Saturday, November 10, 2012

Country Style Golf

We're coming down the home stretch on our trip. Boo-hoo. Thankfully Wellington cooperated today with a nice, if breezy (as usual) day so we could spend most of it outside.

Caroline wanted to do some shopping, always a nice thing post-birth, so the whole fam headed downtown. The fellows went off with Max in the pram, armed with the nappy bag and a bottle of Caroline. We headed for the shops.

The next meet-up was at a restaurant called Leurven, a Belgian-style eatery. I did not have my camera so you'll have to believe me when I say the food was great! Max, meanwhile, had been fed, changed and enjoyed a speedy walk through downtown as the guys headed to the restaurant from cousin Livvy's flat. We'd ordered their food (mussels, done two different ways, which they pronounced delicious. We females had to take them at their word since none of us like those particular bivalves or whatever they are.)

Back home again, Caroline and Max headed off for naps and Ty suggested heading over the hill to a little country golf course. Fifteen minutes along a winding road, down into a valley with bush-clad hills all around and this is what you get...

Built on someone's farm, this little 9-hole golf course is a classic example of a New Zealand rural icon. Sure it's old, and the greens are somewhat challenging

 but these are the nearest neighbors,

there's hardly ever a crowd and it's close. You aren't allowed to wear your gumboots though. There's a sign on the door that says so.

It was a perfect way to spend a couple of hours.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Just Walking

With gas, or petrol as its referred to over here, running at about $8 per gallon ($2.11/litre), we're doing a lot of walking around. This is not a difficult thing to do in a neighborhood with lots of hills and stunning views for when the legs are burning.

Looking south-east

Goddy making sure the pram doesn't get away from him on a steep hill

It turns out that one of Caroline's favorite loop walks just happens to go past a little cafe that has the best date scones on the planet. But, we discovered they only bake them on Tuesdays, so on Wednesday when we strolled past we were forced to get something different. The coffee-walnut slice was a pretty fine substitute.
At the Gipps St. Deli

We also went past a neighborhood park that was the site of the local school's running sports day. That brought back memories of cheering on our boys as they spent an afternoon in the fresh air, competing in all sorts of events and enjoying time outside. Notice how the kids are all wearing sun hats.

"Now listen up, chaps. Here's the drill..."

Yesterday Caroline and I walked around the corner, with Max in the pram, to visit the Plunket nurse. Plunket is an organization that is devoted to new mothers and babies, doing regular development check-ups, running playcenters and support groups and generally being a resource for any question a new mum might have. I think the nurses must vie for a national chipper-and-jovial award for they are all such nice women and make sure that each mum knows that she has the most wonderful baby ever born. Of course, that is not a hard job with Max.

Cute baby alert!!!

Today the wind is howling from the north and the skies are gray. Well, there's an occasional patch of blue but the atmosphere is moving around so fast that it gets covered up really quickly. We took a trip out to where Ty works (by car, not walking this time!) Poor fellow is going to be quite ruddy cheeked at the end of the day - the sports park that he takes care of is exposed to the full brunt of the wind.

Of course, I forgot my camera so you'll have to imagine him out there in his steel-capped work boots, black cargo shorts and wooly jersey, striding up and down behind a field line marker, making the boundaries for a tag rugby field. His hair, which is in need to a trim, was blowing sideways, forward and back, sometimes all at the same time as the wind swirled around. The park is at the bottom of a steep, bush-clad hill which gives a lovely outlook. The personnel that use the park are not always so lovely, so we're told. But Ty and his workmates have it looking really spiffy.

We also stopped at a bakery to get lunch. This particular bakery makes the best eccles cakes on the planet. I have been through eccles cakes withdrawl since leaving NZ.  I tell you, this town has a lot going for it.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sunshine on our shoulders

It's a lovely sunny morning in the capitol city. We've gone from this...

to this...

and it perks everything up. The birds were singing in the bush last night as we tramped up the 150 steps toward our little home away from home.

There's something special about just sitting with loved ones and letting the conversation go where it will. We've had plenty of that in the past weeks, first with Alyssa and the kiddos, now with Ty and Caroline. Although we chuckle at how quickly children revert to their unguarded ways when the parents come around. Not mentioning any names, but we know we've settled in when tempers are allowed to flare and the rest of us just laugh. It happens to all of us in this family.

The next few days we'll be exploring around with Caroline and Max while Ty wins the bread. At least he has sunshine to be working in today. He's getting the park he looks after ready for the cricket season.

I'm so proud of my boys  young men. They're all such good guys. Must be from the example of their father.

Here are some pictures from our ramblings so far...

walking along the Wellington waterfront on Sunday.

Mom and Evan, I took this one for you!

some views from the neighborhood we're in 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Birthday Boy

Today was Goddy's birthday, and I KNEW it was his birthday and reminded myself of it last night, but still managed to neglect the magic "Happy Birthday" words until the man himself reminded me. Way to go, Gremmy.

Well, thank heaven for Max, the ultimate birthday present, and our niece Olivia and nephew Thomas. Max provided lots of opportunity for Goddy to put his considerable baby whispering talents to work.

And Livvy and Thomas came over armed with birthday cake and ample hugs. All was forgiven and we had a lovely day catching up with family.

That's what this trip is about. Reconnecting and just being. Sure, we'll see many lovely things and experience new places but mostly we want to savor long moments with family and old friends.

Birthday morning tea after a visit to a nearby bakery.

So today we spent those moments sitting on the couch sharing stories and memories, enjoying togetherness. Of course, we got so busy talking that I totally forgot the camera, but I suspect we'll see more of these young people in the days to come. Aren't we fortunate?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

New Zealand to the Max

We're on our way to the newest grandbaby! But before we get there tomorrow, we've been enjoying family time.

By the ocean at Maraiti
Goddy's cousin, Dave, lives in Auckland near the airport and has been a pillar to us travelers. He gets up early to meet us at the airport, supplies us with a cup of tea and other hospitality and sends us on our way in his sturdy silver Volvo. He's done this twice now for us and also for our sons and daughters-in-law. It's a gift appreciated beyond words.

Tonight we're in Hamilton with Goddy's brother Steve and sister-in-law Peta. These two are superb cooks and since we're here between our birthdays, they put together a Kiwi nosh for us. Roast lamb and vegetables, mint sauce and gravy, and for dessert, the following amazing pie...

Avocado & Lime Pie

1 packet crushed gingernut cookies
100 g (1/2) butter

Rind and juice of 2-3 limes
250 ml (1C) cream - whipped
1 avocado mashed
1/2 tin lite condensed milk

Melt butter, mix with cookie crumbs and line a greased 8" pie pan or springform pan with the mixture.
Put in fridge to chill
Mix the filling and pour into the base. Chill for an hour or so before serving

I had two pieces of this, and could have had more.

There's only one hitch to this yummy pie - you'll have to wangle an invite to our place because we'll be bringing home the Gingernuts! I'll hide some in the back of the cupboard.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

It's Not a Small World

I'm sitting here on our deck, looking to the west and watching the sunset. But I'd really rather be flying into that sunset and beyond, all the way to the other side of the world.

We're grandparents x5 now, with the birth of a son to Tyrel and Caroline in New Zealand. And the reality of just how far away they are is really setting in - about 14 hours travel time and 8500 miles. A bit too far to just jump in the car and go see the new bubba.

I kept thinking today, how did my mother do it? She was a long-distance grandmother to our three boys when she was my age. And she kept it up for the next 16 years. I guess you deal with what you know and create your world accordingly. My mom did an excellent job of being a grandmother in her reality.

Well, our reality is that we know what it feels like to cuddle a days-old baby and have constant updates. Curse the instant gratification mindset that we've gotten used to. We realized we'd have to wait on some things with this one but it's killing us!

Yes, its a big world out there and we're getting a lesson in that right now.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Playing Hooky

One of my favorite authors, Susan Wiggs, asked today on her Facebook page, "What's your favorite way to play hooky?" Timely question, since I decided to indulge this very day!

I loaded Danny into the trailer and scooted off to Camp Sherman to have a bit of thinking time and to enjoy a lovely September day under the Ponderosa pines. I've been mulling these past few weeks about finding a new home for Danny. My reasons are that I feel like I need an equine that doesn't require me to be on the top of my game all the time, and the opportunity had arisen to purchase a seasoned Missouri Foxtrotter who is kind and gentle.

Dealing with mules can be like having a perpetual teenager. They test boundaries and act goofy and can get into mischief, but the good ones, like Danny, retreat gracefully when faced with the brick wall of an alpha owner. I guess one day I just didn't feel like being the wall. I didn't want that niggly I-wonder-what-might-happen-today feeling. Which was kind of dumb because once we get going, hardly anything ever happens. It's just that when it does, it's kind of spectacular.

Like the day Danny got away from me while he was on the halter and ran amok around the ranch, coming to a final stop after skidding quite a ways on his side on the paved parking area. I was sure he would be maimed for life, but he got to his feet and stood there with his ears at half mast and his head down. He accepted first aid quite meekly and hasn't pulled that trick again, mainly because I learned my lesson too.

Today I conquered the butterflies in my tummy and the result was an excellent ride, a reminder with Danny's floppy ears that mules are a cut above the best horse (let's agree to differ on that one, ok?), and I was able to just sit there and enjoy the ride. Well, most of the time. We did have some conversations about eating along the way and we both won and lost some of those battles. It's interesting to be trotting down the trail, doing leg yields and have your mule grab a mouthful of bitterbrush before he collects and moves off the leg.

But the end result of the day - Danny is staying and I suspect we'll play hooky again.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Grown-up Pony Camp

I've just returned from three days of horse camping near Mt. Hood with my riding buddy, Gayle and her mare, Ruby.

 Since this was my first horse camping experience, I took Peanut because she's little and easy. Gayle and I both agree - she's graduated from pony to first-class horse! There wasn't anything we did all weekend that Peanut wasn't interested in trying. Well, ok, she did think Timothy Lake contained a horse-eating monster and wasn't about to endanger her life by doing something so stupid as wade around or, heaven forbid, swim in the lake, but she was enough of a survivalist to drink out of it.

The frightening Timothy Lake with Mt. Hood looming.

The trails in the area, most of which are part of or connect to, the Pacific Crest Trail, are just lovely. Almost all shaded, hardly any rocks and no scary steep bits. We shared the trails with hikers, mountain bikers and other riders and everyone had a smile. Except for one hard-core looking hiker. Maybe he was one of those wilderness junkies who think multi-use is a swear word. There were many peaceful miles of pure enjoyment at being out on the trail with friends.

Heading to Little Crater Lake with Gayle and Joy, a friend who joined us for a day.

Clackamas Meadow

We stayed at Clackamas Lake Campground, a site in the Mt. Hood National Forest that allows horses as well as regular people. Big trees provide ample shade and privacy and it was a serene place.

Peanut in her spiffy camp digs.

Gayle, Joy and Gayle's dog, Elle.

Ready to hit the trail!

Serene that is until Thursday, when Portland began to heat up and the urban jungle hit the national forest. Thankfully we had to endure just one night of kids screaming, dogs howling, horses whinnying and our adjacent campsite neighbors arriving around 11:30 pm and blowing up what seemed like dozens of airbeds.

Most of us can cope with a night of irritations when the morning brings cool quiet and the promise of another adventure. Mornings were my favorite time. I'd wake up early, struggle into several layers of clothes and stride briskly down the road to the long drop. The horses were waiting for their breakfast, so I'd toss them some hay on the ground to keep them quiet while I filled their hay nets with a bigger feed. Then I'd put on my little jet-boil billy for a cup of tea and get the fire going. Sitting beside a crackling fire, holding a warm mug and reading devotions...doesn't get much better.

Little Crater Lake. Really little, and really cold.

It truly is cold! 34 degrees. My feet were numb in seconds.

Now, I'll admit my enthusiasm must seem a bit corny to those of you who've grown up camping or who are so adept that you can decide to go at the spur of the moment. I like to think I have a refreshing naivety about the whole camping culture. I love that it reduces your world to what you have with you and what's in the immediate vicinity to explore. I love that it fills the senses and be recaptured with little effort.

That sweet and serene recall is handy when part of the experience is very bad. We were nearly home when a car turned right out of an intersection into our path. Gayle swerved to avoid it - generally a hazardous thing to do when towing a trailer - but in this case it saved the lives of our horses. The car hit the back wheels of Gayle's truck but she regained control and was able to pull over safely. We exited the truck howling like banshees at the poor elderly woman who hit us, at the cars that weren't slowing down as they passed and at the universe in general. When we realized the horses weren't hurt, the other driver wasn't hurt and Gayle's truck was driveable, we calmed down enough to thank God for the angels we'd prayed for at the start of our journey. It could have been so much worse.

I've returned to real life thinking this camping gig is ok. I'm starting my camp box today, and am looking forward to more quiet mornings, winding trails and dinner by the fire.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pony Fun

Those of you who've seen my Facebook photos this past week know I've spent it with my 6-year-old niece, Vivi and my sweet pony, Peanut. It's been a week I've dreamt of since before children actually. I kind of wanted to skip the whole parenthood thing and go straight to being a grandmother. Yes, my mom did explain how things work but still, one can fantasize a bit.

Vivi, being a bit older than my grandchildren allowed me to jump-start the dream, bless her dear heart. She's animal mad, fearless in a really good way, a great sport and doesn't mind getting dirty. And she really wanted to learn about horses.

So, as part of her repatriation to America (she's spent all her previous years in Asia where my brother worked for Nike) and to give her the chance to really get acquainted with Peanut, I invited her to the ranch for Cowgirl Camp.

We started off with a shopping expedition to our favorite Redmond store, Big R. It's the go-to store for local ranchers if you want clothes, hardware, camping stuff, animal food or ammo. We got clothes...

New threads and giggling at Uncle Goddy 

First morning in the new boots and jeans, heading down to the ranch

Leading Peanut down to the grooming area. Not many 6yr olds can manage to get a hungry pony past green grass. Vivi did.

All ready for the first lesson

By the second lesson, this is how the pair of them looked. Pretty nice!

We did horsey stuff in the morning and other activities, such as eating ice cream and doing crafts, in the afternoon.

The catchphrase for the week was, "Cowgirl Up," and you know, I didn't have to say it very much at all. There were a few times when she got tired or hot or cold or flibbety when she heard it, and I even had it said to me one time.

Cowgirling up with the manure rake

After a couple of days of lessons in the arena, Vivi was ready to hit the trail, so we explored the forest behind the ranch. The ever faithful Trail Max went along, happy to be allowed to blaze the path ahead of us.

Counting tree rings

Max and Murphy did their part, tolerant dogs that they are. Sweet giggles erupted from the bedroom in the morning when Murphy would jump up on the bed to wake Vivi. Max gave a little growl when he needed time to himself and Vivi respected that. I was quite impressed with that. I think this kid has a future with animals.

I've always suspected that for me, the best years with the grandkids (and Vivi) would be post-baby/toddler. It was the same with our boys - I managed to get them out of nappies,  and kept them fed, hydrated and clean(ish). People would tell me, "These baby years will go by so fast and you can never get them back," and I would silently cheer.  I couldn't wait to get to the fun part, such as flying kites, treasure hunts and hikes.

This week with Vivi, the fun part was watching her create with Duplo,

playing Dog-Opoly in the evening,

laughing at her crazy antics in the chair we named Pepper Ann,

and of course, times with Peanut.

See you at camp next year, Vivi!