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Archive for the ‘Spring’ Category

New Zealand is a pretty small country, and I’ve travelled quite a lot of it. But when my sister rang a week or so ago and asked if we wanted to join her (and her husband and Charlie) for a few days at a town we’d never visited, we jumped at the opportunity.

I love a road trip. Travelling in the middle of school holidays is something we usually avoid like the plague, but as we were driving mid-week it wasn’t a problem. We drove familiar roads and unfamiliar roads, enjoying the scenery. We saw native plants and trees, and exotics showing off their spring blossoms. One town seemed to have adopted the rhododendron as their official plant of choice, and they were all flowering at the same time, lining the roads into and out of the town, and filling both public and private gardens.

On the road, we were surrounded by lush, green fields and hills, dotted with dairy cows on the plains, and sheep as the hills got higher and more rugged. Occasionally, further north, we saw goats, and wild turkeys, llamas and alpacas.

We stopped for lunch at the town at the base of the ski-fields on Mt Ruapehu (an active volcano) in the centre of the island. For a day right in the middle of the school holidays, it was surprisingly peaceful. Everyone must have been up on the mountain, swishing down the slopes, enjoying the last days of this year’s ski season.

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Mt Ruapehu

Raglan, our destination, is a small but well known coastal town, popular for its surf beach. One afternoon we headed out to the beach to watch Charlie (who had already been on a horse trek that morning) surf the waves, along with about 50 others. The learners stayed close to the shore, but others hung further out, looking for the bigger waves. Whilst it was a warm day for this time of year, the sea would have been icy cold, so Charlie’s wetsuit was essential. Her mother and I played around with our cameras, and I managed to get a shot of her up on her board, and a second shot as she did a dramatic fall into the water. When I zoomed in, I could see her face was covered with a huge grin. She came back exhilarated and not at all exhausted, despite battling the waves for some hours.

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As it was my sister’s birthday, we had champagne on the deck of their rented house, went out for a special dinner, and generally over-indulged with coffees and cooked breakfasts and avocadoes brought from their orchard.

It was a quick but hilly walk into the town for a coffee and look around the shops and galleries, and the following day we climbed down to the bottom of a waterfall and with much less enthusiasm back up, although the rain put paid to my plans of walking the track that went right in front of the house where we were staying. Instead, Charlie and I played table tennis in the garage, but we never did get around to having the darts match we’d planned.

And in between we relaxed, read and chatted, or just enjoyed the views from the bach.

All too soon we had to leave. School, work, and real life called for us all. We decided to take it easy on the way home, and so detoured along the west coast to a town I’ve only visited once before. It too is nestled under another volcano, which didn’t emerge from the clouds hiding it until we were well on the way home. I caught a view of the top only through the back window of our car. Isn’t it always the way?

Mt Taranaki before the cloud lifted

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Today is my idea of a pretty perfect day. It is calm, with only a light breeze at times. The sky is clear, with just the occasional cloud making an appearance, breaking up the monotony of a plain blue sky. It is still cool, but not cold. I like that. It was chilly enough this morning to appreciate a woolly coat, but there is starting to be some real warmth in the sun. The harbour was sparkling and beautiful, even if the sight of a middle-aged man emerging from the water in speedos was a bit shocking.

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The dullness of winter is also over, as blossoms start to appear, camellias flower everywhere including our garden, and on my walks around my suburb, I see the blooms of numerous flowers I can’t name. As I look out my windows, I see splashes of yellow all over the valley, and these gorgeous yellow kowhai flowers intoxicate the tui, who are chirping, clicking and clacking wildly, happy that spring is here.

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Kōwhai flowers in my supermarket carpark

 

 

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I promised spring photos last week, but I made you wait, so I apologise. Our oak tree exploded from a bare tree one weekend with only one or two new leaves, to full coverage by the end of the week. Of course, now it’s even further on than the photo below, but I’m too lazy to go downstairs and take a new one!

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I managed to catch some of the tulips and other flowers in the city gardens with my camera, along with families, tourists, and lots of elderly visitors enjoying the colours.

The spring flowers in my in-laws garden are blooming too, so I took some quick photos there too.

The young tui* have been torturing me in the oak tree, sitting there chirping and chatting away, but as soon as I get close with my camera, they fly away.

Finally, warmer temperatures are alternately battling with some last-ditch efforts by winter. It’s that awkward time of year when we don’t know what to wear, and whatever I choose is bound to be wrong.

* As I can’t tell Grammarly, I’ll remind you. Tui is a Maori word, and so doesn’t have an “s” to pluralise it.

 

 

 

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We’re in the last phase of winter, or is it the first phase of spring? Over the weekend, the only deciduous tree on our property sprang into life. On Sunday morning, I saw the first leaves emerge, and by the afternoon there were a few more. Its branches are bursting with buds ready to burst. Spring is, if not sprung, then about to spring.

The neighbours, after huge renovations last year, planted a tree that has blossomed most gorgeously right beside our driveway, so I was thrilled to pop out there and play around with my camera. It was nice to snap away, after the winter when I was tortured by photos of beautiful flowers from my photography course classmates from the northern hemisphere.

I’m reminded too by Fbk that previously I have checked out the tulips in the gardens around this time of year. Maybe next week you’ll get some tulip photos.

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I’m writing this at my desk, with the wide open large skylight above me, and the window behind me – creaked open after a winter closed tight against the cold, wet and wild southerlies – is poised to bring in a cooler breeze, though so far without luck. The sky is blue, and the sun is heating the house, and outside I can see butterflies and hear the tui and other birds chattering away.

After I renewed my driver’s licence (a quick and efficient process, though one that, annoyingly, doesn’t allow me to approve the photo they take for the licence) in town this morning, my husband and I decided, for a change, to drive around the harbour for lunch. The water was blue and calm, and the temperatures warm, and we wound our way around the bays, amazed at this uncharacteristically balmy November weather. Even the pohutukawa are all coming out weeks earlier than usual – I’m hoping they’ll still be in fierce, red bloom when the overseas family arrive in a few weeks.

We stopped at a café that has a lovely view back across the harbour to the city. We found seats under an umbrella to shade us from New Zealand’s fierce UV rays, and enjoyed a delicious lunch of decidedly summer vegetables and flavours.

An elderly couple sat near us with their glasses of chilled white wine, and we looked at each other in disgust, wondering why on earth we didn’t think of that!

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I need to keep it short and sweet on today’s Microblog Monday, after my last post, which was not a microblog post, despite it being about Microblog Mondays.

I’ve broken away from my usual modern literature reading in the last month, to read some enjoyable and interesting non-fiction, including Hillary Clinton’s What Happened, Sheryl Sandberg’s Option B, and most recently, Sue Perkins’ Spectacles.

Some thoughts about aging, the first being the need to plan well in advance, and to make decisions before you think it is necessary, because by the time you need to have made some of these decisions, you’ll be much less capable of doing so.

Secondly, people often talk about maintaining dignity in old age, confusing it with pride, and implying that this is only possible when you are independent. However, I become more and more convinced that true dignity is being able to admit when you need help, and to accept that with grace.

The weather is warming nicely, and we’re all starting to be a bit hopeful that this year we might actually get a summer, after the disappointments of last year.

With spring well and truly here, with bright light earlier in the morning and later at night, the need for spring cleaning is becoming more and more obvious, and will need to be tackled soon.

I may not have cleaned, but I’m feeling quite smug that I only need to buy three more Christmas/birthday (thanks to my sister and a sister-in-law who both have birthdays on 20th December) presents before the end of the year.

 

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(a continuing series)

Create a list of your top favourite costume choices for this year.

I’ve never been into costumes, and never had the need to, especially as Halloween is not something many of us engage in here, certainly not those of us who don’t have kids or nieces/nephews in the same town.

Show us your pumpkin before and after whatever you chose to do to it.

Putting aside the fact that this sounds semi-risque, I think that the before and after of a pumpkin soup, which could be a particularly boring post (not that this is knocking it out of the park!) given that there are pumpkin recipes everywhere on the internet (even though I make a yummy one – hint, don’t ever use potato), and the before and after of pumpkin gnocchi (which I’ve written about before), would just be repetitive, though the mere thought of it makes me salivate.

Share a slow cooker recipe you love.

Besides the fact that it is spring, and slow cookers are going into an annual hibernation as we say good-bye to slow food and hello to salads and barbecues, I don’t own a slow cooker, because I would need to be organised and plan meals ahead to use it, and I tend to cook whatever I have in the fridge, usually as a quick curry or stir-fry, and besides, where would I put it?

Give 10 reasons why you’re glad it’s Fall.

I’m not writing this one for an obvious reason, given that I live in New Zealand (kinda the reason I’m not writing any of the other posts too), and I’m not glad it’s Fall because a) it’s not, and b) we never call it Fall here, as the correct word is Autumn; though to be fair I might write a version of this next April, as I can be quite fond of autumn, but only if we have a decent summer, and that’s never guaranteed … though today it is at least looking (and feeling) promising.

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