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Dec 28th 2010 - Ness Valley

Well, what an awesome Christmas we've had! Its been very different indeed to what we have always been used to at home but equally enjoyable.  It all kicked off with Lindsey and I going shopping to a local farmer's market for all the fruit and veggies that we needed to cater for six of us over the festive period.  That in itself was quite an experience, it was wonderful seeing all the local produce.  We managed to get everything we needed, with one exception!  As mentioned in the previous blog I had offered to make the starter for our Christmas dinner.  This consists of field mushrooms stuffed with stilton and mozzarella topped with king prawns.  Well they didn't have the right size of mushrooms at the farmer's market to do this with!  However they did have something as a substitute.  It cost $10 (approx £5)!  Clive's face was a picture when we got it home and showed it to him!!

Giant field mushroom!

Lindsey and I started getting ourselves organised (no mean feat with the two of us!).  The first thing was to get the Christmas tree sorted.  It was now quite perky having been repotted and well watered and we soon had it beautifully decked with baubles, tinsel and fairy lights, it looked really lovely. The next thing was to set the table and Lindsey decided it would be nice, as her mother Pat would not be spending Christmas in New Zealand this year, to cover the table with the beautiful cloth and napkins which Pat had embroidered so she would be with us in spirit! When it was finished it looked really lovely and very festive with the mini Christmas tree we had got for the quiz as the centrepiece!

The Festive Board

One thing we didn't have to do was the housework, when Lindsey and I returned from the farmer's market in the afternoon Clive had cleaned the whole house, dusted, polished and swept from top to toe - I definitely picked a good one didn't I!

Finally all was prepared and it was time to go to bed for some well earned zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz's!

Christmas morning dawned a little overcast but it certainly wasn't cold.  We piled into Lindsey's van and headed off to collect Mary.  Lindsey was driving, Mary in the passenger seat and Clive and I were in the back with the dogs (no seats!) hanging on for grim death as Lindsey hurtled along the winding roads to the beach at Duders. I'm sure its not legal but fortunately we all survived and the police were nowhere to be seen!

Philly and Ann arrived almost simultaneously in the campervan and we were soon parked up and Philly and Ann set to making the bacon sandwiches with beautiful homemade bread that Mary had made.  It wasn't long before we were all sitting outside munching our sarnies and drinking Champagne watching other families with children playing on the beach and swimming in the sea.

Bacon sarnies and Champagne at the beach!

Even though it was quite cloudy we all ended up a bit pink as we hadn't bothered with suntan lotion, oops!  Finally we divided up into the various vehicles for the journey home.  Clive and Ann went in Ann's RAV 4, Lindsey and Mary headed off to Mary's house in the van to pick up Mary's car and Phily and I went in the campervan.  On the journey back to Lindsey's Philly had been giving me the low down on driving the campervan and explained that we had to be wary if it was windy as it is a high vehicle and does get blown around, also that it doesn't have power steering etc etc.  I had noticed that she kept veering a bit towards the kerbside and was beginning to wonder if she had had a glass too many of the Champagne! All of a sudden the van really veered to the left and Philly had to fight the wheel to keep it on the road!  We pulled over and I opened my door and looked down - this is what I saw!!!

Oh bother!

Well Philly said something along those lines!!  Philly managed to get the van across the road onto a dirt track and then set to getting the spare wheel out from under the van, not an easy task!  As she was in the middle of this undertaking Lindsey arrived in the van on her way back from Mary's.  She said she would go home and send Clive back to help.  In the meantime Philly had got the jack out and was in the process of trying to loosen the wheel nuts.  She discovered, much to our suprise, that the wheel nuts were screwed on opposite to the way we would expect them to be. Instead of loosening them by winding anti-clockwise that tightened them!  How bizarre!  Clive arrived just as we had discovered this and couldn't believe it!  Between them they soon had the flat tyre off and the spare tyre on and we were ready to rock and roll.  There was something else though, when Philly had moved the van from the road onto the track I had noticed a large puddle of liquid on the road - it was coming from the engine!!  Not good!  However we managed to get back to Lindsey's in one piece and decided to get on with the festivities and worry about the van later.

So we all got ourselves a drink and headed for the lounge to see what Santa had brought for us all!  There were loads of presents piled under the tree by now and Lindsey agreed to play Santa and pass them out.  We all had lovely presents.  Lindsey and Philly were delighted with the large bars of Cadbury's Dairy Milk we had brought with us from the UK and even more delighted with the Thornton's Continental Chocs which we had brought with us from their mum Pat! We got lovely gifts from everyone too, including home made cookies from Mary (she is one clever lady!); insect repellant and sting soother from Ann (a very welcome gift indeed!); tee shirts, a book about the NZ film sets from Lord of the Rings films and how to get there and a really lovely book on NZ wildlife which will be invaluable to us on our travels in the New Year as we won't have Lindsey with us to identify all the birds, animals and insects that we come across.  All in all I think everyone was very pleased with their prezzies.

Santa came whilst we were at the beach!

Then it was time to get the dinner ready - its all go isn't it!  First of all, we all got a large gin and tonice! Then, whilst Philly and Ann took charge of barbecuing the butterflied lamb, which had been marinating overnight in the most awesome concoction and smelled wonderful, Lindsey set to preparing all the veggies to be roasted in the oven, meanwhile I prepared the starter.  We hadn't let anybody else into the secret of the starter so it was a great surprise when I presented the baked, stuffed monster mushroom to them!

The monster mushroom!

Everyone was suitably impressed by its size alone but fortunately it tasted good too, it was really meaty in the middle!  I just cut it up like a pie and gave everyone a wedge on a bed of salad.  The lamb came next and it was absolutely delicious, it really is a wonderful way to cook lamb. I wonder if English butchers could be persuaded to butterfly a leg of lamb if asked?  The veggies were yummy too.  All in all it was a feast fit for a king and was beautifully finished off with Mary's exquisite homemade Christmas pudding with brandy butter accompanied by a delicious dessert wine.  We were replete!

After dinner we adjourned to the lounge and spent a hilarious few hours playing Call My Bluff which Mary had brought with her.  I think the best word by far was dyspagel, which means "a hairy bottom"!!!

The evening ended with the most glorious sunset!

Christmas sunset

The sunset presaged good weather and sure enough when we awoke on Boxing Day morning the sun was shining and the Cicadas were singing very loudly in the garden, sign of a hot day to come and it certainly lived up to it!  We had a great day.  After breakfast we adjourned to the decking and played Scattegories - for hours, it was great fun and we were constantly giggling and laughing!  We adjourned for coffee and mince pies and then decided to have a game of Trivial Pursuit with more Champagne!

Trivial Pursuit on the decking

Unfortunately as I was getting back into my chair after taking this photo I lost my balance, grabbed the table and the Trivial Pursuit and Champagne went everywhere!!!  Oh dear!

A few of us went for a short constitution around the garden and Lindsey spotted something and brought him back to me to have his photo taken - isn't he amazing!

Stick insect!

Well we had decided to skip lunch and make do with the mince pies but eventually we were all starting to get a bit peckish so we abandoned the Trivial Pursuit and headed for the kitchen.  This time the guest of honour at our Boxing Day repast was a huge Snapper!  Once again Philly and Ann took charge of the barbecue and Lindsey managed miraculously with an almost blunt knife to split the fish down the centre and open it up like a butterfly.  This was sprinkled with lime juice, course salt ground up with chilli pepper and then dotted with liberal amounts of butter and placed on the barby topped with prawns.  The leftover roasted veggies were heated up in the oven and all this was accompanied by gorgeous breads and copious amounts of wine - yet another banquet fit for a king!

Huge snapper on the barby (apologies to all you veggies out there!)

The meal was finished off with a glorious tropical fruit salad which Lindsey had prepared and that was accompanied by homemade honey and lavender ice cream which Mary had made, unbelievably luscious! 

All in all its been a truly wonderful Christmas with great company, wonderful food and lots and lots of wine!  The diet begins next week!!

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