Sunday, November 26, 2017

A Kiwi Thanksgiving

We had a bit of a struggle trying to have a Thanksgiving dinner so far from home. I mentioned some of the ingredients I couldn’t find to my kids and Jennifer and Jon sent this: Now we had the cranberry sauce and the pecans for pies (along with delicious graham crackers for evening snacking)

Then we received a package from Rivka with decorations, plates and napkins and I hadn’t even thought about that:

After that, we discovered that turkeys were on sale last week for about $30 less than they usually are so a 12 lb. bird was $60 instead of $90 (at that point that seemed like a good deal!)  We went to an American store in Auckland for corn syrup and Stove Top stuffing. We used a Kiwi yam which they call Kumara and had to cut up large marshmallows since they had no miniature ones for the candied yams. They don’t have canned pumpkin so I baked a pumpkin and puréed it so I could use it to make pies. Then we invited the Higgins and the Chaddertons from our Branch and introduced them to a traditional Thanksgiving feast.

We had to explain what candied yams are and cranberry sauce and stuffing. Buddy took time beforehand to explain where the holiday comes from and when it was made an official holiday. We had a delightful time sharing our traditions with these wonderful friends.
P.S.- Kiwis usually don’t wear shoes in the house so even though we tell them they don’t have to take off their shoes, they seem to be more comfortable doing so. And though the drinks may look suspicious- we didn’t bring them home in a paper sack- they’re just sparkling grape and apple juices. 
Kia Ora! Elder and Sister O’Neal

Monday, November 20, 2017

A few weeks in Review

In looking back at photos for the last few weeks, I can’t come up with one theme so I’ll just explain a few. My sewing machine broke again so I’ve only been able to get things ready by cutting and ironing. However, we were able to go to Auckland today and get another belt for this old machine. The repair guy advised us to fix it and give it back to the city before it breaks again since the last belt should have lasted longer than two weeks (I agreed!). Actually that will be ok because Trish, the sewing teacher at the school, offered to let me borrow a machine from there. Yeah!! I’ll take her up on that offer next Tuesday. Here’s a pic of the crazy sewing room at the school:

I think I’ll still sew with this old machine until I can get to the school on Tuesday.
A few months ago, the Branch President in Coromandel asked me to help an elderly friend with his genealogy. He knew he had some Jewish ancestry but couldn’t find anything past his paternal grandmother. With a lot of help from, we managed to get him back 5 generations into England including copies of census reports, marriage and birth certificates. He was so excited! For his “day job” , though he’s retired, he fixes chain saws. I managed to get a picture of Elder O’Neal visiting with him after Church last Sunday where he took us down to his shop. The ceiling is barely shorter than Buddy so he had to duck at the 2x4’s. This kind of place is to Buddy what the sewing room is to me- mess with so many exciting possibilities.

And then, I had to include this wonder of nature that I found on my walk today:

The most wonderful tree! I can just see a family picture with all the kids sitting or hanging from the branches. Where was a tree like this when all my kids were at home??  It’s been a wonderful couple of weeks!  Kia Ora, Elder and Sister O’Neal

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Kauri Trees

Today we usually go to help in the community garden but when we got there, we were the only ones there. It looked like there’d been a lot of helpers the day before so even the weeding didn’t need to be done. About once a week, they have a special contingency of inmates from the jail come to work so they must have been there. Since there was no garden work, we decided to hike to the Kauri Grove about a half hour hike up the hill. We’ve been wanting to take this hike for months but its been too wet and muddy.
     Kauri Trees are another species indigenous to New Zealand and just in the northern part of the north island. They can grow over 150 feet tall and even though they grow low-lying limbs, they shed these as they grow taller making their wood of mostly parallel grain. That made them highly sought after for ship building in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. They can also be over 15 feet in diameter and live up to 1000 years!

Most harvesting of these trees has now ceased and the remaining groves are protected by law. We happen to have a grove of 20-30 trees just outside of town up a very steep trail. But the walk was worth it. Here is a view of town from the grove:

 and I made Elder O’Neal pose for one:

 And it's still only spring!    
Kia Ora, Elder and Sister O’Neal

Monday, October 2, 2017

A Youth Baptism!

Last Sunday, we had the first youth baptism in the Group. The Group Leader's young son Eliott was baptized at Egan's Park, a beautiful camping spot on a dirt road about 15 minutes from our home. We drove up the week before with the family to check out a couple of different options including the ocean and decided on this spot. The water was a rather chilly 14oC. (57F.) But Eliott was still excited and said he didn't mind. Here are a few pictures of the occasion:

They are a beautiful family and probably what makes it possible for us to even have a group here. Then following that wonderful occasion, we actually had a week where not one appointment cancelled!! That was incredible. We have pretty much decided that missionaries need to plan on at least 50% of their expected dates not coming through. We always try to have back-up plans for our time. But last week was not like that. We had one meeting where the non-member husband came late but we had a good long chat with the member-wife. We had one where the wife ended being busy but the husband came over here for a self-reliance lesson. And then we had a family that showed up an hour late but at least they came, for dinner and a lesson on agency. It was such a good week. That along with a visit to Joy in the care center, working in Sue's garden, having an amazing zone conference, getting to help the Higgins repair a rental unit, sewing etc, etc. We are keeping busy and happy.
And who could complain about the beauty that surrounds us everywhere we go:

These apple trees were lining the road on the way home from Zone Conference.
Kia Ora, Elder and Sister O'Neal

Monday, September 18, 2017

20o today (in C.)

On Fridays, we still go to Whenuakite to the Collin's house to help. They have lots acres with avocado trees, citrus trees, garden areas and lots to do. Sue is the sweetest lady on earth. She is in her 70's and her husband is in a care facility. We usually get there about 9 and work till noon. She then has us come in for "morning tea" and some chatting. Since we don't drink tea, she gets us a lovely drink called lemon-barley water. It's delish. She also likes to make us "mouse traps" which is toast with bacon, sweet onions and Edam cheese or sometimes orange muffins made by chopping up an entire orange (peel and all) and adding it to the mix. We love Fridays! Here's some pictures of her place in the spring: the circular driveway with her house on the left

The garden area, where I spent the morning getting it ready to plant and weeding the part I already planted:

The avocado trees out past the backyard hedgerow:

And some of the citrus trees (from which I picked oranges and lemons):

It's a heavenly piece of property and we always love being there!
Kia Ora! Elder and Sister O'Neal

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Silver Fern

As is evidenced in previous posts, we are quite fascinated by all the different flora and fauna that are unique to New Zealand. One really interesting plant is the Silver Fern which is entirely endemic to this country. It looks like any other fern on the top

But underneath it is very unique:

This plant is used extensively in New Zealand advertising:
The All Blacks rugby team:


And the front of the grocery store:

There was even a vote last year to try to include the fern on the national flag but it did not get a majority in favor. Some say trackers used the fern upside down on a dark night to light up a path. The more we notice this design, the more we see it everywhere.
Kia Ora, Elder and Sister O'Neal

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Table tennis and privet bushes

Whenever we go to serve in the community garden, there's a guy there who is always telling us about how the last two sets of missionaries (specifically the Elder) would join him with a group of other seniors for Table Tennis on Tuesday mornings. Last week, Elder O'Neal finally decided to have a go at it so I walked with him down to the Town Hall. Here's a picture as he's picked out a "bat" and is walking to help set up tables.

Both men and women play but I decided I'd rather go back home and sew some more Boomerang bags. He was gone for about 2 hours and had a great time! And, the man who kept inviting him wasn't even there. On his way home, he stopped at a sporting goods store and got himself a super-dooper bat so he should be a force to be reckoned with next week. He and his partner already ended up in first place last week.
In branch news, our little group finally assigned home and visiting teaching last month and turned in reports for it. That was a first. Elder O'Neal and I visited two families as home teachers, I visited two sisters with Emma as a visiting teacher and I visited two sisters with Kieren as a visiting teacher. All of the twosomes are split like that so that we get as many members in Whitianga as possible. I got to meet one sister, Tere, that we'd tried to visit at least 5 times and never caught at home, but Emma committed her to a visit and she accepted.
Today, Friday, is our standing appointment at Sue's garden/farm. The only times we stay home is if its raining but today was warm and sunny so off we went. She has a long driveway into her place that's lined by those tall trees I wrote about awhile ago. Today we began the lengthy task of removing obnoxious European Privets that grow all over under the pines. Elder O'Neal took a picture of me taking out the small bushes after he'd been through sawing off the large ones.

Remember, this is a winter day so I have a long sleeved undershirt, but we still got hot enough that the cool breezes that came through felt pretty good. We spent 3 hours there and came home exhausted and had to rest. Tough duty, right?
Also, a few weeks ago we passed our 6 months mark. We've met so many wonderful people, I'm already worrying about leaving them. Life is great!