ABC Wednesday – G

Here is my choice for this week’s “ABC Wednesday” – brought to you by the Letter “G” … Gannets from the colony at Cape Kidnappers, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand:

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And this week’s “one I prepared earlier, stitchy/crafty content” is “Golden Garland” ornament from the 2005 JCS Christmas ornie issue:

Golden Garland

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Photo Hunt – Surprise

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This week’s theme is ”Surprise” and we got a Surprise when we saw this sight in Napier, New Zealand last Christmas – unfortunately times are really tough, and it appears the reindeers have all been made redundant … there may be delays in gifts arriving this year! 😛

Surprise Santa

Then imagine our Surprise when we turned a corner in a Queensland Zoo and found this ‘little’ Surprise waiting for us on the footpath looking all brave! Yep, definitely a surprise when we’d only just recently been looking at one of its relatives behind wire bars!! Here’s an Iguana enjoying its day in the sun 😀

Iguana 2

Iguana 1

Photo Hunt – Thankful

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This week’s theme is “Thankful” and I have to say I have many things to be thankful for in my lifetime – friends and family that have helped be grow and become the person I am today … opportunities to experience many different adventures along life’s pathway … and the opportunity to travel and broaden my horizons and life experiences. I am thankful for all these things – thankful for the richness of life itself!  Here are some snippets from my life of which I have been thankful to experience…

Indian wedding group QF

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swimming with dolphins

tukino group in the falling snow

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Napier/Hastings … final part (photo heavy again)

Alas, Tuesday came far too quickly, and it was time to pack up again for the return drive home.  We had a leisurely start to the day and didn’t leave the motel until 10am – we started of by driving to the Silky Oak Chocolate factory and museum, where we unexpectedly ended up spending a full two hours! Not only do they have a cafe serving great food (we ended up having brunch there), but they have a really interesting Museum all about the history of chocolate – it was fascinating, and definitely worth the visit! 😀

Eggs Benedict at Silky Oak Chocolate Napier
Eggs Benedict with Bacon

Raspberry and Pear muffin at Silky Oak Chocolate Napier
Raspberry & Pear Muffin

Silky Oak chocolates

Afterwards we drove into Napier township for a visit to the information centre and a wee walk around the waterfront and streets to take some photos of some of the Art Deco buildings – we enjoyed ourselves so much that we didn’t end up leaving Napier itself until 3pm … oops! 😉

Napier fountain

Pania of the Reef Napier
One of my fave sculptures – “Pania of the Reef

Pohutukawas in bloom Napier gardens
Napier waterfront gardens, with Pohutukawa trees in bloom

If any of you are interested in Art Deco building styles, here is a selection for you.  For those of you who aren’t aware, Napier CBD was flattened by a devastating earthquake in 1931, and all of the buildings were rebuilt during the same era, giving Napier the reputation of being the capital of Art Deco architecture due to having so many buildings of that style in such a small area.

ArtDeco 1

ArtDeco 2

ArtDeco 3

ArtDeco 4

We finished off our trip to Napier by stopping at a couple of fruit sellers stalls to stock up on beautiful fresh produce.  That’s one thing I really love about NZ, there are plenty of local growers selling their fresh produce – and their quality and flavour is far superior to anything you can buy in the supermarkets.  My special treats over the couple of days away (as we bought some other fruit the previous day) were fresh strawberries (to die for!), apricots (one of my all-time fave fresh fruits), boysenberries (can’t remember the last time I saw them fresh since moving to Oz), blueberries, and black cherries … oh boy, I’m drooling again just remembering them!!!  Sheer heaven – I ADORE summer fruits 😀

Napier boysenberries

Napier blueberries

Napier cherries

We finished off our gourmet couple of days with dinner in Taupo, at the Waterside Restaurant & Bar – here the food was blissful and the service great … yet again, here are the gourmet delights we troughed through:

Taupo Dinner 1
Chicken Salad for Mum

Taupo Dinner 2
Lamb Fillet with asparagus, with Greek Tsatziki & balsamic jus for me – drool

Looking back, one of the other things that brought a smile to my face and a lump to my throat was to see all the Pohutukawa trees in bloom – these are affectionately known as the “New Zealand Christmas tree”, and their red bloom is a real delight to behold.  Tales say that if the trees bloom before Christmas, we will be in for a long hot summer … personally I just love to see their blooms colouring the skyline.

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Pohutukawa blossom with bee

Other things that I loved being in NZ, was that you can buy L&P everywhere you turn your head … even at the humble pie cart in an outdoor market – ah bliss 😉

Pie Cart blackboard

It was great to see the Auckland icon, the Auckland Sky Tower, with its impressive bulk shadowing over the CBD.

Auckland Sky Tower

And not to mention the vast lush “green-ness” of the countryside – unfortunately I didn’t get a great photo of it as it started to cloud over on the way home from Napier, and then rained off and on the entire way home to Auckland 😦

Rolling green hills of Hawkes Bay

But one of my biggest treats was to spend a week in the warmth of Mum’s Christmas tree – her tree has brought delight to my soul for as long as I can remember, and I made sure my final night in Auckland was spent huddled in the lounge with the warm glow of the Christmas lights … and a rare night of familial bliss as we all sat and watched the Christmas in the Park show on TV, followed by an hour of Aussie and Kiwi stand-up comics … what a great way to finish off a great holiday! 😀

Mums Xmas tree 2008

I have come home with many beautiful gifts – but no photos yet as they were bought using Christmas money, so they’re wrapped up under the tree … I’ll share photos after Christmas. What I can share, though, is the wonderful treat from Mum – a set of Prairie Schooler Santa ornies … I just adore these, and will treasure them always! Thanks so much Mum, you’re a sweetheart! 😀

Mums Prairie Schooler Santas for me

Napier/Hastings … part 2 (photo heavy)

The next morning we had a tour booked with the Gannet Safaris company – our destination was the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers. We’ve done this trip years once before years ago, but we took a tractor ride up the beach to the colony … this time the trip took us by 4WD mini-coach overland through hilly sheep farms – Mum wasn’t too keen on the sheer drops off the cliffs and hillsides, but we were both impressed at not having to climb the steep path up to the colony from the beach level, as the coach drops you off right at the colony itself!

On the way to the Cape we drove through a Cape Kidnappers Station, and were lucky to catch one of them getting the sheep ready for shearing – here are a couple of photos of our infamous Kiwi sheep (of which 95% of Kiwi jokes are aimed at!), and the sheepdog hard at work herding into the pens (not bad photos considering they were taken through the coach window glass) 🙂

Sheep at Cape Kidnappers

Sheep station at work Cape Kidnappers Napier

We had a short stop at the top of the cliffs to enjoy the view of Hawke Bay (which is the actual Bay, as opposed to the region, which is called Hawkes Bay), and here we were treated to seeing a really big school of dolphins swimming around after the fish that must have been there – it was breathtaking seeing so many in one place … unfortunately we were too far away to take really great photos, but here’s just a small handful of the dolphins that we could see. I reckon there must have been about 20-30 in the school … just incredible!

Cliffs of Cape Kidnappers Napier

School of Dolphins 1

When we got up to the colony I was in my element … I tend to love birds of all kinds, not just ducks, and could’ve spent hours and hours watching the gannets. They’re the most amazing birds, and this time of year we were extra lucky to see the chicks hatched and being cared for by their parents – they’re incredibly ugly babies, but they certainly grow up to be something truly majestic and wonderful!!!  I love this photo of the protective parent and his/her chick 🙂

Gannets 3 with baby

Both Mum and I loved to see how affectionate the gannet couples are – the male and female birds take turns to look after the egg/chick while the other fishes for food, then when they return to the nest there’s much noise and ‘hugging’. Apparently their wing span reaches approx 2m across, and they’re glorious to see in flight. I couldn’t choose just one photo, so you get a few different shots to look at if you’re interested 🙂

Gannets 1

Gannets 2

Gannets 4

Gannets 5Another colony off the coast (view from the lighthouse)

Gannets 6

After the gannets, we drove out to Taradale where we had a splurge of a gourmet lunch at Church Road vineyard … the food was delicious and the glass of Reserve Chardonnay was sublimely out of this world (although at $36 a bottle we opted not to leave with more, however tempting it was!).

Church Road lunchAoraki Smoked Salmon & Asparagus Salad with poached egg, lemon
beurre blanc & kumara crisps – yum!!!

Church Road dessertWalnut Tart with quince & maple & whiskey ice cream – yum again!!!

Finally to finish off the afternoon we drove to JJ’s Crafts (BTW Katrina and Kath, it’s now moved to 14 Glouchester Street, Greenmeadows), where we picked up some Christmas fabrics and a fabric that will hopefully be suitable to finish the infamous Just Nan’s Evening Star (as to date I’ve been unable to find anything remotely suitable locally – the colours in the stitching are just very difficult to match). I also picked up a packet of rustic bells after seeing them on Kath’s Christmas tree.

Stash fabric Napier Dec08

Unfortunately we ran out of time to visit Heirlooms, but that will definitely be first on the list for the next visit! 😀

As we’ d had a full-on day, and a big dinner at lunchtime, we headed back to the motel to have light nibbles before bed, before we returned home the next day.