Camping 
I've been to Hamilton and back via Tauranga. We took both cars down to the campsite at Omokoroa, near Tauranga. It's got a mineral hot pool (and it's actually quite warm). Bronwyn took the girls out to visit a friend, as well as a huge (and very deep) open cast gold mine at Waihi, the Katikati Bird Park, and of course, the beach. On the way out, we stopped in the Karangahake Gorge, where there used to be a substantial underground gold mine. There's still a few tunnels there it you've got a torch.

On day 2, I drove to Hamilton for the Parachute festival. Night shift at the cafe as usual. First night was cold and a bit windy, and hardly anyone stayed awake. I went home early. Second night was a bit more lively, but at 3am it was pretty quiet, so one of us brought out some pouches on strings and started swinging them around. She got an instant audience, and we spent a couple of hours learning how to swing them. I think we made a few sales just by bringing people near the cafe! She also brought out some black ones that you can soak in kerosene...

Last night was, as they say, absolutely cranking. I lost count of how many hot chocolates we sold. Hundreds. For several hours straight. And moccachinos. Very few straight coffees. I brought in my usual marshmallows and sprinkles. One girl asked for "extra chocolatey" so I doubled the sprinkles, squirted on a huge amount of chocolate syrup and then a bit of chocolate powder on top. Made her day, apparently.

I was about to set off for Omokoroa, and decided to check the car. Oil no problem. Water a bit low so I poured in some that I'd taken with me. Now, I'd been staying with my friend Chelle and her boyfriend Joel. Joel works at Repco and knows a few things about cars. He spotted a leak. So we spent the next half hour trying to plug it, and eventually lashed it up with duct tape. Good old duct tape. Joel loaded me up with five litres of water and I set off.

Then I went back. Chelle texted me because I'd forgotten my pillow.

Made it to Omokoroa an hour and a half late. Had one more night there, and we all set off home. Stopped in the Karangahake Gorge again, and this time Bronwyn had kept the best torches handy, so we set off and explored the tunnels properly. Well, not immediately. I carefully locked my keys in the car, so Bronwyn found a random stranger who knew about breaking into cars "that was some years ago". Between Bronwyn's car aerial, Rachael with a torch, and some luck with a lose window, we managed to get back in.

Please don't tell Chelle. You know how she worries about me.

Just about made it home. The car started overheating in the traffic going out of Auckland, but cooled down quickly once we got going. I've spent the day catching up on all the problems that happened at work while I was away. I got phoned up five times. Once when I'd just emerged from the tunnel in the gorge. Amazed that there was cellphone coverage out there!

Bronwyn's got a job! It's only six weeks, but it's for the census, going door to door and collecting the forms, and making sure they've been filled out correctly. Should be fun. Hopefully there won't be too many dogs...

Allan's sweetcorn is growing fast. It's been really hot and dry for weeks, but the sprinklers obviously have been doing their job. Harvest won't be far away. My kale is also turning into a jungle. Got quite a bucketful of potatoes too, last week. I spent ages weeding the onion patch, but everywhere else now needs weeding instead!

Should get rain next week. And the girls will be back at school.




Anna, with her "extra chocolatey" hot chocolate. Must check out her dentist.

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Summer fun 
Still no rain. Might get a sustained drizzle tomorrow. Allan has his sprinklers on a timer switch, but the pump keeps cutting out and needs resetting. So we have to remember to check the pump every evening. Which kind of defeats the object of having a timer switch.

Last weekend we went to Tree Adventures in Woodhill forest, where there's a lot of high altitude ropeways all the way through the trees. Sarah managed bravely through course number 1, then got a refund. Rachael and me continues to course number 4, and then decided to call it a day. It's suprisingly tiring when you're clinging to a rope all the time. The course continues to Number 10, which finishes with a horizontal 150 metre long rope ladder and a very long zip line. It made me dizzy just looking up at it.

Our second English couple arrived a week early, stayed just four days and then left quietly at 7am without giving any reason. Well, I didn't ask them, anyway. It was 7am, after all. Bronwyn phoned them. Apparently they weren't happy about the condition of the horses. They're very long in the hoof, and in need of a serious haircut. And they said that we hadn't really given them much work to do. I had quite a few things lined up, but they were out most of the day until 8pm, and disappeared before the weekend.

I think I prefer the Chinese...

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Very quiet 
Apparently I have swimmer's ear. It's a yeast infection (Sarah told me I had bread in my ear) and I've got some really viscous drops to put in. Which makes it very difficult to hear anything. Hopefully it'll clear up soon, but it's hard to tell...

Got quite a bit done. Put together several hundred photos into one big montage to commemorate the year. Took several days because we've had about two thousand photos this year. But the end result is up on the wall at last. I've also done an arrangement of Te Harinui for the band. It's just about the only traditional New Zealand carol, and there don't seem to be many arrangements of it, and those are designed for guitar or piano. With some rather odd chords. So I did a more sane arrangement instead.

We've had an English couple to stay for the weekend. They're off to another place for a couple of days and then back home. There's another two shortly after that, and then we're off camping. Well, mostly. I've got the Parachute festival again, so I'll be doing one day of camping before and afterwards. At least I'll have a day to recover before driving the rest of the way! February is still free if there are any more from China out there...?

It's been mostly hot and dry. Allan's still in the south island but his sweetcorn is doing well. My onions are taking a while. But at least we now have fresh lettuce coming online.

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Christmas came early 
The cyclone was due today, but it looks like it did the same as our English friends did last month - it decided Paihia was a much nicer place to hang out, and stayed there. But there's a sizeable trough coming from Australia, which looks like it'll tell the cyclone to toughen up and head south. We'll see.

Carols. More carols. Even more carols. There have been seven sessions outside Countdown this week, and two more tomorrow. I've been collecting all the foriegn coins for the Musical Director's Overseas Holiday Fund. So far he's got enough for a couple of beers in Australia and a coke in Fiji and Kenya. Transport not included.

Bronwyn's parent's church home group had their Christmas party at their house, and last night we had the family dinner at our house. Bronwyn worked VERY hard keeping the place clean and tidy, and decorating the front porch. (So far, the Christmas Grotto on the front deck hasn't been blown away by the wind.) We're planning a rather quieter do on Christmas day.

Still not much rain. Allan has been playing with his sprinklers, and produced a timer switch to turn on the water for an hour each night. He left it off since we were supposed to have the cyclone over for tea tonight. Looks like I'll have to switch it on manually!

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Another week... 
Carol service tonight, then carolling outside the supermarket just about every day until Christmas. Then it's time to put Jingle Bells and Rudolph back in the box for another year.

Allan's sweetcorn is growing reasonably well, and he's planted another bagful. He's bought some irrigation pipes and sprinklers which we've been playing with each evening. It's been really hot and dry this week, so we've been careful to keep eveything watered. Allan bought another sprinkler yesterday. It's absolutely manic - it goes at ten times the speed of the others! Great fun to watch, so long as you're out of range.

Sowed some leeks, and I've been reading up about silverbeet because I'm not sure I've ever seen it before. We're already picking spinach and lettuce, and the rest of the garden isn't far behind. We're also getting eggs. Goldie and Chickaboo appear to have reached puberty earlier than Bronwyn predicted, and are already producing one small egg each per day. I've been date stamping all of them.

Bronwyn's been getting the house ready for the family dinner on Saturday. We need to clear a lot of space in the lounge and kitchen and we'll be expecting about 18 for a full dinner. She's also been cutting the grass and putting the finishing touches to the Christmas Grotto on the front deck.

Hopefully the wind won't blow it all away again this year! The cyclone that trashed Samoa is currently heading for Fiji, and this morning's forecast had it heading straight for Auckland, just before Christmas...

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