Thursday, December 25, 2008

For family and friends back home

Thinking of all of you today, and missing you greatly!

Missing the concept of a snowy Christmas (but not really missing the snow).

Missing gorgeous Arizona Christmas.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


B and I ran off to Whatipu beach for the afternoon awhile back.
I don't have much to say about it, but I thought you might like
to see the pictures.

(Gratuitous animal photo.)

This picture was taken at an overlook of the
Manukau harbour and the Tasman Sea.
Whatipu is the beach just beyond the hill on the right.

Note the lack of footprints.

We saw 4 other people on the beach.

Whatipu is a 45 minute drive from Auckland.

Looking back toward the overlook described above.

Suddenly, it rained.
We went against the posted warning
and took shelter under an unstable cliff.
Thankfully no rocks crushed us.
Suddenly, the sun came out.
Typical Auckland weather.

All of the west coast beaches are gorgeous,
but Whatipu is my favorite (so far).

In fact, I think we'll spend Christmas eve
exploring the caves at Whatipu!
Beats last minute shopping!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Summer Holidays 2008

When I say "Summer Holidays 2008" you are expecting to hear about my 4th of July, my 24th of July, and my labor day weekend, perhaps? Well, those were Winter Holidays 2008 for me. No, I'm talking about Christmas, Boxing Day, New Years Day, the Day after New Years day, which is also a holiday here, and P's summer School Break!

I didn't really explain this before, but Kiwi's aren't very enthusiastic about Halloween, and our harvest festivals (like Thanksgiving) all happen in the fall (March/April). With no Halloween or Thanksgiving merchandising to get in the way, retailers feel free to start stocking and hocking Christmas paraphernalia in mid October. Thus, having already survived 2 months of Christmas decorations and music, I'm looking forward to celebrating Christmas and moving on to the lesser known (to me) holidays. Boxing Day - what is this all about? Second day of the new year - just one more day to recover from New Year's Eve? I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, those of you getting snowed in, drink some hot cider by the fire for us! We will think of you while drinking iced tea on the beach. We hope you enjoy your winter holidays and we look forward to your visit in 2009!


Monday, December 1, 2008

Pak-N-Save Adventures

If you want to buy cheap plastic crap in NZ you go to The Warehouse, as Wallmart hasn't made it here yet. If you want to go to Costco you are out of luck. But you can go to Pack-N-Save where they don't bag your groceries, letting you bag them yourself using their leftover cardboard boxes (or bags you bring with you). But even if you bring your own bags, and even if you have a broken hand they will not bag/box your groceries for you and you must go to the designated packing area and do it yourself.

I believe the strategy behind this is that we, the consumers, are saving money because Pack-N-Save is cheaper since it has lower labor costs without baggers. Also, by not having bags, they are saving the sea turtles and maybe the rest of the planet too. In reality Pack-N-Save is not really any cheaper, but I love it for another reason- The Meat Department! All sorts of weird and wonderful here! Imports from Australia:
A small kangaroo steak will cost you $16NZ. Crocodile is more expensive at $59NZ for something that looked like a roast.
Bones. A popular enough item that it gets it's own space next to the sausages, rack of lamb and rump roasts.

But my favorite, favorite, favorite is this:
Need a close up of the sign?
I always thought offal was the stuff that got turned into pet food. But it is clearly on the human side of the meat department:
Pet food here comes in tubes like Jimmy Dean sausage. If the offal is edible I am at a loss as to what goes into the pet food.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Domesticated - Life in our hood

We bought a car:
It's a 1996 Toyota Starlet Reflet f. The Starlet (how darling) and was only shortly marketed in the US, 1981-1984, but has a reputation as a boring but reliable car in left-hand driving countries. For the American readers - think "Tercel".

Here is our small back yard:
Those little white specks you see on the lawn are charming little daisies:
I'm sure these daisies are an introduced species and are therefore really nothing more than noxious, invasive weeds that are slowly but surely strangling our native flora, but they sure are cute.

This is my neighbor's wall. There are some really great walls here. White vinyl fences don't exist here. Instead they use things like rocks and wood to build fences and walls. I really like these volcanic rock walls:
But it is clear that these neighbors plan on having vicious guard dogs forever:
Although, I've never actually seen any dogs there. Of course I haven't tried to enter the property either!

Coming up next... the Hegemonic Hedge!

Monday, November 24, 2008

pins and needles

Whilst riding my bicycle home from the beach I realized I desperately wanted to be on the sidewalk instead of the road. I then panicked and tried to jump a small kerb (curb) made of volcanic rocks instead of concrete. My tyre (tire) veered right while my bike and my centre of gravity continued forward and to the left. Somehow I managed to land on my right hand and broke my 5th metacarpel at my wrist joint.

That's me in my first cast. Below is my second cast which P got to doodle on. That arrow is to show the surgeons which hand they should operate on, should surgery be indicated (in case the cast and bruising isn't clear enough). That arrow, written in permanent marker, has caused me a lot of grief as I woke up with mirror images of that arrow on my forehead and on my sheets.

Post CT scan and surgery. I had my bones wired together under a regional anesthetic. Regional anesthetic is fantastic!!! This is the 3rd cast. I get the fourth cast this week which will stay for 6 weeks and come off just in time for Christmas.

As a special bonus you can see my baby tomato plants that are just starting to make tomatoes in the background (Summer! Glorious Summer, how I have missed you!) as well as the roof of our car. We bought a car. Which is good as I won't be able to ride my bike for awhile.

(Title credit - Miss SC. Thanks darlin'. You inspire me.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tiritiri Matangi

***Before finishing the writing on this post I broke my hand, so it starts out wordy then dwindles to near nothing - here's hoping the pictures are worth a thousand words!***

Saturday we took the ferry to Tiritiri Matangi island, an open scientific reserve/bird sanctuary. We were lucky enough to have as our guide a local scientist and professor that has been working on the restoration of this island for the last 30 years.

Tiritiri Matangi ("a place tossed by the wind"or "looking to the wind" or perhaps "wind tossing about") was originally settled by the Maori several hundred years ago, and after much fighting it ended up being owned by the government which leased the land for farming until the 1970's.

The island had very little vegetation after 100 + years of slash and burn farming and ranching, and since becoming a reserve has had almost 300,000 native trees and plants replanted by volunteers. They have also successfully released many rare and endangered native birds (and tuatara) on the island thus making Tiritiri one of the most successful conservation projects in the world (so says the website).

We walked along this beach:
where we played with these rays at the waters edge:We then hiked through the old growth forest - love these ferns!
And then through the replanted forests and took many exciting bird photographs like this:
Go ahead- just try to find the bird! Like I mentioned before we are great bird feeders, but not die hard bird watchers. For truly impressive pictures of the birds on Tiritiri click here.

We popped out on the far side of the island where we ooooohed and aaaaaahed at the lovely view:
Then B sang The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music:
as we walked to the lighthouse which used to be the brightest one in the Southern Hemisphere:
Where we posed for a token family lighthouse picture:
And a picture just for my mom (further proof I still exist. Look ma - two hands!)
Then we ate lunch with Greg the Takahe, an endangered bird from the fjords of the South Island. Greg must be short for Gregarious as he was hand raised and enjoys being around people and stealing lunches (we were told to not feed Greg). I loved watching Greg, one of only 230 living Takahes on the planet, run around the eaters. He was a lot bigger than I was expecting:
On the way back to the ferry we sat at this watering station enjoying the view and the bird calls:
Bird enthusiasts can become Supporters of Tiritiri and are then allowed to stay at the bunkhouse on the island for a small fee. The dawn chorus is supposed to be glorious!