Sunday, 4 December 2022

Ford Ranger Wins


Guess what?  The new Ford Ranger, released here last August, has won the Automobile Association (in association with Driven, a vehicle sales magazine) New Zealand Car of the Year Award for 2022.

It is a great looking vehicle and I am seeing lots more of them on our roads now.

Every one of these vehicles fails to meet the emission standards for a Clean Car, set by the Government, meaning that before you can register your vehicle you must pay a “fine” of between $1840 and $3910 (depending on which model you purchase).

The retail price of these vehicles ranges from just under $50,000 to just over $80,000, so they are not the cheapest vehicle to purchase.

What surprised me was that there were over 5000 standing orders for the vehicles before they were even released, and sales are continuing at a steady rate.

I am not an electric vehicle enthusiast, as they bring with them a whole new range of environmental issues, but fail to see why so many people need to have such a big gas-guzzling monster to get them from A to B.

Some farmers may have a need to own one, and I have no argument with that.  They require vehicles that can handle our rural roads and carry farm equipment when needed.  No problem, that is classic Form Follows Function usage.

What I take exception to is the number cruising around our city streets.  There are too many to all be farmers come to town for the day. 

These vehicles are big and take up a good portion of the road.  They often extend out of, or completely fill, city parking spaces.   Being a driver of a small car (Suzuki Swift), I find it quite unnerving to be passed by one of these being driven at speed.  You feel like they are pushing you off the road.

Perhaps my experience is the exception, and I have been coming across Road Bullies, or drivers who really don’t know how to properly control a large vehicle.  It certainly feels like they are being driven by more aggressive people than your normal farmer.

The Ford Ranger might look good, but so far it doesn’t get my vote for the most popular vehicle!

Margaret 😊


Saturday, 3 December 2022

The Last Big Cake


My husband loved fruit cake and twice a year (once being Christmas, the other his birthday) I would cook up this big cake for him.

I had forgotten how big it actually was until I began gathering the ingredients together.

Since my hubby passed away I haven’t made a fruit cake, but this year our family will be together on Christmas for the first time in years and Son asked if I could make a cake.

No problems.  I still had the recipe.  I even had the large bowls and cake tin.  What I forgot was that I no longer possess the big food mixer I used to use.

Trying to make a large cake with a small hand-held cake mixer turned an enjoyable cooking session into one of jolly hard work!

That is why I won’t be making it again, not this recipe anyway.

This old ceramic bowl (below) used to belong to my grandmother and once I added the batter to mix it into the fruit, the bowl was full.

My arm struggled to mix it all!

What I really need to do is cut down the size of the recipe and make something smaller.  Why didn't I think of that in the first place?

The cake seldom got iced, unless it was for a special occasion like a twenty-first birthday party, but this time I thought I would do so (especially as the edges of the cooked cake are a little tatty looking!).

I have bought the Almond Icing already, but will make up my own Royal Icing to finish the cake and decorate it.

I’m hoping that icing the cake will be a fun activity and not a mammoth one!

Margaret 😊


Friday, 2 December 2022

Tom Cat!


There is nothing guaranteed to make your heart start beating faster than waking up at 4.30am and hearing thumps and thuds happening out in the living room.

I went to investigate, thinking Millie must have caught a mouse and brought it inside.  But no!

I turned the light on and there was this ginger streak of a cat racing around the room, up the outside of the chimney, trying to climb a bookcase, knocking down the big television (thankfully it never damaged it), and then climbing the curtain and perching on the curtain rail glaring down at me.

I frantically called out to Son and he groggily joined me.  We opened both doors and tried to coax the cat out but it wasn’t having any of it.

Finally, after more racing around, it made it back to the cat door (which is behind my small television), but in its blind panic managed to wedge it shut before getting its body stuck between the TV cabinet and the wall.  It sat there growling while Son went outdoors and eventually managed to get the cat door open again.

A bit of prodding and poking, and the cat was backed up enough to reach the opening.  It was gone like a bullet – out the door, over the fence, and off into the darkness like its tail was on fire. 

From the smell of it, we are picking this was a Tom Cat (especially as this is kitten season).  It was well fed and definitely not feral, so belongs to someone although we didn’t recognise it as a neighbouring cat.

Hopefully it got such a fright that it will never ever want to come and visit this house again!

Where were our two cats all this time?  Mittens was hiding beneath my dressing table, and we later found Millie hiding beneath the deck.

The photo above is of Millie, sitting on my grocery bags and pretending she is invisible because she knows she is not meant to be there.

Margaret 😊


Thursday, 1 December 2022

In Search of Big Things


One of the side interests in our recent road trip was looking out for Big Things to see and photograph.  The first we came across was a Takahe at Te Anau.

The takahe is a flightless critically-endangered native bird, once thought extinct, and the statue had been erected in recognition of the area’s contribution to takahe recovery efforts.

After some thirty years it has recently been lovingly restored and sits proudly on the waterfront, hopefully for many more years to come.

At Colac Bay, near Riverton, we found this huge Surfer.  He looks a bit like he has been out in the ocean too long!

A giant Paua Shell (4 metres tall) sits at the northern entrance to Riverton and celebrates the importance of the town’s paua fishery and souvenir industry.  It is lined with 1000 sheets of paua shell and featured on a stamp in 1998 as part of a series on icons of New Zealand towns.

The Umbrella sculpture in Invercargill was recently moved from its original position and is now to be seen as one drives along the southern end of Queens Drive.

It is quite an amazing sculpture as it doubles as a sundial as well as a star-finder.

When we visited Stirling Point Pilot Station at Bluff we discovered this dandelion seedhead sitting high above a private garden.  It even moved in the wind!

Driving through Dunedin in the pouring rain, I almost missed these giant Teeth/Molars.  I later looked them up – there are six of them and they are each around six feet high. 

The sculpture is called Harbour Mouth Molars and was created by Regan Gentry in 2010.

At Oamaru we revisited my favourite Penguin.  He has changed homes a couple of times over the years and currently sits looking out over Friendly Bay.

Just along the road from this limestone statue are real penguins – little Blue Penguins return to the colony here every night (they smell!).

I mentioned in my blog “From Oamaru to Christchurch” (28 November) that Riverstone Castle had a kitchen garden attached to it.  They grow very big Strawberries here!

This Spinning Wheel at Ashburton was erected in recognition of Ashford Handicrafts, a world leading manufacturer of spinning wheels, weaving looms, and other textile equipment.

Of all the Big Things we saw on this trip (I’m only showing what I feel are the best), my favourite would be this Silver Salmon at Rakaia. 

This sculpture reflects how well-known Rakaia has become for salmon fishing.  Chinook salmon, along with resident populations of brown trout and rainbow trout, have been present in local rivers for over 100 years since they were first introduced.

Big Things can be found in so many places if you are looking for them.  Some are famous and some are lucky finds, and many of them are transient, being here today and gone tomorrow.

Looking for them certainly adds another dimension to sightseeing. 

All good fun 😊


HEADER PHOTO December 2022

This month’s header photo is of Waipapa Point in The Catlins.  In our recent drive through here we did not visit this place as I had seen it in 2012 (when this photo was taken).

The lighthouse is around 10 minutes walk from the carpark, and we were fortunate enough to see both fur seals and a sealion basking on the beach when my husband and I visited.  I have lovely memories of this day.

Tuesday, 29 November 2022

Home Sweet Home

The very last day of our amazing Road Trip.

I woke on this morning feeling utterly exhausted and a little bit crabby.  I was ready to head home – but our flight was not until late afternoon.

We headed into central city and found a carpark so I could visit Victoria Park. 

I especially wanted to see the two statues here as they relate back to colonial days – currently not a very popular period of our history and I fear that at some stage activists will deface/destroy them.

The first one was a beautiful bronze of Queen Victoria.

The other statue is carved of Carrera marble and is of Captain James Cook.

We thought the New Brighton Pier café might be a nice place to have morning coffee, but when we arrived it was dull and the wind was cold and we decided against the idea.

Instead, we headed out to Lyttelton.  This is the port town associated with Christchurch, and is accessed via a tunnel through the Port Hills.

By driving through the town, heading towards Sumner, a lookout point can be accessed above the Port.  The port is divided into sections – coal, car imports, logging, containers etc. – and we watched one ship being unloaded of soy meal for stock food.

This photo shows the coal area (being imported).

The harbour entrance can be seen here, along with the edge of the logging and container areas.  On the far right are the imported cars, slowly being loaded onto car transporters and taken off to be sold.

We also drove up to the Time Ball Station but that was a disaster.  Our vehicle was much too big to turn around easily in the tiny space available, and after trespassing into someone’s driveway (so we could turn around) we left again!

Back in town, we stopped for a late morning coffee and then headed for the Airport to return our rental car.  It all checked out well, which is always a relief, and we settled down to wait a couple of hours for our plane to be ready – Air New Zealand had changed our flights, so we had longer to wait.

Eventually, at 4.30, we boarded our small plane with a sigh of relief.  We were both tired and just wanted to go home.

Our flight home was not an easy one and I commend the pilot for missing the worst of the thunderstorms that were in our path.  There was a lot of turbulence, making the woman in front of us groan a lot, and the air hostess announced that they had expected this and there were sick-bags at the back of the seat in front of us if needed!

Nearly two hours later we flew into Hamilton, and it was so good to see familiar sights laid out below us.

This was not a holiday we had been on, but a marathon road trip covering just over 2000km in seven days.

We must have been a bit crazy, but, oh, what great memories!

Thanks for coming along with us through this blog 😊



Monday, 28 November 2022

From Oamaru To Christchurch


Day seven was the last full day of our road trip.  With the crowds gone, we spent some time in the morning looking around the Victorian Precinct – the shops were shut, so no buying anything! – and checking out some more of the lovely old stone buildings.

This building today houses the Waitaki District Council offices.

We also drove down to Friendly Bay and looked around the steampunk playground and wandered a little way out on the historic Holmes Wharf.

The waves made a lovely beachy sound as they washed in on the beach here.

Not far from Oamaru is the Riverstone Castle.  This private palace offers tours on certain days, but unfortunately not on the day we visited.

However, we were able to wander around the productive kitchen garden associated with it.  There was a chef wandering around at the same time, picking fresh produce to use in the café that day.

I would have liked to have stopped at Timaru and looked at their gardens, but the traffic was horrendous and it was just too difficult to exit and then return to the main road.

As we were leaving the town however, we spied this sculpture of Phar Lap. 

Widely regarded as the best thoroughbred racehorse this country has ever known, he died a tragic death in 1932 after being poisoned with arsenic.  A movie was made in 1983 about him.

We halted in Ashburton to eat our picnic lunch, and parked opposite the Town Clock.  What a thrill to hear it chime midday!

The main street here is very pretty, with large shady trees planted along the side of the road.

My companion wished to stop at the Book Barn at Chertsey, which we did.  It was an old corrugated iron shed housing a lot of old books on shelves and heaps of books in banana boxes piled up to the roof (which leaked).  A great place to hunt for a bargain if you are that way inclined.

Just down the road is Rakaia and one of my favourite bridges.  Crossing the Rakaia River, this bridge is 1.8km long which makes it New Zealand’s longest road bridge.  I love the way perspective operates on this bridge, but it is rare to not meet traffic on it.

At Christchurch, our final destination for our Trip, we did a little shopping before checking into our last motel.

A lot of the old streets in this city are lined with trees.  There is still the odd building to be seen that was damaged in the 2011 earthquake, but Christchurch is rapidly returning to its pre-earthquake gardenesque beauty.

That evening we joined up with friends and all went out to dinner together.  It was a fitting way to end our last day.

Margaret 😊


Sunday, 27 November 2022

A Taste Of History


Today, the sixth day of our Trip, we managed to give ourselves a taste of history.

The day began with a change of plans from our itinerary (one of the advantages of do-it-yourself tours), to take advantage of the forecast fine weather (it was still raining when we left Dunedin but rapidly cleared as we headed north).

We stopped first at the little village of Moeraki, driving up to the Whaling Memorial for a splendid view out to sea and across the bay.

Realising the tide was coming in, we drove around the bay a little and visited the Moeraki Boulders before they disappeared beneath the water. 

These spherical boulders, some weighing several tons, are gradually washed out of the bank by tidal action. They can sit on the beach for many years before finally breaking apart and eventually washing away.  We were only just in time to see them.

A short bit of back-tracking and we returned to Moeraki village and drove out to see the Katiki Lighthouse.  There was a long walk here down to see fur seals and nesting red-billed seagulls – my companion made the trip down the hill but I remained at the top, not wanting to make the trek all the way back UP the hill!

By now it was approaching lunchtime.  We had heard good reports about the Fishwife Café at Moeraki and decided to go there and try out their fish and chips.

It was perfect!  My blue cod was so fresh it still tasted of the sea, the batter was thin and crispy, and the chips were crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy inside.  The best fish and chips I have had in a long, long time.

There are no tables and chairs here, just long benches to lean against – perfect for eating with your fingers while watching the activity going on in the harbour and hearing the waves lap against the wall below us.

Our appetites sated, it was time for a serious bit of driving with no more stops until we reached Oamaru – or so we thought!  How could we resist the idea of visiting an historical farm?

We must have spent a good hour wandering around here (there is a small entry fee).  This farm was instrumental in setting up the first shipments of frozen meat to be exported overseas, and we really enjoyed our visit.

This room was set up to show what living conditions were like for the farm labourers.

We also saw through fully equipped cobbled stables, a granary, and a killing shed (rather a gruesome place with all its realistic models!). 

Outside there was an abundance of farm equipment to look at.  Many of them I remember hanging around in the old barn when I was a child – my father never used them but obviously the previous generation had done so.

After that fascinating trip into agricultural history, we eventually made it to Oamaru.  I love the old white stone buildings in this town – grand buildings were built when the town was established, believing the place would become a central hub (it didn’t).

Unknown to us, there had been a Victorian fete in progress that day – it was closing by the time we arrived but we did see several folk still kitted out in full Victorian dress.

We were booked into the historic Brydone Hotel for our night’s stay (Mark Twain once stayed here!). 

The hotel, built in 1881 of the local white limestone, had enchanting historical décor but not so good parking arrangements!  We were lucky to find a spot in the Loading Zone at the front door so we could check in, and then take the car around the back of the hotel to a private parking area.

Our rooms appeared to have been recently refurbished and, if I leaned a little out the window, I even had a sea view!

Being a Sunday evening, the hotel restaurant was closed (post-covid staff shortages again), so we went across the road to dine at Fat Sally’s before taking a stroll up the street looking at some of the lovely old buildings.

It was a pleasant evening and I slept well that night.

Margaret 😊


Saturday, 26 November 2022

A Day Of Driving & Sightseeing


Day five of our Road Trip involved around five-plus hours of driving and several stops, the first being a little place called Fortrose so we could stretch our legs. 

We arrived here around 7.30 so probably woke up some of the Freedom Campers set up here for the night (although we did try and be quiet).

From this point, until we reached Owaka, we were travelling through the area known as The Catlins.  

This is a lovely scenic area (often windswept) and worthy of one or more days of dedicated sightseeing, but we opted not to visit many of them as we’d seen them before.

The sunshine did not stay with us.  As we headed into the Catlins rain forest we became enveloped in misty cloud, which later turned into the wettest day we experienced while away.

Lake Wilkie is a bog lake that was formed after the last Ice Age.  It is known for its reflections on a good day, and is surrounded by mature podocarp forest and wetlands.

We walked as far as the lookout but did not descend to the Lake as the track was too wet.

A little further along the road is the Tautuku Beach Nature Walk, which leads out onto the beach (we could hear the ocean when we parked).

This track was a little muddy in places but generally well formed, and the bush we walked through was very typical of New Zealand forest.

Tautuku Beach itself was very windswept and totally devoid of other human life.  We later stopped at Florence Hill lookout to see back over the whole bay.

The village of Owaka was our next stopping point and we were enticed into the local country store by their intriguing outdoor display of goods.

I ended up purchasing a tiny colourful glass rooster and a small multi-coloured seal.  The shop had lots on offer but I was very aware that anything I purchased had to fly home with me.

By now we were experiencing a constant drizzle of light rain.  Nevertheless, we made a side-trip out to Surat Bay in the hope of seeing some sealions.

We did see three in the distance – small black blobs that disappeared into the sea as a group of people approached them along the beach.

When we reached Balclutha the sun began peeping through the clouds, and we stopped at a small rest area to photograph their attractive 1930s reinforced-concrete bridge.  It spans the Clutha River, the second longest river in the country.

Up the country to Dunedin next, and into steady rain for most of the way.

At Dunedin, we drove directly out onto the Otago Peninsula to visit the Royal Albatross Centre.  We took the coast road out there and I imagine it would be a beautiful drive on a fine day.

We did not take the tour to see the albatross, but instead chose to visit the free lookout area next to the carpark.

We saw several albatross in flight – they were easy to differentiate from the myriad seagulls as their wing-span can reach 2-3 metres.

The seagulls themselves were busy nesting, including several nests alongside the path.  We caught a quick glimpse of one chick as its parent came in to feed it – so fast, and then gone again.

I won’t bore you with photos of misty silhouettes of birds flying overhead, and will instead show you our view of the Taiaroa Head lighthouse which sits here in the middle of the world’s only mainland breeding colony of Northern Royal Albatross.

We drove the Highcliff Road back into Dunedin, probably not the best of ideas in the gathering gloom of a wet evening.  The road was narrow and windy in many places, and the thick misty cloud often made me feel like there was nothing except a long drop-off beside us, simply because there was total white-out and nothing could be seen.

But we made it back to Dunedin safely and checked into our motel.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, this was a Saturday night and, notwithstanding the rain, there was a student party in full swing behind us (not part of the motel).

However, they were all quiet by midnight so we had no complaints.

Margaret 😊