Now my dear dear best friend is having a birthday and I've been thinking. In fact I even made notes earlier in the month when a lot of these thoughts came to me.

Great cook
Great friend

This was the beginning of my thoughts.

I can stay at her house, read her books, fall asleep and then wake up and eat her food. I feel so much at home, so comfortable.

I randomly phone and natteraway for hours, stopping her mid stroke, but she stops or she tells me whats she's doing as she expertly balances the phone between her neck and ear. Despite the great distance between us, the joy of the internet, flickr, blogs and email I feel so close. I love SPT.

She still talks to me after I burped in her face.

We both like our toast slighty cold - with butter.

She needs to send me a list of music I should buy, she knows I need help in the music department, but she loves me anyway,

She took me to see Duran Duran on my actual birthday. Nothing I can write here will match that.

Happy Birthday Em

Outdoor Entertainment

Remember, it's summer here in NZ. So while I read in other blogs, emails and receive messages about snow, rain, cold cold weather, it has warmed up here and we have sunny days. Sure it still rains and it can be windy, but it's summer. So it's time for outdoor entertainment.

Coca-Cola has sponsored Christmas in the Park for 16 years, now I didn't go last year, really don't know why but I was there this year with a few folks from work. As did the rest of Auckland, seriously there were thousands of people there. It was great, music, dancing, dodgy entertainment and wondeful fireworks. I really can't work my camera at night so no great photos of the fireworks. It reminded me of the nights at Battle Abbey and there was a tearful moment when I closed my eyes and wished Emma and Sharon were dancing beside me. As the crowds left The Domain, the crowds were calm though jolly, we filled the roads with Beckie commenting that it felt like we were on a protest march. Did I mention the most wonderful fireworks - the sort of that fill you heart with joy and make you smile on the inside (I really like fireworks - can you tell).

The next dose of entertainement was A Day on the Green. The Pink Flamingos, The Proclaimers and the B52s. A wonderful idea of picnics at a vineyard with a concert. I've written a bit more fully on here and there are some videos there as well. It was fab. The Proclaimers were excellent and the B52s had us dancing from the start.

Both events had a brief downpour that did nothing to dampen spirits or dancing.

Other outdoor entertainment has also meant our works Christmas Party. No posh dress or high heals needed this year. A BBQ at Long Bay Beach and nature reserve. Slighty more rain this time, but we waited, some with coats, some with umbrellas, some just hiding in the trees! It stopped, we had BBQ, loads of food, cricket matches, and a particulary wonderfuuly tasy tomato salad (just add red onion, a wee bit of salt, lots of basil and some feta). Cool times.

So I'll just finish the stawberries and ice cream I've been slowly eating while writing this post.

Weekends Off

Contrary to the image I probably create we do have to work out here, and we work very hard. My new role as clinical charge nurse has seen me step up a bit, though I am not the bossy, controlling freaky workaholic I once was. I've been enjoying getting to grips with the appraisial system and the portfolios that have to be submitted every three years. The senior team are great to work with and we've been planning what to tackle in 2010. They have a fabulous database of admissions and I have been loving creating slides, graphs and charts, that stir up interest, ask more questions and show the varied and fascinating world of a cardiac care unit. I also was at an amazing study day yesterday on adult congential heart disease, my knowledge has expanded loads - but then I actually knew very very little before!
Plus it is shift work, now I'm still useless at getting up for a 7am start but12 hour shifts have many benefits. We don't usually request weekends off, but we seem to have had quite a few lately. This is a novelty in many regards (though why are the shops so busy!) and we've been out and about. We visited Adams brother - who being a Mon-Fri worker only gets the weekends off. He lives in Whangarei and is having his own house built - very exciting to go and see that.

We went further north to KeriKeri and followed the art trail - Emma how I wished you had been with us. I will return and buy you lots of gifts, it was fab. I didn't buy you anything this time because I am very selfish and fell in love with a piece of art. It made the ladies day at ArtShed when I purchased it.

So, sorry Em, you'll have to wait for our next trip.

On our next weekend off we joined the throngs of people at Woodhill Park Mountain Bike Park. I should have no trouble completing number 18 on The List, as even the beginners course here scares me! What is is with getting older and fear - or is it all about control. Either way, I don't like going downhill, uphill kills me and I looked so red faced at the end of one run that Adam said we should call it a day! But it did mean that we had finially brought our bike racks and managed to get the bikes on.

So after our rather wonderful picnic at the bike park we headed to a few winerys for some sampling and purchasing! Seriously if anyone ever come to visit, this is what we'll do. It so great, very easy and most have food of some sort, or you can take a picnic and enjoy their wonderful grounds. We do this locally fairly frequently and while you do pay more for the wine, there is a better choice and you usually end up chatting to the owners or winemakers themselves. This time we visited Westbrook, where we purchased a few wines from their BlueRidge selection. Then onto Soljans where we came away with two bottles of rather fine Barrique Reserve Chardonnay.
Then of course I still have to put some gardening time in. I've cut the broad beans down, they didn't look happy anymore, but I have one tomato that is changing colour and I'm very very excited about that!

It's not a disaster....part two

Well a few weeks ago I wrote concerned about bad kama in the garden, that being one of my passions. My other concern at the time was with my baking. A few bad cakes, things not going quite right culminated in the brocolli cake. Now I found this receipe and though, OK, I have a fair bit of brocolli and courgette cake is always good, so lets try. Well I didn't have the 800g of brocolli needed, so I carefully quartered the receipe (therein may lay my first mistake). It ended up more like a brocolli bake or omlette in a cake tin. It wasn't actually that bad to eat, but you wouldn't have wanted a large slice. The worst however was the next day - oh boy the smell in the tin...very very bad....into the bin it went. And then I felt bad about wasting the brocolli (and all the rest of the stuff). Mine looked nothing like the picture here, so all rather interesting really.
The baking is coming good you'll be pleased to know. A few slices, cakes and muffins plus I makde a rather wonderful polenta bread for one of the many goodies on our recent camping trip.
The garden may well be taking over my life! The broccolli and cauliflower all eaten and now waiting for the next batch to grow. I have learnt so much about gardening in these few months it's great. I spend a lot of time fondly remembering times in the garden with nan and grandad and wishing I had paid more attention.
Ants continue to be a pain and I did resort to ant killer when a fair area of the veggie patch just wasn't doing anything. The next morning in response I'm sure, the bedroom was swarming with ants.....eeeehhhh!
All resolved now, but this house may sit apon the largest ants nest in the world. They are everywhere - and they bite! But it did induce a great amount of spring cleaning.
And something seems to be biting off the courgette flowers....not sure what's going on there. Did however have the first lot of rhubarb - oh boy how very very wonderful. Broad beans at the end and now cutting them down (can't be the end of spring - summer hasn't really started). Have had death of one tomoto plant which was sad, but I don't think anything has spread to the other plants. May buy a few more just in case!

Strawberries are producing a few more, and I seem to be beating the ants and slugs to these now, not a good as last year so may go back to the hanging basket idea for them. Spinach doing wonderfully, and blueberries looking good, carrots looking very very good, lettuce going well. Sunflowers and sweetpeas not so good!

Have brought a few more seedling to continue the learning curve - a honeydew melon and some sweetcorn. Put some pak choi seeds in last week and they're coming up already. Still no good at rembering to space things properly - this may be very true of the melon.

I found this

I found this, originally uploaded by KTandCoffee.
Finding this shell was a really joyful moment and I thought about it today when I seemed to have one of those days. I crashed the car into a wall pulling out of a car park, sounded terrible but didn't turn out to be that bad I guess! Then I broke the garden hose, how on earth I managed that who knows. The sunflower plants have all been eaten, the pepper plants look very unhappy, one mint plant is very very dead, the cauliflower has all gone (that's good I suppose as we ate it), there is a nasty looking white mould/dust thing on the the tomato plants (this is by biggest worry) and the ants are taking over the garden! I guess this is OK as number 13 on the list dosent't actually imply anything has to grow!
But I did get the last of the Christmas cards in the post - only two parcels left to finish and I started new book which had me enthralled from the beginning, plus tomorrow is a day off.

Happy Campers

Happy Campers, originally uploaded by KTandCoffee.
Well we're feeling rather good. We've just had a 4 night trip to the Coromandel Peninsular. Went further north than our last trip - in fact to the end of the road and we could drive no further. We actually had to go through a gate (yes opening it first). The campsite was run by DOC and was basic and beautiful. So long drop toilets, cold showers that you can look up into the sun while you shower. There was a tap for water so that made life easy. Oh and lots of ducks that we sort of adopted, named and fed.
Having not actually recovered from my trip back to the UK, I was looking forward to relaxing, fresh air and good food and that is certainly what happened. It was a perfect trip full of happy moments. We swam in the rather rereshing (cold) sea, walked, beach combed, wondered at rock pools, read books and slept in the shade.
We were a good way from anywhere so I had enjoyed the planning to make sure we had enough to eat and tried a couple of receipes from a camping cookbook my mum had sent me.
To make you all feel better, there was rain, wind and mist and a long long uphill walk that made me feel quite unwell, which resulted in us trying to descend in rather terrible weather!
I hope my flickr pictures do this wonderful place some justice and spread some of the joy we've had.

Happy Birthday Sharon

Sharon is one of my Best Friends, we met in May 1992 (oh dear lord) when we both embarked upon our career in nursing and today is her birthday. We instantly clicked, through odd converstations, politcial and ethical debates, drinking and eating, buying the same clothes!

I remember turning up to her door - I was collecting her for something, she opened the door and we both cracked up. we were both standing there in the same blue Fat Face T shirt! Other times we knew we had the same item - the purple jumper we brought in London. We were there as Sharon needed special scans when she was pregnant with Tom (blimey). We phoned each other about the coat in Millets that we knew we would both buy.

My memories and smiles are long but my photo collection limted as I've known her far longer than I've owned a digital camera. I don't even have photos of her wedding! What sort of friend am I. 
I do however remember being delighted, honoured and thrilled when she told me Ben and her were getting married and could I read at the wedding. I remmeber eating strawberries and drinking champagne while getting ready and most of all I remember helping her do up her stockings!

There have been a few trips together, not enough, but memorable, special and perfect. Our room of calm in Edninburgh, Disneyland Paris - is it twice? A happy place that we are both addicted to. The hotels, the characters, the hot chocolate.

I'm not so sure about Sharons's memories of the night Tom was born - but blimey I was exhausted. The swaying on the towel rail, the lack of food and water, the epidural (yes, Sharon not me!). But holding Tom in my arms so soon after he was born still brings smiles and tears of joy to my eyes, to make me such a special part of that show you the depth of our friendship.

There has been many a drunken night, a great boogie and murder mystery party and vomiting in the most peculiar places. 'Is it raining or are you throwing up?' Still has me cracked up. Sharon's ability to convince a taxi driver that I haven't been sick in his car has not diminshed as we've grown older. Though I'm not so sure Ben would clear up after me nowadays.

Christmas parties hold a very special place in our hearts. From the first (drinking red wine from the bottle under the table) to the last (oh dear lord we're organinsing it). There isn't a woman I would rather sit with, dance with, get drunk with and bitch with (all on the same night of course).

In the words of Edward Monkton:

THE FRIENDS can connect in a
mysterious way without even speaking

Perhaps they have AMAZING

Perhaps they are both just

Friendship can only be measured
in memories, laughter, peace and love

Stuart and Linda MacFarlane
Your friendship has been the sunlight
that has transformed my days
Pam Brown

I miss my friend so very very much. I wish we were together and we could have a drink, shop, dance, talk, moan, laugh, whatever really. It's hard to put into words how much a huge part of your life someone is and how stupid I feel for putting so much distance between us. I miss her support for all I do, an interest in whatever idea I come up with. I miss being able to bounce ideas, problems and issues off her. I miss working with her. We will always be best friends and I'm smiling because of all that has happened and that we have shared. I love her emails, letters and those random moments when we catch each other on skype.

Happy Birthday Sharon

Today we went to Rangitoto

Rangitoto Island is a 600 year volcano that is pretty much visible from everywhere in Auckland. It is a stunning iconic image of the city and I love it. This was my third vist, but the first in the sunshine. A 25 minute boat ride in the gulf take you to a small wharf. There are several walking routes, but on a sunny Saturday hords of people took the direct route to the summit. We dawdled on the wharf to let the crowds get going and then started the climb. Having said it was first visit in the sun I now appreaciate the clouds of previous visits. You pretty much walk through the black rocks of the lava fields, reflecting the suns heat and making Rangitoto one of the hotest places in the gulf.

Rangitoto Island is a 2333 hectare pohutukawa cloaked island, roughly circular in shape, with gentle sloping sides, leading to a classic cinder cone.

The climb to the 260m summit takes about an hour, it's a slow plod for me and I arrive out of breath very red faced and as delighted as ever. The views are great, the sun is shinning, it's downhill form here!

We take a different route to my two previous visits, walking to Islington Bay Wharf, we walk a lot quicker that the guide signs suggest, this makes me feel very very good. This route is probably more shaded than the road route via McKenzie Bay, New Zealand sun is strong, very very strong so it was a good move. The walking track is bit tougher and rougher but not terrible, undulating and interesting is how I would put it. All the walking and it never ceases to amaze me that we are walking over a lava field.

There are over 200 different native trees and other flowering plants, 40 native ferns and 20 orchids, mudloving mangroves grow directly on lava. Reading the information panels is great and it amazing to see all the stages of life before you eyes.
We ate a traditional lunch of sandwhich spread sandwhiches in a shady spot by the water and then walk on, arriving back at the wharf in time to read and doze before catching the ferry back.

When the alarm went off at 7am this morning I really didn't want to get up, but I'm so glad we did we were a world away on a volcano.


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