Beaches and waterfalls

Yesterday was a “teacher-only” day at A’s school, and K doesn’t work Fridays, so we feel like we’ve been on holiday this weekend.

Yesterday began with an early start as we all hopped out of bed and drove off on one of our madcap schemes – namely to go to the airport to meet Mum and Dad for breakfast! They were due to arrive at AKL at 0730 and their ongoing flight to the South Island was at 0900. So we met them at Arrivals, took them to the Domestic Transfers Desk to check their luggage in for their next flight, and then walked with them to the Domestic Terminal. We had an all-too-brief breakfast together, and then saw them to security to go to their next flight…

We came home for a couple of hours and almost got trapped in the house. They are relaying the pavement outside our house, and (yay!) relaying our driveway too – the ramp from the pavement to the road was at an interesting angle before. So yesterday, we got into the house just before they started pouring the concrete – it was really interesting to watch – and they’ve tried pretty hard to even out the dip caused by the angle of the house’s driveway and the pavement. It’s still drying now (36 hours later) though, so we haven’t yet been allowed to drive into our driveway – still it will be worth it in the end!

When we left the house to go to Long Bay later yesterday morning, we had to walk across a plank – and of course M left a foot print in the newly laid concrete! Ooops!

We spent most of the rest of the day at the beach – and I went swimming in the sea for the first time in many many years! I was thinking that the last time I swam in the sea was Christmas Day 1995 – we dived off the side of the boat somewhere between Changu Island and Zanzibar Town (me complete with recently-fractured collar bone, of course!). But then I realised that I actually went snorkelling off the coast of Mombasa in August 1996 aswell.

I always worry about sharks and jellyfish (thanks to watching too much of the Nat Geo channel!), but there aren’t too many of them around here I’m told. So in we went – and it was wonderful! Aidan in particular loved it! Great fun. We dried off, and the kids played in the playground for an hour or so, and then we headed to one of the other bays (Mairangi Bay I think) where we had burgers for dinner (Burger Wisconsin does wonderful burgers – a far cry from some of the other burgers I’ve had!).

So, I’ve told you about the beach, but not the waterfall. We had lunch today, sitting on rocks at a waterfall somewhere off the Karamatura Loop Walk in the Waitakeres (near Huia). The Loop Walk itself is just over an hour’s walk, and we were really impressed at how well the kids managed it – it has a fair bit of uphill to it, but the kids hardly whinged at all. Yay! Gorgeous day for a lovely walk through the bush!

All up, it’s been a pretty full-on couple of days, and we’re all pretty shattered. Kids are peacefully sleeping now though and Earth Hour is nearly at an end… Night night!

Earth Hour

We’ve just this moment switched out all our lights for the next hour. It’s pretty dark inside, and I’m envying K’s laptop which has a back light under the keyboard – I’m not that good a touch typist that I can successfully type without any light at all. I’m using my little LED keyring torch though, so trying to keep the power usage down.

A’s school are supporting Earth Hour, in fact it was through him we were alerted to the event tonight. We spent some time this evening trying to prepare the kids for the fact the lights would be going out, and I think they got the general idea, but they are not enjoying the dark, even though K and I are sitting in the next room to keep them company. They are supposed to be going to sleep (should have been asleep long ago in fact), but they are struggling tonight, despite an exhausting day.

The lights are still on outside though, although K’s just taking a quick wander to the bottom of our street, from where we can see downtown Auckland and the Sky Tower…

[Edited to add: Sky Tower was off, as were a few of the other downtown buildings, and a few of the other houses on our street.]

Daffodils

I just realised today that the daffodils in my garden back home must be out by now. I love the springtime flowers in the UK – the vast golden seas of daffodils in particular. I miss them.

Aidan had his school swimming sports today and we went along to cheer him on. There were about eighty kids in all, and they each swam two races against seven others of similar ability. Aidan came second in the backstroke race and he won the freestyle! From the kid who could barely put his head under water a few short weeks ago, to winning races!! Wow! I’m a very proud Mummy tonight!

Aidan is missing home, in particular his grandparents and uncles and aunties. I suspect the trigger today was saying goodbye to one of his little school friends, who is heading off to Japan for a couple of months to spend time with his grandparents (see we are not the only crazy people who pick up and move thousands of miles away for a few months!). He tells me that he prefers his school here though!

Megan is such a chatterbox! I was listening to her describing something at great length to her Daddy earlier, and thinking that she’s come on so much recently!

We spent Saturday taking the ferry over to Devonport and then scrambling over rocks and through the tunnels at North Head – lots of fun, especially if you are a small boy who is interested in everything! Church on Sunday morning, and then we went up the Sky Tower in the afternoon.

We’ve been waiting for that perfect weather day to go up the Sky Tower – and it was SO worth the wait! The views were incredible – we could see the Coromandel Peninsula really clearly, and some of the further flung islands in the harbour, and the Waitakere Ranges. Just stunning. K and I have a little plan that, as a special treat, if we can find a babysitter, we will take ourselves up to Orbit – the revolving restaurant in the tower for dinner one evening before we leave. I imagine the city lights will be quite something too!

Picnic tea

Fab evening tonight 🙂 – we found ourselves down near Saint Heliers beach around about teatime this evening, so what else could be done but a picnic tea on the beach? Then a roam along the shore – it was low tide, so we got to explore areas we can’t normally reach. Kids had lots of fun scrambling over rocks and finding “treasure” (shells, broken pieces of glass which have been weathered by the sea until smooth and so on).

K’s back is on the mend or, at least if it isn’t, it’s pretty well disguised by the hefty painkillers the doc gave him the other day 🙂 .

A’s been a little under-the-weather this week – quite feverish through the night and clearly fighting a cough/cold. We decided to try to help him win by keeping him off school today and having a quiet day. If he sleeps well tonight, he’ll go back to school tomorrow.

Oh, and did I mention he has a girlfriend in his class at school? V cute!

Cheesecake, bacon and backs

Feeling a bit worried tonight 🙁 .

K hurt his lower back a couple of weeks ago – enough to give him a couple of days of discomfort, and requiring ibuprofen and even a bit of lying flat on the floor. It improved after a day or so but, at some point over the weekend, he managed to strain it again. This time more seriously, and the pain is in a completely different place – his left shoulder blade, which actually feels somewhat swollen to touch.

He’s in a lot of pain, and hasn’t been able to sleep for the last few nights. The pharmacist gave him some stronger painkillers, and a wheatie(!), and we’re hoping that he’ll be able to sleep tonight. He’s going to the dr tomorrow…

Feeling a bit homesick tonight too – little things like – they don’t do bacon properly over here – all weird “middle” bacon, and I miss my George Foreman grill (which would have made cooking said bacon vastly easier). We are actually very well set up really. I just hadn’t realised how much a creature of habit I am – and how much I like having my own things around me.

Take yesterday for example. I decided to make a cheesecake for dessert (we had the inlaws round for dinner so pudding is an absolute requirement!). The process of making it should have taken all of about 10 minutes. It took 45, and made me late for my lunch appointment. In the process, I discovered that Philadelphia cream cheese is harder over here (and no, I really don’t think it was anything to do with fridge temperatures!). So much so that it actually broke(!) my hand mixer. M, in “helping”, managed to drop an egg on the floor. I cleared up the mess, and she proceeded to knock the bin over and so I had to clear the same egg up for a second time.

Normally I try to include her as much as possible, and normally she is actually very helpful and foresighted (getting out things she knows I will need, for example), but yesterday she wasn’t and, after she knocked a glass of water onto the floor I had to send her away to do something else – for the sake of my own sanity!

A rather nice glass of NZ sauvignon blanc should have helped settle my somewhat fraught nerves last night. It possibly might have done, had K’s back not flared up, and then the kids were up most of the night…! The joys of family, eh?!

Home again!

Wow! Fantastic weekend! Beautiful house, fab company, lots of fun, lots of adventures, and we’re all home now completely shattered!

We arrived on Friday evening, and got settled in to the house which is situated right on the lake (Lake Rotorua) shore, and the kids had lots of fun, finding duck eggs (!) on the beach, feeding the ducks and generally expending lots of energy exploring the house and garden. Steve, Varya and the boys arrived after our kids were safely in bed, so we had some nice quiet time with them.

Saturday morning saw us taking in Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland – which was completely stunning! We had lunch beside the “Artists Palette“, which was situated beside the deep aqua coloured “Champagne Pool“, and had the most incredible colour spots in it – the photos on the website do not come close to doing it justice! Well worth a visit!

We spent the latter part of the afternoon taking the house kayaks out – and we are all hooked! It was such fun! Lake Rotorua is very shallow (until about 500m out – not that we ventured out that deep) so we (the adults) were all quite happy to take a child out in front of us on the little one-person kayaks.

We actually chose not to go to the Polynesian Spa on Sunday morning, but spent the morning on the lake again. Wonderful! Then we went on the Luge. Heaps of fun – but pretty sore on the arms and hands – next time I will wear gloves! The kids loved it!

Sadly, after the gondola ride back down the mountain together, we had to say goodbye to Steve and Varya and the boys, until we can manage to make the trip to Wanganui (which won’t be for a couple of months, I don’t think).

We then headed up to Hamilton and popped in to see Josh, Mel and the kids for dinner – it was great to catch up with them again, although only very briefly. They’re about to move house, so we’ll go and visit them in their new place when we next have an opportunity! Very much looking forward to it! An hour and a half wasn’t nearly long enough!

So now, we’re home. The washing machine has already been on once. And should really be on again now. Back to reality…

Rain and Roturua!

Off to meet Steve, Varya, Benji and Toby in Rotorua for the weekend… very excited! We’re going to be sharing a lovely holiday house with them and we’re planning to go to the Polynesian Spa, the luge and one of the thermal attractions around Rotorua over tomorrow and Sunday. We’ve been to quite a few of the thermal attractions over the years, so I suspect it will be up to Steve and Var to choose!

Will post the links when I get back!

We’ve had torrential rain showers on and off all morning (warm rain though!), but it’s supposed to get nicer over the weekend, and it usually rains when we are in Rotorua anyway!

Hope you all have a fab weekend!

 

Singer-songwriter?

Megan is our little songbird at the moment!

She seems to sing constantly, sometimes old favourites such as “Twinkle Twinkle little star”, sometimes songs from Sunday School, sometimes songs from kindy, but more often than not, she’s making up her own tunes and lyrics.

We’re trying to teach her that repeating the same line over and over and over again, gets a little repetitive after 5mins! We’re mostly succeeding, and last night she sang a lovely little ditty “I’m singing my songy-song, songy-song, songy-song”…

Poor K – he took A to school this morning, and just as he was at the farthest point away, the heavens opened and he’s now drenched!

Another week goes by…

I’m not sure where the time is going!

I’ve been baking over the last couple of days – a gingerbread cake, and a fruitcake… we have the school picnic tomorrow evening, and we’re going away for the weekend with friends, so we decided we needed some munchies. Gingerbread is done, iced and boxed away; fruitcake still in the oven – I haven’t tried this recipe before – a “boiled fruit cake” as I needed a quick recipe, so we shall see how it turns out.

More good news from A this week – we took them both swimming on Friday after school, and A stunned us with his improvement – from a child who wouldn’t put his face under water, to a child who could swim nearly a whole breadth. All in the space of two weeks (thanks to the ten day swimming course he did at school). His improvement was rewarded yesterday by being put up a class at his regular weekly swimming lesson. Yay! Go Aidan!

Somewhat less positively, we’ve noticed a marked decline in his hearing recently and he’s complaining of sore ears again 🙁 🙁 . We’ve got an appt with the dr, but it’s not until next week. In the meantime, he’s now got a “special spot” close to his teacher so he can hear her properly. Really really hoping we’re not looking at grommets op number three…

M is doing well also – we’ve had several dry nights from her in the last week! She’s not quite ready for us to attempt pull-up-free nights, but it’s like she just made up her mind to try being dry and she’s doing pretty well so far! Go Megan!

Must go and check that fruitcake…

And tonight I need wine…

It’s been one of those days – a late night last night (thanks to K completing his tax return), followed by a difficult exchange of emails, and culminating in A stabbing himself in the hand with his pocket knife – this, thankfully, did not result in a trip to A&E – a lengthy phone conversation with the nurse, and a trip to the out-of-hours pharmacy to pick up some steri-strips was all that was needed. But still. We missed having a chance to try to spot the International Space Station as it flew over New Zealand (incidentally, do space stations “fly”? Maybe I should have said “orbit”?)… Just as well we hadn’t told A we were planning to look for it – he’d have been incredibly disappointed.

On a more positive note, A was given a certificate for his improvement in handwriting at Friday’s assembly. That’s my superstar!

A is seriously into both Space and Dinosaurs at the moment. His interest in Space was prompted about a year ago, having watched the Apollo 13 movie. The interest in dinosaurs is more recent, in part prompted by our visit to the Auckland Museum a couple of weeks ago, when we saw T-Rex Sue. Then, strangely enough, it was fostered by the discovery of a dinosaur fact file which was lying out on the street for Auckland’s Inorganic Collection. We now read about a new dinosaur each evening. We made a rocket cake last year for his birthday… do you think it will be a T-rex cake this year?

For the non-Kiwi’s amongst you, I discovered the Inorganic Collection and thought what a great concept it was, long before I ever came across Freecycle (that’s Falkirk Recycle for those dwelling in and around Falkirk). The Inorganic Collection occurs once every year or two and basically everyone seems to put anything they want to get rid of out onto the pavement for uplift by the Council. The Inorganic Collection seems to collect anything from old sofas and furniture, bits of wood and old curtains, to coffee tables, books and dinosaur fact files! And it is a perfectly acceptable thing to do pick up anything from those piles of junk and take it home with you (we scored a television stand and a coffee table and A found his factfile) before the council come and collect it. Some people actually make a living (I’m told) by scouring the streets, picking up the good stuff, and selling it on TradeMe. But what a great idea – not so specific as FreeCycle, and a case of literally first come first served – but fab!

I was actually going to blog about our lovely weekend in the Coromandel last weekend. We stayed in a fab little motel – Harbour View Motel – which had, as it claimed, harbour views from the luxury of your king-sized bed; and a spa pool. Really nice place, lovely hosts (another Scots-Kiwi couple 🙂 ), and a great base just on the outskirts of Coromandel Town.

We drove up on Friday afternoon after school, stopping en route in the Bombay Hills, and then at a beach at Tapu (part way up the Coromandel Peninsula) and arrived in the early evening. That night, the promised storm arrived and we had torrential rain all day Saturday.

In the morning we went on the Driving Creek Railway – in the torrential rain. There’s actually something very dramatic about going through the bush (essentially a tropical rainforest) in the rain. Very atmospheric. The whole trip was well worth doing, and I’d do it again. Just a real shame I just can’t work out a way of getting my parents there during their visit – I think my Dad (a railway enthusiast) would love it. But, if you are ever in Coromandel Town, do make a trip to the railway.

In the afternoon, A wanted to pan for gold, so we went to the Gold Stamper Battery in Coromandel Town. There we were treated to a fascinating history of Gold Mining in the Coromandel for about an hour and a half. This was completely geared at adults, but Ash (the miner giving the talk) held both A and M’s attention for a good hour or so before they began to lose interest! I must admit to not having any clue that the Coromandel was famous for gold. But now I know! The kids loved panning for gold afterwards (although A was very disappointed with his few flecks of gold – he was expecting big lumps, with which he could make a necklace for Clarence (his special teddy bear).).

After all that hard work, we relaxed in the spa. Bliss!

On the way home on Sunday, we had lunch on the beach, and then visited the Wilderness Gems factory in Ngatea. The kids bought some quartz (for M, it had to be the lovely pink rose quartz of course!), and I bought a beautiful paua necklace, while we were there. I would have recommended stopping by if you were in the area, but sadly, we discovered that the place is closing down 🙁 .

From there, the rest of the journey home, and a quiet evening before another busy week.

We joined the library today, at last. I’m thinking of taking M there for the story-telling session tomorrow morning…

Oh, I had that glass of wine, by the way. And very ncie it was too 🙂 .