Musings


Did you celebrate Valentine’s Day? We did but for a different reason – it was Zsa Zsa’s birthday. She turned seven years old and is such a happy, happy dog. Every day, she brings joy into our life. She spends her days chasing butterflies, moths and dragonflies. So for little ZZ’s birthday, El Hubs bought us all a box of Valentine’s chocolates.

Chocolate is poisonous to dogs so no, we did not feed Zeph or Zsa Zsa chocolates. But we had one each in celebration of her birthday. There’s a chocolate cafe about six minutes away from where we live. I avoid it as much as possible. It has the most wonderful cakes, gelato and handmade chocolates. But best to stay away.

I’m not sure if I have ever mentioned this but, down in the South island, I used to work in a book shop on Saturdays. I wanted to get retail experience. I often worked other days as well, filling in for someone else or when an extra hand was required around Christmas time.

After centuries working in organisations, I wondered if retail held any mysteries. It doesn’t and I turned out to be surprisingly good at the whole selling thing. I worked in the shop for over three years and loved it. One of the best aspects was working with a young girl. When we started working together, she was 18 years old and I remember thinking oh God, she will be useless. I thought this because, as you get older, you think that the generations behind you aren’t as well-educated or aren’t hard-working enough. You get stuck in the comfort zone of your own generation.

Wrong! She turned out to be extremely proficient and we became great friends. She would often come over to our place for coffee; when there were no customers we would talk about everything from history to the latest YA books she had read, philosophy and religion. And when she came over to visit, she always arrived with a plate of freshly-made scones.

Since moving to the North island, we have stayed in contact and she announced, about a month ago, that she is coming to visit me. She is travelling with an older sister (who became my hairdresser) and will be here next week. I’m super-excited to see her and very pleased to say that despite our significant age gap (since I’m incredibly ancient), a millennial finds me interesting enough to visit.

It’s like Cathy, the 20-something French girl who was in New Zealand for three years. We became great friends and she would come out from Christchurch to visit and we’d spend hours sitting together and talking in the hay barn. She returned to France in 2014 but we still remain in contact and chat on Skype.

When she was in NZ, she would talk to me about her future. She didn’t know what she wanted to do in life and we’d talk for ages about possibilities. I’m very proud of her actually because she has gone on to study nanotechnology.

I’ll probably take my young friend to the chocolate cafe, despite saying I try to avoid it. But her visit is a good excuse, don’t you think?

Zsa Zsa doing what she loves best – chasing butterflies.

We limited ourselves to a smallish box of chocs.

 

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Can you believe we’ve been living in the Far North for over nine months now? Time has zoomed by. It’s currently summer and I can’t say I’m enjoying it. The humidity is such that some days I think we should just move back to Sydney. I’m not a fan of muggy, sticky hot days. The mornings and evenings are lovely and cool though. I did know it would be muggier than down south, so was somewhat mentally prepared.

We had a ton of rain during January and it meant I couldn’t take the dogs for a walk (they hate rain). But it did fill up our water tanks and the plants were thankful.

Speaking of plants – well, vegetables really. Our vege garden next to The Shed is thriving. We’ve already enjoyed salads with our own cos lettuce, chives, spinach and chillies. You can see from the photos below that the tomatoes and capsicums are growing well. I have four pots of lavender now. I’m letting the lavender establish a bit more before harvesting it to make skin and hand creams.

The plants in our greywater system are thriving. You can read more about greywater here, but essentially it is waste water from kitchen sinks, showers, baths, and washing machines. Not toilets.

El Hubs loves gardening so he’s been busy planting all sorts of fruit trees, and native trees and shrubs (then pruning them into shape. I half-expect him to do an Edward Scissorhands on me LOL).

The Far North is a hive of activity during these heat-filled days. The population swells with tourists and backpackers visiting the Bay of Islands. New shops have opened up and a favourite of mine is a fashion boutique. There’s a really good energy in this part of New Zealand I must say.

Tomatoes

Capsicums

Plants in the greywater system.

You can see my pots of lavender in the forefront.

One of El Hubs’ beloved landscaping creations.

 

Another Christmas done and dusted. As usual, ours was pretty quiet. I’d love a white Christmas but you don’t get that in the sweltering summer heat of Australia (where I was born and lived for yonks) or in the hot climate of the Far North of New Zealand (where I currently live).

I’m connected to a wonderful Canadian writer on Facebook – we are writing a poetry chapbook together – and he shared with me photos of the meat fondue they had for Christmas lunch, the snow, festive decorations and so on. I looked at them a bit longingly and admit I miss the Christmas times I had with my mum and dad and my maternal grandparents back in Sydney.

But….time moves on and we enter different phases of life. And we have our memories; so nothing really disappears.

El Hubs made a wonderful Bombe Alaska with his new toy, a thermi (aka a Thermomix). Heard of them? Have one? It costs a small fortune but is worth every single cent. It produces the most perfect Panna Cotta that wobbles seductively. It basically does everything except tap dance.

We were thinking of making our own Christmas cake with the thermi. I have fond memories of my grandmother spending ages making her brandy-infused cake and I always wondered how my slice magically ended up with a silver coin. But in the end, we found a cake handmade in Paihia and a certain percentage of sales was going to charity. It had just the right amount of fruit and nuts in it.

We don’t normally give each other Christmas presents but, this year, we did. I was very pleased with mine – a set of Splayds. It could be that only Australians know of Splayds since they were invented in Australia in the 1940s. I think though that Splayds were also available in New Zealand and you can certainly buy them here now.

A friend in Christchurch gifted me two Splayds from the 1970s (when they were extremely popular in Australia, along with fondues) and you can see one of them in the photo below with the shorter handle. I think it might be a dessert Splayd.

El Hubs scoffed at the idea when my friend gave me the two Splayds. But guess who has been using them since I opened my Christmas gift?! He told me he walked into a local kitchenware shop, saw them and thought I would love them. He was right!!

There’s a lot to do when you move. We still haven’t unpacked everything and don’t plan to. We’ll wait until the house is built in 2018. Meanwhile, we’ve been steadily planting around The Shed and El Hubs has been designing the house and running the gauntlet of Local Council regulations and restrictions. I think it’s today that our plans go into Council. We wanted to get them in before Christmas.

So…eight months now in the Far North. It’s heating up I must say. Summer is here. But the mornings and nights are cool-ish, which is lovely. I far prefer the North to the South Island. The people are a lot friendlier and less reserved. This is not to say that I didn’t like the South Island but the two islands are quite different.

I’ve been super-busy with writing and planning next year’s goals. Hence, my quietness on this blog. I do have some news though. Miss Rosie has had her foal – a beautiful colt!!! And we’ve found the most wonderful kennels for Zeph and Zsa Zsa. The owner absolutely adores Zsa Zsa and tucks her in at night. So far, they’ve spent two weeks there over the last eight months. When we have trucks and equipment on the property (preparing the building platform), we prefer to have the Z Team at the kennels so they are safe.

The lady who runs the kennels offers farm walks. She makes sure dogs are socialised first before she takes them out together. The Z Team cannot get enough of these walks and the owner takes photos of them for me and her FB page. She thinks Zeph is magnificent. Well, he is LOL. This is by far the best kennels we’ve experienced and this, at least, has eased our minds should we go overseas in 2018.

Can you believe I have not travelled out of NZ since 2014? El Hubs has not seen his son since 2012. He now lives in Brazil, so we are considering a trip to see him next year but he wants us to go to Japan in 2019 for the Rugby World Cup. Then he’s thinking of coming back to NZ with us to stay for a few months. We also need to go to South Africa to see the family. Haven’t been there since 2013. Who knows where we’ll be going next year.

I’m excited for 2018. I think I’ve said a few times that I don’t like uneven-numbered years. 2017 has been a bit gruelling what with selling the house, moving to the North Island, establishing ourselves here, waiting for Miss Rosie’s foal and hoping for a safe birth and so on.

But 2017 is nearly over and here’s to 2018!!! Meanwhile, enjoy the photos of Zeph and Zsa Zsa running wild and free on a farm walk and Argo, Miss Rosie’s new foal.

 

Really loving life in the Far North. We’re now well into Spring and the weather is t-shirt warm. Nights can be a little crisp but nothing compared to the South Island.

And have I mentioned before how things just grow overnight?! We now have grapefruit from our grapefruit tree and our pear trees have busted out their leaves.

The other thing I love about living here is the cafes. SO many to choose from. About once a month, I like to have poached eggs on toast – that is when I can drag myself away from our property. There is such an amazing amount of vegetation that I can literally spend all day walking in the forest at the back of the property; staring up at hawks flying overhead; walking in the English Garden part of our property (that’s what I call it); or walking up the hill that is to the side of the forest.

I really feel Zeph and Zsa Zsa prefer this property to the one we had down south. There’s two streams for them to explore and splash in; the forest to find rabbits; the hill to run up and down. It’s also sunnier up here and Zeph has a new routine. After breakfast, he likes to sit on his favourite chair and soak up the Vitamin D. Zsa Zsa prefers to luxuriate in soft blankets inside (she loves her blankets) but will often lie on her pet bed in the sun. The dogs spend more time outdoors here than down south because it’s not as cold and we don’t get those nasty NW gales.

Really loving it.

Grapefruit tree.

Pear tree.

Zeph in the sun on his favourite chair.

Nothing better than poached eggs on toast.

I believe I’m turning into my mother. Not such a bad thing really. After all, she was a wonderful woman. Yet, I always felt I had quite a different personality and was far more like my dad (who was also wonderful I might add). Where my mum was introverted, I’m extroverted. My mother hated going out or being among people. I get energy from being out and about and meeting new people.

My mum wouldn’t even consider travelling overseas. She was born in Wellington NZ but moved to Australia with my grandparents before her 20s, married and remained in Australia all her considerably long life. Despite offering many times to take her on a trip to see how much Wellington had changed over the years, or to go for a couple of weeks to Hawaii (she often said she’d like to go) – she always refused. Yet, I have travelled a ton in my life. Mum would often comment that I must be restless to want to travel so much.

My mum died in 2007 at the age of 91. Over the last five years or so, I’ve often felt I was turning into my mother. I have not been overseas since 2014 and really have no desire to do so. I don’t like going out much now, preferring to live the quiet life on our property. And now….I have proof that I’m turning into my mother. Camellias. Lavender.

My mother loved gardening. Something I’ve never been into. She grew lavender, dried it and then produced small lavender-scented pillows that she would pin to my bed pillow and dried lavender would be all over the house in little bowls (potpourri). I cringed at this stuff as a teenager, growing up in Sydney. It seemed old-fashioned to me. A waste of time. Why create something when you can just go out and buy?

My mum also grew camellias in our shady front yard. In one corner, she had a rare white camellia. She would often show it to me and she’d also paint it (she was a china painter and also painted in oils). I think this camellia tree would be gone now because the people who bought her property 12 years ago basically chopped down every single tree and tore down the house to build a McMansion.

We have now been in the North Island for six months, can you believe it? We have a little vegetable garden and….I have a small white camellia bush and some lavender growing in a pot. My first attempts with lavender failed, as I planted them in a spot that was too wet. I now have some Italian lavender in a fancy blue pot and, so far, it seems to be happy.

I guess the camellia is a reminder for me of my mum. The lavender is the more sinister thing – I have visions of drying it and producing potpourri to scent the house. Maybe even use it as an ingredient in the face creams I make up. Or use the flowers and whip up some lavender biscotti. Sit alone in our outdoor room. Opposite magnificent totora trees, sipping my coffee and being thankful I don’t have to mix with people.

See? I’m turning into my mother.

There’s even a stick insect on this white camellia!

 

 

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We’ve been in the Far North for over four months now. I can honestly say I would not live anywhere else in New Zealand. I have travelled far and wide in this country – with my Dad when I was a teenager and since I’ve been living here (seven years now). The only part of NZ that I’m not familiar with is the Tauranga/Bay of Plenty area.

There is more rain up in the Far North but it comes and goes. One moment it’s sunny; then there’s a downpour; then it’s sunny again. There is no snow and, frankly, I don’t miss it. No horrid north-west gale force winds; just gentle warm breezes. The soil on our property is volcanic so the rain water drains quickly. Even with stock on the property (cows and sheep) there is no mud to slip and slide around.

Winter here has been very mild. A few cold days where I had to break out the fleecy-lined tops but, other than this, we survived with no heating. El Hubs does not miss chopping and stacking the wood or fuelling the fire.

The people here are friendly and you meet a lot of foreigners. Many are called swallows because they spend the summer in NZ and then return to their own country for their summer. I’ve met Dutch, Germans, Americans and Italians so far.

I love our property so much I rarely venture off it. When I do, there are plenty of shops in our area to get whatever we need including a boutique with great clothes and handbags. I’m afraid I succumbed. I saw this large black tote made in Florence. It’s not leather and I’m trying very hard to be more sustainable in my purchasing and eating habits. Needless to say, I bought it and now carry around the whole house with me LOL I like the gunmetal hardware; very on fleek as they say.

You can also get great coffee with some fun designs. I have to stay out of the fabulous chocolate cafe we have here. I’d love to go every day because I love my chocolate and the cafe has a great vibe. But I’ve cut out all processed sugar from my diet; all carbs; all meat. Been at this for two months now. I do not miss meat at all. Mind you, I rarely ate red meat as I preferred chicken, turkey and fish. I still eat the occasional carb (rice or bread) but not every day.

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