Archive for the ‘family’ Category

Proud parents

November 10, 2019

We interrupt this regular broadcast for an important message, this time nothing to do with Motorhomes, where we’ve been, who we’ve seen, what we’ve been fishing or other escapades, this time it’s all to do with being proud parents.

We hasten to add that we are very proud of all our children, they are all wonderful people in their own right, each with their own great career and they all make valuable contributions to making a difference in this world. However, once in a while they get recognised for their work and efforts, and this exact thing happened to our son Antony at a recent Annual Police Awards night.

Award Trophy

There was also a certificate with a long citation explaining why he was given the award but we cannot publish what it says as some of the content is operational and still before the courts therefore not for public viewing. But it was very glowing in its entirety.

It’s nice to know that hard work is recognised and rewarded. We are thrilled for you Ants, well done.

Usual transmission will resume shortly.

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!

Unpack and a reshuffle

September 19, 2019

The worst thing about getting home after a long time away is the unpacking, nothing ever seems to fit back where it should, or you cannot remember where things should go, and of course there is all the extra goodies that we brought home with us to find a new home.

Actually, we didn’t bring too much back with us although the bags seemed to be fairly full. We did bring back with us a Lagun table leg for the van. See here for a clip of it in action. Its a height adjustable swivel table mount that you can then put on your choice of table top. Now, that’s the issue, we don’t have a table top as yet that we are both happy with. Much debate will ensue I am sure.

I did bring back some tea bags though, rather a lot! Not only the 480 Yorkshire tea bags but also tea bags with a malty biscuit flavour!! It’s the tea you have when you want a biscuit but don’t want the calories.

Tea bags and a cuppa

Yes, I know, you can buy the tea bags here but these were such a large quantity for a bargain price, I just could not resist.

Also brought back were a couple of items I picked up at IKEA for the van kitchen and pantry, and some organisational pieces for the wardrobes. I can’t think of what else we brought back, apart from wonderful memories of time spent with family and friends.

It’s about time to have a good clean out of lockers, ditch a load of gear that we have been carting around for “justin” …….as in just-in-case, either to off load to store at Antony’s or just get rid of stuff.

The shed at Ardmore became the recipient of some fairly decent items, all to give away in the hope that they find their way to a good home.

Items included;

a Navman GPS (we use our phones/iPads for navigation) including the instructions

A portable 600w inverter (we have a decent built in one)

Headphones and charging cord

USB Charging plugs

4 x Stainless steel drink bottles

A static mini cycle

Various other items. NB. all items disappeared within a few hours of putting them out.

Lockers have been emptied and anything not used in the past year or two have been put into storage and a reshuffle of other lockers items have been done to make better use of the space.

As well, a bit of R&M has been undertaken on the van; the sliding door inside has had some mods done to make it glide more efficiently, the drivers side wing mirror mount has had a bit of TLC after we noticed the mirror wobbling a bit. The fridge has a new ignitor installed after it spat the dummy on our return. And the major thing has been some welding work done on our A-Frame after a weld broke, with it all now having been checked and sorted.

And in case you were missing out seeing lots of Callum pictures, here are a few to keep you going!!

Home again, home again, jiggedy jig.

September 10, 2019

There’s no place like home said someone, once, and it’s so true. Although I have to quickly add that we do feel at home in England as well, especially at Alex & Ian’s.

I remember in one of my tutorials at University we were asked to define where is home…is it where you live now? or where you were born? or where you were raised? or where you went to school? You hear immigrants in particular talking of ‘home’, I remember my parents talking of ‘back home’ meaning England. Is home defined by place, people or thing? There is no right answer, everyone has a different viewpoint.

Getting over jet lag, opening mail, sorting out stuff were the order of events over the first days back. We made appointments for Doctors visits for checkups, sorted out bits and pieces and in between tried to get body clocks onto NZ time.

We had a very pleasant surprise in the mail from England. A spice kit that Alex Ian and Callum had organised for us. It’s a monthly spice kit which arrives with all the spice mixes to make delicious meals. With full instructions on the meal preparations as well as a little history on where the meal originated, a list of how to remake the spice mixes for a repeat of the meal all included.

The kit and the note from Callum

It’s something we had seen in England as Alex had bough Ian a subscription for his birthday. You receive an email notification of what is coming up in the next months kit and options to change for another kit of your choice if you so desire as there are up to 5 choices each month. You can also put a hold on receiving it for a few months if you wish and restart when it suits.

We just love the curries in England, it’s always our first choice when we arrive and it’s our choice of farewell meal as well.

Of course we were keen to give the kit a go, with the shopping list in hand (included in the kit) it was off to the shops for the main ingredients.

We were cooking this

Tonight’s dinner

it also required us to make a dum aloo, potato dish, and a spicy tomato chutney to accompany the main dishes. We had only arrived back the previous day, I should have thought a bit more about that before embarking on cooking the meal. I got 9/10ths of the way through preparing it all when Jet lag hit me, I just had to go to bed right there and then before I fell over. Roy and Antony finished off the cooking and reported that the meal was fantastic.

The result

Really flavoursome and tasty with the only chilli heat coming from the tomato chilli chutney that accompanied the meal.

We had the rest of the meal the following day and I can attest to how deliciously flavoursome it was and plenty for all of us so a generous 4 servings as per the leaflet. We really look forward to receiving the next parcel.

We had to get a WOF for the car as well as register it, that was done the afternoon of our arrival. Then we both needed a WOF for ourselves at the Doctors, that done we then could head off down to Whakatane to be reunited with our van.

The trip to Whakatane was via Hamilton so we could call in to see Wayne Hunt, a motorhome solar expert, to sort out a time to have a new charger put in that would trickle feed the van battery off the solar so that when we sit still for any length of time the van battery will be fully charged negating the need to start the engine every other day. That done we then called in to see our dear friends Wade & Lindsay for a quick catch up and lunch before heading off to Whakatane.

We arrived at John & Jude’s late in the afternoon and then spent the next few days sorting ourselves out. John had kindly sorted out our RUCs and van registration whilst we were away so we just had to take the van in to get a COF. It was all done very quickly and efficiently without any hassles at Ted’s Testing Station in Whakatane. We can highly recommend them and we will definitely use them again.

We made a day trip up to Papamoa to see friend Estelle whose husband Bill passed away whilst we were overseas. It was then on into Tauranga to see my 3 nieces and great nieces to catch up with them before we leave the Bay and make our way north.

We can’t thank John & Jude enough for looking after our home on wheels whilst we were away, it was great to know that it was safe and sound in their care and well looked after.

The journey home

September 8, 2019

We waved our farewells, sitting in the back of the taxi blubbering, we valiantly pulled ourselves together to get a few words out to our taxi driver. He was already 30 minutes late due to traffic holdups and he was explaining to us that he would be taking us to Heathrow via a very roundabout route as there were major traffic holdups on the M25 – the motorway that circumnavigates London city.

The trip should take one and half hours, on a good day, 2 hours at the most we are told. He was telling us that we would be having a very memorable last drive in England, travelling through some very small country lanes, until we had to rejoin the M25.

Narrow country lanes

Then we meet traffic….who is backing up?

We went through a few pretty little villages, and we were enjoying the scenery on our journey through the countryside. His navigation system (Waze) was being constantly updated with reports coming in of accidents, holdups and other traffic info plus it had our expected time of arrival emblazoned across the bottom of the screen. We started off with an ETA of 6:00pm, which then extended to 6:30pm which then soon became 7:00pm, by the time we got to the multi lane motorway car park we had an ETA of 7:59pm. We finally checked in at 8:20pm.

During this travel time we were in contact with Alex as they were able to follow our progress through a tracking app on their phones as Ian had made the initial taxi booking for us. I’m sure they thought that we had been kidnapped and were being taken off somewhere deep into the countryside.

Back to our airport arrival. Fortunately, we always allow a lot of extra time for exactly this sort of event as we don’t mind being at the airport early. It means we can relax and partake of a favourite pastime, people watching. We didn’t have much time to relax or people watch as it was soon time to board but looking at our boarding passes, I was sure that we had not been allocated our preferred seats and on checking my phone app, I was right. When we came to board we queried why we had not been allocated our assigned seats, we were soon ushered to a senior staff person who apologised and reassigned us new seats, this time we were to have a whole row to ourselves…score!

I have to admit that the tears welled up again as the plane took off, it’s not easy leaving .

The flight was uneventful, we tried to sleep, I even managed to lie down along our row of seats but sleep eluded us. We were soon landing in Hong Kong where upon arrival everyone goes through a scanner to check your temperature. The current measles outbreak is worldwide and precautionary measures are in place everywhere.

Once through passport control and then customs we were met by our driver who was waiting to take us to our hotel in Central HK.

Streets of Hong Kong

By the time we checked into our hotel it was mid evening local time, a quick bite to eat, a shower and a good nights sleep was all that was on our agenda.

It was very hot and sticky weather in HK, not conducive to wandering around very much at all. Breakfast, repack and a late checkout we set off for the airport yet again hoping that any protests would not hinder our departure. We saw no evidence of any of the protests but we did note that our passports and travel docs were checked before we could take a step inside the terminal building.

Interesting shop seen on our way to the airport….can you read the sign?

Closeup of the sign

I did notice a shop sign on our return trip to the airport, a Bakery I thought. Just a minute, that says “Professional Barkey”, does that mean it sells keys for bars or maybe it’s something to do with dogs who bark a lot?

Once at the airport we settled in to wait for our flight and ended up chatting to a you g couple who were travelling with their baby. To cut a long story short, it seems that they had tried to book the seats that we had been allocated, being in the front row where there is a bassinet, they had booked the third seat in the row and the one on the row behind. After take off once the crew were out of their seats we asked if it would be ok for Roy to swap with the Dad so he could be next to his partner and baby. We couldn’t help notice that the exit row seats across the aisle were empty, the crew said please, you two move to the exit row (Roy & I) so the couple and their baby had the middle three seats to themselves and Roy and I had the two exit row seats. Everyone was happy and comfortable.

We were quickly through passport and customs in Auckland where I have to say that the NZ officials are the most welcoming we have encountered, they are always pleasant and polite making the homecoming experience a pleasant one.

Antony was waiting for us in the arrivals hall and we were soon on our way to Antony’s for the weekend.

All in all a memorable trip home. Now we start planning our return trip next year!

The final day

September 4, 2019

Alex and Callum, Roy & I went out for a leisurely brunch on our last day in England. We caught the bus into Bexley and found ourselves at a lovely cafe in the centre of town.

The temperatures were again going to hit the mid thirties and it was very warm even for mid morning. With choices made we set out to enjoy a lovely relaxed brunch.

Alex and Callum with Callum preferring to eat his fingers!!

The return trip home was via the B12 bus, the bus that we took frequently and became a bit of a running joke at how we knew the timetable and its route off by heart.

It was back home to pack our bags and make sure we had everything.

Just checking to see if Callum will fit in our bag (along with the Yorkshire Tea).

Everything was packed, bags set by the door ready for the taxi ride to the airport.

Grandma, Grandad and Callum

I am sure that saying goodbye gets more difficult every time and this time was gut wrenching. But we know we will be back again soon and we are fortunate to live at a time when communication is instant with video calling through one of the many means available to us.

It won’t be too long before we return though so we have that to look forward to.

We feel very privileged to have been able to be part of Callum’s life for the first three months of his life and look forward to watching him grow under the wonderful care and love of his amazing parents.

Family BBQ

September 2, 2019

Our last weekend in England and we were having a family BBQ at Brian & Julie’s (Ian’s Dad’s cousin), along with the rest of Ian’s family. This was a bank holiday weekend in the UK, a long weekend with Monday being a public holiday, and the BBQ was planned for Sunday afternoon, with the weather playing a large part in the planning. We needn’t have worried though with the hottest August Bank holiday weekend on record being recorded and the days temperature set to reach at least 32C.

We arrived at Julie & Brian’s and made our way out to their lovely garden where the gazebos were set up providing much welcome shade.

Brian was manning the charcoal BBQs with Roy giving a hand. Charcoal BBQs are a rarity for us these days as most people in NZ use gas fired BBQs mainly because of fire restrictions for NZ’ers over the summer months.

Brian and Roy manning the BBQs

Comparing notes behind a smoke screen

All sorts of fun and games were had by all generations.

Grandad Barry and Callum

I forgot to take any pictures of the table set out for the main event but needless to say it was all delicious and there was plenty to eat, it was some time later in the day before we got around to having dessert and cheese.

Panoramic shot

I had said I would make a dessert and thought I should make a pavlova as my homage to all things kiwi, but decided an ordinary pav would be a bit boring so instead made a brown sugar version with dates, almonds and chocolate. Topped with fresh whipped cream and raspberries it was rather delicious. Roy put together a cheese board and even made radish mice with the radishes grown in Alex & Ian’s garden, and it too also went down a treat.

Cheese board

Dessert and cheese….yes, I forgot to take pics of the main event!

Group photo

It was a wonderful afternoon and evening with lots of fun and laughter.

Thank you to the Denny family for making us feel so welcome and part of your family. We shall miss you all, until next time x.

Afternoon tea

August 30, 2019

We’ve been waiting to go to Danson Park for some time now. It’s a local park (local for Alex) that includes a large historic building, a water play park, mini golf, lovely large park grounds with lots of gardens and large trees as well as a small lake but we were going for afternoon tea at the 1766 built stone homestead.

Danson House

We had been putting off a visit until Alex was back eating dairy again and with normal transmission having been resumed, we headed off to partake in some goodies.

Roy and Alex

Bernice and Roy

Afternoon tea including scones with clotted cream

Coffee and walnut cake

We had a lovely afternoon, Callum slept the afternoon away so Alex could enjoy an uninterrupted tea as well. And just so you don’t feel left out, here are a few pictures of the handsome young man.

Callum

Date night

August 25, 2019

We had a booking for dinner at Melucci’s in Bexley, just the two of us. We were told it was our date night?! Really? It’s been a while since we’ve been on a date! Do we remember what to do? What do we talk about? We were under strict instructions not to talk to each other for the day beforehand so we would have something to talk about over dinner, and we were even sent a list of possible chat topics which covered everything from North Korea Politics, Origami, Brexit, the best Nursery Rhymes to who would win the Rugby World Cup!!!

But before dinner we were also going out for lunch, Roy with Ian’s Dad Barry and his cousin Brian and me with Ian’s Mum Chris and cousin Julie. The fellas were off to a pub whilst us ladies were meeting up at a tea room in Bexley. However, when we got to the tea rooms, they were closed for the day so it was off around the corner to another tea room where we enjoyed a very nice lunch and an afternoon of chat. Apparently the fellas had a nice lunch and sorted out the problems of the world. And you guessed it, neither of us took pictures.

Back home on our respective buses (I’ve got this bus lark sorted) where it wasn’t long to wait before it was time to go out again.

Off we went, actually we were dropped off by Alex, and we rocked up to the restaurant in the Main Street of Bexley. My brother John & his partner Jude were here last year with Alex & Ian, we had been given rave reviews from them all so we were hopeful of a good meal. And we were not disappointed, we got good, honest Italian style food cooked with love and passion with great local ingredients. It’s not everywhere where you can go for a meal and they can give you the provenance of the meat; as in which farm the animals come from, how they are raised etc etc. and they obviously care about where their produce comes from. But it was the service from the owner and chef that really made the night, Christo does front of house and his wife Maria is the chef and they really make you feel welcome.

Roy’s bruschetta with the yummiest mozzarella

My arancini – simply delicious

We were well entertained by Christo, Maria and other staff and as well other customers who picked that we were kiwis and they chatted away with us over the course of the evening with no mention of Brexit!

Roy’s slow cooked beef short rib

My pork belly with the best crackling ever (half eaten).

Apparently John had the pork when he visited and he enjoyed it so much he ordered extra crackling! I can attest to the fact that it was the best crackling I’ve had in a very very long time.

All in all we had a great evening and yes even held hands as we walked back to the bus stop for our journey home! Enough said.

Worcester, Herefordshire and a little bit of Wales (Part 2)

August 22, 2019

We continue on our journey on the trail of Black & White timbered villages.

After we left the church in Kinnersley, we meandered though some beautiful countryside, coming across this house which the owner obviously did not want to conform to the Black and White theme

Red and Black House

Next we came to Eardisley, which is a village on the border with Wales.

Eardisley

Then it was onto Kington which is just 3km from the Welsh border. However it is to the west of Offa’s Dyke so we presume that at some stage it may have been part of Wales. Offa’s Dyke is a large linear earthwork that roughly follows the current border between England and Wales. The structure is named after an Anglo-Saxon king, Offa, who it is believed to have ordered its construction in the mid 700’s.

We meandered the Main Street, a sad looking Main Street that needs a bit of revitalisation with some shops and cafes rather than the multitude of charity shops.

Main Street of Kington (top) and the covered market in the lower picture.

From here we continued on to the pretty village of Presteigne where the road signs are also in Welsh as the town lies just inside the Welsh border.

Beautiful ornately painted building in Presteigne

There are many interesting buildings in Presteigne including this one which had a Green Man (a pagan symbol of fertility) carved into one of the posts, well hidden from general view.

12th century building with green man carved in the wood

We paused for a cuppa in one of the cafes in the high street before making our way around the town.

This row of houses were obviously built at different stages looking at the roof lines.

Multi level roof lines

On our way back to the car we came across another church so we wandered in for a look around.

Martin, Roy and Sue on our way into the church

Saint Andrews church is primarily a product of the 13th century however it incorporates remains of a much earlier 9th century Saxon building. The most interesting historical feature is a Flemish tapestry woven in 1510, now hanging in a frame on the north wall.

Tapestry (sorry about the reflections)

Showing the original colours.

In the Lady Chapel is a 15th-century Italian oil painting and a worn 13th-century coffin lid is set into a recess in the north wall.

Stained glass window

It was back to the car and off to the next town on our list, expertly navigated by Sue, via a few more of those typical English narrow country roads with high hedges on either side.

A wide section of road!

Our next stop was in Pembridge, again with a lovely collection of interesting and very old buildings.

Not all the building were painted white

Information board

Alms houses 1661

Above the Main Street we walked up to another church, St Mary’s, with original parts dating form the 12th century however a loose Romanesque pillar piscina remains from the Norman church. This church had a very interesting bell tower which is separate from the church, built in an unusual shape and open at the top. Martin could fill us in on all the interesting details, as we discovered, he is a bell ringer of some 40years experience.

Bell tower

Information board on the Bell Tower

Inside the church were more beautiful windows.

Inside the church

Outside there are lovely views over expansive lawns

Views from the church

We walked across the lawns and through the gardens and came out onto another street where there is the old market hall.

Market

Markets have been held here since 1239 when it was granted a royal charter.

Sue making her way to the market with its well worn and undulating floor.

Time to return home, again through Eardisley where we came across a thatched roofed Black & White building

Thatched roof

Have you ever noticed that the trip home is always quicker than the trip to wherever you are going? It seemed like we were home again very quickly where we set to organising dinner of Raclette.

Me, trying to take a selfie, missed taking it of me, missed Roy and got Sue who was fishing around for an implement in the cutlery drawer……but I did get Martin!

We had purchased the Raclette cheese from the cheese shop earlier in the day (see previous blog entry). Of course someone was particularly happy with Raclette……who doesn’t like hot melted cheese??!!