Monday, August 24, 2009

Time for firsts

So we waved the Little Dude off on his first school camp this week.

He was awake, dressed and ready to go bright and early, after a weekend spent packing, unpacking, and packing again. There were clothes to name, and lollies (for sharing, after dark) to buy.

I had to smile when H. gave C. a cuddle and said: "I'll miss you my brother", and he gruffly replied: Yes, I know, I'll miss you too."

(This was amazing, because only minutes earlier they'd been fighting with each other about something.)

Surprisingly, there were no tears, though I have felt as if my right arm is missing since C. left.

And so far, I've resisted the urge to phone up and see how he's going!

It's been a time of firsts for C. lately. Last week, he did his first proper speech at school, complete with queue cards. And later in the week, he got the highest mark in his class for an art project.

The kids were asked to create something iconically Kiwi. While other children depicted jandals or tikis, my thoughtful little man created an image of Rangitoto Island, an extinct volcano which dominates much of Auckland's fabulous scenery. And in the foreground, he's made a Pohutakawa flower - known as the Kiwi Christmas tree becomes it always blossoms in December.

He's come a long way since his early struggle with school back in Australia, and I'm pleased to see him enjoying school so much.

I was proud of him I had to give him a big cuddle, which embarrassed him no end.

Oh well - isn't that what Mums are for?

All set - trying to look casual


Hugging goodbye!

Rangitoto Island, by C.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A day at Hamilton

This weekend, we decided to visit Hamilton.
Husband has been there for work before, but it was a first for the kids and I.
It took about two hours to get there, so was an easy drive for a day trip.
Perhaps unfairly nicknamed "CowTown", because it's a bit like a big country town, Hamilton was gorgeous and very relaxed.
I can't wait to go back for a longer visit (and maybe hit the factory outlet shops)!

Hamilton Lake - it's actually the crater of an ancient volcano, a fact which impressed the kids no end

At the Maori section at Hamilton Gardens ... these guys are supposed to make the crops grow better and er, bigger

Hamilton Gardens

Look out, there are two of her!

Hamilton Gardens

Europe anyone?

A stroll with Daddy

Play time

The kids loved the fountains

So peaceful

Running wild...

Wait for me!

More gardens ...

The kids had never seen daffodils growing before - they had only ever seen them in the shops!

Time to refuel

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New Zealand - 100 % scary!

Australia has a fairly well-deserved international reputation as a land of danger. After all, there are venomous snakes, red-back spiders, people-eating crocodiles, boxing kangaroos, stingers and sharks.
When we first arrived in NZ, I was rewarded with huge admiration from Miss 6’s friends when I fearlessly scrambled under a flight of stairs to retrieve a toy they’d dropped.
“But there are loads of spiders under there,” they said breathlessly. But who cared? It wasn’t as if there were funnelwebs, redbacks, or snakes to worry about! I would never have been so brave back home...
In the same way, Missy also received much praise when she calmly dealt with a cockroach that ran across a desk at school one day. The rest of her friends were screaming and running for cover, as she casually flicked it away from them.
“We get much bigger ones in Australia,” she explained.
And it’s true. Australia has a host of scary wildlife, and I breathe a sigh of relief whenever we're out walking that I don’t have to watch out for snakes any more!
But as the months fly by, New Zealand is sharing a few of her own scary secrets.
A few weeks ago, beaches on the North Shore were closed after five dogs died after licking rocks on the shoreline. Dead penguins and hundreds of fish also washed up on the beaches.
Tests have been done, and at this stage the experts believe the mass poisonings are due to tetrodotoxin, a poison found in puffer fish. The beaches are still off-limits while they work out exactly how the poison is getting there.
More recently, deadly porcupine fish have washed up on the Petone foreshore on the South Island. Again, the beach is now closed to kids and dogs, because the fish are toxic.
And in May, the deaths of hundreds of Ray's bream and snapper on a 60-kilometre stretch of Kapiti Coast beach were linked to wild seas pushing the fish from their normal depth.
And that’s not all. Lately, there seems to be an earthquake or avalanche every week somewhere in New Zealand. Though most of them are thankfully mild, there have sadly been some deaths, and some people have had to evacuate from the homes due to earthslips. Television ads frequently warn Kiwis to prepare emergency kits – non-perishable food, water, batteries, first aid kits etc – in the event of an earthquake or volcano eruption. We’re regularly reminded that a major disruption could occur at any time.
One of the kids’ favourite attractions at the Auckland Museum is a volcano eruption simulator. They squeal with delight as the earth shakes and moves, but to me, it’s just a little too lifelike!
Luckily, the worst disasters to engulf our family have probably been swine flu quarantine, and my busted hand. (By the way, thanks for the inquiries. It’s mending well, but I’m still having physio and have to wear a splint for a few hours a day. The physio involves dipping my hand into hot wax, which sounds weird, but feels gorgeous. The heat just seeps into the ligaments and bones, which makes them a bit stretchier when it comes to exercise them.)
Speaking of gorgeous, we've learned a little more about our kitty visitor - or "Catty" as H. calls her. She's a pet which was left behind, either accidentally or on purpose, when a family moved out (Hard to believe, isn't it?)
She's taken to following our complex manager around as he does his rounds, and divides the rest of her time between him, us, and a couple of other cat-loving families. She's been named Dora, after Dora the Explorer, because she is also exploring the complex and making friends. Whenever she is hungry, thirsty or needs company, she turns up on our doorstep and miaows to be let in!
Don't worry, if any of us move out, the manager and his family are happy to give Dora a permanent home.
Here she is, enjoying an afternoon snooze on H's bed...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Camping out and Men Kumera. Oh my!

So, the Little Dude has his first school camp next week, and he is super-excited.
His bag has been packed, and he's been sleeping in his new NZ-standard sleeping bag for weeks.
It's not without a little trepiditation that I will wave my first-born off to camp. There's his life-threatening tree nut allergy to worry about - but the teachers are all aware of that, and he'll have his epipen of course.
Then there are the physical activities - the kids get to do really challenging things, like abseiling, target practice (with air rifles) and archery. There are climbing walls, a flying fox, kayaking, and something called 'the scream machine', where they fly around the gym hanging onto the end of a rope. Then there's the Burma Trail, a walking track across wobbly bridges and via swinging logs which they do by night, or blindfolded during the day! Husband and I have visions of him coming home with broken bones and bruises!
On the plus side, C. will enjoy toasting marshmallows over camp fires, late night milo, and singalongs. Best of all, (says C), is the fact that it's not lights-out until 9.30 pm! (Usually it's 7.30 pm at home).
In other news, in my never-ending quest to find interesting-shaped fruit, I have at last succeeded in finding Men Kumera!
Yes, in the fashion of the Man Orange, I was stunned to find not one, but two racily-shaped kumera in the vegie aisle.
Luckily, I rushed home to breathlessly photograph them, because the next night Husband ruthlessly roasted one of them to have with dinner. (Very nice it was too, with roast beef, potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, peas, corn and gravy.)

What shall I do with the remaining one? Put it on trademe and wait for the millions to roll in?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Time for lunch

It's great living close to the city, so that I can meet Husband for lunch occasionally, and we try to do it every couple of weeks.
Without a babysitter at hand, the occasional lunch gives us that much-needed couple time that grown-ups need - and an opportunity to eat, chat and drink without having to break up arguments, mop up spills, and hand over the nicest parts of our meals!
A lot of the trendy restaurants in the city do bargain priced, gourmet express lunches - in and out within the hour. So you can enjoy a delicious meal, and still make it back to the office without a late mark.
For our anniversary, we went to S.P.Q.R, a fabulous spot on Ponsonby Road, where lunch included a glass of Pinot Gris.
But we don't always live it up.
The other day, Husband took me to his favourite no-fuss lunch spot place in the city, The Little Turkish Cafe in K-Road. I'm not talking greasy, late-night drinking fodder here, this is fresh, delicious food, all made on the spot.
Certainly beats soup in front of the computer!

Proscuitto and buffalo cheese salad at S.P.Q.R

scampi linguini

Turkish bread at The Little Turkish Cafe

Can we get one of these at home please?

Turkish kebab

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Doggie dancing

This weekend, we took the kids to a doggie dancing display at 4 Seasons Pets, one of New Zealand’s biggest pet stores.
Our friend Hsin-Yi and her gorgeous Great Dane Honey were performing there, and we didn’t want to miss out.
All the dogs and their owners were awesome, but we liked Honey’s routine the most (though we might be a bit biased)!
Usually, only agility and working dogs like collies are suited to doggie dancing (or canine freestyle as the experts call it). So it’s amazing that Hsin-Yi has managed to teach her lovable but lazy Dane to dance. And not only that, they are New Zealand champions in their category.
Afterwards, the dog handlers were kind enough to spend time with the kids, teaching them how to get the dogs to do tricks. They had a ball.
H. didn’t even mind being slobbered on by an affectionate Honey. (Danes are very drooly).
Somehow, we managed to escape without buying a turtle, rabbit, guinea pig, mouse, birds or fish (much to the kids’ disappointment).
On the way home, we stopped at The Fish Pot at Mission Bay for some excellent terahiki, chips and salad. Terahiki is a Kiwi fish, a bit like snapper but a bit cheaper. Delicious.

C. and Skye

H., Honey and Hsin-Yi

Honey sneaks in a slobbery kiss!

Honey and Hsin-Yi in action

Honey puts her best paw forward

Designer dog toys at 4 Seasons Pets

Lunch at Mission Bay

Monday, August 3, 2009

It's a zoo out there...

Today, I have a guest blogger: Husband!
Enjoy ...

"My turn to comment for a change, and let the Trouble and Strife have a break - especially since I took all the photos!
Sunday morning had arrived and the kids were being right little monsters, driving their mother and I Krazy, with a K not a C; )
I decided we need to get out of the house and as the only person in the family who has not been to the Auckland Zoo, voted that we go. Much to C's. disgust ('I've already been there') and H's delight ('I've already been there and it's awesome!')
I think B. thought she was dreaming, especially since I didn’t feel like battling dungeons and dragons and other monsters (aside from the kids that is).
As you can see by the photos that B. has chosen, we had a great time at the Auckland Zoo, apart from how bloody expensive food is! Next time we will pack a lunch! $7 just for a small hamburger or sandwich!!!!
Well, we still managed to enjoy the day and see all of the animals (apart from the penguins, much to H's disappointment.) Her exact words were: "Mumma it's not fair, we didn’t get to see them last time either!!! NOT FAIR!" at the top of her little lungs.
I hope B. puts the pics of the piggies and C. in, cause did they stink or what! And C. was really offended with the smell, hahaha payback for his stinky bott bott!
I do think that there was a very sad part to the trip, being Janie the chimp. One of four chimps brought to the zoo in the 1950s, Janie was used for tea parties with visitors until attitudes to animals finally changed, in 1964.
The last of the tea party chimps Bobbie, died in 2004 and Janie has been on her own, ever since. They can't introduce another chimpanzee due to her age and the fact she is fairly domesticated and couldn't survive with other chimps. She has a toy mobile phone, and get lots of attention from staff, but still : Just the look on her face gave me a lump in the throat, and still does."

Janie the chimp

The Little Dude soon forgot to be bored

Missy Moo enjoyed showing off "her" zoo

What's that stench?

Oh, that's disgusting!

Stinky piggy

Otter goes fishing

Meerkat: "Yeah, I'm looking at you. You got a problem with that?"

Lemurs at lunch

"We like to move it move it" sang H.

Servils grooming each other

There were two-legged animals at the zoo as well!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

It would never happen back home...

In the ‘It Would Never Happen Back Home’ category, comes this ad I spotted on our local New World supermarket community noticeboard recently.
As I’ve mentioned before, possums are pests here. You can even buy clothes and toys made out of their fur. (Husband has a pair of soft, warm gloves – the traitor!)
The furry creatures are so reviled here, that on a kids' TV show the other day, one of the tasks in a competition was for them to shoot cardboard possum targets. The child who shot the most number of possums won. Kids shooting and killing animals – two taboos in one!
New Zealand is funny like that.
For example, there’s The Edge radio station/Burger King's current campaign, which touts BK as a perfect hangover cure. On Fridays, they give away $50 vouchers for BK to callers with the best stories of what they’ll be getting up to on the weekend, making them most deserving of hangover food. Radio stations glamourising drinking? Look out!
And finally, our school is having a fundraiser this week. It’s a bingo and auction night, but not as we know it. No, this one is dubbed “Blingo” and is hosted by an Auckland Drag Queen with the unusual name of Ms Beaver Brown.
I mean could you imagine the outcry if this happened in a Queensland school? I’m sure The Courier Mail would be in an outrage!
But Kiwis are delightfully relaxed about these things.
Speaking of relaxed, the kids gave Husband and I a late anniversary present on Saturday by allowing us a sleep-in. They got up quietly and watched breakfast telly by themselves, without fighting or destroying the kitchen once. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer start to the weekend.
It was another wet and cold Auckland day, so we decided on a Doona Day. While the family watched telly or played computer games, I pottered around the kitchen, making the family anniversary dinner we’d been too tired to cook the night before: Roast pork belly with just a hint of hoi sin, warm green bean salad, roast potato and pumpkin, and earth gems. Nigella, eat your heart out!
“But Mumma, it’s not dinner time,” protested H. when she came to help. However, she soon came around to the idea of dinner for lunch! (Roast pork is one of her favourite meals).
I have no idea what earth gems actually are. Even the company’s website doesn’t quite explain, describing them as the “Jewel of the Incas”, and “the ideal nourishing vegetable.” They liken the taste to that of baby beetroot.
After a light boiling, they tasted more like an apply potato to us … but they were pretty nice with the roast.
Sunday dawned sunny and warm, so we took the kids to the fabulous Auckland Zoo.
That’s a blog for another day, so in the meantime I will leave you with a link to the inaugural Auckland High Heels-A-Thon (Warning: Lots of photos of men in high heels). This was held just up the road from our place, but in typical NZ style, I didn’t know it was on until it was over! The charity run had categories for Men, Women and Drag Queens, and was clearly a very colourful event.
Each team coughed up $250 for Kids Can, Telethon’s Big Night In charity for 2009.
Hats off to them, from someone who has enough trouble walking in high heels, let alone running in them!

H. was happy to help, once she realised roast pork was on the menu!

Warm bean and mushroom salad

H. made a face with her food! Roast pork hair, green bean eyebrows and mouth, roast potato eyes and apple sauce nose.

Earth gems before cooking

And lightly boiled

Fire and ice ...

You can take the Brissie girl out of New Zealand, but you can't take NZ out of the girl. Or something like that. What I mean is that al...