Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dunedin Tahi

Ella and I went to Dunedin a week ago, for a week. My brother Rua, my sister-in-law Jill, my niece Millie, and my nephew Alex live down there (there are other people living in Dunedin too, of course, but I don't think I'm related to any of them). Millie was turning seven on the Saturday we were there, so it seemed like a good time to go.

We flew down on Wednesday the 5th. We went from Hamilton to Christchurch on an ATR 72 (I love these planes), and then on to Dunners on 737-300 (I don't love these planes quite as much).

Anyway, it was 8°C in Dunedin when we got there - I'm sure you're all familiar enough with the climate of the Central North Island of New Zealand to know that it's usually a bit warmer than that in November. Snow on the hills in Dunners, though. Many different people told me that while this isn't usual, it's not unheard of.

I like the cold anyway, so I thought it was great.

Jill and Millie came to pick us up from the airport - Millie was off "sick" from school!

We settled in a bit, and the next day Jill, Alex, Millie, Ella and I went to the Cadbury factory, pretty much right in the middle of town. Nearly $50 for a family pass for a tour, but I think it was well worth it.

Here we are just after tasting plain cocoa beans:
They are not very nice. I am in fact stifling a chunder.

There's a small kind of display section to wander around in before you go on the actual factory tour. I wasn't too fascinated by it (aside from the old Moro wrappers), but Ella was pretty transfixed:

We had to put all our stuff in a locker (including cameras, which is a bit of a bummer) before heading into the factory. We also had to cram our hair into hairnet things:
Well, have you ever had a hair in your chocolate?

The tour was awesome - lots of interesting machinery and stuff. I have to say that pretty much all the jobs in there are horribly dull, but I guess factory work's pretty much the same no matter how nice the product is.

We were told that this factory produces all the Curly-Wurlys for Australasia. Were there any in the shop though? Were there buggery! DISAPPOINTING, but not enough to overshadow what was a cool tour - it even has a chocolate waterfall at the end, which fully kicks the Willy Wonka one to the kerb.

The kids posed as little Cadbury workers before we left:

You also get various chocolate bars as part of the tour (a small bag - not armloads like in my fantasies, but enough). To help the kids use up some of the sugar, we went to Baldwin Street, the Steepest Street . . . In The World (imagine Jeremy Clarkson saying it).

I've viewed it from the bottom before, from a car, but there were too many people in that car for the owner to be game enough to try driving up.

Ella uncharacteristically beat everyone to the top, me and Alex bringing up the rear. It is pretty steep alright. The most amazing thing is that some houses don't appear to have driveways. The occupants must either walk all their groceries in, or perhaps they have huge blocks of wood to chock their car in place on the street outside?

Here's everyone (bar me) resting on the thoughtfully-placed bench at the top:

Here are the kids courting disaster (thank god Betty wasn't there) by dancing at the top of The World' Steepest Residential Gradient:

. . . and here's everyone (bar me) heading back down. Close-up at the full extent of zoom on our new camera:

. . . and no zoom to give you another idea of how steep it is:
Yep, there's a dude bikin' up.

We rescued Rua from work and went and had lunch at Starfish in St. Clair, which was great, just as it has been in the past.

That night Alex and Millie's school had a disco. Despite Ella and I not being pupils OR parents of pupils, we knew the DJ:
so were able to blag our way in anyway.

Ella wore a dress handed down from her mum, so it may have seen school disco action before:

Millie wore a velvet jackardigan:

Alex wore his Speed Racer costume (of course):

There was a blacklight, which worked pretty well on a '70s dress, as you might expect it to:

Alex also showed me his classroom while we were there:

His principal took the photo, and for no charge gave the camera its first destruction test. It survived, and to be honest, Betty will probably give it a lot more of a hiding.

1 billion flashing rubber LED toys and 1200 K Bars later, it was pretty much the end of Day One in Dunners. More later.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Film Of The Year

About time I uploaded some stuff off the video camera. Here're some youtubes for ya:

Here's Bethan blatting around after the bath:

She is wearing a butterfly towel, in case you were wondering.

Here's Bethan riding her bike:

She insists on wearing the helmet; as useless parents, we don't force her to at all.

Here's Ella having a bit of a dance:

We haven't sent her to any dance lessons. I think we ought to, if only so she has enough space to pirouette around without smashing into the fireplace.

Bethan dances to one artist ONLY:

The King.

I was going to post up a few more, but I just keep running out of time. These will have to do.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bunnies and it's not even Easter

We went to Mt Ruapehu at the weekend. Ella and Bethan have never even seen snow before, and skiing's one of my favourite things so I'd like to get them into it. Rach was also keen to have another go at skiing.

We left as early as we could on Saturday morning (about 9 o'clock in the end, which isn't bad for us) and drove down with a couple of stops on the way. We got to the mountain about 1 o'clock, and decided that since the last lessons of the day start at 2, we'd just hire a sled for $20 and go up to Mead's Wall and slide about.

Betty and Ella were both quite excited to see the snow (well, Ella was), and then it actually started snowing! None of the girls had ever seen this happen before, so it got very VERY exciting.

Here's Betty in the snow:

She got a bit unhappy about it all later on, as she got a bit wet and cold, and wasn't really into sledding that much.

Ella, after some initial trepidation, loved the sled. She trudged up to the top of the slope with one or the other of her parents dozens of times.

Here's me pushing Ella around:

Here's Ella and Rach in the sled in the distance:

Here's Betty trying to get us to hurry up:

Sledding was pretty good fun, even in the falling snow, but eventually we listened to Betty and took off down the mountain, pausing only for Ella to scam some mini-Moro bars off some snowboarding guys.

We drove to Turangi (about half an hour) to the place we were staying: Creel Lodge. I'm not sure why I picked this place, but man was it a good pick!

Here's our two-bedroom cabin (more like a house):

The kids are good at relaxing after a hard afternoon dealing with snow and sleeping in the car:

Here's Ella to show us the inside:

This place was nothing short of amazing. The grounds are incredible, full of massive trees and carved ponga logs. The back of the place has a gate onto the riverbank path (of the Tongariro River), where we went for a walk and watched dudes in their waders fly-fishing.

We got fish and chips for dinner, which are some of the best I've had for a long, long time.

We had originally meant to go back to Hams on Sunday, but Rach decided we might as well go back up the mountain if the weather was good. It was, so we did.

This time, we got the Discover Ski package for Ella (ski gear plus a lesson):

We'd also brought my (long-term borrowed from Emma) skis with us, so Rach could have a go:

She cleverly saved money AND got extra exercise by not buying any lift tickets and just walking up to the top of Happy Valley and skiing back down. I did this once, which was more than enough for me.

You can see how sunny it was - this meant that Betty enjoyed herself a lot more than she did the day before:

So that was our snow weekend. Could've gone a lot worse I reckon.

Friday, August 08, 2008

All you can meet

Here's a few photos of the kids, because let's face it, who doesn't love pictures of kids?

Psychopaths, that's who.

Here's Bethan wearing gloves (as opposed to violently shaking her head and refusing to put gloves on at all):


Bethan always comes home from school (daycare) with stuff all over her face. Sometimes it is arranged in interesting patterns.

She is also quite obsessed with her bag - this absolutely MUST be taken with her whenever we go out the door. No one but her is allowed to carry it either.


Betty and Ella are snuggled up to watch - what?


Why, it's High School Musical, of course!

This is not a tent:


It is a library:


Here we see Bethan, Aimee and Ella waiting for their dinner. There is probably some significance in the fact that they're all wearing one-piece pyjamas:


Bethan had a brief fascination with Ella's fire helmet:


On an unrelated note, this series on Fridays on Prime about the Royal Family is fascinating.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Half a loaf is better than no bread

Here's a slightly random collection of photos for ya.

First off, here is some very successful baking from a few weekends ago. The bread is the standard Edmonds book recipe, but with one-and-a-half-times the yeast:


The chelsea buns are also from the Edmonds book, only the newer version. The old book says to use scone dough, which seems insane to me:


That was the first go at chelsea buns, and the delicious fantastic result spurred me on to give them another go the following week.

They were nowhere near as good; neither was the bread I made at the same time. Yeast. It is a mystery.

Here is a photo taken on my phone, on the walk to work. I don't even remember taking it, but I like the way the phone hasn't been able to cope with the hugely bright reflection:


This is me trying to capture the threateningly ominous clouds looming over a wet, twilit Hamilton. The phone (being a phone first and a camera second) had other ideas, but I still kinda like the look of it:


Lastly, here's the little-known "Lover" special edition Mercedes SLK:


Click for big and note the badge on the right-hand side of the boot.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fringe festival

Ella has wanted to have a proper haircut (i.e. done by a qualified hairdresser, at a salon) for quite some time.

She finally got her wish a week or so ago. She has been determined to get a fringe (despite her parents' protests), so here's the result:


I'm not sure if the teenager-style surly pout and exasperated hand-on-hip pose came free with the haircut or cost extra.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Wreck chord l'eau

I don't know about you, but I love the cold. This time of year is one of my favourites, and not just because of skiing. I love frost almost as much as I love fog, and I love walking to work in the cold, with me gloves, hat and walkman on.

I took the camera with me this morning and took some pictures. Please remember that this is the camera which now has neither an optical viewfinder nor a visible LCD screen. If the framing is a bit off in some of the pictures, well, I was just lucky to even be facing the right way.

This is some spiky frost on the top of the Volvo:

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If you don't find those little crystals incredible, well . . . you bloody should!

This is the top of our letterbox, which is normally a flat, smooth metal sheet. It is not hairy, as it appears here:

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This is the empty section at the end of the street. Nothing like a frosty sunrise to make even the normally dull look cool:

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Looking through the Claudelands fence towards the city, the sun reflecting off some building or other:

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More Claudelands:

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I'm pretty happy with this one (O'Neill Street), wish I'd managed to get the tree at the right completely in frame though:

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How's this for a (blind) macro shot?

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. . . . aaaaand a close-up:


Last one (honest) - here's the Waikato, steaming away:

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Find out what it means to me . . .