02 December 2016

November 2016 - trip to Rarotonga

Well I should have written this weeks ago but things have been pretty busy, with the house, with work, and with the earthquake disrupting pretty much everything.

So, to go back a whole month, at the start of November we went to Rarotonga. My first trip outside of NZ in three years and my first visit to a tropical island. We arrived at night and the owner of the apartment we were booked into picked us up at the airport. She was an old German lady, very chatty but a little hard to follow. She had a lei for each of us, made with fresh flowers - they smelled really good. The place we stayed was nothing fancy, one of a few bungalow style units just outside of the main town, and not on the beach. If we go again I will sort out the accommodation out earlier and get somewhere right on the beach. It was fine though, we had a wee deck looking out onto the garden and we never intended to spend much time hanging around there anyway. Instead we hired a scooter and got about the island on that.

On our first day I was determined to see the island and go swimming and drink out of a coconut. The day started off great but it clouded over and started to rain. Of course, by the time it seriously started to rain we were that far round the island that we couldn't tell if it was worthwhile going back or just waiting it out. We got pretty cold and wet - Nathan more so because he was driving and I was sheltered by him as I rode on the back of the bike. We finally stopped and took shelter at a minigolf course that had a restaurant and bar. The rain eased up and I wanted to go to the beach (which was just over the road) but it hadn't really stopped raining and we were cold so I had to concede that we better go back. We got soaked again. But then the rain cleared so we got changed and went back out, to see the other half of the island. We took jumpers this time. Once again, as soon as we were a decent distance from the town the rain started. And then got heavier. Before we knew it we were pretty wet again. We stopped again for a drink but the rain kept on so we just had to go out in it again and get wet. We did make it all the way around the island though - it's only 30k or so.

So we gave up on the outdoors and opened a bottle of rum, and played monopoly cards on the porch till it go dark. And finally the rain really cleared! Only it was 9pm already and when we headed out in search of food we found most places were closed or not serving food. Finally we found somewhere with the kitchen still open and ordered a pizza. I got my cocktail in a coconut and it was really nice. A band started up but we found we were too tired to hang around until the place really got going, which is apparently around midnight. So that was my first birthday, but Rarotonga is a day behind NZ so it was my birthday again the next day.

For my birthday in Rarotonga time the sun was shining and we started the day by going to the market. It was very touristy, as you might expect, and I wanted to buy everything. We got a drinking coconut to share, they are the young ones that are full of coconut water. It was OK, slightly weird tasting and quite filling. Nathan didn't like how the market was so targeted towards separating tourists from their money so we went on our way and found a beach. It was sunny and the water was far warmer than here, but still cooler than the air, which was good because it was really bloody hot. We swam and I found some pretty seashells to take home. We both got sunburnt, we had sunscreen but between sweating in the heat and swimming, it had worn off. We spent that day driving around the island, stopping at places that looked good to swim at. We didn't go anywhere fancy for a birthday dinner, instead  asked to go on one of the lagoon cruises. So with that planned for the Sunday we just took it easy for Saturday. Found a good burger joint. Had an ice-cream. Drank more rum and felt sorry for myself for being so sunburnt.

The lagoon cruise on Sunday was really good. There are several but we chose the one that has been around the longest. It starts by going out on a boat and the guys tell you about Rarotonga until you get to the marine reserve. Then they hand out snorkels and you get in the water and look at fish. It was cool. We didn't see as much as the time I was scuba diving in Oman, but it's way easier and cheaper than scuba diving! We saw lots of cool colourful fish though, and then the boat took us to an island and there was a beach BBQ, with tuna and lots of delicious fresh fruit. After food there are demonstrations - one of the crew climbed a coconut tree, then they showed us how to husk a coconut, and how to tie a sarong in a few different ways. I volunteered Nathan, he didn't appreciate it. And after husking a coconut he showed us how they grate out the inside and squeeze it to make coconut cream. It was awesome. They told us that there was a night market if we wanted a feed that evening, so we headed to that later in the evening. It was like a huge pot-luck dinner with a whole lot of strangers. There were stalls all around the edge of this carpark full of trestle tables, and the stalls had all sorts of food like BBQ and various sorts of cuisine from around the world, plus baked goods and desserts. We had BBQ and we tried the local raw fish delicacy, called ike-mata. It was marinated in some sort of lemon and coconut cream sauce with onion and other good stuff. I was wary and made Nathan try it first but it was actually delicious and I ate it all. Then we bought pineapple pie, apparently another local favourite - it was incredibly bland. Luckily the chocolate cake we also brought was really good and so was the ice-cream. The night market was so worth going to.

The Monday was our last day and we stayed in the main town for it. We shopped and looked in most of the jewellery stores to find me a birthday present. The Cook Islands are famous for their black pearls and we looked at pendants, bracelets and rings. Finally we settled on a really classy silver ring with a dark blue/green pearl. It fit me perfectly, but it turned out my hands were a bit swollen in the heat because when I got back to NZ it was too big! I shopped for a few small souvenirs, but not many because food there was really expensive so I had pretty much run out of money. I got the obligatory seashell souvenir and a fridge magnet to add to my collection. Then we pretty much just had to pack up our things and wait until our very late flight at 2am. It wasn't really a fun wait. There is a hotel with a restaurant and bar across the road from the little airport and it was awful. The pizza was awful, the music was bad, the ice-cream sundae was not even as good as a MacDonald's one and the service was not great. When it was late enough to check in for our flight, we discovered that Nathan's new passport didn't have his NZ visa information so that was a huge hassle! But finally we were on our way, we had a long uncomfortable jetstar flight back home, and arrived in Welly to a broken down car (it just needed a new key, it's all better now).

So that was my birthday holiday, feels like forever ago. It has been a pretty hectic month since, but I'm done writing for today so maybe I'll talk about that another time. I will add photos soon - they are on my computer in Wellington and I am in Invers right now so that will have to wait.

31 October 2016

October 2016 - Our house has arrived

I think this month I will largely let the photos speak for themselves, because everything has been incredibly stressful and if I get started I will just start ranting. Like, I'm not going to go into the torture that our building consent became, with requirements to get our retaining wall designed by an engineer, and then build a barrier above it, and then tell them exactly where we would build the barrier and not only the specifications of the barrier but the actual materials we would use to build it, as if they didn't trust us to just go to Bunnings and get fence materials. Did they think we would build it out of sticks and string or something?! And let's not get into the incredibly tight timeframe we ended up with, where the building consent actually only arrived the very day before the house was moved onto site. Or the minimal communication that still leaves me a bit unsure as to when it will be finished and we can move. And how many extra payments we are suddenly in store for, with the engineered wall that will be at least twice as big (therefore twice as expensive) as the original plan, the extra fence, the extra building consent payment (building levies, that I'm pretty sure we also paid with the Upper Hutt building consent), something extra for some of the piles because the ground was too hard to drive them in (I don't even know how they solved that one), and all sorts of things like that. At this point we can only grin and bear it. We will be super broke for awhile, but at least once we're there we won't be paying rent as well as mortgage.

And before we get to the photos, just to let you know, going to Rarotonga for my birthday, so I'll post a mid-November update with pictures of beautiful beaches, and hopefully I'll be less stressed next week!

Now for the photo reel:

03 October 2016

September 2016 - building consent is being processed

September has gone by quickly, and I have a good excuse for being a couple of days late in writing - we had guests for the weekend. It's so exhausting having guests, it feels like there hasn't even been a weekend.

So the month started with two weeks of stress while waiting for the architect to get the right information to the city council. After a rather rude and obnoxious email (from him to me that is), I took a step back and left the rest of the building consent stuff to the other half. Finally we got an email from the council with an invoice attached. so we paid that right away and a couple of days later they confirmed that they had the payment and had begun processing our building consent. So finally a bit of good news and a clear time frame - they have to have it sorted in 20 working days. Which brings us to about the 19th of October.

As for the house in the factory - we have not yet got a new time frame for that. I keep asking when it will be transported but have not yet got an update. We have got photos though, and can see that it has now been painted and is waiting for the kitchen and bathrooms to be installed. Then it will be ready.

No other news from this end. Work is the same. Life is pretty tiring. Weather has improved a lot and the evenings are a lot lighter. It's actually been warm enough for shorts and t-shirt twice! At Wainui the weeds and grass are starting to grow pretty quickly so the next thing to do is buy a weed-whacker and start taking care of things. Here in the city it's time to start thinking of packing. I sold our spare tv and the ugly couches are next on the list. I packed up all my fabric and next I'll pack books and ornaments, and other semi-useless things that we won't need for a few weeks. If things go really well we might be able to move at the end of October. But we have our holiday in Rarotonga booked, so it might end up being after that!

Time to go hang up more washing and feed the dog.

29 August 2016

August 2016 - still working on building consent

For all of this month, we have been waiting. Every week the architect suggests that the documents we need are nearly ready and he will send them soon. This time he sounds quite certain; he is now calling it a package and asks if we want it emailed or in hardcopy. So maybe tomorrow we can finally apply for consent. This guy definitely makes mountains out of molehills though. His latest email suggested that we would need to print two copies of everything and take it to the council. Should we really be trusting a so-called professional that is so misinformed and behind the times that he doesn't know that councils have online portals for consent applications?

If we get the consent application in this week, maybe we will have the house on site by the end of September. So only a month late. The house itself is going well, not quite on schedule or it would be finished already. But it has walls and cladding, this week they will probably put in the bathroom and kitchen. Then painting, and then it's ready for the site.

The site is almost ready for the house too. The land has been scraped flat and the bank cut for the retaining wall. They are also now waiting on the documents from the architect, as the earthworks team don't trust that the architect won't change the placement of the house or something silly like that. I guess they have had some unsatisfactory dealings with him in the past.  It doesn't add to our confidence in him, that's for sure. And this is the new architect that the company contacted because the old one was no good. Doesn't say much for the profession.

My best guess at this stage is that our house will be ready at the end of September.  We need to buy a fridge and a couch, and we have been given a really nice dining table and chairs from Nathan's parents. So that also means we have a month to clean up our current house and sell our furniture and the extra tv. I have two bolts of really nice curtain fabric, and the rest of the house can wait because the next big spend (after the consent that is) will be a fence for part of the section. All my plants are currently in pots and buckets so I'll have an instant garden when we move. Everything is planned and we are just waiting for a bit of security around the date. In the meantime we're paying rent and mortgage, which is starting to take a heavy toll.

Let's finish with photos. I'm posting from my phone again so no photoshopping today, just a bunch of photos.

01 August 2016

July 2016 - building consent

Today's post is coming to you two days late for a couple of reasons. First, I have been so sick with a cold. Second, there is something wrong with my computer - it is going so slow, it takes about 5 minutes to do every single little thing. It was never a good computer but not this bad, I think I need to reboot it back to factory settings. But first I need the patience to transfer some files to a hard drive, which in its current state could take hours! Sip this morning I am once again writing on my phone, on the bus. It's a clear morning, the sun is just up and the horizon is all orange.

In news this month, wet have been struggling to finish cleaning up the land and to get our building consent sorted. We haven't finished either. The land is nearly done, we need to get some rubbish taken away and then we're ready for the site works. The building consent has been a nightmare. We started looking into it ages ago, and the company told us they would supply the information about the house that we would need, and that we didn't need a surveyor. We talked to the council and they said we were pretty much sorted, just needed one more technical drawing. But out seems that our contract at Matrix didn't nearly know much about the building consent and the information she gave us wasn't much good. The main mix up was because, while we are doing site consent, they are arranging it to be installed on site, so we assumed that they would have sorted out all the information around installing on site. So what we are missing is a technical drawing showing the drainage on the site, to the sewage and stormwater connections. They only supplied the house drainage. And there is no clarity in the contract about this sort of thing, so we had some tense conversations. Basically, we are of the opinion that of the company were not going to supply this, they should have told us we needed to arrange a draftsman to do it. After all, their subcontractor will need the drainage plan when it comes time to lay the drains. Now, I don't know if we are right in our assumptions, but their architect is now sorting out some new drawings for us so I guess we aren't completely wrong.

The result of all this is that we should have had our consent application submitted last week, and now it probably won't be fine till next week. So maybe the house won't arrive till September. The delay can't be pinned on us luckily, otherwise the contract would have us paying an extra $100 a day for every day that it stays in the factory after completion. Even if we had the site drainage plan sorted on time, the architect has made changes to the way the two modules join, so we need new drawings for that and an updated foundation design anyway. So all in all, it could be worse, we could be in a situation that was going to cost us a lot of money. But I'm still not happy with the delay, I'm sick of our rented house, I want my nice new house.

So the plan for this month is to get building consent, do our site works, and hopefully have our house delivered. Also have to go down to Christchurch for a weekend, for a midmid-winter Christmas with Nathan's family. Also have to really start packing up our stuff! And make curtains and go couch shopping. So the pace is definitely not slowing any time soon.

Here's an update on the house:

30 June 2016

June 2016

The year is officially half over, which is pretty hard to believe. As far as we know, they haven't actually started building our house yet, Apparently it will still be complete and out of the factory on time though. We have continued to clear weeds off of the land, and now we have a huge pile of green waste to deal with. The plan for this weekend is to hire a mulcher and get rid of it. Then we are free to get our earthworks booked in. We have resource consent, we just have to arrange for a council inspection. So that's the plan for July. August is supposed to be delivery. September we'll be moving in.

The big new for June is that my poor old car died.

I had really been hoping that she would last another year or so. Buying a new car just wasn't part of the plan for this year. But there had been more issues cropping up in the last couple of warrants, and we knew she was reaching the end of her life. One day at the start of June we saw there was smoke coming from under the hood, and there was a smell of burning rubber. We hoped it was not big deal, I thought it was just out of oil, but after a top-up it kept happening, and we realised there was oil leaking. The mechanic confirmed that the head gasket had blown, and it would cost more to fix than was worth spending on that car. We had to buy a new car, but to do that we had to keep driving the broken car, hoping it would just keep going long enough. It would have been nice to have a bit more time to think about it and find the right car, We pretty much had just a single day. Drive out to the car yards in Lower Hutt, look at cars, and make a decision. I wanted to spend more money, and hopefully get a car that would last us a good long time. But in the end we found a very cheap station wagon with a big engine, it will do what we need and hopefully will last longer than expected. We have added a tow bar so we can hire a mulcher, tow a trailer full of furniture, and fit loads in the boot.

It would have been nice to have some time for second thoughts, but driving home from car shopping that day, with night coming on a rain pouring down, the window wipers jammed up. One got stuck on the other, and bent out of shape. Luckily when we turned up the speed they started again, but jamming with every swipe. We managed to get off the motorway and find somewhere to pull over, but we couldn't really fix the wipers. We managed to bend the broken one in such a way that they didn't jam so much, and we could safely drive home. But that was really the last straw. Luckily the next day wasn't rainy. We got the new car checked by a mechanic and went ahead and bought it. Got more than expected when we traded in my car for scrap. And now we have this huge beast of a car. It's automatic and I miss having gears. It's a lot slower to handle, there's so much more of it to move. And it will cost a lot more to run. But it will do what we need and the price was right. Maybe in a couple of years we can upgrade properly.

That's all the news. It's really cold here in Wellington right now, but overall it's been OK. Work is the same old, same old. It's a shame there are no more public holidays for awhile. I'd really like to come down south for a visit, but I missed my window to get cheap mid-year flights. Now I need to wait until I know for sure about the timing of the house. I can't risk missing it being finished, being delivered and of course, being handed over to us. So sometime after September I guess.

By this time next month I will have more land photos for you. The earthworks will be done, we'll have a clear building pad and driveway. And hopefully we'll have some photos of the house in the factory.

30 May 2016

May 2016 - lots of hard work

This month has been very busy, and we have been working hard. Aside from the usual - work, walking the dog, hobbies, small amount of social life, we have been making plans and working on the land. The house is due to arrive in August, and before that we need to get our earthworks done, but we can't book that until the resource consent comes through. That should be quite soon though. Until then, we are working on the triangle of land that is furthest away from the house site. At first it seemed like an impenetrable mass of bush, with a steep, bumpy slope all covered in weeds. However, we soon found that the bumpy slope was actually a steep bank, where the previous owners had tossed all the green waste the last time that the land was worked on, leaving piles of tree branches with weeds and vines climbing over them. The impenetrable mass of bush was actually just a few trees, covered with a strangling vine. Here's the before shots:

This area is going to become my vegetable garden, and there's a lot more space there than we thought, now that we've cleared most the rubbish away. The neighbours have been dumping their compost down there for the past 15 years or so (the pile of brown stick-looking things is leaves from their banana tree) and they also had a pumpkin patch in that cleared area just this last autumn! The pumpkin patch was gone by the time we bought the property officially, but do you think they took all the vines away to their own compost pile? They most certainly didn't! The first fence that is going up will be on that border, because with the clearing done their yard is right there, and we want some boundaries. Plus, the lady reckons she's scared of dogs and Cher can't tell the difference between our land and theirs. The problem with putting up a fence is that they clearly don't realise where the boundary actually is, and our fence will cut across 'their' grass and the area where they let visitors park their cars. So that will be a very delicate conversation. We'll probably get on to it quite soon, before the house arrives, and just get it over and done with.

Now here are some after pictures. It looks sort of messy because removing all of the vine took away some of the branches and foliage of the trees (but most of the green in the images above is the vine). We also removed a sycamore. Now you can see that there is actually a lot of space under the trees there. The post with the mailboxes will have to move, otherwise it will be behind our fence. The sign for the construction company also has to go, we're not providing free advertising space for the neighbour's business!

So in the group of photos above you are looking down the bank that is shown on the left of the below photo. Now here we are looking from one end to the other, and you can see through the trees at the end to the street (so looking back to where the mailboxes above are sitting). We couldn't show a before shot of this view because all you could have seen was weeds and gorse. It looks quite messy, we have a long way to go. A retaining wall will tidy up the bank on the left, and the flat area below that will be garden beds for vegetables. Dividing our section from the neighbour's will be a tall trellis for beans and peas (in addition to the boundary fence that is). Under the trees will be the chicken house and run. And where I'm standing with the camera, and to the right of me, is a sunny spot where we can plant some fruit trees and maybe have a small glasshouse.

This weekend I'll take a couple of photos of the ever-growing pile of garden waste. We will have to hire a mulcher, there is too much of it to get rid of. We will finish clearing the spot above, it needs raking out. Above (to the left) is some very lumpy ground where all the dirt from the original excavation was dumped. We plan to smooth it out and add our own fill to it, from our site scrape, then plant grass. Hopefully within a month or so you will be able to see the shape of this garden area taking shape.

Now we have begun to tackle the other side, as we might as well get together as much as we can before we hire a mulcher. Up top there is another pile of branches that have just been dumped - only part of it is on our property but we'll have to move it all so that we can plant a hedge or something there. There is also a fair bit of gorse around the edges of our native bush area, below where the house will be. We've cut down some and planted a tree, and we'll get rid of a bit more just because we can really, and so that we have easier access to the patch of natives. There is a lot of just one type of exotic tree growing amongst the natives, I don't know what it is but I think I only want one example of that, so all the rest can go and be replaced. Slowly though, trees are expensive. 

Next month I will post photos of the other side, and point out what we will plant where, and how we will change the shape of the bank eventually. And just so you know, it is not just one neighbour that we are complaining about here, it is three different neighbours. One has not spoken to us yet. One has a construction company - and their sign is on our property, along with a pile of bricks that they best move real soon, or we will use them. And both these two have their mail boxes on our property. The last is the one that has been using our property as their compost bin, and whose yard crosses onto our section, and who is afraid of dogs. So it will be a delicate transition for us, so as not to really piss everyone off before moving in!

And as a parting shot, here is a picture of some cool slugs we found:

30 April 2016

April 2016 - becoming landowners

April has been a very big month. After multiple delays on the land purchase, it finally went through on 15 April. We have the photo to prove it. I posted it on Facebook and everybody asked where is the house - well the house is a few months away yet and our next step is resource and building consent. Need to begin that process today actually. But anyway, first of all, just so you know what you are looking at below - the long flat bit of grass behind us in the first photo is where our house will be. It will be a long narrow house, because the less we dig into the slope the better. In the second photo you can see a whole lot of trees, with some toi-toi sticking up between a gap in the trees. In a few months our house will be sitting in front of the toi-toi, in amongst the native bush. The land was cleared at some point so it is quite low, scrubby native bush at the moment, with a lot of kanuka and ferns. In the bottom picture you can see the aerial photo of the land. It's 1400 square metres.

So we have had our contract with the prefab company sorted since March and have now made our first payment to them, so their first step is to get the building consent for building it in their factory in Upper Hutt. On top of that we need building consent for the actual house site in Lower Hutt, and resource consent because even though we are doing very minor site development (mostly just a site scrape), we are in a hill residential area, so every little thing needs resource consent. Luckily, it will be non-notified so it should only take a couple of weeks to sort. The build may already have started, or if not it will start very soon, as they can do the first stages in their factory before the building consent has come through. We will go to see it when the framework is up, and probably every couple of weeks after that - as often as they will let us. You can see below the house plans, so you have some idea of how big the land is. Of course, almost everything that is not being covered by the house is sloped, so we won't have a big yard or anything like that. Loads of space for creative gardens though. We want a garage but it will have to wait a couple of years. The house will be three bedrooms, with a large open living space (that's going to be in the middle where the two modules join together, and the 'L' shape is the kitchen).

Since the sale went through we've being going out there for a few hours on the weekend and getting into the scrub and weeds. We are working on the triangle off to the right in the picture, as there is no point doing work around the house site until after all the big trucks have been through and the house is actually there. We thought that the other part was lumpy, filled in ground, but it turns out that when the land was cleared in the first place, instead of disposing of the trees that they cut, they just dumped them down the slope. As you do. So what we have found is a whole lot of old bits of tree, maybe they are branches off of the same tree or maybe lots of small trees, grown over with climbing weeds so it's impossible to know if you're about to step onto the ground or a void. There's also lots of top soil there, so I'd say that when it was cleared they dumped the tree branches down there, then scraped the land and dumped that on top. So we're working on getting down to ground level so we can see the lay of the land properly. When we do our site scrape we will probably put the soil down there too, then work on forming a terraced vegetable garden. There's already a peach tree there to get me started on growing food. And the neighbours had cleared a small patch where there is a gap in their fence and planted a pumpkin patch there! Before our sale went through they picked their pumpkins, pulled up all the vines and dumped them off to the side, in amongst all the other weeds and compost that they've clearly been dumping there for years! How rude. I will definitely be building a fence there!

On the other side, around the house site, is the native bush area. There's a bit of a bare patch directly to the left of the house, where our bedroom window will look out to, so that will be where we start planting. Around there edges there is kanuka and some broadleaf trees, lots of ferns, and some stuff that I don't think is native. We don't want to de-stabilise the slope so we won't clear it, we'll just slowly replace the trees we don't like with nicer natives, ones with nice flowers and berries to attract birds. There's a bit of gorse to be taken care of as well. Up behind the house, at the top of the pictures above, is a steep bank that eventually we will terrace and dig some steps into, and we will make it into a cute little patio area, as that is the north side so will get good sun.

Finally there is that pizza wedge cut out of the property, which belongs to the old fella down below. The real estate agent indicated right from the start that the guy was keen to get rid of that bit of land, as it is way above the rest of his property, probably by about 5 metres. So we've met him, and we'll be friendly, and eventually the topic will come up and we'll see what happens.

So that's all the big stuff that's been keeping us busy. Work has just been same old. I've been to some conference/symposium things and I did some training courses. The weather here is still quite warm and dry, but it's much colder in the afternoons so I've pulled out all my warm winter clothes. We have to start going through all our cupboards and getting rid of stuff, we don't want to move all our clutter and junk with us! There's a big list of things I want but we might not be able to afford new things. We will need to buy a fridge, and probably a lawn mower right away, but things like new couches and dining set will probably have to wait. I need to make curtains, choosing fabric for that should be fun. It would be nice to have new stuff in the kitchen, stuff that matches, but that can wait as well. Right now we need to be as careful with money as possible, as we are already paying the mortgage as well as rent, and we will have some very big bills coming up for the consents and the site works. Which means that my plan to visit Invercargill for a weekend in the middle of the year is probably cancelled. People will just have to come up here to visit us instead. The same will probably apply to Christmas. But we will have a house, and it will be nice, so we will definitely be keen for visitors!

31 March 2016

March 2016 - buying land

It is the very last day of March so I am right on time this month. It has been another very big month. Last month I told you about our offer on a piece of land. Now we have gone unconditional on that land and paid a deposit that was pretty much all of my savings. Scary. In another week it will be settlement and we will pay all the rest of the money that we have got together, and the bank will pay even more. In order to get our government Homestart grant for building a house, we need a building contract signed before we settle on the land, and then we will need to pay the first big deposit immediately. So tonight we have what is hopefully the second-to-last iteration of the contract (there are still a couple of things we need changed) - we hope to sign the contract tomorrow, but that will depend on our lawyer confirming something and them agreeing to it. Nevertheless, there is already a sold sign up on the land and as soon as we have gone out to take a photo I will put it here for you to see.

In March we have also gone on a road trip to Christchurch. It was both very quiet and quite eventful. It was quiet in that we didn't really do anything, just hung out with Nathan's family. We didn't do any day trips really, or go see stuff, somehow time just passed. It was also quite eventful though; Cher nearly caught a goose, I got a decent pair of new jeans for $10, we went to the CookieTime factory for cheap broken cookies, and I left my wallet on top of the car on the drive back up (luckily it was found when a truck ran over it and caused it to fly up, and the driver behind the truck saw and stopped to pick it up, and for some reason Mum's phone number was written on a receipt inside it). It was Easter and I definitely fell off of the healthy-eating wagon. I'm trying to get back on, but it's not easy when there are CookieTime cookies at work...

Tomorrow is April Fools day. I hope no-one gets up to anything at work, I am too tired to bother with that. I just want to get this building contract sorted. We have a good lawyer, so we'll see what he says in the morning.

02 March 2016

February 2016 - the beginning of something big

Now when I say something big, I mean really big ... about as big as a house!

Earlier this month we made an offer on a section out in Lower Hutt, in a suburb called Wainuiomata. Wainui is sort of to the side of the Hutt, it's a valley that these days is mostly a commuter town, being about 15 minutes drive from the train station and then a 10 minute train ride. It's small, it's far cheaper to buy property than Wellington city, and it sort of reminds me of Invercargill (the flat bit at the bottom that is, not so much the huge hills). Our section is halfway up the hills, with a view over the town and to the hills on the other side. It's big - 1400m2. It's also mostly sloped, with scrubby regenerating native bush, gorse, lots of weeds, and a few nice trees. There is a long flat section, and that is where we plan to fit a house.

As for the house, the plan we are pretty set on is a pre-fab home from a local company called Matrix Homes. We looked at lots of other options, but having a house built on side would have ended up being far out of our budget, and all pre-designed plans from the other companies, whether to be built on site or as a pre-fab in a factory, they were all too wide for the site and we want to do as little in the way of earthworks as possible. The big difference with the company we have chosen is that instead of various house plans they have just three modules, and you can stick them together any way you like. So it's like really big lego...

In the end we will have a long house with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a large open plan living space. There will be lots of floor to ceiling windows looking out over the valley and our wee piece of native bush. Over time we will turn the bank behind the house into a terraced garden for all my flowers (and some herbs and vegetables) and we will turn the messy native scrub into a semi-wild garden of natives, probably with a little bit of terracing and steps so we can maneuver the steeper part of the section. There is another sloped area that will be perfect for a terraced vege garden and a chicken coop, though we may use up half of it with a garage if we can afford it. Which in turn will create shade so maybe my veges won't grow there after all. We'll see. Finally, there is a grassy bit that is actually part of the section on the level below ours - the realtor promised that the owner was keen to offload that big of grass, but now that we are committed with our offer he is of course back-pedalling and saying don't count your chickens, etc. I for one still have my heart set on redefining the boundary and getting that piece of grass - with a big of fill over time it could even nearly be flat, and will be the closest we get to a lawn in this hilly city.

So as you can see it has been a very big month, and things are just getting started. We are halfway through being ready to settle on the land - in fact more than halfway. I have the LIM report, but it's huge so will take awhile to understand. The geotech guy was pretty positive but we need to wait for the test results. We need quotes for earthworks and connecting services, then we need the final quote on the house itself. And we need an estimated valuation. Finally after that we can go unconditional, sign stuff, and become land owners.

It's past my bedtime, I stayed up just for this! And only two days late...

I will add some concept pictures soon, for now I need to go to sleep.

30 January 2016

Finally! Update on last three months

Now, before you complain (again), I really think it's reasonable enough to have stopped writing when in the last three months I was down south three times. What more do you think there is for me to say? Especially considering I'm pretty sure I just have the one reader (if there are more out there maybe let me know?). But here we go, and I will write once a month again, I have just been really busy. So what has been happening that has been keeping me so busy?

Well in November I had my birthday. Unfortunately I had a terrible cold! Nathan gave it to me. My third week at my new job and I had an event to plan, I didn't want to take any days off. I may have made some other people sick - but then, there were lots of people with bad colds and infections, so maybe it wasn't me. My birthday was a Thursday and the plan was to go out for dinner - by this stage my cold was quite bad and I was so out of it, I just wanted to go to bed. Nathan convinced me to go out, and I agreed but wanted to go casual, and dress warm in jeans and a jumper. But I was talked out of it. And despite not being able to taste my meal fully we had a really nice dinner. The great thing about going out to dinner with the restaurant manager is that you get special treatment. We got a surprise extra course of oysters - and I think it might have been my first proper try of oysters, as I've always assumed they would be icky. They were really good though. But I should try them again as I couldn't taste properly that night.

My Aussie/Irish mate came to visit for three weeks. Unfortunately because he'd changed his plans so often, I already had a lot of plans plus my new job so I couldn't spend as much time with him as I would have liked. But we managed to do some stuff, took the dog on some nice walks, things like that. On one big hike we got stuck in gorse and then I slipped on a rocky slope and broke my phone. But overall we survived. It was nice to introduce him to my friends and have a dog sitter in the house. But he's gone back to Ireland now, won't see any of my friends from there for ages now I reckon.

In November we also went to the Fleetwood Mac concert. It was amazing, best concert I've ever been to. But the trip up was torture. The deal was that I would organise the trips to Invers and this one was on him. I kept asking if he'd booked flights and he finally looked into it a month before the concert - they were so expensive! So we had to drive. We left after work on Friday and the weather was awful. We tried to leave early but it seems to beat traffic you'd have to leave at lunchtime. We were in crawling traffic for about two hours, with torrential rain for about half that time. We finally got clear of it and were making a bit of progress, we were more than halfway to Taupo, our stop for the night. Then the car starting handling poorly and making a lot of noise - we look out the back window and see smoke. We pull over as fast as we can and find that one of the tyres is completely destroyed! It must have gone flat slowly, and then driving on it flat tore the rubber to pieces. Luckily we weren't quite down to the rim. And it had stopped raining. We managed to change it, but it took ages, the nuts were so tight that it took the two of us hauling on the tyre iron to get them loose. It was awful. Plus the spare is a space saver so for the final 200 km we were stuck at 80 km/h. We didn't arrive till 11 and we had planned to arrive at 9. We were exhausted and it was dark. But the next day was sunny and it all seemed to be OK, only 3 hours to Auckland, a discount tyre place around the corner and a free hot pool to wallow in while we waited. We got on the road at 10, everything went smoothly for an hour, and then we hit traffic again. It didn't stop till Auckland, a 3 hour drive took over 5 hours. It was rainy and muggy in Auckland, I was exhausted and hungry. But it was finally over. Did you know there is Velvet Burger in Auckland? I had forgotten how good it is, I wolfed mine down so fast I got a tummy ache. And then it was time for the concert. Like I said, it was amazing. There was a bit of a thunderstorm but even when it was raining, people were packed closely so only the tops of our heads got wet. They played for so long, and did 4 encores! By the end of it all we were completely exhausted, it was time for bed, but it took about an hour or more to get there. Then the next morning we had to drive home again. What an intense weekend! At least the drive home went smooth, sunny and no traffic, stopped at the Taupo hot pools again, home in time for dinner.

December was all about Christmas. I worked right to Christmas eve, except for my short trip down south. But then I had 10 days off which was nice. Or at least it was meant to be. But Nan died - we knew it was coming but it was pretty sucky timing. Luckily Air NZ offer compassionate fares so I could afford to fly down (only just). Christmas wasn't ruined though, because it's not like it had been unexpected. And New Years wasn't ruined. Just the in between was not very fun. So we had a Christmas tree, stolen as usual. This time we took it from down the road, it was growing wild along the bank, pretty much out of the middle of another tree so I thought I would do a favour to the other tree and take the pine tree off of it. Of course, it was right outside of some houses, across the road from the bus stop and underneath a streetlight, but that didn't deter us. All in all it was pretty funny. I also made my first gingerbread house, which worked out pretty well. Didn't dress Cher up Christmassy this year, but she got in the spirit of her own accord and kept napping under the tree. Christmas day was hot, we had a big late lunch and then went down to the beach, and played in the waves. Cher likes to get in the water but whenever we do she stays on the beach and just waits for us - strange dog. So it was a pretty good Christmas day.

New Years was also quite a lot of fun, though it didn't go according to plan. After going through Taupo on our Auckland trip we decided we should go again, properly, on a camping trip. We couldn't leave until New Year's day, and we were unfortunately a bit hung-over and tired (New Year's eve was a lot of fun though). The 1st of January was stinking hot up here and my poor old car doesn't have good air conditioning (it doesn't really have any actually). We got about an hour out of Wellington and started to wonder if this was such a good idea, especially considering that we were winging it and had no campsite booked. I said keep driving, in half an hour we'll find a beach to stop at. We kept going and maybe an hour and a half out of Wellington we couldn't take it any more, it was just too hot, we were all miserable and I was grumpy. We got to Levin and stopped for lunch, as there is a lake there. However, it turns out that it is not the stony, clear, go for a swim kind of lake. It's the marshy, full of birds, stinky, can't go in the water sort of lake. Cher didn't like it either, the birds were too big for her to feel confident chasing. So we got back in the hot car and kept driving till we got to the beach. It seemed far away but it was only really about 5 minutes. We immediately went for a swim, and that was good. Then it was time to eat, and we were too tired and hungry to think to reapply sunscreen. So you can guess what happened. This little beach was called Hokio and there was a tent pitched right near it. We decided we definitely couldn't drive another 4 hours to Taupo and maybe we should just stop. But we kept going just to see what the next couple of beaches were like. I thought maybe Foxton would be good. Should probably have just stayed there and relaxed because we couldn't find any other suitable spots - I think most places are not open to people just pitching tents, but in Hokio someone already had so we felt a bit more comfortable just going for it. We BBQ'd and walked on the beach, and went to bed when it got dark. Of course, the next morning it was raining... We went into Levin for breakfast, went back to the beach and packed up the tent. Then I insisted on a last swim. We drove right onto the beach, but it's more suitable to 4-wheel drives, not like Oreti beach. Nathan hasn't really driven on beaches before and next thing you know, we're stuck in the sand. So there's nothing else for it but to start digging, and lay driftwood under the tires to get some traction. Luckily, as we were making slow progress a kind stranger came along and towed us out of the sand, and we were more careful after that! We definitely deserved a good swim then, and despite it being a bit rainy earlier it was warm enough. We were super-careful on our way off of the beach, and drove home, because sometimes it's just nicer to be at home.

Now, if you're not tired of this novel yet, I'll tell you about January. It's been full on, we have both been working a lot, the weather has been hot, and every weekend has been packed. It was Nathan's birthday, there was the wedding down South, last weekend we went to the circus and this weekend it is Rugby 7's so I am home alone this Saturday night while Nathan works extra shifts. I managed to crash the car again, I mis-judged how much space I had pulling into a parallel park and scraped the side of the car against a pole, smashing the indicator and making a big dent. And just a few days before the warrant was due! Absolutely sucked. We were going to try fix it ourselves but the only car with the right parts at Pick-a-part had already had those lights removed! So I gave in and took it to the panel beater, and probably would have had to anyway because of the dent making the indicator not fit right. But parts would have been way cheaper if we could have found the right thing. Anyway, when I took it back to the mechanic it still didn't pass - turns out the other headlight was broken too, and his handwriting is so scribbly that I couldn't tell from the warrant sheet, and if he told me I must have forgotten. So yesterday I was feeling pretty crap because I'd have to fork out more money. I decided once again to have a go at it myself. Went back to Pick-a-part, and nearly gave up again but on our way out we saw the right car (in fact, the same car from last time) and what would you know but the only light left on it was the one I needed! It was the exact right model, and we managed to remove it easily because all the stuff around it was gone. However, getting it into my car was a mission, because the old girl is so rusty! The broken light came out but not all of the connection came with it, and we couldn't unscrew the bolts because they were so rusty and the plastic bits they were bolted into just twisted under the pressure. In the end, we reverted to a hacksaw and hammer, and just bashed them out. Bent the metal back into place with some pliers, put the new light in, put newer, un-rusty nuts on and she's all fixed! Very proud of myself, though my poor scratched up hands aren't thanking me.

All of our free time has been filled with house research - we have found a section that we really love, we're pretty convinced that pre-fab, transportable homes are the way to go, we're going to talk to the city council on Monday to make sure there are no surprises with the section and then we need to choose a building company. Oh, and make an offer of course. There is a competing bid on it, we're hoping that that falls through. The real estate agent doesn't seem to have much confidence in it, so we've got our fingers crossed but it's been an anxiety filled couple of weeks. I won't put up any pictures until we know what's happening, but it looks like this is going to be a pretty big year.

So that's all for now, hope this epic post has put any complaints about my absence here to rest. I will leave you with a view of my garden, I've had lilies blooming constantly since before Christmas and I can't wait to have a proper garden for them.