Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Brit Pack Beaders Challenge

Today is the reveal day for the first Brit Pack Beaders challenge! A quick reminder - Lesley Watt has asked me, Rebecca Anderson, Bo Hulley and Claire Braunbarth to join her in a bimonthly challenge. We'll take turns to set the inspiration for the challenge, and as the hostess Lesley had first go. You can see the photo she choose and the colours that she's drawn out of it to give us a bit of a helping hand below. The photo is by Carolyn Saxby, and is called "Tangled". Carolyn is a Cornish textile/mixed media artist who takes amazing photos of the environment around her. You can see more of her work on Flickr here and also sells beautiful fabric beads in her Etsy shop, Cornish Pebbles.


We're taking it in turns to send each other ingredients for the challenge, trying to make sure that everyone gets something slightly different. Although I'm not actually taking part this month (just in case you haven't seen the hints that I've posted recently, we're in New Zealand!), I still wanted to contribute so my ingredient was stringing materials. I chose silk ribbons from Marsha Neal Studios in shades of aqua, cream and rust and some turquoise cotton cord as a contrast. Everyone got cotton cord, but I mixed up the silks so that no two people got the same combinations.

I'm really excited to see what everyone has come up with! To see what Lesley's inspiration has led to (and to leave some lovely comments on my friends' blogs too, pretty please!) you can visit the rest of the Brit Pack Beaders at:

Lesley Watt - Thea Jewellery -

Rebecca Anderson - Songbeads -

Claire Braunbarth - Smitten Beads -

Teresa "Bo Peep" Hulley - Bo Hulley Beads - Bo's Facebook page


Friday, 3 August 2012

Kiwi Ingenuity!

Today has been about family fun and marvelling at Kiwi ingenuity as well as admiring the amazing scenery! We didn't tell Ben where we were going first and the constant barrage of questions and guesses was worth it for the look on his face when he saw the signs for the miniature railway! And this was not just any old miniature railway. I'll leave you to read more about the history of Driving Creek Railway here, but to cut a long story short, it was built by just one man, Barry Brickell, originally to bring the clay he needed for his pottery from the mountains in the 1970s. It takes you up the mountain overlooking Coromandel Bay, through tunnels, over viaducts, round spirals, and it even reverses back and forth to zigzag part of the way up. And it was all built by one man! Ok, so it took him 30 years or so to complete it, but even so! It has now carried over 1 million passengers, and the views all along the route, and especially from the top are simply breath taking. And the artwork along the route was an added bonus!


We spent most of the afternoon back on the 309 road at The Waterworks, another example of Kiwi ingenuity! Ben says that this was his favourite of the trip so far, I think mainly because he got his Daddy so wet! Pumps and pipes and almost every type of recycled container that you can imagine have been used to create very wet fun and games around the gardens. Jamie loved this one too - he is turning into a cross between Peppa Pig's little brother George and Makka Pakka - he loves jumping in puddles and collecting stones at the moment!


Then it was time to travel again, this time to Rotorua. I think that the first part of our journey along the coastal road on the west side of the peninsula is my favourite part of our journey so far - every time we turned another bend in the road there was another beautiful bay. We're planning to spend most of the rest of our time with the motor home in and around Rotorua - a bit of culture, some more things for the boys, and more hurtling down the mountain on go karts! It is safe, honest Mum!


Thursday, 2 August 2012

The 309

We've spent most of today driving through some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen. We were going to visit Cathedral Cove, where they filmed part of Prince Caspian, but it started pouring with rain last night and continued all morning. I would have loved to have seen it, but it's apparently half an hour's walk, and that would definitely not have been fun with the boys, especially as Jamie has now got the cough and sore throat that Ben had last week. So, we had a bit of a lazy morning - Mummy-cuddles for Jamie and a soak in the hot tub for Daddy and Ben! This campsite has definitely spoilt us. It has just been refurbished, and the facilities are fantastic - great cooking, washing and laundry facilities and fantastic pools - and we had the whole site to ourselves!

We then set off for Coromandel town on the other side of the peninsula, and we drove along the 309 road for part of it. Although the word "road" is slightly misleading. Gravel track is what most websites describe it as! It cuts across the peninsula from Whitianga to Coromandel, winding back and forth following rivers through up one side of the range and back down the other. It's about 14 miles long, and I think T was very glad that it wasn't any longer! I think we met only 4 other vehicles along the way, and thankfully none of them were very big, so no one had to reverse. I tried to take some pictures along the way, but they just don't do the area justice.

The scenery along the 309 is amazing, even in the rain. The inland landscape in New Zealand reminds me of parts of Wales or the Peak District, just on a much larger scale, but then I see a stand of massive fern trees, and we definitely don't see any of those in the wild in the UK! I've been pleased that my geography knowledge hasn't deserted me from lack of use - I've still been able to recognise glacial features such as arêtes, drumlins and kames. If I was still teaching A level geography I would have taken so many pictures for my classes by now!

We stopped for lunch at Mill Creek Bird rescue centre. The lady running it let us in for free as most of the attractions (miniature railway, animal feeding etc) were closed due to the weather, but there were still peacocks roaming around, parrots that delighted Ben when they said hello back to him, emus, and a whole flock of mischievous rainbow-coloured birds that wanted to play!

We've parked up at a campsite in Colomandel for the night. We've got some sightseeing planned for tomorrow, and then it's off to Rotorua!


Wednesday, 1 August 2012

On the open road

I have been meaning every day to write and tell you what we're up to on Down Under, but I never seem to have the time! We're either getting the children ready to go out, out visiting wonderful lakes or hurtling down mountains on go karts (more of that in a day or two!), or getting food ready or children's bathtime done or chatting in the evenings with Hellie and Jamie, the friends we're staying with. And, if you're me, knitting while you're chatting. So, instead of trying to catch you up on everything that we've done so far I thought I'd leave that to come back to later and concentrate instead on what we're doing this week - because we're now out on the open road in our motor home!

This is our new home for the week. It's not exactly top of the range. In fact it's the hire company's cheaper range of motor homes that have already seen three seasons or so, but that means that I don't have to be so precious about the children dropping crumbs etc, and we can spend the money we've saved on the more important things like trips out. It's Wednesday evening as I write this, and we picked up and packed up the motor home in Auckland on Tuesday. We drove down to the Coromandel Peninsula, about 2 1/2 hours from Auckland, arriving for a late tea. This post probably won't be published on Wednesday evening though! You'll have to bear with me as I'll only have internet connection at a few campsites. I'm writing these posts as notes and I'll upload them and move pictures about whenever my iPad gets a connection, so my posts may be like buses - wait long enough and three will come along at once!

A long drive yesterday and a bad night with a teething Jamie last night meant that we didn't get going until nearly lunchtime today, and we headed down to the beach - yes, it may be winter here in NZ, but the sky was brilliant blue today, and it was definitely shorts and tshirts weather! Although to be honest we still would have gone to this particular beach in the pouring rain....hopefully this sign will explain why!

One of the reasons that NZ has always been on my dream list of places to visit is because it has everything - volcanoes, glaciers, beaches, amazing rolling landscapes, thermal areas, lakes, forests - I could go on, but you get the idea! I may spend my working days (and working evenings, weekends etc etc) making jewellery, but I still love geography. I love exploring how the world around us works and how we affect it and how it affects us - but I never in my wildest dreams thought that I'd spend an afternoon sitting in a spa pool that I had helped dig on the beach. On the beach!! It still seems crazy, even though I understand all the geothermal activity that creates this phenomenon! We were there about an hour and a half after low tide, and the hot water was right at the surface. Digging a shallow pool meant that we could mix this water with the water coming back up the beach from the sea to create our very own spa! And in such amazingly beautiful scenery too, and with hardly anyone else in sight. I could, children willing, have stayed there for much longer - but a larger than expected wave suddenly broken through our defensive wall of sand, turned our lovely spa into a swirl of sea water and sent us and the family next to us running up the beach!

Having satisfied my need for a spot of relaxation and my ex-geography teacher's curiosity, Hot Water Beach then satisfied my crafty side after we washed out the sand and cleaned up. T took the boys up to the fantastic cafe for some cake while I wandered round Gallery, only a few yards up the road from the beach car park. So much handcrafted beauty to go with the amazing natural beauty outside! And every craft that you could imagine too - sculptures, ceramics, metalwork largescale such as the rushes outside the main entrance and small dishes, ornaments and pieces of jewellery, woodwork, glass, paintings, photographs. The woman looking after the gallery was lovely enough to spend time telling me about the different pieces and about craft shows and the like over here. It's probably a good job that we've got to think about weight limits on our luggage going home, otherwise my bank balance would have taken a big hit. I still managed to get a few small presents though, and this amazing ceramic carving for me - it took me ages to choose the one I wanted the most, but this one is so beautifully tactile and I love the swirls. I'm justifying buying myself a present by planning to use it as a prop in jewellery photos for the website!

So, all in all, a fantastic day! And there's more tomorrow!



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