Archive for the ‘christmas’ Category

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.



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!


Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017

December 31, 2016

It’s always interesting to look back to see what we have done over the past year, and this year has been just as interesting and as fun as ever.

After finishing our camp hosting duties as Shakespear we headed off southwards to the southern most point on the North Island, extensively explored the Wairarapa, checked out every beach along the southern east coast and Hawkes Bay before heading north to the northernmost part of the North Island as well as points in between. We have met lots of new people, met up with friends both from long ago and more recent and from near and afar.  We have wined & dined, from first class to basic with the most memorable meals  being the ones shared with good friends.

We have had great success this year fishing and catching, catching enough to feed us and to share with others as well as stock the freezer.  

We have met up with family along the way, not an easy task coming from a large family but we do try and keep in touch with all of the generations.  We have welcomed a long awaited daughter for Roy’s son Simon & wife Anita, which makes that a total of 5 grandchildren – so far… pressure kids!! We also welcomed three other great nieces this year – at the last count we are up to 11 nieces, 3 nephews, 12 great nieces, 12 great nephews and 2 great great nieces and one great great nephew.  Phew! 

We are both fortunate that we have experienced good health over the past year (long may it last), and apart from the odd accidental injury, our children and grandchildren are healthy as well.

We bade farewell to some good friends over the year, we remember them all fondly and especially the memories we share.

As we look forward to 2017 we know we have plenty to look forward to, culminating with a trip to the UK & Europe later in the year, a trip which we are just a little excited about.  

I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures of our set up this year at Shakespear, complete with our own Pohutakawa resplendent in all its Christmas colours.

Here’s wishing you every good health and happiness and all the best for 2017.


Christmas 2016

December 28, 2016

Christmas has been and gone for another year. 

We celebrated it with some of the family on Christmas Eve with my brother Steve and wife Leslie setting up camp behind the van and we also put up our tent for our son Antony who joined us for a few days.  Steve and Les’ three daughters, husbands and children all came out for the day as well as one of my sister Hilary’s daughters, Amy.

The planning started well before hand, with the menu sorted and organised with input from everyone, all should go easily and smoothly on the day.  To add to our planned menu, Ranger Bruce arrived the night before bearing a gift of a side of freshly caught Kingfish Kingfish prior to being cleaned up. 

The kingfish was boned and cut into portions with half of it smoked on Christmas Eve to add to our lunch of glazed Ham, Moroccan spiced Lamb Leg, garlic & rosemary roasted potatoes, lemon zuchinni & asparagus with goats cheese, baby leaf salad with baby tomatoes, snow peas, radishes, seeds and white balsamic dressing.  But to start off the proceedings a large sharing platter was laid down the length of the tables artfully arranged on large banana leaves; cheeses, pates, dips, truffle cured lomo, hot smoked salmon, capers, relishes, crackers and breads completed the feast.   

Once everyone arrived we got into the present opening.  Every year we do a secret Santa present for each of the adults with everyone buying a gift to a pre agreed value, before pulling numbers out of a hat and taking turns choosing a present BUT once you open your gift, you can choose to either keep it or exchange it with someone else’s already opened present.  It adds much hilarity to the proceedings.

Shaun getting assistance opening his present

Steve and Sarah watch Amy open her gift.

Steve trying to swap his gift

Discussing options
 The youngest family members Georgia and Emily having a chat

Once the adults have their turn, then it’s time for the families to exchange gifts

Asher and Ben opening their gifts from Erin

Christmas time for our family also heralds lots of birthdays, with Christmas Eve being Finn’s 6th birthday.  

Finn and his cake with his mum Sarah looking on
Blowing out the candle

And to show that Antony does get to hold a baby occasionally

Antony and Georgia
Later in the afternoon we had dessert which comprised of a sharing platter of; passionfruit meringues, fresh strawberries, chocolate brownies, white chocolate blondies, berry coulis, apricot tartlets, and coconut yoghurt.  It was all beautifully laid out to resemble a Xmas wreath complete with mint leaf garnishes, as usual I forgot to take any pictures and of course there was birthday cake as well. 

Everyone had to leave by late afternoon so the evening was spent very quietly with a ham sandwich for dinner.  Christmas Day we feasted again with a boned turkey which was stuffed with a cranberry stuffing and brined.  We cooked it on the BBQ and I have to say it was damn delicious complete with gravy, cranberry sauce and roasted veg.  And some people think that we don’t eat well living in a motorhome!

Wishing you all safe and happy holiday season and best wishes for 2017.

I shall leave you with this view of the Pohutakawa as viewed through the bedroom window in the van which will be a stark contrast to the white Christmas we shall experience next year in the northern hemisphere.


Christmas is for kids

December 23, 2016

It’s that time of the year again and it’s amazing just  how quickly it rolls around these days, it must be a sign of the times.  But what makes Christmas time so much better is seeing the look on the faces of kids when they see something special.  

Our dear friend Diana always decorates her house, both inside and out, for the festive season so I asked if I could take along my great niece and nephews to have a look. I have 4 great nieces and nephews in Auckland whose ages range from 3 through to 9 which is the perfect ages for that special Christmas magic to enthrall.

We arrived while it was still quite light outside but the kids were keen to get there.  Inside the trees are decorated in all their splendorous glory, they look even more amazing once it’s dark and the lights come on but I am afraid I forgot to take any decent pictures at that stage…..the imbibing of  a little Christmas cheer probably assisted in my forgetfullness.

And a snowman

But of course it is once it is dark that everything really comes to life


The kids are still talking about it, and of course the look on their faces when Paul gave them a balloon each was priceless.  And they were totally blown away when they were given a gift each as well.  Thank you so much Diana & Paul for your hospitality and kindness, it all goes to making very special Christmas memories for us all.


Blooming lovely

December 19, 2016

Oh how I love the drive into Shakespear, you drive up the hill to the pest proof fence and wait for the pest proof gates to open and let us in, once through the gates a little further along toward the  brow of the hill we catch a first glimpse of a sign mown into the paddock.

The number 5 denotes the fact that Shakespear has now been 5 years pest free, a great achievement especially for all who continue to work hard to maintain the park.  Early 2017 will see the reintroduction of Kiwi to the sanctuary, congratulations to all those hard working staff and volunteers who are making this happen.

Once over the hill we get a good view down over Te Haruhi Bay and we see the first glimpse of the pohutakawas in flower, it is truly a delightful sight.   

The entrance to the  campground  is lined with the trees and many of them are in full bloom. 

We have a Pohutakawa flowering at the front and rear of where we are parked within the campground, for some reason the trees are putting on a particularly grand display this year.

My favourite tree in the park is this one which is half red and half yellow

Who knew that there was a yellow Pohutakawa? 

In fact there are many colour variations, from almost a pink, through orange tones to red to crimson and there is one that is almost a browny/red.

Whatever their colour, they herald the start of summer and are glorious in all their colours. 


Meri Kirihimete/Merry Christmas/Joyeux Noel/Happy Holidays/ Cheers!

December 23, 2015

Wishing you all a lovely festive season doing whatever it is that floats your boat.  Us? Well, we will be heading to my brother Steve and sister-in-law Leslie’s place on Christmas Eve, where Leslie and I will be sorting out the dessert for our Christmas Day feasting.  

All the  best to you and yours, and look forward to catching up with many of you next year. 

Here’s a picture of the pohutakawa as viewed from my pillow, not a bad sight to wake up to in the mornings!