We have the power

July 4, 2020

It was a leisurely start to the day, besides, it was freezing cold so the option to stay rugged up in bed was the best choice. However, once the sun came up we were ready to leave AJ’s Park at Horahora and make our way back to Hamilton. But first a visit to the dump station in Cambridge to empty the tanks and what an easy dump station to access it was with plenty of room for us to turn around with the car hitched on the back as well.

It was only another 30minute drive through to Hamilton. Again we spent the night at the Classics museum before the van went into Wayne at Motorhome Solar to get some extra solar put on the roof and new batteries. Our batteries are just over 9 years old and although still doing a fine job, we know that they will probably need to be replaced, and it’s not a cheap exercise either. But as most people only get 3-5 years of use out of a set of batteries, then 9 years of continual use is pretty damn impressive so we cannot complain. We have looked after them and we are not huge users of power although over the summer months we do go through a lot more use when we offer the charging facility to campers at Shakespear.

We arrived at Motorhome Solar just after 8am which was after we scraped the ice off the car and the van as well as running the engines to warm things up a little. Brrrr, we are not used to this sort of cold. A discussion took place about what we are after and the best way to achieve this then we left the van in Wayne’s good care and headed off to find somewhere nice for breakfast. A quick google search and we found a place called Cinnamon not too far away. We had just arrived ready for a good breakfast when Wayne messaged to say that our batteries are fine and in great condition so there is no need to replace them. Woohoo.

Back to breakfast, we perused the menu and made our choices.

Eggs Benedict with crispy bacon for Bernice

Liver and bacon for Roy

They were both utterly delicious and our timing was perfect as we had just received our breakfast when the power went off. So no more coffees although some breakfasts could still be cooked as they had gas hobs. The power was only out for about 15minutes before normality resumed. After our leisurely breakfast it was off to the shops and laundromat to attend to domestic duties before we got the call to say the van was finished. Oh and if you are looking for a laundromat in Hamilton then we can recommend Crystal laundromat in Avalon drive, everything was constantly being cleaned and scrubbed, it was spotless.

Previously we had done quite well with our solar panels, we had a 95W panel which was on the van when we bought it, and then we had put on a further two 135W panels. Now all of those panels were coming off and four 200W panels were being put on.

The old panels being removed

I didn’t get a picture of the new panels in situ when we picked up the van as we were keen to get on the road, and I haven’t persuaded Roy to climb up on the roof as yet. With no new batteries required, Wayne did upgrade our MPPT controller, which we only had put in late last year however he generously gave us a good credit. We also had our Electric Warrant of Fitness renewed as that had expired. We can highly recommend Wayne and his great friendly team at Motorhome Solar, they do a great job, they don’t feed you any ¥§€$#* and they do a very neat and tidy job all at a reasonable cost. And what we really like is the fact that you are kept up with the play with messages letting you know what is happening.

We left Hamilton just on 3pm, and what should have been a comfortable 50min trip took us just over 2hours. School holidays have started and lots of people seemed to be trying to get away for the weekend, compound that with road works continually along the route and it became a very slow trip. However, we arrived safely and in daylight (just) which is one of our “rules” I.e. always arrive at your destination well before the sun goes down.

We are here at AJs for a night or two before heading off again on our travels, meanwhile the power is pouring into the batteries even though it’s a very overcast and dull day. We are happy customers.

On the road again

June 28, 2020

Before we left Ardmore, my brother John and his partner Jude called in to say hi. We had a good couple of hours catching up with all their news before they had to continue on their journey home to Waiotahi. Friend Janet also called in to see us as she dropped off some goodies for us. We had spent a recent afternoon playing cards with Ron & Janet at their place in Ararimu. It was a blissful afternoon and evening spent with them as we all love playing cards. Ron & Janet are just one of the few people that we know who enjoy playing Samba so we always love having the opportunity to play. A wonderful afternoon and evening quickly went by before we returned to the van at Ardmore.

We saw a vehicle with a car parked up at Ardmore which we thought was Chris & Debbie so we rock up and knocked on the door. Oops, we were looking for Chris & Debbie we explain, and it’s obviously not you. The delightful gentleman, Steve, replied “we can be Chris & Debbie if you like!” After chatting at the door for a while, we were invited in and spent the next hour pleasantly chatting with Steve & Marianne (I hope I’ve spelt your name correctly). So, cheers Debbie & Chris, you inadvertently introduced us to more nice folk!

We bade a fond farewell to Antony and thanked him for his wonderful hospitality over the past week as it’s time for us to finally hit the road. We enjoyed our time spent with Ants, he is so easy going, welcoming and he always makes us laugh.

We have had a bit of an issue with our solar power since having the roof sorted so we are off to Hamilton to get the power issue looked at. We are already booked in at the end of next week to have more solar put on the roof and possibly new batteries but we need to get things checked out first as the solar doesn’t appear to be working properly.

Just over an hours drive, 98km or 60miles

We left Ardmore mid morning and arrived in Hamilton after a very pleasant drive along the new-to-us Expressway. A new section of the road has been completed since we were last down this way and it’s a dream to drive straight through from Auckland now, bypassing Huntly and Taupiri with some lovely new scenery along the way to keep things interesting.

Parked at Classics Museum

We parked up at the Classic Museum for the night, we were due to take the van around to Wayne Hunt at Motorhome Solar the following morning. However, we were just driving out of the parking area in the car to go get our grocery shopping done when we did a quick u turn. I spotted Wayne driving in, he just so happened to be coming in to see one of the caravans parked up. We quickly said hi, and he said he’d come and see us after he had finished with his other client.

Wayne had a quick look at our system, then he hopped up onto the roof to check out our existing panels, and what do you know? One of the panels wasn’t hooked up! That explains why the solar input was so dismal. The connection hadn’t been clicked together fully after the panels were put back on when the roof was recoated.

With the power issue sorted we headed off to get our shopping done as we were due to visit friends Wade & Lindsay. We spent a lovely afternoon and evening catching up with all their family news, reminiscing and laughing over old times, remembering places and people from our younger days living in Tokoroa and generally setting the world to rights. It certainly is wonderful to have such long lasting friendships which we can pick up again no matter how long it is between meetings.

Without having the need to take the van into see Wayne the following morning, we could have a leisurely start to the day before the drive to our next destination. But first, I took a picture of a sign at the car museum for campers, outlining the rules ….with one line in particular making me do a double take, giving me a good laugh. Can you spot what it may be?

Camp rules

Here’s a close up of the wording

Hmmmm.

Yes indeed, clothing must be worn at all times. This makes me wonder what incident or incidents necessitated the inclusion of this in the rules. The mind boggles! Before any rule breakers could be spotted, we were off!

Our next destination is AJ’s Park next to the Horahora Domain just 40minutes south of Hamilton.

Nice to be back parked on grass with a bit of space around us

We are staying here until we go back to Hamilton for the solar upgrade, catching up with friends and family who live in the area with a quick side trip to Tauranga and Hamilton airport in between.

Oh, and we’ve had a bit of rain in the past couple of days to test out the roof…….no leaks so far. Fingers crossed it’s all fixed.

A curry up

June 24, 2020

Some of you may remember that when we returned from England last year, we received a lovely present from Alex, Ian and Callum which was a subscription to a monthly spice selection to make curry. You can refresh your memory here.

The meals are very generous in size, although they say they feed 4, we’ve always found that there is enough to serve at least 5 or 6 people. I saved a few of the packs until we were back with Antony so I could a) utilise his kitchen and b) have another mouth to feed with enough left over for his lunches.

The first curry to cook was a Trinidadian Meal, with very interesting names…

The title page

It is a duck curry, requiring 4 duck legs, although I couldn’t find duck legs at the supermarket, they did have whole duck which I figured I could break down and it would be similar quantities if not a little extra.

But it’s not just a curry that you cook. Oh no, it’s much much more…

The full menu

First there is the dhal to make, soaking the split peas first then cooking for ages, adding in some fried up spices at the end. The chutney to make, called mudda-in-law, the marinade for the duck, the mango salsa, and the dough for the Buss up Shut., very similar to a naan bread. There were lots of little things to make, chop and cook separately, such things as the tamarind sauce was made with the spice mix sachet and a few extra ingredients then cooked up until thickened….and it was delicious too I might add. By now the dishes were piling up on the no bench, never mind, we do have the rule that those that cook don’t do the dishes!!

The finished meal

We all agreed that it was damned delicious,

A decent plate full

I tried to capture Antony enjoying the meal, but all I got was this delightful face

Lovely!!

And there was plenty leftover, enough for Roy to have when I cook the next meal which is a chicken curry – Roy does not eat chicken.

The next lot of dishes to cook

Some of the elements of the final menu on the stove….I forgot to take photos of the final dishes.

Both menus were damn delicious, although we all agreed that the Trini curry was much more flavoursome, and we all really enjoyed the two different dhal dishes – one made with green split peas and the other with red lentils, both equally tasty.

I think I have one more pack to make up, we shall have to make that on our return journey……as the pile of dishes seems to be enormous to cook up all the elements.

A new roof over our heads

June 20, 2020

It’s been a while, a long while in fact, since we’ve packed up everything to move. On Sunday we bade farewell to Shakespear and the awesome team of rangers, volunteers and staff whom we have really got to know over our extended stay here.

The kindness shown to us has been humbling. Throughout the unusual experience of lockdown to then have that combined with being quite seriously ill, we have been overwhelmed with the care and compassion shown to us. It’s been a rather surreal experience in some ways, I have to admit that for the first 5 weeks of lockdown, I was so damn unwell that I think I may have slept the weeks away.

I don’t think we could have been in a better place though, surrounded by nature in all its glory, and the best bit of all? Well, that would have to be the on-site Ranger Bruce who was so kind to us. From donning PPE gear to collect our groceries, to making sure we were safe, to mowing the grass surrounding our van, and to making us laugh.

A range of Ranger skills

Oh and all the card games too, once we were at level one.

We left Shakespear late Sunday afternoon, after a final couple of games of 5 Crowns with Bruce and his wife Lianne, to stealth camp outside the repair shop ready for an early morning start Monday morning.

But to backtrack a little, our roof is covered with a butyl rubber coating, it’s an American thing. We have subsequently been told that it shouldn’t be water blasted…..oops, it may have happened here. And repairs were successfully done here

But a few weeks ago, another leak appeared, we think with further degradation of some lifted silicone sealer, a combination of over zealous cleaning and NZ’s intense sun, so it was time to fix it properly once and for all.

We headed off to see Peter Webster at RVRepairs in Albany, we had used peter before so we knew he was very good. I had done lots of research and asked for opinions and kept coming back to one product. On talking with Peter, who had also done lots of research, we had both come up with the same product EternaKote. It’s made by the same people that make the Eternabond tape, a must-have in all good RV repair kits. It’s not a cheap exercise but hey, we are only going to do this once and besides, the product has a 50year warranty so it must be good.

The before picture

The during

The after

We are very pleased with the results, and it wasn’t as half as expensive as we had budgeted for which was a bonus. Another bonus was when he took two of the solar panels off, he discovered that wiring joints were a bit dodgy, so he fixed those before putting the panels back on. A loose connection may well have been the cause of some strange readings on the solar input that we have noticed recently, we shall monitor this over the weekend and see if there is a noticeable difference.

Busy fingers

June 9, 2020

It hasn’t all been relaxing in the sunshine, waiting for the Covid alert levels to go down, I have kept my hands busy. A little bit of knitting has been done, once I managed to get some supplies of course, but my bigger project has been to start making an advent calendar for Callum.

I first made this particular advent calendar 32years ago for my two and have subsequently made quite a number of them. It comprises of a wall hanging with a Christmas Tree adorned with 24 buttons on which to hang little stuffed felt figures with 24 numbered pockets underneath the tree to hold all the Christmas themed ornaments.

However, to backtrack a little, of course all my handcraft materials and patterns are packed away in storage so I’ve had to start my collections of materials again. But where would I be able to find the pattern? I remembered giving it to a friend when we first moved to Auckland in the late 1980’s, on the off chance that Debbie still had the pattern I contacted her. Well, what do you know, she did have the pattern, so she emailed it to me. It’s looking very faded and dated, I think the copy that I gave Debbie was a copy, of a copy, of a copy!

I got the pattern off her last year before we went to the UK. I printed off the patterns and laminated them, spent hours cutting out all the little patterns ready to trace around them, then promptly put them away thinking I will do them next winter.

I was also given a selection of embroidery threads by my sister Sue as well as a few beads, ribbons and sequins that I would need to finish off the work.

Well, we all know what happened in between, don’t we? Yes, I got sick!! Then the whole world got sick. Over the last few weeks, since I’ve been able to get some supplies in, I’ve managed to get started making the little ornaments.

Most of the ones I have made are included in the pattern, but I have made a few patterns of my own such as the robins, the wreath, and the teddy.

A full set plus a couple spare

Each ornament takes me about an hour to make for the easier ones and probably 2 hours for the more complicated ones. I know I’m mad, but hey, it keeps my hands busy,

Then I got thinking, dangerous I know, and thought of a few more to add to the list, some of which I’ve made, but I have more ideas!!!

I made a penguin, fox and owl to start with and the head is brimming with lots more christmassy ideas…

Three more that need their hangers attached

Then I went off on a tangent.

What about a Kiwiana set?

I have to make sure that Callum knows that he’s half kiwi, but can I think of 24 kiwi things to make?……I started making a list, and the list grew, and grew, and grew some more. Some ideas were just too difficult to make so got instantly rejected (sorry Dave Dobbyn and Split Enz….tooo hard!!!) but at the last count I have 55 items on the list, and I’m sure there will be a few more added over the next few days, whether they get made or not is a different story.

A start on some of the easier options!

For those who can not pick what I’ve made, on the left is a red band gumboot/wellington boot, and a pavlova with cream and Kiwifruit on top. On the right from the top down is Tui, Kiwi and a Fantail.

It’s difficult to see from the photo but they are all three dimensional, sewn together with tiny stitches, embellished, then stuffed.

Firstly, I have had to make the patterns, I’ve already drafted up a dozen more ready to make, ensuring that they are no more than 3 inches tall. Of course I now need more supplies as I’ve run out.

Watch this space for the full kiwiana set, I’m sure that they will also make lovely decorations on the xmas tree, Alex. You’re welcome 😘.

Still here

June 5, 2020

We haven’t moved as we had originally planned. The thinking was that as we move down to Level 2 on the Covid-19 scale, we could move on and start heading north for the winter, NB Southern Hemisphere means moving north for warmer weather whereas our northern hemisphere friends would move south. However, moving down the alert scale also meant that things were returning to some semblance of normality with people returning to work and usual schedules. Hence we seemed to have a flurry of appointments to attend.

In between we had more friends visiting. Helen & Don as well as Wade & Lindsay visited for lunch one day. It was so lovely to have them here and to catch up after being in lockdown. We enjoyed hearing about their lockdown tales, both of them spent lockdown looking after grandchildren, which we were of course very envious of. I’m sure they have created wonderful memories of the strange year that was.

Carol & Glen came to stay in the Self Contained parking area and we enjoyed catching up with them before they headed north. It’s interesting to note how we all enjoyed our unique lockdown experiences, I’m sure we can all take some positives out of 2020.

Roy had a recall to the eye specialist, the upshot being he will be having cataract surgery at the end of the year. It’s not urgent as yet, but best to get onto these things before they become too much of an issue, so December was chosen as the best timing for us.

Roy also has an appointment next week for a repair and replacement to one of his hearing aids, it was scheduled of course for the first week of lockdown but we’ve had to wait until now to get it fitted.

It hasn’t stopped the odd hour or so spent fishing…

An hour of fishing.

We cannot complain about the weather we’ve had all the way through this lockdown period. I’m not sure if it’s because we have all paused for a month or two and had to actually take note of the weather. I’ve always thought that autumn was our most settled patch of weather here in NZ, but this year we had a lovely summer as well and the nice days just rolled into each other for an extended time. It’s starting to get a bit cooler and a bit of rain around now as well which brings to me to our next bit of planning.

We have the van booked in for some maintenance work to be done, actually it’s a major….with the roof being resealed. We had a little bit of a leak develop that Roy seems to have fixed however it seems prudent that we get it sorted properly. That will be in done in just over a week and will take 2 or 3 days so we shall be having a little holiday at Chez Antony.

Getting saucy

May 25, 2020

After purchasing a load of veggies at the market garden, it was time to deal with them. Over the next few days pickles, chutneys, relishes and sauces were made, bottled labeled and stored.

Veg chopped and brined ready to make Giadineiri

Bottled, ready to store

Peppers being chopped for pepper jelly, delicious with cheese! Note my handy and effective little chopper on the left that is operated by pulling the handle, a bargain at $5 from KMart and it works brilliantly.

Sauce in the making. Note that I use my trusty old mouli to blend the sauce as if you use a processor or blender, it tends to chop the tomato seeds which can make the sauce bitter. It also successfully removes the skins. And from one large preserving pan, there is about half a cup of skins & seeds leftover.

Bottled and lids put on. Then we wait for that most satisfying sound, the sound of lids ‘popping’, meaning that they have all sealed.

Labelled ready to put away

In between, we had a few visitors as well. First were the rangers as Frankie was celebrating her birthday so they came for morning tea dressed appropriately including wig, crown and feather boas for the birthday girl. The rest of us had ‘lovely’ party hats.

Rae, Emma, Frankie and Bruce (Steve hiding around the corner). Frankie all dressed up for the occasion

Friends John & Sarah came out to visit as well and it was lovely to catch up on their news.

Sarah Roy and John enjoying the sunshine outside their motorhome

And a blog wouldn’t be complete without a picture of this gorgeous wee man

Growing up all too quickly.

A woohoo day

May 23, 2020

It was an early start to the day, well, early for one member of the touring party. We were on the road by 7.30am, not knowing how the traffic would be getting from one end of Auckland to the other now that we are at level with schools back and people back at work. It turned out that the traffic wasn’t too bad, just a little slow in a couple of places but I’m sure that some people have forgotten how to drive after being in lockdown for 7 or 8 weeks.

We arrived at Greenlane Hospital with plenty of time until my scheduled appointment, first we get checked in at the door by security before heading to reception. I had to go and have X-rays first. The newly reconfigured waiting room with chairs having ‘Do not sit here’ signs placed on two chairs with the next chair vacant, find a seat and wait. Got to keep up the social distancing. Once the X-rays are done it’s off to the next reception area standing on the appropriately marked spots to then be told to take a seat in the waiting room. Not too long to wait and I’m off to see the surgeon, the upshot of the consult? Without going into great detail, the main things are that recovery to full mobility (and free of pain) is a work in progress but I’m doing well, I’m on antibiotics for another 6 months but I’m discharged from his care through the public system however I will see him in a few months time in his rooms.

Yay, one thing done, now onto the next. A trip to Manukau to see Antony for a brief meet up at his work and collect our mail from him. It was great to see him after all these weeks and look forward to really catching up properly next week.

From there it was a short drive to the craft store for a few supplies including some wool whilst Roy managed to find another shop to spend his hard earned cash. There was a nice looking cafe nearby so we decided to have our lunch there, practising the new normal of one at a time in the door, standing on the x spots before sanitising and signing in, taking a seat at tables which now have appropriate distance between them. After a lovely lunch we headed off toward the next appointment.

But along the way we realised that via a small detour we could visit a favourite market garden and get in some supplies ready for some pickling, bottling and saucing to be done over the next few days. Back on the road again and off to the fishing shop where Roy was picking up a few essential supplies ready for some serious fishing in the months ahead.

Onto the next appointment at our GP, where Roy was having his medical for his drivers licence renewal. That completed, it was again off across to the other side of Auckland to the Cardiac Specialist for Roy’s 2 year checkup. Whilst I waited in the car, I read Roys drivers licence renewal form noticed that the GP had ticked the wrong boxes for the drivers licence. After the successful visit with the cardiologist was completed where Roy was given a big tick, we headed back across the city to the GP, fighting the 5pm traffic! Get the form changed to include Heavy Traffic licence and then time to head home along with everyone else it seems, getting back to the van early evening.

We are now all good to go medically, just a few more things to be ticked off the list before we can head off into the wild blue yonder. Watch this space.

Moving on down

May 13, 2020

It seems as though most of NZ thought that we were already out of Covid-19 level 3 and had moved to level 2 well before it was happening. Particularly over the last weekend it seemed as though the fine weather gave people a ‘get out of jail’ card and ventured out to the beaches, some travelling quite a distance. We too have ventured to the beach but as it’s just a 150m walk from the van, the beach is well within our local area.

View along the beach on our walk

Although there were a few more people on the beach throughout the weekend, at least during the week we basically have it to ourselves.

We just hope that we do not come out of lockdown too early as we see what has happened overseas with a resurgence of the virus. We can only hope that people are still sensible.

Last week I had my flu jab, Roy had his a few weeks ago at our Doctors. I was scheduled to have it done at the same time after I had my PICC line removed but my appointment times overran each other which meant that I missed out, instead I had it done last week at the local pharmacy. The appointment was made, I was told not to get out of the car as they would administer the vaccine whilst I remained in the car and was vaccinated through the opened window. Easy as.

We also ventured out in the van to fill up with LPG as we have a large built in tank which fuels our fridge, cooker and hot water. It’s about 30kms to the nearest fuel station that also has auto LPG, but it didn’t take us long to get there and return back to our parking spot. Parking at a slightly different angle than previously to make sure we get as much sun as possible for our solar power.

Parked in the sun

This week we have tried our luck fishing off the beach. Now of course the problem was how to get the fishing line out to a reasonable distance off shore. The wind was blowing the wrong way for the kite, our drone compatriots are locked down elsewhere in the country, so what are we to do? Kayak fishing is not allowed in level 3 of lockdown but fishing is now allowed, as is kayaking…..hmmmm, put the thinking cap on. Bruce to the rescue, he came with his kayak, dragged the end of our line 300m off shore, dropped it off and came back to shore and left us to wait.

A little dot somewhere out there on the water is Bruce in the kayak

And what do you know? It worked! 7 snapper caught the first day, but only one was kept, even though some of the others were of legal size (just), we sent them back into the ocean to grow a little more. The following day we had another go with this time two very nice fish kept and a further four returned to swim again.

A couple of nice fish

Yum, fresh fish for dinner. And if you are wondering, the platter that the fish are sitting on is 60cm in length, so both good sized fish.

Thursday (tomorrow) is the day we change to level 2 rules, I think we will shy away from the shops until the excitement/madness wears off.  It’s all very well having all this spare time locked down but you need supplies to do all those things you’ve been meaning to do.  I must say that the hardware store and the wool shop will be on my must visit list as soon as possible.

We still have to remain careful so remember to wash your hands, keep your social distance, wear a mask, wash your hands and wash your hands.

A little bit of Crumpet

May 2, 2020

Not one to like throwing anything away, especially food related, I have always had a bit of angst over discarding my sourdough starter prior to feeding it.  But I recently discovered some uses for the unfed discard, which you can save up days worth of discard if necessary, to use to make many things such as pizza dough, crumpets, banana loaf and much more.  I decided to try my hand at crumpets.

But first to make the ring forms as I had an idea to make some out of folded tinfoil and form into a circle around a suitable sized jar.

Ring forms made

Next, it was time to make the batter. This consists of;

150gms unfed starter

60gms flour

60gms water

pinch of salt

1tsp baking powder

mix together in a bowl until batter is smooth.  Oil the insides of the forms with a pastry brush and olive oil, heat your frypan on a very low heat.  Place the oiled rings into the pan and add around 2 Tbsp batter to each ring.

The process underway

Cook on a low heat until bubbles form and the top of the batter becomes dull looking and set. You can pop some of the bubbles with a toothpick!

 The base should be quite a dark brown. Remove the ring forms by running a knife around the edge, then turn and cook until lightly browned.

Butter, top with topping of choice and enjoy!

Delicious

They will definitely be made again, I can feel the waist band expanding already!!