Monday, January 31, 2011

Yeah yeah, back to school

Day 1 of Term 1 of Year 5 for Caleb and Year 4 for Aaron. Both boys were looking forward to going back to school after the 6-week summer holiday, and both had a good day. Although they're in different years, they are physically housed in the same classroom and sit two desks away from each other. I'm pleased that they are together again and can talk about things that happen in their class during the day; after school they made a beeline from the trampoline and between bounces discussed school, life, art and world hunger. Or it might have been just their own hunger. I wasn't sure what my involvement with the school would be this term as my teacher-aide contract was not renewable due to my charge moving to the north island for extended medical care, but apparently I was granted two weeks' paid notice so I have 30 hours to spend at the school. I started out in Mrs Thompson's class (where I felt right at home) as no one seemed to be quite sure what else I was meant to be doing. It's so lovely to see the bright faces of these little kids, so eager to have their minds filled with learning!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bless this home

The first thing to happen this morning was an inquiry into our well-being following news of storms and flooding in NZ. We have not been affected thus far, with the severe weather all happening on the north island (we're south island). Apparently there was some gale-force wind expected later in the day in Canterbury but so far no more than the usual wind has happened. People are slowly re-emerging at church after their holidays, and I'm pleased to say that MRBC now serves proper plunger-coffee after the morning service! We'll see if the biscuits can also form part of the weekly fellowship :) It was good to have some long-standing acquaintances at the morning service, by way of the Cvitanich Seniors, who Nick and I know from waaaaaaaay back in South Africa. They have been in Timaru for a couple of years and we've been trying to connect since we got here, but with everyone being busy and all it's just not happened yet. We look forward to seeing them again in the week. We paid a visit to Dries and Kristi and the boys who have just moved into their new house - Kristi has done a remarkable job already of making it home in the week that they've been there. Had a super visit and ended with Nick praying for them in the new home; we know that they will be a blessing to many as they practice their wonderful South African hospitality.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Working, not working

Spent the day at Presbyterian Support again yesterday, doing my reception/temping thing. It's a great environment, lovely people, and I'm familiar with how things run, so it's an easy one to slot into. Was absolutely thrashed when I got home though; I think a combination of the day's concentration teamed with Thursday's baking and other household activities left me utterly drained. Nick made hamburgers for tea, and then I slept for an hour or more. Felt considerably better on waking!
Today we had a lazy morning pottering about before going to the Camerons for lunch. We were due to be having a picnic on John's farm but bad weather forced us to cancel it. Had a good time reuniting with our Timaru buddies though - these January holidays have scattered all our friends in different directions! Rachel and I drove around after lunch looking at open homes while Nick was at the homestead with the four boys (Matt was sadly off at tennis). In the late afternoon the weather had cleared; blue skies and sun all around and although there was still a slightly chilly breeze, Nick and Aaron headed off to the beach. Aaron has the best time picking up stones and exploring the beach, and jumping about in the shallows.Caleb and I claimed 'homebody' status, engaged with our own activities. I finished off a top I started in the morning using one of the pieces of fabric from Spotlight (Special-K and Candy-B, this pic is especially for you!).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti

Thanks to Candice, Biscotti Queen of Porirua...


Ingredients

¼ cup light olive oil

¾ cup sugar (brown or white)

2 tsp vanilla essence

½ tsp almond essence

2 eggs

1 ¾ cups flour

¼ tsp salt (if using unsalted nuts)

1 tsp baking powder

½ dried cranberries

1 ½ cups pistachio nuts (or cashews)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 150°C

2. In a large bowl, mix together oil and sugar until well blended. Mix in the vanilla and almond essence, then beat in the eggs. Combine flour, salt and baking powder into mixture. Mix in nuts and cranberries by hand.

3. Divide dough in half. Form 2 logs (12x2”) on a cookie sheet lined with baking paper.

4. Bake for 35 minutes or until logs are lightly brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 135°C.

5. Cut logs on diagonal into ¾” thick slices. Lay on sides on baking paper lined baking tray. Bake approx 8-10 minutes or until dry, then leave to cool completely in the oven.

What every boy needs

It took practically all morning to sort, tag and bag the boys' school stationery...but now it's done and they're all set for school on Monday. I introduced the boys to a 'close the square' game which we used to play when I was in school...simple concept but a bit of strategy needed. Aaron typically got bored but Caleb was deeply into it. After lunch I started a baking marathon of sorts - apart from the biscotti the tins have been sadly empty since the Wellies holiday. I made granola bars, biscotti, coconut ice (had to take a break then to pop out for eggs and flour), rosemary lemon cookies and espresso shortbread. Some cookies work well as rounds cut from a dough log and others simply do not; the shortbread falls into the latter category. Being a coffee colour they look like chunks of sliced fat sausage but I ran out of time and patience to press neat little shapes with cookie cutters. When Nick came back from the church office earlier in the day he sent the boys up the street to where a house was being vacated and some 'rubbish' given away - who can say no to a pile of free stuff sitting on a pavement? They came back with a 3-wheeled go-kart; Nick took them to the "Crow's Nest" which is one step away from the rubbish dump (in every sense) where they found two big wheels. A bit of this and a bit of that and a new all-boy toy has been made. Cool!
video

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mid-week mid-day BBQ

Had a lunch invite today with the Adolphs, along with Lindsay and Nyree and Faye's mom Dot - quite novel to have an afternoon engagement rather than an evening one! We barbequed and although the weather let us down somewhat, the company was warm and conversation good. The boys disappeared for the most part finding good company with Cara, Tessa and Rebeccah, and a Foosball table!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Biscotti that!

Busy day of unpacking, washing, sorting (Uncle Bill's lives on) and cleaning. Took Caleb to SpecSavers at 9.30 for a check-up and new glasses, which will be ready next week. His current pair are the wrong prescription now as his eyes degenerate in the genetic pattern of his mother's and grandfather's eyes. And the frames are being held together with great globs of superglue... time to upgrade. After lunch I dragged the boys with me to the police station where I needed fingerprinting done for my passport application, and also got our back-to-school stationery shopping done. Caught up on some of the blogging (this is a time-consuming habit, I'll have all you readers know...read it slowly 'cause it took a long time to do), and then while tea was on the go I made my first batch of biscotti. When Danielle B made them recently I thought she was simply marvellous and didn't even want to attempt them - they're sort of a higher-grade rusk for advanced bakers, I thought. But Candice also makes them and we did a batch in Wellington together; having seen how easy they are, I wanted to have a go. Out came the new silicon baking sheet and an array of cranberries, cashew nuts and other standard ingredients...in went the logs...and out came my new most favourite thing to dip with coffee. Yum!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Waiting for departure

Last day in Wellington...Candice and I did a last trip to Uncle Biiiiiiiill's and Spotlight (I had packed most of our stuff already and could see a few empty spaces available for flyswatters and the like). For lunch we did a yummy Bacon Tomato Pesto Pasta with Freshly Toasted Turkish Bread, trying hard to remember the name we had given it! It was Mike and Candice's 7th wedding anniversary so we celebrated with them. At 2.20 we left their place for the 40 minute drive to the airport, arriving there exactly an hour before our flight...quick goodbyes were exchanged with the promise of a future visit. As we were in the queue to check in, we heard the announcement that our 4 pm flight was delayed and would be boarding at 6.00 pm...which was changed again to 6.30. Ugh, what a horrible disappointment. On the bright side though, Wellington Airport does have very nice shops! Plenty of time to sit, surf the internet, browse the airport, have a muffin and coffee, and then do it all again. Eventually the flight was boarded in record time and the plane took off shortly before 7; it was exceptionally smooth both in take-off and landing. The boys did not suffer any bruises on their arms :) Arrived in Christchurch, claimed our luggage, met Michelle with the car, dropped her at home, then got on our way, finally arriving home at 10 pm - nearly 8 hours after leaving the Beck's house. I feel certain, deep down in my gut, that it would have been quicker (but not cheaper) to catch the ferry and drive all the way down from Picton! (The following photos by Nick...I didn't have the heart to take pics!)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Currying favour with the natives

Church today and part two of Nick's preaching invitation. We both took our instruments along with us and joined the worship team. Although we were unfamiliar with most of the songs, a good half hour or more of practice beforehand got us as far as we needed to go alongside Debi's competent piano playing. Jethro had his conga drums set up so we were a merry little band. Nick shared a brief word of testimony and also spoke about the work on St Helena before getting into his text from Acts. Again the message was well received, and we shared in the Lord's Supper after the preaching. By midday everything was wrapped up but people stayed around for at least another hour and a half - there was no rushing off home to get roasts in the oven! I found this quite unique and most excellent. I think eventually the hunger set in though as people started drifting off towards 2 pm...along with the Becks, Blignauts and Dredges we drifted to Porirua's North City mall, widely nicknamed 'Curryrua' because of the excellent curry take-away place; we can attest to the deliciousness of their meals! As Gracenet has no evening service, the rest of the day was relaxed and unhurried. Candice and I did some sewing while the boys watched a DVD.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A touch of Grace(net)

Good ol' BRAAAAAAAIII planned for today - with a couple of people from Gracenet. We got to know Arie and Debi Blignaut and their daughter Phoebe who has a remarkable repertoire of photogenic poses; the Doctors Dredge - Jethro and Gundula - and their pair, Gia and Nathan, and Chris who is from Zambia whose family unfortunately had to be elsewhere. Conversations intertwined with much laughter and music and roamed freely on the topics of homeschooling, child-rearing, church, South Africa, St Helena and many others. I do believe that a good time was had by all! Broke our late-night routine with a 10pm bedtime so Nick would be fresh for preaching in the morning.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cuba's Plum's Coffee and Concert

Candice took me to some local shops today...she introduced me to Uncle Bill's which is best described as a $2 shop on steroids; so wonderful was it that we made up our own operatic jingle to be sung with flared nostrils and severe fake tremolo. At Uncle Bill's I bought a bunch of stuff which had to later be fitted into the suitcases - silicone bakeware, a pair of insoles, 10 cooking bags, a measuring jug...the list goes on. Nick was not impressed but the 1,000 earbuds I kindly bought for him stopped his scoffing. Just next door to 'Uncle Biiiiiiiill's' is Spotlight, of which our closest outlet is in Christchurch. This is a marvellous haberdashery/fabric/craft shop (like Joburg's Chamdor) with some scrumptious fabrics on sale amongst other goodies. We bought a few bits of material and some other bits and bobs. By the time we had finished we realized the men would be starving and much in need of our company, so rushed home to get them sorted with lunch. In the later part of the afternoon we took a coffee appreciation trip to Cuba Street in the inner city which New Zealanders consider, as Wikipedia deliciously describes, 'a nexus of creativity and artistic production, featuring buskers, exhibition spaces, protests, stone carving, and other forms of expression'. It was truly a remarkable experience with everyone maintaining some form of image and being terribly aaaaah-tee. It was also saddening though to see so vividly how "the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Cor 4:3). One could not help but be aware of the blindness and delusions which reside under the carefully placed masks. Also took a walk around the waterfront area before phoning Domino's for pizza.Nick and Mike were off to a Christian concert in the evening while the girls stayed home for a chick-flick. The men came home less than impressed - Nick's photo perfectly captures how they described this artist who didn't vary from his mono-stylistic performance.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

So THAT's Te Papa!

Today's major plan was to visit Te Papa, New Zealand's national museum. After a quick haircut from the multi-talented Candice, we were ready to roll. It's a pity that we didn't read up on the museum before the visit to know more fully what we were in for, and the significance of the various features. We (and the photos) hardly did the museum justice, getting to only two of the five or six floors which took us a few hours with lunch in between. All I can say is that it's quite overwhelming and wonderful and we'll definitely do it again. We arrived near the end of a choral performance which was beautiful; we listened in amazement as they changed seamlessly from one song to another. The colossal squid exhibition was all the more interesting for watching a short video clip on the capture, examination and preservation of this enormous creature; the earthquake house was frighteningly realistic as was the full-size hollow whale heart. All this and more, with no entry charge! In the evening it was time for our actual purpose in coming to Wellington: Nick's preaching invitation (part one). He took a theology class (bible study) and we got to meet a large chunk of the congregation. The church, Gracenet Community Church, doesn't have their own building like so many of the reformed baptist churches here, so they meet in a community center where many hands make light work of the bi-weekly set-up. Nick was well received and enjoyed delivering his study from Acts.