Taylor Swift in Melbourne 2015

This was one of the best impulsive decisions I have ever made.

Years earlier, when my two youngest were teenagers, they used to sing Taylor Swift songs all day long! I got to know the songs pretty well, and I really liked them. I appreciate that Taylor is a very gifted musician and singer, and always thought it would be great to see her on stage one day.

So in August of 2015, I’m sitting at home, with my iPhone beside me, when an alert arrived. It was Air New Zealand advising that Taylor Swift has added another concert to her Melbourne tour. The tickets could be purchased immediately and only a limited number available! Her two already planned concerts were sold out! That was enough for me! I purchased 4 tickets! This was a travel, airport transfers, accommodation, CD, T-shirt and show pass deal. The show wasn’t until December, but that gave us enough time to organize life to fit in with this impulse buy… I hoped!

It all worked out nicely, and in December us girls took off for Melbourne to see Taylor perform. I think I was actually the most excited!

Us four at the Airport!

Two sisters, and two daughters 🙂

Us four very excited ladies on the transfer from the Melbourne airport to our Hotel.

The bonus was we had all afternoon free for shopping and then again the following morning. Melbourne is a great city for shopping!

Looks delicious huh!
and a bit of sight seeing

As it happened, my eldest son was also in Melbourne for work! How great was that! We all met together and had a very nice lunch and catch up 🙂

At the show and waiting for it to start
And there she is!

This girl can entertain! And her talent is amazing. The whole show was just wonderful, and I was just stunned at how many songs I knew, and could sing along to. The show was well worth going to.

We weren’t too far from the stage, but every now and then Taylor would be standing on a platform which moved out and across the crowd. She ended up singing almost right in front of us! And what a voice! Who said that Nanas can’t enjoy a good rock star hey!

This November, Taylor has another show. This time it’s in Sydney, and my eldest grand daughter is taking my 12 year old grand daughter, her sister. Do you think Nana Pam should buy tickets and go join them?

Addiction!

This video is adapted from Johann Hari’s New York Times best-selling book ‘Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs.’

This video came up on my Facebook feed and I found it so very interesting. I wanted to share it on my blog, to see if others may find it just as thought provoking and helpful as I did.

My opinion after listening to the video…

Loneliness and disconnection is horrible, and can have a horrendous outcome on a persons life. We all need to feel we are loved, we belong, we are accepted and we have a sense of purpose. Withdrawing into isolation from others is a reaction, and the alternative is the need to be proactive in a positive way. To turn your life around can be very challenging for those who already feel inferior, unaccepted and worthless. Extremely challenging for those who have already opened the door to addiction as a way of escape to the daily pain that life brings them.

A desire to change takes commitment, lots of loving support, choosing to be vulnerable, and also huge bravery! You can’t do it alone! Building new relationships with the right people is a huge step forward. Good counselling, loving family and positive friendships! But the warning I give is that we should never allow others to give you your self esteem. If they can give it to you, they can also take it from you! We are all damaged people. Life can be amazingly wonderful, but it can also be cruel! What we put into a relationship comes not only from our choice to be the best to another and love them totally, but also from our life experiences, good and bad. And we make mistakes! We are human and that is one of the conditions of being human!

Praise God He loves us unconditionally, and as we are! He never gives up on us or leaves us. In Him we are loved, belong, are accepted and our life has purpose 🙂 To have a personal relationship with God is solid! It’s like having your house built on solid ground. When the storms of life come, you can rest assured that your faith in this loving God, will help you stand firm. ‘For God so loved the world (everyone… even you), that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (NKJV). We are all equal at the foot of the cross! Everyone! There is no bias!

I know there are lot of people that disagree with me about faith in God, but no-one can argue with the peace that I have from knowing who I am in Christ 🙂 I have no fear for the future as my life is in His hands 🙂 He is my hope for the future and my ever present help for today.

 

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

For the last 15 months we have been opening our home to airbnb guests. It’s been really interesting. We have met so many lovely people, and we now have new friends from all over the world! For reasons which I will explain later on in my post, I have filled in the availability calendar for our home, so it is unavailable for a time, but we did have two guest rooms which have been well used. Here are the links to those rooms if you would like to have a look.

https://www.airbnb.co.nz/rooms/5197223?guests=1&s=0RoqnXBa

https://www.airbnb.co.nz/rooms/5232994?guests=1&s=0RoqnXBa

The summer months seem to have been the most popular for tourists visiting New Zealand. The most common places of interest that our visitors have been to see before they got to our home in little Waitara (Taranaki), has been the Waitomo Caves and the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Most of our visitors travelled south from Auckland and were making their way down to the South Island, where they planned on driving down to visit Queenstown. The popular cities that I heard mentioned visited in the North Island were Auckland, Rotorua and Taupo. And, of course, I would promote a visit to our local city of New Plymouth, of which I have already written a blog post about!

New Plymouth – It’s a fabulous city!

When our guests spoke of the wonderful experiences they had seeing the Waitomo Caves, and walking / tramping the Tongariro Crossing, I would feel slightly guilty. Here I am a New Zealander, and I haven’t even been to either of those places myself, well I hadn’t! But I have now. In April I took my grandson to the Caves 🙂 We only went through the Glow worm cave but it was fantastic. I have visited the Jenolan Caves near the Blue Mountains in Australia, and I have to say that the Waitomo Caves are equally as good. Definitely worth the visit.

In March I joined a group of local people to travel North to The National Park to walk the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and I have to say it was the highlight of my year so far! It was amazing, and what a sense of achievement to have completed it! Yes, I can definitely say it was on my bucket list (after hearing about it so much from our visiting tourists) and it has now been ticked off!

The distance of the crossing. We had a guide with us so we turned at the highest point of the crossing, carried on to Tongariro summit and then our guide led us back to the start point.
The distance of the crossing. We had a guide with us so we turned at the highest point of the crossing, carried on to Tongariro summit and then our guide led us back to the start point.
Full of excitement and energy as we start the crossing :-)
Full of excitement and energy as we start the crossing 🙂
This is part of the path from the starting point. By mid morning there is a steady traffic of people walking/climbing the crossing. It is a very popular and manageable climb but is definitely challenging as well.
This is part of the path from the starting point. By mid morning there is a steady traffic of people walking/climbing the crossing. It is a very popular and manageable climb but is definitely challenging as well.
The only toilets en route!
The only toilets en route!
One of our first stops. And look at the wonderful view!
One of our first stops. And look at the wonderful view!
Mt Taranaki way in the distance
Mt Taranaki way in the distance
Walking across the plain towards the climb to the Summit
Walking across the plain towards the climb to the Summit
further along the long plain
Further along the long plain
Looking across to Mt Ngauruhoe
Looking across to Mt Ngauruhoe
Looking over the edge :-)
Looking over the edge 🙂
Our little group of trampers- plus the photographer :-)
Our little group of trampers- plus the photographer 🙂
That was much harder to climb than it looks!
That was much harder to climb than it looks!
The big climb up to the Crossing peak
The big climb up to the Crossing peak
Just a little climb from here to where the main crossing walk starts the descent to the car park
Just a little climb from here to where the main crossing walk starts the descent to the car park
The last slope upwards
The last slope upwards
The view of an old vent on the volcano
The view of an old vent on the volcano
another view of the old crater vent. Can you seee the people climbing across the other side?
Another view of the old crater vent. Can you see the people climbing across the other side?
Daughter Joanna looking at the wonderful views with the lakes below
Daughter C5 looking at the wonderful views with the lakes below
Mt Ngauruhoe with Mt Ruapehu behind
Mt Ngauruhoe with Mt Ruapehu behind, and the Tongariro summit ahead 🙂
Joanna with Ngauruhoe behind her
C5 with Ngauruhoe behind her
Yay! We did it. Mt Tongariro Summit!
Yay! We did it. Mt Tongariro Summit!
My friend Julie with the two magnificent mountains behind her
My friend Julie with the two magnificent mountains behind her
Our lunch spot at the summit of Mt Tongariro
Our lunch spot at the summit of Mt Tongariro
From the summit looking back to the crossing
From the summit looking back to the crossing
The terrain we meandered down back to the carpark
The terrain we meandered down back to the carpark
Sitting on damp spongy moss for our afternoon tea :-)
Sitting on damp spongy moss for our afternoon tea 🙂
Such a wonderful feeling! We had just climbed Tongariro with Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu in sight :-)
Such a wonderful feeling! We had just climbed Tongariro with Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu in sight 🙂
The long walk back down! But it was sure worth the effort :-)
The long walk back down! But it was sure worth the effort 🙂

After four long years of just having my husband and myself at home, this year has completely changed for us. We now have two of our adult children living back home, and we also have three of our grand children living here with us as well. We are so spoilt to have company all the time, and activity filling our lives. Children are great at keeping you young. So, this is the reason that our airbnb is now closed for a time, but I am very thankful for the time we had our guests staying here. If it wasn’t for their wonderful recollections, telling me about doing the Tongariro Crossing, or seeing The Waitomo Caves, I probably wouldn’t have put the effort in to see them for myself!

Now I can be the ‘expert’ when we eventually open our airbnb again.

If you have 20 minutes to spare I have also made a movie file of the crossing 🙂

The Seasons Of Life

Our family has just had a huge celebration! My Dad had his birthday and it certainly was one to celebrate. He turned 90 years old! That’s right 90! Not only was the age worth celebrating, but my Dad as a person needed celebrating as well. He is an amazing person! Always has been! I have been very blessed having him as my Dad. He is the best Dad a person could have (I’m not biased at all)

IMG_8296
My Wonderful Dad!

Of course I had to make him a cake for the occasion 🙂

My second attempt at making a cake using fondant. The first was for my youngest daughters 21st.
My second attempt at making a cake using fondant. The first was for my youngest daughters 21st.

We had the party at my eldest sisters place, and us four girls and my sister in law made all the food for afternoon tea. People arrived from 1pm and stayed until approximately 6pm. At one point there were 80 people wandering around the gardens or sitting and chatting!  Dad had a great time catching up to old friends and family.

Cheers Dad! You are worth celebrating!
Cheers Dad! You are worth celebrating!

Mum felt just as special as Dad did, after all they are ‘one’ really, after 67 years of marriage 🙂

Ohhhh that's cute :-)
Ohhhh that’s cute 🙂

Only two of my adult children and their family were able to come to the party. My eldest sisters daughter came, along with her family as well. And, my brothers son came too.

Mum and Dad with all the grandchildren and great grandchildren that came to Dad's party.
Mum and Dad with all the grandchildren and great grandchildren that came to his party.

It was so good to be able to have all our immediately family together again. A great opportunity to get a group photo!

From Left to right - Myself (the baby of the family), Kerry (2 years older than me), Dad, Mum, Judy the eldest, Lynday (two years younger than Judy), and Rodney (the middle child and only boy of the family)
From Left to right – Myself (the baby of the family), Kerry (2 years older than me), Dad, Mum, Judy the eldest, Lynda (two years younger than Judy), and Rodney (the middle child and only boy of the family)

So I titled this post ‘The seasons of life’, because of the fact that my Dad and Mum are in the ‘Winter’ season of their lives. Thankfully they are well and still having a great time of ‘living’, although Mum is a little slower nowadays. I really can’t imagine life without my precious Mum and Dad to chat to, have our weekly family dinner time together, and have their continued input into my life. I have been blessed to have them both as my parents, and I am so very thankful.

Both Robin and myself (and all my siblings) are now in the ‘Autumn’ season. The times of our lives have gone so fast. When I was younger and surrounded with lots of children, each demanding my time and energy in some way or another, and I was frequently tired; people used to say to me that these years would pass before you knew it, and your children would be all grown up and left home. In fact, sadly, because of the busyness of life, I often wished that those years of freedom would come sooner. Now, I would love to go back in time and live through those years again. It was a wonderful life and I loved being a Mum to my young children. I loved the feeling of being vitally important in their lives. Now they are individuals, adults that are making their own way in life. Each unique personality doing it their own way, and I am so proud of them all. I am still important to them, but in a completely different way. And that is healthy. That is the way it should be!

Celebrate the seasons of life people. They move along so fast, they really do!  Memorise as many moments as you can along the way. Take heaps of photos, and journal your life. It will all be great to look back on, especially as you enter the less energetic seasons of life.

Yet in this Autumn season, there is still so much to look forward to. Robin and I now have the ability to make decisions about our lives, that no longer impact our ‘children’ like they used to. We can make plans for holidays together, have evenings out regularly, and generally do as we please. Does this sound selfish? I see it as a reward for selflessly parenting our children first and foremost during their formative years, and into adulthood. We can now become a ‘couple’ again, and enjoy the wonders of discovering life together as a couple.

Yes! This season of life is great!

PS…. As part of my celebrating ‘who I am’ in my Autumn years, I have decided to let my grey show! It has been a great topic of discussion, I can tell you. But I am happy with who I am. I don’t feel the need to impress anyone, or feel I need to try to keep young looking. I am actually loving my hair, and wish it was actually white all over. And you know what…. it is very freeing 🙂

The Creative Juices Are Flowing

There is nothing like a baby being born to get me in the mood to create!

Over the years I have made hundreds (a slight exaggeration) of bibs, cuddle blankets, leggings, little tops, cardigans and bootees. And, if you search through my past blog entries you will see that for my youngest three grandchildren, I made each of them a crochet blanket, and I also made them patchwork ones.

Robins niece had her second little baby girl on the 18th of April. It’s nearly a month later, and today I finally popped in to meet little Fable and give her our gift! I spent all day yesterday finishing the blanket off, and it turned out great! (even if I must say so myself) I was so happy with the finished blanket that I thought I would share the process with you, my reader. There are often little tricks with Patchwork that make something that looks very complicated, actually quite easy to put together. Of course the material choices make quite a difference to the finished product as well, and that is often trial and error. Luckily the combination of fabrics looked great this time.

Awhile ago Spotlight had a sale on and I purchased 8 different materials that would blend together, and about a quarter of a metre of each one. I then purchased two different plain fabrics that matched one of the colours in the fabric pieces. I got approximately a metre and a half or two metres of this solid colour fabric.

So here are the instructions…

Firstly I cut the 8 different materials into 3 inch strips (each is the full width of the material). I then match two groups of four strips. Here are the blue/green strips.
Firstly I cut the 8 different materials into 3 inch strips (each is the full width of the material). I then match two groups of four strips. Here are the blue/green strips.
Keep the colours in order I sew them together with a quarter inch seam.
Keeping the colours in order, I sew them together with a quarter inch seam.
The last of the pink/yellow selection sewn together.
The last of the pink/yellow selection sewn together.
And you end up with two long strips, each of four different materials. Please note these have been pressed neatly. I have my iron out and going the whole time I sew, and press the materials frequently.
And you end up with two long strips, each of four different materials. Please note these have been pressed neatly. I have my iron out and going the whole time I sew, and press the materials frequently.
Now to measure and cut. Even up the ends of the strips first.
Now to measure and cut. Even up the ends of the strips first.
You need to cut the material up as wide as it is high, right along the long strip. I got four big squares off each one.
You need to cut the material up as wide as it is high, right along the long strip. I got four big squares off each one.
Here are the two groups of four squares.
Here are the two groups of four squares.
Keeping the patterns in order line them up beside each other with one colour group having its stripes going at a 90 degree angle.
Keeping the patterns in order line them up beside each other with one colour group having its stripes going at a 90 degree angle.
Put the two different ones together with the right sides facing each other and sew a quarter inch seam right around the outside of the square.
Put the two different ones together with the right sides facing each other and sew a quarter inch seam right around the outside of the square.
Sew neatly around the outside edge :-)
Sew neatly around the outside edge 🙂
From corner to corner cut with your rotary blade, then spin around and cut the opposite diagonal.
From corner to corner cut with your rotary blade, then spin around and cut the opposite diagonal.
You should end up with your large square cut into four like this!
You should end up with your large square cut into four like this!
Press the seams and turn over. Voila! Look at that! Aren't they so pretty! These four have been placed making a little mixed square in the centre.
Press the seams and turn over. Voila! Look at that! Aren’t they so pretty! These four have been placed making a little mixed square in the centre.
Or you could place them with the little triangles to the outer corner. Or you could mix them up totally. The last way is extremely hard to keep control of when sewing together. I get lost! So I kind of like to still have some order (among the chaos).
Or you could place them with the little triangles to the outer corner. Or you could mix them up totally. The last way is extremely hard to keep control of when sewing together. I get lost! So I kind of like to still have some order (among the chaos).
Once all four big squares have been cut up, place them together again in the way that you want to sew them up.
Once all four big squares have been cut up, place them together again in the way that you want to sew them up.
Sew up each row making sure to press the seams once finished.
Sew up each row making sure to press the seams once finished.
Then sew the four rows together. Don't they look pretty :-)
Then sew the four rows together. Don’t they look pretty 🙂
On this blanket I chose the green with little pink flowers for the first border. Sew on the top and bottom first and then the edges. Make sure to slightly stretch the material as you sew. This makes it easier for the quilt to keep shape, and for the top stitching later on.
On this blanket I chose the green with little pink flowers for the first border. Sew on the top and bottom first and then the edges. Make sure to slightly stretch the border material as you sew. This makes it easier for the quilt to keep shape, and for the top stitching later on.
My next border was a very cute yellow tree pattern sewn exactly the same way as the green border.
My next border was a very cute yellow tree pattern sewn exactly the same way as the green border.
Because this is a smallish quilt (or blanket) there is no need to top stitch through all layers. On this one I have added the wadding to the back, and if you look closely, I have top stitched through both of the layers. This keeps the blanket looking neat and holding together well after many washes. There are many ways that you can top stitch on a quilt. I have just made quarter inch lines alongside the seams and it looks very tidy.
Because this is a smallish quilt (or blanket) there is no need to top stitch through all layers. On this one I have added the wadding to the back, and if you look closely, I have top stitched through both of the layers. This keeps the blanket looking neat and holding together well after many washes. There are many ways that you can top stitch on a quilt. I have just made quarter inch lines along each side of the seams and it looks very tidy.
Now I have added the backing and finished the outer rows of top stitch through all the three layers.
Now I have added the backing and finished the outer rows of top stitch through all the three layers.
The next stage is the binding. I cut three inch strips and joined them together to make one big long strip. Fold it in half and iron the fold.
The next stage is the binding. I cut three inch strips and joined them together to make one big long strip. Fold it in half and iron the fold.
With the cut edges together sew the binding on stopping about a quarter of an inch from the corner and sew diagonally off the edge.
With the cut edges together sew the binding on stopping about a quarter of an inch from the corner and sew diagonally off the edge.
Turn the cloth around and fold the binding to have a straight edge along the top, then just recommence sewing the seam.
Turn the cloth around and fold the binding to have a straight edge along the top, then just recommence sewing the seam.
Iron the binding out from the edge and fold it around to the back. At the corners fold the binding in the same way as you did when you were sewing and they will just fit together nicely. I then stitch in the ditch on the front of the blanket, and it catches the back and sews the binding down neatly. you can hand stitch this part if you want the stitching to be completely hidden.
Iron the binding out from the edge and fold it around to the back. At the corners fold the binding in the same way as you did when you were sewing and they will just fit together nicely. I then stitch in the ditch on the front of the blanket, and it catches the back and sews the binding down neatly. you can hand stitch this part if you want the stitching to be completely hidden.
And here are the two quilts that I made in two days. I must admit that each one took all day, but they were wet days and not a lot else could be achieved, except housework! And that is always there anyway!
And here are the two quilts that I made in two days. I must admit that each one took all day, but they were wet days and not a lot else could be achieved, except housework! And that is always there to do anyway!
All folded up ready to be given to two very special little babies. Fable got the green edged one, and Zoe got the pink edged one.
All folded up ready to be given to two very special little babies. Fable got the green edged one, and Zoe got the pink edged one.

Now I find that there is no greater pleasure than to give a gift that you have hand crafted. I pour my love into the blanket as I sew it up and I imagine the little baby that I am making it for, laying on it, kicking their little feet happily. I pray a little blessing on the child and hope that the Mummy enjoys seeing her child playing on the pretty blanket.

I also get a great sense of satisfaction seeing how the colours and patterns fit together. These two blankets had the inside panels the same and yet the outside borders were completely different creating a unique blanket for each child.

I hope that the instructions are clear enough and you can now be bold enough to attempt your very own patchwork quilt or blanket. Let me know how it goes! Send me a photo of your one finished so I can enjoy the colours and patterns that  you have created.

ENJOY 🙂

Creations and Celebrations

The first half of our year is full of celebrations starting with Robin’s birthday on the 2nd of January. This year was his 60th and we celebrated his day with a lovely wine tour in the north of Sydney!

My 60 year old man :-)
My 60 year old man 🙂
Celebrating Robin! All the family together minus Simon, Stacie and their three children!
Celebrating Robin! All the family together minus C3, Stacie and their three children!

C5’s birthday was on the 15th of January and G2 turned 9 on the 29th. Within that week we had G5 turn 1 on the 4th and then on the very next day G3 turned 9! Phew! But that doesn’t end the February birthdays. G1 and C6 both had milestone birthdays, with G1 turning 18 and C6 21 on the 24th! Yes they share the same birthday. G1 is now at University, and we are very proud of the beautiful young woman she has become 🙂

C6’s 21st was a biggie! And I decided to do most of the decorating myself! And did I have fun!

Let’s start with the cake…

So first of all I made two Caramel Cakes for the bottom of the whole birthday cake
So first of all I made two Caramel Cakes for the bottom of the whole birthday cake
I joined the two with butter cream icing
I joined the two with butter cream icing
And I covered them as best as I could with butter cream icing :-)
And I covered them as best as I could with butter cream icing 🙂
Once the icing had hardened a bit I smoothed it out by putting baking paper on the cake and rubbing over it with the flat of my hand
Once the icing had hardened a bit I smoothed it out by putting baking paper on the cake and rubbing over it with the flat of my hand
Now this is the fondant I used. Approx $6 per packet. I thought that was a bargain compared to other brands
Now this is the fondant I used. Approx $6 per packet. I thought that was a bargain compared to other brands
And here is the cake with the fondant on top of the butter cream. I rolled it out flat and then with the use of my Ikea mat, I rolled both the mat and icing together, and then unrolled onto the cake. Gently rubbing with my hands to get the icing to mould around the bottom edge of the cake
And here is the cake with the fondant on top of the butter cream. I rolled it out flat and then with the use of my Ikea mat, I rolled both the mat and icing together, and then unrolled onto the cake. Gently rubbing with my hands to get the icing to mould around the bottom edge of the cake
I did exactly the same with the top of the cake only this cake was a vanilla cake. Separating some of the fondant, I coloured it with red food colouring. I then rolled the red out flat and cut circles and stripes and also stars for the lettering to go on.
I did exactly the same with the top of the cake only this cake was a vanilla cake. Separating some of the fondant, I coloured it with red food colouring. I then rolled the red out flat and cut circles and stripes and also stars for the lettering to go on.
I let the stars harden overnight onto the skewers and then put the lettering onto them
I let the stars harden overnight onto the skewers and then put the lettering onto them
And here is beautiful Jessica with her 21st cake!
And here is beautiful C6 with her 21st cake!
I also made a welcoming blackboard gto celebrate Jessica. I actually copied this from a board I found on Pinterest!
I also made a welcoming blackboard to celebrate C6. I actually copied this from a board I found on Pinterest!
And with the help of my cricut and some vinyl and a white board, I made another celebration board :-)
And with the help of my cricut, some vinyl and a white board, I made another celebration board 🙂
Instead of a birthday key, I purchased a blank black canvas, and along with a white Gel pen, Jessica's friends could write messages to her. This is now wall art for Jessica :-)
Instead of a birthday key, I purchased a blank black canvas, and along with a white Gel pen, C6’s friends could write messages to her. This is now wall art for C6 🙂
I asked Robin to get some chipboard and I drew a huge number two and one on it. He cut them out with a jigsaw and I painted them black.
I asked Robin to get a sheet of chipboard and I drew a huge number two and one on it. He cut them out with a jigsaw and I painted them black.
Both the two and one were covered with photos of Jessica growing up :-)
Both the two and one were covered with photos of C6 growing up 🙂
And here is my gorgeous girl with her '21' photo board <3
And here is my gorgeous girl with her ’21’ photo board <3

We hired out a local club and had a wonderful evening together. C6 is my baby and to think she is now 21 is unbelievable. Where have those years gone? C6 is very talented, and a beautiful young lady. I am very proud of her 🙂

The birthdays haven’t finished yet! On the 18th of March we celebrated G6’s 1st birthday with an amazing Star Wars themed party, which I have written about approximately three blogs down! Go have a look. It was the best themed birthday EVER!

The whole house was set up in a Star Wars theme to celebrate Luke turning 1 :-)
The whole house was set up in a Star Wars theme to celebrate G6 turning 1 🙂

In early April C2 came to New Zealand with daughter G7, and while they were staying here, I decided to put on an early 1st birthday for her. Her actual birthday is the 21st of April, but she would be back home in London by then. It was fantastic having them both to stay so it really was a double celebration! I purchased ladybug table napkins and decided to make her cake to match them. Here’s what it turned out like…

The ladybug theme! Copied from the table napkins and plates :-)
The ladybug theme! Copied from the table napkins and plates 🙂
The table set up for her party. We had family here to help celebrate and brought pizzas as well....yum!
The table set up for her party. We had family here to help celebrate and brought pizzas as well….yum!
Here's Daddy Daniel cutting Sophie's cake
Here’s Daddy C2 cutting G7’s cake
And beautiful little Sophie with her cake :-)
And beautiful little G7 with her cake 🙂

C3’s birthday was next on the 17th of April, and coming up next week is mine!

I think I may have a party???

New Plymouth – It’s a fabulous city!

I have been back home now for nearly a month, and I’m loving it!

It’s funny how you never really appreciate something until you have to do without it for awhile. The saying goes ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’, and although this saying is describing relationships, I also believe it covers things like homes, or familiar places, or towns. If you have been reading my blog over the past six months, you will remember that I left New Zealand on the 15th of August last year and didn’t return again until the 12th of January this year. That is nearly five months away from my country and home town of New Plymouth. Actually we live just out of New Plymouth at a small town called Waitara, but New Plymouth is just a short 15-20 minute drive away and is our nearest city, and yes, I love it!

Walking back into my home, I fell in love with it all over again. Yes it is old, and still has a lot of work needing to be done on it, but it is very comfortable, welcoming, peaceful, and spacious. It is our 16 year old renovation project that will probably never get finished, but it has served us well! It has been a family home to 5 of our 6 children and all the extras that they have brought here over the years. We have had many friends and visitors pop in to see us and maybe stay a day or more and I trust that they have felt the welcome, not only from us, but by the atmosphere that this house helps to create.

Look at this amazing view! This is what I see from my dining room table when the Wisteria is in flower.
Look at this amazing view! This is what I see from my dining room table when the Wisteria is in flower.
Looking across our deck towards the lounge French doors. The Wisteria is beautiful but does take a bit to keep under control.
Looking across our deck towards the lounge French doors. The Wisteria is beautiful but does take a bit to keep under control.

I have been thinking about why I am so happy to be home. Yes I do love my house and it’s in a great location in the country and yet handy enough to get to town within 20 minutes, so that is part of the reason. But I think it’s the fact that New Plymouth is such a fabulous city. We have everything here from a Mountain to the sea, and plenty of parks inbetween, as well as the fact that it is a great shopping city.

Let’s start with the view I see from my own front yard!

This is the view from my front deck. If you look through the tree you can see our Mountain!
This is the view from my front deck. If you look through the tree you can see our Mountain!
And this is the view of the Mountain from just across the road from our house.
And this is the view of the Mountain from just across the road from our house.

If I drive south for 20 minutes I would come to the small town of Inglewood. About 15 minutes away from my house heading towards Inglewood, I get this amazing view!

Our wonderful Mount Taranaki. I never tire of this view.
Our wonderful Mount Taranaki. I never tire of this view.

And every winter I try to get up the mountain to the snow at least once. It’s such fun to have our Mountain so close and to have the ability to drive up right to the snow.

A photo from our trip up the mountain last winter (2014)
A photo from our trip up the mountain last winter (2014)

And after a play in the snow and you are feeling a little hungry, a stop at Volcano View Café is great for food and play. With flying foxes available for use, and BIG carts to ride. The kids (and big kids) love it 🙂

One of the two Flying Foxes at Volcano View
One of the two Flying Foxes at Volcano View
There's a selection of Carts to ride :-)
There’s a selection of Carts to ride 🙂

Leaving Volcano View and heading towards New Plymouth and the next place to stop would be at Lake Mangamahoe. This lake supplies New Plymouth with it’s water. It is very picturesque and also a great lake for hiking around. When you get there, you will find that you can get a great photo with the mountain in the background.

Lake Mangamahoe and Mount Taranaki
Lake Mangamahoe and Mount Taranaki
Another beautiful photo of Lake Mangamahoe with our amazing mountain in the background :-)
Another beautiful photo of Lake Mangamahoe with our amazing mountain in the background 🙂

Next place towards New Plymouth is the ‘Meeting of the waters’. Here you can go for a walk to the river, swim, or take some rafts and get out on the river. It’s also a great place for a picnic, a walk or just for relaxation.

Take the family, the rafts and have some fun together at the Meeting of the waters :-)
Take the family, the rafts and have some fun together at the ‘Meeting of the waters’ 🙂
There are plenty of places to have a picnic surrounded by lovely scenery
There are plenty of places to have a picnic surrounded by lovely scenery

We have the most amazing park right in the centre of New Plymouth that is very popular and well worth a visit. There are many magnificent trees and gardens all over the park, along with a Fernery house to wander through. There is also a playground for the children that has recently been updated with new playground equipment, and the children love it.

The flying fox at the Park playground
The flying fox at the Park playground

There are two big lakes. One with a fountain and the other you can hire row boats and take the family or friends for a row. If you would rather have coffee or lunch than get out on a boat, then you can go to the Tea Rooms. There you can sit and relax and also have a lovely view of the lake.

The main lake at Pukekura Park and looking at Poets Bridge. Just above the bridge you can see the Mountain. A very popular photograph to take :-)
The main lake at Pukekura Park and looking at Poets Bridge. Just above the bridge you can see the Mountain. A very popular photograph to take 🙂
And here's Robin taking us out for a row on the lake
And here’s Robin taking us out for a row on the lake

The waterfall at the park looks great during the ‘Festival of Lights’ Christmas Season. The whole park is lit up over that time and is known about New Zealand wide. It is spectacular! There are also stages set up over the season and for a super evening, you can take a blanket, invite friends along and spend the evening relaxing and listening to the various performers on stage.

The lights on the bottom lake
The lights on the bottom lake
The top lake and poets bridge.
The top lake and poets bridge.
Another photo of the lights at the top Lake in Pukekura Park.
Another photo of the lights at the top Lake in Pukekura Park.
This is the grand childrens favourite part of the Festival of Lights. The ultraviolet lights :-) We all try to wear something white!
This is the grand childrens favourite part of the Festival of Lights. The ultraviolet lights 🙂 We all try to wear something white!

Walking through the park, you will end up at the “Bowl of Brooklands’. It is an amazing outdoor sound shell where we often have performers to entertain. There is nothing more special to sit on the hills with wonderful company, and listen to a well known band or watch a production/show. The Christmas at the bowl held each year is very popular and finishes off with a huge fireworks show.

This is the view from the stage! Imagine performing on this stage with a crowd seated all around in the grassy hills. Now imagine it at night with everyone holding candles. It looks amazing and has a great atmosphere!
This is the view from the stage! Imagine performing on this stage with a crowd seated all around in the grassy hills. Now imagine it at night with everyone holding candles. It looks amazing and has a great atmosphere!

And just up the hill from the Bowl of Brooklands is our very own zoo. Sorry but the most exotic animal are the monkeys, but it’s still a great zoo. It has a fantastic playground and is very good for young children. With gates and both ends, young Mums can relax while the children have fun in a safe environment. There are some elephants there but only the type seen in the next photo 😉

The three grand children with the elephants at Brooklands Zoo.
The three grand children with the elephants at Brooklands Zoo.

We have a famous garden just west of New Plymouth in the mountain range called The Pukeiti Rhododendron Gardens. Every year we have the Rhododendron Festival and it happens during the flowering season of the trees. Hundreds of tourists come into New Plymouth to visit the gardens and Pukeiti is extremely popular.

On your way to Pukeiti, call in for a stop over at Puakai Animal Farm. The children love it, especially to see the white tiger. And look at that mountain view!
On your way to Pukeiti, call in for a stop over at Puakai Animal Farm. The children love it, especially seeing the white tiger. And look at that mountain view and the mountain ranges!
Wandering through the grounds at Pukeiti Gardens
Wandering through the grounds at Pukeiti Gardens – Not at flower time unfortunately

After visiting Pukeiti, it’s just a ‘short’ drive downhill towards the sea and you arrive at Oakura. The best place to go for the New Years day beach carnival. Nearby is the river that is a favourite for swimming, games and BBQ teas.

The grandsons are enjoying the river on a lovely summers day.
The grandsons are enjoying the river on a lovely summers day.

You can carry on driving towards New Plymouth and visit Back Beach. Its a bit of a climb down and more of a climb back up but the beach is great, and at low tide you can walk over to one of the sugar loaf islands. But make sure you get back to the mainland before the tide turns. You can get caught out very quickly and end up stuck on the island!

Right next to Back Beach is Paritutu Rock. And it’s a huge rock! I have climbed it about three times (I don’t like heights!). Robin was very game and took the grandsons to the top!

Yes, it's not a climb for the fainthearted! But well worth the effort :-)
Yes, it’s not a climb for the fainthearted! But well worth the effort 🙂
At the top with the view towards New Plymouth and the coast North.
At the top with the view towards New Plymouth and the coast North.
The wonderful view from the top of the coastline towards Oakura.
The wonderful view from the top of the coastline towards Oakura.

Once you get to Paritutu, you are nearly at Port Taranaki. It’s just down the road and good for a look, and then play on the black sand, or swim at Ngamotu Beach. Follow the coastal road and you come to three of our lovely well visited cafes! All with seaside views!

The boys love the breakwater. Plenty of rocks to climb and usually a fisherman or two to see the fish they catch :-)
The boys love the breakwater. Plenty of rocks to climb and usually a fisherman or two to see the fish they catch 🙂

After a lovely stroll along the breakwater, you can find the start of our fabulous New Plymouth walkway! It is 12.7 Kms long and every step is worth the walk. There are magnificent views along the whole pathway. For all the information on the walkway please copy and paste the NPDC link below.

http://www.newplymouthnz.com/OurDistrict/Attractions/CoastalWalkway.htm

Robin and I with our bikes at the breakwater ready to bike along the walkway/bikeway :-)
Robin and I with our bikes at the breakwater ready to bike along the walkway/bikeway 🙂
The start of the walkway from the breakwater end :-)
The start of the walkway from the breakwater end 🙂
One of the amazing views along the wak. This one is just before you get to Kawaroa Park
One of the amazing views along the way. This one is just before you get to Kawaroa Park
These are the rock pools at Kawaroa. The kids love to look to see if they can find crabs or starfish.
These are the rock pools at Kawaroa. The kids love to look to see if they can find crabs or starfish.
This photo is getting closer to the centre of town. You can see our windwand which has become a landmark icon in New Plymouth
This photo is getting closer to the centre of town. You can see our windwand which has become a landmark icon in New Plymouth
And looking back towards the Port, the Chimney, Paritutu Rock and the Sugar Loaf Islands
And looking back towards the Port, the Chimney, Paritutu Rock and the Sugar Loaf Islands
This is the best spot to stop and reflect on our beautiful city, the joy of the walkway and the wonderful view of the Pacific Ocean. Love New Zealand, Love New Plymouth and I love my daughter :-)
This is the best spot to stop and reflect on our beautiful city, the joy of the walkway and the wonderful view of the Pacific Ocean. Love New Zealand, Love New Plymouth and I love my daughter 🙂
Look at the view! The walkway changes from concrete to wood at various places!
Look at the view! The walkway changes from concrete to wood at various places!
You can take the path up to a car park and town or carry on towards East End Beach.
You can take the path up to a car park and town or carry on towards East End Beach.
This photo is taken between East End Beach and the Wind Wand walking the other direction
This photo is taken between East End Beach and the Wind Wand walking the other direction
Sitting and relaxing and enjoying the view! Just what you do when on the walkway!
Sitting and relaxing and enjoying the view! Just what you do when on the walkway!
Playing at East End Beach and the rock pools at low tide.
Playing at East End Beach and the rock pools at low tide.
At East End you can veer off on the Te Henui walkway. You cross over the river and walk under the main road and further along behind houses and through parks to a total of 5.9 Kms.
At East End you can veer off on the Te Henui walkway. You cross over the river and walk under the main road and further along behind houses and through parks to a total of 5.9 Kms.
More very picturesque moments on the Te Henui walkway :-)
More very picturesque moments on the Te Henui walkway 🙂
Back on the Coastal Walkway and moving along to Fitzroy Beach. A great spot for swimming and playing in the black iron sand :-)
Back on the Coastal Walkway and moving along to Fitzroy Beach. A great spot for swimming and playing in the black iron sand 🙂 See Paritutu, the Chimney and the Sugar Loaf Islands in the background!
Look at our great Iron Sand. But be aware it gets very hot when it is dry and in the sunshine
Look at our great Iron Sand. But be aware it gets very hot when it is dry and in the sunshine
Next best place is the Waiwakaiho River mouth. A great spot for fishing!
Next best place is the Waiwakaiho River mouth. A great spot for fishing!
The river doesn't mean the walkway must stop. New Plymouth has built the wonderful Te Rewa Rewa bridge. This bridge has been the object of many many photos, especially as it can be used to frame Mount Taranaki if you position your camera correctly, and the Mountain isn't hiding behind clouds!
The river doesn’t mean the walkway must stop. New Plymouth has built the wonderful Te Rewa Rewa bridge. This bridge has been the object of many many photos, especially as it can be used to frame Mount Taranaki if you position your camera correctly, and the Mountain isn’t hiding behind clouds!
We haven't framed the Mountain in this photo, but the bridge still looks magnificent!
We haven’t framed the Mountain in this photo, but the bridge still looks magnificent!
Keep riding or walking the walkway and look back and this is the view of the place we started, Port Taranaki, way in the distance. And, you can still keep walking right to Tiromoana Crescent at the end of Wills Road!
Keep riding or walking the walkway and look back and this is the view of the place we started, Port Taranaki, way in the distance. And, you can still keep walking right to Tiromoana Crescent at the end of Wills Road!

Now don’t you think that the next challenge you should give yourself is to either walk the length of the Coastal Walkway or ride your bike the distance. If you don’t have a bike you can always hire one from the people that hire them out near the café between East End and Fitzroy Beaches.

One day the Coastal Walkway will eventually reach to Waitara. From our place we can already ride our bikes along Brown Road and cross the walkway bridge at the Waiongana Stream, keep riding and end up at the back of the airport.

Wiongana Bridge
Waiongana Bridge
Grandsons throwing stones into the Waiongana Stream. It's actually more like a river!
Grandsons throwing stones into the Waiongana Stream. It’s actually more like a river!

I haven’t finished showing off about our wonderful Coastline and beaches and favourite places to go yet! If you keep travelling north and head off to Waitara, there is another river mouth with another great Beach. The Waitara one!

Grandson playing down at the Waitara Beach on a windy day. Look at all the driftwood!
Grandson playing down at the Waitara Beach on a windy day. Look at all the driftwood!
While in Waitara it's a great opportunity to go for a train trip to the Waitara Road Station and back with the Waitara Railway enthusiasts.
While in Waitara it’s a great opportunity to go for a train trip to the Waitara Road Station and back with the Waitara Railway enthusiasts.
The children love it and with the stop for refreshments, the adults do too :-)
The children love it and with the stop for refreshments, the adults do too 🙂

If you still want to see more beaches you can venture further North to Onaero River mouth and Beach, or even further and go to the Urenui River and Beach. We’ve had many a BBQ tea and swim in the Urenui River. The mud flats on the town side of the river are a great attraction for the children, not so much for the Mums trying to get the clothes/swimwear back to their normal colour, I’m afraid!

The Grandsons enjoying the Urenui river.
The Grandsons enjoying the Urenui river.

So there you are! There’s still heaps more to see in our wonderful city and actually the whole province of Taranaki. So next time you go on holiday, don’t forget about New Plymouth, and you can visit the places I have shown and also discover some more places for yourself.

Robin and I have just joined www.airbnb.com as a host family. We’ve already met some super people from other countries. We love being able to share our big home and have some company, but what we love the most is having the opportunity of sharing our wonderful city of New Plymouth with them.

Now can you see why I said I am really enjoying being back home 🙂

Pre-Christmas in London

I am amazed at just how much effort is put into making the Christmas season so very special here in London. I guess we are no different in New Zealand but the largeness of this place just seems to make it all the more extravagant!

Firstly there is the ‘Winter Wonderland Show’ at Hyde park. Judy and I walked through on a Monday night after it opened over the previous weekend. Fortunately Monday night wasn’t too popular, and it was an easy walk through and very enjoyable. By the next weekend when I went again, it was crowded. You could hardly move with all the people, but there was a great atmosphere. People were happy and having so much fun. I took heaps of photos but think this you tube clip will help show just how BIG the place is!

The streets are all lit up with amazing Christmas lights but the shop windows have become like a super competition to see who produces the most WOW factor. Let them fight it out I say while I wander through the crowded streets and admire their efforts!

There are plenty of you tube movies about each store as well, especially as they finally unveil their window displays to the public. Here is a Harrods video…

And another store that is very well known. It was voted the best department store in the world!

Here is a sample of their in store decorations! They really are amazing!

Another store with the big reveal is Fenwicks. This Fenwicks is in Newcastle but there is a huge store in Bond Street, London.

Walking home one night C2 and D2 took us into the store Fortnum and Mason. I’d never heard of the store before but I was certainly in for a treat. This store is for the RICH! I’ve attached a you tube clip of this store. Its by a chap who seems to make a living making You Tube videos about London.

John Lewis is another big department store and it’s Christmas lights are turned on with the Oxford Street light up, but they have an advert which is televised during the Christmas season. The little penguin named Monty has become very popular. Everyone wants a Monty Penguin and his little girlfriend Maude.

I frequently buy online from Debenhams Store for presents for London friends. Here is their Christmas advert and you can see some of their instore decorations as well.

Here is a link I found with a write up about each shop and their window display.

https://www.central-london-apartments.com/blog/londons-christmas-window-displays-2014/

And here is what Covent Garden got up to getting their 2014 Christmas decorations up! And believe me it all looks amazing!

We were lucky enough to wander through Covent Garden and see these wonderful decorations in person.

Another big thing is when the Christmas lights get officially turned on. The public come out in force to celebrate the event. It’s like a huge concert and goes on for hours.  Here is Regent Street lights switch on 2014

I could only find a longer video for Oxford Street but what a celebration it was!

This short video is a general shop window one…

Libertys of London had a real celebration for the window display reveal. Once again it’s quite a long video but shows the excitement involved in this Christmas season at Liberty. It’s a wonderful store but once again quite expensive!

And if you walk along Southbank, the River Thames walkway you will also see the Christmas Markets. Actually this guy has done heaps of video clips on You Tube about Christmas in London.

I have noticed that there is a huge lack of Nativity scenes in London’s Christmas Celebrations. How sad is that! We are definitely seeing Christ taken out of Christmas, and with the stores each competing for sales, I guess ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’ doesn’t help provide them with store purchases. The meaning of Christmas has become buy buy buy! Gift giving even when you can’t afford it. Well gift buying anyway!

The best gift of all and it doesn’t cost a cent is the gift that God gave 2014 years ago. It was in the form of a little baby, God’s son Jesus Christ. He died 33 years later as a sacrifice for our sins, and so that we could have eternal life. This gift of salvation is free, you only have to accept it! John 3;16. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that he who believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

Having attended Hillsong London a few times while in London, I have been amazed at their influence in this city. The church is huge and is growing daily! Now they are having a Christmas celebration and it does include Jesus! It does has Father Christmas but would certainly share the true reason that Christmas is part of our lives today. Here is a video of last years production. It is 29 minutes long but a great look! If that sounds too long for you though, there is another link on my page for this years service, go to that one 🙂

To find out more please open/download the link below and check out the provided information 🙂

Hillsong Christmas Carols Press Release_CVH (1) (1)

So… it will be at Wembley Arena again and the cost is 5pound per person. The 7.30pm Carol service is full already but there is another service at 3pm. This will be a Christmas celebration that you won’t forget in a hurry. In fact it could be life changing for you 🙂

Have a look…

I’m actually really sad that I can’t go to this Christmas service. I leave London on the 19th of December, but for those of you who live in London, don’t miss out!

Don't miss out! I'm sure it will be a Christmas Concert you will remember and be thankful for... for eternity
Please share with me how the evening/afternoon went. I’d love to hear all about it 🙂

Three Wonderful Weeks!

Last Wednesday I took my sister to Heathrow airport and said goodbye to her! It was a really sad time! And for a couple of days I missed her terribly. Having someone to share my everyday moments with had been so very special. Talking to a baby all day just isn’t quite the same. And because I am only here in London for three months, I haven’t the same friendship base that I have back home in New Zealand. I must drive Daniel and Marysia to despair when they get home from work. I chat about every little thing that Sophie and I got up to during the day, and believe me it’s not all that interesting. But still, I am loving my time here and I do try to make the most of every day. And, I am happy 🙂

Judy had flown over from New Zealand to London to keep me company for three weeks, and we certainly made the most of our time together. Not only did we see some amazing places, but being together did something in my soul. I felt such joy at being able to share my ‘life in London’ with her and also seeing new places with her by my side to chat over details and laugh! Boy did we have some good laughs! I am so spoilt to have a sister that I get on so well with and we enjoy each others company…. lots!

Judy arrived on her birthday, the 4th of November, and that is the day our fun together started. Sophie and I got up early to catch a bus to the train station, and then the Piccadilly underground to Heathrow airport, terminal two. The trip takes approximately an hour and a half on the tube, and ten minutes on the bus. It was a good trip and we stood at arrivals and waited excitedly to greet Judy as soon as we could see her. And then it was back on the tube with baby in pram, and my sister and suitcase in tow! Then dragging that suitcase on and off the train, up the escalator, on the bus, off the bus, and then down the road to home 🙂 All to be reversed the day Judy left hehe 🙂

The next day Marysia stayed home with Sophie, so Judy and I could spend the day in London together. Our first stop was Harrods!

Me with my cup of tea :-)
Me with my cup of tea 🙂
Judy with her scones and clotted cream
Judy with her scones and clotted cream

Our plan was to go and book in for the tour of Buckingham Palace. Both of us have been to London before and had the celebratory photo taken outside the palace gates, but we hadn’t been inside. We ventured off feeling very excited at the prospect only to be told once there that the palace was now closed to visitors until after Christmas!!! How disappointing! But we were told we could tour the Royal Mews instead. The stables with carriage houses? Why not? So off we went and if you have a look at the photos, you will see that we had plenty to look at. Actually it was really quite interesting.

Here I am with one of the first carriages we saw
Here I am with one of the first carriages we saw
And Judy with another
And Judy with another
The Gold carriage
The Gold carriage
The set up for the Gold Carriage
The set up for the Gold Carriage
One of the Royal cars
One of the Royal cars
And we did get another photo taken in front of Buckingham Palace :-)
And we did get another photo taken in front of Buckingham Palace 🙂
Judy outside Buckingham Palace
Judy outside Buckingham Palace
A lovely view on the walk from Buckingham Palace
A lovely view on the walk from Buckingham Palace
Walking towards Trafalgar Square
Walking towards Trafalgar Square

And as we were going to Piccadilly Circus for tea and a show so we just had to have a look at M&M world!

A very English Red M&M
A very English Red M&M
Judy with Yellow!
Judy with Yellow!
And now with Green!
And now with Green!
What colour is your favourite????
What colour is your favourite????
All together now!
All together now!
Three stories of M&M produce for sale!
Three stories of M&M produce for sale!

Our next venture into London was to meet up with my friend Bessie. We decided that Westminster Abbey would be a great place to start. Unfortunately we didn’t realise that there was a huge ceremony going on in town to remember the soldiers from world wars one and two. The town was crowded and the two places we wanted to see were just packed with people.

Westminster Abbey on a very busy day in November. Celebrating and remembering 11/11/1945
Westminster Abbey on a very busy day in November. Celebrating and remembering 11/11/1945
'Lest we forget'
‘Lest we forget’
Little crosses in place in rememberance of the lives lost
Little crosses in place in rememberance of the lives lost

And a little video of my visit to Wesminster Abbey in October…

Big Ben and the Parliament Buildings
Big Ben and the Parliament Buildings
The Parliament Buildings and the Clock Tower, Big Ben!
The Parliament Buildings and the Clock Tower, Big Ben! View from the Westminster Bridge.
The courtyard of Parliament Buildings.
The courtyard of Parliament Buildings.
At Westminster beside the Thames is this artwork!
At Westminster beside the Thames is this artwork!
A closer look! 3D art!
A closer look! 3D art!
More on another wall :-)
More on another wall 🙂
We walked to Covent Garden and saw the Christmas decorations there
We walked to Covent Garden and saw the Christmas decorations there
It was amazing at just how much effort had gone in to decorate the buildings
It was amazing at just how much effort had gone in to decorate the buildings
Walking through Covent Garden
Walking through Covent Garden

And then as it was getting late in the day we caught the bus to london Bridge and the Tower of London. the traffic was horrendous and the bus trip took way longer than it should have. We arrived as it was getting dark but we still managed to see all the wonderful ceramic poppies that were ‘planted’ in the Tower of London, also to help us to remember the lives lost in wars.

The Poppies explained.
The Poppies explained.
The poppies in the ground of the Tower of London with London Bridge in the distance
The poppies in the ground of the Tower of London with London Bridge in the distance
Thousands of ceramic poppies
Thousands of ceramic poppies
Another wall of the Tower with the poppies below
Another wall of the Tower with the poppies below
It was as if they were pouring from the wall!
It was as if they were pouring from the wall!
The poppies surrounded the whole Tower
The poppies surrounded the whole Tower

Now there is a train station by the Tower of London but it was packed with people. It also had steps and we had Sophie in the pram. So after a long walk Judy and I managed to get to another station that had a lift and us three very tired people managed to get home again. What fun!

On our next venture into London we visited the Sherlock Holmes Museum.

Waiting patiently outside for our turn to go into the house
Waiting patiently outside for our turn to go into the house
Judy  in Sherlocks Lounge :-)
Judy in Sherlocks Lounge 🙂
Judy with Sherlocks hat and pipe :-)
Judy with Sherlocks hat and pipe 🙂

We wandered down to Oxford Street and walked through Selfridges. Selfridges is voted the best department store in the world and has all the designer collections and must haves (toys and gifts) for the whole family.

This car was in a window display
This car was in a window display
Now who could buy me this for Christmas?
Now who could buy me this for Christmas?
Just a small portion of the Play-Doh display
Just a small portion of the Play-Doh display

 

Selfridges had the most amazing Christmas decorations!
Selfridges had the most amazing Christmas decorations!
I think I could make these amazing Christmas Stockings!
I think I could make these amazing Christmas Stockings!
A new bike seat maybe?
A new bike seat maybe?
Selfridges had a room that was just about Paddington Bear!
Selfridges had a room that was just about Paddington Bear!
Lots of them for sale!
Lots of them for sale!
And their window displays were a work of art inside and out! Fully decorated :-)
And their window displays were a work of art inside and out! Fully decorated 🙂
And then we move on to John West Department Store and their Christmas toy is the Penguin named Monty. These sell out every day!
And then we move on to John Lewis Department Store and their Christmas toy is the Penguin named Monty. These sell out every day!

Here is a link to their very cute Christmas advert…

We finished off the day with a meal at Bubba Gumps Restaurant... Yum!
We finished off the day with a meal at Bubba Gumps Restaurant… Yum!
Our next venture into London was to see the British Museum
Our next venture into London was to see the British Museum
The most fabulous ceiling!
The most fabulous ceiling!
And then on to the Victoria and Albert Museum
And then on to the Victoria and Albert Museum
Here's Judy on the steps. The place is huge!
Here’s Judy on the steps. The place is huge!
A photo inside this amazing building!
A photo inside this amazing building!
Still the museum but the other side of the inner courtyard
Still the museum but the other side of the inner courtyard
And this is the cafe!!!
And this is the cafe!!!
Our first view of the Prince Albert Hall
Our first view of the Prince Albert Hall
And here it is! The Prince Albert Hall
And here it is! The Prince Albert Hall
The Prince Albert Memorial Statue!
The Prince Albert Memorial Statue!
Walking through Hyde Park
Walking through Hyde Park
On our way to the Zoo we stopped at Camden Town. Well known for the shop fronts, Goth clothes for sale, the markets and the Camden Lock.
Next day! On our way to the Zoo we stopped at Camden Town. Well known for the shop fronts, Goth clothes for sale, the markets and the Camden Lock.
more shop fronts!
more shop fronts!
The Camden Lock.
The Camden Lock.
And evidence of our very short trip to the London Zoo. Sophie was having an off day and cried the whole time.... so we left!
And evidence of our very short trip to the London Zoo. Sophie was having an off day and cried the whole time…. so we left!
London by night.. along bankside :-)
London by night.. along bankside 🙂 The top of St Pauls in the middle!
Early on in our walk along the bank of the river Thames. Great views.
Early on in our walk along the bank of the river Thames. Great views.
A Carousel by night :-)
A Carousel by night 🙂
Lovely photo of the eye at night.
Lovely photo of the eye at night.
The Aquarium :-)
The Aquarium 🙂
The Parliament Buildings and Big Ben at night
The Parliament Buildings and Big Ben at night
Looking across the Thames at the London Eye :-)
Looking across the Thames at the London Eye 🙂

On the last Friday that Judy was in London, we caught the train into London again, but this time we were to meet up with Dan and Marysia after work.

We went to Borough Market for lunch with Marysia and afterwards went for a walk to St Pauls to meet up with Daniel after work.
We went to Borough Market for lunch with Marysia and afterwards went for a walk to St Pauls to meet up with Daniel after work.
Outside The Shakespeare Globe Theater
Outside The Shakespeare Globe Theater. The ‘YOU+’ Sign was for a friend 🙂
Crossing The Millenium Bridge with St Pauls Cathedral at the end.
Crossing The Millenium Bridge with St Pauls Cathedral at the end.

I crossed this bridge earlier in my time in London with Sophie after visiting the Tate Museum.

The wonderful view from the Tate Museum
The wonderful view from the Tate Museum
Pushing Sophie across the Millenium Bridge
Pushing Sophie across the Millenium Bridge
St Pauls Cathedral.
St Paul’s Cathedral.
We had time to spare so we went to the Museum Of London. And it was well worth the visit :-)
We had time to spare so we went to the Museum Of London. And it was well worth the visit 🙂
The night Sky at St James Square. Walking to Piccadilly Circus for tea.
The night Sky at St James Square. Walking to Piccadilly Circus for tea.
After Dan and Marysia finished work we all went to The Rainforest cafe for tea. A great experience and Sophie loved the animals.
After Dan and Marysia finished work we all went to The Rainforest cafe for tea. A great experience and Sophie loved the animals.

Here’s a short film of Sophie with the gorillas at The rainforest Cafe…

We visited Fortnum and Mason on our way to the Train Station. A very extravagant shop! Here is one of the displays.
We visited Fortnum and Mason on our way to the Train Station. A very extravagant shop! Here is one of the displays.
Another shop display. Just one of the very many I could have taken photos of. They were all very special.
Another shop display. Just one of the very many I could have taken photos of. They were all very special.
Here's another example of the fabulous displays in this shop.
Here’s another example of the fabulous displays in this shop.
The wonderful shop decorations.
The wonderful shop decorations.
The Fortnum and Mason Christmas Display
The Fortnum and Mason Christmas Display
Just great for Christmas Cards?
Just great for Christmas Cards?
No! This one is definitely better :-) Sorry Judy :-)
No! This one is definitely better 🙂 Sorry Judy 🙂
A mall with it's christmas decorations... but it was closed this night.
A mall with it’s christmas decorations… but it was closed this night.

On Judy’s last Saturday we all went to Winchester to have a look at their Christmas markets. It is a two hour drive south of Barnet where Dan and Marysia live, but it was definitely worth the trip.

The Winchester Cathedral
The Winchester Cathedral
One of the many stalls selling food and Mulled wine.
One of the many stalls selling food and Mulled wine.
The brave people trying out the ice skating rink... in the rain and cold!
The brave people trying out the ice skating rink… in the rain and cold!
The stalls were all around the Cathedral and on the main streets
The stalls were all around the Cathedral and on the main streets
Judy in amongst the crowd!
Judy in amongst the crowd!
The main street with the old buildings and crowds of people
The main street with the old buildings and crowds of people

So on the Sunday, the last day Judy and I could venture out without Sophie we decided to do all the other things we had planned to do, but just hadn’t had time. We left nice and early and caught the tube to Baker Street station. The first place to go was Madame Tussards Wax Museum. What a lot of fun!

Yes that's me and Johnny Depp!
Yes that’s me and Johnny Depp!
Looks like Judy is trying to push Marilyn off the stage hehe
Looks like Judy is trying to push Marilyn off the stage hehe
Me and Shrek!
Me and Shrek!
Judy and Jonah :-)
Judy and Jonah 🙂
Why oh why Robin??? You look so happy here, and were so successful and loved! Money and fame sure doesn't bring happiness!
Why oh why Robin??? You look so happy here, and were so successful and loved! Money and fame sure doesn’t bring happiness!

The wax museum was very interactive. You could pose with all the models and the 4D movie experience at the end was all laughs. Judy and I had so much fun and were so thrilled we went!

And from the wax museum it was onto the London Eye! What an amazing experience, even in the rain!
And from the wax museum it was onto the London Eye! What an amazing experience, even in the rain!
Here's Judy in the eye :-)
Here’s Judy in the eye 🙂
At the top!
At the top!

The fantastic view, even through wet windows!
The fantastic view, even through wet windows!
Looking down!
Looking down!

And after that fabulous experience we went on the London Dungeon Tour. I have seen this advertise the last twice I was in London but thought it would just be all touristy and not really worth going to, but it was well worth it. It lasted an hour and a half and was entertaining the whole way through. Great actors and also great scene sets!

Lastly for the day we wandered through Hyde Park and the Winter Wonderland. Luckily this was the first weekend it had opened. We were able to wander around and enjoy the place. I went again the following Saturday night with Marysia and Sophie in her pram and it was a nightmare. The people were squashed in like sardines! And we had to find Daniel. Consequently we didn’t stay long!

The Entrance to Winter Wonderland
The Entrance to Winter Wonderland
The ferris wheel!
The ferris wheel!
One of the theme park attractions
One of the theme park attractions
The Haunted house. The only ride Judy and I went on! It was great!
The Haunted house. The only ride Judy and I went on! It was great!
On our ride. Like kids again :-)
On our ride. Like kids again 🙂
Looking at the lights!
Looking at the lights!

Monday we relaxed, Tuesday we walked to Alexandra Palace and Wednesday was the trip to Heathrow Airport by the Piccadilly underground line!

It was uphill all the way to the Palace, but a great walk :-)
It was uphill all the way to the Palace, but a great walk 🙂
Alexandra Palace. This isn't far from Dan and Marysias place. Judy and I walked to the Palace, had a super lunch,  and then back home again in the dark.
Alexandra Palace. This isn’t far from Dan and Marysias place. Judy and I walked to the Palace, had a super lunch, and then back home again in the dark.
Another view of Ally Pally :-)
Another view of Ally Pally 🙂

Now in amongst all the above places and things we saw, Judy and I also went to two shows, both were wonderful! We went to Les Miserables after our first dinner at Rainforest Cafe. Both great experiences! And we also went to Billy Elliot. That was actually Judys Birthday present as she arrived in London on her birthday 🙂

We also had the three day weekend in Switzerland. So all in all we definitely had three amazing weeks together. And can you see why I missed her so much when she left?

Bucharest – and our tour ends!

The final part of our journey, the wonderful ‘Tour of the Balkans’, and we arrive in Bucharest, the capital and largest city of Romania. We spend some time wandering around the places of interest within walking distance of the Hotel, followed by a trip by bus to the extremely large Government buildings! My job was to do the videoing on this day and Robin was the photographer. Judy took lots of photos as well. As the next morning was our last day in Romania, actually the last day in Europe, we had other things on our mind other than to load up all the days photos onto my computer. I was leaving early to start my new adventure in London, and the others were catching the plane in the afternoon to start their journey back to New Zealand! So today is the first day that I only have a very few photos.

Following our local Tour guide around the streets of Bucharest
Following our local Tour guide around the streets of Bucharest
Me posing in front of a horse statue :-)
Me posing in front of a horse statue 🙂
This is a new modern building built inside the shell of an old building
This is a new modern building built inside the shell of an old building. It is actually the headquarters of the Union of Romanian Architects.
Great building! A concert Hall built in 1865.
Great building! A concert Hall built in 1865.
Passing by on the bus...
Passing by on the bus…
Another photo from the bus!
Another photo from the bus!
Statue of Bucharest
Statue of Bucharest

I don’t think anyone can go to Bucharest and not visit the Palace of Parliament. Going into this place was like going through customs at the airport only even more official. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside but it was okay while we were outside on the Balcony.

Robin and I on the Balcony
Robin and I on the Balcony
Us three girls :-)
Us three girls 🙂
The road to the city in the background
The road to the city in the background
A better photo of the view from the Balcony
A better photo of the view from the Balcony

You have no idea how huge this parliament building is! It was massive! The details…

Palace of Parliament is 270m by 240 m, 86 m high, 92 m underground, 1,100 rooms, 12 stories tall, with four additional underground levels currently available and in use. The floor area is 340,000 m2. The Architect was 28 year old Anca Petrescu (a woman) who also led a group of 700 other architects. It took 25,000 people, 3 shifts, 24 hours day to construct it. Building started in 1984, it cost €3-billion and was completed in 1997.

The Palace of Parliament. Photo from 'Wikipedia'
The Palace of Parliament. Photo from ‘Wikipedia’

According to the World Records Academy, the Palace is the world’s largest civilian building with an administrative function,  and it is the heaviest building! We were shown through a very small portion, but were still amazed by the number of enormous rooms inside. Most were available to be rented for Weddings or other occasions where Ballrooms were needed. Hugely extravagant and so very expensive to have built and no doubt to maintain!

So all the other photos of Bucharest are at home in New Zealand, but I guess you have seen and heard enough about this tour of the Balkans already. I know I have found it hard to stay enthusiastic to get this STORY completed, so can imagine it has been a bit of a trial for you, the reader, to see it through as well. Life has moved on and I have so many new events happening that I want to ‘tell’ you about…  Hehe…  aren’t you lucky 🙂 But I have loved the Balkans and will treasure the memories forever!

We finished the tour with a celebration dinner together. It didn’t feel like a celebration as we knew the next day we would be saying our goodbyes to our travel buddies. I am pleased that I can stay connected to the ones that have facebook accounts, and I can see what is going on in their lives even today (well a little portion anyway). They see a lot of me! I still have contact with friends from our last tour through facebook and it is really nice. You never know we may just meet again one day 🙂