I should try harder I know, but Christmas is hard in New Zealand. Its summer for a start, but yet you are swamped with the 'traditional' images of Christmas - snow, Santa, elfs, trees, glittery stuff, more trees and more snow, snowflakes etc. It is so linked with the seasons, weather and nature that it makes no sense at all in the southern hemisphere. But that doesn't seem to stop folks. The traditional kiwi Christmas on the beach or at the bach is a great idea but still I struggle. There is less of a 'logical' reason to eats loads and loads of mince pies as we're not facing a cold winter (but that hasn't stopped me). Mince pies are a bit of a favourite of mine. I tried the whole pagan calendar and celebrate mid summer but think I may be the only one trying this, so feel a wee bit odd!! I did however, come down with a 'traditional' winter cold mainly I reckon because of all the snow images from UK and updates of cold, freezing, icy weather.

So with all this talk of tradition I realise that my Christmas tradition is to go to work. I'm not bitter and I often volunteer. Over the 15 years as a nurse how many have I worked I wonder? So really would be a bit of a loss to know what to do on Christmas day with no work. What hope do I have in retirement?

So Christmas day at work. We had a good day, it had been fairly busy in the run up, but we had a pleasant day, with a few admission, patients well enough to enjoy some time with their family and enough mince pies to bring a smile to my face. I have been 'Miss grumpy homesick pants' over the last few days and finally some of the joy of Christmas time got to me. Mainly thanks to the caring nursing souls I work with. I hope I haven't been too unbearable - normal service will be resumed soon I'm sure.

I miss my friends and family. I wanted my mum to make me a bacon sandwich and give me a hug, but a Skype call to her while we opened our presents after work seemed to help (though at this point the bubbly was also having the desired effect). I feel nostalgic about those Christmas times of my childhood and have to realise that's not what I have now and nor will I. Time to move on.

We returned home from work and while I made a rather delicious dinner of salmon and prawns, Adam watered the garden, all while we sipped Kir Royale. Opened all my presents, and wasn't Santa good to me. To those folks who post stuff, it is truly appreciated. I loved them all. To the gifts from work, which are so thoughtful. It's all good. I am blessed and loved and have a big smile on my face. So all is good and we have more fun ahead with a meal with friends on the 28th. Joy to the World.

Gardening Love

I never ever, really, never ever thought I would love gardening. Don't know why, I loved helping nan and granddad in the garden. I have the best memories of my granddad in the garden and greenhouse. My mum, though not a vegetable gardener, envisages and plans great gardens in whatever space she has. So maybe it was meant to be. As a (seems to be) life long renter a garden has never really been near the top of the list of things we 'need'. So a little strip of dirt in New Zealand seemed a good place to start. Now we have a huge garden and I'm officially addicted. I come to life when someone asks me about the garden, and while I really don't have a clue what I'm doing, I love it none the less, and seem to have produced vegetables along the way. I'm slowly altering and adding to our section (sure the landlord won't really mind) and getting such pleasure, pain anguish and joy, it's marvellous.

Adam is rather excited by the brussel sprouts which seem determined (though very out of season here) to be ready for Christmas.

 I loved the broad beans, which as we're now well  into summer are all gone. Salad leaves doing just fine, along with the radish. I was impressed with last years celery but this year it was no good. A heap of tomatoes but nothing red yet.

Mind you I'm growing a Russian Green Variety and it seems to be taking over and to be honest, doesn't look quite right to me. The other tomatoes seem to be coming along OK so far.

I have a few (well lots) things to master, I've got better at thinning out seedlings, but still plant things too close together, and I really have to remember to plant and sow on a regular basis. Carrots, I've run out of carrots, and blimey do things take a long time to grow. The carrots have been my fail safe crop, plus I love them. So that's what I'm sticking with. Just need to remember to sow those seeds every couple of weeks.

Now I have two vegetable patches I also should work more on the whole crop rotation thingy and be a bit more planned and organised.

I'm still in the 'oh let's throw it in here and see what happens' kind of place. My planning is not helped by mine and Adam's sharp differences in vegetable love. I am clearly a root vegetable kind of gal. Carrots, parsnips (did great last winter), beetroot (ooh growing so well and so so tasty roasted or raw), celeriac (trying for the first time, in already for autumn/winter next year) and squash (failed last year trying to decide whether to give them another go). Whereas Adam is a greens man - oh and cauliflower, so it's spinach, poke choi (blimey that grows well here), broccoli (thank you Jamie for a great broccoli and pasta dish) and of course those brussels sprouts. So I really do have a bit of all sorts and not yet able to sustain us all year round. But I have added potatoes in this year, how the hell do you tell when they are ready?

The joy of the herbs all jumping back to life is great and I need to try some seed saving and make some herb butters to freeze for over the winter. Oh yes, that's the other thing I'm no good at, storing this stuff.

Well it's enough to keep me out of trouble (and the gym), I love getting my hands dirty and watching the seeds come up. I'm distraught when things go wrong, but I keep trying and I'm learning more and more. And the veggies at Christmas dinner this year will be from the garden.

Our Van

Let me re-introduce you to the our VW van. It's been part of out family for probably 15 years now and we get more fond of her each time we take her out (the van has suddenly become female). It's had its time of trouble and went through years of neglect and I've mentioned before the trauma of bringing her to New Zealand.
She has two seats at the front and a bench seat in the back that two consenting adults can sit on. I say consenting as there are no seat belts in the back, so if its a cup of tea and slice of cake your after then all well and good, but if you want to join us for a ride, then it's your choice but certainly not an option for kiddies. It's too tall to get into most carparks so no good for going to work!
We may get round to putting seat belts in the back, as she is a life long project (and our retirement plan). There is always a little this or that to be done, added, taken away or changed. There are frequent conversations about the plans for an upgraded interior.
She is a simple soul though and Adam loves fixing things, servicing and the like, not to mention a rather long problem with the starting up that he is determined to solve. She can be interesting temperamental though and loves a little attention. The two times I've needed the AA while in New Zealand have been in the van in the Coromandel (in fact I may pre warn the AA when we plan our next trip). The blessing has been that she has chosen her moments well - while driving into a town, rather than on a sharp bend going up (or down) a stupidly steep hill with a  rather long drop (well I guess we'd roll) down into the trees. So while she's temperamental I think she has our safety (and lives) in mind.
Our last AA encounter (with a huge thank you to the man at the Birdwood Mini Putt for use of phone and finding the number for me) was at the end of a great long weekend which had started with the VW Bulli run at Flaxmill Bay.

So about 22 VWs met at the Flaxmill Bay campsite for a chilled out weekend of eating drinking, catching up, talking vans, comparing stories and so on. I was told (while chatting to a man with a very yellow van) that it always rains at the Bulli Run. Well it did, but kept the hayfever symptoms to a minimum. Friday night was spent saying hello, chatting and generally agreeing that the compliance testing when you import a VW van is a right rip off.

It did rain, but the Saturday morning tried it's best, we didn't join the walk and boat ride to Whitianga, we stayed at the camp and ate the largest cooked breakfast we possibly could, then rested after our efforts reading and admiring the scenery. It was quiet, pleasant, rural, lovely. Then the noise of a Beetle getting into line for the convoy run to Hot Water Beach, had us packing up, downing the pop up roof and joining the gang. There is a strange but definite joy in taking part in a VW convoy run. This was only my second but it gives you a warm feeling inside. The sun was trying it's best and the parking all worked out, so a great afternoon of doing whatever we fancied really. There happens to be a rather great arty shop so I managed to get 4 Christmas presents - Jane, Em, Sharon and Annmarie sorted (thankfully, last posting day is the 1st Dec).

More food and drink for us back at camp, on one of those perfect camping evenings. Thank you VW campervan cookbook for the monkfish kebabs reciepe. We didn't join the evening party but it certainly sounded like a good time was had by all.

It rained again that night and Sunday morning was really not pleasant at all. Feeling slightly smug and not having to be back at work on the Monday, we waited, then the rain stopped, so we trundled into Whitianga, via the ferry and the aptly named Ferry Landing. Headed back for the van at lunch time and then took the short drive to Haehi for another couple of nights camping. This campsite is right on one of my fave beaches, so it was straight into the sea (that's us, not the van).

It was a windy but sunny afternoon, the sea was clear, crystal clear but a bit chilly. We do however have a technique; go in, come out, then go in again and it really doesn't seem that bad.

Monday was a 'sunny as' day. We really had a day of laying on the beach, swimming in the sea, walking round to the few shops for coffee (and yes a couple more Christmas presents) then resting in the shade with lunch, then back to the beach - you get the picture. Really was a rather lovely day, finished off with a grand BBQ. We wisely packed quite a few things away that night, cos did it rain. Oh yes the sun is hotter and stronger but the rain is very much wetter. I felt snug and warm, despite the force of the rain coming in through some tiny holes in our pop up roof. I did feel for those in tents, been there, it's not the most pleasant sensation as the rain seeps up from underneath your tent.
Well it eased in the morning, but it didn't look great and the group set for kayaking didn't look too thrilled at it all really! We have to head for home via Coromandel Town, so off  we go. It's fairly soon into our drive - heading into Whitianga for a coffee that the accelerator cable goes! Quite interesting, so after a wee delay and a few games of card, we fixed up ready to continue. It's up and over those roads that could quite easily kill us, but the rain is easing a wee bit and it's all good. We rather love Coromandel Town and first stop is the Driving Creek Cafe. I would happily die in this place. End of story really.

After pottery purchases we head into town for a wee stroll (one more Christmas present - Em - you'll love this one!) then back to Auckland it is. We may have brought back a collection of sandflies that chose to attack once we get back home, but heh ho, that's what you have to put up with I guess.

Summer's here, but I've been to Australia

You can tell it's summer, the blog posts are fewer, I'm outside, I get behind with everything, just enjoying the sun and the outdoors, I wish I could share more about the great stuff we get up too. So here I am, I've been to Australia, OK, back in October, and the middle of October at that, it was a epic moment, those days of waiting to get our passports back. All sorted, done and dusted, free to travel again.
So I though lots about the blog while in Oz, the wine, the vineyards, the wildlife. I had great ideas, interesting information and facts about places I saw, historic mining communities, wildlife parks, Kangaroo island, facts about animals, beaches and early exploration of Australia. I kept notes. The whole time I was this is Australia, what was I expecting. It felt like a mystery, how I love going to new places.
In the lead up to leaving and on the journey itself, I did find myself having to explain why I was going to Adelaide for my first visit to Australia. Not the usual, nor the place people would expect (how I love to be just a little different). Well there was actually no choice for me, nor did I want to go anywhere else until I had been to Adelaide. It was imperative you could say.
You know those people who aren't, but really are family, they hold such a special place in you, they've been there since you were born. They've been there through the heart surgery and boat sinking. They've taken you on countless visits to Dover Castle and Howletts. They cheer and cry and then they cut jam sandwich's into your name.
My mother's dear friend, Julie is this woman. She and her family moved to oz 16 years ago, and it turns out I haven't seen them for 10 years (though it really doesn't feel like it). They live in Adelaide and we arrive a couple of days after my birthday to a rapturous welcome of tears and hugs at the airport. It really was quite dramatic. She had sorted out birthday cake as a surprise for that night and this touched me it a really special way.

To feel so welcomed and at home in seconds is a wonderful gift - the photos placed in my honour helped but their home is a big reminder of friends, family and good times. To have that feeling of love and specialness bestowed upon me was comforting and reassuring and made me realise how much I miss that unconditional love you get from those you are very close too. It made me miss my family and friends but appreciate what I have and the great time Julie and Ben showed us. Great hosts, all perfect.
So it was a nurturing and comforting time, a time for lots of wine, lots of photos in rather dubious places, times for lots of laughing.
South Australia does has some rather lovely vineyards, we first visited the McClaren Vale area, got onto a large empty stage and gave our rendition of the Simply Red play list, still stuck to the stage floor from the weekend before concert. This was of course near the end of the day wine tasting. Did I mention we could take back 6 bottles of wine each (well we couldn't cos our bags were too heavy, but we tried).
Our weekend away to Burra, had the crucial elements of historic Cornish mining stuff, Ozzie bars in their prime and more vineyards. Clare Vally - home of the Riesling and the Barrosa valley, home to those big names and I was rather a bit excited at being at Jacobs Creek.

Did I mention we went to Kangaroo Island, a two day trip, to the 133rd largest island in the world (thank you Lonely Planet), and saw rather a lot of wildlife and great beaches. So yep, cuddled a Koala (rather special I thought) and fed Kangaroos (rather cute). Lots more photos on flickr, take a lookie if you fancy. I will take this chance though, to say a huge thank you to Julie and Ben for the unbelievable welcome, time and just great time we had with them.

40 Things

My birthday has been and gone, not one photo of me taken, but I did get one of all the great cards I had. It was a quite day with a musical ending, but I had been working on my list. Yes some are repeats of those not quite managed last year. So I roll towards 40 full of hope and good intentions and plans for a birthday trip. So here we go, 40 things for my 40th year on the planet.

  1. Crack this running lark (I really do want to be able to run)
  2. Go to Austrailia (more than once, given I had a trip planned for 2 days after my birthday)
  3. Poster of the Petra trip (or maybe Morocco one) - after the success and pleasure of the Rome poster
  4. Phohi river trip
  5. Scuba day
  6. Write a gratitude journal over the year
  7. Writer more letters (more than what for goodness sake, I seem to know the post office staff very well)
  8. Go horse riding along a beach (yet to decide which beach)
  9. Do some groovy artwork with some kids (I have a few to choose from and some visiting this year)
  10. Help Adam build his summer temple
  11. Have my Oscar Party this year (for sure this time!!)
  12. Finish the 365 mug shot project
  13. Get onto that weekend massage course
  14. Act as a wonderous host (2 planned visits this year - I'm up for more - anyone wanting to visit NZ)
  15. Ski again in the South Island (maybe take a lesson this time and hope to get into my trousers this time)
  16. Dentist thing really has to be done
  17. Take the train (vague and interesting)
  18. Walk the Tongariro Crossing
  19. Find good boots
  20. Make my own bath bomb
  21. Cuddle a Koala bear
  22. Get myself to a festival
  23. Make rainbow drawers
  24. Revamp the unit thingy in the garage
  25. Do the full on Rotorua experience
  26. Walk on an active volcano
  27. Have a voucher frenzy
  28. Embrace the World Cup
  29. Plant more wild flowers
  30. Spend lazy days at the beach this summer
  31. But while doing number 30 try this body boarding marlarcky
  32. Plan smashin 40th birthday trip
  33. Lay in a hammock
  34. Make a will
  35. Make eating at the table a habit
  36. Make Adams birthday a special event
  37. Meet up with those folk I went to school with that live really not that far from me
  38. Breathe well
  39. Bake the epic super rainbow cake
  40. Feed the birds

Have I?

Well while feeling contemplative and wonder some on the eve on my birthday I feel a list would be better. I made a list last year, 39 things to do before my birthday, so should I reflect and assess my progress. Should I worry about what I haven't achieved, who should judge? The only thing I can say really is I thought I'd get a lot more done. So do I save them and roll them over for tomorrows list? This year has done my head in to be honest. I've been away from home long enough so it doesn't feel like and adventure anymore. I've questioned a lot and not got a lot of answers. Forgive my terrible English, I'm a disgrace to my education, I know.

I have kept true to number 30 and while it has taken 363 days before I was creative and thoughtful in my writing, it has been an interesting exercise. The journal in itself is delightful, from the wonderful Kikki.K,  and it has travelled with me everywhere and I do get behind missing a day or two and while trying to catchup with events scare myself over my poor memory I've enjoyed the experience. The daily countdown of days till my year was up may have a negative effect on me facing this years birthday, so I'll be trying something different come the 15th. I realise how lucky I am to be alive, too look forward to my birthday, to have another birthday, there are those out there, my age who don't have that privilege and it's kind of done me in a bit thinking about that.

While I long to be a free spirit and a crazy hippy soul, there will always be the list maker in me. It may be a notebook thing, but this is a confession to be sure. I keep a list of all the post I send and all the post I receive. I love post, I mean really love getting post. I'm an Internet addict for sure, but real letters, so very lovely. I am  blessed by great friends who write to me, so I hope I have returned enough joy in the post.

This was number 33 in my list last year, so just to make sure, I counted. I've sent at least 64 postcards, Jan tops the list in case you're wondering, she got 6 of them, with Lesley and Dr Wray coming in a close second at 5 each. I've sent 17 parcels, that's ridiculous, but the Grains are the winners there, with Mum coming in close behind. I'm not so strong on letters, only 22, with Sally getting most of those. I splash cards about fairly freely, no clear winners in this section, but Jane, Dad and Jayne C all on three each. Now who get the most, so totaling cards, letters, parcels etc altogether whose address do I write the most. The Grains win again, with my mum/sis  and Jane all getting into double figures. A common number of items was 7 - that's not even once a month. I thought I was good. Em, I feel bad, you'll be the one person I know who will read and comment on this and only 7 bits of post in a year, you've sent me such great parcels, your turn will come. Clearly I must try harder next year.

Though having just gone through the exercise of counting all this, I am more concerned about my mental health than ever before.

Doubtful Baking

, originally uploaded by KTandCoffee.
I was worried, they didn't look as great as they should. That wonderful smell of freshly baked bread and banana loaf was there, so there was some hope, but I had my doubts and concerns.
The last couple of loaves I've made in the bread maker have not been good. Kind of stodgy in the middle!! My keen sense of logic led me to believe it was the yeast as this was the only thing new/different from previous gorgeous bread. So a new pot of yeast it was, so this was the first loaf, my trusty kibbled wheat and pumpkin seed.
As for the banana loaf, I tried a recipe from Sophie Dahl's book, and I was doubtful throughout, and more so at the end, darker than normal and not very risen. I must confess the couple of things of tried from this book haven't been great, but I am continuing with faith.

So of course the best thing to do is to take them all into work. These are the folks who think my muffins are 'too moist', so if there was a problem they wouldn't hold back. Kiwi folk are quite direct and speak their mind, with no holes barred most of the time.
Given the night shift we had was not exactly straight forward, I was very grateful for the moist, dense rich banana cake I had created. I'm sure it would be great with a dollop of cream, but not last night. The bread looked and I'm told was fine, I had a little prod and I didn't get a stodgy vibe. Hurrah. What to make next week.

Kevin's New Home

Our potted Christmas Tree has been looking rather sad of late, dead like would be a nearer description. We've been worried, so after two years in a couple of pots we decided it was time to be planted in the real world. When we emptied Kevin (named after the dog (or was it the bird thingy) in Disney's 'Up' (I'm not much of an animation film kind of girl, but I loved loved Up)) out of his pot, it was clear that the lack of drainage may have contributed to the poor state of the tree. 

So with Adam as ever doing the digging, Kevin is planted in the garden. He's looking rather forlorn and very small, but we have good volcanic soil. I do so hope he does well. 

Elsewhere in the garden I've kept busy, tidying up messy corners, sorting out pots for the front steps, enjoying the bulbs and other flowers I planted, rejoicing as the lavender looks set to flower again and grinning rather widely when I saw the first buds of blossom on our little tree. 

Spring is really on its way, which is just as well as I've taken a risk and planted my first tomato plants. 


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