Archive for the ‘Interesting Stuff’ Category

Coffee Table

A quick days sawing, planing, sanding and screwing turned a few of these…

… into one of these…

Timber courtesy of a house up the road that was throwing a whole bunch of these dirty planks out with last years inorganic collection.   A quick rub with Danish oil to finish the job.

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What do you get when you combine a day of day day care, a box of Lego and two cool kids top hang out with?
Beach to the Future


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We’ve had the apple peeler/corer/slicer for a while. A bit of a fun toy which has the added benefit that suddenly the kids want to triple their fruit intake.

So faced with a few spuds to peel I decided to remove the slicing part and just use the machine to peel the spuds.

Having shared that on Facebook, a friend suggested removing the handle and attaching a drill instead. This was the first attempt at using the drill, running at the lower of two speed settings that my drill has. The girls wanted apples for pudding, so I’ve reattached the slicing/coring part.

This was the funniest thing the girls had ever seen apparently. I was fairly entertained as well. But I felt that there was more to gain. So we loaded up another apple, switched the drill up to high speed and well… See for yourself!

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It’s 2014!  2014!!  Holy Heck, where does the time go?  2014!!!

We are just at the tail end of our fifth kiwi christmas and quite acclimitised to the warmth and food traditions.

This year we made gravadlax (cured Salmon) and glazed  a giant ham.  I’m not sure how big the pig monster was that donated his limb to us, but he was a super tasty pig and we very much got huge value out of his sacrifice.

Christmas Day was lovely.  We did the usual family present opening in the morning then had some fab friends round from lunch onwards.  Lunch (the meal) lasted around four hours as we sat at the table and picked our way through the variety of stuff we’d put on the table.

In the evening we played games as one big group, Lucy included.  It was really quite lovely to have everyone contributing.  Around 9pm Lucy broke, so we wrapped her up in a duvet and sent her off to Bedfordshire.

Although it’s a bit weird, I’m really happy with how we tackled this Christmas because the waste and recycling piles were so small.  We’d really managed to keep the usual excess under control (except in the kitchen – but we did eat it all).  That made me happy.

After a few days at home we decided on a completely last minute camping trip down to Hawkes Bay, staying in Hastings, which is right by Napier.  we had an amazing time with some lovely people we’d not been away with before.

The girls enjoyed having new people to play with – especially a boy!  The dynamics of Lucy and Indy (both 5 ) and Emily worked beautifully.  Em stepped up to the big sister role and seemed more grown up than ever.

We did loads of great stuff.  We visited the National aquarium in Napier, vintage  clothes shops, looked at the Art Deco buildings, had the odd bite to eat here and there.  We went to the harbour area and hired kayaks and a stand up paddle board and had a windy but enjoyable water based adventure for a couple of hours.  Time spent chilling in the pool and back at the camp.  We also went to an amazing little Farmyard Zoo near hastings.  A really small operation, but beautifully run and such amazing value.  We spent the whole afternoon there and the kids all had their first rides on ponies.  So much excitement.  The only thing that would have impressed Lucy more was if hers had a corn on it’s head!

Overall it was just a fantastic break and we headed back on Friday 3rd.  Stopping in on the way at our friends small holding in Pukakohe where we saw a very newly born litter of piglets.  It was such an amazing place and so inspiring to talk to the owner that we rushed home and started planning chickens and bees etc.

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Our girls are great walkers, no doubt about it.  We’ve been up Rangitoto a couple of times and round the mud pools in Rotorua and just last week a nice stroll in the bush.  One of our favourite local walks is a low tide walk along the rocks to Brown’s Bay.

Yesterday we were having breakfast and the sun was streaming in through the windows and there was an air of adventure around the table so we looked up the tide times (I now have a tide calculator app on my phone) and low tide was hitting around 11am.  Absolutely perfect for us to get our stuff together and take a really nice long meander along the waterfront to Brown’s Bay looking in rock pools and finding crabs.  We had a couple of books to return to Brown’s Bay library and needed supplies from the scoopy shop (also know as Bin Inn – a bulk buy shop that sells dried fruit etc.)  We had a plan!

Setting off we only had a vague idea that we might try and walk the whole way.  In our heads it was far more likely that we’d get a bus back from Brown’s Bay instead.

So we ambled off down to the beach, across the sand (getting a closer look at our exciting new swim pontoon for summer!) and onto the rocks.

The kids are just brilliant ages for this activity now.  They are old enough to walk confidently on the uneven surface and still completely absorbed by the whole thing.  Looking in rock pools, spotting exciting things.  The first rock pool we can to we spotted a little fish.  Something we’ve never done before in previous rock pool visits.

The pace was necessarily very slow along this part of the trip because it was all about the adventure, we had plenty of time to get where we were going.  As we wandered we used a trick that our lovely native Kiwi friends had taught us of upending rocks to discover what was underneath.  It’s very exciting because sometimes although sometimes you’ll get nothing at all, the jackpot is finding a load of crabs.  They are all hiding under the rocks having a nice relaxing stretch of the claws and then they all scatter in all directions.  The kids love it!  (So do Josie and I as a matter of fact)  On a side note I just looked up the collective noun for crabs.  There appears to be no consensus, although the words ‘Cast’ and ‘Bushel’ do seem to be suggested a fair bit.  Although ‘Consortium’ and ‘dose’ were both also suggested.  I think ‘dose’ might be referring to a different sort of crab though…

Where was I?  Oh yes, lifting up rocks.  I have no idea what sort of crabs these fellas were, but they had huge disproportionate claws to their body size.  Emily suggested that they may have been called “Big Pincer Crabs”.  Given the way most other fish seem to be named in the Australasian region, I reckon she might be spot on.  Whoever named all the fish down here would have been brilliant on Roy Walker’s “Catchphrase”… “Say what you see…”  Red fish with a big fin?  It’s a big-finned red fish…  maybe.

Half way along we heard a strange sound like  wave breaking, but behind us, and turning round we spotted a few loose pieces of the cliff face rattling down.  This was a great lesson for the girls, because ever since we started walking these routes with them we’ve emphasised the need to stay a good distance from the cliff face.  There has been one death from falling rocks since we’ve been here, although we were well aware of the potential dangers before that happened.  On this occasion it was a few pebbles and they fell harmlessly a good safe distance from us.  For the rest of the walk Lucy kept saying she was going to stay away from the cliff.  Practical lesson reinforced.

In the end we did our chores and stopped for refreshments.  Ice cream, milkshake, coffee and muffins at our favourite cafe in Browns Bay,Ben Gusto, at the Northern End of the main street.  As an aside, I recently had  fantastic coffee in a place in Takapuna and asked them which roaster they use.  It’s the same one as Ben Gusto, Supreme Coffee and I have to say that I think it’s probably the best tasting coffee I’ve had in New Zealand.  I’m going to see if I can mail-order some for the house.

Despite having already clocked up a few kms the kids insisted on a play on the playground and larked around on the roundabout for a while.  Josie and I sat on a bench nearby and had a bit of a ‘we live here’ moment, because it felt like the sort of day we used to only have when on holiday.

We set off home again and took the cliff path, because by now the water was coming up and our route back on the rocks was slowly being covered by the incoming tide.

Our route along the low tide line rockpooling and back along the cliff path

Just before writing this post I mapped our route in MapMyRun and discovered to my surprise we’d actually covered over 5km once you looked at our route around the shops. Oops. No wonder the kids were buggered. Still, they managed it brilliantly and only got a little grumbly in the last section home.  Nevertheless they still walked it all under their own steam anyway. Proud Mum and Dad!

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Last weekend was Labour weekend in New Zealand.  Celebration of the establishment of the 8-hour working day.  The movement promoted the concept of 8 hours work, 8 hours recreation and 8 hours rest.

So we celebrate this with a public holiday making a long weekend.  This long weekend we decided a group camping trip was in order and someone suggested Waihi Beach.  This is an actual place that is also a beach.  Not just a beach.  But there is a place called Waihi (without the beach part) just up the road.

Waihi is interesting for two reasons.

1) It has an open cast gold mine

2) We sat on it during our recce trip and according to our collective recollection had a conversation which was as close as we got to a single decision for us to come over here and make a go of the big move.

Last time we were passing through.  This time we were staying at the Waihi Beach Top 10 Campsite.  It’s a funny campsite this one.  Fantastic facilities, including a pretty good pool complex and sauna, games room, etc. Very nice established trees but tiny pitches.  We haven’t got a big tent by any stretch but we filled our pitch with the tent and the car.

We were right next to the bouncing pillow which was great for the kids, although we did have to become the bouncing pillow police after the kids were in bed and it was still being used after it’s closing time.

We’d really been in two minds about whether to go or not.  The weather forecast a week before was horrendous.  Rain all through the long weekend.

With very fresh memories of our previous camping trip where the forecast was for rain we were a little apprehensive.  Thankfully the forecast got progressively better throughout the week so on Friday morning we finally made the decision to go.  Hopefully we wouldn’t end up sitting in a field like the one in the photo to the left.

Well the forecast was spot on.  We used the pool and the bouncing pillow and sat talking into the evening.  We were completely unprepared for hold cold it was overnight, shivering in our sleeping bags because we hadn’t got enough clothes on.

Having had very little rest we woke early and had breakfast by 7am.  So we made the most of the situation headed down the beach.  It was absolutely stunning.  The water was flat calm and the kids were soon collecting shells and running up and down.

We met a lovely retired couple doing some long line fishing.  Long line fishing is where over a thousand meters of line is dragged out behind an electric torpedo out into open water dragging 25 hooks on the line.  The line sits for a while then you haul it back in again.  It was very exciting – they caught two Gurnards which have an amazing red with blue fringing on their fins.

We were back at the campsite by 9am and felt like we’d had half a day already and it was only just starting.

The plan for the day was to head to Karangahake Gorge.  We were planning to split into three groups.  Walkers, runners and cyclists.  We all started from different points with the plan of converging on a cafe at the same time.  I was walking with Lucy and a lovely lady from the UK, visiting friends of ours.  The walk we were on was a 3.2k loop starting off with a 1km disused railway tunnel.  The walk takes in spectacular views of the gorge and all the amazing remains of the old gold works which brought the area prosperity.  Lucy managed the whole 3.2km  on her own without being carried – I was super proud!  Emily was with the cyclists and she did fantastically as well.

The forecast for the rest of weekend was starting to look questionable so we bailed out late Saturday night.  We probably managed an all time record for packing up all our gear going from a standing start to fully packed in an hour flat!

It really is a beautiful area of the country and we will certainly be heading back there again.


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I’ve added a new post about voting on our It’s the same but different page.

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Auckland is changing.  There are so many projects on the go at the moment.  Many were in the lead up to the rugby world cup, but that’s all done now, so it will be interesting to see if the rate of change slows significantly.

One project that has nothing to do with the world cup is the change to Aucklands motorway in the Victoria Park area.

The Victoria Tunnel Project re-routes around 450m of motorway through a new northbound tunnel in order to allow traffic in the opposite direction to use all four lanes of the fly-over (currently two north and two south).

Admittedly it’s not quite as impressive a construction project as other tunnels, for instance the The Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland at 57km long, but when the opportunity arose to walk through it on the open day we had to take it!  We’ve been regularly driving past the works for more than a year and there was mostly very little to see.  Occasionally you would get a glimpse of the uncovered trench of the cut and cover tunnel, but mostly it was largely hidden from view.

I really hope they have the traffic modelling correct because if they haven’t it’s going to be a very big expensive way of moving a bottleneck 450m further south!

I’ve included a few photos of the family and some civil engineering ‘porn’ for other tunnel fans!

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