Saturday, 21 December 2013

It must be Christmas

The tree, although small, is up and decorated - but there is a dearth of presents below as they are still waiting to be wrapped!

 I have also hung some of our inherited decorations
 Bill's mother had these (there are three) before we were married, so they must be nearly 50 years old
 This musical bell plays Silent Night and is about 70 years old as it was bought when Bill was very small.  Actually, if you click to enlarge, you will see the light shade behind which dates back to 1933.  It is handpainted china and we think it is really lovely.  That will definitely not go with the house when it is eventually sold - at some far distant time (we trust).
 Santa is only just over 40 years old, he plays Jingle Bells and was bought when our youngest son was about 2.
This also says Christmas to us in the tropics - mangoes and lychees, yum!
This year is a good season for both fruits so we will have our fill, but as well as that we will still have the traditional plum pudding with coins!  Nothing else will be hot - apart from the temperature, which is forecast to be about 30 degrees.  We are on the coast so we are lucky and will have a cooling breeze.  The town where I grew up on the inland side of the Great Dividing Range, is forecast to reach almost 40 degrees, with a very low humidity.

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing I hope you all enjoy the spirit of Christmas and have a wonderful New Year.

Monday, 16 December 2013

A lovely evening

Last night 'Christmas in the Gardens' happened at out Botanic Gardens, held on a Sunday this year as there had been a mixup with the cafe and there was a function for 100 people there on Saturday night.

What a good thing that turned out to be - we had one of the most successful evenings ever, the weather was perfect and nobody seemed to want to go home.

 The crowd came early with their blankets and chairs and picnics
 We sold flamefree candles (battery operated) and glo stiks, which the children loved.
 They were encouraged to wave their candles around in the air
 and dance to the music
This choir was the first group to perform, with some glorious classical Christmas music, thoroughly enjoyed by the older adults, but possibly not the right group to be performing there as the little ones were getting bored!
I always come home totally exhausted after this event, but I wouldn't miss it for worlds - the joy on the children's faces is more than enough satisfaction.

And Hamish and Alexander got into the spirit.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Last long post of photos from New Zealand

I keep running out of time to post these photos, but here goes

 This building was just near our hotel and fascinated us - we never did discover what it is used for.
 We spent a lovely day at Auckland Botanic Gardens with our extended family.  The children particularly loved it, there are some very special places for children in the Gardens.
 Here we all are, except for my nephew Peter who took the photo
 This was the view from the balcony of our hotel.  We went up to the viewing platform of the sky tower you can see there - 220 metres above ground.  The views were spectacular, all perfectly safe as we were behind glass.
 The blue tone is because of the glass I think, all the photos from the viewing platform came out like this.
 We finally saw some lovely roses in Auckland, we were too early everywhere else.  You need to click to enlarge the second photo which was a fantail displaying like mad just in front of us.  I was clicking and guessing as there was so much sun I had no idea what I was taking.
 We visited Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium, one of my favourite tours of the trip.
The aquarium is in an old converted sewerage tunnel and the penguins are wonderful.  The aquarium makes over 4 tonnes of ice every day to provide the habitat.  We were luck enough to arrive just on feeding time
 The two breeds are Gentoo and King - I could have stayed for hours watching them

 The gentoo penguins are breeding very successfully, the eggs were due to hatch in the next day or so and if you click to enlarge you will see the exposed egg under the penguin.

 The Rotorua Museum is an old Bath House from the late 1800s - people went to Rotorua for the steam baths.  What we saw looked pretty lethal to me, I would not like to have been taking the cure!
 This was the magnificent entrance to Te Puia, the Maori tourist centre with the geyser and mudpools, as well as much Moari culture.
 The main geyser was going off well behind us.

 This was a Maori meeting house - still used for Maori cultural events as well as tourists
 The weather in Whakatane where we were staying was not wonderful, and neither was the beach!
 These photos are loaded in the wrong order - this was the scene after the storm has passed
 This was the storm coming up and we were hightailing it home to avoid getting wet
This photo was of the storm approaching, and the one above (which I can't separate) is some roses in the Whakatane Botanic Gardens.
This has taken longer than I meant so I had better run and take the clothes of the line before the sun goes down.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

A very quick post

I still have some more photos to show you from New Zealand, but not much time to load them just now, so here are a couple of shots closer to home.

 Look what is in the middle of my nodding violet - two baby doves! (Click to enlarge the photo). The mother built the nest and laid her eggs while we were away - I had been chasing her out of the pot before that!  From her point of view I suppose it is an ideal location, the eggs couldn't fall out of the stupidly spindly nest she built, and the chicks are well protected from the crows - it makes watering the pot very difficult though!

 The poincianas have been flaming all round the city for the last few weeks, this is a very good flowering season.  I had not noticed the yellow poinciana in the Botanic Gardens before - it makes a lovely contrast.
I am off to a planning dinner meeting of our Gardens committee to decide what is happening next year - back with more photos in a day or so.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

More from New Zealand

I have been editing - at last - the photos I took in New Zealand - far too many -  but it is such a picturesque country I couldn't help myself.  Remember you can click to enlarge any of the photos.

 Lunch at a picnic area on the Clutha river, driving from Queenstown to Dunedin.
 We visited the Royal albatross sanctuary to see the albatrosses and were very lucky - the wind was very strong (it always is in NZ) and the birds were flying.  I took lots of photos of clouds, but managed to include an albatross a couple of times!
 Our guide was very excited.  We watched these two birds from a hide - they were only a couple of metres away, and the female had only arrived in the previous hour.  Apparently the male arrives first and checks out the nest from the previous year, then the female comes a day or so later.  they spend a day or so preening and courting before she lays on or two huge eggs - it would be like us having a baby weighing about 30 lbs!  How awful.

 This is the Albatross colony taken from the other side of the bay.
 Port Chalmers taken from the Rhododendron Dell Garden, a lovely place.
 Scenery nearby - typical of much of the South Island

 Bill and Barb in a very misty and cold entrance to Dunedin Botanic Gardens
 A view from one of the very steep hills in the gardens
 and of course lots of rhododendrons!
 Dunedin was originally going to be called Edinburgh and they built structures resembling Scottish architecture - this is the railway station

 The First Church of Otago (Presbyterian) is apparently a replica of the cathedral in Edinburgh.  It is really lovely.
 In Christchurch we were taken on a guided tour of a beautiful garden, Mona Vale.  Unfortunately, the home has been badly damaged by the earthquakes, but thankfully you can still walk safely in the gardens

 As part of the Walking Guides conference we were also taken on a punt ride on the Avon River

Wonderful way to see the Gardens, but my limbs had frozen solid and I didn't think I was going to be able to get out of the punt at the end of the trip!

 We were also taken on a bus trip to Arthur's Pass, in the mountains on the way to Greymouth on the western side of NZ.  We did the train trip the last time we were there but the bus route shows different country again.  They call these rivers 'braided rivers' because of the way they flow
 Christchurch was fine and sunny, but up here the rain came don, not heavy, but very wet and cold.  Some of the delegates braved the walk, I didn't go far at all and this is Bill giving up also!
 This new viaduct takes the heavy traffic over the ranges
 Thank goodness we were able to go walking in this area - real Hobbit country!  I loved all the moss and lichens on the trees
 The grey, misty day made it even more effective
 These tiny flowers were growing in moss at the foot of one of the trees, but nobody could identify them for me.
 This is for my farming friends - New Zealand farmers practise strip or cell grazing in a big way, both with sheep and cattle. 
This photo has loaded in the wrong place.  We saw this kea when we stopped to look at the viaduct at the top of the pass - it was almost as bedraggled as we were, but it was coming over to see what it could get from the tourists!  They are very destructive birds and tear anything left on the outside of parked cars to bits.  They are quite funny to watch though.
You must be tired of this by now.  I will load the last few photos in another few days, then New Zealand will just be a lovely memory.  Christmas is coming far too quickly, I need to change course.