Saturday, December 26, 2009

Pie in the summmer

When I was really little, four maybe, for one of our school holiday pageants my class had to dress up in summer gear and sing a song. I still remember the lyrics, because since then my dad has sung it on a faily regular basis.

"Christmas in July-yyy, There's no reason why-yyy, We can't have a pie-yyy in the summer".

Maybe I've been manifesting a summer-time Christmas since the age of four. But, in any case, here was our summery Christmas day (sans pie, but with lots of home-baked goodies).

Gorgeous weather on Christmas day. Mt. Karioi smmiling down at us.

A pile of presents waiting to be opened!

Some of us were very excited... others took a more laid back approach.

A stocking full of home-made strawberry jam with strawberries from our garden.Just a few of mom's cookies left by Christmas day. Straight from New Jersey to my belly.

Couldn't resist a mid-day surf at the beach. Seems like all of Raglan was out there. Then back to Solscape for a Brazilian style barbecue and potluck with 40 of our dearest (friends) and nearest (homesick backpackers).

Thiago teaches Kyle the art of the Brazilian barbecue.

Beautiful friends.
Beautiful food.
While the lamb was finishing roasting we did a gift exchange.

It got pretty heated.
Some people brought weapons to prevent gift theft. We fared well, ending up with an incredible home-made chocolate coconut cake (thanks Reiko!) and some gingerbread cookies. Hope you had a great Christmas, whether you are celebrating with surf or snow.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holding my breath

If bad things come in threes then I'm pretty much just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

#1- Got word from Jake, our local bit-too-laid-back computer guru. In fact I got three words from him. First text: "Bad News". I called him immediately, of course. No answer. Who sends a text like that with no follow up? Second text (24 hours later): "It's dead". Jake is a man of few words. Here's to hoping the more professional crew at the Mac store in Hamilton will have better luck.

#2- For 36 hours Dec. 21-22 I laid in bed teetering between actually throwing up and just being on the verge. Today I feel 90%. Still on the BRAT diet, which I hope to end by Christmas when Thiago will be teaching us the ways of Brazilian barbecue.

#3- ? Who knows. Coal in the stocking?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's beginningn to look a lot like...

First off, sorry for the hiatus. It was 80% that my computer is stuffed and 20% lack of motivation. Oh and an addition 10% of not wanting to interrupt Nelson while he's hard at work becoming a Dee-Ar. That's 110% of excuses. No wonder I haven't posted in two weeks.

Well, during that fortnnight Christmas has suddenly appeared. No, I don't ust mean the box of cookies that arrived from New Jersey yesterday (thanks mom!). While the Christmas craze has not quite made it to NZ in the same way that it manifests itself in the US, there is evidence everywhere that Santa is on his way to the Southern hemisphere. The weird thing is that kiwis decorate for Christmas the same way we do in the north. Sleighs, reindeer, snowflakes... ummm its summer people! Santa wearing board shorts, riding a 4x4, being pulled by possums might be more appropriate.

In our little house truck we don't have rom for a tree, but I was feeling like we should have some Christmas cheer, and start some Christmas traditions of our own. We are almost grown ups after all. So I made us some stockings to hang by the chimney. I am definitely not half as talented as my big sister in this regard. And hand-sewing is no joke. But, all in all, I think they came out pretty good (besides Nelson's stocking's club-foot).

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Dani and Nelson walk out of the supermarket in Te Anau. Dani turns left. Nelson says, "Where are you going? We need to go this way." They look up above where Dani is standing and see this street sign.They laugh way too hard. Nelson says "If your family was here this would be one of those jokes you guys say over and over again for years". Dani responds, "HELLOOOO, my freezers open". She is laughing so hard she almost pees her pants.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


It's Thanksgiving. No turkey. No cranberry sauce. No mashed potatos. No pumpin pie. No Ohio cousins. No touch football. No heated games of charades or pong. I think Thanksgiving is my most homesick day.

But I'm done pouting. I am thankful...

that we have a place in NZ that we call home and that we were welcomed back to it yesterday with hugs and kisses... that we are healthy and strong... that we can grow and eat good food... that we are loved...

I miss you all terribly and hope that your Thanksgiving is joyous, whether you are eating tapas, turkey, or vegemite.

US Families

NZ Family

NZ Home

Monday, November 23, 2009

Heading Home

No posts for a few days, but I can't even pretend to be upset that we were out of tech-contact for the past week. What have we been up to?
A little of this...

and a bit of this...

and some of this...
and heaps of this...

and a whole lot of this...
Our holiday is over and we are heading back to the North Island tomorrow. Can't wait to share all the pictures and stories.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

South of the south

Off the southern coast of New Zealand is a small island called Stewart Island. The only place in the world closer to Antartica than this is Tierra del Fuego. This fact, mixed with weather reports of rain (and possible snow) showers, did not leave us with high hopes for our time there. But, like the rest of our trip so far, we had amazing weather. It only rained one day.

We took the ferry over to Stewart Island and even though it was supposedly the calmest day in weeks, I had to work hard to fend off a reappearance of my breakfast. We then took off with ambitions of getting as far into the backcountry as we could in four days. Our ambitious first day, through bogs of mud left us fellin old and exhausted, so we shifted routes for an easier way back. Even so, my left knee is suffering from a bit of bursitis (ironically known as "house-maid's knee").

The ferry ride back was a bit rougher and two days later I am still feeling nauseous. Luckily we have a bit of down time in the cute little town of Riverton where Nelson will be presenting three workshops at the Southland Environment Center.

We're not sure where we will head from there since we got an email saying that the next track we had reservations to hike, the Kepler Track, is closed due to avalanches. Maybe out to Doubtful Sound, or the Hump Ridge Track, or as far on the Kepler as we can get. So many possibilities!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Tale of Two Hitch-hikers

The problem with buses is that they only go where all the people go. So, if you're looking to say travel along the Southern Scenic route of New Zealand... total population circa 1,000. You're out of luck.

I don't fully endorse hitch-hiking, but as an environmentally friendly way to travel places that don't have public bus service, it has its perks (If you're with a strong man who will protect you from getting kidnapped and murdered of course... or if you can just run faster than whoever you're travelling with).

So thumbs it was. We stuck ours out on the outskirts of Balclutha and got a ride within 15 minutes to Surat Bay, where we camped overnight at this awesome little campground. I was admiring some fine-looking home-made veggie burgers being cooked by a nice Irish lass and we got to talking. Turns out her and her fiance had a campervan and were travelling along the Southern Scenic route as well. They had some spare seats. We had some spare wine. It all worked out.

Travelling with them was like being in a coach bus that stopped at all of the sites we wanted to see anyway. Those stops mostly included beautiful sea-side vistas and short hikes to waterfalls. (Pictures to follow at some point). We all decided to camp at Curio Bay, another gorgeous sea-side campground that we shared with a few aggressive sea lions. So agressive that after dinner we were all trapped in the campervan. (Video to follow). Then this morning they drove us to Invercargill where we are treating ourselves with a night in a hostel. Woo hoo!

Best part is that we convinced them to go down to Stewart Island, so they'll be dropping us off at the ferry tomorrow morning. Sweet. Can you call it hitch-hiking when you end up getting door to door service to all of the best sights along your route?

So, tomorrow us and the irishmen will take a ferry ride across the tumultuos sound to Halfmoon Bay where we will spend three days tramping through native bush and searching for kiwi birds. So far South Island = Fabulous.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Otago Peninsula

A bit windy, but sunny. Here are some pics from our first two days in the South Island.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

It wouldn't fit in a backpack

Two days into our south island holiday and things are going grandly. Yesterday we went on a wildlife tour and got up close and personal with fur seals, sea lions, albatrosses, and penguins. Penguins were not afraid of us at all. I can now assert that it may in fact be plausible to pick on of the cute little guys up, but they are bigger than you think. And way noisier.

Pictures once we get on a computer that doesn't cost us $2/ 15 min.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Headin' down south to the land of the pines.

Heading to the Fiordlands for three weeks of penguin-spotting, kiwi-hunting, tramping, and cuddling. Yes, those last two are separate and distinct activities. Will keep you updated as best we can.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Put your money where your mouth is.

Tonight Nelson competes in the final round of The University of Waikato's Three Minute Thesis Competition. He is one of eight finalists out of a field of 60. The prize? $5,000 towards research-related expenses. (A wedding is research related, right?) I would say "break a leg", but he already has a possible broken rib after a rough surf session two days ago, so I'll just say "Wish him luck!".

Sunday, October 25, 2009

350 dancers

Hooray for 350 actions all over the world! Hooray for 350 people getting together and choreographing a dance! Hooray for that being 10% of our town's total population! Hooray for living in a town with all of these zany fantastic people!

Want to know what I'm talking about? Check it out!
Raglan (Whaingaroa)'s 350 Action organizaed by the Whaingaroa youth movement.

By the way: Two of the main dancers- Connor, the boy in the blue shirt, and Molly, the dark-haired girl in the white shirt- are part of our Solscape family. Hooray for them!

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Today is the International day of Action for Climate Change sponsored by (Well at least it is here already, those of you in other time zones still have a few hours left to prepare your action). Actions will be going on all over the world to let politicians and big business know that we are serious in our demands for action regarding climate change. I hope that everyone has a fantastic 350 day. We certainly did here in Raglan. If you don't have plans yet, don't worry there is still time. And, likely there is an action going on right in your neighborhood. Go to the website to check it out.

Here's how we spent our day:
Of course we rode down.... And got dressed up for the occasion.

Hooray for the market... No pesto though, boo.Hmmm... lots of people around. Must be the start of summer. But it kind of looks like they're all waiting for something. What's going to happen? ... Stay tuned.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Famous people still have to do the dishes

Since we have consistent internet, no tv, and no radio, we listen to a lot of internet radio. New Hampshire public radio, the BBC, and the KunstlerCast are some of our favorites. Recently we came across a new one called AgroInnovations.

And guess who they invited to be their guest this week? That's right, your favorite kiwi farmer/teacher/student (and mine). You can listen to Nelson's world wide web debut here. He's trying no to let it go to his head.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Relieved, I Suppose.

So I open up the internet browser at work and Google home page pops up with the latest headlines. While I normally skim them and move on to complete my always reception-related duties quickly, yesterday two headlines caught my eye (delaying my Lexulous moves for at least a half hour).

Bottom left: A woman let go of her baby carriage on a train platform allowing the baby to fall over the edge just as a train pulled into the station. Don't worry the baby is fine, but I watched the video about a dozen times and still don't understand how the kid survived. Unbreakable?

And center right. I'll zoom in so you can read this one yourself. Top headline from the NZ Herald.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Elves vs. Dwarves?

Didn't the elves and the dwarves team up when it really counted? When the ring was going to fall into the hands of the wrong crowd, didn't they band together to keep it safe? I wish I knew more about the Lord of the Rings to keep this parable going. On second thought, no I don't. I'll have to switch to terms more appropriate for middle earth(?).

You see, here in the real shire there has been a bit of a skirmish brewing between our two local populations. What's on the line? Is it nuclear testing? Nope, we all agree on that one. Is it the importance of fish and chips to a regular diet? Nope, we agree on that one too. What issue could be so important that it has fractured parliament and furthered the rift between the two cultures of this peaceful nation?

The Rugby World Cup, of course.

You see, apparently World Cup rugby is so important that it is every kiwi's right to watch it. That is why the National (conservative government) just had to step in when the tv station that won the right to air it could only provide free coverage to 90% of the population.

Wait, the government stepped in by funding other two other companies' bids with tax-payer money?

Wait, they told the other companies how much the first company had bid so that they could make sure to win?

Wait, the first company was Maori-TV and the others were pakeha (white) networks?

Ummmm... so all this amounts to illegal activity by the government to spend tax-payer money to ensure that a Maori owned tv station does not win rights to the biggest sporting event in the nation. Quick John Key... back track, back track.

Could you imagine if the US government gave one of our major networks millions of dollars in public funds to block a black network or women's network from gaining coverage to a major event? It's crazy. It would never happen.

It's pretty overt racial discrimination. Luckily, Merlin realized this and took things into his own hands before riots broke out in the streets over the quiddich match (wrong fantasy reference, I know). Let all elves, dwarves, orcs, and hobbits enjoy and be merry.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Someone told me that there is no civil court system in New Zealand. I don't know if that's true or not, but it certainly seems like the thought of liability doesn't even cross people's minds here. For example, can you think of a U.S. zoo where you can do this? While this guy just chills about 5 feet away?

If I look suspicious its because I was being "a giant baby". Sorry, I guess I was just pampered by being raised in a country that puts guardrails on roads on the edges of cliffs, warns people when they might be in danger of tsunamis, and actually puts fences around the animals in zoos.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

TV Sitting

House-sitting, always provides us with a welcome opportunity to expand our minds by choosing from one of the three quality programs we get via antenna (yes, you can still watch tv by antenna here, and no, we don't only get three channels, we actually get 12, but they all choose to show the same three shows... go figure). This week we have enjoyed Outlaw Bikers, apparently a Canadian production (Canadian bike gangs?), and The Hottest Place on Earth, a programme brought to you by the BBC. The extra "m" and "e" are for "mighty entertaining". Nelson has actually adjusted his life to make sure we are home to watch the next episode of this one.

As good as those shows were, it was a commercial that actually had us staring slack-jawed at the television. I wish I could embed the commercial here, but alas kiwi dumb commercials don't make it to You Tube as fast as American ones. Luckily you can watch the whole thing via their website.

I don't want to ruin it for you, but Vitality 4 Life sells vibrating "excercise" machines. You know the kind that shake you not-so-gently so you can shed pounds. Lee-Anne, a fitness expert, tries to convince us that we too can get fit, without even breaking a sweat.

I was kind of with her here.
And even here. I mean she is holding up her own weight at least.

Here's where it got a bit fishy.
But(t), seriously?

Oh yeah, new FTC standards require that I let you know if I am being compensated by this company for promoting their product. I wish. If I got one of these I could work out with a donut in one hand and meat pie in the other. Sweet as.