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.


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