Monday, January 29, 2007

Revolutionary news!!

From the start of 2008, you will find the rest of our blog site at You can view our 2006 through early 2007 postings here at this site, then head over to the new site. Thanks

Monday, January 22, 2007

Nelson Kite Festival

I think the heat of summer has finally hit us after breezy cool days barely touching the 7os most times. Today was our first workday of the week and everyone is remarking on the heat and warm breeze. Yesterday was hardly different, except there was no breeze! Yet we ventured out under a roasting sun to see the world-famous annual Nelson Kite Festival.

We walked about 5 minutes to the large park near our house, Neale Park, where the winds are, apparently, exceptional for kite flying (as per the Nelson Mail). What a gorgeous display of color with both small and huge kites up in the air, or at least trying to be. Take a look:

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Beach bum

From the Nelson Mail, Tuesday 16 January
Bottom comes out on top among sand sculptures
BEACH BUM: The Son is Rising by the Stoffregen family, of Clifton, was the winner in the family category of the Golden Bay Arts Sand Sculpture Extravaganza at Pohara on Sunday.

This "beach bum" has taken top prize at Pohara's annual Sand Sculpture Extravaganza.

Entitled The Son is Rising, the gumboot-shod sculpture was created by Clifton family Hans Stoffregen and his two sons Timo, 14, and Fabian, 11 for the competition in Golden Bay on Sunday.

"We only decided what to make just before the competition started. It was Timo's idea to make a big bum sticking out of the sand and the rest grew from that," Mr Stoffregen said.

Tomkat in town???

From the Nelson Mail, Monday 15 January [cut for brevity]

Jet's arrival in Nelson sparks star visit rumour
A private jet owned by the billionaire founders of American clothing company Gap has been turning heads and fueling speculation that Hollywood stars Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are visiting Nelson. [Please, why oh why didn't they tell me, I could have placed a Banana Republic order for personal delivery!!!]

The Bombardier BD700 landed at Nelson Airport at 12.30pm on Saturday and has been parked since. America's Federal Aviation Administration website lists the aircraft as being owned by Donald and Doris Fisher of Hillsboro, Washington. The couple founded Gap in 1969. A source has confirmed to the Nelson Mail that Mr and Mrs Fisher were on board the jet and had gone to the exclusive lodge at Paratiho Farms in Upper Moutere.

The Nelson Mail was contacted on Saturday by someone believing the jet may have used by Hollywood stars, namely Cruise and Holmes. The Sunday News reported on Sunday that Cruise and Holmes and their nine-month old daughter Suri were believed to be on a first-class tour of New Zealand, having cruised from Whangarei to Wellington on the luxury catamaran Douce France.

The report said the couple treated their entourage to a helicopter tour of the Marlborough Sounds, and could have stayed at "swanky" retreats in Nelson or Marlborough. Cruise spent part of 2003 in Taranaki for the filming of blockbuster flick The Last Samurai. He said at the time that New Zealand was one of the most beautiful places he had visited.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Different names for different things

I've always found it rather fascinating how different countries/societies/cultures call the same thing by different names. This is true of English-speaking countries and I know it occurs frequently in Spanish-speaking countries as well.

Here in New Zealand, I'm sure we take after our British parent, but here is a list of some fun things that have different names here versus the U.S.

U.S. name / Kiwi name
cilantro, the spice, prominent in Mexican food and very important for our survival here / coriander--now before you think I'm a dolt, I didn't realise these were one and the same, it just depends on what part of the world you live in! I thought for months I'd have to put parsley in my salsa because I couldn't find cilantro. Google set me straight.

mini sausages / cheerios (not the cereal, which I love--try telling people that when you are a vegetarian!)
green, red, yellow peppers / green, red, yellow capsicum
diapers / nappies
tank tops / singlets
underwear for women, panties / knickers
underwear for men, underwear / pants
pants for men / trousers (gotta be careful if you say to a fellow, nice pants!)
flip-flops / jandles or thongs
shirts / polos
suspenders / braces
boat people, or people who own boats or enjoy boats / they have a name here, boaties (not sure this would be in a dictionary entry anywhere)
slot machines for gambling / pokies
push pins or thumbtacks / drawing pins
skater dude style shorts / boardies
french fries / you already know this, chips
vest / waistcoat
bathing suit / swimming outfit

Well, that's all I've accumulated for now, but there are more. Maybe another edition some other time.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Humid weather must be good for socialising

It is Saturday here and we are at the tail end (we hope!) of a humid week of wet, warm weather. It has been raining and cloudy and hot all week, unusual, we’re told, for summers and for Nelson. The “regulars” are perplexed, but give it about two seconds’ thought and then move on with the positive and do what they want regardless. We, however, are baffled by the weather—not to mention hot and sweaty as we’re used to a dry climate—and we talk about it everywhere! I guess we need to start getting over it.

The best way to get over it, and of course the kiwis are a step ahead of us as usual, is to head to the beach later in the day around 5-7pm and take a dip to cool down. Driving by there yesterday I noticed it was packed as can be, everyone in on the town’s worst kept secret but us!

Unfortunately we’re very busy socially this weekend and simply cannot fit in the time for an evening dip! I had a wonderful time out last night with some girlfriends, a “girls night out” with my friend Jade from work and some of her friends. They are so nice, people are just naturally lovely, warm and genuine here. It was easy to be myself and not feel like the “new girl” in the bunch. We had a blast at a Mexican restaurant owned and operated by a French family that served what they thought was Spanish food (like paella). Uh, not really, in fact, not at all. The food was decent in and of itself, but in no way Mexican and their knowledge of the few brands of tequila they did have available was terrible—I served as hostess and lady Mexicana for our table, doing interpretations, pronunciations, and all tequila selections. Everyone had a smashing good time!

Tonight we are meeting a new couple, Wayne and his wife, for dinner. Don met Wayne recently through work and they’ve been cycling together for the past month or so on Thursday afternoons. He and his wife are sans children this weekend and asked us to join them for dinner. Wayne is a kiwi but new to Nelson from Auckland where he owned his own business doing some sort of carpentry work. So usually, we have absolutely nothing to do but the random meeting up with people/friends—which is just the way we like it, un-busy and un-hurried--but this weekend we are all booked!!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Cute cat photos

As you all know, Don and I are adoring parents to our cats. Porter now lives with my mom in Santa Fe but we get to see cutie pictures of him all the time. Here is our xmas cat in a familiar perch, right in the middle of the action.

Trying to watch Superman Returns (eh, grade C) Livvy decides I am not to be comfortable and plops her 8 pounds onto my back and calls it catnap time.

I have the last say, of course, and my back is rescued and she still gets her favorite chin pets.

She loves the perch in our office and sits by the open window, behind the curtain where she thinks no one can see her.

But good moms always know where the kids are, and I've found her with my trusty camera.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Nelson Lakes

On Friday we decided to drive to Nelson Lakes National Park and explore the area a bit, perhaps take in a hike (Angela wasn’t keen on this but was a willing participant). Technically I was on call for work but since there isn’t a mobile signal up there, no one would be able to get in touch with me (shucks).

A bit of info - Nelson Lakes Nat’l Park was set up in 1956 as New Zealand’s 8th national park. It covers 101,753 hectares (no idea what this translates too). It’s about 1.5 hours south of Nelson via a fairly desolated roadway (I think we saw about 4 cars on the 80km stretch). More from the DOC map: “Situated at the northern end of the Southern Alps, the landscape of the park is dominated by a series of mountain ranges up to 2340m in height [Don’s note: equal to 7678 feet or, more commonly known as the altitude of Gunnison-Crested Butte airport]; five extensive valley systems carved out by past glaciation; and the two major lakes of Rotoiti and Rotoroa. Beech forest covers the valleys up to a tree-line of 1400m with a diverse range of snow tussock dominated alpine habitats above.”

We first went to Lake Rotoiti. What a great place with tons of stuff to do. There are numerous hikes for all levels. You can take a canoe out on the lake, water ski, fish, or swim. A water taxi is available to drop you off anywhere on the lake and you can hike back. There are also a couple decent campgrounds with flush toilets and showers (fairly common here).

There is a nature recovery project underway which covers about 5000 hectares. This project, started in 1997, includes a ‘mainland island’ (there are 6 in New Zealand) which is an experimental area where pests are controlled (i.e. killed) to “restore the natural ecosystem.” The ‘pests’ include non native creatures such as rats, possums, and wasps. From what I understand the project has been fairly successful as the population of native creatures has been slowly increasing. More about this project at:

We decided to take a hike and started on the Bellbird walk and diverted on the Lakeside walk and then to the Loop Track. In all we were out for about 2.5 hours. Most was along the shore of the lake but when we turned on the Loop Track we headed inland. The pictures don’t do it justice but it definitely had the Lord of the Rings feel. Everything was covered in varying types of moss and was quiet, beyond the distant sounds of motor boats on the lake. We ran across a couple of Bellbirds that make the most amazing variety of sounds. All this and we encountered fewer then 30 people on our entire walk.

For some pictures of the area, check out:

More pictures and a sound link for the bellbird:

My photos below:

Lake Rotoiti from our parking spot.

Start of the Bellbird hike.

Now on the Lakeside hike.

Into the forest - numerous trees have fallen over and the moss starts to take over.

Bellbird singing away.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The good ... and the bad

From the New Zealand Herald, Dec 19, 2006:

Minimum wage to rise to $11.24
The minimum wage is set to rise by $1 an hour from April. The increase will take the minimum hourly rate for those over 18 to $11.24. [Angela here: there is a different minimum wage for youth workers.] The minimum youth rate for those aged 16 and 17 will rise from $8.20 an hour to $9. About 110,000 adult workers should benefit.

[Angela here: with the current exchange rate, the US $ equivalent is about $7.85 for adult wage earners--more than $2.50/hour above the current US minimum wage of $5.15--and $6.30 for youth workers. This is a travesty, in my mind, in the US when one realises that 20 years ago I made a minimum wage of $3.35 and now it's not even $2 higher. Pathetic. This is an area that NZ is more progressive, they review it nearly every year.]

From the New Zealand Herald, Jan 4 2007, edited down:

Delays force cancer patients overseas [AR here: a result of a socialised system]
Increasing numbers of cancer patients face dangerous delays for radiation therapy because of escalating strike action combined with growing waiting times. Radiation therapists are about to strike for between one and four days, starting with Auckland and Wellington Hospitals next week.

Yesterday a leading specialist said the strikes would add to treatment delays, which have also been caused by higher numbers of patients, driven by expanding cancer screening and, according to union leaders, staff shortages.

Dr Chris Wynne, clinical director of radiation oncology at Christchurch Hospital, said yesterday that about half of "priority C" patients nationally had to wait longer than four weeks to start radiotherapy. The Ministry of Health says four weeks is the maximum acceptable waiting time for radiotherapy. Longer delays are considered likely to reduce the chances of a cure.

The average wait for a priority C patient in Auckland was 7.33 weeks. To date, 31 out of 131 patients had waited longer than four weeks. The wait was getting worse but had been mitigated by getting patients treated in Australia. Thirty-six breast cancer patients have taken the hospital's offer of overseas treatment, and the hospital has arranged to send 10 breast and prostate cancer patients every week.

Several other health boards are considering similar action because of excessive waiting times, which have reportedly reached 18 weeks for some at Palmerston North Hospital.
She said this had contributed to therapists going overseas to work.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Kayak trip

Happy new year!! How long is appropriate to keep saying that as a greeting? :)

Over the new year's weekend we went to stay at Kaiteriteri Beach and rented kayaks for a half-day trek up toward the Abel Tasman National Park. It was a gloomy morning weather-wise, and we did pretty much freeze our behinds off, but it was great fun to be out on the quiet, open water with such wonderous scenery.

We took this as we returned to Kaiteriteri, but we also left from here, so I'll use it as a starter. Digital cameras don't do wide shots too well, at least our basic Canon doesn't.

Our north-westernmost destination was Split Apple Rock, a famous iconic landmark at the starting point of the Abel Tasman National Park. Birds find this a great place to sit and take in the views as well.

That is, when they aren't sitting in the trees nearby and pooping their acid-laced poop and killing the trees. Yes, these birds are funky birds that have killer poop and you can tell which trees on the coast they like to sit in.

Turning around a bit, we saw our first boat of the morning, a huge catamaran out for a tour with folks passing by Split Apple Rock.

I tried to get a shot of it closer up, but as you can tell we were dealing with decent swells and I could never get the darn thing in the middle of the shot, I tried several times and this is my best effort!

Of course the problem with the camera couldn't be me, it had to be the camera, so I got a lovely shot of me trying to figure out the darn thing. Turns out it was an ID - 10 - T error.

We decided to head into this beach to get out of the kayaks near the mid-point of our morning and have a rest. Drying off was on the wish-list, but wasn't an option this wet morning. The nice thing was that we warmed our hands by sticking them into the warm top layer of the water!

Ever the explorer, Don was certain he saw something of great interest, perhaps a discovery no one had yet made in this vast wilderness land on the quiet shore. Oh wait, he's just posing.

Quick picture of ourselves and then we were off. However, we decided to shove off during very high swells and the kayak drank some water, my seat got drenched, and we pulled back only to start again after actually assessing the waves first, this time, and shooting for smaller swells. Old pros.

We found many, many wonderful coves like this throughout all the bays we explored. Some had their own cutie little beaches too. The water throughout the trip, as is the case for most of Abel Tasman, is truly this lovely aqua/blue/green color everywhere.

I call this rabbit head bay with that funny rock.

Turning around in rabbit head bay we see through to Kaiteriteri Beach and going around the bend we made our way back to shore, exploring the boats anchored close to shore as well.