31 December 2017

December 2017 - the end of another year

Well here we are, it's new years eve. To us it seems like this year has gone so quickly. This time last year we had been in our new house for about three weeks, and it was far more bare than it is now. There is so much to do, so many things on my list, so many visions of how things will be, but we've actually done a lot already. We have a bit of lawn now, fruit trees and veggie gardens, the chooks are all grown up and laying a lot of eggs, I learnt how to make curtains and Nathan learnt how to make tile splashbacks.

As for an update from December - what has this month brought me? Well, work is finished for awhile and that's a relief. I have another nine days off. Work finished with three urgent briefings and completely over-the-top christmas decorating in the office. I didn't win or even get commended but I have to say, there was no criteria, and no time put into the judging to take in the crazy amount of detail that a couple of the pods (the science team pods) had put into their decorating. Not that it matters, the prize was only chocolate and the ideas can be pulled out again next year. Not sure what to list on my time recording for all that decorating though. We were fully encouraged by our director so I am in no way responsible for that waste of time. And it's surprising how many people got really into it - I can't help but feel that it was an outlet for how frustrated people are feeling with mid-level management right now (a.k.a. the aforementioned director). Anyways...

So December is a bit light on the news front. Other than work we have been just doing the usual. Working around the house mostly. I went to a neighbour's secret santa party, it was a ladies thing. It was fine and it was cool to see in her house but these things are always a bit awkward. We've been here a year and that was only the second time I have talked to our furthest-away neighbour. As usual, said we should get together sometime. Will we actually do it this time? On Christmas eve our car broke down. It started making a noise on our way down Wainui hill, and by the time we got home it was really noisy and the battery light was coming on. So we didn't go boxing day shopping as planned, we stayed home for two days watching movies and eating way too much (my tummy is still unhappy about how much I ate). Then we got really lucky, a local mechanic opened on the Wednesday, and he managed to get a part a fix the car right away, and it could have been way worse. Some sort of tensioner-pulley that holds the drive belt and makes the alternator and power steering work and fallen to pieces. He put in a new one, it wasn't cheap but wasn't super expensive. And it was done within a few hours. I was stoked to have the car back, and the battery was empty so I had to go for a long drive, during which I noticed that the car was driving so nicely! Obviously it had been going downhill for ages without me really noticing, and now it's really smooth and responsive.

As for Christmas, well that was pretty good but really quiet. It was just the two of us, and like I said we watched movies for two days straight. I got a jigsaw puzzle and two books - they are all finished already but of course that is why I wanted them. And I got a super expensive set of fancy Le Crueset saucepans. We ate way too much, and had a seemingly endless supply of candy and chocolate. I'm really glad that's gone. The cat got a toy but was more interested in our boxes and Cher got a bone because she has stinky breath by she was more interested in begging for scraps of ham. The chickens didn't get anything but they've still been laying well - I have 6 hens but got 7 eggs yesterday! We watched Christmas movies exclusively on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (both Die Hard movies count). Then Christmas was over and Nathan went back to work. I've spent my days reading and now I'm trying to get productive and do sewing. I just finished a hoodie out of this navy jersey fabric that is covered in sequins. Probably the most awful fabric I've ever tried to sew.

Right so it's nearly 2018 and it's time to go drink bubbly and listen to good music. Like last year, we are home in our house for New Years. We'll keep an eye out for fireworks and try not to stay up too late (the dog is already whining that it's bed-time). I'll update this with photos tomorrow (update on the photos - I got some in, and now my touchpad clicker won't work. Need to buy a mouse...).

01 December 2017

November 2017

This month seems to have flown by. It's nearly Christmas and it already feels like the height of summer. I actually can't remember when it last rained here, and we've already gone from water restrictions to an absolute ban on sprinklers. And that happened just three days after I bought a sprinkler! It was going to be great, I was going to multi-task and water the garden while also being free to get other stuff done, plus it would save me from all the mozzy bites I get when I'm outside watering in the evening. But now it's right back to using the hose. Only it is very dry here, the grass is all getting brown, and it's forecast to be a pretty hot dry summer so I'm going to do my bit to save water and only use hose water for my veggie-beds and herbs - I'm setting up a laundry drum this weekend to catch my laundry water to use in the garden. Which is coming along very nicely by the way - my broccoli plants finally have little broccoli heads growing in them. They take up a lot of space though and grow very slowly, considering how much broccoli I like to eat I don't think it's worth growing it next year. I could fit so many more other veggies in that garden bed and broccoli isn't overly expensive. My flowers are doing well too, all my lillies are starting to flower. They are protected from the wind because last year when we moved here (which will be exactly a year in 8 days) the summer was cold and windy and all my flowers got destroyed as soon as they opened. They're pretty safe from that this year.

So what else has been going on? Well I had my birthday at the start of the month so I'm 30 now. It's not so different. There were fireworks in the Wellington Harbour, the last time they'll be doing that for Guy Fawkes because apparently they're spending their fireworks money on matariki in the future. A great idea but riskier in terms of weather. And we went up the Kapiti Coast - weather wasn't so hot yet, there was a cold wind and piles of blue jellyfish washed up on the beach. It's still nice to get away and just be somewhere different though. And Cher came - she certainly didn't mind the presence of lots of smelly dead sea creatures on the beach!

Then I went down south for a conference, which went very well and also had a couple of really amazing speakers. There was my favourite fabric pop-up sale and I bought yet more fabric - I am actually getting into sewing and finishing some stuff though, I recently finished a blouse and a dress (I started both quite a long time ago though). Work has been fine - pretty busy. Things are getting quieter now so I can catch up on all the things that got put aside when everything got busy. And we're having a Christmas decorating competition - I'm going overboard of course.

Now it's the first day of summer and if it gets hotter I'm going to have a tough time of it. Work gets pretty stuffy and all this insulation and double glazing at home means I come home to a hot house in the afternoon. I think I need a paddling pool. We are having a very quiet Christmas this year, just the two of us - I'm feeling ready to get decorating so we'll look for a tree this weekend. I'll probably have to tie the decorations to the branches because my ridiculous cat will definitely think the whole set up is a toy for him to play in. I'll be taking a whole two weeks off over Christmas and I can't wait. Three weeks to go. I'm so tired of work, I need a rest. No plans yet, but if summer is going to be so nice as the last weeks of spring were, then we definitely need to get a BBQ.

Looking back through my photos, in November almost all of them are of the animals. With a couple of pretty skies thrown in and one where you can see some of our house. I'll make a point of taking better photos of other stuff for the next time - after all it is our house-anniversary in December.

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.