Tuesday 24 November 2015

Counting the cost and sharing out the chardonnay

Tony from nb Holderness keeps impeccable records about their expenditure on boat related costs and analyses the differences year on year based on the duration of their cruising and where they travel.

David and I don't keep records - I had intended to but when I did a mental calculation of the collection of the early receipts both last year and this year the possible totals were too scary. So, in my usual cowardly fashion, I gave up before even starting.

This morning I commented on Tony's blog along the above lines and also noted that we found that food cost more in NZ than in the UK, and in particular I can often buy good NZ wine cheaper in the UK than here at home.

Tony has done some investigation and calculations:

Your thoughts on the cheap wine in the UK got me thinking. The population of Wellington is 450000 and the total for New Zealand is 4.4 million. The population of Greater London is 8.6 million. Therefore there is a much greater market here. A 40' shipping container will hold 12000 cases of wine and it only costs about $6,500 to ship it to London. Actually it will be a lot less to a regular shipper as I got those figures from a one off enquiry. It turns out that in 2012 NZ produced 194 million litres of wine. Only 57.7 million of them came to the UK but the total export of your wine was 178.9 million litres (all 2012 figures). That fact means that every person in New Zealand has only 3.4 litres to drink. I reckon that you are drinking somebody else's share!

Only 3.4 litres - what is he thinking of? Me drinking somebody else's share - what is he thinking of? I am only here in NZ for 7 months of the year now, so 5 months of my consumption has to be counted in the UK. Of course, children don't drink, and a huge number of people drink beer or spirits and another group of people don't drink alcohol - how strange!

So in my defence:
  • I am not usurping (or uslurping for that matter) anyone else's share in fact, given chardonnay has lessened in popularity I am helping to keep the vineyards and market afloat! 
  • I am also making sure that I am not consuming anyone else's share of the ubiquitous sauvignon blancs or pinot noirs that NZ is famed for - as those who know me know I am faithful to good chardonnay. 
  • There's always plenty of bottles left on the shelves in the supermarket when I leave (and in all the other supermarkets I don't go into all over the country) so clearly some people are not drinking their fair share, shame on them!
I do hope that Tony wasn't suggesting that I bring a container of chardonnay over to the UK with me - firstly, it would never fit on the boat and secondly the container would sink or block the cut and some smart boater who understands salvage rights would take unfair advantage.

In the interests of readers knowing how dedicated I am to finding good chardonnay, I have included some photos taken on a recent trip to the Toast Martinborough event, an annual wine, food and music festival that is extremely popular - I was invited to go with the IQANZ group that I do short term part-time consultancy assignments for.. Their boss couldn't go, so I was given his ticket - a very generous gift as they are not cheap and included train and bus travel to Martinborough, brunch and 50 Toast Martinborough francs (= $NZ50) to purchase wine and food throughout the day, a sunhat, and sunscreen - fortunately not needed as the weather was overcast with occasional short showers. I was pleased about the weather as, much as I like sitting drinking with friends in the sunshine, it is debilitating to say the least ...

It was a great day - a very long day that started with catching a train to Wellington at 7am and ended with my getting a lift home from the station at 9.30pm, and it was a huge amount of fun with a lovely bunch of people - AND I was very pleased I didn't have to get up in the morning to go to work unlike the rest of the team ...
At Palliser Estate - first port of call for brunch with the first chardonnay of the day (yummy), even though they were freely pouring their lovely bubbles.

With the team at Escarpment, to pace myself for a long day, I had a coffee as well as a chardonnay (average).

The entertainment at Escarpment

Nicki, Kim and Jo - I don't remember seeing them tilted over so it must have been Dave W who was on n angle ...

The whole team at Ata Rangi, I think - you've seen one vineyard, you've seen them all ... Jo is excellent at selfies and I guess it helps if you are tall. From left to right the team are Justin, Nicki, Kobus, Karen, Matt, Kim, Dave, Chris and me as the ring-in. Very good chardonnay.

As I took Kevin the boss's place, I had to make his end of year speech. I think at this point I was saying that the year had been successful because he had a very big boat (but it's not a narrowboat so it doesn't count ...) At Dry River, I think.

On the way back on the bus from Martinborough to Featherston to catch the train. Dave is also very good at selfies - it was chilly by then and we were all pleased to be sitting in a warm vehicle. Still awake and very happy with the day.

Thursday 19 November 2015

Now it's the house's turn

Joe is back with us again this week and he has nearly finished both the sunroom and the laundry. In point of fact the sunroom is complete and the laundry just needs a couple of topcoats on the woodwork.

The sunroom is the same colour as the hallway - a pale yellow called Otorohanga Quarter (Otorohanga is a small town quite close to the Waitomo Caves - when I was at Teachers' College and travelling back to New Plymouth by bus there was a  stop there for lunch. The place now has a lovely kiwi sanctuary that is well worth a visit, eh Lesley?)

Last Thursday evening Luke came over and moved the fold-down wall-bed from the office to the sunroom - we had thought it was a good idea to have it in the office, but in actuality David is so busy with work that we have been getting its mattress out and putting it on the lounge floor for visitors - not so cool. Moving it was a tough job as the bed is heavy and awkward to lift and shift. But Luke was more than equal to the task. David and I helped manoeuvre the trolley at one end but Luke did the bulk of the work lifting it with a strap over his shoulders and neck.

I had had to paint the wall it was going against in the sunroom, so had spent a couple of days getting that done prior to Luke's arrival. I was reminded why I stopped doing painting after the kitchen and left it to Joe - my arm got sore quite quickly again from using the roller.

The laundry is the same colour as the kitchen, and after using the pale yellow, the Melting Moment colour (also yellow but much deeper) seems extremely VIVID. However once the freezer is back in (6' high) and the washing machine and dryer are back in, there will not be so much yellow visible ...

Based on the reaction both Joe and I had to the laundry we have decided that the big larder off the laundry will be painted in the paler yellow - after all, I don't want to be confronted with food and supplies with a backdrop of bright sunshine, now do I?

The blinds for the sunroom have been ordered and will be in place before Christmas.

David and I have chosen and ordered the carpet for the whole house, and I have chosen the paint colours and purchased the wallpaper for one wall of the bathroom - a renovation project that we are hopeful will be completed early in the New Year. We are creating a doorway through our bedroom wardrobe  to the bathroom to make it a family ensuite (and remodelling the wardrobe space at the same time) That will save us having to troop down the hall into the bathroom in the middle of the night. The hall doorway will stay though. The bath is coming out and a toilet is being added. The toilet next door will be replaced and a handbasin installed. So the next thing is to choose toilets and vanity units - I already know what shower we'll be having.

When these bits are done there will only be David's office left to do - Yay!!

More gardening

Between our place and Jenny and John's there is much vegetation. For the front half and for a short part towards the back of the sections, there is a very tall  hedge - John calls it verbaleum (sp?) but I cannot find that on google, so will have to ask at the plant shops. The hedge used to run the full length of the boundary but has died off in places. George, the former owner of our place was extremely enamoured of lilies - arum, elephant ear et al - and planted them in the garden outside the dining room along the unhedged boundary (and behind the house and in the front by the drive and ...) The lilies have expanded like triffids - the arum bulbs have multiplied and the elephant ears have extended their long trunk-like above ground-tubers and are encroaching into our garden and on to John and Jenny's lawn. And to add insult to injury, tradescantia** (aka wandering jew) has taken up residence among the lilies too.

All lilies plus tradescantia are going to be removed summarily - but it will be a long job. I started on it a couple of Sundays ago and got about a metre of it cleared, and even that small section yielded almost a full woolsack of detritus. So there's probably about 20 more woolsacks to go ... I am going to wait till Rob is here and work with him on it, or maybe when Joe has finished painting he would be keen. We shall see.

(** I looked up wandering jew on google as it's not a name I am comfortable using in print - how PC is that? Anyway I found the name that Rob calls it by so I can stop fearing being offensive, even if I do leave myself open to charges of being PC - that's OK, I am a Mac user ...)

The filled woolsack

The gap that I created

A piece of the elephant ear (I think) tuber - rampant is the only word for it!
And then I decided to plant along the driveway the federation daisies and osteospermums that Dee and I had bought the previous week. They have some growing to do, but that should be assisted by the Osmacote and liquid Thrive that went into the holes first ...

The federation daisies and osteospermums in place - they look a bit small now but they will expand exponentially - I hope... The stick like things in the front garden are wallflowers - they have grown quite a bit since this photo was taken the day I did the planting, and the hibiscus that was looking dead has resurrected and been reprieved. The green fuzz that is just visible is the wildflower seedlings coming up - looking scruffy at the moment though.

This is the effect I am after - I drove past this place a couple of weeks ago and asked if I could photograph the pathway. See how big the osteospermums get in the Waikanae climate and soil?

I was on a roll and made executive and unilateral decisions about where other plants were going and in they went.

Since then, Rob has been for a couple of days and took me to lunch at a local garden centre - he bought lunch and I bought even more plants. Those places are a trap for me - I don't really care much for new clothes or new shoes, and now we are in a smaller house there is no more furniture required, and with living 5 months a year on the boat, I am over having every gadget for the kitchen (after all I use a wine bottle as a rolling pin on the boat - an endlessly renewable resource). Rob's task after the lunch was to complete the planting and I can now see what the garden is going to look like in a couple of months when things have added some growth. Now I just have to stay away from garden centres, but that is difficult - where shall I plant that blue hydrangea I bought yesterday ...

The wildflower seeds that I sowed in the front garden a few weeks ago have become seedlings that still look like weeds but that will change rather quickly.
Earlier this year, before we went back to the boat, Rob planted this mauve climbing rose along the south side fence where it gets sun only in the mid to late afternoon. It is growing but needs to gain more height to get more sun and warmth. It smells beautiful.
Last year this tree fuschia was a stick - there was so much vegetation crowding it out that it had to grow tall to get any sunlight. Since clearing the garden behind the bedroom, it has filled out and is now worthy of its place.
This week has been the seventh anniversary of the loss of our little granddaughter Caitlin. This is the rose that friends gave us to plant in her memory. It has been transplanted a few times now and is thriving in a lovely sunny spot outside our dining room. It has come in to flower at exactly the right time.

The aforementioned George also loved rhododendrons - now that is fine with us. The ones he planted are huge, between 8 and 15 feet tall, and they are beautiful. What is more they flower at different times so there has been a changing display since we arrived home.
This one is a pale pinky apricot. When I was standing beside it a couple of days ago, I counted six bees just on one patch of it. You can see how heavily it has bloomed given the flowers on the ground - and that is only about half of them - the rest are in the compost bin.

This is the latest and last rhodo to flower. It has thrip so will be pruned heavily once its flowers have gone - to remove thrip and to bring down the flowering crown. In the meantime it looks lovely.

Sunday 8 November 2015

Olek's yorkshire puddings

Olek's lovely mum, Marta, posted a photo of his yorkshire puddings - these are proper home made ones, not out of a box from the supermarket. Aren't they magnificent?

I hereby delegate all cooking of yorkshire puddings and toad in the hole to Olek when he is on the boat with us. AND I have requested toad in the hole for dinner when he comes to stay at New Year here in Waikanae - who cares if it's not summer food!? I'll make the brown onion gravy and the mashed potatoes ... Yumble tumble.

Saturday 7 November 2015


I am very pleased that I have a technical specialist living in the same house as me, and I am also pleased that he has patience and an investigative turn of mind for techie problem solving.

My current technical issue is being unable to purchase books on my Kindle.

One of the fab things about my Kindle is that I can buy books at any time of the day or night and have them be downloaded to my Kindle in less than a minute. Bliss to an insomniac avid reader.

But that bliss came to an abrupt end in September and has not yet been restored.

The end to my late night shopping habits occurred because, along with about 4000 other Global Plus Mastercard holders, our accounts were compromised (we suspect a database hack) and our cards cancelled. That was a bit of a problem in itself as were still on the boat and needed to have an emergency card provided. The card was obligingly sent to our friends Richard and Emma in Market Harborough and Emma delivered it to us at Foxton. It was a temporary card valid until shortly after we got back to NZ when new cards were to be issued, and it was only in David's name. Accordingly I didn't bother updating my Amazon/Kindle account and put shopping on hold. It wasn't a problem as I have 267 books on my kindle and happily read them more than once.

But now I want to buy more - there are three in particular I wanted: the third Cormoran Strike book by JK Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith, the third in the Jane Smiley trilogy and A complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews. I had just finished re-reading All my Puny Sorrows by MT, a lovely and moving book, and wanted another by her. And the first two I had had on pre-order but because of the credit card hassle they could not be delivered.

So, the new cards are here and have been activated and tested for their efficacy as spending mechanisms. My card details have been updated in my Amazon account, but can I buy books again? NO!!!!! Can I troubleshoot the issue? NO!!! Am I happy? NO!!!

Is David going to sort it for me? Yes. Has he brought me breakfast in bed to soothe my frayed nerves? Yes. Will I keep him on? Yes - as long as the troubleshooting occurs quickly enough ...

In the meantime I am having a rant here and will resume reading False Colours on my kindle. If I can face more technology interfacing, I will apply online for the National Superannuation which I qualify for on 4 December when I turn 65. I am already intimidated by the letter inviting me to apply - on reading the instructions (not my strong suit, following instructions with more than 3 steps that I have to remember) I had to have a lie down ...

I have just read the above to David - he recommends that I apply on paper. So tomorrow I will go to pick up a form. Sometimes you just have to take the advice of people who know you well.

Wednesday 4 November 2015


Even though the weather has been up and down since we got back, the garden is coming along well. There's a way to go before it's fully established and lush, but it's on the way.

The rhododendrons are beautiful, and the camellias flourishing. The colours are wonderful.
By the front fence - I have sown wild flower seeds along this patch and they have germinated happily.

Rhodo outside the lounge

One of the many camellias - an unusual flower
This rhodo is by the garage - its flowers are pale but look beautiful. Beyond it are the truncated but flourishing camellias, and behind it is the lovely maple.

I have decided that I want loads of colour down the driveway to make a bold and welcoming statement. When I was out last week, I saw a home with a fabulously lined path, so I went and asked if I could take photos of it and the plants bordering it. I have shown the photos to Rob and have now bought the plants to replicate the look here.

The woman whose place I photographed told me about Watson's Garden Centre in Otaki, so yesterday Dee and I went there. What a place!! I can tell I will be back there lots. Their plants are lovely, extremely reasonably priced and they have such a large range of stock.

The petunias are in the blue pot and the remainder are waiting on Rob to do his magic ... They are carefully positioned to take advantage of the welcome rain to keep them fresh.

There are several plants waiting on Rob's next visit, but I have planted more lettuces, silverbeet, spinach and flat leaf parsley in the raised vegetable garden and the maroon and white petunias are in the new tall blue pot at the front door.

The 2015 spring redecoration projects are underway

Joe has been staying for a few days last week and this week as he has painted our hallway. The hall is a big job: we think that it hasn’t been touched decoratively speaking since the house was built back in 1991. It has 13 doors all except one of which have now been repainted, and that meant lots of architraves to do as well, plus all the skirting. The ceiling had to be done first and needed three coats. The walls need four - a sealer over the wallpaper, and then three top coats.It should have been two, but read on for why three was the magic number ...

Joe gets to work doing the scotia first. You can see how dingy the cupboard doors look and the wallpaper is a grey-blue.
Joe did the ceiling on his own, but given the woodwork was such a mammoth task, I did the skirtings and some of the doorframes. Getting three coats on plus sanding prior to each coat took a lot longer than painting the ceiling, that is for sure! The third coat was finished this Monday, and Joe went on to putting the sealer on the walls. I did fear for his life given how horribly SMELLY that stuff is! We had as much ventilation going as possible without letting the fumes into the lounge, kitchen or bedrooms, but I still made sure Joe wore a mask and also went outside to breathe clean air every 10 minutes or so.

Once he was done, we set up a fan in the hallway blowing down to the open front door. Surprisingly, the fumes dissipated quite quickly – when I’d first smelled it, I had planned to call Bruce and Gary to request sanctuary at their place for us all overnight. However it proved not to be necessary.
Dee, my lovely sister,  had arrived on Monday for a couple of days, and hadn’t brought painting clothes – good job, as it meant I could legitimately bow out of the work once the woodwork was complete and I'd put back all the door handles. So off she and I went to buy plants and paint. Our friend Joy had popped in to see us and told me that Gus Evans had miniature lilacs on sale – it had to be done and we bought daisy bushes as well for the driveway.

Purchasing the paint for the hall and sun room was next – ten litres of low sheen Otorohanga Quarter. The first coat gave me a fright - it wasn't as buttery a colour as I had seen with the test pot - we decided that was probably the effect of the grey/blue wallpaper beneath it showing through. So the second coat was to be the test. That improved things but we decided that a third coat would be required to totally remove any thought/hint/possibility/hallucination of a greenish tinge. After all, I was wanting a buttery yellow, not a lemony one.  

OK, I have to confess that I had been dithering about what colour to use, but last week I consulted Joe and Rob when he was here gardening. The hallway has very little direct natural light and needs to be lifted by its colour scheme. It also needs to flow well with the other rooms that open off it, particularly the lounge and kitchen. Even part way through the painting job, we had noticed that the bright vivid white of the skirtings and doors made its presence felt (they have been transformed from what was white originally, I guess, but has looked decidedly dingy brown), so I was looking forward to seeing the pale yellow with it.

So it is now completed - Joe got the third coat on the walls this morning and this afternoon we removed all the masking tape, did the touch-ups, and got the furniture back in place with bookcases and hall-stand screwed back into the walls (earthquake measures). Then up went the paintings and ornaments, and now it looks absolutely fabulous.
It's all back together. Chickens have been relocated to the hallway, paintings are up and the whole thing looks cheery.
The hall stand contrasts wonderfully with the light colours.

We love how the Michael Smither prints look on the way to the kitchen.
The colour is not what I would have selected - it is definitely more lemony than the buttery colour I expected from the test pot colour, but it totally works! All of the paintings we have put back up have sprung to life against the new backdrop - they just pop. And the amount of light generated by the white and the yellow is amazing. We love it!!

Next job is the sunroom, and Joe is coming back to do that in a week or so.

Once that's done it'll be time for new carpet throughout the house ...

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Not a good week for the Aussies

The All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup, the Silver Ferns beat them in two games for the Constellation Cup series (however Oz got the cup on points, I gather), and to top it off yesterday the Melbourne Cup was won by an NZ horse ridden by an NZ WOMAN!!!

But for the sake of completeness and fairness, I have to also say that our rugby league team lost to England - after a good first half their second half performance was awful.

Monday 2 November 2015

And the social whirl continues and we are excited by a win

The fourth Monday in October is traditionally Labour Day, to celebrate the introduction of the 40 hour working week. It was first celebrated in 1900 after an Act of Parliament in 1899. At first it was on the second Wednesday of October and Monday-ised (how sensible!) in 1910 - isn't the internet wonderful for finding out this sort of trivial pursuits type stuff?

So anyway, Monday 26th was Labour Day, a public holiday, so an extra day to spend with friends who are usually working. So it was off down to Raumati to see Luke and Diane at their new/older house. It's a doer-upper and who better? Luke is a carpenter by trade and our DIY man of choice. He has featured in this blog several times with the arborist work he has done for us as well as carpentry things - getting the outside shed level, building the front fence and the trellis by the dining room, for instance. Diane is a supreme project manager of doer-upper initiatives, and a champion painter. So it will all end up looking fabulous. The garden is the biggest they have had and just wonderful for their son to be able to play outside.

But once again, I get ahead of myself!

On the Saturday, after coming back from the fruit and veg market where I bought 4 kilos of tamarillos, one of my two favourite fruits (the other is feijoas), we got the outside table and chairs, and our fabulous cantilevered umbrella out from the garage where they had been stored over the winter. The umbrella was positioned, a small twiglet trimmed off from Joy and Grahame's magnolia overhanging our place (beautiful tree and we love it), paving stone weights restored, and then the table was set up again and was carried around from the garage and positioned on top. It is scary how glass bends ... Carrying it vertically was fine, but having to hold it at each end while it was horizontal was freaky!

The return of the summer social centre was complete, the weather was great and all we needed was some visitors to complete the picture. That was easily achieved - on Sunday we had John and Jenny over from next door, and Michelle and Taffy came up from Churton Park. Michelle has been my friend and my hairdresser for years - wherever she has worked I have followed. She even came and cut my hair while we were on the boat last year. Such dedication. Taffy and John and Jenny have known each other for a long time from when Taffy lived in Waikanae. So it was a reunion for the three of them, and a reunion for Michelle, David and me.

I know I drank far too much wine, but I blame the sunshine, your honour. Before I drank too much, we did have a nice lunch: Thai Chicken Noodle Salad, followed by Orange Syrup Cake and cream - both recipes are from Alison and Simon Holst, although the chicken one was originally a salmon recipe.

I think I redeemed myself by making Ministry of Food cheese scones for Monday's lunch at Luke and Di's - I had intended to make cheese tart, but my pastry cutter here had gone missing - I may have taken it to the boat, but can't remember. So the two cups of flour in the bowl became three with a seamless (almost) transition to becoming cheese scones. I don't think Di and Luke minded ...

For two nights in a row I didn't needed any dinner after substantial lunches and made sure that the Tuesday and the following Thursday were fasting days. They were a relief frankly, after all that food ...

And we had to be prepared for another social weekend coming hard on the heels of Labour Weekend, dinner at Bruce and Gary's on Friday, a party at Rachel's on Saturday, breakfast at Bruce and Gary's on Sunday - we accepted the invitation when we knew it was scheduled to start after the rugby would be finished ...

David had watched, Rachel had watched, Gary had seen the last 10 minutes,  and wuss that I am, I had stayed in bed and slept through it. But I had got up to make a cup of tea after full-time and went into the office where David was watching the ITV3 after-match coverage (apparently their analysis is very good) and saw the Australians getting their medals. Shock Horror !! 'Did we *^#@#* lose?' I shrieked. 'No' replied David calmly, 'those are the losers' medals.'

So I found my black jersey and wore it with bright pink trousers and off we went to invade a non-rugby sanctuary with our euphoria - I would have to say the guys coped very well ...

The breakfast was lovely and strangely, given that most of the men around the table are supremely uninterested in rugby, the conversation was mostly about the All Blacks' win in the Rugby World Cup. However David, Rachel and I were so excited about it, that the guys dredged up their recessive rugby/kiwi bloke genes and participated. As the RWC has been the lead on the news now for weeks, well ever since the quarter finals, I guess, it has been hard to avoid gaining some knowledge about the goings on, even if by osmosis.