Archive for January, 2011

Pirate Ship Progress

Check out the latest pics of the pirate ship!  Another couple of days effort thanks to a long weekend and she’s really taking shape now.

Pirate Ship Project

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So here’s the idea we heard about the other day.  You have a day to fill and you need to decide what to do.  Nothing springs to mind so to kick start the creative juices you choose a letter at random, then theme the day around that letter.  So if it’s P you could have pikelets for breakfast, dress in something pink, take a picnic to the park, paint a picture of pine trees etc… whatever suits you and your brood.

Yesterday we gave it a go.  The letter was… well have a look at the video  (or skip to after the video if you can’t view it)

Using the Scategories dice we rolled the letter G.  Ok, not the easiest but we were up for the challenge.

We started with breakfast on green plates and Josie and I had green tea.  We packed up headed to town and parked in the Garage at my office.  We walked to the gallery, stopping to look in a shop that sold amazing Gateux.  The Art Gallery has some really lovely modern pieces in it and apart from Lucy announcing everything single thing she saw at top volume it was Great (as Emily told us afterwards).  Dressed in our green and grey clothes, we went to find the Green bus (called the Link route, which does a circuit of Auckland) and jumped on.  It took us to Ponsonby where we got off and had a look at some shops before finding the Gannet Rock Cafe.  It’s a cafe named after a rock Gannets sit on.  Not a Rock Music Cafe for hungry people.  We had some nice food and Glasses of drink, and the kids played with the cafe toys, finding a Ghost in the box.

After lunch we headed to the museum because it’s full of Galleries and Emily really wanted to go there and it’s on the bus route.  We hoped to find some more G words inside.  Starting on the Ground floor Galleries we looked at some Maori exhibits then some natural history stuff.  There’s a great section about volcanoes!  Then through the Ocean and up to the World War exhibits on floor 2.  We found Gs in the lift (going down?) and on the wall of names dedicated to the fallen war heroes.

Heading back to the car we decided to eat out to finish off G day and headed back up the bays until we found Gaku Teppan Yaki restaurant in Brown’s Bay.  I’m the only one who’s been to a teppan yaki before so we headed in.  EVeryone loved it and Josie was def the loudest!

A quick play onthe beach before bed and then back to tuck in and say Good night.

At times it feels like you’re making a bit of a stretch on the theme, but we really enjoyed it and it had the desired effect of getting us out to see things and places we don’t normally go.  We thought G day was GREAT!

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Back in the Swim of things

It’s been a while since I did a long swim, so the return of the Beach Series down at Takapuna beach is very welcome.  Last night was the first race after Christmas and there is no easing you in gently, it’s straight back in with a 1500m.

The conditions were mercifully much better than they had been 48 hours previously.  The storm that I mentioned in my previous post had changed the appearance of Takapuna beach significantly.  The most obvious thing when I turned up at 5pm for the race briefing was the virtual carpet of seaweed that had been thrown up and spread over the beach.  Someone (the beach caretaker?) had started using a tractor to drag the seaweed into piles and rejuvenate the top surface of the sand.

What was less obvious was the fact that a good 12 to 14 inches of sand (at least) had been scoured from the surface of the entire beach.  The beach is about 1200 meters long and 50 meters to the low water mark.  By my calculations that means errr.. LOTS of sand has gone missing.  Ok let’s do the maths.  Note ‘maths’, not ‘math’.  We are not American.

1200 * 50 * .30 = 18,000 cubic meters of sand that has been stolen by the storm…  whoa.

Even stranger was that the sand is now a very thin covering over clay!  If you dig a spade’s depth down you are into pale, very fine clay.  Weird.

All of this made the entry into the water at the start of the race very weird indeed.  Firstly there was thick floating seaweed in the water up to about knee depth, which made wading in interesting.  There were patches of uncovered clay which people were slipping on, deep holes in the sand which people were just disappearing into and the water is still incredibly murky.  I’m going to put too much thought into what is making it murky…

After the trials of the start the actual race was pretty enjoyable.  Very smooth conditions which is always nice.  I actually stayed with the pack for a while this time and experienced my first real bought of argy-bargy in the water.  Clashing with people, arms and legs bashing, all good experience.

Anyway my time was 40:09, which is five minutes faster than last time I did it which is good, but the conditions were better.  Of course I have to remember that I haven’t really trained as such (I’ve been swimming a lot, but just whilst we’ve been down at the beach and it wasn’t really training as such) and I’m getting over my virus lurgy thing from last week.  I’m pleased with the race – now I need to work out how to go faster.

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Pirate Ships and Downpours

Well I seem to have angered some sort of weather controlling diety.  Maybe it was daring to build the resemblance of a boat in the garden that did it.  Have a look at The Pirate Ship Project to see what I’ve been doing with my cache of very cheap/free timber.

It’s been raining solidly for bloomin ages.  I ventured out into the garden today to see what the creek at the bottom of our section looked like since I cleared out a lot of the unwanted plants just after Christmas.  It was running the highest I’ve seen it since we moved in nearly a year ago as you can see for yourself.

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About two years ago we bought Emily a reconditioned bike from a fantastic place in York, back in the UK. The Bike Rescue Project is a great initiative that recycles old bikes (pun unavoidable – sorry).  For a while Emily had stabilisers on and cycled to and from the shops (with supervision I hasten to add) and learned to steer and peddle.

Once we got over here we thought it was time to get her riding properly so I removed the stabilisers and set about the normal routine of running up and down, hunched over, holding the saddle, swearing blind that I wouldn’t let go, whilst waiting for that prime opportunity to do just that.  It’s ok, it’s one of those ‘parent lies’, that we tell ourselves are for the good of your children, so somehow ruled by a different moral code…  Despite several sessions of running she just didn’t seem to get it.  We tried again recently after moving into our new place and tried to get her cycling on a huge grass reserve.  Slightly softer landing if it should all go wrong.  Still no joy.

Then on holiday in January we were passing through Matamata – a curious little place that seems to be busy on the basis of it’s location (about half-way between Auckland and Rotorua) and because it has claimed a dubious link with Lord of the Rings.  It’s the closest big town to a field that used to be part of the film set where the Hobbit houses were.  They have subtitled their town ‘Hobbiton’ so I guess that might draw a few people.  I love the high street in Matamata, it really reminds you how strongly the rural economy relies on farming when a row of shops runs cafe, hairdresser, milking machine shop.  Where else have you seen a shop selling milking machines?  Do you think a farmer who doesn’t have a milking machine goes in and says “Ok – give me the Udder-suck 2000, I’ll put it on the back of the tractor”?

Err, where was I? Oh yes, Matamata.  So there is another excellent farming shop there called RD1.  It sells all sorts of exciting things in farm bulk quantity.  As we were walking past the window we  saw a balance bike, reduced from their normal level of $100 down to $50!  This struck us as something of a bargain – so within minutes we’d purchased one, crammed it in the already too full car and headed off to start our holiday.

Emily spent the next three days pelting around the camp-site with some kids her age on bikes whilst she was on the balance bike.  To say she loved it is an understatement.  This is the beast!

Emily and Lucy’s new balance bike

When we got home she took to pelting round in circles on the deck on it.  That was about 16 days ago.  As she’d been showing real promise on the balance bike we took her to the school playground yesterday morning and set her off.

This happened.

We simply cannot encourage parents enough to buy a balance bike for your kids.  It is the best way forward.  We’ve heard so many other parents tales of the same sort of transition to a full peddle bike and now seen it for ourselves.  We got ours for a bargain, but even full price it would have been worth it.  Seriously – it is one of the best investments you can make for your kids.  Now that Emily is done with it, the saddle is going back down and it’s Lucy’s turn.

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We’ve got our first storm warning since last September. Sounds like our new roof will be tested as it totally bins it down – we’ve been told to expect between 150 and 200mm of rain. Not ideal for the weekend but at least the humidity has dropped. In fact it is almost a bit nippy in shorts and a tshirt. Might have to consider a long-sleeved tshirt this evening – outrageous. We don’t think the storm can be that bad as it doesn’t have a name. So, we thought we’d give it one. In honour of our latest pictorial find, bring it on storm Piggy Wig…….

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Lucy does a jigsaw.

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Bananas in Pyjamas

In my continuing efforts to trim the budget I bought a box of about 20 bananas today for just $3. Sometimes the vege shop sells off fruit and veg that is on the way out. Personally I think there was plenty of life in these bananas, they were still all yellow for a start…maybe they were just single bananas that had been torn off and neglected as people got the right sized bunches.

Anyway, presenting Steve with the box announcing that I was going to make 7 banana cakes resulted in a look of sheer terror on his face – the freezer could never accommodate them he grimaced. So we did a spot of googling and came up with banana ice cream (much smaller than 7 cakes in freezer space-terms). We made it, ate it and there was no way we were spilling enough to wear it on a t-shirt because it was utterly lush! You might like to try it next time you have a few over-ripe bananas:

Peel the banana. Chop into one inch long pieces. Open freeze for several hours. Remove from freezer and blend until smooth. Serve, or re-freeze first so it becomes more ice cream-like, then serve. When you do decide to serve it, you can add a little topping if you fancy – chocolate, fruit puree, Nutella, praline, almonds, maple syrup….anything really – I fancy making a sundae with gingerbread and banana ice cream with a spot of chocolate sauce. Wow it is great and a smashing way of using up bananas that doesn’t involve drinking half a litre of milkshake everyday or gorging yourself on banana cake. If you’re interested in the science, it is because of the oil content of the bananas – you can do the same thing with avocados apparently…

Got to go – have to get my banana cake out of the oven, I was allowed to make just the one!

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Time to Trim Down

Did you know…..the average age of a car in New Zealand is an impressive 13.25yrs……? That kind of sums up how a lot of people think and operate over here – just make do.

Steve and I have been dipping into a book called Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in our attempts to spend our money more wisely. It’s good old penny-pinching stuff and essential reading for anyone who firmly believed their mother when she told them to “look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”. They even have a website which you can spend hours looking over…….in turn you can grimace, laugh and nod sagely at the suggestions. Come on everyone, let’s be more Kiwi about stuff 🙂

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So this was our second Christmas in New Zealand.  Let’s just take a quick check of what’s changed since last time.

1) We have lot’s more friends – some of them actual genuine kiwis.

2) We live in our own house

3) We’ve got a full 18 months under our belt and feel much more settled in the run-up to the big day

4) Most importantly, the girls are a year older and both have an updated and exciting outlook around Christmas

5) and so much more I can’t think of it all..

We had a family day on Christmas day and just gave each other lots of time.  Played games, read books, made lots of yummy food.  Opening presents was just a joy with the girls (even if Lucy did get rather too good at it and plough into the big presents that weren’t hers).  We got down to the beach of course, but just for an hour or two in the late afternoon for a paddle and a swim.  I’ll let the photo’s do the talking.

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