Saturday, 9 October 2010

Going up in the World

We are residents of "The Hood" no longer and are now living in a much posher part of town. It's filled with old folk on mobility scooters, with their small, fluffy, white dogs! Our new house is lovely. It's sunny and open and has a big garden for the pup to happily cavort around in. We love living here and are really excited about the Summer to come when we can have loads of barbeque's and evenings sitting in the evening sun drinking wine :0)

It feels like it's been a long Winter, but I guess by UK standards it hasn't been all that bad. It was a lot less cold than last year and we've had plenty of sunny, fine days all the way through. The last month has been really rainy though and it's been dead stormy the last couple of weeks. It sounds like the roof's going to blow off and our lawn is covered in grapefruit that have blown off the tree. We can't even give them away fast enough to keep up. I know I should be making them into marmalade or something but I'm not quite that domesticated yet!!

Twpsyn is of course still the centre of our world's :0) He's seven and a half months old and a whopping 26kgs (nearly 4.5 stone) already. His feet are still too big for him so I guess he's still got some growing to do. He's entering adolescence and so has the odd moment of rebellion but is generally pretty good. One all of our favourite things is to go on "pack walks" with all our friends with their dogs. Ned is his favourite doggy-friend. He's the size of a pony and Twp follows him around adoringly. You can just tell he's thinking "I want to be like you when I grow up" :0) He's about to start "advanced" obedience classes but he's definitely still a "work in progress" and would rather run around with other dogs than do what we tell him to!!

We had our first dog holiday, which was fab. We stayed in a little wooden cabin on a huge farm in Colville, North East Coromandel, and did loads of bush walking and exploring. We all loved it and have lots of dog-friendly camping adventures planned for when the sun comes out. We had a dog-less trip away too (Erin dog-sat for us) in Auckland, where we stayed in a flash hotel because we had vouchers to use up (we obviously wouldn't pay to say in a four star hotel!!). We made the most of being in the city and had lots of meals out and drinks in swanky bars and stuff. It was lovely but we both agreed that we enjoyed hanging out with the pup in a log cabin in the sticks more than hanging out with the swanky folk in suits in the big smoke. Mind you we made the most of the all-you-can-eat breakfast. In fact I had to have a lie down afterwards!!

We've finally (after being here a year and a half) found some friends who like to party. We even went to a fancy dress 80s party recently. I can't believe how much I loved wearing purple leg warmers and pink ear muffs!! Ben looked like a member of GLC in his shiny shell suit :0) Erin even found a rara skirt. One of the many highlights of the evening was when she opened a bottle of champagne and then stuck her thumb in the top to try and stop it spilling. Of course, instead what she succeeded in doing was squirting it all over herself. Classy :0) The trouble is I've acclimatised so well to the kiwi-style early nights that the big nights out kill me now!

Another fun thing we did was go to see a Wales v All Blacks rugby game. I borrowed a Welsh rugby shirt and went clutching an inflatable daffodil! Surprisingly, the Kiwi rugby fans were all really quiet and seemed genuinely horrified by all the shouting and singing of the Welsh. I didn't let it deter me though! Other than that we've been making the most of our new abode and having lots of dinner parties. Now when I say dinner parties, what I actually mean is having people over two at a time because you can only fit four around our tiny dining room table!!

Our other big news is... We have a cat now too :0) Dotti belongs to Bob and Jane who own the house we're in, so she was an added bonus! She's not your regular cat though. She spends about 20 hours a day in bed (our bed) and for most of the time is actually under the covers! She's a bit lardy, I presume bacause she doesn't move much! She hates the dog and avoids him like the plague. I'm sure he only wants to be friends, but admittedly his friendship might involve putting her in his mouth! Fortunately the cat spends her time upstairs and the dog downstairs, so she just has to run the gauntlet past him a couple of times a day!!

So what else should I tell you about? I feel like it's been a quiet few months but then it has been Winter time and everyone 'round these parts goes into semi-hibernation! Work's fine, I won't bore you with the details. And we're still hopeful for Ben's postcard empire :0) He's keeping busy with photography and computing work and has moved his office home, so I'm jealous as he gets to stay home with the dog much more than I do!

We've got a holiday planned for a couple of months, have Ben's sister and her family coming for Christmas, then my folks are back again in January. But they all sound like future blog posts so I think I'll say goodbye for now. We miss you all but are still loving life in New Zealand :0)

Photos can be found here, here and here!

Monday, 7 June 2010

Twpsyn the Wonder dog

Ben's residency finally did come though so, as promised, we went to the SPCA shelter and got ourselves a dog. We got what we were told is a black Labrador cross puppy, but he definitely has more than a little bit of staffie in him! Mum and Dad were still here when we got him and they decided that he is, in fact, a wonder dog and we would have to agree :0) It was hilarious seeing them with him being like proud grandparents and giving us a blow by blow account as to what he had been up to in our absence. Both Ben and I have totally turned into dog bores and very rarely talk to anyone about anything else! I've been reading loads of books about dog training and being the "pack leader" and we've been taking him to obedience classes too, so it really has completely taken over our lives. Our social lives now even revolve around going for "doggy dates" with friends who have dogs too!

He was about ten weeks old when we got him which makes him four months old now. We've called him Twpsyn, which for those of you who don't know, actually means "stupid" in Welsh. But I keep trying to explain to people that it's not quite as mean as it sounds because it's kind of a term of endearment. Anyway, no-one over here knows what it means so I've started just telling people it's a Welsh name! As I said we think he's the best dog in the world, but then we are a bit biased. It only took him a few days to get the house training thing sorted and he's always come when he's called and all that. We've taught him all the usual sit, lie down, stay stuff and we've even got him doing a few tricks like rolling over and "crawling". He's a bit too boisterous at times though and presumes that everyone is his best friend so goes bowling over to them. He's really strong already so we're working on getting him walking properly on a lead. It's amazing what you can achieve with the assistance of a few sausages! As you'll see from the little video he hasn't quite mastered fetch yet though :0)

We're pretty strict with him and I think it's needed really as otherwise he would think he's the king of the world. He's mostly pretty good but had a mini rebellion the other day when he decided to sit on the sofa which he isn't allowed on. He kept defiantly getting back on it despite being shouted at and sent to his bed! At least he's over the weeing-on-everyone's-feet stage now! Apparently he's at the equivalent of the "terrible twos" in human terms so I'm really not looking forward to the teenage years :0/

He's a very lucky dog as he hardly ever gets left home alone. We have a yard that we can shut him in when we need to but most days he goes to work with Ben and hangs out with him in his gallery. On the whole it works really well but Ben has been a bit grumpy about having to put up with Twpsyn's farts. I think it's just karma! I take him for a walk after work and because weather has been awful lately I've often been seen heading off down the road in a big rain coat and my purple flowery wellies!

Because we live in "the hood" (i.e a fairly rough, by New Zealand standards, part of town) Twpsyn has gone down a storm with all the local pit bull owners! I don't like to tell them we were after a big soppy lab and weren't expecting the muscly little monster we ended up with! It's really funny, I now love rotties and staffies and dobermans and stuff whereas I would never have wanted one of those before. Our favourite TV programme is now "The Dog Whisperer" and I have a new dream to work in a dog rehabilitation centre and run around with a pack of savage-looking dogs!!

Friday, 2 April 2010

The Badgers come to Town!

It's Easter and the clocks go back this weekend so I keep expecting the Summer to end. It's starting to get darker in the evenings and it's a little bit cooler than it has been, but I just spent the day walking on the beach in my shorts and jandals (flip flops)! The Summer has gone on forever :0) I can't believe it, it's been sunny here pretty much the whole time for the last six months... six months... How amazing is that? I'm not looking forward to the Winter and will no doubt do loads of moaning about the fact that our house might as well be made of cardboard for all the warmth it keeps in, but will try to remind myself that it's only going to last a couple of months and then I'll get another fabulous Summer. Whoop whoop :0)

The Badgers (aka my parents) have been with us in New Zealand for a couple of months now and I think that they're learning to love it as much as we do. We've been away on loads of adventures together including a weekend in Whangamata chilling out on the beach and involved in lots of lake themed activities... We've been camping on Lake Tarawera, spent a few days on the Lake edge in Taupo and have done a four day tramp (hike) around Lake Waikeremoana. That's the first really long hike that Ben and I have done and it was good to have Mum around to organise us all and do all the cooking and Dad to carry the heavy stuff :0) It's pretty amazing being so far into the wilderness that it's a couple of days walk out. We had a bit of rain but it was clear on the day we got the best views so we didn't mind too much. The rain didn't stop us swimming in the lake either, even though it was freezing, but seeing as that was the only way to wash it seemed like the right thing to do. Ben was pretty unpopular with a stroppy South African lady who was one of the others sleeping in the huts with us, as he kept her awake with his snoring! I must be immune these days as I slept like a baby :0)

We had a big barbecue so that Mum and Dad could meet some of our friends and because we don't actually have a barbecue our friends, Colum and Claire, with a very plush house had it at their place instead! Loads of people were there and it's lovely to think that we've made so many good friends even though we've been here less than a year. I, of course, lowered the tone by getting really drunk and loud and ended the evening puking in the neighbours garden! Fortunately I made it back to our house and puked in our neighbours garden rather than theirs. That sort of behaviour is far better tolerated in the rough street we live in than their posh one!!

So what else have the last couple of months involved for us? Well... I made sure that Saint David's Day didn't pass unmarked and made some coconut ice welsh flags, which believe it or not were completely eaten. I am, after all, a baking queen these days. I've even mastered Ceri's carrot cake recipe. Ben had a birthday too and I got him a beach volleyball because we've both been playing in a team all Summer. Now admittedly we haven't won a single game, but we are definitely a lot better at it than we were to start with. I was terrified of the ball for the fist few games and ended up covered in bruises but now I actually enjoy it :0) Anyway, how else would you want to spend your Tuesday evenings but jumping around on the beach in the evening sun?

Other significant events include Erin's party to celebrate her gaining her residency, which couldn't have been more Kiwi as it involved drinking, a barbecue and men in gum boots (wellies) shooting at things! Also... Michelle and Phil are due to have a baby any day now, Ben is off photographing the Jazz festival as we speak and we're heading up to Auckland for a few days next week. Mum and Dad are off doing their own thing on their bikes for a while and will be heading back for my birthday at the end of the month before going home.

Finally the big news is... we're going to get a dog! I'm so excited I can hardly contain myself :0) Our landlady has agreed to let us get one and now I can hardly think of anything else! The problem is we need to wait for Ben's residency to be confirmed before we get one and we just don't know when that's going to happen. It could be any day now or not for another few months. It's so frustrating I could scream! But I guess as long as they actually say yes in the end then that's the main thing. But as soon as we get that all important passport stamp we will be headed to the local pound and getting ourselves the biggest, mangiest, three-legged, one-eyed, smelly, old dog we can find :0)

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Adventures with Bethan and Ceri

The day after Ben's folks left us Bethan and Ceri (friends from Cardiff) arrived, so it's been one-in-one-out 'round here! It was fantastic to have them here. Fancy travelling to the other side of the planet to come and see us. I love them! We all went away together "Road trip - HONK, HONK!", so it was a holiday for all of us . Beth and Ceri were a but disappointment by my inability to stay up all night drinking, but even they embraced the early-to-bed-early-to-rise Kiwi way (with the assistance of jet lag!) and I'm sure the trip made of for it in other ways.

Our first stop was Tutukaka where we did some scuba diving on the Poor Knights Islands. The water has warmed up loads since Ben and I did our training so it was a much more pleasant experience. There was loads to see and apparently I don't breath very much, so I got to stay down underwater twenty minutes longer than everyone else! We saw sting rays and all kinds of other fish that I can't be bothered to learn the names of! The whole thing was made even more entertaining by the frequent puking into paper bags of Bethan. Bless her. Fair play though she still struggled into all the gear and joined in. I would have sat miserably in the corner if it were me but then I think she'd have done anything to get off the rolling boat!

Next we headed up to Pahia and explored the Bay of Islands by sailing boat and sea kayak. Look at us go with all our sporting activities! I can assure you that there was more than enough beer drinking and pie eating to balance out any healthy activity though :0) Whilst we were there we stayed in this quite plush (by my standards!) place with a pool and stuff (only because they'd messed up our booking so we got upgraded!) so then when we arrived at our next stop in Hihi Beach the hideousness of the shack that awaited us was intensified. The highlight for me was watching Ceri sweep the dead flies out of his bed!!

We then drove all the way to cape Reinga, the most northern tip of New Zealand. Beth thought we were taking the piss when we told her that we were planning on driving all day to go and see a lighthouse. But she soon found out that we weren't! We also found a beautiful deserted little beach for our picnic lunch and trekked over some massive sand dunes. The idea is that you rent boogie boards and slided down them, but when we got there the lady with the boards said we were too late, so we just had to run about on them instead. Beth turned into the abominable sand monster when the sunblock she had covered herself in turned to glue and caked her from head to toe in sand!

Hokianga Harbour was lovely and the Treehouse, where we stayed, my favourite. Ben and I decided that we want to live in a tree house :0) It was a gorgeous place to chill out among the rainforest. The scenery on the west coast is pretty different to the east, much more wild and rugged, with hardly anyone about. Until, that is we stumbled upon some sort of mini festival on the beautiful Kai Iwi Lakes. Definitely a spot that's on my "must go back" list.

The final stop on our little road trip (HONK, HONK!!) was at Goat Island (where there are no goats and never were?!) at a lovely little campsite, that I immediately fell in love with (partly because dogs are allowed and although we don't actually have a dog yet I am still fairly obsessed with the idea of getting one!). However it did lose something of it's shine when we were kept awake half the night by an accordion playing Frenchman (he may as well have been wearing a blue and white striped jumper and a string of onions!).

So after nine days of adventuring we headed back home to Tauranga. Ben and I went back to work and Beth and Ceri headed off for a few days by themselves and immediately checked into a four star hotel. Anyone would think that not everyone wants to stay on campsites with flies in the beds and accordion playing Frenchmen!! They came back to be sent off in style by a meal out with all our "new" friends and a drunken night out (yep I even stayed up past 9.30 for the occasion!!)

View more photos here!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Christmas on the beach

It seems that all anyone in the UK can talk about is all the snow and here we are in the middle of a glorious Summer. We're really enjoying it with weekends away exploring and feel incredibly lucky to be in such an amazing country and to have the sunshine to enjoy it. We've taken the opportunity to road-test our new tent. Yep, Marge has gone off on new adventures and we have a boring car (although Ben thinks it's a "sports car"!) and a fantastic huge tent! Check it out with this little video (fortunately the first take didn't work which I was pretty pleased about because all that bouncing around on the airbed made my boobs fall out! )....

Ben's folks flew out to join us for a Christmas barbecue on the beach. It was all a bit surreal, especially when one family arrived with a Christmas tree, put on Santa outfits and built a sandman! It didn't really feel like Christmas in lots of ways but I'm pretty happy with the trade off for a long, hot, sunny Summer. New Year's outdoor Black Seeds gig was pretty cool too :0)

Peter and Pauline seem to love the place as much as we do too, which is always good to hear and are already making plans for their next visit. It's been lovely having them here and without them we may never have visited a volcanic island in hard-hats and gas-masks! Mind you, Ben's Dad's obsession with bird watching has had us all bored to tears at times and I'm pretty sure that as much as we'll miss them I'll probably survive without his regular rant about the evil sparrow!!

There are more photos here!