Thursday, 29 April 2010

Sydney Stopover

G'day :) 
We are having a great few days in Sydney, staying at the Victoria Court again and having time to explore a bit further this time.  We are also having fantastic weather which I understand from the "Sydney Morning Herald" is also the case in England - 20C in London, wow, that's wonderful, it's only been 25C here in Sydney!
Photos to follow as always but here's a quick rundown of our adventures here.  We started off by making the most of our travel tickets (anywhere, anytime, trains, buses and ferries) and did ourselves a "harbour cruise" ending up at the wonderful and famous Sydney Aquarium where we found Nemo, and also saw some amazing swimming things.  The dugongs (manatees) and the crocodile are big attractions there at the moment but we loved the fantastically coloured coral reef species of fishes, the rays and the amazing sea horse that looks like a spray of leaves (really).  The little blue penguins were gorgeous (sorry Saz but I've taken a little video for you).  All in all a good place to visit and worth the money although we were initially shocked at the cost!  Tourists eh?
We've explored quite a lot of Sydney city including a lovely Chinese Garden where we had a nice cup of tea, the Observatory that made us feel we were in Greenwich (I'm sure it must have been designed to be similar), the Rocks area of the city which is like a village in itself with a lot of history, culture and cafes.  Today we took the iconic Manly Ferry over to Manly (no, really?) and enjoyed some time sat watching all the busy people on the beach.  The surf wasn't good but everyone was still finding things to do - including beach volleyball, power walking, running, various things on the water....nobody seemed to just be sitting or wandering although some were doing some serious sunbathing and everybody seemed to be out, including school children.  I'm not sure anybody goes to work or school here actually, or maybe they do it when it's dark!  It's no wonder people come here on holiday and decide to live here, it would be a great lifestyle especially for people who like the water.
Speaking of dark there was a great sunset last night with the sky ending up vivid orange at the bottom and purple above, stunning. 
No photographic evidence of that as we were on the train.  We had our big trip (2 hours each way on the train) out to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains yesterday.  It had been recommended to us and, like so many things, it really deserved more than a day visit, it would be a stopover destination in itself.  The mountains (not really very tall but extensive) appear blue because of the haze from the oils of the eucalyptus (gum) trees.  We enjoyed mooching around the village of Leura (great autumn colour from lots of maples and acers), took a sightseeing bus trip so that we could view the highlights including the famous Three Sisters rock formation, and enjoyed a Devonshire Tea would you believe?  A lovely day out and the trains were interesting too - they are double deckers, photo to follow for those of your who like things like that (Cyril, Wills...)
Our plans for the rest of our stay include Bondi Beach (has to be done eh?) and some seafood and hopefully a look at some Aboriginal artwork plus some more time on a ferry!  Then it's on to Tokyo which I'm even more excited about.  Love and hugs, will try for computer access again as soon as I can.

Sunday, 25 April 2010


Do pop over to Jenny's blog and take a look at the ANZAC quilt she has featured there today.
The NZ Government guide to ANZAC Day has lots of information about the traditions and background to ANZAC Day so you might like to go over there too. 
Here's a basic recipe for Anzac Biscuits from the site. It gives a chewy, moderately sweet version. Various things may be added to the mixture for variety: dried fruit, nuts, or spices such as ginger.
Melt 115g butter and 1.5 tablespoons of golden syrup.
Add 1 teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in 2 tablespoons of boiling water.
Mix in: 1 cup of rolled oats, 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of coconut, ½ cup of sugar.
Drop tablespoons of the mixture onto baking paper,
and bake until a pale golden colour (about 15 minutes) at 180°C.

And as it's ANZAC Day it's time to select the winner of my First Blogiversary Giveaway.
A big  
to everybody who follows my blog and for all the comments you take the time to write, it's great to be part of this lovely online community. 

So, the winner is.....

rather embarrassingly, but that's random number generating at it's best,


who just happens to be my sister!  I did consider generating another number but that wouldn't be fair to Jane who is a bona fide follower after all!  And it'll save me the postage!  Congratulations Sis, I'll be bringing you some quilting goodies home.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

More Photographs and Farewell to NZ

It's been raining today! It's bright again now but we awoke to a warm drizzle, very strange, I didn't know whether to have my shower on the deck or in the bathroom!  We've been getting ourselves organised for our last few days in NZ now we hear that the ash cloud is no longer a problem.  We'll be off to Sydney on Monday and have a list of things we'd like to do depending on how the $ is doing - we found Australia more expensive than we expected on the way over, mind you, we were in the vicinity of the Opera House!  Then we have our few days in Tokyo and a little more fabric shopping plus museums, shrines, gardens... and then we'll be home and catching up with family and friends and especially those lovely grandsons of ours and looking forward to enjoying the English Spring and Summer :)
A few more photos for you to enjoy then:
This is Lake Manapouri at Frasers Beach where we had a great picnic and the place to ourselves.
This is on the road between Queenstown and Lake Tekapo and is almost desert, an amazing empty landscape with very dramatic landforms - and that's the main road by the way!
This atmospheric shot is of Mount Cook and I love this picture even though I had to take it straight into the sun.  The water was incredibly milky turquoise due to the rock dust suspended in it.  In this next photo of Lake Tekapo and the Church of the Good Shepherd you can see the colour more clearly:
No Photoshopping, it really is that colour.  The photo below is of the Dashing Rocks at Timaru and that clay stack used to be attached to the cliff.  The darker rocks were similar to the Giant's Causeway in miniature, with that hexagonal shaping.  Al discovered this place on a walk while I was at the quilting workshop and we both went the following day.  Next stop after this is Chile!
On SH1 north of Kaikoura is a large colony of NZ fur seals.  This one was a bit of a poser!
Then we come to the arty shots!  This is Mount Ruapehu from the Desert Road on North Island, complete with snow on the top and flax in the foreground,
and this final picture was taken on the shores of Lake Taupo where the trees were displaying lovely Autumn colours.  I find it strange that it's Autumn but Christmas isn't coming!
I'm not sure when I'll have the chance to post from Sydney and Tokyo but I'll do my best.  In the meantime, lots of love to you all and thank you for all your comments - they have made us feel closer to you and it's been lovely to share our trip as it's happening xxxxxx

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Rag Picking with Yvonne

I have been exchanging emails with Yvonne for a while after I "met" her on KiwiQuilters and she helped me sort out my registration to attend the mini-symposium in Timaru so I was very pleased to be able to meet up with her, and her husband, Gary, when we arrived on South Island at the end of March.  By very happy coincidence there was a meeting of the Picton Quilters that very night and they were hosting a group of quilters on tour from Australia.  The first sign of the meeting was this magnificent car:
It is world famous in New Zealand and much photographed, isn't it great?  The Picton ladies do loan the cover to other groups for their own publicity which I think is very generous of them.
We had a lovely evening with a great dinner and particularly good puddings and a heated debate on the table I was at about whether pavlova is a Kiwi dessert or an Aussie one with both groups claiming it for their own!

The Picton ladies had put up a fantastic display of their work as you can see in the photo above, there are some very talented quilters in Picton that's for sure.  The show and tell was fantastic and I particularly enjoyed seeing the work of Ruth Bloomfield which she calls "confetti" - very small pieces of fabric are used to create detailed designs.  My contribution to the show and tell was the lovely Japanese heart that Nat made for me, I showed it as an illustration of the links that are created by quilting across the world and via the blogging community.

I felt very honoured to be at the meeting in Picton and not only won a great raffle prize (after drawing my own ticket!!) but received lovely goodies from the Kiwi ladies as their guest and also lovely goodies from the Aussie which they had made for their hosts.  Yvonne gave me a Picton Quilters badge which I am very proud to wear.
At the end of the evening Pauline Rogers of Quilters World in Toowoomba in Australia gave a delightful gadget demonstration and, of course, there was the opportunity to buy!  I'll report back when I'm home and I've had a chance to try out the things I was tempted by!
Here's a picture of Yvonne and I but of course this wasn't our only meeting.

We met again in Timaru where Yvonne was helping on the Christofer Robyn Quilts stand (they're based in Wanaka and have some great stuff) and then enjoyed Happy Hour after we'd both been in our respective workshops.  No luck with spot prizes there though and I haven't had a phone call so I suppose I could throw my raffle tickets away now!  At Happy Hour I met some more KiwiQuilters and also met up with some of the Picton group again and some lovely ladies from Marlborough.
There was some lovely work on display at Timaru including the Hoffman Challenge pieces which are also featured in the current NZ Quilter magazine.  I particularly liked these entries in the symposium challenges and apologise that I can't credit them but of course they were numbered, not named.

There was also work on display by the tutors and this brings me to what I did.  A workshop with Meryl Caudwell on miniature quilts and the design we tackled was Storm at Sea.  These pictures are of Meryl's examples, I'll share my when it's finished. I did manage to finish two rows of blocks and am pleased with what I achieved, it's just not a lot to show for a day's work!  I did show it at Happy Hour and received very friendly laughter!
The day after the workshop I headed to Temuka, a few miles north of Timaru to visit Sue Dwyer and team at Obsession 2 Quilt.  This is my other "must visit" quilt shop for you if you are in NZ.  What fabulous people and what a great shop.  The ladies went out of their way to be helpful, they made a nice cup of tea for Al and I, they offered advice, discounts, goody bags and a great range of fabrics, notions, books, workshops and quilting services.  I wish I lived nearer!  I also won a great rotary cutter in their competition for the person who had travelled the furthest to mini-symposium!  Here are a few photos to give you a flavour:
And finally, before we got the Interislander ferry back to North Island, we went to see Yvonne and Gary again, in their lovely home in Picton.  We had a lovely couple of hours of tea, cheese scones and happy chat and I had the chance to enjoy a little while in Yvonne's sewing room.  Gary calls quilters "rag pickers", it's meant in a friendly way and I think it's lovely!  We had a great time rag picking!  Thanks Yvonne, none of this would have happened without you.

Adventures in Food

It has been said that we seem to "eat our way around New Zealand" and I have taken fewer foodie photos on this trip but here are just a few to tempt your taste buds.

This is me enjoying fish and chips, blue cod to be precise, in the Queenstown sunshine.  In the background you can see the Remarkables mountain range.

Then we had a very foodie day in Kaikoura, starting with lunch (garlic scallops) at this roadside stall.  Apparently it was featured in Lonely Planet a little while again and while we were there photographers from Bon Cuisine magazine were taking lots of arty photos for a feature this time next year.  We just hope fame doesn't change them at the Kaikoura Seafood BBQ.
Later on Al took me out to dinner at Tuti's in Kaikoura, a recommended restaurant that advertises itself as serving Indonesian/Singaporean/New Zealand Cusine - quite a fusion!  Anyway, we had a lovely meal - here you can see my satay prawns and Al with his fish of the day which was a dory and mmmm.

On our way back to Terry's we had to stop at the Prawn Farm near Taupo and have our kilogram of prawns with sweet chilli sauce, just sweet, delicious and a lot of fun to eat!

This final picture would have been of a pancake stack with berries and honey at the Landing Cafe at Lake Tarawera but something much more exciting was happening out on the water.  Like something out of a different time (until they were close enough for us to see the lifejackets) we watched a Maori waka being paddled ashore.
Another meal that didn't get photographed was the Bluff Oysters and chips that I had in a chip shop in Timaru.  The oysters in a plastic pot, the chips in paper....a surreal and delicious meal!

And finally there have been some very good platefuls of French Toast to be enjoyed!  This one was the culmination of our food eating in Kaikoura before we travelled up the magnificent SH1 along the coast to Blenheim.

Some South Island Photos

Photos as promised now that we're back at Terry's and can spend time sorting them out on his computer!  Firstly, above, Fox Glacier.  This is on the West Coast of South Island and we had some great views once we'd braved the stepping rocks to cross the river (which had lumps of ice floating in it).

Near Fox Glacier is Lake Matheson that gives those amazing reflections of the surrounding mountains that you see on all the postcards.  Our views were a little cloudy but still very impressive I think.

This is Al perched above Wanaka and the surrounding hills.  I imagine it might be a bit greener soon but most of NZ is still experiencing drought conditions and the grass is very dry and brown.

This photo and the following few are all in Doubtful Sound.  Thank goodness for digital cameras as I was able to take literally hundreds of photos and when we get home I'll sort them out properly and maybe delete one or two!

It's strange but photos don't capture the scale of all these things.  We thought we knew what to expect in the fjords as we'd seen pictures but it didn't prepare us for the majesty of it all and the "awesomeness"!

These next photos were taken on the Milford Road.  This is an adventure in itself with many places to stop for short walks or long treks, lakes, waterfalls and wonders of nature.  There is also the Homer Tunnel, carved right through the rock to pass through.  The road ends up at the famous Milford Sound which is the most visited of the fjords because of its accessibility.

So finally for today, below is Milford Sound and the Mitre Peak.  We enjoyed glorious sunshine here and it was incredibly busy - quite a contrast to the solitude on Doubtful Sound but still wonderful.
Apologies for having my sweater tied around my waist Mummy :)