Archive for the ‘christmas’ Category

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 😘.

A New Year

January 2, 2020

2020 is here, why is it that it seems just a short while ago we were celebrating the millennium? Time certainly does seem to fly.

First of all a quick look back on the past year and it certainly was an eventful one in more ways that one. We managed to catch up with lots of family and friends over the year, both here in New Zealand and in the UK. Of course our big news for the year was the arrival of our grandson Callum, we feel so privileged to have been there for his birthday and the first three months of his life. He is growing so fast and we cannot wait to head back to see him this April.

Callum with his cousin Beth

“who? me?” I can sit by myself!!

Health wise we have both been reasonably well, apparently my hip is healing nicely so I’m expecting to be able to have my other knee replaced sometime in the new year, all going well.

All in all 2019 was a good year and we are looking forward to the year ahead.

Meanwhile back at Shakespear, campers have come and gone. We have been very spoilt this year with many gifts from grateful campers of wine & chocolates, as well as some spoils from their diving and fishing expeditions…

Crayfish for dinner.

As well, we received a lovely HUGE hamper from the Rangers with all sorts of goodies that we have been thoroughly enjoying.

Antony went back home to work after Christmas, but was back again to join us for a week over the New Year and we have enjoyed having him around. And in response to a question on what game we were playing in the previous post, it was a game called Sequence. As well, many, many, many, games of Five Crowns have been played, and we have got Bruce (Head Ranger) hooked onto the game too. As Bruce’s family were away for Christmas and New Year, he has joined us most evenings for dinner followed by many games of Five Crowns. I haven’t kept a tally of wins but I’m sure I’m doing very well. I must add here that our obsession with the game is thanx to Marilyn & David, the Kiwi narrowboaters we met in the UK earlier in the year. We have even got to the point of making up score sheets to print off and use, such is our obsession!

I again went out driving the mule (ATV) for Bruce on New Years Eve whilst he collected tracking cards. I enjoyed the views over the park from the high vantage points.

A peek of the campground in the background

Te Haruhi Bay

The other little bit of news is that we are “world famous” in our own lunchtime! with an article published in the latest Motorhomes, Caravans and Destinations Magazine

Magazine cover

We promise not to let the notoriety go to our heads!

And in responses to another request, my blog posts on sourdough making are coming soon, they are really, honestly!

Christmas in the camp

December 27, 2019

Christmas Eve was busy with families setting up their campsites ready for their annual holidays with lots of excited children awaiting the arrival of the jolly man dressed in red. Meanwhile, head Ranger Bruce was literally running around trying to get all his work done which included checking the tracking tunnels. So to help him out, I drove the mule (small all terrain vehicle) as he crashed and bashed his way through the undergrowth changing the tracking tunnel cards, with me picking him up at the end of a line and taking him to the next line.

The only pictures I thought to take were at the end of the last line looking down over the bay

Te Haruhi Bay with a view of the campground peeking through on the right

It was still quite windy on Christmas Eve so the wind surfers were out in force in the bay enjoying a bit of fun

Wind surfers in action

Antony arrived in the afternoon to join us and as the evening drew in, children were in bed relatively early and all was quiet waiting for Santa to arrive.

We had a leisurely start to Christmas day with a lovely breakfast, and the leisure continued from there with a very relaxed Christmas Day for us. We played cards and games most of the day under the shade of the trees.

Me trying my hand at selfies again….

We had a little excitement in the afternoon as the water for the park came to a complete stop which meant no water for the toilets, showers or drinking. But a short time later water was back on albeit a little discoloured. However, unbeknownst to us, the main part of the park was experiencing its busiest day on record which meant that even though the toilets weren’t able to be flushed, people still utilised them….I shall leave the rest to your imagination! Poor Bruce had to deal with the resulting mess which is not the best way to end your Christmas Day.

Later that evening Bruce joined us for Christmas dinner….and I forgot to take any pictures. However, it was all delicious and went down a treat.

To finish off our day we got a lovely video call from Alex, Ian and Callum and later received some photos of their Christmas fun.

Christmas Eve at Ian’s brothers place

Top L-R: Matt helping Callum, Denny family photo, Bottom L-R: Alex with Callum and his cousins, and a bit tired at the end of the day

Top: Callum opening presents, Bottom: with Brian & Julie, on Grandad’s knee

We trust you all had a lovely Christmas, all the very best for 2020.

Seasonal salutations

December 23, 2019

Seasonal salutations to you and your families, here’s looking forward to 2020. 2019 was a good year, the highlight being the welcoming of Callum to our family and especially being there for the first 3 months of his life. We are really looking forward to heading back to the UK in April to spend more time with him and his family.

We have decorated our trees in our usual fashion…

our eco friendly, organic, natural Christmas tree aka Pohutakawa.

The van has been festooned with lights

Lights along the awning

And we are geared up for visitors with the guest accommodation set up in readiness

Guest accommodation

Antony is joining us for Christmas this year, and we will no doubt collect a few more strays along the way.

Roy had a trip to Ashburton last week to spend some time with his grandchildren there, and in usual Vannini fashion, he neglected to take a single picture!! We are getting really good at this lack of photo taking abilities between the two of us. He also managed a quick trip to Geraldine to catch up with friends Bill & Linda.

Here’s wishing you all health and happiness and a very safe festive season. Enjoy!

We’re back!

December 12, 2019

Time to head back to Shakespear for the summer and our stint as Camp Hosts. We planned to arrive in time for the volunteer Christmas party which, this year, was being held at the Navy Base here at the end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsular. The Navy base is also behind the Pest Proof Fence and they share common goals to keep the land predator free. There was also the enticement of a tour of some of the gun emplacements tunnels, some of which we have been in before but the opportunity to see some different tunnels as well as the naval base itself was a good enough reason for us to head down to participate.

Shakespear Park at the end of the Peninsular, the camp ground is at the far right of Te Haruhi Bay and the Naval Base is on the Northside of the Peninsular.

As you would expect, I did not take a single photo at the Christmas Party not of the base nor the tunnels, I was too busy meeting lots of other volunteers who we hadn’t met before plus catching up with lots of familiar faces. It was very interesting to hear of the work that the Navy do on their part of the sanctuary, and also great talks were given by the Rangers updating us on happenings over the past year as well as future plans for the Park. All I will say is that they all work incredibly hard protecting the flora and fauna and are all passionate about their work.

We have settled back into Camp Host mode, setting ourselves up in our usual position in the park.

Parked in the park

The view from the welcome shade of the awning

Pohutakawa starting to flower

Panoramic view

Of course all the above photos were taken in the fleeting moments that there was no one else in the camp. Keith & Deb relaxed with us for a week or so until it was time for them to carry on with their travels. And it hasn’t all been sunshine either, later during the day that they left we had torrential rain and thunderstorms.

The damp view from inside the van

We’ve had a couple of visitors already; Antony came for a visit, delivering all our mail, bringing with him is mate Andrew whom we haven’t seen in a while. The same day our long time friends Wade & Lindsay came for a visit. It’s lovely to catch up with friends and family and hear what’s happening in their lives.

I have been and had xrays on my (fractured) left hip and on my left knee as I’ve been still getting terrible pain in the hip but it turns out that is referred pain from my knee, with the hip healing nicely, but guess what the upshot of that means? Yep, the left knee is the next to be replaced, just have to plan when this will be done to fit in with our busy schedule!

We have set ourselves up comfortably in the camp and will be putting up our tent in the next few days for those visitors who wish to stay. We are taking things quietly and trying to keep away from the madness of Christmas and the need to shop for the sake of shopping.

The end of the year also means school camp, this is what it looks like when parents deliver little Johnny/Jane bringing with them everything imaginable for a two night stay

Car yard

….and when I mean everything, I mean everything, I even saw innersprung mattresses being put into tents for the darlings to sleep on!

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.


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.