  Mind you, I didn’t hear anyone call out “Mush”.

Run, dogs, run

Caravan club member Bill was standing in the right place at the right time and was offered a ride.  Go – Bill!!  It looked a lot of fun, and he held on tight and managed not to fall off!

Bill having a go at dog sledding

It’s not just the husky breeds which can take part, any dog of a suitable size which is able to run is welcome to take part.  Such as these two German Short Haired Pointers, litter brothers I was told. These two dogs are still a little young to pull a sled/bike,  but come along for training, socialization, and more importantly, to meet the other dogs and have fun.

Sled dogs in training

That was a fun afternoon on the beach.  Then it was back to the camp for 4zees, and later in the evening we walked back to the Himitangi Cossie Club for an evening meal.  This was our second try at the restaurant – a power outage the previous night meant that the kitchen was out of action and we all had to return to the camp without being fed.  But it all went well on Sunday night, and a roast was on the menu.

Being Queen’s Birthday Weekend, it was a three day weekend away for us.  The camp managers called around to see us on Monday morning, bring a plate of home baked cookies to thank our group for staying at their camp  – what a lovely gesture.  Most of us stayed on for an early lunch, then packed up and headed home, trying to beat the traffic.  The roads can get very busy on a long holiday weekend.  After the necessary visit to the dump station we made it home in good time.   The caravan was unpacked, and put away in it’s parking space, all ready for next time.

All ready for the next trip away

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Long Weekend at Himatangi Beach

With a three day weekend caravan club rally to look forward to at the beginning of Winter, we wondered what the weather would have in store for us.  We needn’t have worried, there was sunshine all the way.  Weak, wintry sunshine, to be sure, and with sun low in the sky, long low shadows from the trees surrounding our camping area.  But no wind – so that was a bonus, being situated so close to the coast.


It is Queen’s Birthday Weekend here in our little piece of paradise, and the camp was a not as busy as we expected.  Our club was tucked away in a nice little area at rear of the camp, nice and private.  With a cozy kitchen area at our disposal to use for mornings teas, 4zees, and evenings, and our own little ablution block, we were happy little campers indeed. Seven vans were in residence from our club,  accompanied by one cat and one dog.  This is the first rally we have attended without our beloved Muffy, and whenever we enter the caravan, we expect to see her curled up on the couch.

Our vans on site at Himatangi Beach Holiday Park

On a wander around the camp, we spotted a bright green  “Steinlager Man”, standing guard outside someone’s  holiday home.  Very clever indeed.  How many bottles of Steinie would have to be consumed to make this – all in the name of art of course?

The Green Man

Making the most of the wintry sunshine, we took a trip down to Foxton Beach on Saturday afternoon.  People were busy fishing, walking their dogs, and generally out enjoying the day.  Robin had to manoeuvre the car around the the large pieces of drift wood which littered the beach.  A hazy view of Kapiti Island was barely visible in the distance.  The sand hills have all been roped off to keep motor bikes and cars off them, to protect the vegetation. 

Robin remembers having 4WD training in these sand dunes with fellow caravanner Geoff many years ago.  They were both keen members of the CCVC (Cross Country Vehicle Club) in those days, and were schooled in the art of safely driving up and down hills, and the intricities of towing with a strop.  These could be quite dangerous situations and the club insisted that new members master these skills before heading out on trips into the bush.  The CCVC club also organised annual clean ups in these sand dunes, with many an abandoned car body being retrieved along with all manner of rubbish which inconsiderate people had dumped.

Foxton Beach

Returning to camp, we got a nice surprise at 4zees when Sandra arrived with a large plate of delicious cream horns to share, made by her own fair hands.  Thanks very much, Sandra.

Sandra came with cream horns to share

Club members all trooped down to the local Himitangi Cossie Club for a meal on Saturday night.  The place was packed and we were advised that there would be a 40 minute delay in getting our meals.  No worries, we were happy to sit and chat, there is always plenty of to talk about.

Waiting for our meal, Geoff, Robin and Jenny

After waiting patiently for ages, things took a turn for the worse when part of the building lost power, the bathrooms and the all important kitchen.  Something to do with three phase power, we were told.  And not just the Cossie Club – we were informed that parts of Himitangi Village were also in darkness. What to do?  As we were comfortably settled we decided to wait for an hour and hopefully the power would be restored and the kitchen could get all those ordered meals cooked and served.  But that didn’t happen, and with the kitchen hatch looking like the Black Hole of Calcutta, we decided to cancel our orders, and head back to camp.

No cooking in the kitchen tonight

We passed the linesman hard at work on the village distribution box as we walked back to camp, and the power was nearly restored, he told us. With various quick options considered for a rather late meal, we settled on hot buttered toasted crumpets back in the caravan.  Not quite the  restaurant meal we had planned, but all is not lost.  Before we left the Cossie Club, a group booking was made for a return visit on Sunday night.  Just hope the power stays on till our meal is cooked and served.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Out and About

What a welcome we have today from Mother Nature.  It’s the first day of winter down here in New Zealand and we woke to be greeted by a sprinkling of snow on the Tararua Ranges behind our home.  After a very long drawn out rather mild Autumn, (not that we’re complaining), Winter has arrived.   Isn’t Mother Nature wonderful!

Over our back fence, first snow of the season

And just to remind us that none of us are getting any younger, look what we spied in the local Medical Centre - a parking space especially for mobility scooters.  Luckily the pair of us aren’t quite at this stage yet, but when we are, we know we will be able to drive down on our scooters and park them outside.

Seen outside the Medical Centre

What was the story behind this number plate spotted recently, we wondered.  Its not as if the car in question was a super-duper sort which would bring the owner a whole lot of money once it was sold.  It’s interesting what you see on the roads.