Wednesday, 28 April 2010

...and life goes on.

After arriving back from Thailand, it took a matter of days to settle back into the old routine. Deane went in to work and was told he'd been made redundant. Yay. He was already job hunting, but in a lame, half-assed sort of way. Now he's really putting in an effort!!

The boys had two days of school left before the Easter/school holidays, so on the afternoon of Good Friday we packed up, loaded ourselves in the car and headed up to Napier. Sadly, the weather was quite disappointing. Not nearly as hot as expected! I swear, once Easter arrives, regardless of when it is (late March, mid-April, whenever) the weather decides "ooh, it's Autumn, better get cold". And before you know it, BAM! You're scuffing around the house with slippers and big floppy jerseys on. Not that I'm complaining, I far prefer winter to summer. It was just such a stark contrast to what we'd experienced over the previous two weeks. I think my body was quietly protesting going from 38C to 15C. Wouldn't yours?!?

Anyway, it was nice to be back in the Bay, handing out the 'overseas goodies' and seeing friends and family. After a few days, it was back to Wellington so Deane could return to work and organise things there (after much consideration he decided not to apply for the available role, and go for something else instead. He's still working on that, but I won't say any more until he actually has something. Don't want to jinx it!!)

Me and the boys pretty much just blobbed for the rest of the holidays - basically what ends up happening every school holidays :-) We're a lazy bunch! One good thing is that while we were away, MIL and SIL managed to put a system in place where X loaded and unloaded the dishwasher for pocket money. This has continued, although he now only unloads. I don't have the patience to leave everything sitting on the bench, waiting for him to get home from school or whatever and load it all. In any case, he's got a chart on the fridge. He gets one tick per load. At the end of the week, the ticks are added up and he's given his pocket money (50 cents per tick, although if he's got nine ticks, I'm a nice mummy and round it up to $5). Last weekend he took his hard-earned money to JB HiFi and bought himself some (pre-owned) XBox games. He was pretty chuffed with himself :-) Soon we'll find a wee job for T to do, so he can earn some pocket money too. Although to be honest, he's not at all bothered that X gets money and he doesn't.

Now they're back at school (week two now) and everything is totally back to normal. I'm incredibly impressed at T's reading progress, and even his maths skills. This kid is bright!! Proud mum, right here!! Only problem is, he works so hard all morning, he's knackered by the afternoon and becomes quite disruptive in class. We're not quite sure what to do about that... Hopefully his teacher and I will be able to put some plan in place to curb that, but putting him to bed earlier won't work - he goes to bed at 6.30pm as it is! Oh well, I'm sure we'll come up with something eventually (or his behaviour will improve - fingers crossed). His first swimming class of the term (which is now School Age 2. Yes, after five terms in Preschool 1, he finally graduated!!) he did absolutely brilliantly. Doing good all round - yay!!

Crafting has resumed in full swing - must share. First up, there's the scarf I was making for the Ravelry Scarf Exchange swap. It was received by my swap buddy, so now I can share details - made with Malabrigo Silky Merino in the Cloudy Sky colourway (ooh, so smooshy!!) bought from Little Country Wools, the Irish Hiking Scarf:


Yes, this is an in-progress pic. It appears as though I forgot to take 'completed' pictures, regardless of how many times I reminded myself I must do this. Hopeless. Anyway, here's a closeup:


Pretty, huh? I would've kept it if I could. Never mind, I might get around to making one for myself one day (yeah, right!).

A friend recently had a wee baby boy, so of course I had to make some hand knitted goodies for him:


A t-shirt vest (seriously, how cute is that?)

And a matching hat (which I totally just made up - CO 60sts, k2,p2 for 1.5", stockinette for 4", kitchener, add tassels and voila!):


and (of course!) socks:

I made the baby size, but just made them a little longer in the foot. The vest is for 6-9 months, so I tried to make the hat and socks around the same, although to be fair, it's a little hard to judge. Especially when you don't have a baby model to work on. All these were knit in Utiku variegated, in the Blueberry colourway - it can be purchased for a very reasonable $15 per 200g from The Wool Company.

I finished my Skewed Wet Peacocks (some time ago now) but never shared a completed pic, so here you go:


They're super comfy. To start off, they were a little hard to get on because of the minimal amount of stretch, but now they're great. They look awesome with jeans, and I love them. Made in Needle Food merino sock yarn, special sock club colourway 'Picnic in the Rain'. Oh, how I love Needle Food yarn. Michelle, you rock!

Also finished some time ago but not shared are my Bella Mittens (Twilight inspired, just in case you didn't know):


Knit with 12ply felted lambswool, these are super cozy. I can't wait until winter, so I can wear them. All. The. Time!!

Two more things I have OTN at the moment are squares for the Ron Weasley blanket swap (I'll post finished pics later) and my Clandestine Limes. This sock is one of the many fabulous patterns written by Cookie A - she's a very talented sock designer. Here's a pic of the one completed sock:


The yarn is TOFUtsies, which is a crazy mix of fibres, including crushed crab and shrimp shells. I tell ya, it's amazing what they can make these days!! Anyway, bought the yarn at Knitting Pretty - used to be just an online shop, but is now open in Karori Mall, on Karori Road, in Karori (of course!).

And just for a bit of eye candy (of the yarny variety), here are the three instalments of the Needle Food sock club #3 (I don't think I ever posted pics of them, so here you go):

Instalment #1 'There's Flowers in My Salad!'


Instalment #2 'Mango Smoothie' (just the yarn - also came with stitch holders, mini caramel Easter eggs, soap, and the ever-present stitch markers)


Instalment #3 ' Meet me in the Frozen Foods'


Now, to decide what to do with all these lovely skeins!!

Anyway, this post is getting a little long and picture heavy, so I shall leave it here for today (plus, I have to go and pick up the boys from school shortly) - more crafty goodness later ;-)

Sunday, 25 April 2010

....and finally, Thailand Trip Part II

Wow, I've been slack! Someone was kind enough to give me a little nudge the other day, reminding me I hadn't updated my blog for over two weeks. Thanks Helen ;-)

Gosh, where did I leave off last post?? One moment please, I shall check...

Oh yeah, okay, so now we're heading back to Bangkok. Unfortunately the trip back was in a van full of other people, also heading back to Bangkok. I preferred having a private car, but oh well. We arrived at the hotel in the afternoon and pretty much bummed around for the rest of the day. This time we were right in the city so markets, malls and food stalls were right nearby.

The next day we were picked up at 7am for a full-day trip consisting of the floating markets, the bridge on the River Kwai, and the Tiger Temple. It was about two hours from the hotel to our first stop, the floating markets. I hadn't realised at the time that everything we were visiting was in and around Kanchanaburi, so I was wondering why the trip was taking so long - maybe I should pay more attention when booking things.

Anyway, the floating market was kinda cool - you get in a boat taxi which takes you around the canals to where the market is held.



The market itself is quite varied - there's stuff in boats, stuff on shelves next to the canals, and there's also areas where you get off the boats and walk around in buildings. The market covers quite a large area, even crossing a road.



We didn't buy too much at the market, knowing we'd be getting in and out of a van all day. After the market, we piled back into the van and headed out to the River Kwai, with a quick stop at an elephant village, so a couple in our van could do the half hour ride. Not sure why it was essential, as they're from India and have been on elephants before, but oh well. Gave us a chance to stand around in the sun on a hot day for 30 minutes...

So I can now say that I have been on the bridge over the River Kwai. Here's some proof:



And just so you know, this is what the bridge actually looks like:


Woohoo. Exciting huh? Yeah...

That was quite a depressing part of the trip - there was a glass tomb in the museum that held the bodies of 106 prisoners of war, killed while building the bridge. Humans - we can be so evil.

On a slightly brighter note, our next stop before heading back to Bangkok was the Tiger Temple - this is a large animal sanctuary, with a Buddhist temple on site. It started out as just the temple, but the monk slowly accumulated various breeds of animals over time. Some were brought to him injured, saved from death, others just turned up with families in tow. Now there's hundreds of animals, including a large number of tigers (who are now breeding quite happily, yay for them!) We got pretty 'up close and personal' with the tigers, as is custom when sightseeing. Ugh, we were such tourists...



After that, we headed back to the hotel. Over the course of the day we'd got further and further away, so the drive back took three hours. So it was just a quick dinner and lazing in bed watching movies.

Next day was spent wandering around the malls and markets of inner-city Bangkok (exactly where all the riots and troubles with the red-shirt protesters has been happening over the last couple of weeks - guess we left just in time!!)

On the Saturday, we spent the entire day at Chatuchak market, the biggest market in Thailand. It. Was. Huge!!! We spent all day wandering round what was probably about a quarter of it. Got incredibly lost (although still managed to find our way back to where we started, and find a couple of stalls we wanted to go back to). Spent ridiculous amounts of money and got lots of souvenirs for friends and family, and of course a few bits and pieces for ourselves. I was so glad to get back to the hotel, it was a really hot, sunny day and we'd gone all day without a Seven-Eleven to duck into for air-conditioning relief. That evening we went to Muay-Thai boxing. Deane insisted. It was okay, but not really my cup of tea. The most entertaining part was the 'band'. Deane and I had quite a few laughs about one particular band member, who looked ready to kill himself most of the time, but would quite happily watch a good-looking woman walk from one side of the stadium to the other, or would have a ridiculous grin on his face when somebody was getting pulverised in the ring (not as regularly-occurring as you'd think. Yeah, it was pretty boring).

On our last full day in Thailand, we visited a few of the temples. There are literally hundreds dotted around all over the place, but I think three was plenty. My favourite would have to be the reclining buddha. Huge!!!!! Here's a picture that will give you an idea of scale:



And another one, just in case you didn't quite catch that:



That evening we had dinner in the hotel restaurant, simply because we hadn't actually done that for the entire trip - we'd always eaten out. We were entertained by the in-house band (consisting of two people) who took requests, and allowed guests to sing karaoke. No, we didn't ;-)

On the 29th before having to leave for the airport, I had a manicure and pedicure done, costing a grand total of 250 baht (about NZ$11-$12). We did our absolute last-minute shopping for things we missed, and spent a little bit too much so that we had to short-change our taxi driver taking us to the airport. Don't worry, he knew how much we were going to pay him before he accepted the fare :-) We didn't want to have to withdraw more money, and then have some left over that would need to be changed back. He didn't seem to mind too much. The down side was that we had to wait at the airport for three hours, had forgotten to eat lunch, and were suddenly starving. We whiled away the time joking about different ways we could busk for money in the airport. None of them eventuated, which is probably a good thing. We didn't perish in the time between breakfast and dinner being served in-flight, so all was well again.

We arrived in New Zealand on the 30th March at 2pm, enough time to get through customs and leave the airport to drive to school and pick up the boys at 3pm. I was so glad to be home! :-)

I then spent the next few days recovering from jetlag. Ugh.

So that was our first big trip overseas (well, mine anyway. Deane's been a bit further afield than me). It was definitely an experience! Next time, I'd like to go somewhere a little cooler.

Friday, 2 April 2010

I'm baaaaaaaaaack.....

After a two week break over in a ridiculously hot, sweaty, smelly, crazy, busy, filthy country called Thailand. Don't get me wrong, it was a fascinating two weeks, but boy am I glad to be home!!

So we left on the 16th March - had to get up at about 3am in order to check in at the airport at 4am, for our flight at 6am. What a waste of three hours!! We had one backpack between us, which we kept as carry-on (in order to save having to find the baggage department in Bangkok Airport, and the possible loss of said bag between Sydney (arriving at 7.15am Aussie time) and Bangkok (the flight for which didn't leave until 5.30pm Aussie time)). We wouldn't want to confuse the poor airline employees...

The day was spent wandering around Sydney, riding the subway, etc etc. We got pics of the opera house and the harbour bridge. We've been there before, but ended up hanging out in Darling Harbour and the market, so didn't get anywhere near these two iconic landmarks. Had to do the touristy thing this time around :-) We got to see an aborigine playing the didgeridoo (very well I might add). He was selling CDs of his music, so Deane bought one. Haven't listened to it yet though.

After that it was off to Thailand, on a looooooooong 9 1/2 hour flight. Those horrid economy seats really aren't that suited to sleeping in are they? I think I may have managed about an hour or so, in bits and pieces. Also watched several movies and TV programs during the flight. I was very happy to not have to worry about luggage at the other end, as by that stage we'd been up for well over 24 hours and still had to get to the hotel before being able to lie down. I didn't really pay much attention to anything going on outside the taxi on the way to the hotel, which was probably a good thing. By the time we arrived and checked in, it was about 11.30pm. Ahhhh, blessed sleep...

Next day we got a taxi into town, which turned into an interesting experience. We got stuck in traffic for about 45 minutes, watching a protest parade of 'red shirts'. It was interesting to start with, but after about half an hour we were quite sick of it! Eventually there was a (man-made) break in the parade, and some traffic got through so we carried on. I was amazed at the sheer number of people, and malls, and market stalls, and just everything that was everywhere around. Bangkok has a population of around 12,000,000 people, and I have to say, it's a huge change from little old New Zealand. After a spot of shopping, we jumped in a tuk tuk and headed back to our hotel. Our tuk tuk driver was named Dang.



He was very friendly and very helpful. As we had no travel plans to speak of past our first two nights booked in the hotel we were in, he helped us find the T.A.T office where we organised the rest of our trip. He also found Deane a suit shop that ended up making him two suit jackets, four pairs of pants, two waistcoats, four shirts and two ties, all for a very reasonable price.

As we were staying in a 'spa resort' style hotel we of course had to get a traditional Thai massage... Never. Again. Bits of it were good, but a lot of it was very painful! I think I'll stick to relaxing massages from now on.

On the 18th, we headed off to Pattaya, where we were spending a large chunk of our time. A private car picked us up, and drove 2 1/2 hours to our next hotel. Pattaya is a whole different place to Bangkok. More tourists, and slightly more relaxed. I guess that comes from being a beach town.



The International Music Festival was on while we were there, so there were more people than usual floating around. This made it slightly harder to walk around in the street (no simple task to start with!) but it was quite interesting learning how to get around by other means. We quite enjoyed the baht bus transport system. Basically, a whole bunch of customised utes drive around set circuits. They honk at you and if you want one to stop, you just wave at them. They pull over, you jump on the back, and off you go. When you want to get off, you press a wee buzzer, the driver stops and you get off. The standard fee is 10 baht per person. Just hand it in through the window and you're done! The only taxi's they have in Pattaya are ones heading back to Bangkok airport (there are signs everywhere 'Bangkok Airport 800 baht') or a motorcycle taxi, which involves you sitting on the back and the rider taking you to wherever you need to go. I prefer baht bus. But not when they're this full:



The beach was a two minute walk from our hotel, but we didn't actually spend much time there (Deane's not really a beach kinda person). But we did go parasailing. That was pretty awesome :-)



After a couple of days in Pattaya, we hired a car and drove to Chanthaburi. Deane wanted to check out the gemstone markets. Unfortunately our timing was quite off. We arrived late Saturday afternoon, and had to leave Sunday morning. There was hardly anything open. On Saturday night we wandered around the fruit markets though. They have the most amazing fruits, and seemingly endless supplies of it, all very fresh. Deane tried some of the quirkier stuff, but I stuck to what I knew. Mmmmmmmmmmmm, pineapple... Unfortunately for me, this was around the time when my heat rash really kicked in. Obviously it was taking me a while to adjust to the 30+ degree temperatures and constant sweatiness, and my arms, legs and chest was covered. I was itching like crazy! Deane dragged me over to the massage and spa place next door, where a bunch of very friendly ladies doted on me. It was quite sweet really. They bought us cold water to drink, a cup of tea, cold cloths for my rash. They went to the chemist, found it was closed, so one of them called her husband and had him find an after hours pharmacy where they got calamine lotion and antihistamines for me. They were so nice! After they insisted I have a shower and helped me slather myself in pink lotion, we wandered back over to the hotel and went to bed (it was after midnight by this stage). The next morning we slept in until 9.30am and barely had enough time for breakfast before heading to town to peruse what few gemstone shops were open, before jumping back in the car and heading back to Pattaya. This turned out to be a rather nervewracking experience, as the accelerator pedal stuck several times on the drive home (yes, the car was a Toyota). Stupid automatics!! Luckily Deane was driving - I'd have killed us!

From the 21st to the 25th, we stayed in Pattaya. Deane rented a scooter for us to get around on (and before you say anything, it's very common for two, three, or even four people to ride on one scooter at a time over there, so we blended in quite well!) We went to the Pattaya elephant village,



Went snorkelling at Koh Larn,



Did stupid amounts of shopping, eating, walking, sightseeing, and of course had to check out the local Go-Go bars ;-) Deane got some dental work done while we were there too.

Anyway, this post is getting a bit long and I've still got lots to tell you all, so I'll stop here and pick up again for the second half of our trip next time. See you again soon!