Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Day Three: Whangarei to Sheep World

We woke up in Whangarei to a moody overcast morning. Dad made poached eggs on toast with the free-range eggs we bought the day before. I went down to reception to see if they would sell me some salt and pepper for our breakfast. The lady came out in her bathrobe and sleepily gave me a handful of individual salt and pepper packets for free.

Our first stop was the Quarry Arts Centre on the outskirts of town. This turned out to be a pleasantly rambling chaos of artist studios and sculpture, every nook and cranny - down the niches in the brick walls - filled with art.

mom and lanterns 2

Mom under lanterns, Dad in the background

artist villiage detail with me

Me in front of one of the artist studios

artist villiage pond1

Weird and wonderful sculpture pond/fountain

After a leisurely walk through the grounds, Mom and I followed some vague signs pointing the way to a pa site. Our trusty guidebook told us that a pa site was some kind of ancient Maori military encampment or fortification - we'd been seeing signs for them here and there and decided to find out what all the fuss was about. The trail lead us on a pleasant hike up the wooded hills that rise up directly behind the artist village. I was expecting the ruins of some kind of fort, maybe some crumbling rock walls - but when we got there it was just a flat piece of land with a good view overlooking Whangarei.

Next we headed to an area along the river where we strolled along the waterfront, checking out the boats on one side and the many art galleries and other shops along the other side. Our destination was Clapham's Clocks (aka The National Clock Museum). This turned out to be one large room crammed full of every type of clock imaginable. We got in half way through a tour of the museum: a docent going around the room discussing some of the highlights of the collection, making the cuckoos do their stuff, and so on. Not two clocks were in synch with each other; chimes and tinkling tunes and pirouetting miniatures were going off at random intervals. Not to mention the constant sound of thousands of clocks ticking. There were grandfather clocks and cuckoo clocks and the ticking machinery of clock towers. There were hour glasses and slick digital clocks circa 1980, and everything in between. It was more impressive than I would have thought a room full of clocks could be.

The day was winding down and it was time to hit the grocery store to restock our supplies and hit the road. We were headed back south so we could hit Auckland by Sunday evening to pick up Loren. We ended up in a holiday park that sat cozily adjacent to a tourist attraction called Sheep World. There was a paddock of bright pink sheep out by the entrance. It was raining in earnest by the time we pulled up to the reception area. Dad and I got out and knocked, rang the door bell, and attempted to use the courtesy phone all to no avail (some of the buttons seemed to have stopped working). We were starting to wonder if the place was even open when a guy about my dad's age came trundling across the park in the rain, wearing shorts and gumboots and carrying a battered umbrella, his dog in toe. He greeted us kindly and explained he had been off tending to his sheep. He got us sorted out for the night, all the while he and dad grumbling congenially to each other about politics, the weather, and the evils of modern technology.

The place was nice if a bit rustic; you could see how the open-air kitchen looking out onto a little pond complete with tiny waterfall would be lovely on a warm summer day. The caretaker mentioned glow worms down by the waterfall, but the rain was really getting going and night was falling. After settling into what turned out to be our best camping site yet (we got our own personal bathroom literally a couple steps from the sliding door of our campervan) we holed up in our camper, cooked our backup stash of pasta-and-sauce for dinner with salad on the side, took luxurious unhurried hot showers, and pretty much called it a night.

Sheep World camp spot

Our camp site at Sheepworld Campervan Park

Shee World open air kitchen

Dad and I investigate the kitchen

Sheep World  pond

The aforementioned pond and tiny waterfall

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Adventure

This was written October 18th, and I'm just now getting around to editing and posting it. It is a partial account of an adventure I had with a friend who was visiting from the States. This happened the very day she got off the airplane in Wellington.


First day, and already we've had an adventure. Wandered right back to that place where we were before, when we were looking for her sister's wedding tree. We walked past the same eviscerated piano, and emerged from the bush to see a lady and child walking down the dirt road. Behind her we could see the marae; it was more impressive than I remembered.

She asked us where we were from and where we were headed, and I thought for sure she we had stepped onto her land and she was there to send us on our way. Then she invited us onto her marae. "Have a wander around, I've got to go feed the chooks, but I'll catch up with you later. Just remember to take off your shoes before going inside."

Despite the explicit invitation, I was hesitant to even walk through the gate, with its ragged white flags fluttering in the wind. Carvings everywhere, in stone or in wood. And the place all simple timbers, but built so grand as to look somehow palatial. It looked all of one style, yet it had wings sprouting from it of all shapes and sizes like it had been added to over generations. We very timidly inspected those rooms which were left open (most rooms had their own entrance to the outside). And the grounds, the fountains, the gardens sprouting chard and collards, tucked into every corner. Murals of all styles on the walls, and old black and white photos, and a single poi left on a large rustic table.

We had decided we'd explored all the areas that felt public (some buildings clearly looked lived in) and were just turning to head out when we caught up with the caretaker who had invited us. We expressed our delight in the place, and she invited us to meet the builder. She ushered us into a part of the area we had skipped over because it looked lived in. We had been correct. A large man with white hair and beard sat in a wheelchair in front of a computer. The wall he sat facing was covered in crowded bookshelves.

We were invited to sit at a bench by the window, and he talked to us for some time. I do not remember all of it. The land was his. He bought it from the Sisters of Compassion - a Christian charitable organisation whose grounds adjoined his. He bought it, and then he gave it away, to be the marae, to belong to his people. He got unemployed youth to build the it "But the buildings built them" he told us. The place is actually constantly under construction, still mostly by unemployed youth. Now he is making it into a village, he is building houses. Actually he is overseeing things now that he's in the wheelchair. He said his tireless efforts at creating the marae left him disabled. He told us all they have undertaken on that land, and all he hopes to see accomplished.

A girl of maybe thirteen years came in the front door. "How are the baby chooks? Can they make it up the ramp into the house?" He asked. We just built a new chicken coop today, he said, got to make sure they settle in okay. Then he asked her to show us around some other parts of the marae. She took us outside and we pulled on tennis shoes while she stepped into some slip ons. "You have to wear slip on shoes when you live on a marae." She told us. She took us up a shaded path, onto a pavilion, across a little catwalk and opened a door for us to enter. "This room is celebrating women, the pictures show the steps a woman has to go through to prove she is a leader for her people" she said. We quietly made our way around the room, examining the carvings on each supporting beam. Meanwhile the girl and her little sister waited in the doorway, discussing their newest house cat, who cheekily tried to follow us into the room.

On the way out she pointed to a shady little garden with fountains that sprayed a fine mist over the trees. One for each of us children, she said. That one is the most rare tree in the world. Its for her (the little sister) she's the youngest. We caught up with the caretaker then, and expressed our heartfelt gratitude at being invited onto the marae and bade her farewell.

Back on the street, as we sat on the sun-warmed curb re-tying our shoe laces, I said "why is it we always end up having these sorts of adventures when you're here?"

"Oh, I thought it was just New Zealand, you know, how kind and open the people are here."

"Well, I've certainly never been invited onto a marae before."


When editing this today, I found a website for the marae, so you can get an idea of what it looks like.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Day Two: Orewa to Whangarei

When I woke up, my parents had already left the camper. I made myself a cup of tea, and headed to the beach, where I knew I'd find them, and we had a nice walk along the shore. The water was perfectly calm, the sun just starting to burn off the morning haze in an otherwise blue sky. It was going to be a beautiful day.

My parents turned back first, and when I caught up with them, Dad was suggesting they start the process of applying for residency when that option becomes available to them next year. Just to keep their options open. On the road less that twenty four hours, and I know what Dad was thinking: Living like this, driving around the country, wouldn't be a bad thing to do full time. Hole up in a Northern beach town such as this in the Winter, make their way down to Wellington to visit their daughter in the Spring. A leisurely tour across the South Island in the height of Summer, perhaps? It wouldn't be the first time my parents had lived out of a camper van.

We set our sights on Whangarei that morning, figuring it was probably all the farther we'd go North before needing to head back to Auckland to pick up Loren on Sunday (day four). We wanted to set a leisurely pace.

This was our first 'real' day on the road, and I was determined to take spur of the moment detours whenever I felt like. The first was The Honey Centre in Warkworth. (Incindentally, Mom and I found the name of this town to be so silly-sounding, that we couldn't help exclaiming "WARK-worth!" like some kind of anthropomorphic duck every time it came up.) The Honey Centre had hexagonal windows, doors, and rooms, and a working bee hive behind glass took up most of one wall of the gift shop. The whole place reminded me of the "Betty's Bees" set from the show Pushing Daisies:


We made good use of the honey-tasting counter. I bought some lemon-honey for toast, and my parents bought sever small jars for gifts. Sadly the mead shop was closed, on account of the guy with the liquor license having the day off.

A little down the road stopped for a hand-painted sign advertising free-range eggs. The sign led us to a lady's house. She opened the sliding-glass door of her living room to sell us half a dozen eggs, and asked us where we were from. We had a conversation that would be repeated several times while during our visit in Northland.

Us: "The weather is so nice and warm here!"
Lady: "This is awful weather. I'm sorry you're having to put up with it on your holiday."
Us: "Well its a heck of a lot better than Wellington!"

We waved good-bye to the free-ranging chickens in her side garden and went on our way.

Our next stop was Cafe Eutopia:


This crazy art sculpture of a building was hard to miss and even harder to resist checking out. The food was good and unsurprisingly featured a lot of veggie/vegan/gluten free/organic fare. But the real draw was this crazy artsy building and decor inside and out, right down to the bathrooms which used water piped from a nearby stream. Needless to say Mom and I had a lot of fun photographing this place. A few of the results below:

Eutopia 2

Eutopia 3

Eutopia 6

By the time we arrived at Whangarei, it was nearly evening. We chose the one holiday park that was located right in town. It was not particularly flash, but it had all we needed (most importantly hot showers) and the owners were nice. When we asked them for a restaurant recommendation, they readily admitted that they'd eaten out all of once in the several years they'd lived there. Mom wasn't feeling well, so she stayed in the camper while Dad and I set out to try our luck in town.

That's how we ended up standing outside of a flower shop which our Lonely Planet guide strongly indicated was supposed to be a Cuban restaurant. Two ladies at the flower shop were just closing up, and asked if they could help us find something. We explained ourselves, and they happily recommended a couple of tasty and inexpensive restaurants, one of which they were headed to that very night. We aimed for an Israeli restaurant called the Camel-something-or-other and were pleased to discover it was exactly what we were looking for: tasty, healthy, and reasonably priced. We made a pleasant evening of it, and brought Mom back plenty of left-overs.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Road Trip Day One: Auckland Airport to Orewa

Mom, Dad, and I flew up to Auckland, arriving late in the morning. Getting our camper van, finding a grocery store, and stocking up of food and other supplies took quite some time. Our route north took us straight through the centre of Auckland and a big tangle of motorways. Our goal for the first day was simply to get out of Auckland and find a nice holiday park for the night. We landed at Orewa Top Ten Holiday Park, a nice enough place flanked by a lovely beach along Whangaparaoa Bay.

That first day, we did little more than check out our camper van and walk along the coast and into Orewa's small shopping area for dinner. The holiday park had an unusually high concentration of 'motorhomes' that looked like they hadn't moved in over a decade. That is, a lot of long-termers, with flower beds out front and kayaks pulled up under the eaves.

Despite the winter chill in the air, the place had the feel of a beach town, such as can be found scattered along the coast of California. We could imagine it would be a bustling little tourist destination come summer.

first campsite

Mom and me consulting the Lonely Planet guide as we discuss our plans for the next day

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Blogs from Wellington

I am completely charmed by my friend's new-ish fiction blog It's A Wellington Life. It's characters live in the same Wellington as the rest of us, and are subject to the same weather conditions, current events, and general goings-on. In fact, this blog captures the Wellington experience better than anything I've ever read.

Another blog I am really into lately is Bat Bean Beam. It is written by a Wellintonian who is originally from Italy. His post often wander across a wide range of topics, but are always insightful and leave you with plenty to think about.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Kiwi Survey - Part II

(Written 17th July 2010)

I left us frozen in the dark, our ears prickling with the strain of trying to hear kiwi footsteps in the dark. No luck. We moved on to a new area, and got into position again. The recorded call rang out several times before we heard a genuine response. I thought then that it was a mating call, that we were trying to lure an amorous kiwi into our trap. Later I learned it is a territorial call, prompting the kiwi to show up and defend his territory.

After what felt like a long time of stillness and dark, and cocking my head at every tiny susurrus of leaf against leaf, I heard the distinct sound of footsteps. A kiwi is not a small bird. It is a heavy bird, and when it walks through the forest, it is not very stealthy. And step by step, the thing was getting closer to me! I could feel my heart start to pound, and hear my pulse thudding in my ears. Friends, it is my sad duty to report, that for a moment, I froze. Then I remembered what I was supposed to do. Whistle. When The Scientist gave us this instruction, I failed to admit even to myself that I am terrible at whistling. I finally got a pitiful shrill sound out between dry lips. But the bird sounded so close now. Was I meant to turn on my head lamp and go after it? I paused, hand on my headlamp, uncertain. In truth, we hadn't been given much instruction. But we had been given nets.

Eventually the Scientist turned on his headlamp, so I turned on mine and indicated the location of the most recent footsteps. The were headed away from the trap at this point. The Scientist spotted/heard the bird, and gave chase, but it was too late. Once they get ahead of you, he said, its hard to catch up. They may not be quiet but the can be fast. That's why the basic plan is to lure it into the circle of kiwi-catchers such that it is surrounded.

We didn't catch a single Kiwi that night. We laid a couple more traps, and even chased a kiwi the Scientist spotted along the trail as we headed back. That's when I got my first actual glimpse of the elusive bird. A very brief glimpse, composed more of moving branches than of feathers.

I don't need to tell you that I was disappointed. I even felt a bit disappointed in myself for not giving chase to the one kiwi who came so close to me. After that episode, the Scientist told us that in that situation - the bird headed AWAY from us, outside of the circle of us, that it was okay to chase it ourselves. I felt this information was given a little too late. And looking back on it now, I don't think any of us were really given any idea of what we were doing or what was expected of us.

On the final trail out of the Sanctuary, we met up with the two dog teams - teams that had gone out with a kiwi-tracking dog. We soon discovered that they had each caught a kiwi or two. As we all walked out together, one of the volunteers from our team asked one of the dog team volunteers, "So what do their feathers feel like? Are they soft, or..?"

That's the secret, I thought. We hardly had a chance without a dog.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Kiwi Survey - Part I

The Scientist leading us through the forest stops suddenly. This is where we'll lay our trap. He sends each of us in a different direction, then starts setting up his equipment. One by one our head lamps wink out, until I'm standing there in the astonishing darkness of a forest at night. On the bank across the river I can see tiny points of pale blue light: glow worms glittering like a false night sky. If I look way up, I can see a little patch of real stars. I lucked out; I got a good night, calm and clear.

In fact, its amazing that I'm here at all. I was so blase about it when I got the email asking if I wanted to participate in the kiwi survey. Somewhere deep down I knew that I wanted nothing more than to chase down kiwi in the native forest of Karori Sanctuary. But life had gotten so.. busy. And do you know how hard it is to get home on public transit at one in the morning? But one by one the stars aligned. I'm only rostered on for one day a week at my vet clinic most of this month. And then there's the remarkable fact that I asked to borrow a friend's car last week and he decided I could just hang onto it indefinitely.

So there I was, standing perfectly still in the dark, clutching my net at the ready, ears straining for any sign of an approaching kiwi, even though I hardly knew what such a thing might sound like. The Scientist started up his recording of kiwi mating calls, the sound ringing in my ear and then back to silence. Actually, not silence. The nearby river was babbling away, playing tricks on my ears. Every tiny sound was a potential kiwi approaching my little spot of forest. And then there was the ringing in my ears. We live in a world so saturated with noises; how long had I been walking around with this ringing in my ears? There was no way to know for certain.

After what felt like ages, I saw the flood of light as the Scientist turned his head lamp back on. No luck this time. We set our nets down and broke out our energy bars. Time for a break. The Scientist explained that this was pretty average results for one of these missions. This was our second 'trap' of the evening, and no luck yet. In fact the closest we'd gotten was when we were first setting out. Someone spotted (or heard?) a kiwi and the Scientist ordered us to spread out, creeping through the forest to close in on it. One of our team actually got a net over it, but it was up against a steep ridge, and she couldn't get the net flat, and the bird just ducked underneath and made a run for it. The Scientist gave chase, but as he explained, when they're headed uphill through the forest like that they can easily outrun a human.

Then, as we're all busy with our snacks and our water bottles, we hear a kiwi calling, and its close. Everyone's picked up a net and in a few seconds, and we've all scrambled back into position. And there we all are, waiting in the dark once more.

To be continued

Sunday, 18 April 2010

I'm reproducing two entries today, one from before we moved into our house, and the next from just after.


back of house

View of the back of our house, the day of our house warming par

January 18th, 2010 - twenty-three

3:04 pm
I woke up this morning, with one thing finally sinking in about buying the house: New roots. I did the roll call of every place I've ever called 'home.' My number is twenty-two. That's every place I've lived with my parents, that's counting the trimaran, and every dorm room I've lived in, every apartment rented with friends, and the two apartments rented with Loren. Every place I've ever hung my posters on the walls, learned the quirks of the kitchen, every place I've ever love, and lived in, made new friends and lost track of the old, investigated the cupboards and figured out which wall to place my bed against.

I loved them all, my little 'hobbit hole' in Oakland's Dimond district, our beach house on Harbour Island, my little bunk above the kitchen table in the boat. I embraced each completely as my own, even as I knew that on some level it was always temporary. The longest I have lived in one place, is a few months shy of four years.

I guess I just started to feel the permanence of this thing we are doing, the buying of a home. And not just in the scary commitment of a 30 year mortgage kind of way. But in the finally being able to relax all the way. Embrace a place all the way. See it as yours all the way through. Paint the walls any colour you like. Plant whatever you like in the garden. Pull up the lino and put down some tile. Install a coat rack without worrying what the landlord might think. Plan on renovating the kitchen some time in the next ten years. Turn the garage into a guest room some time down the road. That kind of time scale. I don't know. It's a type of 'roots' I've never had. Ever. The first time my parents bought a house, was mere months before I moved out.

the lounge

Our sunny little lounge (aka living room)

February 24th, 2010 - A sense of place

7:04 pm
I heard a radio interview once with this lady who had written a book about how to connect with your house's history. Like genealogy for your house. I thought it was a silly idea. One more way our transient generation, feeling disconnected from a sense of community and a sense of place, try to create a sense of connection for ourselves.

But here I am, slowly getting to know my new home. I still think it's a silly idea, and yet... I have become obsessed with these vintage light shades. These house is 1950's, but the current decor is all over the map. The light shades in question, though, are so clearly from another era. There's two in the kitchen, one in the older bathroom. Then there's some anonymous modern stuff, and a bare bulb in each bedroom. Then I found four more of the vintage shades in a cupboard down in the workshop. I've identified two that I'd like to restore to their former glory. So instead of getting modern shades installed in the bedrooms, we're living with the bare bulbs until I figure out how to make that happen.

Today, I was changing the light bulb in my favourite kitchen light - a sort of spherical honeycomb blown glass thing - and realised it was really filthy. I just spent half an hour carefully cleaning it with a washcloth and some dish soap. When I was done, I held it up to the light and wondered when it had last looked this shinny and new. I thought of the people who purchased it, and wondered whether they were proud of this lovely modern thing. Or maybe it was just a common, ubiquitous light shade when it was new. Something no one gave much thought to until I came along.

I found myself wondering about these people, how they lived and what they were thinking when they picked the appalling wallpaper in the bathroom. And suddenly the idea of doing genealogy on your house didn't sound so silly.

vintage light cover

The honey-coloured lamp shade, newly cleaned

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Apartment vs. House

The one big thing that happened in the last three months is I got skin cancer, and we bought a house. I know that sounds like two big things, but they happened right on top of each other, so it feels like one really big thing to me. After two surgeries, I am all recovered now and have been declared cancer-free. As for the house, here's the first of a series of entries on the experience.

January 30th, 2010 - apartment vs. house

10:14 am
At 9:30 am, I head to the dairy (aka convenience store) down the street to pick up a banana and tinned fruit salad to go in my morning yogurt. It's already over twenty degrees C, and not a speck of cloud in the bright blue sky. Rarest of all, there's hardly more than a flutter of wind this morning. I have some chewy rye bread at home that I got from the Italian bakery around the corner, with which I intend to make toast with cream cheese. If I were in the new house, I would eat my breakfast at our new outdoor table and chairs, under cover of the umbrella. I would soak in this brilliant summer weather, out in the open air. Maybe I would bring a book.

Through the gate, up the stairs, around the corner, down a dark hallway, and through a door is my apartment. As I walk, I'm thinking about security. Despite the central city location, inside my apartment I feel safe and secure. I leave windows open, even the deck door open. Anyone who would go through the effort of scaling the wall to get to my deck would not be stopped by a locked door anyway. In the new house, I anticipate I might feel a bit... exposed at first. Outside the door, there will just be The Outside, not a series of other doors, some of them locked. I'm thinking about a story I heard, about some tribe living in a dense jungle. If one of them traveled out of that jungle, they would be very disoriented, because they wouldn't be able to focus on anything more than fifteen feet away from them. Because they'd never had to before. Even an anthropologist living with them for any length of time, would find themselves temporarily nearsighted.

Back in the apartment, it's stuffy and warm, even with the lack of sunlight. The living room windows are open, but they all face one way. I open our bedroom window, but the smell of the restaurants behind our building is too much for me. Instead I crack the guest room window, which I normally hate to do because the soot from the car park next door builds up on the window seal so quickly, and Goodness knows how much of it we end up inhaling. But we'll be out of here soon enough, so I'll chance it. In the new house, sunlight is angling in the North-facing windows in the lounge (living room) and master bedroom right now. If we threw open some windows, the worst we'd be facing is a little white noise from the freeway. Probably not much more than the hum of the city I'm hearing from our apartment windows right now.

This Friday the 5th, the new house will be ours. At 4:30pm we will be sitting in the empty house, waiting for the power to be switched on. We'll drink bubbly, and we'll eat take-away, and we'll talk about where we want to put the furniture.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The Day After Thanksgiving - Part II

I have been neglecting this blog. In my defense, my life got a bit hectic there for a while. The dust having more or less settled, I look around to find I haven't posted in exactly three months! I have not stopped writing in my journal, however. So I will be pulling entries from it to get things caught up. Starting with the second half of the Day After Thanksgiving story.

January 23rd, 2010
7:36 pm
Thanksgiving morning, my parent's elderly neighbor brought over the paper, as she always does. And although we are all various shades of liberal, socialist, anti-consumerist lefties, every one of us eventually found ourselves enthusiastically browsing the large stack of Black Friday sale inserts. The Tribune Herald's front page, above-the-fold story that day was about the fact that Wal Mart would be having a massive sale. Among us, Dad is clearly the most radical anti-consumerist, which is why none of us could fathom his level of interest in the subject. Turned out he was plotting to buy Mom an ipod and ipod-compatable stereo system for her birthday.

So now here we are, at the town's one and only mall, 7am on Black Friday morning. There's free egg nogg on offer at the door, and I'm actually a bit disappointed that the crowds aren't as massive as anticipated. That doesn't stop the lines from being painfully long at the electronics store, though, so I feel I've gotten a sufficient taste of my first ever Black Friday shopping experience.

On the ride home, Dad hatches a plan. How can Mom wait 'til her birthday to open these presents? We still have the flowers and decorations, the tasty left-overs, the coolers full of drinks... everything set up from the Thanksgiving dinner party the night before. Why don't we just go ahead and have her birthday party today?

We get back to the house, and stash the presents. By now Loren's up, and he'd like to go to the mall to check out the sales at the video game store. So back we go... Round Two: The crowd is picking up, and the lines at EB Games are decidedly less pleasant. By the time we get back, Dad has announced his Plan to everyone else, and discovered that A's husband also has a birthday coming up. So now it's a double birthday party, and of course A now needs to go to the mall to get her husband a birthday present.

So, Round Three: A and my mother in tow, back we go. This time the crowd has reached a level I'd call appropriate to my expectations, and we actually duck out fairly quickly in favour of shopping at Borders. When we get back, A and I establish an undisclosed secret location for present-wrapping (the kitchenette in the downstairs office) and I manage to track down a cupboard full of present-wrapping paraphernalia. I grab us sodas, snacks, and cushions to sit on, and we settle into gift-wrapping mode.

This is certainly the shortest-notice birthday party I've ever been involved in. It reminds me of a story about a friend of mine who helped throw a surprise wedding for her friend. I tell A about it - how it sounds like and appalling idea, but in context it actually made sense and was a great success. We kind of loose track of time, and forget that we haven't actually told anyone that we were going to hide out in our undisclosed secret location. Some time later, we're just finishing up wrapping and the boys come in, saying they looked for us everywhere, and had given up finding us. They'd actually come into the kithchenette to use the microwave to heat up left overs.

And that's how the party got started. Low-key, impromptu, and completely lovely. And that turkey soup Dad and I put together in the morning was the best I've ever had.

table set 3
The table all set for Thanksgiving dinner. This room is normally Mom's art studio.

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