01 November 2017

October 2017

I can't believe that it's nearly the end of they year. And that it was only earlier this month that we were in Australia, it seems like so long ago. I guess work and the house have both been keeping me busy. Since being back I have been to a conference in Christchurch, have had to face the reality of my team being split in two and now having two managers to deal with, have been through a 'restack' (that's when they shuffle all our desks around to fit the teams in better) and am now experiencing what a change of government is like when you work in the public sector. And as for at home - well since coming back from Aussie we've had pretty good weather so there is so much to do in the garden. Keeping the weeds down, and trying to grow vegetables. My broccoli plants have huge leaves but no vegetable yet, my carrots aren't growing very fast, but all my new fruit trees have lots of leaves which is good. Except the lemon tree, all the leaves fell off that one, not sure why. Can't be a good sign.

So everything here is pretty good. Work is fine, things around the house are coming along, the pets are all good and we are too. The chooks are all mostly laying an egg per day, and the cat and the dog are getting along quite well. We don't really have any plans for Christmas, we'll just be having a quiet one here at home, probably with the odd visitor but nothing really planned. Nathan has a new job managing a restaurant in Upper Hutt. I think that's the only real news. I will be coming down south for a conference in a couple of weeks so that's pretty handy, as I wasn't planning a pre-Christmas visit (bit broke since our holiday).

So today in photos I want to show you how we've been progressing with our bit of land. The photos on the left are how it was when we first bought it. The photos on the right are how it looks now. And our little bit of lawn doesn't look that great yet but we don't have a mower so it's patchy from the weed-whacker (and uneven distribution of seed I reckon). But my flower garden is coming along. It's getting there slowly.

07 October 2017

Our trip to Townsville

We got back from our holiday yesterday and I must say that even though 15 degrees seemed pretty warm when we left New Zealand, to come back to it from 30 degrees is a bit rough. The rain is sort of nice though, after 10 days without any. Townsville was very hot - and to them it is just starting to warm up after winter (what winter?!). They say that summer there is pretty brutal so this September/October holiday was probably our perfect window for a holiday. Still so hot and humid that I got itchy heat rash all over my feet, but not so hot that we couldn't function. We managed to do lots, we did plenty of walking around places, visited a wildlife sanctuary, went sailing, shopping, swimming, and visited Magnetic Island. It was a pretty full on trip. It didn't start great though. It started with a 7 hour delay to get out of Wellington due to really rough winds and rain across the country - the plane we were meant to fly on was stuck in Christchurch. So that was pretty sucky and we were really exhausted when we finally arrived, but we did get there in the end any after a few days of holiday we had gotten over it.

As soon as we arrived we went over to meet my Grandma, my Uncle and his family. I last saw them 8 years ago so everyone was quite different, but they're all very nice (and way more normal than NZ extended family) so it was nice. We were exhausted though so we went off to our AirBnB pretty quickly. We stayed in 2 different places while we were there, both only $50 a night (so we had more money for fun stuff) and they were fine, it was our first time booking AirB&B's and it was really easy. Considering we pretty much just slept there and spent all our awake time out and about, why would you want to pay more for a hotel or something anyway? And in the first place there was a nice dog called Georgie, and I was missing my pets so that was nice.

That's our first AirB&B in the background - a traditional 'Queenslander'
On our first day in Townsville we mostly just explored, found a good cafe, bought me some jandals because it was way too hot for shoes, and then in the evening we went sailing. The yacht club there does a casual race on a Wednesday called Twilight Sails, and anyone can just go along, sign up, pay 10 bucks and join in. You get picked by a captain that has space on their boat and off you go. On some boats you get to help, we had not experience and weren't asked to do anything except go here and there to counterbalance as the boat swung around. I think maybe for two reasons - the team seemed keen to win for one (there was a bottle of rum at stake) and they also had a young bloke that seemed be learning to sail, so I guess they wanted him to be doing as much as possible. That was fine by me, I mostly just wanted to be a tourist. We went out towards Magnetic Island, got to see the sun set over Townsville, and we were coming close to being second but another boat overtook us on the final stretch. It was fun though, and something a bit different to do - I'd never been on a sailing boat before.

The next day we went to Billabong Sanctuary with everyone - my Mum was over there too, my Grandma, my Uncle, and his wife and 3 kids. It was fun, probably the best way to see so much wildlife because we certainly didn't see most of those animals anywhere else on our trip. It was also really educational, there are talks and opportunities to meet most of the animals, so it was a lot of bang for your buck (way more than the aquarium). Of course they do the photo thing where you pay lots of money to hold an animal and have a nice picture taken - and the family all did that, but Nathan and I got a free one because Mum bought an extra and gave it to us. So that was nice. We all look very tan in the photos, and also very shiny - I'd say it's how the camera was set because I'm pretty sure I'm still pale (I wore plenty of sunscreen). It was a long day though, hot and exhausting - so afterwards it was time to go swimming! We went to the local beach and Nathan claimed the title of the coolest cousins for us, by jumping off the jetty with the kids (I of course do not like jumping from high places so I just took photos of them all).

So that was Thursday. On the Friday we went to explore the shops of Townsville and then went to the aquarium. There are some good wee shops there, a few nice boutique places, and some with really decent prices so I have come home with a couple of new dresses (very summery so we better have a good one this year) and some skincare. There is also some really good gelato to be found in Townsville so I managed to have one almost every day. We went to the aquarium, it's pretty pricey for what it is - but then, they're trying to save the reef so it's a good cause. They have a turtle hospital and we got to go see the turtles that are in rehabilitation. And there are some pretty cool fish in there, it's a coral reef aquarium so lots of bright and colourful things. But all in all, it's just another aquarium. And in the evening we went for a drink with the family - this time to meet my Grandma's twin sister and one of her children (the daughter that looks very similar to Mum, but the resemblance has faded since my last visit, now that everyone is getting old). It was fun, everyone is always interested to meet us because we are the long lost family members. And we again showed ourselves to be the cool cousins - when the kids got bored and were offered a game to play, the only game was petanque, so Nathan and I joined in with them, showed them how to play and after 9 exciting rounds, the girls team won.

Saturday was the birthday dinner During the day we went to shops, and I looked at lots of pretty things, but then Nathan got tired and grumpy so we had to go swimming again, and we went to the beachside pool so that we could do laps and get something akin to real exercise. Only he insisted on practicing his diving, and next thing you know his eyes are all sore from chlorine. And I bumped my foot on the plastic lane divider thing, and managed to scrape a chunk of skin off my little toe, which took ages to heal. So all in all it wasn't that successful a swim. But afterwards we went for ice-cream and that was pretty good so probably worth it. Then in the evening we went for dinner, to celebrate the 80th birthday of my Grandma and her sister. We went to the Yacht Club, which sounds pretty posh but actually it was pretty average. The tables and chairs were plastic and it wasn't a table-service sort of a place, it was a go up and order place - and I know there were 25 of us but they were expecting us so you think the kitchen would be prepared. Instead half of us had finished eating before the rest had even gotten their meals. But oh well, there was plenty of time for talking to people and the casualness of the place meant it was fine to be walking around to different ends of the table for a chat. We met more people, and there is some strong family resemblance so I definitely introduced myself to the same person twice, at least once. It was fun, it didn't go very late (80 year olds don't really party, though apparently they got really smashed on their 70th), and we have some photos to prove that we had a bit of a family reunion so it was a pretty successful evening.

This is my Grandma and her children and grandchildren (and partners)
On the Sunday morning I insisted we get up early to go to the market. It is apparently the biggest craft and produce market in North Queensland but I think that bit of advertising must be old because it wasn't that big. There is another that might have been better but I think we made the right choice, because we found some cool stuff to buy. We found a guy that made wooden boxes and rocking horses, and he also made wooden amplifiers for smartphones. And Nathan's preferred method of listening to music around the house is via youtube on his phone. So we now have a lovely wooden speaker that we can pop anywhere we like and it really works. That's probably the coolest souvenir that we got over there. After the market we went to the museum, and it's a really good one so it was worth the fee. There was a fun exhibit about pirates (for kids so there were dress-ups), an exhibit about the pearl shell industry (interesting but not as good as I expected - it was all about industry, not so much about beautiful jewellery) and a really good exhibit about the Pandora, which is the ship that went to find the mutinnered Bounty, but sank on the Great Barrier Reef. There was more too, permanent exhibits about the tropical ecosystems of Queensland, very interactive and reminiscent of the Te Papa natural history section actually, but we were exhausted by then so once again, it was time to go off for a swim. And then we went to watch the league with my Grandma, it was the Grand Final and the Townsville Cowboys had reached the end, they were playing the Melbourne Storm. Townsville is mad for their league team, I've never seen anything quite like it - it goes way beyond what we do for the All Blacks and stuff. Unfortunately the Cowboys lost (they were really slaughtered) but it was an achievement to get as far as they did so people were still pretty happy.

View of Townsville from the ferry
So on Monday we were off to Magnetic Island. It's a short ferry ride away and named so because it interfered with Captain Cook's compass (but nobody knows why, the compass was probably faulty, there is nothing magnetic about the island). The locals call it Maggie. We were staying in the quietest bay, Picnic Bay, which used to be the main harbour of the island until the jetty got too run down. It's a small place and most of it is a conservation park that you don't really go into. There's a bus to take you around but we hired a car to have a bit more independence. There's not much to do there, it's a place to relax and go walking and snorkelling. So we walked - we went on a huge walk to see the sunset, because the guide book recommended it. But some of what the guide book called tracks were actually dirt roads that a lot of people drive up in 4-wheel drives. We made it, just on time - but it was a bit overcast despite the heat so the sunset was more pale pastel hued sky than spectacular reds and oranges. And it was a pretty long walk back - luckily the moon was out, so it didn't get completely dark. And some german tourists gave us a lift in the back of their 4-wheel drive, which saved us about half an hour I reckon. We were pretty tired after that. 

The next day we hired a car - that was quite a mission, almost everywhere was booked out. From then it was smooth sailing. We went and hired snorkels, and went snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. There are quite a few small wrecks around the island, boats that were sunk to provide shelter for the jetties. So we saw a wreck, and lots of fish, some cool coral, and then we were tired and it was time to stop. We saw a small shark and I saw a very large stripey fish all edged in bright blue. Then it was time for the next adventure so we went and booked a jet-ski for the next morning (because they were all finished for the day so we had to wait). So we went for a walk instead, up to a lookout point with a view over the island. But the heat and humidity meant that it wasn't so great for photo-taking. It was time to go back to Picnic Bay and make use of the beachside BBQ. And we watched these hilarious birds called Stony Curlews. There was a group of them on the road, having an argument, then this 4th one showed up and they all got louder, then the first three ran away - I think they were like a clique and the other bird was not cool enough to join. They hide in the leaf litter and mostly stay still all day, then come out at dusk and hang out on the roads. Apparently they live in people's backyards, which might seem nice but is probably a huge nuisance because they seem to spend all night screaming. The guide book I was reading described it like babies crying but it was really just more like purposefully screaming at random to piss people off. They do it in groups, all through the night. We were told it's not always like that and maybe it's mating season or something.

So finally it was our last day in Australia. We started the day with a walk, the most well known one that goes up to some old forts and gun emplacements. So great views, because that's what they needed for the guns. It's also apparently the best place to see koalas in the wild. But we didn't see any koalas, just noisy cockatoos. Maybe to see koalas you need to know what you're looking for and have binoculars. Or maybe we just weren't lucky. The views were good though. After that we were pretty hot and sweaty so it was time for a swim and we went snorkelling again. Same place, but high tide so different things to see. Something kept stinging me, I never saw what but Nathan reckons he saw a baby jellyfish. I tried diving down to see the coral closer, lots of other people were doing it, but I seem to be too buoyant and couldn't get any depth. There was a huge blue coral and tiny electric blue fish. We didn't see the wreck this time, with the tide high it didn't stick up out of the water so we couldn't find it. But that was OK because back on shore the rock wallabies had come down to check out the people in the carpark, and they are really tame so you can get close to take a photo or to feed them. And after that it was time for jet-skiing! It was so much fun, we had a half hour and took turns driving it. Nathan did doughnuts until he tipped us off - he said he was 'testing its maneuverability' - but he so did it on purpose. I whacked my leg on the way down and have a huge bruise, but he lost his sunglasses so I'd say I came out on top. It was fun but I don't think I want to do it in our cold water here, falling in wouldn't be such a laugh.

For our final evening in Aus we hung out with my Grandma. I asked to see all her old photos and tried to get some information about her family. She's not that chatty about them. They say that having identical twins is random and not something hereditary, but she's an identical twin, her brother had identical twin sons and her sister had identical twin granddaughters. So there seems to be twins in every generation and that certainly seems more than random. Our trip back was easy, just long, with a 4 hour wait in Brisbane. We got back late and weren't in bed till 2, so since we got back we've been resting, unpacking and taking things easy.

25 September 2017

September 2017

I am posting early this month because we are about to go on Holiday! So I won't be writing at the end of the month as usual. We should have been in the air already, but we arrived at the airport at 5am to find our flight delayed by 5 hours. So here we are, back at home, a couple of hours extra dozing and a quick breakfast before we head back to the airport.

So what have we been doing this September until now? Well work has been crazy, our team got divided and a couple of people left, and we are just sort of getting back into things. And of course the election has not really told us anything yet, so my work is completely in limbo. If the government changes we could get pulled apart into three or more departments.

Home has been busy too. First of all, I finished the curtains! They are not hemmed, they are just hanging, and pooling on the ground, but I will hem them when we get back. I needed to get them all up because while we are on holiday Nathan's mum and sister are staying here and I wanted it to be nice. So for that reason we also fixed up a new temporary enclosure for the chickens, they have a huge space now down in the bush. We also had to do that because we got a complaint, after the chickens kept finding gaps and digging holes to get out through. And then this weekend just been we cleaned the house top to bottom - even the walls and oven - so that it would be nice for our housesitters.

So there's not much to report, things have just been trucking along. My veggie garden is coming along and my fruit trees are flowering which is cool. The animals are getting along and getting closer together. Right now their both freaking out though (the cat way more so) because our baby nephew is here to stay while we're away. There has been really stormy weather yesterday and today, which might have something to do with our delayed flight, and we have discovered that in a strong northerly rain storm our main door is not watertight. It's coming in underneath and soaking the carpet. So when we give the company a list of all the things we want fixed (because there's that first-year guarantee thing) the leaky door will be at the top of it. Time to go, catch a plane, I'll post an update when we're back.

Update - we got back to the airport and we're checking in just as a further delay announcement happened. Another 2 hours. It's because of this stormy weather. So eating bagels and waiting. First day of holiday is going to be hone by the time we get to Townsville. I just want some sunshine.

31 August 2017

August 2017

It has been a long month but it is finally over. Winter is over and we had a week of really spring-like weather to give us all hope that this year summer will be a good one. Of course, now that it's actually about to be spring it's raining again and isn't forecast to stop for days (so everything is muddy again). But we had some warm weather and sunshine. My daffodils are all coming out and my peach tree has its first flower budding. I bought fruit trees and now we have another peach, a plum, an apple and a lemon tree getting established. The peach and apple are duals so they will grow two different types of fruit each. And I have finished clearing my meadow slope. I ordered wildflowers to plant there, under the fruit trees, but they went to our old address. I changed the address but only the billing address changed, not the shipping address. Which is weird because I have ordered other stuff from my favourite garden website and had it delivered here. Somehow my profile must have reverted. I'm pretty gutted that I won't be getting my flowers.

Work has been rough this month. We have had a lot on our plates for the whole year really, but this month we have had a team restructure announced. There was no consultation or warning and it comes at a really bad time - with the election coming up who knows what could change, we could have so much more disruption coming. It would have been good to have at least a little bit of time with nothing major going on. It's had a big impact on the energy and mood of the team and it's not much fun.

Luckily we are going on holiday soon. I am so exhausted, I think I probably have not had enough breaks this year. We are going to Australia at the end of September, in about 4 weeks, and it can't come soon enough. Townsville we be pretty warm, much warmer than here, so it will be like a summer holiday. I have a list of a bunch of stuff I want to do there, it includes a stay on Magnetic Island, visiting the aquarium, going to the night market and ice-cream parlours. I'm not sure what all the family will be doing - it is my Granma's 80th (and her twin sister's) so there will be some sort of party, and there will be various family members around for the week prior to that so I assume we'll spend some time with them. But it's also a holiday for us. And luckily the pet-sitting problem is sorted for this time around thanks to Nathan's family.

We've also been making more progress on work around the house. I have almost finished making curtains! 2 out of 3 windows in the living room have curtains (3rd will be done this weekend) and the spare bedroom is half curtained too. It will be finished before we leave on holiday. Nathan finally finished his shed and now his tools are finally out of the house! There is so much empty space along the walls now, it looks so strange. We will have to fill it with furniture. And he also made a gate to keep my naughty chickens in. I moved their fencing out and they have been clearing grass from below our bedroom window. Next I will plant native trees there. The last few days they have stayed in their area but when they really want out they find a way. They squeeze under all sorts of gaps and go on adventures down to my veggie garden. I have had to put netting around it so I could put my seedlings in. I have tiny little broccoli plants in there and I hope they survive. Soon my carrot seedlings will be big enough to plant, so I will have to put netting around the second raised bed. I hope that I manage to be a successful food gardener.

Time to go. As always, I'll leave you with photos. Then I'm off to bed for an early night.


01 August 2017

July 2017

This month started with the car breaking down. Not a great start to the month but it's like one of those stories you write in primary school, with a series of really unfortunate and fortunate events. I was driving home from work and the car started playing up - the engine light came on and it was like the accelerator just wasn't doing anything. I was going over a bridge with a line of traffic behind me. I managed to coast along at 30k until I got over the bridge. It seemed a bit dire, I didn't want to risk breaking down on the way up Wainui hill. Luckily, I had stopped right outside an auto electrician! They were still open, they looked at the car right away, and reassured me that it would be ok. But, they needed to keep the car to look at the next day. Luckily, the shop owner lives in Wainui and offered me a lift home. So I managed to organise a ride to the train station the next morning, but unfortunately that ride got cancelled with no prior warning due to a massive allergic reaction. Luckily, there is a bus and my manager was away so not really a big deal that I was late to work. And after worrying for most of the day, it turned out that there was simply a leaky house letting air in, so it was an way fix. Took awhile to find it so not as cheap as it might have been, but could have been so much worse.

Unfortunately, for most of the rest of the month the engine light has just been on all the time. Doesn't seem to be causing a problem so I am ignoring it. In the last few days it has been off more than on so I'm feeling hopeful.

After all that right at the start of July, we went to Auckland for mid-winter Xmas with the in-laws. It was fine, quite relaxing to be away from work and doing nothing. It rained a lot, we ate a lot, I crocheted and we got to meet our 2 month old nephew. He's pretty cute. We stayed in an air-bnb so we had our own space and a bit of freedom to gossip about everyone, as you do when families get together.

While we were away a friend looked after our house and pets. I'm sure the dog loved it but the cat isn't keen on new people. He didn't come inside for about two days and I reckon spending those nights outside was detrimental to his health, because next thing you know he had worms! When I found a wee white worm on his fur I thought surely he picked it up outside. But then he puked a few times, and then I noticed he was hardly eating. So it was definitely time to worm the animals. Cher was happy enough, because taking pills means she gets peanut butter. I didn't trust the hunger-striking cat to eat a pill though so I got the stuff you squirt in their mouth. He didn't like it. All better now though, it took a few days but he's back to normal.

We also had a few storms to get through here - so much rain, everything around the house was just mud. I got a cold so I had to stay home sick on the stormiest day, which suited me because travel conditions wee terrible. It was so cold that we finally went heat pump shopping. That didn't help though because we had to wait about the weeks for installation. It was meant to be two but they had none in stock. Apparently she called me and left a message to let us know but I am 100% positive that there was no missed call or message. I don't know who she called but it wasn't me.

Well I'm out of stories and the train is about to arrive at my station. I'm glad winter is 2/3rds over. My daffodils are coming up, our heat pump gets installed this week, curtains aren't finished yet because I stopped to make a costume for a friend's play, but they will be finished soon! Here's some pictures:

My chooks in the rain

This is my meadow - daffodils will grow all over it, and I plan to plant wildflowers on it too. My veggie garden beds are at the bottom and my naughty chooks are down there too.
And here is Cher being cute, asleep under the island bar

My very handsome cat, stalking around the chicken coop

My naughty chickens again, making a mess of my new garden bed. See how our grass is coming along

This is Blondie, all bedraggled on a rainy day - for some reason the chooks don't take cover from the rain