Monday, May 3, 2010

Ramblings from March to May 3, 2010 with a recipe


We watched Julie and Julia last night, which has inspired me to start blogging again. Since we returned from New Zealand earlier this month, it has been a whirlwind, so in reality, there has been very little time to sit and write. I still have tons of things to do that have been pushed aside until now.

We had a couple of days, after we got home, before Brian, our older son, flew in to help celebrate my Uncle Irwin’s 90th birthday. My sister, Karen, drove over from the west coast of FL, and our other son, Steven, came up from the Kendal area; so, we had a houseful that 1st weekend home from our seven week trip. 

The party was wonderful, from the music to the delicious food served. We ate, laughed, and danced. We got to meet May’s (my uncle’s lady) three sons from the Boston area, who were all in FL for the party. We look forward to seeing them again.

Brian stayed for the week, but Steven went home on the Monday, while I drove over to the west coast for a visit with my sister and good friend Reggi, at whose house we stayed. We had a great time talking and beading and exploring. Of course, much of the time was spent on food, talking about it, buying it, or preparing it. We went to the Whole Foods Market in Naples on our way home, to be sure we had organic food to cook. Reggi was away for the first couple of days, so we were cooking for only two, not that three makes a big difference, especially when you have two working together prepping and cooking, it takes no time at all.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, and probably again, that it’s unreal how fast the time goes by. I really meant to write my blog on an almost daily basis but if you’re looking at the dates, it’s been close to three weeks since I last added anything. It’s been three weeks of walking in the mornings, yes! I’ve finally started to walk with my neighbor, Phil. We used to walk four or five times a week before my last surgery, but had stopped at that point, and now we’re back at it. It feels good to be up and out in the mornings. Walking with a buddy makes the time go quickly then too.

I got up from the computer to get a glass of water, and didn’t get back to this blog until now.

OPPS. Certainly didn’t write much on the 29th, did I? I must have be distracted for the moment. Have you ever read about AAADD. Here it is, so you’ll know what I’m talking about:

Thank goodness there's a name for this disorder.
Somehow I feel better, even though I have it!!
Recently, I was diagnosed with A.A.A.D.D. -
Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder.
This is how it manifests:
I decide to water my garden. 
As I turn on the hose in the driveway,
I look over at my car and decide it needs washing.
As I start toward the garage,
I notice mail on the porch table that
I brought up from the mail box earlier.
I decide to go through the mail before I wash the car.
I lay my car keys on the table,
put the junk mail in the garbage can under the table,
and notice that the can is full.
So, I decide to put the bills back
on the table and take out the garbage first.
But then I think,
since I'm going to be near the mailbox
when I take out the garbage anyway,
I may as well pay the bills first.
I take my check book off the table,
and see that there is only one check left
My extra checks are in my desk in the study,
so I go inside the house to my desk where
I find the can of soda I'd been drinking.
I'm going to look for my checks,
but first I need to push the soda aside
so that I don't accidentally knock it over.
The soda is getting warm,
and I decide to put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold.
As I head toward the kitchen with the soda,
a vase of flowers on the counter
catches my eye - they need water.
I put the soda on the counter and
discover my reading glasses that
I've been searching for all morning.
I decide I better put them back on my desk,
but first I'm going to water the flowers.
I set the glasses back down on the counter,
fill a container with water and suddenly spot the TV remote.
Someone left it on the kitchen table.
I realize that tonight when we watch TV,
I'll be looking for the remote,
but I won't remember that it's on the kitchen table,
so I decide to put it back in the den where it belongs,
but first I'll water the flowers.
I pour some water in the flowers,
but quite a bit of it spills on the floor.
So, I set the remote back on the table,
get some towels and wipe up the spill.
Then, I head down the hall trying to
remember what I was planning to do.
At the end of the day:
the car isn't washed 
the bills aren't paid
there is a warm can of soda sitting on the counter
the flowers don't have enough water ,
there is still only 1 check in my check book,
I can't find the remote,
I can't find my glasses,
and I don't remember what I did with the car keys.
Then, when I try to figure out why nothing got done today,
I'm really baffled because I know I was busy all day,
and I'm really tired.
I realize this is a serious problem,
and I'll try to get some help for it,
but first I'll check my e-mail.....

Can you relate? I can. This must be what happens to me. This is NOT an original, although it would be nice if I had written it. It was in an email sent to me and then I found it again on the internet in a joke site.

I find that I’ve started spending more time on writing my cookbook, so maybe I should just post that writing, starting with a recipe. Although, I’m working on the intro to the book, not recipes at the moment, but…..

Here’s one I’d love to share:

Ginger-Almond Spread
I use this as a base for a sandwich on a rice wrap, and then I add sliced cucumber, tomato, and avocado. Sometimes, I thin it down a bit and use it as a salad dressing. It’s delicious on steamed broccoli too.

½ cup almond butter, organic
½ teaspoon Real Salt or other Sea Salt
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
½ teaspoon dehydrated organic onion
1 lemon, juiced 
1 garlic clove, chunked
Filtered water

Put all the ingredients, except the water, in a food processor and blend well. Taste and adjust the ingredients (sometimes I add more lemon juice or dehydrated onion). It will need to be thinned with some filtered water. Add a bit at a time, as you want to keep it thicker so it can be spread, and when needed, it can be thinned to use it as a dressing.

Bon Appetite.

Monday, March 8, 2010

March 7-9

Once again several days have passed, and we’re now sitting in Fiji Airport, at 8PM on the 9th, waiting for our connection to LA and then Miami, where we will arrive at almost midnight on the 9th. We’ll have traveled over 31 hours in total, from when we left this AM for the airport in Auckland.  It will be good to be home with memories of such a magical trip.

March 7

We were up early again as we had a lot of territory to cover on this our next to last day before traveling home.

Our first stop was at Cape Reinga, an amazing spot. It’s the only point I know of where two oceans meet, The Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean. We have pictures showing waves coming from two different directions meeting and crashing against each other. Wow!!! The walkway you followed was lovely to walk, with signs explaining about how the Maoris view this place. They believe that it’s where their spirits go before going beyond. The flora is different and a bit stunted due to all the salt water. There’s a lighthouse at the point which isn’t very tall in relationship to others we’ve seen, but on this point, it doesn’t need to be, as its light can be seen for miles around.

Once we returned to the starting point, there were a few Maoris asking/selling the planting of about five different types of plants, to help keep the soil from eroding and some had fruit for the birds to eat. It was a package deal of the plant you chose actually planted, a postcard of Cape Reinga, a card with the exact longitude and latitude of your plant, and a pen, all for 20.00 NZ, about 15.00 US. So, after planting the plant we went to our car and found a flat tire. One of the Maori men helped us change to the spare, a donut type thing. It was on Sunday, mid afternoon, and no place was open by the time we could get down to them to fix it, so we had to deal with that tire until Monday. Luckily not a big deal.

Given that, we still went exploring. We stopped at Spirit Bay where we had a picnic lunch. It was a beautiful bay with a gorgeous beach; I found some treasures for my bead embroidery.

On the way down the Cape, we also took a road which lead to the starting point of the Ninety Mile Beach tours, which drive along the sand dunes. It wasn’t at the beginning of the dunes, as you could see sand in both directions for as far as you could see. Quite impressive!

Our drive down to the Ferry across the Hokianga was a very pleasant one. The ferry holds up to about 27 vehicles and takes about 15 minutes to cross. On the crossing, we were parked next to a couple from Montana. Good conversation – this was their third trip to New Zealand.

The views on the road down to Kaihu, where we were staying for the night, were beautiful. Such eye candy all over the place, from the gorgeous water views to the peaceful pastoral ones. It just never stops. No internet at that stopover.

March 8

WE had driven past the Waipou Forrest the night before. Our original plan had been to stop there on our way south for the night, but due to the flat tire, we didn’t arrive at our destination until close to 8PM, so we hadn’t had time to stop to see the Kauri trees. Our goal was to see Tane Mahuta, considered the granddaddy of the Kauri trees there. Talk about massive. In the parking lot, we met a young Israeli man whose camera had broken and had wanted a photo of himself in front of Tane Mahuta. So, now we have to email him the photos we took of them.

Another stop in the forest was at the Four Sisters, four Kauri trees whose bases have grown together but whose trunks are separate. We walked all around them, as it started to rain.

After going north, we then had to go south to have the tire fixed in Dargaville. It was a nice town and it didn’t take as long as I had thought it would to fix the flat, which was due to a nail we had hit.

By that time, it was around 2pm and we wanted to go to Gulf Harbour to see the marina there; it’s a 1000 slip marina. Immense!!!!!!!!

Finally, we arrived back where we had started, with Meryl and Michael, our ATC hosts in Northcote, just north of Auckland. We went out for dinner in Takapuna, about 8 minutes away. The restaurant we tried had a special on Mondays all day, a kilo of mussels done is one of five ways. So, we had one order of mussels and one order of a lamb shank, last chance for NZ lamb. Both were delicious.

March 9

So, today. We had packed last night for the most part, but still needed to tweak it a bit. I travel with my own packer, who is amazing – great spatial vision. We were up early to finish up and then left after breakfast by 9AM, as the airline required that we arrive three hours in advance. We’ve been traveling ever since and still have hours to go. At least this leg is at night, about 11 hours, so we should be able to sleep.

See you soon. We’ll talk.

March 6


This was supposed to be about food as well as thought, and I realize that I haven’t spoken about food very much. But, that’s the way it is.

However, I did mean to mention about the market that was in the town center when we arrived in Paihia on the 4th. There was a woman selling fresh fish;  her husband is a commercial fisherman and had brought in tuna that morning. All I can say is YUM. I put a bit of wheat-free tamari and lemon juice on it and Art grilled it. That with a delicious mix of curried vegetables (broccoli, onion, carrots, red pepper, and a bit of fennel) and a big multi-thing salad made a great meal that night.

On the 5th, the Cunard line’s Queen Mary was visiting on her world cruise. The locals put on an Art Festival in the same city center green area as the fair from the day before. They had some nice art and loads of interesting crafts, from knitted goods, to dyed silk scarves and felted ones, wood carving and turning, and lots more.

March 6

We were up early again in order to have our Maori cultural experience. What a time we had. We were the only people in the group, and our Maori hosts were wonderful. I can’t wait for you to see the waka, or great canoe, in which we traveled. Although we didn’t learn to paddle, as there were only the two of us, registered for that tour, and two of them and they used the faster paddles (small outboard engine, it was more than we ever expected. On the way to their Marae, or meeting place, Hone gave us a history lesson about his ancestors and their travels on the oceans. Judy was handling the faster paddles while we were engrossed. Once there, we were invited onto their sacred space and more info was divulged. We were also invited to talk about what brought to this place in time. It was all very moving. We found out that they’re good friends with Manu and Ata, the Maoris we met when we were at Bruce’s workshop almost two summers ago. While at the workshop, we had dinner with Manu and Ata one night, and on the last day, they did a healing ceremony for me/on me. Both are healers here in their country. Unfortunately, we had not been able to reach them before we arrive in NZ, and although I’ve emailed Ata a couple of times, we’ve never heard back. Judy said that she would call with Manu’s phone number; so, we’re hoping to still get in touch.

While still at the Marae, two others, who tend the land for the tribe, came over with tea and sweets, including delicious kiwis. They have a wonderful garden, tend sheep, and have roosters and chickens.

After leaving the Marae, we continued on the river to Hururu Falls, a local tourist destination. It was great seeing it from the water. It’s a nice waterfall but very short.

The tour was suppose to end between 12:30pm and 1:00. We didn’t get back until 2pm. It was a wonderful time.

On our way out of Paihia and Kerikeri, we stopped at Rainbow Falls, not far from where we stayed. Talk about a waterfall. Wow!!! There were a multitude of different falls from the same source of water, all different amounts. Another set of great photos you'll eventually see.

The ride north and west to Pukenui, where we’re staying tonight, was nice. We stopped in Mangonui, a lovely little town on Doubtless Bay. There was an artist’s co-op we ventured into. Kathy, who was manning it for the day, is a knitter and quite good. She’s also a sailer and Canadian. For years now, she and her husband have been living for 6 months a year in Canada and 6 months on their boat here in NZ. She was full of info on cruising grounds. Very interesting.

We’re at a BBH tonight in a renovated house over a 110 years old. Thank goodness the kitchen isn’t that old. I made a nice stir-fry of veggies and tempee over some rice noodles. I also baked the other Zimbabwe squash we had bought. It was as sweet as the first one. I have enough food for a whole other meal.

Friday, March 5, 2010

March 1 - 5

Can it really be March already? I let this go another day, so today is actually the 5th. We're covering so much territory, all of it great, and time keeps moving forward.

March 1

Before we left Lake Taupo, Peter had us follow him to show us the mural that he worked on in town. It was about 10 years old but still vibrant.  So, after that, off we went away from Acacia Bay towards Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula.

Our first stop was at Orakei Korado, a totally natural hot springs, cave, with a thermal mud pools. You arrive at the center and have to take a short ferry ride across the lake to reach it. It's a walking tour that takes about an hour to an hour and a half to do. The place was amazing. It was totally natural and the scape looked so foreign. There were several geysers, none of the bigger ones went off when we were there, but we did see a couple, and the sulfur aroma was not too harsh. Again, great photos. The cave was a real hike both up and down and there were several mud pools, each had different size bubbles which plopped and then radiated out.

From there, we drove to Rotorua for a picnic lunch at the Gardens. We walked around a bit and drove around a bit and left. The architecture was really interesting, but we had decided that we wouldn't go to a Maori experience there. We were planning on doing something in the Paihia area, within the next few days.

We stayed in Whitianga with Servas hosts, Heather and Tony, both in their late 70s. What an inspiration they are! They're so full of energy and life. It was really a wonderful and interesting visit. They're world travelers.

March 2

In the morning, Tony took us around Whitianga, from down to the beaches to up the hill, showing us a fabulous view. It's a cute small town with an organic market - not every town has one. The beaches were lovely. Our next stop with Tony was to a Kauri Grove about 40 minutes away towards Coromadel Town. We hadn't seen Kauris before - they're huge and their bark is very different from everything we've known. It almost looks like scales of a fish. The scales fall off from time to time, and that's how the trees protect themselves from vines growing on them and suffocating them.

Back home to Heather we went. She had been expecting us and fixed us lunch. This is really unusual when you stay with Servas hosts. Usually, they make breakfast and one dinner, and you, as the travelers, either take them out for dinner or cook the second night. Even when you spend the day together, which sometimes happens if they're not busy and your plans can accommodate it, you will rarely have lunch at home. With Peter in Taupo, when he took us around, we took him out for lunch, which is usually what occurs. Heather and Tony were generous with both their time and efforts.

We left them after lunch to go to Cathedral Cove, a truly amazing place. It was about a half hour drive. But then, it's suppose to be a 45 min walk - not for us. It's a bit rocky and steep in certain areas, so it took us a bit longer to get there, and then again, to go back. However, we did make it in both directions, as one woman said to me as we had just started the trek and she was just finishing it. And, of course, we were there for a while, Art taking photos and me practicing a bit of Chi Gung. The beach is beautiful and there is a natural big arch worn through the rock at the end of the beach, which opens onto the next beach. It was a huge archway and really felt like a Cathedral when you were inside it.

It was necessary to go within about 1 1/2 - 2 hrs of low tide, and this was right after the tsunami was expected, after the quake in Chile. We weren't sure what it was going to be like, as we had heard that the tides were faster than usual in turning around. It was fine when we were at Cathedral Cove, but we were a bit late getting to our next destination, Hot Water Beach. We got to see people in the pools they had dug, but the tide was definitely in and started to wash away the pools in which they were sitting. The idea there is to dig a pool out and warm/hot water fills in, so you can sit in your own hot spring pool. So we saw it but didn't get to participate.

On the way back to Heather & Tony's, we stopped at a potter's home studio, advertised on the main road. It was really interesting, as they had built their own home and it was all art. It had been featured in a magazine, and we were able to see the article. We had a great time talking with them but didn't buy anything.

I cooked dinner for Heather & Tony, a very vegetable pasta dish (rice pasta), large salad, and I made an herb butter, but the bread had been made by Tony.

March 3

We left Heather and Tony and drove to Coromandel to explore a bit. It's a neat little town, but we really liked Whitianga better and were glad that we had stayed where we did. We went to see a couple of potters just north of town, and I finally bought something but not a mug, which is what I usually buy on a trip. I have a whole collection of different mugs and really remember buying each one at an art show or on a trip. so, they bring back memories. I bought a neat small rectangular dish and I can't wait to use it. Petra, the artist, uses a couple of different types of glazing techniques, and I particularly liked the salt glaze.

Near Petra, we had lunch at a really great organic cafe; the salad was wonderful with some pear in it and lots of veggies. Art had the vegetable lasagna.

Then, we had to buggy. It was a really long drive, and we didn't have any reservations for the night's stay, as we didn't know where we would end up. We wanted to get as far north of Auckland as we could. We ended up in Orewa, a seaside resort area. It was really tough getting a room, but we finally found one right on the beach. Our room opened onto a lawn, which we had to cross to get to the beach. It was a lovely night but really late when we finally ate dinner.

March 4

Chi Gung was lovely on the beach the next morning. Our room had been like a studio with a sitting area, queen bed, and small fully equipped kitchenette. There were 2 packages of chocolate chip cookies and envelopes for hot chocolate. Art was in heaven.

We left and headed north, sort of. We kept taking the coast roads, which were filled with beautiful agricultural areas and seascapes. We had a picnic lunch under a tree on an estuary in Mangawhai. What a lovely spot. There were several houses sharing the same view.

We had to drive through Paihia to pay for the tour we were going to take on the 5th; it was a full day cruise called the Cream Trip, as they really do deliver groceries, including dairy products, and the mail to the outer islands in the Bay of Islands. We're staying at BBH in Kerikeri, and it's a Farm Stay, an orchard farm. Lovely place and nice people.

March 5

We had to be dockside by 9:15am, for a 9:30am departure. It was a beautiful day today, although it started out cool on board, as the catamaran cruises at about 14 knots and the wind was from the south. Luckily, we had brought something to put on, but quite a few others hadn't. We visited a multitude of the islands in the bay, not getting off but navigating past slowly. Our skipper was not only a great skipper but also gave a lot of history along the way. We went to Hole in the Rock, at the very end of the Bay of Islands, and cruised through it. It was really a treat. We were sitting next to two other couples, a young couple from Melbourne, Australia, and one a bit younger than us from Reno, NV. We had a lot of fun just talking as well as watching the sights. When we arrived at one of the islands, everyone got off. Art and I joined John, the Maori guide, who did a walking tour to give us the history of his tribe and that place. During the trip, we chased to an area where a pod of bottle-nosed dolphins were playing. We must have followed them for almost a half hour. It was great. We could see one baby and its mother; all the others seemed grown. I love dolphins. When we were cruising in the 80s and would see dolphins, all seemed right with the world; it was such a serene feeling.

We're still in Kerikeri tonight.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Feb 21 - Feb 28th

Feb 21

It’s now the night of the 24th and who remembers what happened four days ago. So much, in reality, and all our experiences have been magical. I’ll have go back and see if I can reconstruct our days.

It’s good that I’m keeping an itinerary; otherwise I wouldn’t know where I was on which day. So much is packed into each one.  We spent the 21st in the Dunedin area. There’s so much to do there that it was hard to choose. This will be a stop on our next trip.

All of our stops were on the Peninsula, just outside of Dunedin. We first went to Larnach Castle, the only castle in the whole country. It looked like a castle with a tower, from which the view was incredible, overlooking the Bay and almost all the way to Dunedin. It was really a manor home. The gardens surrounding it were beautifully done. We only had time to visit a couple of them, as we had reservations for the Albatross Experience.

The Albatross tour is run by the DOC (Dept of Conservation) and is situated above the nesting area of the Royal Albatrosses. They study them and have been for years. We saw three nests but weren’t rewarded by seeing any chicks, as the nesting birds never got up to stretch while were there. We did see an albatross fly, as one of the young adults was circling around the area. It’s really interesting, as the birds fold their wings in thirds when at rest. Their wingspans are about 3 meters wide. They had a video camera watching another area we couldn’t see directly, which was of the duck-billed birds. We did see a number of those.

Then, we had about 20 minutes to get to our next tour, Nature’s Wonders, where we were in 8 wheel drive vehicles, on roads where we traveled up it felt like 60 degree roads, so the 8 wheel drive was really needed. All we saw were in natural environments. We saw fur seals with their pups. One pup was so cute – they were all so cute – as it moved from rock to rock, up a steep incline, following some birds. I was afraid it would slip and fall, far to the water, but it was sure footed (flippered). As it approached the birds, they flew away. What a surprise? The little fellow (maybe it was female, but who could tell?) slowly made his way down again. We got to see some blue penguins who were hiding in rocky caves, as they were molting and weren’t waterproof at this point. At another spot, we viewed a couple of yellow-eyed penguins. The land is all owned by one family, who has been giving tours for the last 40 years. They whole family work it, and they were there; we were talking to a man before the tour started who turned out to be Dad. The older son, a real cutie, drove our vehicle. Of course, he paid most attention to the two beautiful young girls from Germany.

It was a full day.

Feb 22

This was a travel day. We did go to the Art Museum in Dunedin in the morning and then left for a long drive. Our ultimate goal was Hanmer Springs, but we didn’t plan on making it until the night of the 23rd.

We did have an interesting experience on the way. We passed a house with wonderful stained glass windows – Art hadn’t seen it, so we turned around and went back. We got out of the car and I was walking towards the house while Art shot some photos. I heard people talking inside, so I called Hello. Turns out that a young couple own this old Church, because that’s what it was. The stained glass windows weren’t the originals, although parts of the originals were used in the new ones. They had bought the property, which included the church, and had built their house on it. Now, they were renovating the church into a guest house. It was fantastic, with Gothic arches throughout. I really loved what they were doing with it. We talked further, and she is an artist with her studio also on their property, just a short walk from the church. So, off we went to her studio. Really nice work.

Feb 23

Hanmer Springs. We got there around 6pm, and after checking in, we dashed off to the hot springs for which they are famous. It was great. Soaking in the hot water, then going into cooler water. The place was so well done and so attractive.

Feb 24

We traveled to Kiakoura, which is on the coast. We got there in time for our Whale Watching tour. We got to see two whales at different times, another seal colony, and a couple of different types of albatrosses. It was a great tour. After the tour, we were going to travel on, but as we hadn’t made any reservations, we decided to stay in Kiadoura. It was charming, and although it was touristy, it still called to us.

Feb 25

We booked for Picton to make the 2pm Ferry across to Wellington. However, we did have time to stop at a scenic overlook, which turned out to be a fabulous spot to watch a seal colony. More pups!!! There was a natural pool made by the rocks, high in the rocks, and there was a whole group of about 8-10 seal pups playing in the pool. They were such a treat!!!

On the crossing, we did some planning on where to go & for how long on North Island.

Once we arrived, we returned to our Servas hosts in Lower Hutt to pick up the bag of foods we (I) had left there when we first crossed to South Island. It was really nice touching bases again with them, but we had decided we wanted to be in Wellington, near Te Papa, the wonderful museum, which we were going to visit on the 26th.

We ended up staying at a BBH, backpackers place, where neither of us liked the energy, but we figured it was only one night. There were also a lot of smokers, which we hadn’t seen before. It was a big place and maybe that had something to do with it. Anyway, it was only one night.

Feb 26

After visiting Te Papa, which was wonderful and took most of the day, we headed out to Palmerston North and lovely Servas Hosts, Robyn and Kevin Salisbury. We really enjoyed their company and were sorry that we only planned on one night with them. We were their first Servas Travelers. They told us they were spoiled for anyone else, a nice thing to say. We’re hoping that they will come visit us in FL.

Feb 27

Before taking off for our next stop, we attended a Farmer’s Market with Robyn and Kevin. It was huge, but they produce wasn’t organic. Still, it was interesting and we did buy some produce.

Then, we headed north to Acacia Bay, next to Taupo, on Lake Taupo, and our next Servas Host, Peter Cox. We took the long way there. Instead of going straight up the inside of the Country, we headed for the coast, going through Hastings and Napier. We stopped at a winery for lunch before getting to those two towns, and lunch was lovely.

I keep meaning to mention Cattery to you. A kennel is where you can board a dog, and a cattery is where you can board a cat. They are separate places, although sometimes one place advertises itself as a kennel and cattery. I just love the word – Cattery. Thought I’d share that with you.

Have you ever had a Black Boy peach? It has a dark skin and is purple on the inside. Neither of us cared for them, but it may have been that they weren’t completely ripe.

Before we got to Taupo, we passed a sign saying Scenic Overlook. That was all. So, we decided to take a look at the scenic part. It turned out to be the most fantastic waterfall – actually it was one source of water for three falls. Incredible. Pictures to follow. Yeah, yeah, I know – where are the photos? They’re coming.

Feb 28

Peter is a dear. He took us around to see Huka Falls. It was a true force of nature. Lots of photos of this one. Then we went to a place where they blow glass, but no demonstrations were going on. We had a delicious lunch there. I had wanted to go to the Mosaic Sculpture Garden, and the artist was a friend of Peter’s. It was incredible, as she had created a whole living room outside made of mosaics!  

Our afternoon was filled with sailing on Lake Taupo in Peter’s 22 ft. boat. The winds were light, but it didn’t matter. He took us to a cove where some years ago an unknown Maori had carved a huge, and I mean huge, Maori face on a tallllllll rock. There were also carvings of a big lizard and other creatures on the rocks at the base of the tallllllll one.

I needed lemons, so Peter went to his neighbors and picked a couple for me. I cooked a delicious stir fry dinner.

That’s all for now.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Feb 18-20

Feb. 18

Last night, we stayed in studio type cottage behind a woman’s home. Erin was lovely and I’ll keep her info for anyone who might be interested in staying in Lake Tekepo. She had a vegetable garden and fresh herbs she was more than willing to share. I ended up using some fresh mint of hers, and I almost pulled a couple of red beets, but decided not to cook our dinner last night, instead, I made a big salad using left over quinoa for our protein. The weather continued to be rainy and raw. After having our salads, we took a drive around the small town and had taken a left turn at an historic site sign. There was this lovely small stone church built around 1840. There wasn’t enough light to take good photos, so we decided to stop there first thing after leaving Erin’s in the morning.

So, that’s what we did. We stopped at the church and have great photos. It’s right on Lake Tekepo and while looking at the altar, you can see the lake, which is quite large. Every site is so amazing.

Then, off to Aoraki - Mt. Cook, to take the Tasman Glacier tour, or so we thought. It was still nasty out, drizzling and raw, and they had cancelled the 8:30am and 10:00am tours. They were going to take the group to the starting point, about a half hour drive, but they weren’t sure they would continue with the tour. So, we oped out. Instead, we went to the information center, which was the most beautiful set up of its type I’ve ever seen. It was a wonder in and of its own. Photos to follow.

After spending a bit of time there, we drove to the blue lakes for a sight of the Tasman Glacier. We stopped for a picnic lunch at the camping area near the start of the hike to the blue lakes. At this point, it wasn't drizzling, just really overcast and nasty out. 

I thought I would do the 30-40 min walk, but as it was still so raw and once again it was drizzly, I decided not to. I took a rest, closed my eyes, while Art took the hike. So, I got to see photos when Art came back; he told me I had made the right choice, but I still felt like a wuss. However, it WAS good energy management.

Tonight, we’re in Wanaka at X Base, a youth hostel. It’s relatively new, and although the rooms are small, they are very nice, and are en suite (with bathroom). It was hard to find a place to stay here, and I can understand why, as it’s a lovely town with an abundance of outdoor activities. We’re signed up for a boat tour, which includes going to glaciers and walking to waterfalls. I’ve got my fingers crossed that the weather has broken and it will be warmish and sunny, although not too warm.

We had dinner near by our hostel and it was really cold out with a strong wind, although it had been beautiful out when we arrived in Wanaka. We had left the rain a bit further north.

Feb 19

Woke up this morning to an absolutely beautiful day – sunny with no clouds visible. The temperature was just bit cool but promised to get warmer.

We got picked up for our jet boat trip to the glacier around mid morning. There were eight of us on the trip. It was so neat, and although the sun was out, we were going so fast that it was really cool/cold on the water. It was about an hour’s trip up the river to see the glacier (from afar), which had two waterfalls coming form it; we were told that it was 3.5 kilometers across, but it looked much smaller, also that the ice was 150 meters deep. So gorgeous. On the way to the place where we were going to hike across a meadow, we passed a couple of mountains that were used in scenes from all three of Lord of the Rings movies. The meadow we trekked across had cows, which had swum across the river from where they were suppose to live, and we had to watch out for the cow patties, not a difficult thing to do as they are so large. At the far end of the meadow, we found a fabulous water fall we could walk up to. It was a magical trip and the scenery was spectacular.

We had a bite of lunch once back in Wanaka, then took off to head into Queenstown. On the way, we stopped numerous times for photo ops, as usual. We made a stop in Arrowtown, an old gold mining town that has been restored. The original names on the buildings aren’t the shops that are in the buildings now. It was quaint and we were glad we’d stopped. On to Queenstown, where the first place we went was to the gondola up the mountain. What a ride with a view overlooking the lake! It was incredible. We decided not to have the buffet dinner at the restaurant at the top of the mountain, but we walked around and enjoyed the scenery. We ended up having dinner at FINZ, a seafood place on the wharf, really nice. The oysters were about the best I’ve ever had. We both ate the turbot, which was really unusual, as we usually order two different things, so we can share. They were excellent. Then, onto Cromwell to sleep, about a 40 minute drive from Queenstown. It was a long enjoyable day. And the weather was exceptional.

Feb 20

We got up and out relatively early. They also had an old town center, like Arrowtown but not like Arrowtown, made up of restored buildings from the gold rush era of the 1860s, 1870s. It was much smaller and had a small museum in the old newspaper building, showing old printing presses too. A lot was preserved.

When we left Cromwell, we ambled through Clyde, where they had a small group of vendors outside the iSite, or information center; there were some very good craft artists there. We asked about a place to have a picnic lunch and were told that by Shaky Bridge would be a nice place. With a name like that, we couldn’t resist the stop. By this time, it was really hot out, but we were able to find a bit of shade, so we could enjoy lunch. After eating, we walked across the bridge, and it was only a little shaky. It was first built for the gold miners to cross over the river.

Greg, the jeweler we had met in Akoroa, had told us to go through Taieri Mouth on our way to Dunedin. So, we did, and the scenery was wonderful. The South Pacific Ocean runs along the coast of this small town, totally untouched by tourists – there was a real fishing fleet, not for tourists, and we would have loved to have gotten some fresh fish, but all was closed.

Tonight, we’re staying at a backpackers place called Hogwartz, showing lots of influences of Harry Potter. Lovely big kitchen, so I cooked a broccoli, garlic, and fennel sauce for pasta. Yummy.

Good night.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Feb 14th - 17th

Feb 14

Happy Valentine’s Day.
Ours was low key and another wonderful day in NZ.

We started the day slowly, which was wonderful, having breakfast with our host, Stephen. Then, we were off to an outdor market, very few organic items there at two vendors, but it was interesting to see what they did have, lots of food stuff, such as honey from their own hives, and olive oils and marinated olives from their own groves. Even fresh fish, both fillets and whole fish, was being sold; so was fresh meats. We bought a whole local fish, as I planned on cooking dinner. Stephen had to work, so it was just the two of us for dinner. I baked the fish, stuffed with sliced garlic, fresh thyme, and fresh rosemary; I put a bit of olive oil and the garlic and fresh herbs on top of the fish as well, and covered it with aluminum foil. Yum! I served it with cauliflower which had been steamed with whole cloves of garlic and the all of it mashed with a bit of salt and pepper to taste, and some fresh greens, like kale but not kale, which I had sautéed with a bit of olive oil and garlic. Tasty. The cauliflower is suppose to be a healthy mashed potatoes, and we like the dish even more than we do mashed potatoes.

Our afternoon had been spent with Stephen until he had to leave around 2:45pm. Then, we left to take a look at Christchurch. We plan on going back on Tuesday, as there is much to see and it’s mostly all in the same area downtown. It was fun driving around exploring. We’re going to take a walking tour to start, when we go in again.

Feb 15

Akaroa is a harbor town a bit east out of Christchurch. It was settled by the French, so, it still has that influence. As usual, we took our time getting there, stopping to explore galleries and taking photos along the way. It’s so incredible as all the vistas here are eye candy. Before reaching Akaroa, we stopped at Hilltop Cafe for lunch, where the view was indescribable; the sight of the many coves and small towns along Akaroa Bay, with a peninsula in the middle of the Bay is so difficult to describe – Art took several photos which will be put together as a panoramic photo, so you will see it too. Go to their web site to see what it looks like. Lunch was delicious; Art had green-lipped muscles (I kept a half shell for my bead embroidery project) in a garlic sauce, and I had a fabulous tomato basil soup. I got the recipe, from Laurie, the owner, and it will be in my cookbook; I need to tweak it a little bit and hope it will be as tasty as theirs was.

Finally, we arrived in Akaroa, a really nice small town with lovely galleries, clothing stores featuring merino wool and possum combinations, and a great waterfront. We got there too late for any of the harbour cruises, but it was so raw and cold out that that was fine. We walked around, in and out of stores, walking along the water, and holding hands. We went into one store, Brereton Jewellers , featuring blue pearls, which are farmed using abalones (called PAUA here), so the colors of the mabe pearls are gorgeous and their luster is high quality. Think about the colors in an abalone shell where the colors range from a fuchia, to greys, to greens, and to shades of blue. Really lovely. Greg, who is one of the jewelers, making settings for their mabe pearls, was informative, both about the pearls and suggestions for us of where to go sightseeing further south. You can see what they do at the above link.

One suggestion he made was that we skip Lyttleton and go to Sumner to have dinner, which is what we did, and the drive there was gorgeous, taking the long way back to the Hilltop Cafe before continuing on to Sumner. We actually ate dinner in Christchurch, as the restaurants we found in Sumner didn’t suit what we were interesting in eating. However, the trip was worth it for the fabulous views we had.

Another special day in NZ. We really like it here a lot and highly recommend others to come explore.

The following was added on another day.
The 16th

The 16th found us in Christchurch.

We spent the morning with Stephen at home. He gave me a healing session and it was amazing. I’ve been having some discomfort with my left hip; I had trouble crossing my ankle over my right leg. Now I can do it easily. I felt a softening and an opening while he was doing his energy work. Yes!

We left him close to noon, so we could get to Christchurch for the 1PM guided walking tour. It was a beautiful sunny day in the high 60s – what a day for a stroll. It was very informative and I really like the architecture, much of which is Gothic. We ended up near the Botanic Gardens, so that was our next step. I really liked much of the Gardens, but a goodly portion was open spaces with huge trees around; some were Sequoias, which was a big surprise.

Then, off to another market, an organic market. It’s a bit different here than in the States. A health store is strictly supplements and an organic market can be either just produce or both produce and other products. I’ve found other items here that I’m enjoying, such as chick pea flour chips.

We got back to Stephen’s in time for me to make a dinner of quinoa with rosemary and olive oil, the combination of leftover cauliflower and greens, steamed fresh broccolini from the Sunday market, and cold leftover fish, which was really tasty cold.

We’ve tried to watch some of the Olympics but they’re showing only very short bits at night. If you want to see them, you need to be up at 5:30AM, which I’m not planning on doing any time soon. Our days are too filled with wondrous sights and events to have to cut them short due to getting up early and being tired.

Feb 17

We had hoped to leave Stephen’s by 10am and were only 20 minutes late. I needed only some hummus to round out our supplies, so we went looking for an organic market we had heard about to see if we could score some there. We found it and the veggies and fruits were great – we ended up buying some more fresh produce, but that’s all they sold. So, we were then on our way to Lake Tekepo. However, we had to pass through Rangiora and I needed a head, so we stopped at the market. While there, I took care of business, Art bought some more wine and water, and I found my organic hummus. Good score.

Today was a bit warmer than yesterday but very overcast, so our trip to Lake Tekepo was not as long as it could have been. We stopped once to look at a river, which was such a beautiful shade of blue, not quite a turquoise. Actually, Art shot some video of it as well as a couple of stills.

Miracles do happen – I mentioned that I wanted to find a picnic table for lunch that had toilets near it, as we hadn’t seen anything like that on this leg of the trip. I closed my eyes for a few minutes and low and behold, around the bend was exactly what I wanted. It was too cool to eat at the tables but we used the facilities and ate in the car under some lovely trees.

We next stopped at a place that advertised jewelry with a big sign out by the road. We drove in to see a house with a smaller building next to it, designed the same as the house. A lovely lady greeted us. They import silver jewelry and some hand made from a woman in Christchurch. It was okay, but the best was that we started to talk. We were going to Lake Tekepo so we could take the Stargazing Tour tonight. There’s a great observatory here on Mt. John, and they do night tours of the sky with powerful telescopes. While talking, she gave us a postcard from the tour, and what a sight it was. We all live with too much illumination around us to see our night skys clearly. Unfortunately, it’s raining, so they canceled the tour for tonight. We’re soooooooo disappointed. On the other hand, it means an early night and a good night’s sleep so we can rise early and be ready to leave for Mt Cook and the Tasman Glacier Tour tomorrow.

One other tidbit. We saw a sign for Hanging Rock Bridge, which caught our fancy. It was only 11 kilometers down a side road, so off we went. We stopped at an historic site of an old Kiln from the 1870s. It was big and looked a bit like the tower of a castle – just the tower, not the whole castle. The view opposite it was beautiful – more photo ops. Continuing on, we finally reached Hanging Rock Bridge and decided that we missed something, as the bridge was nothing special. The countryside was. I started to think that we had wasted our time, and then it hit me that it wasn’t wasted, as we were together, talking and laughing.

Feb 11 - Feb 13

Feb 11th

The days go so quickly. Each night finds me tired and ready to read for a few minutes and go to sleep. So, once again, I’m a few days behind. I’m enjoying the blogging when I feel I have the time to write. However, this won’t be posted until I can somehow get to a wireless set up. (TODAY, FEB 18TH IS THE FIRST TIME I'VE HAD A WIRELESS CONNECTION.)

Tonight, the 13th, we’re at an Energy Art’s friend of Art’s, who he met at a Tui Na workshop in Vancouver many years ago. Art emailed Stephen to reconnect, and we were invited to stay with him for a few days when we got to the Christchurch area. So, we’re back on the East Coast of  South Island after spending a couple of nights on the West Coast – I’ll be telling you about that next.

The morning of the 11th found us in Motueka. We left Gail and Doug’s early so we could make the Abel Tasman cruise out of Karteriteri. It was really overcast and had rained heavily during the night. I dressed in jeans to keep warm, but once on board, sitting on the top deck, I went below to change into the shorts I’d brought with us, as the sun had come out and it was getting warm. Once back up top, the sun went behind a cloud and it got cool again. I didn’t change, but as it got cooler and windier, I went below into the area with tables and chairs. It was nice to be warm, out of the rain, and still be able to see out the large viewing windows. We traveled up the coast of the Abel Tasman National Park to the last stop and then turned around to head back to our starting point. At one island, we were able to see seals and their pups; it was wonderful. We got off the ship at Bark Bay, about half way back, to have a picnic lunch and then an hour’s walk to some water falls. We had about 2 ½ hours ashore, before the ship returned to pick us and some others up. It continued to be overcast but didn’t rain while we were ashore, which was perfect. The trip was a 6 ½ hour cruise. Glad we went.

Art decided he wanted to drive and see how far we could get, heading for the west coast in order to head south. We stopped in Murchinson for dinner, about an hour and a half drive, and I highly recommend the Rivers Café. They were really helpful with all my don’ts. I had delicious chicken and shrimp kabobs with a great salad for dinner and Art had fabulous pork chops; he said it was his best meal in NZ. It’s a neat place with great food and good service. A nice stopping place on the way, although I believe that it’s good skiing in season, and good kayaking and many trails if that’s what you want to do. The “tramping” around NZ is incredible – that’s what many people come for! We continued on to Westport, another 2 hours. It was close to 10pm when we got there and we stayed at a BBH, backpackers hostel. Many of them had shared baths, but it’s not bad. The rooms are usually very nice, and there’s a kitchen everyone uses; so, storing my food in a refrigerator is easy.

The 12th

High Tide at Pancake Rocks was at 10:57am, so we were off early again, on our way to Punakaiki. The rocks are incredible, but the blowholes were disappointing, as it was really calm out and sunny, so the water didn’t forcefully hit the rocks. We decided that it was really the rocks we had gone to see anyway, as we’ve seen other blowholes, but there’s nothing like the Pancake Rocks anywhere else. It was a beautiful walk that they’ve set up to follow around the various areas showing the rocks.

After that, we went looking for a place for lunch. Around Punakaiki, there was nothing that would work for me, so we continued south to Greymouth to eat at 124 Café, which was lovely. I had a really nice salad with sun-dried tomatoes and olives, leaving the cheese off, and Art had the scallops wrapped in bacon salad. Both of us were happy campers. From there, we were looking for a jade pendant for me. It was recommended that we go to Hokitika, as the Maori are the ones who generally cut jade and they have several stores there. So, off to Hokitika. I guess it’s a good thing that we don’t have a set itinerary, otherwise, we’d have to keep changing our reservations. This was the first time we’d had a problem booking a place to stay, but we did find a place. We even had some time to check out a few of the jade stores before everything closed for the day. They all opened around 9am, so we knew we’d have time to have another look/see. I found a few pieces I liked, but nothing really hit me that night. Dinner was lovely at the Café de Paris, where Art had a rack of lamb and I had the vegetarian dinner of roasted eggplant stuffed with other roasted veggies over rice. I didn’t have the cheese it originally was served with, but I did have a bit of the Bernaise sauce on the side into which I dipped my fork from time to time. It was a lovely dish that I’ll be able to tweak at home.

The 13th

There was suppose to be a Saturday market near the iSite (information center). When we got there, only one person had set up and another was starting to; the second one had some non-pesticide vegetables, so I was able to buy some peppers and cucumbers but that was all. It was really raw out with some rain, so we could understand why they were late starting or may not have shown up at all. Next, we were off jade shopping. After several stores, we went back to a place we’d been to the day before, and I found something that really resonated with me. A simple but beautifully made piece. I’m really happy with it. It’s a combination of the fishing hook (prosperity and good health, as well as other things) and the Koru       (a spiral and new beginning) . We stopped for brunch, as we hadn’t eaten breakfast; then, we left for the east coast, after deciding that we weren’t going to visit either glacier on the west coast, as neither of us were up to a half day tour only to see dirty ice, and we were not interested in a full day tour, good energy management. We’re looking into doing a tour of the Terminal Face of the Tasman Glacier near Mt Cook. I’m calling about it tomorrow, so we may see a glacier after all, or not. Either works, as there’s still so much we want to do and it’s feeling like six weeks isn’t enough time to do it all.

On our way across, we continued to see lots of cows and sheep of all color combinations. There was one herd that we knew were related. I couldn’t believe their gene pool. All of the cows were black in front and back with white bands reaching all around each from the back haunch all the way to the front legs; when I first saw them, I thought they were wearing blankets, but they weren’t. There was even a calf with the same markings. Unreal. However, there was one cow that had a big black drop from the top of her back ¾ of the way to her stomach – I hope she wasn’t ostracized by the others.

As we continued across the country, we went thought Arthur’s Pass. Around there, there were two waterfalls we had wanted to see. Going towards Arthur's Pass, we passed about a half dozen really beautiful waterfalls, which we stopped to photograph. However, after leaving Arthur’s Pass, we realized that we’d missed the turnoff to the two waterfalls we had planned on going to. Still not sure how that happened other than poor signage, which seems to be the norm in NZ. Again, it was really perfect, as it was pouring and I really didn’t want to walk for an hour in the rain in order to see those falls. Of course, it had been raining when we stopped to photograph the falls along the road, but we didn’t have to hike in order to see them.

At one stop along the road, we saw mountain parrots, which apparently are only found here in NZ. They were beautiful and we have photos. We really do. I’ll prove it one of these days. Art has downloaded over 400 photos to his computer, so I’m still waiting to get a few to mine so I can upload them for you to see. The parrots will be among them. Their feather colors were wonderful, and when they spread their wings, you could see the orange under them, they were incredible. Really unusual. The birds aren’t afraid of humans, and I understand that they will destroy your car tires given half a chance. So don't park where there are mountain parrots.

We arrived at Stephen’s home about 10 minutes before he had to leave for his night shift as a policeman. Unfortunately, he will be on in the afternoons until 11pm every day while we’re here, so we’ll only connect in the mornings to early afternoon. Some time is better than none. Stephen is also a healer, so he and Art will have lots to talk about. I’m looking forward to getting to know him too.

Unbelievable that this has taken over an hour and a half to write. I’m off to bed. Hopefully, I’ll find an internet café soon. Hope you are all well.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tuesday & Wednesday , Feb 9th & 10th

The 9th

It was a glorious day! Long but wonderful.We took a bus tour of Farewell Spit, in a custom bus made especially for travel over lots of sand; it was very high off the ground with huge wheels and had large glass windows all around. Farewell Spit borders Golden Bay and has a lighthouse, all automated at this point, at its end.

Our first stop was at Fossil Point, but we couldn't see any fossils as the sands had buried them for the moment; we were told that the sands would soon blow away for a while and then be blown back to cover the fossils again. Near where the fossils were was a cave and inside was a seal, startled by us being there. He wanted out but wouldn't go with so many people around. We backed away, and still he lay there. Then, he raised his head, looked around, ignored us, and pounced forward twice and then slid. He lay there again for a short time, raised himself, pounced using  his flippers a couple of times, and slid to a stop. This continued until he reached the water. It was so great watching him.

Off to our next stop, although our guide, Bob, was talking the whole trip, stopping to show us the different water birds around, and giving us history and many a story about the area. It was really interesting. We had lunch at the Lighthouse and got to view the original lenses used.

The sands are always shifting and there are usually heavy duty winds to blow them around. We next went to a sand dune, which we all walked up, and then side walked down to an area where we could see a couple of heavy duty bolts and some wood, like the top rail of a ship, which it was. It had been grounded in the mid 1800s and slowly covered up by the sands. About 10 years ago, they put up a marker, which also got covered but reappeared last year. So, now they're waiting to see more of the ship.

Our last stop was at Cape Farewell, which we viewed from a beautiful spot across from its large rock arch. It was where Cpt Cook last viewed NZ before leaving. The tour took about seven hours and was very special.

It amazes me how much beauty there is all around us. We're driving a lot but it's all so different, even when there are constantly mountains, winding roads, trees, sheep, cows, and water. Ma Nature's compositions are like nothing imaginable. The play of light and dark with the sun light and shadows humble me.

We stayed the night at Shambala again and went to bed early. Nothing exciting about food.

The 10th

This was kind of a rest day, as we drove back from Onetaka to Motueka to stay with Gail and Doug for another night. It's about an hour and a hald drive which took most of the day. We had passed many carvers, jewelers, and potters and all had been closed before today. So, we took our time, stopped where we wanted to, and talked with artists of all kinds. It was great. Takaka is a town close to Shambala, and is quite the hippie place. Lots of people, mainly youngish, dressed like hippies with dreadlocks. There are several organic farms and a nice, but small organic market in town. Healthy eating places too. Very laid back. Lots of galleries. So, that's how we spent our day, looking at galleries in town and artists along the drive. We had lunch at the Dangerous Cafe, sharing a vegetarian burrito, gluten-free and dairy-free, no sugar in anything and it was delicious. Art had gluten-free chocolate cake for dessert. For dinner at Gail and Doug's, I made a salad, and I had hummus while Art had cheese and pate. Light but yummy and enough food to satisfy us.

Oh, while in Takaka, we had stopped one of the organic farms. They didn't have a lot for sale but they had a fruit called Nashi. Didn't have a clue as to what it was, so they let us try one - turned out they are Asian pears but they were a slightly different variety than I'm familiar with so I hadn't recognized it. A couple of people drove up and they had just picked a lot of Nashi from a deserted grove. We traded a bar of chocolate for about a dozen nashi; both groups were pleased with the barter.

More later. Too tired to write about today. Will tomorrow or the next day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Finally time

 This is the first night we’ve been in NZ when we aren’t at anyone’s home. We’re staying at Shambhala, a backpacker’s hostel. It’s lovely; we have a king size bed with an ocean view, or rather a bay view as it’s Golden Bay we’re looking at, in the NW of South Island, past Abel Tasman National Park. The roads here were windy with 180 degree turns in some parts, just the type of roads Art loves to drive. The countryside is green, hilly, lots of sheep and cattle, and we even saw deer today. There is a big common room and kitchen where you can cook, and there are about 6-8 people around talking. I’m determined to do some writing.

On Feb 2, before traveling to Lower Hutt, where we stayed with a lovely couple, just north of Wellington, we went to downtown Stratford, just after 10am, to see the Glockenspiel chime and to see the Romeo & Juliet performance, where windows/doors opened up and the figures appeared and spoke Shakespeare's line. You’ll see photos eventually.

They have a lovely house with the three separate parts to their only bathroom. Michael does the cooking, as Pauline is still working. Their English type garden in the front is beautiful and nothing seems to be far away from their home. We seem to be going to a market or store almost daily for one thing or another. Today, we went shopping for towels, a measuring spoon, and a folding canvas chair. We’re going on a day-long (6 ½ hours) trip to Farewell Spit tomorrow, and I think we’ll need towels – lots of sand dunes and I think seals.

Our first night with Pauline and Michael, we had a delicious dinner of fish in a tomato–caper sauce, which Pauline cooked since she isn’t working yet due to the school schedule, with fresh veggies and a nice salad. I got the recipe and I can’t wait to make it at home.  For the second night with Servas hosts, I usually cook. However, they insisted on cooking for us again, although I worked with Michael in the kitchen. He cooked a chicken stir-fry and I made the quinoa side dish and salad.

On the 3rd, while in Lower Hutt, we didn’t go into Wellington, as we’ll spend some time there on our return. We took it very easy on our first morning with Pauline and Michael, not leaving their place until just after noon. During our day out, other than the organic market, we explored Lower Hutt & Petone, across the sound from Picton on the South Island. There is a wonderful museum showing the items and the history of the first settlers to the area.
Feb 4th saw us up around 5am, in order to make the 8am ferry across Queen Charlotte Sound to South Island. We had to be there by 7am to get our tickets. The trip across was 3 ½ hours – did I already write this. I’ll try to read what I’ve written before publishing this. In Picton, we had a picnic lunch after having gone to the Edwin Fox Museum, showing a preserved teak ship from the 1700s, which had gone though many changes, from being in a war, transporting settlers, to being used for refrigeration. It was really interesting to see the way it was constructed. Our picnic lunch was cheese and crackers for Art and some veggies and humus for me, as it was getting late and we didn’t want to spend more time eating at a restaurant.

We stayed the next three nights with Cynthia and Graham Brooks in Renwick. They are the “folks” of Allison Lee, a very close friend of our son, Brian’s. Twenty years ago, Allison was an exchange student from Jamaica and lived with Cynthia & Graham for a year. When she found out that we were going to visit NZ, she offered to get in touch with them. She did, then we did, and our visit was arranged. We had such a good time with them; they are lovely, warm, and now newly extended family. Our first dinner with them was a delicious roasted lamb, roasted kumara (sweet potatoes), and steamed vegetables from their garden, with a side salad, also all from their garden. I ate lamb, which I haven’t had for about 2 years. She made me my own mint sauce with stevia. It’s so easy and I had no idea that it was:

Big bunch of fresh mint
Boiled water
Apple cider vinegar

Chop the mint and put it in a bowl. Pour boiling water over it to release the essences. Add apple cider vinegar and stevia to taste. Let it sit for about ½ hour and serve. Yummy.

On the 5th, we went to the Omaka Aviation Museum, because Graham said we shouldn’t miss it. I wasn’t enthusiastic but Art goes to bead stores with me, so…  It was great! I especially liked the display of the various uniforms, metals, and memorabilia from WWI. The plane displays were imaginative and really well done. Glad we went.

Then, we went into Blenheim for lunch and to shop for organic produce. Home to the Brooks. Their home is so special. Again, only one bathroom, which was all in one room. She is into quilting and does beautiful work, as well as being a writer, professionally, and also has a greeting card line which she sells locally. They grow most of their own greens, and have an orchard of many different fruits, as well as chickens for their own eggs. Graham is also a writer, creates stained glass pieces, and various other things. Very self-sufficient. Their home is well lived in with many wonderful spaces. I especially loved to do my chi gung in their sun room looking out at the many wild flowers. It’s the room where they have their breakfasts and afternoon tea. For dinner, Cynthia made a delicious salmon in tin foil packets. The night before she had roasted beets, which we also ate for dinner, but I asked if she ever cooked the beet greens. She hadn’t, as she usually gave the greens to the chickens, who loved them. So, for dinner on the sixth, I cooked beet greens and made the salad.

The 6th was busy. We started out at the Quilting Barn. I bought some fabrics that were made here in NZ. I plan on using one for my February bead journal entry. We went to three different vineyards, as this area is noted for their wonderful wines. One of winery owners has a son who started a brewery, Moa beer, so we went there too. Cynthia was suppose to join us but a friend of theirs was very ill and she needed to help out there. When we left, he was doing better, so we have our fingers crossed that all will be well. I cooked dinner that night. I made my lemon chicken, roasted veggies from both their garden and from the market, which included kumara and regular potatoes. Cynthia made the salad. All was great, especially the company.

On the Sunday the 7th, we attended the morning Sunday Farmer’s Market in Blenheim, before taking off on our next leg. On the road to Nelson, I saw a hillside with an image that I drew – that of almost a hand with the hand as a light green, surrounded by dark green. the contrasts of the two greens inspired me and I may use that image in my Feb bead journal piece. We next stopped at the Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve and walked to the beach, which was lovely. Then, we walked across the bridge and down a scenic bush to a suspended bridge. I found rocks I plan on using on my embroidery. Obviously, I’m collecting pieces to pull it all together. I can’t wait to work on it. While driving, as yellowish butterfly flew in my window and out Art’s. We laughed so hard. The night was spent with ATC members, Gail and Doug, in  Motueka. Dinner is not expected to be shared with ATC people, but they invited us for a pizza dinner. I made a delicious salad for my dinner, and Art loved Gail’s home made pizza. They’re lovely people and we enjoyed our evening with them. We’re going back to stay with them for another night after our Farewell Spit trip in golden Bay.

Today’s the 8th. We went into Motueka to book the Abel Tasman trip for Thursday. While there, we did laundry at the Bubbles Laudrette – do you love the name? I do. While the laundry was in the washing machine, we walked around the town, following the Art in Public Places brochure. We saw most of them, but didn’t find all of them. I love the concept of artists making the benches and trash enclosures, as well as other sculptures. We had a lovely lunch at the café next to the museum. I had Kumara rosti with wilted spinach, beet salsa, and a salad. Art had vegetable fritters with poached eggs and roasted tomatoes. Both were very nice. Once the laundry was dry, Art went to fold it while I went to an internet café to check on email. Everything was fine and we were off to Shamhbala for the evening. Of course, we stopped several times along the way, once for about an hour for a supposedly 20 min turn around. It was at the Resurgence at Riwaka Valley River. It was a beautiful walk to see the crystal pool, where the water was so green, very deep, next to the dark blues of the rest of the river. Then, we climbed above the pool to look down into it. It’s a healing spot for the Maori. Great water energy! So, now I’m caught up, although I know there are lots of small wonderous incidents I have forgotten to include.

I didn’t mention it but we saw the Southern Cross for the first time while visiting with Cynthia and Graham. What a sky! This is the type of thing I’ve wanted to include throughout and am sure I’ve forgotten some. I’ll either remember or I won’t, and I hope to share them with you.

This journey has been miraculous and I know it will continue to be that way. I’m grateful every day to be able to be here enjoying all this beauty and time with Art.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Feb 1 ?

Diane left early for school, so, we took off  for Mt Taranaki or Mt Egmont, as it's called by both names. It was a bit rainy and very foggy,  so we couldn't see the top of the over 8000 ft. high mountain/volcano. The visitor's area was nice to see, but it was disappointing that we couldn't see the peak. We looked at the exhibits, and then, off to New Plymouth. The woman at the visitor's center had told us about a nice place for lunch at the harbour, so that's where we were headed. However, when we arrived, it was closed on Mondays, so.... We found another spot on the water and had a bite there, watching the boats sailing around. There was a fin in the water in the small anchorage, which looked like a shark's fin but it was stationery, so we asked. Turns out that it was a marker for the owner of the restaurant who did his own fishing. He could tell the depth of the water depending on how much of the fin showed. There were a couple of manta rays swimming near where we were eating. Beautiful to watch.

I'm going to skip a few days as I'm having too good of a time to spend a lot of it writing. Although, I am enjoying the writing, we're spending our evenings with people, so it makes it difficult to use to the computer, and we don't always have wifi, so we have to use their computers instead of ours.. So much has gone on, with sightseeing, experiencing new foods, and all the marketing we've been doing. I'll try to add things as I go along, but maybe I'll start again with the 4th, when we crossed from Wellington to Picton, on the 3 1/2 hr ferry ride.

I keep meaning to mention the toilets here. Most have two different buttons to push, one is a half flush and the other is the full flush. The half usually works well. But until I discovered what they were, I was pushing both buttons! Look at all the new experiences we're having.

I've thought about having my computer in the car and writing then, but if I did that, I'd miss the fabulous scenery we were passing, so that won't work. It's been incredible. A lot of the roads have been really winding, up and down mountains, overlooking the different bodies of water, such as the Tasman Sea. I hope we get to go sailing somewhere. Maybe once we get back to North Island.

Will write more later.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sunday the 31st

We were off to visit a new beading buddy. I had found out that there were two BJP members, down in NZ, and had contacted them. Diane Lithgow wrote back and had invited us to stay with her in Stratford, in the area near New Plymouth. So, off we went with the intension of going to the Kiwi House in Otorohanga. However, it was pouring and although the kiwis are nocturnal birds and live inside a building, the rest of the park was outside and we didn't want to walk around in the rain.

So, we studied the map and decided to visit Kawhia, a small community on the coast. It was a nice drive, still raining when we got there, but not hard like it had been. We found a small place for lunch, Annie's, where I had a pan-fried fish and salad and Art had an abalone fritter with Kumara fries. We'd never had abalone before and it was delicious, as I took a bite. Kumara is like a sweet potato but not as sweet. Annie's was a place where you stood in line to give your order, they give you a stand with a number on it, and then the waiter brings your meal. While in line, we were talking with a couple who had been at a 50th birthday party in Kawhia. They told us about a Maori gathering where they were selling produce, so after lunch, we went exploring and went there. Because it had been raining, everything was moved inside. It was a small group but fun to visit with, and we purchased some beautiful tomatoes.

On our way out of town to continue our southernly passage, we stopped at a gallery called the Artsy Tarts. The paintings were nice but it was great meeting the three women who were there. One is a painting tutor (teacher), and she gave us lots of in put where to find fine crafts and jewelry collectives (another name for a co-op) in both the North and South Islands. They suggested we take the coast road down to Stratford, so that's what we decided to do.

Maude wasn't happy! We tried to program in the alternative route, but she wanted us to go back to the main highways and head south that way. She lost. We followed the coast as far as we could. It was through the mountains and a very beautiful drive. Well worth the longer drive. We saw birds we've never seen. One was all black except for its wings which were white but outlined in black. Very unusual.  I don't know why we left Maude on but we did, and she continued to try to get us to change our minds. No luck there.

We finally arrived at Diane's house, a lovely space. She's single and is a Principal's PA at the local high school. We had a great time with her. A bit after dinner, Art went to use his computer and Diane and I played with beads, also viewing all of her creations. She's more into embroidery but has lots of beads.

Another wonderful day spent in New Zealand.

The 29th & 30th

(I'm so far behind with my writing, as today is Feb 3. However, it's so much fun spending time with people, but it is cutting into my computer time. Oh well - priorities.)

Finally settled the phone situation. Now I feel secure again, having contact when we need it or want it. I find when I'm in the States and have left my cell at home, I feel vulnerable. I first got a cell years ago because my car had broken down; I was right near an exit so I went to the gas station there and phoned AAA, and then went back to my car, which had been broken into and things taken. Hence, the vulnerability. We've named our GPS Maude, who quite yells at us to turn around each time we discover a spot we want to stop at, and there have been many.

Before leaving the Auckland area and heading south to Pirongia, we went looking for a health food store with organic produce. Found one; it was small but had nice produce - we bought a salad mix, rocket (arugula), cucumbers, red peppers, and delicious juicy  cherry tomatoes. I also found a rice pasta brand I didn't know about, plus some brown rice crackers I could have.

Off to our next stop, which was just south of Hamilton, Hamilton Gardens. They're best known for the Paradise Garden Collection, which features six different style gardens:
Chinese Scholar's Garden
English Flower Garden
Japanese Garden of Contemplation
American Modernist Garden
Italian Renaissance Garden
Indian Char Bagh Garden

Hard to say which was my favorite, as I was typing and thinking that this one was my favorite, then I'd type the next name, and think that that one was my favorite. I think my favorites were a mix of the Japanese, Italian, and Indian. Art didn't care for the English garden as it was a confusion of flowers, but I like it. The house we're at right now, on the nights of the 2nd and 3rd, has a front garden similar to the large one we saw, and it's bright with all different flowers, overflowing with warmth and color.

We only had time to visit the Paradise Garden Collection, but there were other collections as well, such as the Productive, Cultivar, and Landscape Garden Collections. On to Pirongia and our first Servas hosts; this is an organization which was first formed after WWII and we've been members of since the early 90s. Jim and Jill Hammonds were warm with their welcome. They live in a 3 bedroom house with one bath, but the bath is divided into 3 rooms - the toilet, the sinks and bathtub, and the shower room. Apparently, this is quite common in NZ. They have a lot of land, about 13 acres, and grow some of their own food and have 12 cows for selling beef. She is with the school system and Jim is retired and a househusband and quite a good cook. It turns out that their American daughter-in-law went to Centre College in KY, and so did Art! I love the coincidences of life.

We had booked a tour of Waitomo Caves for 11:00am. There are several caves in the system and we booked with Spellbound Tours. It was a 3 1/2 hour tour, part of the time driving 1/2 hour in each direction to get there and back. There was a max of 12 people on each tour, so it wasn't not very large, which was exactly what had been recommended to us. There are closer caves, but each tour has a lot of people on it. We saw two caves, the first being with loads of Glowworms. It was incredible. Still waiting for Art to download some photos to include. Our tour included a rubber raft ride to view the glowworms in total darkness; actually, it's amazing how it becomes once your eyes adjust to the light they put out. After that cave, we had a stop and those who wanted hot chocolate, hot coffee, or hot tea had some with biscuits (cookies). I had brought a salad to eat at this point in the tour while they, including Art, had the cookies and drinks. We then walked about 5 minutes to another cave, where it was a walking tour. It was interesting, and not terribly enhanced, as were the caves we had seen during our AZ/NM trip.

Back near the tour office, there was a gift show and restaurant. The shop had wonderful crafts and I was tempted to buy a felted handbag. However, I decided I didn't really need one, so I passed, but they were wonderfully colorful. I like a bag which closes completely at the top, and these didn't. The artist was really creative, as she also made scarves, rings, small pouches, and eyeglass cases. I hope I see her work again.

On our way back to Jim and Jill's, we had decided to see the Kiwi House Park, but it was getting late and I was tired, so we skipped that with the idea of seeing it on our way further south the next day. The best laid plans......

I cooked dinner on the 30th, a delicious onion pasta, an herb butter with a bread Jim had baked that day, and a huge salad. The onion pasta is one of Art's favorites, and it's so easy; it will be in my cookbook, but here's the recipe now:

Onion Pasta
3 large onions
6 Tablespoons Olive oil
sea salt and pepper
1/ 2 cup organic vegetable broth
Rice pasta (or any type you like)
Parmesan cheese, optional

1. Thinly slice the onions and put them with the 6 T of olive oil into a deep fry pan. Turn the temperature to very low and cover the pan. Cook for 45 min., stirring once midway through.
2. Take off the cover and stir them well. Add a generous amount of salt, as the onions will be very sweet, and some pepper, Stir again. Turn up the temperature to med-high and let the onions turn golden.
3. Add the broth and keep the temperature up as the broth evaporates a bit. Add the parsley and turn off the heat.
4. While the onions are cooking, heat the water for cooking the pasta. The rice pasta usually takes a long time, so start to cook it when the onions are on the med-high heat.
5. Drain the pasta and add to the finished sauce.
6. Serve the parmesan cheese on the side if you desire it.
7. Serve and enjoy. If you're not gluten free, it's wonderful with a warm crusty bread and herb butter.

I'll write again soon.