23 July 2015

Cuzzies

Cousins are a rare and special commodity in our family.







They are hard to come by. On Mark's side of the family, the boys have one older cousin Jack who is 11. However, the opportunities to see each other are few and far between as he lives in Wales. The boys have spent time with him both here and in the UK and they really look up to him. As older cousins go, he's super awesome and we really wish we weren't half a world away.





And currently on my side of the family, there's just one younger cousin, Maia who is 18 months old. She lives in Melbourne so we don't get to see as much of her as we would like either but it is a little easier than the UK. I do know that she relished hanging out with her big boy cousins on our recent trip to Rarotonga - it's pretty obvious from these pictures alone I think.






On the last night, we went over to where Nic and Kim were staying to have a night of board games - something we ALWAYS do when we get together as an extended family. The boys were allowed to play on their technology for a bit and Maia hung out in the middle of all the action just being as cute as can be. 





And who knew wearing Mummy's pyjama bottoms as a scarf could be so trendy?!




Maia was that much older and more interactive this time that the boys really enjoyed hanging out with her just as much as she did with them.






Hopefully we will get the cuzzies together again to hang out at Christmas when Nic and Kim come over - getting together is such precious times!


20 July 2015

A plethora of pumpkins calls for Pumpkin Pie {gluten-free dairy-free sugar-free recipe}

We have been gifted a fair few pumpkins by friends and family in the past few weeks. And there's only so much pumpkin soup a gal can make and eat without wondering if I might be about to turn orange.

It got me thinking there must be some other recipes to use up the pumpkin too, so I searched online and looked for a pumpkin pie recipe that I could make with ingredients I already had in the house and that would use as much pumpkin as possible. I also wanted to find a recipe that was gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free so I wasn't asking much really was I - ha ha!



I found this simple recipe over at wellnessmama.com and was impressed with just how easy it was to pull together!

Ingredients:

For the crust
1 cup almond flour
3 tbsp coconut oil
1 egg
1/2 tsp cinnamon

For the filling
2 cups pumpkin puree (I roasted the pumpkin and then put it through the food processor - you can always add a TINY bit of water if it's still too solid while you try to blend it up)
3 eggs
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp vanilla essence
Optional: coconut milk to thin (no more than 1/4 cup - I didn't use any at all)

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees.
  2. Grease a pie pan with coconut oil and mix the crust ingredients by hand in a bowl.
  3. Press crust into the greased pie pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes until just barely brown. Remove from the oven.
  4. In the same bowl (or directly in food processor) combine all the filling ingredients (except the coconut milk) and mix. The consistency should be smooth and spreadable (but not pourable).
  5. Pour/smooth the filling over the crust and return to the oven for approximately an hour until centre is no longer soft to touch and a skewer comes out clean.
  6. Eat and enjoy with icecream, yoghurt or just on its own!
  7. Keep in the fridge. 

16 July 2015

On two wheels

When I envisaged living in Cambridge one of the things I had hoped we would be able to do as a family was go on lots of bike rides together.




I think it's safe to say we have totally made this our new favourite activity, although we did get off to a bit of a false start on the first outing. We'd agreed that Mylo and I would take the car and the bike rack (which at that stage only held 2 bikes) and meet the boys partway along the Te Awa River Ride out to Lake Karapiro. However, a little miscommunication meant we missed each other for quite a while and with a cold breeze and rain showers passing over meant it was a short lived ride together by the time we finally managed to meet up.

Fast forward two weeks and now we had a bike rack that would take ALL of our bikes (the perks of working in a bike business!) so there was nothing stopping us driving somewhere to start our ride. I was a little worried that my little Suzuki would struggle with four bikes AND four people but she coped just fine - although it wasn't like we were driving hundreds of kilometres just locally.






This time we drove to the very end of the cycleway and rode back along Lake Karapiro. We just happened to time our ride to coincide with the North Island Cycle Champs that were on at the domain so it was heaving with people everywhere. But it was quite inspiring watching these teenagers ride their hearts out as we sauntered past slowly at our leisurely Sunday morning pace. This section of the cycleway ain't for the faint hearted though with a couple of knarly 10% and 12% hills to tackle - I was very proud of Noah for getting right up the steepest one without having to get off his bike.












It's such a scenic and varied track right riding along beside the lake - we made it to the dam and back again which was 6km, both riding on high with great views above the lake and then right down at lake level on the specially made board walks.
















Not content with one ride for the day we figured we would seize the moment and tackle another part of the cycleway from Cambridge to the Avantidrome - another 6km return. This is fast turning into one of my favourite rides as I'd already ridden it a couple of times on my own from home (12km return) and wanted to show the others just how scenic and interesting a ride it is.










It's a lot less hilly (if you don't count the last big long slog up to the velodrome) and Mylo even managed to get the hang of braking on the downhills just long enough to then let go and coast enough to get his speed up to get up the hills on the other side. I can see many more rides on this part of the cycleway in our future.




This past weekend we made the most of the opportunity to be able to ride straight from our front door and rode two 8km loops around our local area. It still amazes me that within a kilometre of riding we can be in the countryside patting horses - it seems like a bit of a dream. And on the Sunday afternoon we discovered the miniature train rides at the Leamington domain on our travels as well. It amuses me that little legs can easily ride 8km or more on this flat terrain without even realising just how far they've gone.





There are lots of things we are still getting used to in this new life of ours. Some things already feel as familiar and natural as wearing an old comfy hoodie and some things still feel itchy and scratchy and uncomfortable - a bit like wool worn too close to the skin.

But family bike rides definitely fall into the old comfy hoodie category.


13 July 2015

Past freezing

One thing I had definitely not really appreciated in making this move north was how FREAKING cold it gets overnight in the Waikato.

Many people have been surprised that we have been finding it so cold in the mornings and have commented 'but surely it's colder in Wellington?'

And that's partly true. During the day the wind chill factor in Wellington would make a sunny 10 degree day feel much, much colder. Even in a nasty southerly storm when the temperatures were at their lowest, we could usually guarantee an overnight minimum of 3-4 degrees even if the midday temperatures didn't then rise much above 5-6.

Last week we hit another patch of frosty temperatures overnight - I think yesterday morning took the cake - when I looked at the metservice website it said it was -4.4 outside - the coldest one yet. Although earlier in the week, there was also a morning where I'd had to physically yank the car door open as it was frozen shut!



But the biggest issue for us over the past month had been the lack of proper heating in the house. Unfortunately the heat pump broke down about 2 days after we moved in and it took several visits by the repair company to be able to properly diagnose the problem, and then fix what they thought was the problem with the control board only to find once that was finally fixed that it was actually another problem with the fan motor.

So not only was it colder overnight than we were used to but we were limping along with one oil fin heater trying to keep one room warm (and also take the chill off in the kids rooms using wall panel heaters). It basically meant we never really felt warm at all. In the middle of this all, we got a lovely email from the people who bought our house in Wellington saying how lovely and warm they were finding our house with its central heating - which was somewhat ironic to read and went down with us like a cup of cold sick!

So it's probably no great surprise that I got the worst case of chilblains I've ever seen on a person. Basically all the backs of my toes on my right foot had chilblain blisters as well as a giant one on my big toe on the other foot. I spent the best part of two weeks hobbling around until they gradually went away. Chilblains basically come about when your feet (or hands or ears) get too cold and go numb and then get too hot too quickly straight afterwards. I put mine down to a cold morning of exercise where my feet went numb and then I probably warmed my feet too quickly with the car heater on them on the way to work.




Morning exercise - working out on the bike trainer in the cold garage complete with hat, gloves and puffer jacket is a completely new experience for me!

Lesson learnt though. I subsequently went to Kathmandu and invested in some merino socks that were thin enough that I could wear two pairs at a time AND bought some new sheepskin boots on special at Farmers called Mi Woolies. Cold feet begone I say!


And for the past two days of below zero temperatures overnight, the heat pump has finally been fixed. Oh man what a massive difference a warm house makes!


10 July 2015

When you're the new kid on the block

The little things matter.

When you're new and trying to find your way and figuring out where you fit in.

Little things actually feel like great big things - like where is the toilet? And what time can I go into the classroom in the morning? And is sausage sizzle every Friday? What's the fastest way to drive to work? Where can I park when I get there? Where do we get haircuts? Where do we buy cat food? What dentist and doctor do we go to?

All these things we took for granted because we knew all the routines of school and work and places to go outside of work, and we had them all down pat.

Everything is a little harder now. It takes more thought, more effort to fit in with what's going on and find our way around.






Starting straight into football on the first weekend and both boys getting player of the day was a huge bonus and confidence boost for them both.






The following week, scoring both goals to help the team win 2-1 was another great confidence booster too.




Being invited to a 9th birthday party for a new friend in his class was a great way to get to meet some more kids and a chance for mum to meet some more parents - Noah is having fun in the 'wrap the mummy' game below!




Receiving a special picture from a friend in his class was a lovely thought for Mylo too.




It's definitely not easy being the new kid on the block. When nothing is familiar and everything is an effort.

But with small little steps of progress, the unfamiliar becomes more familiar and that which seems hard gradually becomes easier.

One day at a time.... one moment at a time we will overcome the shyness, the uncertainty, the unfamiliarity, and looking back I'm sure we won't even be able to remember what it was like to be the new kid on the block.

I'm definitely looking forward to that day!

08 July 2015

A rare sight.....

One of the unexpected treats of my time in Rarotonga was getting to enjoy doing a sunrise photo shoot with my brother.

It's actually him I have to thank for getting me into photography in the first place. I must admit when I saw the great shots he took after learning the tricks of the photography trade, I knew I wanted a piece of the action. 



And as the seasons of our lives have changed - he's been a little busy getting married, starting a family and changing career and hasn't had the time to go out taking photos much the past few years, right at the time when I started getting more interested in photography for myself.

As a landscape photographer you're always pretty focused on getting the shot in front of you and unless you have a buddy to partner with means that it's very rare to ever get any 'photographer in action' shots of yourself.



While Nic captured a few photos of me, I was capturing photos of the most glorious pastel sunrise.










And I also snuck in a shot of him as the morning grew lighter.







Despite the early start for both of us, it was so worth it for this view.










It was very hard to tear ourselves away from the beach when there was such a stunning sight to behold.













We had to savour this moment. And the glorious light.




The likes of which I've never seen reflected in such aqua water before.




A morning like this is one to be utterly cherished. It is a one in a million opportunity when you live hundreds (and in Nic's case thousands) of miles away.




And when the sun brings the warmth of the day to bear upon us, and the pastels brighten into azure skies we find we must reluctantly go on our way.

The uniqueness of the opportunity to share this moment with my brother when we normally live in different countries and see the sun rise hours apart was not lost on me!


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