Wednesday, December 31, 2008
And Trevor, deep in your heart, I know you would rather hear Back in Black than Joanna Newsom. It's just gotta be true.
With that, I'll make a boring choice at #46 - Revolver: The Beatles. It's my favorite Beatles album - does anyone else out there think Sgt. Pepper is overrated?.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
So yes, there is something more self-indugent than a blog, and that is a Best-Of List. Hey, here is my opinion! And you should care! I'll tell you what is worthwhile, not that other stuff! And so, in the spirit of blogs and self-indulgence, I will blog about my Top 50 albums of all time. And, to make it even more maudlin, I will start with number 50 and only release one album every few days, just to generate suspense.
So stay tuned.....I'm sure you cannot wait!
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Beekeeping Sweet Success Story #1
We harvested the first honey today! We took about 11 frames which contain about 5 pounds per frame of honey, so we’re probably at plus or minus 50-55 pounds. Not exactly sure what to do with it now…I used all of my pint sized canning jars making multiple batches of green tomato chutney!! Well, I suppose lack of canning supplies is just the curse of the suburban farmer. Vienna wants to set up a “honey stand” since her lemonade stand a few weeks ago pulled in over $20!!
The kids enjoyed helping out and tasting the freshest honey ever! Boy, were we all sticky!! Our friend Sandra and her son Croft stopped by to watch and help. Sandra was an excellent documentarian! Chris is working on (or perhaps you’ve already received) an online photo album of the day. The only picture missing is the one documenting the size of my right hand! I got stung (I believe that makes a career total of 7) on the hand between the thumb and pointer finger. I am now swollen from knuckles to elbow!!! The honey will only taste that much sweeter to me!
First step is to pull the honey supers (boxes) from the hives and encourage the bees to move elsewhere. We used the back end of a shop vac for this and found it to be a perfect kick in the old stinger. They just blow away. Then the bee-free frames are put into a plastic tub with a lid. Once all the frames are in the tub, we haul that to a bee-free location which we deemed to be the sunporch. We realized after the fact that this was a bit nasty toward the bees since, the hives being just outside the sunporch, they could see exactly what we were doing with all their fine craftsbeeship. Poor gals! The next step is to scrape the wax cappings off of the honeycomb and then place the whole frame into a big centrifugal spinner called the honey extractor. The extractor holds four frames at a time, so for a small harvest like ours it went pretty quickly. Next year the Vienna and Kezia will have to earn their honey! Once the honey is spun, it just settles down through a sieve and into a collection tank which has a big valve on it to pour it easily into jars. The wax cappings mixed with dribbles of honey are then put into a strainer to remove the excess honey for use. The wax can then be melted and used for candles, etc. These “dribbles” of honey ended up in our case to be about 3 pounds! For now the bulk of our harvest is still in the collection tank and we’ll figure out our bottling strategy later on.
After all was said and done, we had some first hand experience of how fast the honeybee can communicate. Chris brought the plastic tub that had stored the frames before the spin cycle outside to hose down. It had a relatively small amount of honey in it, so he figured he’d just wash it away. He wasn’t out the door more than 45 seconds before we had about 20 bees around…another minute and it was hundreds! It was pretty cool. So we decided to let the bees clean it up for us and at least re-coup some of their losses. After about an hour in the yard, most of the honey from the plastic tub was cleaned up and stored for the winter back in the hive.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Here is a final album that covers the last part of our big travels around NZ, on the South Island from Nelson to Christchurch:
New Zealand Travels 3
Sunday, September 7, 2008
7 weeks into our trip, we are really getting the hang of this kiwi accent. The most noticeable aspect of it, and I think the thing that distinguishes it from British, or Aussie, or S. African (which of course all sound the same to the American ear) is the short "e", which they change to a short "i". We first noticed it when we met our cab driver from the airport, whose name was Terry, but they way he said it sounded like "Teary". We took the ferry, which they say like "firry", head sounds like "hid", dead sounds like "did", etc. I've apparently been giving things that sound like "lic-tures".
The challenging thing to me is to determine when to start talking like a local. Should say elevator, when I know they say lift? It seems obvious that I should. But should I start to say "firry"? I think we have been sounding more kiwi, and probably sounding very silly. I remember talking to a neighbor about their kids' "football" games, and she said, " you mean soccer, right?". I didnt know if she was just pandering to me or if they really said 'soccer' here. (they do.). I'm starting to say ba-NAH-nah or to-MAH-to as they do here - but I probably just sound ridiculous. Still can't say "zed" instead of "zee" though -- that is too weird. I did enjoy hearing a song by Zed Zed Top on the radio however!!!
Other things they say that I hope not to bring home with me: bell pepper = capsicum; bathing suit = togs; pick-up truck = ute; kitchen counter = bench. The weirdest one for me has been course = paper, as in "I am taking three papers at university this term", or "what will I need to do to pass this paper?" Another weird one is "pie" - I would never turn down an offer for pie at home, since it is one of my favorite things -- but pies here are savory, not sweet, and usually contain ground beef/lamb - like our "pot pie" - and are the kind of cuisine you find wrapped in plastic sitting in a warming machine at a convenience store, which here is called the "dairy", which sounds like "deary". Sigh.
Monday, September 1, 2008
In the meanwhile, some more random NZ observations:
- Barefeet. We see an awful lot of folks in barefeet - students in school, people walking the streets, in stores, restaurants, everywhere. It is kind of cool that the streets are clean enough to do this - even so, there must be some serious callouses.
- Condiments. Kiwis seem to be very stingy when it comes to condiments. Ketchup (or to-MAH-to sauce), mustard, or anything else, is not to be found in huge vats to be pumped out to your hearts content. Even when you order French Fries, (chips), you might get charged an extra 50c for ketchup. We went to McDonalds (I know, I know) and asked for extra ketchup - they gave us one little packet. When you get fish and chips you have to pay extra for tartar. They do have this lovely stuff called sweet chili sauce, that is definitely worth the extra 50c...
- Heat. Most houses and buildings do not have central heat...they all have little portable electric heaters in every room. It makes for cold buildings in the winter (and big electric bills for people renting houses!!!). All hotels have heated towel racks, which is a nice touch, but mostly pointless.
- "No worries". This is my favorite NZ saying (although it might be Australian) - said as we might say "You're welcome".
- Friendliness. Everyone and their brother tells you about how nice Kiwis are. It is really true. People go out of their way to be nice and help you out. It is contagious - I think I've become nicer. We did have one experience with a rude waitress, but by the end of our meal, she had magically disappeared from the restaurant. Maybe she was deported for not-nice-ness.
- Oysters. They have the biggest oysters here. I love raw oysters, but this monstrosity was just too much (and it is not like you can take a little nibble of a raw oyster, you've got to just eat the whole thing). It almost made me toss my cookies. And would it have killed them to serve a little cocktail sauce with it?? (see above).
- "Wee". We like the use of the word 'wee'. As in, "it's a wee bit cold today", or "Would you like a wee more wine?". Kezia has been referred to more than once as our "wee one". I saw a truck advertising a fix-it guy called the "Wee Job Man". And yes, 'wee' is also used in the traditional way...
Saturday, August 30, 2008
It's been interesting to see the Obama speech and the coverage it gets here - it has been very pro-bama - one of the editorials in the NZ Herald said "The US has found its soul again".
Interestingly, Condi Rice visited here last month and the papers heralded the visit of the "most powerful woman in the world". I dont think most Americans think of her that way.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
- Waitomo is a land of glowworm caves. Glowworms are not worms at all, but insect larvae that live inside caves and glow in order to attract food. they create this otherworldly luminescence inside a cave that is extremely cool. Cant get good photos of it though.
- At Waitomo we stayed in a novelty hotel that was a "Hobbit House" - I know, it sounds cheesy, but it was pretty well done, and the girls loved (even though none of them know what a Hobbit is). The pics capture it well.
- Then we went to Lake Taupo and Rotorua, the geothermal wonders of NZ. Burping mud and steaming ground everywhere - it was stinky, but fascinating.
- finally, you can check out a video of us Zorbing (I'm getting good at this YouTube stuff)- Zorb is the latest of NZ's weird and wild adventure culture of jumping off bridges, airplanes, and the like. This is much less scary, but quite fun - they roll you in a big plastic ball like a hamster down a hill. The ball is filled with water so you slosh and slide around as you roll down the hill. Bizarre, but a blast.
Photos if you click below:
|New Zealand Travels 2|
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
It can be hard...sometimes you want to browse a nice bookstore or want to go on a little wandering hike, but if the kids are antsy, it just isnt possible. We didnt see as much as we wanted or do quite as much, but we saw and did a heck of a lot. And seeing a new country through our kids eyes was quite priceless.
Also, the playgrounds here are just awesome. We found some really awesome playgrounds - often with something called a flying fox, which is like a long zip line that allows you to fly across the park. I'll try and post a YouTube video so you know what I'm talking about. (update: here it is)
I've posted the first of a series of photo albums on our trips around NZ. I'll go in chronological order - this one is our first trip to the Northland a few weeks ago - click on the photo below to go to the album on Picasa:
|New Zealand Travels 1|
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Auckland-Bay Of Islands - Cape Reinga - Whangerei - Auckland - Waitomo - Taurangi - Taupo - Rotorua - Wellington - Picton - Nelson - Abel Tasman - Kaikoura - Christchurch
the kids are very happy to be back to our 'home' in Devonport.
lots and lots of stories to tell. Now that I am back in my office at Massey U, I'll try to dish out stories on a regular basis - plus photos of course!
I'll also try to get to questions that have been asked in the comments...Cindy asked what it is like to watch Olympics in another country. It was quite interesting, none of those syrupy personal stories like NBC likes to show...but of course the focus was on NZ atheletes, and we saw all of the rowing and kayaking you could imagine. NZ won 9 medals, and all of the winners are rock stars now. They finished in 26th place among countries, but, as they like to remind viewers, they were 9th in medals won per capita! Although they are generally pissed off that Australia won more medals, even per capita.
Friday, August 22, 2008
V has a fever now, so we are taking it easy in our hotel which none of us are too upset about because it is so beautiful a spot.
Love you all.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Yesterday we took the ferry to the South Island - a three hour tour on the ferry which was more like a little cruise ship, with a kids playground, and several restaurants. None of this was needed because the scenery was phenominal! Now we are in the "sunniest spot in NZ", Nelson, which is in some kind of rainshadow and the sun always shines - a welcome event for us as we have chosen to visit NZ in a winter with record-setting rain!
Itinerary: stay in Nelson a few days to enjoy the sun, then off to see dolphins on the East Coast, and fly back to Auckland next week. Won't make it all the way to Queenstown, which is where the most dramatic Lord-of-The_Rings type scenery is....the drives are too long and the winter weather is too unpredictable . But, as they say here, no worries. We'll just have to come back in the summer!
Friday, August 8, 2008
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
We just got back from our trip to the Northland, and it was amazing. We toured the Bay of Islands, travelled to Cape Reinga and basically zigzagged the top portion of NZ. The weather finally improved too, and we had some sunny, if chilly days.
Cape Reinga is the northermost point on NZ, and juts out on a peninsula where the Pacific meets the Tasman Sea. Words cant describe the beauty, so photos will follow in the coming days.
This photo was taken on an idyllic stretch called 90 Mile Beach, which is not quite 90 miles, but close. It is just a vast expanse of beautiful beach, and the bus drives along it. You drive for miles and miles and dont see another human. It's unbelievable.
V loved it, and she was mesmerized by the gentle surf slowly sinking her feet in the sand. Moments after this photo was taken, a slightly bigger wave came up over her knees, knocking her over. I rushed in to save her, but in grabbing her out of the surf, our camera got soaked, and is no longer with us. Needless to say it was worth it! Unfortunately, V was quite distraught over the whole thing which was quite sad because she was having the time of her life (She did get quite wet and sandy).
Anyway, there was lots more on our little trip - cave explorations, sand dune tobogganning, kiwi bird sightings - but I must go to sleep now.
C's Aunt Claudia arrives tomorrow morning and soon we will head out on more adventures.....cheerio...
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Friday, August 1, 2008
Thursday, July 31, 2008
...on a rainy Auckland day.
- sensible money. NZers have adopted one and two dollar coins - like the Canadians. I like this. But even better than that, there doesnt seem to be tax, and all things are priced in multiples of 20 or 50 cents. So nobody uses pennies (I dont know if they even exist) and 10c coins are somewhat rare to get. So no pockets full of confusing unfamiliar coins. Excellent.
- we've seen a few forts, and they all seem to have cannons with signs next to them that say "never fired in anger". They are quite proud of this, which is sweet.
- tipping. It's not expected, but always appreciated. What the heck does that mean? I need a rule to follow.
- Milo. It's an Ovaltine-type thing, and you see it everywhere. It's not bad.
- Food. I had heard NZ food called 'just like British food, but with a better view'. (that's not really a compliment). However, we've had some quite good meals here (the accompanying picture notwithstanding). nothing fancy, but everything is served with very fresh veggies or fruit, which is locally abundant, even in winter. Auckland has great cafes all over with excellent espresso and hearty sandwiches.
- Mallomars. Well, not really, but chocolate covered marshmallow (sometimes pink marshmallow) in the shape of fish seem to be somewhat of a national treasure. Curious.
- Cleanliness. The streets are impeccably clean here - clean enough to eat a choco-marshmello-fish off of.
- Driving. I adjusted to left-side driving quicker than expected...which was quite easy. The NZers are as polite in their driving as they are in real life. I've jumped a few curbs, but that't it.
- Place names. The Maori-influenced town names are quite cool. Whangarei, Otahuhu, Takapuna, Hapuku, and Rotorua all sound a lot better to my ears than say, Piscataway, Weehawken, or Mahwah.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Sunday, July 27, 2008
When I got home, the power was out, and stayed out for a few hours...thankfully we were able to light the gas stove with a match and hover in the kitchen as C made a big vat of soup. Mercifully the elec came back on before bedtime as it would have been a cold night!
Nonetheless, the weather is pretty dodgy here today so its a good day to head out to a cafe for a flat white (NZ version of a latte) and a mince pie.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
on the bright side today was our first day without rain...and the girls found a local chocolatier. so life is good.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
A few posts ago, I talked about the weather, and how it alternates pouring rain and bright sunshine. It does this all day, every day (as far as our experience goes). You might realize that this creates perfect rainbow conditions, and we see a few of them every day. But these rainbows, that the girls snapped today, really take the cake. Enjoy.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
By the way, we found our manuka honey (it was not too hard, the stuff is everywhere - manuka glazed ham in the deli, manuka candy, etc). So that part of the quest is over -- I kind of was hoping it would be more of a hunt for the stuff. No regrets though...its delicious!!
Sunday, July 20, 2008
The weather here is very interesting. The esteemed NZ band Crowded House once had a song called "Four Seasons in One Day", which I now understand. Each day starts out with lots of rain and wind and cold, but at some point in the morning the sun comes out, bright and hot, teasing you into thinking it will be a beautiful day. By the time you get outside, the clouds are coming again, and at some point there is a downpour, but only for 15 minutes, then the sun comes out. It's very confusing! Nonetheless, no complaints, as I've been running every day, and I didnt think I'd be able to do that in winter!
Today we climbed another volcano near our house (North Head) . It was great, and the girls loved it. Tomorrow I'll head to the university and Thursday I start teaching. Later.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Thursday in Auckland...Kids woke up around 4:30, which isnt bad. Another day or so and we'll be through the time change just fine.
I went for a run this morning down by the beach in Devonport. The morning felt very very much like Seattle. It seems to always be wet, but never really raining. In fact, Devonport feels very similar to Seattle neighborhoods we know - Wallingford, Green Lake, etc.
We climbed the volcano around the corner from our house (!) this morning and the kids enjoyed it, despite the wet, cold foggy day (see pic). Explored Devonport and got wet and sandy at a beach with a great view of Auckland (when the fog lifted). We took a ferry into Auckland. Walked around lots. Saw some of the coolest trees ever in Albert Park and had sushi. The kids were wiped but it was a very good day. Pix below if I can upload over my slow connection...whoops, too slow.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
- surprised at how the fruits and veggies (or veges as they say here) were not really different at all from back home. disappointing.
- loved the yogurt selection. found some with the infamous manuka honey. yum!
- biggest problem: bumping into people. I didnt realize that when people drive on the left side of the road, they also walk on the left side of the aisle. I didnt realize in it, but when I turn right around a corner in the market, I take a tight turn, while when I take a left, I take it wide - just like when driving. So, 3 times I'd take a tight right and bump into some kiwi taking a tight left. Ouch!
I also enjoyed a phone conversation today when the other party signed off "Righty-o!". I like this place. Tune in tomorrow for cute pix of kids....
Monday, July 14, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Sunday, July 6, 2008
The title of the blog is a reference to the manuka plant, from which comes an allegedy very delicious honey (and we are very into our honey these days). Hopefully we can bring some home!