This is it. This is the end of this blog. I have run out of space to store photos on this free platform which I have been using since I started blogging in 2011.

The good news? I’m going to continue blogging, at Esther has been working hard lately to set it up for me. If you want to continue following me in any way except email or Facebook, you will need to sign up again.

I’m off on a new adventure—learning how to blog on a new site! I’m hoping I don’t run into any snags, because Esther, my tech support, is leaving on a trip in a few days.

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Brunner Mine

Every time we go to town, we pass the Brunner Mine memorial. We’ve been wanting to stop there ever since we moved in February, but never took the time until a few weeks ago. We read a book titled The Mine’s Afire a few months ago in preparation; it tells the story of the explosion that claimed the lives of 65 miners in the Brunner Mine in 1896. Reading that story made our tour of the mine site much more meaningful.

First, we saw the shaft of the Tyneside Mine, on our side of the river.


This is where the mine actually went down.


A nice walking track has been formed from the carpark at the Tyneside Mine down to the footbridge over the Grey River.


I don’t know what this structure was, but it was interesting!


The return airway of the Brunner Mine. They had to have a very good ventilation system for the mine, but even that wasn’t enough to prevent the tragedy.


This was ruins of the brickworks that was part of the mine complex.


This wheel was used for crushing the fire clay that was used to make fire bricks.


The clay came out of this mine.


A huge roof covers the remains of the beehive coke ovens. These ovens were packed full of coal, which was then burned for a couple of days with no or minimal air to remove impurities. Then, it was quickly cooled with water and pulled out to be sold as coke.


There are piles of bricks on both sides of the shed. I’m guessing these are the bricks that were used to close the doors of the ovens when they were making coke.


Looking across the river from the Brunner site. It’s hard to believe now that this was the biggest town on the Coast at one time!


We saw this dragonfly resting on the ground.


The entire Brunner site from the Tyneside side.


From the mine, we went up the road a couple of mile to the cemetery at Stillwater. This is where a large percentage of the miners who died in the 1896 explosion were buried. We were fascinated with the old graves.


The white fence surrounds the mass grave where 33 miners were buried together, many burned so badly as to be unrecognizable. It was very sobering to visit this place where so many people mourned at once on that day. Having read the book we did, we could understand better what it was like for them; the book was narrated by the fictitious son of a survivor, whose best friends had lost fathers or brothers.


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November 2018 photos Part 2

Here are the rest of the random photos from November.

Princess tried out the bag of walnuts for a bed one evening. She soon decided it was too lumpy and hard, and moved to the laundry hamper.


We got home from town one evening, and immediately Little Miss got her school book and got started coloring pictures. She loves her preschool workbooks!


We enjoyed watching the tadpoles grow and develop legs.


The lemon tree outside our door was covered with blossoms for awhile. They smell so good! There are still some flowers, but also a lot of baby lemons.


Mr. Sweetie and Mr. Imagination in the garden. We left strips of sod between beds to make nice paths to walk on. Because it rains so much, I didn’t want to be walking in mud.


Our rhododendron bush.


Living on the main road, we see all sorts of interesting vehicles. Some of the motor homes/ house busses are fascinating! Usually I don’t have the chance to get a picture, but this one stopped for a minute. It’s just a shed on the back of a truck.


Mr. Sweetie brought this huge bug in one day. We concluded, after some searching, that it is a huhu beetle (correct me if you know what it really is). That’s a lid that fits on a standard large-mouth preserving jar, so you can see how big the beetle is.


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November 2018 Photos Part 1

November was a busy month! I ended up with a lot of photos that don’t really work for their own posts, so I’ll divide them in half.

The strip canoe is coming along nicely. This was early November; by now most of the hull is finished. I’ll have to get another picture soon.


The boys were in a hurry to have a boat and couldn’t wait for the strip canoe to be finished, so they cut open four barrels and welded them into a boat.


After the boat was finished, they attached the motor that was given to Simon, which he fixed so it would work, and asked their dad to take them down to the river one Sunday afternoon. The three oldest boys boated down the Grey River to the next town, 10 km (6 miles) by road but I’m sure farther by river. It took twice as long as we estimated, because they often had to get out and push it over shallow areas, and they sheared a pin once and had to fix it. (They didn’t have a spare, but found an old fence with loose ends of wire hanging off, cut a piece of that and used it for a pin!) They came back soaked, both from pushing the boat through the rapids, and from the rain that fell for awhile, but excited and ready to do it again!


We had quite the rain storm the first week of November. Here, we got 127 mm (5 inches) of rain in two days; up in the mountains there was twice that much or more. The river was raging from bank to bank. The younger boys and I drove across the bridge and back in the van just to see what it looked like. A woman drowned in a tributary of this river the evening of the day we took these pictures, far upstream, when the bank gave way under her as she and her family were looking at the flooding.


We also drove down to the creek below our town. It was flooded, too, of course.


Mr. Sweetie succeeded in opening a mango seed. I had never seen what is inside!


When we were in Christchurch in November, we went to a bulk foods store, and one of the things I was excited to find was corn masa flour! It’s yellow, rather than the white I’m used to using, but to find it at all was special. I made tortillas out of it, and then decided to make them into chips.


Mr. Imagination and Little Miss enjoyed brushing the tortillas with melted coconut oil, and then I cut them into chips. We sprinkled them generously with salt, and baked them for about 15 minutes. They were delicious—but quite hard. I think next time I’ll bake them for a shorter time.


Chautona Havig’s free Kindle book this week is Allerednic, which is Cinderella in reverse. I haven’t read it—but since it’s free I will now!

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Book Review—The Three Faces of Nellie


Book: The Three Faces of Nellie
Author: Robynne Elizabeth Miller
Genre: Non-fiction, Historical
Release Date: November, 2016
Publisher: Practical Pioneer Press

Whether you love her, hate her, or love to hate her, Nellie Oleson is one of the most recognizable literary figures of the 20th century. But Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House on the Prairie series in which Nellie appears, had a secret. . .Nellie wasn’t a real person! Instead, she was a composite character created from three girls Laura knew in childhood: Nellie Owens, Genevieve Masters, and Estella Gilbert.

The Little House character of Nellie Oleson is one-dimensional: snobbish, selfish, and thoroughly unpleasant. But what about the real women behind Laura’s creation? They were an intriguing mix of the not-so-nice and the unexpectedly redeemable. In short, they were human.

Discovering the true stories behind Nellie, Genevieve, and Estella has been a fascinating journey. All three ended up on the West Coast at one point. . .true westward movement! One was widowed twice, one ended up divorced, and one died way too young. Two only had one child, and one had three, though she outlived her youngest by a very long time. There’s even some “Nellie-like” drama in there: Embezzlement. Lying on censuses. Shady land deals.

But there are some beautiful things, too. . .like the enduring love of a husband after his young wife died. Or the rare closeness of a mother and daughter who shared their lives as adults. Or the strength of a young widowed mother who not only cared for her son, but headed out west, in true pioneer fashion, while she did so.

Laura Ingalls Wilder did a masterful job of creating the character of Nellie Oleson. But the three real-life women behind that iconic character are, in my opinion, infinitely more intriguing.

My Thoughts:

I have loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books since I was about six years old. My dad read the series to us a couple of times while I was growing up, and I believe I was only six or seven when I began reading them myself. Now, I’m reading them to my own family for about the third time. Any time I see a book about the “story behind the story” of Laura, I’m interested. When the opportunity came up to review The Three Faces of Nellie, I jumped at it.

For the rest of my review, go here.

About the Author:

Robynne Elizabeth Miller is a speaker, writing coach, and author of multiple books, articles, and essays. Her larger projects include From the Mouth of Ma, Pioneer Mixology, The Three Faces of Nellie, and Nonfiction, Memoir, or Fiction? Dissecting the Works of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Robynne speaks nationally at writing and historical venues and teaches at writer’s workshops and conferences. She also serves as the Board President of Inspire Christian Writers, as well as their Director of Leadership, and leads two Northern California critique groups.

She holds an undergraduate degree in English Literature from Westmont College and a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction and Fiction from Ashland University.

She lives with her wonderful British husband and the youngest of their four cheeky children in the snowy woods of the Sierra Nevada mountains. When not writing, Robynne loves singing, felling trees, and making bacon from scratch.

Guest Post from Robynne:

Nasty Nellie Oleson. One of the most iconic literary characters in literature. Whether you loved her … or hated her … or loved to hate her, she probably left a lasting impression on you. At least if you were a fan of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder like I was growing up!

As a young girl, I loved Wilder’s tales of wagons, prairies, and grand westward adventures. Strangely, growing up didn’t change my love for all things Little House one tiny bit. But I did become deeply curious about the real life people behind some of the more fascinating Little House characters.

Namely, Nellie Oleson.

As I began to research Nellie, I learned a ton of interesting things. She wasn’t one person, for example. Laura Ingalls Wilder wove three girls she knew in childhood into one composite character for her books. One of the first “Nellie’s,” Nellie Owens, did have a brother named Willy, but did you know that he went blind from two separate incidents, one in childhood and one in adulthood? And did you know that all three of the “Nellies” ended up on the west coast at one point? Talk about true westward movement! One married a man who eventually went to prison for embezzlement, one did some shady land deals, and one shouldn’t have been a “Nellie” at all.

I suppose I was hoping for a good, old-fashioned redemption story. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if the mean girl in Wilder’s stories grew up to work with orphans or rescue unwanted animals? Alas, that’s not exactly what happened. But the stories of these three women were fascinating all the same.

I hope you have as much fun discovering the real stories behind the famous Nellie Oleson as I did!

To purchase your copy, click here.

To visit more of the blog stops on this tour, click here.

To enter a fun giveaway, click here.

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.

Links in this post may be affiliate links.

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Arthur’s Pass

About a month ago, the children and I had to go to Christchurch to renew our American passports. We left the city in good time and headed back across the mountains to our side of the island. The plan was to drop the older four children off at a Bible Study we often attend, to go home with Gayle, while I took the younger ones home. We thought we had some extra time, so when we reached the top of Arthur’s Pass we decided to stop at a nature walk we had enjoyed a couple of years ago. The older ones all went ahead, and I stayed behind at Little Miss’s slower pace. We thoroughly enjoyed the scenery and the flowers, and the break from the city and the van where we had been all day—but ended up arriving half an hour late at the Bible Study. It was worth taking the time to stop anyway!

Some of the scenery we enjoyed driving up to the pass:


This is a very noisy creek we crossed on the way from the carpark to the walking track.


The road had only reopened that morning after a rain storm washed out bridges a few days before. I think they got 3-400 mm of rain in two days (that’s about 12-16 inches). Normally, we would have driven through here to another car park, but we decided the van wouldn’t handle this washout very well!


We enjoyed the many alpine flowers that were in bloom.


These huge leaves belong to the Mount Cook lily, which was in bloom farther along the track than I reached.


Looking back along the highway towards the Canterbury side of the pass.


Little Miss ran ahead of me. She was enjoying her freedom!



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We have a problem. This problem takes the shape of seven very cute little kittens—but there are seven of them!

We came home from Christchurch on the 13th of November, and when I was walking into the house Grizzly called to me. I went to see what she wanted, and she was proud to show off her brand-new kittens. She had them on an old sheet that was laying on top of an old freezer in the carport. Two were with her—and two were blindly crawling on the ground. I quickly got her a box and a towel. Those little kittens are now learning to walk around and play, and my little people are enjoying them so much! They also add drama to the day. A couple of days ago, Grizzly decided they had to move. She brought all of them into the house, to a corner of our bedroom, when we weren’t watching. We put them back out in the box. She brought them in again over and over till we shut the doors. Then, she moved them behind a pile of boards in the carport. The little boys got some practice tracking down a cat, put the kittens back in the box—and then repeated the process! Yesterday, she moved them all to a spot under the lemon tree by the door. I was afraid they would be stepped on, so after dark I put them back in their box. Today, she’s happy for them to be there!

One week old:


Two weeks old:


I let the little ones bring the kittens inside this morning. We tried hard to get a picture of all of them, but they move too fast!


I was trying to get a picture of this tabby tortoiseshell, and the ginger one pounced on her!


This little tortoiseshell seems to be the gentlest of the lot. She also looks like she might turn out to be fluffy.


Two weeks after Grizzly had her babies, Goofball’s turn came. She was desperate to have her babies in the boys’ sleepout, and woke the boys up at midnight. She managed to push her way through the window and had one on the bed before they figured out what was happening. They got up and got her a box. She had three babies in the box, but come morning she wouldn’t stay with them. She would pick a kitten up and carry it around, searching for a way into the house. Several times we laid her down with them and held her still till they started nursing, and finally by lunchtime she had accepted the box and was staying with her babies. They have just opened their eyes now, so I’m letting the little ones hold them occasionally. Here they are at two days old. The one in the middle is a female; the other two are males.


So, that’s our current problem: Finding homes for seven cuties! Anyone want a kitten for Christmas? Grizzly’s will be six weeks old then.


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Book Review—Comfort and Joy


Book: Comfort & Joy
Author: The Christmas Lights Collection: Alana Terry, Toni Shiloh, Cathe Swanson, Chautona Havig
Genre: Christian Contemporary Romance, Cozy Mystery, Suspense, Christmas
Release Date: October 16, 2018

The third-annual Christmas Lights Collection is pleased to present: Comfort & Joy–four Christmas Novellas. From contemporary romance to cozy mystery and suspense, this diverse collection celebrates the comforts and joys of Christmas.

My Thoughts:

This is the third Christmas Lights collection. I’ve enjoyed all of them for the most part, although I’ll have to admit I struggled with this one to a certain extent.

Alana Terry’s Frost Heaves begins the collection.

For the rest of my review, go here.

About the Authors:

Alana Terry: Pastor’s wife Alana Terry is a homeschooling mom, self-diagnosed chicken lady, and Christian suspense author. Her novels have won awards from Women of Faith, Book Club Network, Grace Awards, Readers’ Favorite, and more. Alana’s passion for social justice, human rights, and religious freedom shines through her writing, and her books are known for raising tough questions without preaching. She and her family live in rural Alaska where the northern lights in the winter and midnight sun in the summer make hauling water, surviving the annual mosquito apocalypse, and cleaning goat stalls in negative forty degrees worth every second. You can find her at

Toni Shiloh: Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Once she understood the powerful saving grace thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior. She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness. You can find her at

She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the president of the ACFW Virginia Chapter.

Cathe Swanson: Cathe Swanson lives in Wisconsin with her husband of 32 years, and the long Wisconsin winters are perfect for writing and reading books! Cathe enjoys writing stories with eccentric characters of all ages. Her books will make you laugh and make you cry – and then make you laugh again. You can find her at

Chautona Havig: Amazon bestselling author of the Aggie books and Past Forward, Chautona Havig lives and writes in California’s Mojave desert where she uses story to connect readers to the Master Storyteller.

Guest Post from Chautona Havig:

Why Do So Many Christians Love to Celebrate Christmas?

“We don’t celebrate Christmas because we were ordered to celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. We were never commanded to celebrate His birth.”

Something about that statement didn’t sit well with me, but I was honest enough with myself to admit that it might be because I happened to love Christmas, and the idea of not celebrating it didn’t sit well with my twelve-year-old mind.

No, I didn’t go in for the Santa thing. I never had. As later my children were taught to say, Santa wasn’t “invited to our family celebration.” But still, the family, the joy, the music, the spirit of the thing moved me.

So, I did what I always did when I didn’t understand something. I asked Dad. “Why do we celebrate Christmas?”

If I recall correctly, Dad took a sip of coffee and watched me for several long seconds before he said, “What is Christmas?”

Ever the teacher, Dad had to put on his Socratic robe and make me work for it. I answered. “What we call the day Jesus was supposedly born. His birthday.”

“Okay. So, we celebrate Christ’s birthday on Christmas—on Christmas.”


He gave me that slight smirk that always meant something good was coming. “And what did God do when His Son was born?”

Dad stumped me there. I blinked. “I don’t know.”

“He sent out the biggest birth announcement ever known to man—a star, angels, music.” Then Dad continued his leading questions. “He…”

I got it. “Celebrated the birth.”

“Yes.” Sometimes Dad was a man of few words.

But I couldn’t be satisfied—not yet.

“So, why do we give presents to each other if it’s Jesusbirthday? Isn’t that backward?”

“Isn’t all of Christianity backward to the fallen mind?” When I didn’t answer, he smiled again. “What does Christ say about doing things for others?”

It wasn’t word-for-word Scripture—not even close. Just as he would have prompted again, I remembered Jesus’ story of the man who was fed, clothed, and given a drink. “When you do things for others, it’s like you’re doing them for Jesus.”

Dad shrugged then. “Maybe it’s just justification for continuing a beloved tradition, but it brings me joy to give you gifts. And Christ had something to say about how fathers love to give good gifts to their children.”

That brought me back to the original question.

“What about the fact that we’re told to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus? We aren’t told to celebrate the birth. Does that make it wrong?”

This time, Dad’s jaw hardened. I saw it twitch, and prepared for a blasting. After all, I had kind of argued with him. I hadn’t meant to, but I could see how it might be taken that way.

“Chautona,” he said, “don’t ever put rules on yourself that God hasn’t. We may not be commanded to celebrate Christ’s birth, but we aren’t forbidden, either. We have God’s example to emulate, and we have this truth.” His voice gentled when he saw he’d startled me. “We would never have been able to celebrate Christ’s death if He had not been born. If that’s not a reason to celebrate, I don’t know what is.”

What does all that have to do with Christmas novellas (or “noellas” like I prefer to call them)?

Well, people ask me all the time. “Why do you write so many Christmas books? Why do these Christmas collections? Why focus so much on the birth of Jesus and the trappings of cultural Christmas when it’s inferior to the “big thing”—the Resurrection?”

Dad’s answer is mine. Because it points to it. It draws attention to it. And because Christmas is one time of year—the only time of year in which you can walk into almost any building in America and still hear praises sung to God at some point. They slip in between love songs about giving away your heart at Christmas and rocking around Christmas trees to “Jingle Bell Rock.”

And even the more “secular” versions that aren’t an outright praise to God like “Silent Night” or “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” sometimes throw in Jesus anyway because they can’t quite leave out, “Merry Christmas” in some place or another.

So maybe our Christmas books are inferior to what “Easter” books could be. Maybe they are. But if Christmas trees, caroling, and “ghost stories” keep Jesus at the forefront of someone’s mind in October, November, or December, then I think that’s a pretty cool thing.

Happy Birthday, Jesus. Thanks for coming.

To purchase your copy, click here.

To visit more of the blog stops on this tour, click here.

To enter a fun giveaway, click here.

I was given a copy of this book by the authors. All opinions expressed are my own.

Links in this post may be affiliate links.

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Orwell Creek

We are able to walk to a creek in about 5 minutes, and reach the spot where it empties into the river in 10 minutes. The boys found a spot that is deep and calm enough for swimming, so twice in the last several weeks we’ve walked down there on a Sunday afternoon. One of those days, they took Mr. Imagination’s boat along, and Simon floated in it down to the swimming hole. Then, they played with it and swam for awhile. It is a beautiful spot down there!


This time that we went down was two days after a torrential rain (we got 5 inches in two days; some places higher in the mountains got 2-3 times that much). The river obviously ran over this place—see how the grass is laid down!


Notice how the creek was still high. It had gone down about 6 inches since the day before, though.


When it was time to go back, Simon and Mr. Diligence twisted a grass rope with which to pull the boat up around a couple of bends, so they didn’t have to carry it so far.


These pictures were from the second time we walked down. Foxglove is in bloom everywhere now.


We crossed the creek just above its mouth. I liked this scene, with Gayle carrying Little Miss.


Mr. Diligence, Mr. Sweetie, and Mr. Imagination didn’t need help!


Simon gave Little Miss a ride home in his bike trailer, but going up the hill to get back to town was hard work. He stopped and had her push a little ways!

Here’s a video of the boat ride. Somehow, the quality turned out pretty poor; don’t try to full-screen it.


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A couple of weeks ago, most of the children stayed with me over in Canterbury for a couple of extra days so that we could spend a day with our homeschool group. On one of those days, we visited a family who have been dear friends for a long time. While there, we walked down the road from their house to a dry river bed. There were poppies growing everywhere we looked in this river bed—such a beautiful sight! Little Miss got to pick flowers to her heart’s content, and then we gave her bouquet to the next friend we visited. A couple of my boys dug up some plants to bring home; they are taking root in an old wheelbarrow full of dirt that we have. We greatly enjoyed that lovely day!

This was the view from our friends’ house.


One of her favorite activities is picking flowers! We’ve had to forbid her to pick any without asking first, because she’ll pick any and every flower she sees, otherwise.


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