Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Walk at Godley Head

After a weekend of rather rotten weather, the sun shone bright and warm on Easter Monday here in Christchurch. We decided we should head out for a walk around Godley Head to see the sights - sheep, ships, and old gun emplacements.
Looking over into Lyttleton Harbour.
Watching the big boat come into port.
Walking with Mum up the trail.
Onwards to the gun emplacements.
Hanging out inside an ammunitions locker.
A rather attractive puddle - feet did get wet.
Heading back up to the car, a blue sky day.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Temple Basin

Where are we heading?
This past week, Stephen volunteered to help out on the annual biology trip up to Temple Basin. This is a three day trip all year 12 biology students go on to examine alpine plant ecology and complete a test on the subject. While Hector and I were welcome to come along, I felt it might be a bit busy for us so on Monday morning Stephen headed off for Arthur's Pass without us. Hector and I spent the day playing, shopping, and constantly asking about Dada.

In the evening, I received an email from Stephen re-inviting us out to join them - apparently, they had power, internet, and a lack of small children. So, after putting Hector to bed (again, constantly asking where Dada was), I put together some clothes, the backpack, and a lunch to eat on the road to Temple Basin. The next day, despite (or perhaps because of) a tough night of wakefulness, we got into the car and drove out of town.

Heading up towards the basin.

Coming up to the old DOC hut.
Hector and I left a cloudy and drizzly Christchurch mid-morning and arrived in full sun at the Temple Basin parking lot by lunch time - just in time to see Stephen coming off the bottom of the trail to meet us. So while Stephen got all our gear out and ready, Hector and I ate a quick lunch. Then we gathered ourselves up and headed up the trail.

Looking back into Arthur's Pass halfway up the trail
The trail up to the Temple Basin lodges runs up the top of a ridge in a steep zig-zag. Loose stone paves the often precarious feeling trail, lined on either side with tussocks and craggy stone. On some of the steeper parts, old rail ties have been banged into the slope to form steps. While I'm sure these were meant to help, they were sometimes quite high and challenged even the most persistent of pregnant ladies. Despite this, we eventually made it to the first of the three huts at the base of the basin, built by DOC (Department of Conservation), but now owned by the Canterbury Mountaineering Club. The hut has fallen into disrepair and completely belie the state of the other two huts owned by the Temple Basin Ski Club and the University of Canterbury Ski Club.

Temple Basin Lodge

Scrambling up the hill
We arrived while most of the students were still out on their guided hike up to the top of the ridge. This meant we could settle in and get our bearings without 60 kids around. Hector loved scrambling about on the rocks, completely different from walking at home. We explored around the back of the huts and watched as the students came down from their hike.

After dinner, we stepped out while the students did their test and we got onto the bedtime routine. The steep mountain valley made for a darker evening than usual, but it also meant we got to admire the stars a little earlier than we would at home (let alone see a few more).

Heading back down into the valley
The next morning, after a busy morning of cooking and cleaning and packing up, Hector and I headed down the mountain with two of the slowest students. We finally made it down along with everyone else, chasing the fog as it was blown out of the valley. Once all the students were on the bus, Stephen, Hector, and I packed up the car and headed back into town. It had been an awesome two days and we were all glad we had made it out.

One happy, sweaty family

Sunday, March 2, 2014

La Grande Ocean Swim 2014

After 3 years of thinking about doing the La Grande Ocean Swim in Akaroa, I finally stopped coming up with excuses and signed myself up. The swim is part of a nation wide series of ocean swims held every summer. Having grown up hating swimming lessons, since moving to New Zealand I have come to love swimming. Perhaps this arises from living on an island and being so close to the beach (plus it is the best exercise while pregnant). Whatever the reasons, I had always wanted to take part in the race, and then come up with excuses not to do it - earthquake, nauseous and tired while pregnant with Hector, have a new baby. . . . . Finally, this year, 4 months pregnant with number two, I realized that I would never run out of excuses if I kept making them, so I decided to stop making them. And I had a fantastic time.

The swim is held in Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula, about an hour and a half drive from Christchurch. I had signed up for the 'Give it a go' 300m swim, being 4 months pregnant, I decided to start small. This resulted in me feeling rather old at the race start being surrounded by a rather younger crowd. But with a gloriously sunny, blue sky up above and Stephen and Hector cheering me on from the beach, I had a great time and didn't worry too much about the age of my fellow racers.

After the race, we wandered down to the playground and sandy beach to have some lunch and play in the waves. Hector found some abandoned shovels and set about digging a hole. He was soon joined by a young girl, who instructed him in making pools and planting potatoes (because why not?). Eventually, we packed ourselves up and headed back to the car to explore some property for sale on the way home. . .

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hector goes to Willowbank

Today, we took a trip to the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve with our little Tuatara.

The reserve winds through 7 hectares of bush inside Christchurch city boundaries. Hector was very keen on the ducks.

We were very lucky to get to the Gibbon enclosure right at feeding time, where we got to watch momma, dada, and their son eat their fruit and vege.

The gibbons were much tidier with their eating than Hector. 

The Heritage New Zealand section included sheep, cows, peacocks, pigs, horses, even donkey rides. Unfortunately, Hector was too small to ride the donkey, but we did get to see lots of baby lambs, piglets, and chicks.

We then moved onto the Wild New Zealand section of the reserve. Here we found an actual Tuatara, some geckos, and lots of different birds, including two Kiwi birds in a darkened enclosure.

Of course, amongst those birds was the clever and outgoing Kea. We were greeted at the entry to the enclosure by one kea who kept trying to steal the crackers from the bottom of the buggy.

After our awesome visit, we climbed back in the car and drove home. I look forward to coming back here again and again to teach Hector about all the cool critters we have in New Zealand.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Lessons in Parenting #510 - The Nobility of Sugar

One year old today!
Today, we celebrated Hector's first birthday. The day began with a good pile of presents to be opened and a plate of banana pancakes (unfortunately, without maple syrup due to a temporary shortage in our household - hint hint). We then migrated back to the lounge in order to play with the great new birthday toys. After some playtime and some food prep, we suited up and went for a bike/run to encourage a lengthy morning nap.

After returning, we finished getting the food ready for the party. There's something so satisfying about a table heaving under the weight of platters of beautiful and delicious food. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us, there was something not so delicious hiding in plain sight. But, ignorance is bliss, and we continued on happily with our preparations.

Soon guests started to arrive and the party got into full swing. Kids running back and forth between the front yard and the table of food, adults sunning themselves on the deck with drinks and talk, and ribbons of music wafting throughout. Finally, we decided it was time to bring out the cakes. Yes, plural. We decided to go all out for our first born's first birthday and bake two cakes. The first was a healthy, baby-friendly, sugar-free banana, blueberry and pineapple cake shaped like a dinosaur with sugar-less and naturally dyed icing, the second, a traditional carrot cake with traditional cream cheese icing.

Party time!
At this point, I am sure most of you can guess where this story might be heading, but do continue reading. You wouldn't want to miss the object lesson at the end.

Everyone gathered out on the deck and we carried the cake out to Hector where we all sang the traditional anthem of happiness and birth. While he didn't manage to blow out the candle, he did smile and grab a strawberry from the dinosaur cake - so things were looking pretty good on the cake department. We then took a knife to the cakes and served up some birthday cheer. While I cut up servings, Stephen tried to get Hector to eat some cake (the baby-friendly one of course). This resulted in some serious refusal, which we put down to simply not being hungry. So I continued handing out servings of cake until all had received some. I finally sat down with my own serving and had a go at the baby cake.

Fortunately, we had two.

It was awful. While the cake was pretty ok, the icing was horrid. Whatever possessed me to think that cream cheese, kiwi fruit concentrate, and parsley juice would make a suitable icing had long since left. It was bitter and down right nasty. Not what a birthday cake should taste like. Not even remotely. It was at this point that I realized birthday cakes are meant to be sweet, tasty, and indulgent. No matter how much I believe the health of my child is paramount, the odd indulgence in refined sugars and unpronounceable chemicals will probably not only not harm him, but help him develop a healthier approach to food overall. The funny thing is I already believe this for myself, so why wouldn't I assume the same for my offspring. Well, the best answer I can come up with is that having children does strange things to your mind.

Object lesson: Do NOT use parsley to dye icing and unless needed for specific dietary requirements, cakes should have a little bit of naughtiness in them. While making healthy food for my baby may seem noble, it is far more noble to provide him with a tasty, well-balanced, and fun selection of foods and teach him to make good choices. I mean, you only get one birthday cake a year (unless you are Hector and your parents make you two, but one is really crap, so it doesn't really count, thus we are back to one).

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Holidays with Daddy

Last Friday was Stephen's last day of the third term. Three-quarters the way through the school year and the weather was warming up, just in time for a holiday. We decided to fill it with as many adventures (and thesis work, don't worry mom and dad) as possible. 

First up, was dad taking the make-up swim lesson.

Next, we took a picnic to the Botanic Gardens, where we searched the grounds for escaped wild animals behind wee doors.

And today, we headed out to Taylor's Mistake to hike out to Godley Head.

After a tasty lunch of sandwiches and fruit salad, we turned on the GPS and searched for Hector's first geocache.

Which we found shortly thereafter. We traded a wee candle for some shiny red beads and headed off for number two.

 Eventually, we made it back to Taylor's Mistake and wandered along the beach. A great start to the holidays. Now, we just have to plan and throw our first birthday party for wee man.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A day in the life . . .

Hanging out in the lounge with all the toys.

There are also many opportunities to dress up as favorite literary characters - here we see Hector dressed as a dragon.

We often move to the kitchen for part of the day where mom makes food and Hector empties drawers.

He is also becoming very adept at getting himself a snack.

Playtime in the craft room is generally just as messy as playtime in other parts of the house - just more colourful.