Archive for the ‘christmas’ Category

Plan B and another little task or two

October 1, 2019

We had intended to be heading on out of Auckland long before now but sometimes life just throws a curve ball at you. Actually it feels as though the curve balls have been coming at us in a continuous stream over the past year or two, and I can tell you that we are getting pretty good at batting away those balls.

So to plan B, to cut a long story short, Roy had to have a few tests and the like done which meant we had to stay around Auckland at Ardmore for an extra couple of weeks. The upshot is that he is all good and we can soon get back to plan A.

On the positive side it has meant that we’ve spent a bit of time with Antony, well, that really means that we have been heading around to his place most nights for me to cook dinner for us all, not that I mind at all and I’m sure he doesn’t either. And it’s been great to watch the rugby with him as well.

We’ve also managed to catch up with Simon, Anita and Maria and spend some time with them. Maria turned 3 the day after we returned from the UK so it was lovely to catch up and spend some time playing games that only 3 year old girls like to play! She is a delightful young lady and a pleasure to be around.

So to keep busy whilst we wait, there has been another couple of tasks that I’ve managed to get underway whilst at Ardmore.

Many years ago, my lovely sister-in-law Ann made us a beautiful quilt. Ann loved her quilting and over the years made many heirloom keepsakes for family and friends. As well, she was involved with quilting guilds on a local and national level and she loved going off with friends for weekend retreats and workshops.

We love our quilt and had been on our bed just about ever since it was gifted to us. It is made even more special since Ann sadly passed away just over 7 years ago, aged 59, but we remember her every day that we look at the quilt. However, the quilt has started to need some repair as the batting that she used inside the quilt has shrunk with washing and some of the material has started to fray.

The last time I saw my sister Sue (also an expert quilter), she said that if I unpicked all the quilting she would repair, reback, and rebuild it for me. A huge task in itself but the unpicking is not an inconsiderable task either.

Not one to back out of a challenge, I started on the incredibly laborious task of unpicking the tiny machine quilted stitching this week. With quick unpick in hand, I carefully started on one side of the quilt. After many many hours with not much to show except very sore fingers and bits of cotton everywhere, I had managed to unpick one small edge side of quilting. I was quite proud of my efforts.

See all that tiny tiny stitching in the pale coloured material? Yep, I have to unpick a queen sized quilts worth of this!!!

To give you an idea of scale, each one of these little squares is approximately 4cm…that’s an awful lots of stitching to undo

I was sitting in the van doing a bit of unpicking when some fellow motorhomers called in for a cuppa. We’d only met Debbie & Chris the week before but we enjoyed chatting with them so invited them in for morning coffee. Debbie noticed my unpicking and asked what I was doing, she said she was a seamstress/dressmaker (ok, what IS the difference between the two?) and could she show me a quicker way to unpick? Oh yes please, said I. First I needed to go and buy some one sided razor blades and she would show me what to do.

Later that same day, with a pack of razor blades in hand I was knocking on their door asking for a quick lesson in fast unpicking. Debbie showed me the method; cut the stitching with the razor blade between the backing material and batting pulling it apart to expose the stitching and cutting the thread. As we are replacing the backing material there will be no issue if I have a wee oops!

Well, now there is no stopping me. What was going to take me a month of Sunday’s before even making a dent with the unpicking, after three days I have the bulk of it done and another week should see it all finished. Thank you so much Debbie for showing me the way!

Some of the fabric is pretty fragile, I just hope that somehow Sue will be able to work some of her magic on it for us.

During the week I also got another task done, that is making my Christmas Cakes. I went round to Antony’s to utilise his oven, as one of the cakes has a 3 and half hour bake time .

Christmas cake one underway

This recipe is the one my mum used to make not only for Christmas but also for our wedding cakes. We love this cake with a slice of cheddar cheese – a Yorkshire way of eating fruit cake. The recipe is actually my grandmothers and contains just sultanas, raisins and currants (1.75kg – nearly 4lbs) and no nuts. It’s supposed to have a dash or two of brandy in it but we didn’t have any but I did find a good alternative.

Found this substitute for brandy in our stash.

We brought this Armagnac back from France some time ago so I thought it is a good swap as it is a style of brandy, and I carefully measured it in exactly the same way Mum did….a good glug or two poured straight from the bottle into the cake mix is a measure isn’t it?

Ready for the oven

and the end result

Baked and cooled

Time to wrap them up and put away in the tins for a month or two.

Then it’s onto the next cakes, these ones are a recipe I have developed over the years and is basically all fruit and nuts, some call it a stained glass window cake as when the cake is sliced it resembles a stained glass window. This time Roy sacrificed some of his rum to go into these cakes, rationed nip measures of course.

Ready to go in the oven

Once the cakes were cooked and cooled, I wrapped them tightly in tinfoil and went to put them in the tin, but guess what? each cake was just a little too long to fit into the cake tin so a sliver had to be sacrificed off each end.

Trimmed

Of course we had to sample the trimmed slices, with a cup of tea, as it would have been a waste otherwise 😉. We can report it is delicious!

Happy New Year

December 31, 2018

It’s been a bit of a busy old week between Christmas and New Year what with one thing or another. There are 160 campers (maximum daily capacity) to deal with and all their associated queries, assistance and issues.

Here are a few pics of the camp ground after the rain,

View from above with large areas roped off due to wet ground and lakes forming

And some of the camping set ups are quite impressive, this group of friends have their tents on the left with a corridor between their 5 gazebos all lined up in a row.

And this is one set up we rarely see, a fence around their camp site, we are not sure if it is to keep their children in, or other people out!

And we have had a few friends visit this week which has been wonderful.

First there was Brian, a very dear friend whom we met on our very first week in our motorhome and subsequently met and travelled with him and his dear wife & best mate Marj who died at the beginning of the year. We had a few trips away together including the Wairarapa and Hawke’s Bay and to Cape Reinga and points in between before they sold their bus. It was a bit of a trip down memory lane reminiscing about places we had journeyed to and people we have met, and a bit of a tribute to Marj, an amazing lady who is greatly missed but remembered with lovely memories.

The following day we had a visit from Jude & Shaun, friends from Tokoroa days who now live in Te Anau. They were up in Auckland celebrating the festive season with a couple of their children who live here, and with their granddaughter who they are now raising after the tragic sudden death of their daughter Lesley. They are doing an amazing job and it was great to catch up, reminisce, then discuss and solve the problems of the world!

Of course I neglected to take any photos of either visit!

The next day Helen & Don (Oamaru) came in their motorhome to stay with us for a few days and to see the new year in.

This is the 2018 photo

And this is the 2014 version!!!

not a lot has changed!

We have been very fortunate this year with many gifts given to us from grateful campers, we have enough chocolates and wine to last us quite a while, we even got some lovely solar powered Christmas lights from some, and the live crayfish from other campers was very gratefully accepted 😉.

We would like to wish all our readers a very happy, safe, healthy and contented 2019 and we look forward to many more adventures to share. Cheers.

Merry Christmas

December 26, 2018

Merry Christmas, seasons greetings and happy New Year to you all from a very wet Shakespear Regional Park. The Pohutukawa are still putting on a fine display for Christmas Day although nearing the end of their flowering season.

We spent Christmas Eve evacuating campers to a woolshed on the park for a dry place to sleep as well as moving others to higher ground as streams overflowed, and puddles became small lakes. Some people just abandoned ship and went home returning the following day to collect all their very wet and in some cases broken camping gear.

The trees took a real battering with the wind overnight and we woke this morning to a carpet of red snow.

In the wind and rain we packed ourselves up ready to move at a moments notice as the stream at the back of where we parked rose and overflowed coming within a metre of the wheels, however we did not have to move this time. It just so happened that the worst of the downpour coincided with high tide which compounded matters. In the end, the rain eased and the tide turned enabling the water to drain.

Nevertheless most people were in good spirits and coped well with the situation.

Christmas morning was spent helping out campers who were trying to retrieve gear, dry out or find a dry spot, or needed help with a jump start for flat batteries or duct tape to mend broken tent poles. Unfortunately that meant we didn’t get to sit down to eat our (now cold) breakfast until 11.30am. Even a call from Alex was interrupted numerous times with people wanting assistance.

Roy and I enjoyed our Christmas dinner in the evening, a lovely cranberry and orange stuffed turkey breast wrapped in bacon then roasted accompanied by gravy as well as a cranberry port sauce and the usual array of vegetables. We were both too full after the main event to even think about any dessert.

Boxing Day has been a very windy day which has been really helpful to those wanting to dry out wet gear, however some tents are not handling the wind too well and minor repairs are being made.

All in all a very memorable Christmas, we trust you all enjoyed your celebrations. We wish you all a safe and happy holiday season.

Early Christmas present

December 19, 2018

We’ve given ourselves an early Christmas present, we have booked and paid for our trip to London next year! We depart Auckland on the 19th May and with a quick change of planes in Hong Kong continue our journey to arrive in London in the very early hours of the 20th May, but don’t worry Alex, we will catch the train into town from Heathrow to arrive at your place at a reasonable hour.

We will arrive 12 days before Alex & Ian’s baby is due, keeping our fingers crossed that the baby doesn’t arrive early! We return to NZ on 30 August at midnight with an overnight stay in Hong Kong just to break the trip a little.

We haven’t planned anything else in between as yet but a trip to Ireland definitely looks promising. We shall leave Alex & Ian to find their feet once baby arrives, however we shall be around to provide support when and if needed. So I’m sure a few trips here and there will be in order and it will be so nice to be in England over their summer months for a change from our usual visits in winter.

And of course it will be lovely to spend time with our grandchild and do the whole spoiling, cuddling and generally annoy everyone with how it will be the cutest bestest baby ever!!

Oh and I see that the Netball World Champs are on in Liverpool in July, now that is good timing!

Bloomin’ lovely

December 15, 2018

It’s Christmas and the trees are all decorated, I mean the New Zealand native Christmas trees aka Pohutakawas, and they are particularly magnificent this year.

The pohutukawa tree (Metrosideros excelsa) with its crimson flower has become an established part of the New Zealand Christmas tradition. This iconic Kiwi Christmas tree, which often features on greeting cards and in poems and songs, has become an important symbol for New Zealanders at home and abroad.

Pohutukawa and its cousin rata also hold a prominent place in Maori tradition. Legends tell of Tawhaki, a young Maori warrior, who attempted to find heaven to seek help in avenging the death of his father. He fell to earth and the crimson flowers are said to represent his blood.

A gnarled, twisted pohutukawa on the windswept cliff top at Cape Reinga, the northern tip of New Zealand, has become of great significance to many New Zealanders. For Maori this small, venerated pohutukawa is known as ‘the place of leaping’. It is from here that the spirits of the dead begin their journey to their traditional homeland of Hawaiki. From this point the spirits leap off the headland and climb down the roots of the 800-year-old tree, descending into the underworld on their return journey.

Colours vary as well with the flowers ranging from pink to red to crimson to a bronze red. There are also yellow pohutakawa, which I like to think of as my Christmas tree decked out in golden decorations.

I love the long twisting branches and the way the tree clings improbably to cliffs. Kids love playing amongst its branches and we all love to camp or picnic beneath their arching limbs providing much needed shade from the summer sun.

In times past, I was known for my elaborately decorated Christmas trees, always colour themed, and never the same colours repeated.

Now I am just happy to see nature’s best decorated trees in all their glory.

Kew Gardens at Christmas

December 30, 2017

Who knew that Kew Gardens opens up at night over the Christmas period for a spectacular Christmas lighting show? Roy, Antony and I made our way across London via bus, train and tube to wait for Alex and Ian to independently arrive after work at the train stop near Kew. We had arranged to meet at a local pub not too far from the gardens ready for our allocated time of entry into the gardens. Following are just some pictures showing the amazing display which we found as we meandered through the gardens.

Christmas tree made up of sleighs with an ever changing colourful light display set to music.

This impressive display of balls which changed colour and lighting variation in time to amazing orchestral music. The balls covered an area the size of half a football field.

Lights and decorations among the treeStars light the trees

tunnel of lights

Alex & Ian in the tunnel of lightColourfully lit bridge which was again a moving light show set to music. When we got to walk across the bridge we discovered that there was another light show going on under the water, all coordinated to the music.

and then there was the marshmallows to toast over braziers. Roy and I toasting our chosen flavours, mine was toasted coconut, his was passion fruit and ginger.

and the four of us toasting marshmallows, L-R Bernice Antony Roy and Alex. And the other flavours? Alex & Ian had raspberry and champagne, Antony had caramel popcorn. They were amazingly delicious and a welcome treat about half way around the walk.

one of the beautiful huge trees all dressed in lights

the Kew Gardens Glass House with a beautiful lighting display

But at the end of the trail was the pièce de résistance, a lighting show displayed on a fountain of water in the middle of the Lake set to music telling a tale of Christmas including moving figures.

the display in the Lake with the glass house in the background.

More can be seen here

After just over two and a half hours we had made our way back to the start, now to catch the tube and then the train home after a great night out.

Christmas in London

December 29, 2017

Plans were made, orders placed and lists drawn up in readiness for Christmas Day. Alex and Ian were hosting Christmas Day festivities this year and for Ian’s family this would be a little different from their traditional fare. Tables were arranged so everyone could be seated comfortably, seating plans were made, cutlery and crockery were borrowed, Christmas crackers were made, the menu drawn up and we were all set for the day with a bit of a kiwi twist put on it all.

The English were nearly outnumbered by Kiwis though as Alex’s friend from Oamaru days, Kaz, who also lives in London came to join in the fun. However, it was not all going to be Kiwified, one English tradition for this family is that you all head to the pub around midday for a couple of hours, to meet up with friends, celebrate over a couple of drinks before heading home for Christmas dinner, it was in fact good fun and a nice way for everyone to catch up with friends before going off home for family time. It also happens to be one of Ian’s mates birthday on Christmas Day and there is a long standing tradition of him opening his birthday gifts from his mates whilst at the pub…..let’s just say that I have no idea where these guys found the gifts but let’s just say they were hilarious (and some were very definitely x rated!!).

Once back at home, Alex and I got into cooking mode, although there wasn’t that much to do as we had prepped just about everything before hand, so it was just the last finishing touches to do.the table all set ready to go

We all settled down with a festive drink and some nibbles before dinner was ready, Roy had made a delicious duck pistachio and cranberry terrine which with a few pickles and some nice bread went down very well. Then it was time for entree and our homage to turkey, in the form of turkey bonbons with a port cranberry sauce. Apparently roast turkey is the usual main course in this part of the world and to deviate from having a turkey was unheard of. So as not to disappoint those who wanted turkey we came up with this alternative, turkey breast pieces in a spicy rub encased in phylo pastry made to look like Christmas crackers or bonbons. They went down a treat. Then it was the main course…..Beef Wellington using ribeye beef, and it looked and tasted fantastic I have to say, and along with all the trimmings it was a great success. You will note a lack of photographic evidence of the food….some of us were working too hard to have remembered to take any pictures!! However here are a few of us enjoying the meal.

Once the main was out of the way it was time to adjourn to the lounge for another variation on Christmas gift giving, our version of secret Santa.

everyone was told to buy a gift to a nominated value, wrap in newspaper and bring it along. Everyone then draws a number out of a hat to determine the order in which you choose and open a gift, once opened, you can then opt to either keep the gift or swap with another opened gift. With much hilarity gifts were opened, kept, swapped and swapped again.

Christine opening one of her gifts with Julie & Brian watching on

who bought that, we all wondered?!

Antony and Ian discussing the pros and cons with the rest of us laughing along

Roy and Alex

It was all rather hilarious with some inventive wrapping and packaging also in evidence, and everyone received a really good present. I think that the English members of the family were quite impressed with the whole idea and it certainly makes life a lot easier rather than buying small gifts for all.

The gift swapping took a good hour and a half to complete and then it was time for dessert, a pavlova of course and a chocolate roulade as well as a small Christmas pudding for those traditionalists.

There was a planned cheeseboard for afters but by this time we were all well and truly full, so it was time for trying out some of those gifts, generally chat and look back on the day. The outcome? Well, the English have decided that Christmas 2019 will be held in New Zealand with our turn to host……hmmmm, does that mean we shall have to find ourselves a base? We shall see!!!

Antony arrives

December 28, 2017

Back tracking a little, late Friday afternoon the week before Christmas Alex, Roy and I headed off to Heathrow to pick up Antony who was arriving after a loooong trip from Auckland to London via LA and Munich. Unfortunately we got caught up in some very heavy traffic which was then further complicated by a breakdown in one of the lanes and we ground to a complete halt for some time, and as a result we were running late.

traffic at a standstill in the rain.

We arrived a little late however Antony was through customs and had collected his luggage and was waiting for us, wearing shorts and jandals! Brrr, he might just be changing into something a little warmer once we get home. We had a good run home where we organised dinner whilst Antony had a shower to freshen up as after 36 hours of travelling all you want is a nice hot shower, a bite to eat and then bed.

The following day was spent doing a bit of shopping and getting organised in readiness for Christmas Day as Alex & Ian are hosting the day this year. Then in the late afternoon, Antony and Ian went off to a local pub to watch a football match and undoubtedly down a few pints whilst Alex, Roy and I went off to see the pantomime Cinderella at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford.

view of the stage from our seats.

The panto was hilarious with humour aimed at both adults and children, but the best part of the whole show for us was watching the young boy in front of us becoming totally involved in the show, yelling at the villain and shouting out the traditional “he’s behind you” or “watch out” or cheering on the hero/heroine. It was a really lovely night out.

The following day we all went into London to the Southbank Christmas market as well as the regular street food market a few hundred metres away. We enjoyed a variety of street food first finding some shelter from the drizzly cold weather under a marquee before we headed off to the Christmas market. We wandered around the stalls imbibing on a little mulled wine along the way, just to keep us warm of course, before deciding to adjourn to the bar under the bridge purely to stay dry on the outside.

Alex, Antony, Ian, Roy and I.

sign at the bar!

The next couple of days were spent going off to visit museums, more markets and generally getting prepared for Christmas.

Merry Christmas

December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas to you all,

From the Vannini’s in London.

Interruption

December 11, 2017

We interrupt the usual broadcast to tell you that we are back in London, we have been back a couple of weeks now, and yes, we are behind with blog posts. We just have a couple more posts to do on our last few days in Spain before we returned to the UK, hopefully we can get those done this week.

Meanwhile here are a couple of pictures from yesterday’s snow event…..yes, it’s cold, but it’s pretty and what you expect at this time of the year we are just hoping we get more for Christmas Day then we will have a white Christmas.

looking out of the upstairs hall window to the street

The neighbour clearing her driveway

Ian’s family came for lunch and to introduce us all to Beth, who was only born just over a week ago, and her big sister Olivia. With the snow falling continuously for most of the day Olivia wanted to build a snowman, Alex was co-opted into assisting with the making of the snowman, complete with stones for his eyes, a carrot for his nose and twigs for his arms,

Then to finish the day, we had a little gingerbread house building and decorating with Olivia….not sure that all of the decorations ended up on the house but she loved doing it!

Normal blog transmission will resume shortly!