It is hard to believe that Christmas is almost up on us. It has been a year of ups and downs, with
natural disasters, war and an economic downturn. I want to start by telling you about a couple of guests who have inspired me or leave me with a smile on my face when I think of them. One of them was an elderly woman from Switzerland who was accompanied bij her husband. He had arthritis, so they would visit the Polynesian Pools each day, as this eased her husband's pain and then would alternate the visits with a soak in our large hot tub at the cottage. She would wander over to our house each day for a chat or to pop a couple of Swiss Toblerones in my children's hands. She also told me how she would wake up in the morning, do her morning exercises on our spacious deck, while enjoying the view, and then take a dip in the hot tub. Her joy was infectious!
Another German couple, who bring a smile to my face when I think about them, had arrived in Tauranga on a cruise ship. They travelled to Rotorua to enjoy the green, open spaces and serenity that Blossom Cottage offers. On their last day, they came to say goodbye. They then told me that our cat, Teddy, who was only a few months old at the time, had joined them in bed each night, happily purring his little heart out. I just about died, as the cottage is out of bounds for any of our animals. To make matters worse, my guest also revealed to me that her husband was a famous German singer and also the Entertainment Manager on the cruise ship!! Luckily, they had 5 cats of their own back home, but even so ............!
I thought I would give some of the many free activities in Rotorua some exposure this month, as there are just so many expenses involved with buying Christmas gifts and going on holiday.
If you enjoy being active, the Redwood Forest is a beautiful place to walk, mountain bike or go horse riding. There is excellent parking, a gift shop, toilets and plenty of picnic tables.
Hamurana Springs is also great for a walk and you can feed the ducks, swans and trout your leftover bread. Visit the pristine springs, throw in a coin and make a wish. When I was a child growing up in Rotorua, we would end our walk with a picnic on a blanket on the grassy banks. My mum would bring along our portable gas barbeque, some sausages and, not to forget, the thermos with hot water for her coffee!
If you enjoy the thermal activityin and around Rotorua, visit Kuirau Park near the city centre, with its popular walkway meandering through it. Witness the earth bubbling away with its mud pools, boiling water and hissing steam. There is a market there once a week with music, farmers' produce, food stalls and second hand goods.
You could also visit Sulphur Point near Tudor Towers in Government Gardens and wander along the lake front. Someone once said that Sulphur Point reminded them of being on the moon.
Government Gardens is a sight to behold, with its beautifully manicured gardens, the museum, Bath-house and Tudor Towers with their inspiring architecture. There is a cafe at the museum, where lunch can be enjoyed, a playground nearby for the little ones and plenty of benches dotted around the place.
Okere Falls is one of my favourite places, where I spent many a hot summer's afternoon with friends. It is great to take a walk through the bush and see the rafts coming down the waterfalls, full of excited faces. The Tutea Falls is one of the highest commercially rafted waterfalls in the world. You can get very close to the Kaituna River and even venture down into a small cave, which is fun for the children. There is a grassy area near the parking area where you could have a picnic.
The last place I want to tell you about is Kerosene Creek. It is a 20 minute drive south of Rotorua and is a beautiful hot water stream running through the forest. At the end of the stream is a waterfall and large pool, ideal for soaking and taking in the breathtaking native scenery. It's beautiful at night and many people take their candles and pop them into the crevices along the side of the pool. Always take your valuables with you when you park the car.
As for the animal antics, plenty has happened since I last wrote. The donkeys have settled in well at Blossom Cottage, but do have their moments. Max, Bindi and Poppy still regularly try to open the shed door where the animal food is stored. They also managed to take the lid off the container with rabbit food by using their teeth. Kallista thought she would out-wit them by putting the container under the roof of the rabbit hutch. They even tried to lift the hinged roof by taking it between their teeth! Quite a sight to see!
We have got beautiful Kererus living on the property, swinging upside down from flimsy branches, extracting the nectar from the blossoms. Unfortunately we lost our beautiful Bottle Brush, which was uprooted in a recent tornado. It was housing our native Tui, who would chase away any other birds who were daring enough to enter the tree to steal his nectar.
Holly has given birth to yet another litter of babies. Unfortunately, we lost 3 to the cat and have had to reinforce the rabbit hutch's chicken wire and roof. One baby bunny survived the ordeal and is growing by the day. Treacle, our male bunny, is still charging around the meadows whenever he gets the chance to escape. Chimney, our free-spirited black bunny, spent many months sprinting around the many paddocks and coming back to visit regularly. He is a bit of a hippy and a free-spirt. Due to his wild ways, his ears have been nibbled at by an over-zealous cat and now he has pierced ears!! He would regularly come up to me while I was feeding the hens, stop to be patted and would then sprint off into the sunshine for a bit of zumba with Teddy, the cat! We haven't seen him for a while and thought he had met a beautiful maiden to spend the rest of his days with, when our neighbour mentioned seeing a very tame, black bunny on vacation in his garden. ''Was he ours?'', the neighbour asked Kallista. As yet, Chimney has not returned. To be continued.....
Well, that's it from me. Just a recipe for you before I go:
TRUFFELS (for your Christmas dessert)
200 grams chocolate (50% cocoa or 70% if you like it bitter), 1/2 cup cream and 25 grams of butter.
Melt the ingredients au-bain-marie, stirring regularly. Let it cool and harden and then roll into balls the size of a grape. Cool in the fridge.
Melt some white, milk or dark chocolate. Roll the truffels in the chocolate and drain on a sheet of baking paper. You could also dust some of the truffels with cocoa instead of using the chocolate or roll in coconut or chocolate hail.
Let's hope that 2013 brings lots of happiness to many people of every nationality in every corner of the world. Speak to you next year!