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!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dolphins! and Penguins! and Wallabies! Oh my!

Recently we sailed from the Bay of Islands to Auckland, and it was a trip filled with wild beasties. We spotted jellyfish, little blue penguins, small white and grey dolphins that swam with our boat, wallabies - not just small kangaroos!, native wood pigeons and peacocks.

This jellyfish was quite large and I really enjoyed watching it swim all around. One of the locals laughed at me for taking pictures of a jellyfish, but what can I say- there weren't any where I can from, and who knew they have spots??

The Bay of Islands (BOI) is an amazing place. I must have taken 700 pictures just like this one because everywhere you look it is just heartbreakingly beautiful. Sadly, pictures cannot do it justice. You will just have to come and see for yourself!

This is Hole In The Rock, and is a major tourist destination. At low tide boats can fit through the hole.

More wild beasties. That red flag is the flag of the Vice Commodore for our yachting club. That's right- we were invited to sail with the Vice Commodore! I tell you New Zealand is the most fantastic and fascinating place! Yachting seems so snooty in the US, but here everyone sails, and lots of people have boats and most are quite happy to invite us along! I think we are very lucky people.

This is for those of you that want to see more of the boat. I'll let B explain what happened to the main sail.
In BOI we anchored in this small, quiet nook and rowed to the beach:

And hiked up to this cemetary on the hill:

Quite a nice place to spend eternity, really.

But most importantly, we saw Dolphins:

P has declared that seeing these dolphins was one of the best experiences of her entire life. I think dolphins have this effect on a lot of people as our good friend, la hamburgler, went swimming in the BOI and told us that it was one of the most amazing experiences of his life.

B took some lovely video of the dolphins, which I will endeavor to install in this post later.

Then we went to Kawau, and the Mansion House. B has been here before, so read more about it here.
Below is a picture of the boat from the beach, above.

Here we saw wekas (a native bird that is very rare and reminds me of little dinosaurs), peacocks, wallabies and the also rare native wood pigeon, which is very fat and heavy looking for a bird, and makes a lot of noise when it flies.

This is the wood pigeon. This is a rather slimming photo of the bird, I think. Imagine it weighing an additional kilogram, and wheezing when it flies and you have a good idea of what I'm talking about.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Eleven girls.

To celebrate P's 11th birthday we invited 10 girls over for a slumber party. B was invited to join the Coastal Classic that weekend, so it was just me, the pigs, and 11 giggly girls.

Pascal was happy she was able to continue her tradition of pumpkin pie in lieu of birthday cake even though the seasons are opposite and we are heading into summer. Overall the pie was a great success with those daring enough to try such a strange American food, and we were happy to eat the leftovers!

This was my first time hosting an official slumber party, and I was a little nervous. I decided to adopt Nick Horby's approach in About A Boy and take it 30 minutes at a time. Thirty minutes for painting toenails and doing makeup, thirty minutes for dressing up and doing a fashion show, half hour for dinner, another half hour for pie and presents, 4 thirty minute blocks for a movie (yes!), half an hour for the pinata, 30 minutes of pillow fights... perfect!

Here we are painting toes:

Dressing up (so far so good!):Fashion Show:
Dancing to female teenage pop star music:
Dinner, cake, presents (no photos, sorry).

Complete with spying neighbor boy:
Headless pinata and wounded broom:
Gounded pinata, but not burst (for the record I did not tie the girls to the post- they did that themselves. Needless to say, the party was getting a little out of hand at this point):
Going in for the kill (this was a little too much like Lord of the Flies for me):
And finally, death of Pinata and subsequent feeding frenzy:
But being a girl party, the candy was brought upstairs and equally divided:
Two hour break for Labyrinth- P's favorite all time movie (mine too!). I was hoping to relax and sit quietly by myself during this time, but instead I called Poison Control. Turns out the glowing liquid in glow sticks is non-toxic, so if you accidentally swallow some and your mouth starts stinging and your stomach hurts you can feel comfort in the knowledge that is is most likely due to too much pinata candy.

After the movie the pillow fights started:
(Proof that we were in the running for Most Dreadful Curtains in a Rental. Sadly, we have plain white curtains in our bedroom- if not for that we certainly might have been The Big Winners.)

And finally bed time:
Look at those mischievous faces!
Bed time occurred many times that night. I finally fell asleep around 3am. At every sleepover I ever went to as a child, I clearly remember an Angry Mom appearing in the wee morning hours voicing Hysterical Threats. I had hoped to avoid that fate, but I am a mom and this was a sleepover, and while I did avoid baseless threats (Don't make me call your mother!!!!!) I did end up using my Adult Voice, and several girls ended up sleeping on my bedroom floor.

The morning after - watching a girly movie while I made pancakes for breakfast:
Look at those smiling, happy, bright faces! In fact this is how we all felt:
Since this party was such a success, I'm considering inviting 33 of my BFFs over for a slumber party when it's my birthday!

Happy Birthday P!