Posts Tagged ‘summer’

Thank you, tree

January 9, 2015

We have a plum tree in our garden. It’s a cherry plum, planted by previous owners for its blossom and red leaves rather than its fruit. But the fruit is certainly edible. The plums are very small, and have relatively large stones, so they’re a bit annoying to eat, but they taste ok.

In the last few years I’ve used them mostly for making jam, which they are excellent for.

The tree is right outside my bedroom window, so it’s easy to see the plums growing and ripening. They don’t change colour – they’re purple right from the start – but you can tell when they’re ripe because they start dropping from the tree and the birds get very interested in them.

Babess has been asking when we can start picking them, so today I got her to help me with the harvest. She picked all the ones she could reach, and pointed out higher ones to me. I passed them down to her to put in our container. There were a few too high for me to reach, which we decided to leave for the birds to feast on, and there’s one I missed which is clearly visible from the bedroom window so it will taunt me for days to come.

But we filled our 2-litre container with 93 small plums.

93 plums in a box

93 plums in a box

Afterwards, I washed them and boiled them into pulp, then skimmed out the stones (which is why an accurate count is necessary). I also skimmed out the skins, which I blitzed in the food processor before returning them to the pulp. I didn’t have the time or energy for sterilising jars today, so I froze the pulp for a later jam-making date.

But first, carrying the fruit inside from the harvest, Babess stopped to pat the tree trunk.

“Thank you, tree!” she said. “Please give us some more next year. But… lower.”

© UpsideBackwards 2015.



Summer Living

January 8, 2015

We are fortunate these days. Neither of the girls are early risers. Fainjin is, but a few weeks off school have seen even him fall into the habit of waking after seven. Or maybe he’s awake for ages but knows not to come and wake us. I don’t mind which! If he isn’t bursting into our room to admonish us for our layabout ways (“Mum! It’s 7:04!”), we find him reading in bed or up, dressed and playing with his Lego when we get up.

Also, The Dad is still on leave this week, so we are having a relaxed lazy family summer. It’s lovely. We don’t really have any plans most days.

So when I got a text at 8am from a friend inviting us for a pool playdate today, I had to get out of bed to let the kids know. The little ones were reading – a pool outing was sufficient incentive to get them up & breakfasted fairly quickly. Pearl moved with less alacrity, but we all got to the pool in a reasonable interval.

Pearl took a book and sat on the side, but the rest of us had a good splash around. The mums chatted and looked after the two littler ones while the older boys played with swim noodles under supervision of The Dad.

Then it was home for showers & lunch before more friends came over for the afternoon – and our friends from the pool came too, and before we really knew it we had four adults and seven children for an early pizza picnic dinner.

There was ice-cream and running and chasing and a tent and crawl-tunnel in the backyard and “crocodiles” in the grass and eventually some tv to encourage a bit of quiet sitting-down time and minimise melt-downs.

And then, it was home-time and tired children were dragged off home by their tired mothers. We settled down for some family quiet time in the long summer evening and everyone went to bed after their proper bedtime. Again.

We don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow, either.

© UpsideBackwards 2015.


January 18, 2014
Babess & Fainjin are impressed by the "sea storm"

Babess & Fainjin are impressed by the “sea storm”

The sea is rough, and full of shredded kelp. The sand is covered in kelp too. Where the seawall is storm-damaged from earlier this year, debris has washed across the road – just a little, not dangerous. The sea is roaring rhythmically, crashing on rocks & sucking at the sand. The wind is chill, but the sun is fierce too, I can feel it burn. I don’t think we can stay here as long as I’d like.

But it’s rather like finding yourself unexpectedly in the middle of a poem.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

Monday, lovely Monday

December 30, 2013

The Monday between Christmas and New Year is the best Monday of the year, I reckon.

The girls slept in. Fainjin, true to form, bounded out of bed early, got dressed, brought the paper in & played quietly with the Lego while the rest of us lazed.

Eventually we all got up.  There was no rush, and we’ve recovered enough from the pre-Christmas stress build-up to relax into the day.  The paper told us of interesting things happening in town, and we needed to scout the post-Christmas sales for Fainjin’s birthday this week, so off we went.

We scouted sales, walked along the waterfront, marvelled at the sunshine, complained about the wind, collected some free lollies from an activity that couldn’t run properly due to the wind, climbed some rock walls that were just sitting there asking for it, slid down again, looked at various cafe menus, and ended up at a burger chain for lunch.

Babess managed to lock herself in the loo, which caused about 10 minutes of consternation for me and the staff and random strangers who came in while we were trying to get her out.  Eventually she managed to slide the bolt back all by herself and was freed.  The staff were (if possible) even more sympathetic when she emerged, looking so tiny and red-eyed and tearful and snotty and scared.  Free icecreams were dispensed, with apologies on both sides and many thanks on ours.

We found a holiday drawing workshop going on and joined in, the kids happily drawing cartoon characters for an hour, then they’d had enough so we wandered off again and The Dad and I sneakily ordered tea and coffee in a cafe while the kids played nearby.  Eventually they noticed and started demanding even more food and drink, so we came home.

I set them to work in the garden, where they happily harvested a decent haul of raspberries and strawberries, and helped pick sweetpeas.

After all that, we came inside to escape the heat and settled with quiet games and books and so on.

Truly, the best way to spend a Monday that I can think of (except maybe the getting locked in the loo bit).

These are the berries I picked *after* the kids reckoned they'd got all there were to get...

These are the berries I picked *after* the kids reckoned they’d got all there were to get…

© UpsideBackwards 2013.


March 20, 2013

Unusually for us, we’ve had a long, hot, sunny and dry summer.  It has been magnificent!  But now we are suffering the consequences, and are in drought.

Everyone has been asked to conserve water, and there is a ban on using water outdoors – no hoses, sprinklers or watering cans.  It rained earlier this week, and everyone rejoiced! But it wasn’t enough to break the drought (although it did the garden some good), we will need a lot more for that.

The children have taken the “save water” message to heart – they’ve clearly been talking about it at school, and perhaps daycare too.  We have put a bucket in the shower to collect grey water that would otherwise go down the drain, and we have one in the kitchen too.  We can use this water in our garden.

Showers are now quicker and usually “sailors’ showers” – a quick rinse under the water, then turn it off while you soap up, then turn the water back on to rinse off.   The kids love this, they feel like they’re really doing something to help.

Yesterday the weather started clearing again, and I said to Babess, “Oh look, it’s stopped raining.”  Where she might have celebrated the return of fine weather, instead she looked stricken and said, “Oh no! The poor plants!”

If we don’t get more rain fairly soon, I might send her out to do a rain dance.

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

Party planning

March 2, 2013

“For my birthday,” Babess informed me, “I’m going to have a picnic party!”

“But, sweetheart, it will be winter!” I told her.

“Whut?!” she did a classic double-take.  Her father laughed and echoed her, “Whut?!”

It’s hard to believe, because we think of her birthday as being “soon”, and the weather has been and continues to be incredible: fine, sunny and calm for stretches of up to 10 days at a time, the best summer many people can remember in a long long time.  But it’s true.  Already the days are noticeably shorter, the mornings cooler and there’s an occasional nip in the breeze.  Although Babess goes to school “soon”, it’s more than three months away, and she is a mid-winter baby.

“We can wear our jackets!” she said.  “But the ground will be cold and damp,” I argued.  “We will sit on a picnic blanket!” she countered.  “It might be raining,” I pointed out.

“We can have an inside picnic!” she triumphed.  I can host an inside picnic party in June.  OK then.

She’s not prepared to wait until then for a party though.  This morning she said to me, “Soon I will be four and three-quarters, and do you know what you have to sing to me?”

“No… do you get a song when you’re four and three-quarters, then?”

“Ye-es!  Here’s what you sing:

Happy Birthday to you!

Squished tomatoes and stew!

Bread and butter in the gutter!

Happy Birthday to you!”

4 3/4-year olds certainly have the best party songs.

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

A long and winding road…

February 2, 2013

Yesterday we were looking for a family outing that would amuse us all for several hours without being too hot and/or windy.  We’ve had stunning weather for nearly 10 days now, rather warmer than we’re used to, and we knew we would need shade if we were outdoors all day.

We chose to go to Staglands, in the Akatarawa valley between Upper Hutt and Waikanae.  None of us had ever been there before, although we’d heard good things about it.

We had a fantastic day!

It’s lucky none of us get carsick, because from either end it’s about 20km of narrow curving road to get there.  It’s a pretty road, a mix of bush and farmland and river valley depending on which side you come from.  All the same we were all glad to arrive at the reserve.

I was surprised to see ducklings, I thought February would be a bit late for them as I am used to seeing them in September, but ducklings there were in abundance.  In fact, there were lots of babies – chicks, lambs, fawns, guinea pigs, piglets, even trout!



The kids were so excited, they wanted to run along all the paths to see what was next.  We had quite a job to convince them to look around and appreciate what was right in front of them.

There are several aviaries, holding a great variety of birds from budgies to an albino peacock to native kea and weka.

We had bought some trout food and some animal food, and the kids really loved feeding things – although Babess found the lambs a little bit aggressive.  They expected to be hand-fed, and kept nudging her when she wanted to scatter the feed on the ground in front of her.  All the kids loved feeding the trout, and combined their pocket money to buy another tub of trout food later.  Fainjin was most impressed by the eels.

Babess & The Dad feed the trout

Fainjin surveys the pond for eels

Fainjin surveys the pond for eels

An eel comes up for some food!

An eel comes up for some food!

The other highlight was “Kids’ Corner”.  At a bend in the river there is a swimming hole (too cold and deep for us even in this golden weather), and beside it a rope swing.  On the bank there is a flying fox and a little obstacle course for kids.  We spent a long time here.

Only Fainjin was brave enough to attempt the flying fox

Only Fainjin was brave enough to attempt the flying fox

A perfect family relaxation spot

A perfect family relaxation spot

The kids took turns on the rope swing and amused themselves by throwing stones into the river to hear the splosh.  The Dad and I tried to show them how to skip the stones over the water, but it was apparently more satisfying to throw big stones into the deepest part you could to make a loud splash.

At one stage The Dad and I sat to chat on a rock a little upstream from where the kids were playing and a peacock strolled right in front of us to go for a drink.

We had taken our own lunch and found a lovely picnic spot among the many available.  Babess was a bit put out because we chose a table and chairs instead of sitting on a blanket so it wasn’t a real picnic, but she recovered soon enough when I brought out the boxes of raisins and individual packs of chippies (left over from Fainjin’s birthday party!).

After lunch we revisited our favourite spots at a more leisurely pace.  Then we had afternoon tea at the cafe before taking the long and winding road towards home again.

I’m sure this will be a favourite place to return for family days out.

Note: this post is not sponsored in any way.

© UpsideBackwards 2013.


Best holiday ever

January 16, 2013

What could be better than wading into the sea to catch a glimpse of a dead whale?

That’s what Fainjin did today.  We had heard there was a sperm whale washed up on a beach not outrageously far away, and The Dad had the day off (because I was working), so he took Fainjin and Pearl out to see it.

It was a 15m-long mature whale which had apparently died of natural causes, and there were large crowds on the beach to see it.  The tide was coming in, so The Dad and Fainjin went up to knee-deep to get a better view.  Pearl was not in the least bit interested in walking through “dead whale water” for the privilege, so she stayed dry.

You can see a news story & video about the whale here:

Then they went to the planetarium and saw a film about aliens.  Then to their favourite cafe for pikelets and a milkshake.

It doesn’t get much better than that!

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

Christmas 2012

December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

We were up at a reasonable hour this morning – around 6am.  Babess was the first one up and about (apart from me, I had some cooking to do).  She was amused to see that Santa had left gifts on the dining table as we don’t have a tree here, and ran to wake Fainjin and Pearl.  Her amusement quickly turned to concern, however, when she realised there were only three gifts.  “Mummy and Daddy didn’t get any!” She turned huge eyes to me.  “Are you on the Naughty List?”

We assured her that we were on the Good List, but Santa only leaves gifts for children.  I think she was dubious, but decided to humour us.

So the children opened their Santa presents – books, as is usually the case when we’re in Australia for Christmas.  Santa knows we have to carry them home again, so he keeps things small.  Then we all had breakfast, and I finished stuffing mushrooms and making salad, before heading to the family present-opening with Grandma and Grandad and the uncles, aunts and cousins.

That was very satisfactory indeed, with several cries of “It’s just what I always wanted!” and many “Thank you!”s.  We lingered to play with toys and chat (and I “helped” construct several Lego models, my ideal Christmas Day activity!), and had a leisurely lunch together.

It was very hot by my standards, although the locals seemed untroubled.  We came back to our accommodation in mid-afternoon to embrace the air-conditioning and have a dip in the pool, followed by more playing with Christmas presents and – of course – left-overs for dinner.

All in all, a pretty typical Christmas Day for our family.

I hope yours has been/is as enjoyable and special in your own family way.  And that you’re not on the Naughty List.

Hyvää Joulua!

Joyeux Noël!

Frohe Weinachten!

Gleðileg jól!

¡Feliz Navidad!

Gaudete! Dies natalis est.

God jul!

Nollaig Shona Duit!

Feliz Natal!

© UpsideBackwards 2012.

Holiday snaps

December 22, 2012

We’re on our way to see Grandma and Grandad – and uncles, aunts and cousins – for Christmas.  Usually we fly all the way, but this year we are driving from Brisbane.  We landed mid-morning Queensland time, but lunchtime in NZ, so as soon as we had picked up our rental car we headed for some food.

After lunch, we gave the kids quarter of an hour in the playground to stretch their legs.  I popped into the adjacent shop for some snacks and water bottles for the trip, and as I put them in the car I noticed the parking sign.

“We might be in a spot of bother,” I informed The Dad, who was supervising the kids at the playground.  He looked concerned, and I said, “We might have to stay a bit longer than we planned…”

Minimum 2 hours?!

Minimum 2 hours?!

Luckily, no-one tried to stop us when we left after only 45 minutes or so.

The drive is more than one day, so we have stopped for a couple of nights in a small town to recover from yesterday’s long journey and acclimatise a little bit.  The place we’re staying has a children’s programme, and the girls enjoyed making Christmas decorations.  Fainjin didn’t want to make an ornament, so he asked for some paper to draw a picture.  When he was done, he brought it to show me.

Fainjin's picture

Fainjin’s picture

“I decided to draw the water cycle,” he said.  “With a crocodile.”

As you do.  He even drew in some sunspots.  That’s the sun in the upper left of the picture – it does have rays, but the yellow is difficult to see.  He’s written “sun” underneath, in case of any doubt.

© UpsideBackwards 2012.

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