“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.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Not feeling creative enough for a clever title.

Well this post is long overdue, but I don't have all that much going on to share. The highlight of my April is that my 19 year old niece, my brother's daughter from Rochester, Minnesota, is comming to visit for 2 MONTHS!! YAY! Too bad it's in June-July, when it's winter, but still we are going to have tons of fun!! Yikes, I'm going to have to clean out our spare bedroom- what a mess.
The photo above features our puppy Ruby's stateside half brother, just over 2 years old, winning Best in Show- he is a multi- BIS/Multi- BISS CH Nighthawk's Born for Highwood, AKA Ozz. He's the number 1 Rottweiler in the US now, by a large margin. I have no doubt this is in part to be credited to his handler, Perry Payson, shown above. He is a superstar of dog handlers. He has amazing success in the breed conformation ring. As the photo below shows, I, too, am a superstar to my pets. This was taken on a cold night this month- they are getting more frequent now. Ruby developed a urinary tract infection shortly after Darin's return from the US, I think from playing with her sister in a muddy pool next to a water trough in a paddock. That was a bummer, but antibiotics cleared it up. Yay for veterinarians!
The rain is comming more frequently now, and it rained for 6 straight days after Darin returned from the desert US. He first visited his mom and step-father in Arizona, and was hosted by our dear friends Kaveh and Dina. He then drove over to San Diego, our old stomping ground. He brought a Kiwi apron to our friend Dave (below), who let him crash at his condo while in San Diego. He cooks the most delicious flank steak, among other tasty meals. Dave agreed to collect a few things I'd ordered in the US for Darin to pick up and bring back to NZ. One of the packages was a year prescription of levothyroxine for Fargo's hypothyroidism. My old vet in SD wrote the prescription at my request, and I ordered the medication from Omaha Vaccine. They will not fill a prescription written outside the US, and my old vet would probably not carry the amount that I wanted to order. I explained to him that in NZ, the only form of levothyroxine is the medication for humans, supplied only as 100 or 50 micrograms. Because dogs metabolize much more quickly than humans, the dose per body weight is higher. I take 150 mcg/day, and Fargo takes 1200 mcg/day. My medication is subsidized by the NZ government, so I pay only about $3 for 3 months supply. Fargo's medication, because he needs so many (12 pills/day), is $120 (NZ dollars) for 83 days- OUCH. The prescription I bought from Omaha Vaccine is 600 mcg/pill, allowing me to give only 2 pills per day. The bonus of this dosage is the cost- only about $11 USD for 2 months supply. So, the pills arrive at Dave's, no problem, along with some soft toys for Ruby. On the customs form for entry to NZ, you have to claim any veterinary medicines, and so Darin did. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) then siezed the year supply of levothyroxine. They are incredibly strict about biosecurity, and I knew this, so shame on me for not researching this before ordering. He had to pay about $34 for them to take it and NOT destroy it. They gave him paperwork to file with the NZ Food Safety Authority to try to get it back. The rules are horribly vague and I had a heap of learning what to do next. Of course, they wanted MORE money- $123.75 to be exact. I asked my NZ vet for assistance, because only a veterinarian can import a vet medicine. I've mailed off the money and Application for Approval to Import, and I'm desperately hoping I haven't thrown more money into the abyss. The bottom line is that if we get approval to import this medication for my dog, it will still be much cheaper than buying it in NZ. I cannot figure out why it is so damn expensive here! This is one of the great mysteries of NZ, and I although at this point I should feel more knowledgeable, I don't. The Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines arm of the NZFSA is a monolithic government act? agency? deity? religion? Sigh, well that's government for you.
The other interesting thing that happened this month is the "junior doctors" strike at the Auckland Hospital. These are what we call the registrars. They were striking for 2 days, because the hosital would not give them the large pay raise they want, despite negotiation efforts. The news is reporting there will be another strike, just 2 weeks after this last one. These are fairly difficult on the support staff, patients, and regular doctors.
Since I've been working at the hospital, I've been wearing skirts. Anyone who knows me could count on one hand the number of times I've worn a dress or skirt. Skirts are rather popular here, and you can find a good variety of styles and patterns. I think they are more comfortable than my usual bluejeans. My minor problems with them are that they look best with shoes with a heel, and generally heels aren't comfortable to me, and that my legs get cold. I suppose I'll have to wear tights or long underwear in the winter.
In food news, we've discovered the joy of vegetarian pizza. We grilled zucchini and red peppers, then put them on the home-made, partially baked crust with tomato sauce, finely chopped onions, sundried tomatoes in oil, feta cheese, and a bit of cheddar. Amazing! The zucchini were from our garden. Also from our garden, we got a big green pumpkin, which grew as a volunteer. I used it to make the tasty Thai pumpkin soup- the recipe can be found here. Acorn squash can be used instead, the shallots can be fried up if you don't want to roast it, and it's best with chipotle peppers or other chilis added. Be sure to put it in the blender before serving.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Away from Home

We flew to Nelson for the 4 day Easter weekend. Here's photos from our visit to Abel Tasman Park on Easter day. To drive from Nelson, on the top of the North Island on NZ, to Kaiteriteri, where you get on the water taxi, is only about 1 hour. We were dropped off at Torrent bay, hiked to Bark Bay, and finished at Anchorage (Toto, I don't think we're in Alaska anymore!). The water was so beautiful and clear, next time I'd like to see what's underwater.

We especially liked Cleopatra's Pools, which is where this picture of Darin was taken. We're glad we hiked instead of kayaked, because of the number of motor boats ferrying tourists in and out of bays. Abel Tasman is, understandably, a very popular place to visit. While in Nelson, we stayed at Grampian Villa. For some undetermined reason, they upgraded us to this luxurious room- Darin is enjoying the complementary port. The bed was huge and comfortable, and the furnishings were unlike anything I've ever enjoyed. One sort of weird/funny thing that happened there was upon returning from our dinner out, the hostess's adult son was watching a television show describing why Jeffrey Dahmer was one of the worst serial killers. This was in the lounge directly across from our suite. Anyway, I'd definitely go back there and recommend staying there. The location is really quiet and walking distance to the town center.
The other cool thing about Nelson is that our fellow American blogger friends, Angela and Don, live there, and we finally got to meet each other face to face at the wonderful Saturday Market. Too bad we don't live closer, because we would love to play poker with them. Check out their blog here.
The weekend prior to the Nelson trip, we had some friends up to the farm for a picnic of cheese, wine, pasta salad, and savory muffins. The family we met in Fiji were there, and we played a game we learned in Fiji. This game requires trying to hit a watermelon with a machete while blindfolded, after walking to it blindfolded.
We walked around the property, and Ruby fell in the stream. In a flash, Clint was lying on the steep edge of the stream reaching for the surprised puppy. Here's the puppy hero on the right.
As a "land-warming" gift, Adam and Roberta got us this adorable gnome- his name is Gunter. He lives in a hollow tree near the gate, keeping an eye on things for us while we're away. What a cutie, eh?
Darin is off to the US for 10 days, visiting his Mom who turns 80 this month, and doing some work in San Diego. Most importantly, he's going to bring home lots of stuff that is cheaper in the US than in NZ, and stuff we just can't get here, like Goldfish crackers and cherry Nibs- you know, health food. I think I'll ask him to stuff some Doritos in his bag if there's room on the way back. Because, as you can see from our photo below, we are simply starving to death. Ha ha! (not)

Finally, an update on what I've been reading and watching. I bought some comics at the best comic book shop EVER, Big Brain in Minneapolis, MN. I have a funny/tragically sad book of US political comics by Tom Tomorrow that I was reading on my Easter/Zombie Jesus holiday. Recently I got around to reading the brilliant, funny and Apocalypse Nerd by Peter Bagge, who I've been a fan of... forever! I love his work. I had read #1 and 2 back in the US, and got #3-6 last November. #6 was the final issue.

Movies watched recently include Candy, with the drug-overdosed and recently deceased Heath Ledger, starring him as a junkie, Junebug, which was boring but not awful, and The Hills Have Eyes. I'm not sure how I managed to NOT see this before, but it was pretty horrific, in a good way. Mutants + violence = creepy goodness.