Saturday, March 27, 2010

Helping Australian cricket fans feel welcome

I give up. I will never understand cricket. Try reading this recap of the current cricket test between our NZ Black Caps and Australia that was published on
Captian Daniel Vettori took four for 36 off 19.3 overs and removed his opposite number Ricky Ponting for 22 with a direct hit run out as Australia were skittled for 231 after opting to bat in the second test at Seddon Park.

After the early loss of Tim McIntosh, bowled for four without offering a shot to paceman Doug Bollinger, BJ Watling and the recalled Mathew Sinclair negotiated 13 overs to guide New Zealand to 19 for one in reply at stumps.

It was Vettori's best innings figures in 13 tests, since his six for 56 against the West Indies in Dunedin in December 2008, and with rejuvenated paceman Tim Southee (4-61) saw New Zealand storm back from their 10-wicket defeat in Wellington.

See what I mean? I know we're competing with Australia, and the series stretches out over several weeks and across several cities, and I have absolutely no idea who's winning or losing.

But what I can appreciate is the Kiwi sense of humour when it comes to hosting our biggest sports rivals. A couple weeks ago I started noticing some helpful signs around the city for the out-of-town fans who were sure to come for the games.

The first one I saw (that I never had a chance to photograph) suggested cricket fans take the cable car to Westpac stadium. Sounds like helpful advice for tourists, right? Thing is, the cable car is located way across town and runs nowhere near the stadium. And a kumara is a sweet potato -- it definitely requires some cooking before consumption.

And I wish our friends from across the ditch, as they say, lots of luck in looking for our subway, as we don't have one. Not sure what the actual score is, but looks like the points for clever advertising go to New Zealand.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Marlborough region with Jim and Adena

In a final recap of our visit from Jake's parents, I'll share some photos from our trip down to the Marlborough region on the South Island. We took our car on the ferry from Wellington to Picton, and let me tell you those waters were rough!

But we quickly recovered and kicked things off with a wine tour. This area is best known for its sauvignon blancs, which are my favourite. They also produce pinot gris, riesling, gewurtztraminer (best with Thai food, I learned), some chardonnay and pinot noir.

I think Jim enjoyed the wines, but was pretty excited to find this book that featured a photo of a dog driving a car.

In Blenheim we stayed in a beautiful little holiday house there hosted by some friendly Kiwis Gill and Richard. They even invited us to enjoy a drink with them in their bar room after our wine tour. By that point, we'd tasted more than 20 or so wines and were feeling rather good. So later we had a pizza delivered and called it an early night!

Also in Blenheim we visited an aviation museum that housed several WWI era war planes and replicas. Then we were off to see the Marlborough Sounds and Queen Charlotte Track, one of NZ's great walks.

The short water taxi ride was much easier on my stomach than the 3-hour interisland ferry.

We put on our hiking shoes and started walking. Since we weren't staying long, we didn't need to bring much -- just put all our stuff in Jake's and Jim's backpacks. Thanks for carrying our stuff guys! We saw some beautiful sights on our walks, some under the canopy of the trees and some open views of the sounds.

My favourite quote of the entire trip is from Jim: "This place would be pretty cool if you had monkeys here."

We walked some, but mostly we spent plenty of time relaxing. The weather was just perfect. Strangely we saw a tonne of jellyfish in the water, so swimming was out of the question, but the guys had the chance to do a bit of fishing.

The guys didn't have any bait and only were able to borrow some very meager fishing equipment, so they picked some muscles from out of the water, smashed them open with their boots (no tools handy) and used the meat for bait. The entire process took about 20 minutes to set up the first time and within five seconds of being in the water it had been stolen. Those fish had seen that trick before.

Some friendly fishermen nearby shared a bit of bait with them and they were able to reel in a couple of fish, but I think they were having fun just trying new techniques.

We stayed a night each at Te Mahia and the Portage Resort and both were nice and relaxing. We spent some time exploring each one and decided that this jetty that was closed for safety reasons was a perfect spot for a family photo.

I thought it turned out well, but we had to watch where we stepped as some of the boards were either rotted through or loose. No wonder it was closed.

We came back to the main restaurant for dinner that evening. We were taking in the beautiful sunset when this chap in a kilt walks by and Adena excitedly but politely asks if she can have a photo with him.

The conversation immediately following this photo:
Adena: "So are you with the wedding party we've seen here tonight?"
Kilt guy: "Yes I'm the groom."
Adena: [gasps, goes bright red and starts apologising like she's just met a famous person]

It was all good fun though because he was very friendly. Not so sure why the Starship Enterprise is in the photo, but I still like this pic.

For our ferry back to Wellington, we were on a much larger boat -- it could hold up to 1,600 people and 600 vehicles. And the seas were much calmer, which made for a very pleasant trip.

The guys spent some of the time wandering around the boat, but much of the time they were watching the scores of the Kansas State game. They've been hauling their tournament bracket printout to each location on our journey, so their prized little piece of paper was getting pretty ratty by now. We took this photo after Jake realised his dad had used it as a coaster.

We had such a great time with you guys -- thanks so much for coming all this way to visit. We'll never forget it.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A weekend near Mt. Taranaki

Jake and the parents and I spent a weekend up near Mt. Taranaki/Egmont National Park, on the west side of the North Island. What an amazing view! This volcano is what they used instead of Mt. Fuji when filming The Last Samurai, which came out in 2003. No sightings of Tom Cruise this time though.

Many thanks to our friend Heidi, who hooked us up with an amazing accommodation. Her mother runs a beautiful mountain lodge in the area, and we had so much fun wandering around the property and seeing all the artwork inside.

The garden was a special treat to explore as Jim and Adena have their own at home. This little courgette (zucchini) was ready to eat, and we didn't want it going to waste. And the friendly pet pig was happy to socialise with us, although we were hesitant to get too close.

There were a few sheep on the property who are a little more shy than the pig -- you can just see them across the bridge.

Although we went exploring and took a bush walk, we were really happy to stay indoors and just look out the window at the amazing views and interesting birds that came to visit. Some of the time the mountain was hidden by the clouds, but when it cleared up it was spectacular.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Soccer and barbecue with the parents

I have been such a neglectful blogger this month! But it's not without reason -- Jake's parents were here on a visit all the way from Rose Hill, Kansas. We have too many photos to count and so many adventures to tell, so I'll just hit the highlights. The morning after they arrived in Wellington we greeted them with a barbecue and a soccer game.

Jake had a full grill and smoked a bunch of meat -- way more food than we needed so we were eating leftovers for a week. It was great!

We had some friends come over and show us how excited they were that the Wellington Pheonix made it to the A-League semi-final.

Our game in Westpac Stadium was an exciting one and we ended up winning.

Over the next couple of days, Jim and Adena had the chance to recover from their jetlag and get to know our little village suburb of Khandallah. They found the lawn bowls club and some friendly folks even invited them to try it out.

They were also happy to find the Parson's Nose Bakery Cafe -- Parsons is Adena's maiden name so we had to document the find with this photo.

And of course visiting Wellington isn't worth the trip if you don't take a walk around the harbour. This is one of our well known works of art.

We had our wonderful neighbors over for a meal. We enjoyed a pavlova (delicious fluffy dessert) prepared by June.

And we climbed to the top of Mt. Kaukau for some amazing views of the city, harbour and ocean.

I'll share more soon, but I have to run to work now. Can't wait to tell you about wine and volcanoes and WWI aircraft and boats and men in kilts. What a fun time we've had!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Our folks are here to visit

It's so great to have Jake's parents here for a visit all the way from Kansas.

So far Jim and Adena have taken in a tour of Parliament, an amazing Pheonix soccer win at Westpac stadium, the delights of lawn bowls, lots of walking, some tasty Kiwi treats such as pavlova (thanks Heidi) and Cheerios (thanks Greg), and of course some good New Zealand wine and beer. Lots more to come, so we'll offer an update again soon.