Thursday, September 24, 2009

Time to see the whanau

We're ready to get the whanau together and crack open the chilly bin! But first, a little taste of New Zealand from our Prime Minister.

We're prepping for our convenient 20-hour flight right now. Time to give John a call and get a lift to the airport. :)

* Whanau is a Maori word for family.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mama we're coming home ... for a visit

We're getting geared up for a visit back to the States, and getting excited since we haven't seen our American friends and family for nine months now. And Jake couldn't be happier that our visit coincides perfectly with the American Royal Barbecue, which is supposed to be the biggest barbecue contest in the world and the season finale for the competitive barbecue circuit.

As we prepare to pack and finalize our travel arrangements, I can't help but sigh as I pull out my quart-sized Ziploc baggies. I'm so used to flying on NZ's domestic airlines, where you don't need to take off your shoes or leave your liquids at home. No one's ever even asked us for ID. Hope US Customs doesn't flag me for all the kiwifruit and kiwis (rare nocturnal flightless birds) I'm packing as souvenirs.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cute baby sheeps!

Just back from a long weekend in Akaroa, which is on the Banks Peninsula just a couple hours south of Christchurch. The peninsula is halfway down the east coast on the South Island, and it's named after Joseph Banks, the botanist that accompanied Capt. Cook on his travels.

We stayed in the beautiful Puau Bay B&B within view of the Pacific Ocean. Thanks to Sue and Murray for sharing their home with us and for their warm hospitality. This is on a 900-acre farm with too many cute little lambs to count!

As we strolled along the property, we saw sheep, birds and cattle.

Then got to the beach and saw seals! This one wasn't happy we were there, so I snapped this pic and quickly backed off.

What an amazing place -- we could have spent a month exploring here and checking out all the local walks.

We've never seen deer like this before -- deer behind a fence, that is. Apparently lots of farmers have deer and keep them contained with these taller fences.

We've been trying to convince you it's windy here. Now do you believe us? Actually it's not usually so windy down near Christchurch, but this little tree is in a pretty exposed coastal area.

The town of Akoroa is quiet and charming with little cafes and beautiful views of the harbour.

We did a bit of shopping along the way, as well as being responsible wine tasters. We have to provide equal opportunity to every NZ wine region after all.

Mom, I promise there's lots of jewelry shopping to do once you get here. You're going to love it.

Our favorite cheese? Jake's is a cracked pepper havarty, thanks to an excellent recommendation from Greg. And I liked the smoked cheddar. Mmm!

Then back in Christchurch for an evening, we took advantage of a little "punting on the Avon." I don't know why they call it that, but it involves a little boat ride through the calm little river that goes through the center of the city.

And then wrapped up with a little outdoor dinner at one of the local restaurants. The weather was fantastic during the days but got a little cooler in the evenings, so this fire was perfect.

Now we're back home and ready to finish our three-day work weeks. This is the life!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Our non-ski trip to Mt. Ruapehu

This weekend we went on the annual ski trip that Jake's company puts on, however we skipped all the actual skiing. It was great. I'm usually only good for a couple hours of skiing anyway, then I'm focused on getting off the mountain, having a shower and having a beer.

So instead, this time we took advantage of one of the awesome hiking trails nearby. This is about 3 1/2 hours from home in the center of the North Island. It doesn't show up very well in this pic, but that's Mt. Ruapehu (roo-uh-PAY-hoo) behind us. It's one of the world's most active volcanoes, and the most active in NZ. Major eruptions have occurred in 1895, 1945 and 1995-96.

We joined our friends Marc and Kat for a hike to Waitonga Falls. Of all the photos I took during our trip, the only ones I have of Marc are of the back of his head. Sorry Marc! If you're curious, here's what he looks like.

So this track was mostly in the bush, but split in half by this boardwalk that exists to protect the vegetation. Plus there were a lot of little water holes around. If it wasn't so cold and frozen up here, I'd almost describe it like a swamp.

And yes, it was pretty cold -- here are some icicles we found along the track for proof.

Then within sight of the falls, we did a bit of bouldering and crossing the little river.

I was really imagining myself in a Patagonia ad for this little maneuver, but I guess it doesn't look that impressive now.

The falls were interesting because they were half-frozen.

Of course we had to fit some hot tub time into our schedule. No ski trip is complete without it.

On the drive back we took what might be a better shot of the mountain. We had some amazing weather this weekend. Apparently you often can't see Mt. Ruapehu because of the clouds, so we were lucky to have two beautiful clear days. Too bad for those who came to ski because although the skies were crystal clear, the mountain was closed to skiers on Saturday because of high winds.

We also passed kilometer after kilometer of sheep fields, and I haven't forgotten about my promise to provide some photos of the cute little baby sheeps, since this is lambing season after all. But every time we stopped for a photo, the sheep just ran away. So instead of posting all my photos of sheep butts (and I have plenty by now), I'll leave it to the pros and show you this postcard I picked up. Hope you enjoy this cutie as much as I do.


My star-spangled cubicle

That's right -- I'm another year older. Thanks to everyone for the happy birthday wishes, especially to my awesome coworkers, who decided my desk needed a bit of decoration.

This included red, white and blue streamers and confetti all over my desk, chair and floor. Reminds me of a certain incident involving Lucky Charms at a previous job -- it's good these decorations weren't edible.

It's not always so festive at work, but I'm definitely enjoying my job and learning a lot. And the folks I work with are some amazing people. Thanks guys!