Sunday, February 26, 2006

the niner

364 days until i'm 30. i dub this year the niner. here's to my friends chris and kris and james on your birthdays too!! for my birthday i received a faux fur tiger striped beret. i am pretty sure it will come out at parties, along with the menopause sunglasses, and these jewels we found on the street in whangarei in nz. tres facionable.

Friday, February 24, 2006


as with all well laid plans, one must remain flexible. such is our case now...

on wednesday we found out that my grandmother passed away in colorado. after much deliberation, i decided i needed to come back to the states to be with my family and my grandfather. after lots of phone calls, faxes, and emails, we got on a flight back to the US on thursday night at 10:45. long flights, requiring mike to take a separate trip to denver, via portland, and me to take a flight from sfo to lax, and then to denver.

we're so grateful to our dear friend kq who offered us a place to stay in denver last night and to her bf nick for the use of his car for while we're here. we also owe willie and toots, and d and m lots of thanks for watching over the house. i'm so thankful to have such great friends.

i have fond memories of my grandparents' house in colorado. they live in a small town in south central colorado with amazing views of the sangre de cristo and wet mountain ranges. as kids, we'd spend summers here playing with our six cousins who live in the same town. this weekend, all the grandkids are back together for the first time in at least 15 years, which is quite special.

my granny used to set up obstacle courses around the yard of her house so we could play olympics and track meet. she always had tons of candy around, and a big kiddy pool in the backyard to stave off the hot summer sun. during church, she used to let us sit next to her and she would pass us treats to tide us over before breakfast, which was always eaten at one of the town's two cafes after the 8AM mass.

as her arthritis got worse, her hands became so gnarled that her fingers became disjointed and awkward. this didn't stop her from holding your hand and stroking it with such force that you felt like she had the strength of a 30 year old. despite her pain, she always managed to tell lots of jokes -- many a bit risque or tawdry -- and her laugh was infectious.

my grandpa just told me, "if i could give up all my worldly possessions to get her back i would, but only if she'd be healthy." i know what he means.

we'll be in colorado until later next week, then flying back to portland. thanks to you all for your comments on here. i will try to post a few photos now that we are around free internet service again.

take care.

Monday, February 20, 2006

long time, no speak

we have been driving like mad the past four days from the southermost part of the south island to the northernmost point of the north island. it's been a busy few days, lots of miles, but we've finally arrived in beach country. yahoo!

let me catch you up: as of our last post, we were headed to the fiordlands to do a kayak trip through a fiord. it ended up being a wonderful experience. to take our trip to doubtful sound (really a fiord, not a sound) we stayed in lake manapouri, a town surviving only to take tourists and kayakers into doubtful sound. to get to the fiord, we took a boat across lake manapouri, then a bus across the mountain to the sound. it was raining buckets, but by the time we got to the fiord, we were anxious to get in the water and start paddling. we toured for three or four hours in the rain, checking out the coastline of the fiord and the huge lush forests that border the water. it was a very surreal experience to be in the middle of nowhere, paddling a little tiny boat in black water, all the while getting soaked by the warm rain. at one point our guide showed us how to 'raft up', which is required if the waves get too high. upon hearing this, i think my face must have had a look of terror on it, because our guide asked, 'are you ok?'

it was a calm day for the most part, with only a few waves coming from the other tour boats that traveled through the sound. toward the end of the day, the sun finally came out and we were able to see the tops of all the mtns around us, and the huge waterfalls that carried the day's rain over rocky cliffs. it was magical.

the next day we drove to lake wanaka, via queenstown. queenstown is a lot like dillon or breckenridge, colorado, very touristy but fun. we later found out its official sister city is aspen. we weren't too far off. we stuck around in queenstown long enough to buy a bottle of wine and cheese for lunch from a cool ex-pat whose sister lives in salem, ore. following our picnic by the lake, we headed to lake wanaka just up the road. we had the chance to stop at a few vineyards of the otago region along the way. at one of the vineyards (whose name i'm forgetting), we enjoyed the most delicious pinot noir i've had in years. it was so lucious and fruity, with bits of earthiness and tannin. amazing. it would rival any of the 98 pinots from the willamette region. the owner who was our tasting room manager was pleased to hear this, as she is familiar with oregon's reputation for pinots. we've got a bottle to bring back with us....we hope it will survive the next two weeks, as it's too tempting to drink every night!

lake wanaka was a smaller version of queenstown, very lovely, but much less crowded. we stayed just outside town at a little campground in glendhu bay. it was stunning views of the lake, the glacial peaks of mt. aspiring, and the stars.

following our stay at glendhu bay, we began our long haul up the west coast of the south island to the ferry to the north. we didn't anticipate making the journey so quickly, but found few places along the way we wanted to stop. our only pitstop between wanaka and the ferry was at the fox glacier, a huge bit of ice that we could hike to from the road. it was sad to see how much the glacier had shrunk over the past 100 years -- i'd say more than a km. and they say global warming isn't at work....

we caught the ferry in picton to wellington, and on saturday got tickets to a cricket match in wellington. what a trip cricket is! anyone who says baseball is slow should stay away from cricket. the game began at 2PM, and by the time we left at 5:30, the game was not quite half over. the end score was 280-something to 250-something. crazy, but a lot of fun. unexpectedly, the crowd at the cricket match was extremely raucous and wild, more so than an american football game. we saw a group of shieks, some guys dressed in all pink tight shirts and lycra shorts, a man with a tutu and halo, and scads and scads of other weird but fun characters. i'm so glad we went, but i'm glad we didn't stay the whole day.

speaking of characters, let me take this moment to mention that the 80's fashion trends are back in full force in NZ. i have seen many a chap wearing those canvas slip on shoes that are black and white checkerboard patterns. you know the ones i'm talking about. lots of headbands, wristbands, slouchy boots and bubble skirts with leggings underneath too. i feel completely inadequate. perhaps i will knit up a pair of legwarmers to wear, just to fit in.

we've driven across the entire length of the north island now and are today in whangarei for a quick stop. we are headed to the beaches just outside town for some sun and relaxation for a few days before driving back to auckland and waiheke island for the last bit of our trip. aside from a ton of mosquito and sandfly bites (which i'm sure carry bird flu or the dunge fever) we're in good health, good spirits and are getting tanner (more tan?) by the day. along the way, i've also forgotten how to type, and this entry is taking me quite some time to compose. i think that's a good sign. what a relief to be away from the computer for so many days on end. i've also just realized my birthday is in a few days....i never thought i'd forget my own birthday, but i don't mind not knowing what day it is!

cheers to you all -- we're off to the beach!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

on the road again

it's been a busy few days, but all good things to report. thursday we awoke in kaikoura to beautiful blue skies and a gorgeous ocean. the beach was all black gravel, not sand, which made the waves crashing on the coast even more dramatic. after a quick walk on the beach, we drove north to picton, at the very tip of the south island. we were fortunate enough to book a spot in the afternoon kayak trip through the marlborough sounds. what an amazing stroke of luck! it was one of the most amazing experiences i've had. kayaking up there was so peaceful and natural. we saw stingrays swimming in the water not a foot below our boat. our tour group had only five other people plus a guide, which was a perfect size group. we took tea (or a "smoke-o" as one guy called it) on a secluded beach on one of the bays and soaked in some of the afternoon sun. after our paddle back to our starting point, mike and i drove further into the sound to camp on the next bay over. we had a lovely dinner watching the cormorants flying and diving in the water and the small boats bobbing up and down.

friday we did a wine tour through the blenheim wine region. our favorite by far was the
bladen winery, which is a boutique winery that bottles fewer than 4000 cases of wine per year. the owner was a cheery chap who spent the better part of an hour chatting with us about his wine philosophy, the region, rugby, and the best spots for dinner. he suggested we take his gewurtztraminer into town to a thai restaurant called bamboo garden. the restaurant's green curry inspired the flavors that he aimed for in his gewurt. (he hit it right on the head, by the way -- the wine was perfect with it, as we later found out, and it also paired well with the red fish curry). it was such a pleasure to talk with the guy, and we hope to come back and visit him another time.

saturday we stayed in blenheim for the marlborough wine festival. situated in the middle of the montana brancott winery, the festival hosted more than 50 area wineries and food vendors. we had some lovely savignon blancs and chardonnays, and also enjoyed some delicious seafood courtesy of the area fisherpeople.

we had to cut our time at the festival short, because we had tix to the christchurch/otago rugby match later that, back down south four hours to the match. it was a rousing game, with the local christchurch crusaders team beating the otago team by a good margin. i was especially pleased with the game, considering i got a front row (ok, second row) view of my favorite hottie player,
dan carter, and the superstar, soon-to-be captain of the all blacks, richie mccaw. it was so cool. i am so hooked on this sport.

last night we did a tour through a penguin reserve to see yellow-eyed penguins. they were such a crack up! we mostly saw fat chicks (birds, not people), but a few adults were just arriving back to the reserve after a full day's fishing. the reserve owners have quite a set-up -- in the reserve, there are tons of tunnels and blinds set up where you can watch the birds with minimal interruption. very cool.

today we're in dunedin for a short bit before heading over to the fiordland national park for a kayaking trip through the doubtful sound. (we hope we get tix, though...stay tuned for that.)

we're having such a blast, as i'm sure it's obvious. we're not hardly thinking about work, haven't watched tv or read a newspaper in a week, and are totally chilled out. only slightly worried about ena, but i'm sure our good housekeepers are keeping a good eye on her. thanks guys!

we'll check in soon, but in the meantime, drop us a note here to let us know how everything is!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

i thought we left the rain

it's rainy in kaikoura on the south island today, but that hasn't stopped us so far. we're enjoying our first day in the camper van. i've just kicked mike's butt in cards twice. on the way up here we did a wine tasting at pegasus winery. great savignon blanc/semillion. we'll enjoy it tonight with our cheese and baguette. the winery itself was a cool pink chapel-like structure with the most fabulous english garden.

speaking of wine, we'll be posting some wine notes and other observations du vin on our new
website, so check there -- especially after this weekend's marlborough wine festival.

we had a gorgeous day yesterday in christchurch....sunny, mid-70s and not a cloud in the sky. it's a neat city -- we plan to go back on saturday for a rugby match, so we'll likely see more of it then.

tomorrow, we're headed up to the north tip of the south island for more wine tastings, and hopefully some beach time if the rain subsides. the ocean is so beautiful here -- very blue/green and clear. they say that sometimes in kaikoura you can see dolphins jumping off the coast. cross your fingers that happens tomorrow.

on a parting note, next time you to go to the airport, make sure you take your airplane tickets. i'm not saying anything incriminating, but suffice to say the airlines will charge you a 'stupid tax' if you don't have the proper documentation.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

it ain't a cheesehead....

not to get too political, but does it surprise you that W recognized this guy at a campaign rally? check out the page called "appearances" to see evidence. for some reason, i can't be too surprised that ol' W knew him... we must watch out. he could replace mike johanns as the secretary of agriculture.

thanks to mickey fanno for bringing this to my attention. i hope to learn more stories about broccoli man soon.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

the end is nigh

soon i'll be posting lots here about drinking wine, kayaking a fjord, floating in the pacific ocean -- from the right side of ocean -- and other generally lazy things that await me in new zealand. come sunday, we're out of here for a much-needed vacation to the land of kiwis and peter jackson. today i made my to-do lists for work and the trip, slogged through hundreds of email, and thought about all the little things i have to resolve at the office before friday. but the end finally is in sight....

see, because today doesn't count, because today is almost over. and sunday doesn't count, becuase we leave that day. and saturday doesn't really, technically count because i'm planning to watch the globetrekker episode that's all about new zealand, which will make me feel like i'm there.

so that leaves two more days of waiting. i can take it.

i hope you'll enjoy the upcoming posts to this blog, which i can assure you will be much more interesting than this one. come back often. but probably not until next tuesday, when i actually arrive at my destination. if we're lucky, before i leave i'll get a tutorial from my favorite flickr expert at semaphoria so i can link some photos here too.

stay tuned.... in the meantime, i'll walk toward the big light (at the end of the tunnel, that is).