Saturday, December 27, 2008


Somewhere in New Zealand someone is enjoying a slightly used Canon G9 Powershot camera, an Ibook G4, and the various other electronic bits and pieces that were with them. That someone is certainly enjoying looking at all of the pictures of Nelson and I from the last month that were not backed up. They're probably enjoying reading the last two weeks of Nelson's doctoral research (also not backed up). They're probably skyping with their friends on their new webcam as we speak.


We locked our electronics in the office at Solscape to protect them from the damp unlockable tipis. Irony is a slap in the face, isn't it? On Christmas eve someone broke into the office and stole the cash register and our electronics. Somehow Phil's nicer laptop was left untouched, sitting on top of the desk. Luckily our external hardrive was left as well, saving our backed up harddrives.

It was a crappy way to start our festivities. But, we pressed on. We had 27 (and growing) mouths to feed for Christmas dinner. So, down for a quick surf in the morning, then in the kitchen with the girls all afternoon. Here are the results of our hard work.

Then we held a Yankee Swap. I'm sure there are other names for the present stealing secret santa type game that my family plays, but since we are from New Hampshire, Yankee Swap seems appropriate.

Here is Nelson stealing Go's cinnamon soap.

And Go's expression when he figured out what was in the next present he opened.

And Go and Jake proudly displaying their Mother's Milk surf wax. A popular item in our exchange.

Well, here's to a good Christmas despite our losses (we keep trying to remind ourselves that they are just things after all). Hope everyone's Christmas was as nice as ours. And here's to hoping that someone's heart will grow three sizes in the next few days and we will get our pictures and research back.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Is it beginning to look a lot like Christmas?

This is my first Christmas in the southern hemisphere, and maybe its just me, but it seems as though here in NZ they celebrate a bit differently. Here in Raglan the local bar, the YOT Club, held a super hero Christmas party. Here are the folks we live with at Solscape (Me, catwoman, the joker, Kill Bill, and Lara Croft). We arrived at the party in the back of Danny (the Joker)'s house truck. I can't imagine what any random tourist walking down the street must have thought when six or seven of us rolled up. You can't tell here, but my costume was simple... a cape from the op shop, black leggings, and undies on the outside.

We also recently moved out of our caboose home. We really liked our little dorm-sized room, but since we are in high-season and living at a hostel, I suppose we need to take what we can get. Our new room is about a five minute walk from the center of Solscape at the tipi retreat center. Yep, tipi. Here is our home for the next few weeks:

The downside of living in a tipi is that it can be quite damp. They were built for the great plains after all, and not for the tropics. But, it is actually gorgeous and tranquil up there and we have an outdoor kitchen and bathroom. We are going to cook Christmas dinner up there using the earth oven with all the long-termers here. No super hero costumes this time.I'm not sure if its the superheroes, tipis, or summer weather, but it definitely doesn't feel like Christmas. None of mom's cookies, no 7 fish dinner, and no time with the fam. All I want for Christmas is New Jersey!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Seeing Stars

I saw stars today. No, not the romantic, "Oh, Nelson, I see stars in your eyes" kind of stars. Think less 40's love ballad and more road-runner v. coyote, yellow and red flashing stars. I've never actually seen stars before, and I've done some pretty dumb stuff. What could've caused this kind of pain?

Was it when at about 3am Nelson sleep-punched me in the side of the head? (He had a dream that he was in a fight with his childhood best friend, Za). No, turns out sleep-punches are only bout 1/10 as strong as real punches. A couple of moans and some belly laughs and we were both asleep again.

Was it when I got skegged today in the groin? You got it. Somehow I, and my board both got turned around in a wave so that I was laying on the wrong side of the board. Bad News. The next wave came and I caught a non-flexi surf fin to, what my older sister (a lawyer with two kids) calls, the Va-Jay-Jay. Man, pubic bones are sensitive. I thought I might pass out it hurt so much.

Sleep punching and a powerful skegging... Sorry Nelson, no loving for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


December 1st was the start date for my PhD research at the University of Waikato. I got my student ID card. I met with my supervisor. I got government subsidized health insurance. 

I've been thinking about my research question. Thinking is nice because you can do it anywhere. 

PhD: Proximal hamilton Domicile: We are living about 60 kilometers away from Hamilton in Raglan, world famous for its left-hand surf break. 

PhD: Potentially habit-forming Diversion: As a study-break from thinking, I thought I might experience the local culture. 

PhD: Pretty happy Dude: This is fun!

PhD: Potentially harmful Dump: This clearly needs more research!

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Oops... here are the pictures I thought I had tagged onto the end of the last post. Pictures of Nelson on a board coming soon. It seems we both have caught the bug. He was a quick study.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wainui Road

Wai: (n.- Maori) Water
Nui: (n.- Maori) Big

It is starting to feel like summertime here in Raglan. Our (its mine since I have now officially lived here for two weeks) normally quiet beach was swarmed with people this weekend. It is a huge change from mid-week when there are four of us out at the beach at any given time. Me, Nelson, and the cuddlefish. 

Solscape is located on Wainui Road, which leads to the famous Manu and Whale Bay surf spots. Surfers come here from all over to ride the longest left-hand break in the world. At some point I will graduate to these legendary surf spots, but for now I am content at surfing the waves at what locals call "the beach" (our beach).

On this particular day, although we are looking very hardcore (Nelson in his sneakers and me in my rented wetsuit), the Wai was not very Nui. Which is fine for me. While I am way above the bunny-hill, I'm not quite ready for any blue square surfing. I am a happy green circle betty. So here I am, on some of the flattest sea we've experienced looking like a champ. I don't want to brag, but I stood up on the second wave I caught. I think this could become an addiction.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


There is so much to be thankful for this year. Besides my wonderful family and boyfriend, my education and being able to travel. I can now add to the list that I am thankful for the fact that I live here:

I was feeling a bit homesick on Thursday. Growing up Thanksgiving in our house was almost bigger than Christmas. We would gather with a throng of extended family, always including the Cincinatti fourth cousins. The Macy's parade in the morning, cooking all day, and playing football. Remember when Zach ran into the palm tree during the fake Florida thanksgiving, and when we ate turkey dinner in Cinderella's castle? Well this Thanksgiving looked like it was going to be turkey, parade, and football free (they call it gridiron here). To top it off, Nelson was in Hamilton because he did a presentation Wednesday night. Yeah, so Thursday morning was a bit of a sad time. 

But, at the risk of sounding like a peanuts holiday special, Thanksgiving night was magical. We have been hanging out with a couple from California who are bike-touring through NZ. Jen and I decided that we would go all out and show the multinational crew of wwoofers what thanksgiving was all about. It wasn't hard to convince everyone that a holiday centered on eating was a good idea. By the way, the irony of Eurpoeans celebrating a day of peace with the Native Americans translates well across language barriers.

After our 2 hours of wwoof work Jen, Dan, and I headed down to our local grocery store, which is the equivalent of the American chain 7-11. We didn't have high hopes for putting together an authentic T-day meal. But, thanks to a super helpful French-canadian store clerk we found nearly everything we needed (chicken on the barbey is almost the same as turkey anyway). Yep, that's right. In New Zealand in the beginning of summer we found yams, stuffing, and get this... cranberry sauce.

Just like home, once we started cooking, the kitchen became the most popular place to be. Our list of 8 feasters quickly turned into 15. We were starting to worry about our food supply. But, in true Charlie Brown fashion, (or maybe I'm thinking of the fishes and loaves parable from the Bible), the food was more than enough. The final (and best) magic happened right as we finished eating. While our feasters were in full clean-up mode and we were rocking out to some tune in walks the cutest hitch-hiker I've ever seen, just in time for some warm leftovers.

Happy Thanksgiving Cincinatti, New Jersey, and even Missouri.

Cook Crew:

Just like Gev and Courtney, Laurence seems to be delivering the message to Dan:

The feast:

Saturday, November 22, 2008


We recently found out that despite our beliefs, there are actually a small group of people who anxiously await our posts. So, to both of you, sorry for the lack of posts this week.

We spent the last five days in Gordonton, just ot the north of Hamilton, at Judy Chrystall's asparagus farm. Can't you see the asparagus?
How about now?


Um yeah, picking asparagus is tricky. We were in Gordonton because Judy hired Nelson for  a design project. Judy is looking to have a farmstay business, and so needed to update the area surrounding the lower level of her house. We tidied up her garden and gave her a plan to incorporate chicken tractoring into her expanding orchard. Here are the results:
Just like in Murray and Lindy's garden in Wanganui, we dug some keyhole gardens. They are a good way to maximeze the amount of planting space in a small bed. This one uses a tree stup as the center space:

After leaving Judy's we headed to Raglan and are back at Solscape again. Loving the beach, loving the sun, loving the good folks. 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Goodbye Wanganui

Goodbye to our first home in New Zealand. Goodbye Quakers, goodbye wonderful saturday farmer's markets. Goodbye music-making friends and their cute children. Goodbye environment center. Goodbye escaping chooks. Goodbye little dark house. 

I don't have a good enough internet connection to post pictures of all these wonderful Wanganui memories, so that will have to wait. We are headed to Hamilton to reconnect with our stored gear, to Gordinton for a design job, and then off to Raglan. 

Wanganui, we miss you already.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Honest Opportunities in Permaculture Education

This weekend Nelson led his first workshop under a model he calls H.O.P.E. The idea is that an experienced educator holds a workshop at a landowner's property that wants work done. The workshop benefits all involved, the educator gets paid, the property owners get work done on their land, and the participants get a cheap introduction to permaculture. Since we set the pricing, we were able to offer the course at a sliding scale and discounts for participants who chose to bike or carpool (23/24 people either carpooled or rode a bike!!). Both workshops, Saturday and Sunday, went wonderfully. We met great people, saw some familiar friendly faces, and got a lot of work done. The weather even cooperated and we had two of the most beautiful days since we arrived in Wanganui. Although, Nelson did suffer an unfortunate sunburn, revealing his true status as a "redneck".
This workshop was held at TreeLife Organic Nursery, a farm that belongs to our friends Murray and Lindy. The workshops were divided into two sessions. The morning session was a lecture/discussion introducing participants to the ethics, principals, and working concepts behind permaculture. Then we took a break for tea (of course) with yummy goodies expertly prepared by Dani and Lindy.After the break it was into the field to excercise the concepts discussed in the morning. The participants divided into small groups and rotated through three stations. Dani ran a workshop on creating a keyhole garden, a way to maximize planting space in a small garden. Murray and Lindy shared their expertise in tree planting, pruning, and grafting. Nelson showed three ways to begin raised beds.All in all it was an awesome weekend. We got tons done and lots of good feedback. We think it is a workshop model we will take with us as we move (in only two days) away from Wanganui.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Faith Restored

At 4:55 pm Nov. 5th we learned that Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States of America. Thus began our completely non-partisan celebration. Wearing our most patriotic outfits, we hugged, we smooched, we danced, and then we pledged allegiance to a  picture of the American flag we found on Google Image search. 

It is the first time I have pledged allegiance to the flag since high school. Thanks to having Spanish first period with Mrs. Foster, I even recited it en español. I think this editorial sums up what I feel. As an expat living overseas and a traveller it is acceptable (even admirable) to be American again. It feels good. 

Unfortunately before Obama could offer his acceptance speech, our coverage of the US elections was preempted by... 
NZ Wheel of Fortune! 

Oh well, I guess we'll have to You-Tube it later. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Bit of Distraction

Although it's already Nov. 4th here in NZ, we have about another 16 hours before voting begins in the US. Like you, I feel stressed, anxious, and a bit overwhelmed by all of the campaign coverage. So here is a little break from all the buzz... some pictures of what we've been up to the past few days.