“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

One year in New Zealand!

I've just returned from a trip to Napier, in the region known as Hawke's Bay, where we celebrated the one year anniversary of my arrival in NZ. The drive is about 5-6 hours, depending on how often you stop. We stopped in Taupo at the Hot Springs there, where we soaked our muscles and got prune-skinned. There are pools of varying temperatures. Unlike the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua, the water here appeared clear and didn't smell. The setting is nice, but can't compare to the view at the Polynesian Spa (visited back in Feb).
Our lodging was in Eskdale, about 15 min drive north of Napier. I found the Cornucopia Lodge through doglinks, and I chose it because she allows dogs. The owner has 3 Border Collies and competes in agility trials. She made us breakfast and a lovely evening cordial and handmade chocolate. Her property has plenty of lawn for ball chasing. Fargo was well behaved and got on well with the youngest collie who was cute as can be. We left Fargo in his crate on the covered porch on Saturday so we could enjoy the gorgeous sunny day touring around. We visited Esk Valley, Kim Crawford, and Clearview wineries. There are dozens of wineries in Hawke's Bay, but 3 was all I could manage tasting. We stuck to the whites, because the reds are a bit weak in our view. We can get really good Cab Sauv and Merlot from Australia. We had lunch at Te Mata cheese cafe, then visited the Arataki Honey center. Napier, I should mention, is a beautiful seaside city with many gardens. We picked a good time to go because everything seems to be blooming now, and the flowers are just lovely. Also, the baby lambs and cows are gamboling about the grassy pastures. We'll plan another visit to Hawke's Bay sometime in the future, for a longer time.
Last weekend, Fargo and I met up with sister Barb and her two Ridgebacks, friend Holly and her Ridgeback, and new friend Hsin-Yi (from the Expats in NZ yahoo group) and her Great Dane at Waiatarua Reserve, where the dogs can get off-leash exercise. Afterwards, Holly and her partner Steve joined Darin and I at Hallertau Brewery, where we had some delicious beer and small plates (see photo). Holly's blog is CaliforniarefugeesinNZ, linked here on my blog. Sadly, I had to say goodbye to one of the Americans I have met here, Rhonda. She intends to come back in a few years, probably for good. I hope she can manage the transition back to the US, in Kansas, of all places.
In the next blog installment, I promise to post photos of the Symond Street Cemetery, which is really cool. And haunted. With what, you ask? Check back in about a week and see!

BTW, the NZ All Blacks Rugby is continuing to totally rule the 2007 World Cup, woo hoo! They are great fun to watch.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Chardonnay, Waitakeres, and French Market

Margarita Brain Freeze- Oh, the pain!!! We have adequate Mexican food here, at Mexicali Fresh. They have black beans, woo hoo! Have to say, not a fan of the margaritas here, too sweet for my taste, but then I've been called a tequila snob. Hey, I have no problem with that title.
Spring is definitely on the way. I see leaves sprouting on the trees (oak?) in the Auckland Domain, and the Magnolia tree in our yard finally bloomed. The lemon tree is heavy with fruit.
Saturday turned into a lovely, sunny day, and we tried to make the most of it. Darin and I returned to the French Market in Parnell, where we bought sausages, vegetables, and creamed blackberry honey- yum!! then looked at motorcycles. We found a nice Honda Shadow for a good price, but the question is, is this the best use of our money? The house needs work, and we went to the home show on Sunday, which only inspired desire for upgrades. The weather is less ideal for motorcycling here than in San Diego, due to the rain and cooler temperatures in NZ.

Post motorcycle shopping, we attended a Chardonnay wine tasting at Kumeu River Winery, just north of where we live. Not normally fans of Chardonnay, we were impressed by this winery's products. The winemaker told us they use only 20% oak, and only French oak, as opposed to American oak- I suspect the taste difference is partly due to this. After a bite to eat, we took Fargo for a walk on the Auckland City Walk in the Waitakere Regional Reserve. We were in awe of the gorgeous fern forest and old giant Kauri trees. Later, we saw the film the Bourne Ultimatum, which was good, and then watched the All Blacks pummel Portugal.

The NZ All Blacks
The All Blacks are favored in the World Rugby Cup, being played presently in France. I've been lucky to have pulled their team in the rugby pool at work, standing to win $50. Before every game, the team performs an intimidation dance called the Haka, which is incredible to watch. You can see one of their performances here- though not their best, still good. One of the great things about watching rugby here is the absolute absence of ANY commercials! And there's few breaks for time outs, penalties, etc.

Movies and Books

We saw the Simpsons movie a few weeks ago, and as anticipated, it was funny and typical. We LOVE Matt Groening. We used to enjoy his comics in the Reader, in Minneapolis, Life in Hell. I also have two of his books, Love is Hell and Work is Hell. Highly recommended!!!

I've just finished reading the book The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon. It was a good read, but still I prefered his book, the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I had to renew my book checkout in order to finish the latest book. Though it was a fun read, it's hard to make time for reading. Next, I have the Omnivore's Dilemma (also from the library. It is really well written, much better than Diet for a Dead Planet. Very readable and impressive, so far.

Here's a couple photos from the Home Show. Barb is planning to remodel and add on to her kitchen, and she's got a lot of planning to do! The stove is apparently already chosen.

Unfortunately, I accidentally shut the door on Latte's tail while I was holding him, and he freaked out. Good thing I was wearing a padded bra, because my t-shirt was shredded on the chest. I have like 5 bandaids on my arm and chest, and was in a lot of pain. A good stiff drink and a couple of tylonol have helped. Latte is fine.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

My US president vote goes to...

Barack Obama, because he went on the Daily Show and told Jon Stewart that he loved the show. I love the Daily Show, too! That's good enough for me. Although it's not as funny as the Colbert Report, it is broadcast here in NZ and keeps us current with the current US politics. The current king/emperor of the US is visiting Australia this week, and it is causing me 5 kinds of annoyance. The Aussie and NZ populace seems dismayed at Bush's extravegance- the most security ever for any foreign dignitary. One of the many bizarre security expenses was a water cannon to use against protesters, despite the fact that Australia's suffered the worst drought ever, in that country, and water restrictions are in place. Oh the irony. I'm so proud of these students, protesting King Bush's visit- great signs!