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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A New Day Has Come


New Year's Eve is not something I get overly excited about each year. In fact, I can really only remember 2 past New Year's Eves: 1990, the year I was a Senior in high school and had a party at my house and Y2K with all the hype of the new millennium and having our friends, Matt & April, join us in our little house in Capac. So, it's about time to have another memorable experience and what better place than the East coast of New Zealand?
I had a few brief moments considering the idea of driving 1 1/4 hrs. up to Gisbon to celebrate the New Year, as it is the first city in the world to see the sun of the new year. (This could be argued as there are a few cities in some of the Islands that are closer to the international dateline, but due to the earth's tilt on its axis on New Year's Day, Gisbon wins.) I quickly dismissed those thoughts as the idea of being on the beach in a crowd of noisy, drunken people was not really how I was envisioning welcoming my New Year. Good friends and a deserted beach was a bit more what I had in mind.
New Year's Eve our friends, Ruth, Russell and Suzzelle, came over. None of us are big on the New Year's Eve thing so we popped in a movie figuring we would call it an early night. We enjoyed an evening watching the movie and eating Key Lime Pie. The movie ended at 11:30, we were so close to the new year that we sort of hung around until midnight entertaining ourselves with YouTube videos. Uneventfully, midnight came, we said our cheers and headed to bed.
The alarm rang at a sparrow's fart (4:30 am). We got dressed, snuck out of the house - leaving the kids sleeping, picked up Ruth and Russell and headed to the beach 5 min. away. The sky was already beginning to lighten with a deep orange band of light. We found a large washed up tree to sit on, cuddled up to our mate and sipped our coffee. We were alone. Not another soul was on the beach. The ocean was calm with small waves rolling ashore. The sky was clear with a smattering of clouds. The show of color that unfolded before us in the next hour was breathtaking. We spoke in a hush, respecting the serenity of the moment. Color exploded before us like fireworks, lighting up the sky and then silently morphed into other hues and intensity. We felt an electricity of anticipation watching for the sun to burst over the horizon. We finally breathed a deep breath as she quickly emerged bringing a new day.
Not quiet ready to let go of the moment and jump into the new day, Ruth and Russell came over. We pulled egg casserole and cinnamon rolls out of the oven, squeezed some fresh orange juice made coffee drinks, sat outside and enjoyed one anothers company for the next few hours.
I may have been 5 min. behind those in Gisbon seeing the new year, but nothing can compare to the deserted beach and spectacular light show I shared with those close to me this morning.
May each of you enjoy the electricity of the New Year.

No Worries - Kris

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pohutukawa Trees


The Pohutukawa tree is known as New Zealand's Christmas tree. This tree is found along the coasts of the North Island. This evergreen tree gets a brilliant red flower in December. The flower is made of hundreds of red needles (the stamens of the plant) reminding me of the florescent wand things you buy at the circus with all the filaments lighting up!
We have a Pohutukawa tree in our front yard. It bloomed a bit early, but daily I have enjoyed the brilliant red and green trees as I jog along the river. I am reminded that each part of the world has its own bit of nature reminding one of the time of the year and events of the season!

No worries - Kris

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Carols in the Park


Shortly before Christmas we headed to the park for an evening of Carols. The Salvation Army band came down from Gisbon to accompany the singing. We threw a blanket on the ground by some friends and joined in singing our favorite Christmas carols. We were thrown for a loop when we began to belt out "Away in a Manger" only to have everyone around us singing to a different melody! Portions of the Christmas story were read. (I had the privilege of reading the portion about the shepherds.) The women from the Lion's Club sang a few pieces. Things began to slow down as the sun began to set behind the lighthouse reflecting on the river. As a finale a bagpiper stood in front of the lighthouse playing a medley of Christmas songs. We folded up our blanket, said "goodbye" to our friends and walked home.

No Worries - Kris

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dear Friends,

No worries - Kris

The Night Before Christmas - Kiwi Style


It was the night before Christmas, and all round the bach (beach house)
Not a possum was stirring; not one we could catch.
We left on the table a meat pie and beer,
In hopes that Santa Claus soon would be here.
We children were snuggled up in our bunk beds,
While dreams of pavlova (meringue dessert with fruit) danced in our heads;
And mum in her nightie, and dad in his shorts,
Had just settled down to watch TV sports.
When outside the bach such a ho-ha arose,
I woke up at once from my wonderful doze.
I ran straight to the sliding door, looking about,
Jumped out on the deck, and let out a shout.
The fairy lights dad had strung up around the door
Let me see everything down to the shore.
And what did I see, when I took a peep?
But a miniature tractor and eight tiny sheep.
With a little old driver, his dog on his knee.
I knew at one who this joker might be.
He patted his dog, and in a voice not unkind,
Cried "Good on ya, boy!  Now, get in behind!"
"Now, Flossy! now Fluffy! now Shaun and Shane!
On, Bossy! on, Buffy on, Jason and Wayne!
Up that red tree, to the top of the bach!
But mind you don't trample the vegetable patch."
So up on the roof those sheep quickly flew,
With the tractor of toys, Santa and his dog too.
As my sister awoke and I turned around,
In through the window he came with a bound.
He wore a black singlet (tank top) and little white shorts,
And stuck on his feet were gumboots of course;
A sack full of toys he had flung on his back,
Ad he looked like a postie just opening his pack.
His eyes bright as paua shell- oh, how they twinkeld!
Like and old tuatara (a lizard), his skin was all wrinkled!
He had a wide face and a round, fat tummy,
That looked like he'd eaten lots tat was yummy.
He spoke not a word, but got down on one knee,
And placed a cricket set under the tree,
A present for sis, one for dad, one for mum,
Then he turned and he winked and held up his thumb.
He jumped on his tractor, to his dog gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, as fast as a missile.
I called out "thanks", as he flew past the gate.
He called back: "Kia ora to all, and good on ya, mate."


Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Cake


Not being "home" for Christmas I seem to be looking all around me for signs of the familiar a glimpse of home. A song, a smell, a temperature, a cookie! But as of yet I am finding precious little that is familiar this Christmas.
One of the things that I love to do each Christmas is bake heaps of cookies. I have about 13 different varieties that I save for Christmas each year. Every gathering includes plates of cookies! Yes, every American knows this tradition and has probably been part of a Christmas cookie exchange at one point in time. New Zealanders are not as fond of sweets as Americans are. They prefer a savory appetizer.
But they are proud of their "Christmas Cakes". For about a month people have been telling me about how they have had their fruit "soaking" (in brandy) for their Christmas Cake. I have told them how fruit cake is a bit of a joke in America. You get mad at someone and you throw the fruit cake at them; if you receive fruit cake as a gift you quickly re gift said fruit cake! New Zealanders are astonished at this. They take their Christmas Cake very seriously. I had my first taste of Christmas Cake this past week. I'm not really into dried fruit that's been soaking in anything for a months. It's not my thing. I'll stick to plates of Christmas cookies! But if you are wanting to try some for yourself I've put a recipe below so that you can get a head start for next year!

No worries - Kris

CLASSIC CHRISTMAS CAKE

450g currants
180g raisins
180g sultanas
75g finely chopped mixed peel
? cup brandy (notice the amount is not given. I guess the more the merrier!)
225g butter, softened
225g soft brown sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
225g plain flour
? tsp salt
? tsp grated nutmeg (more spice to mask the flavor)
? tsp mixed spice
75g chopped, blanched almonds
1 tbsp treacle
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
35g whole blanched almonds, to decorate

1. The day (or month) before baking, place dried fruit, mixed peel and brandy in large bowl. Mix well and cover with plastic wrap. Leave for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Line a 20cm round cake tin or 18cm square tin with brown paper and a lining of nonstick baking paper.

2. Next day, heat oven to 140?C (120?C fan bake). Place butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.

3. Sift flour, salt and spices together and gently fold into beaten mixture. Fold in brandy-soaked fruit, chopped almonds, treacle and orange zest. Spoon the mixture into prepared cake tin, spreading it evenly and smoothing the surface with the back of a spoon.

4. Decorate surface with whole almonds. Bake for 3 to 3? hours or
until an inserted skewer comes out clean. If necessary, cover loosely with foil part-way through cooking to prevent over-browning. Cool in cake tin for 1 hour, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

* Traditional Christmas fruit cakes are best made well in advance ? at the end of October or beginning of November ? so the flavours can mature.

* ?Feed? the cake with brandy about once a week by making holes all over the cake with a skewer, then spooning over brandy to soak through the holes and permeate the cake with flavour.

* To store, wrap the cake in a double layer of greaseproof paper, then wrap it again in foil or place in an airtight cake tin. Don?t wrap in plastic wrap or the cake will sweat and deteriorate.



Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Parade




It's beginning to feel a bit like Christmas around here, despite the lack of snow and hot temperatures (80-90F).  Downtown has some lights strung up that go on around 8:30 pm.  Last Fri. night we headed downtown for the Christmas/summer kick off parade.  I had to be there a bit early to be a judge for the floats.  It was fun seeing all the people dressed up, bikes decorated and floats they had made.  Some had Christmas themes, some had summer themes and others were just plain fun.  One of my favorites was AFCO (the local meat co.).  Their truck was decorated for Christmas and each person in the float was dressed from a different country.  They represented the various countries they ship meat to.
After judging I headed over to the lighthouse to meet up with the kids and watch the parade.  The parade began with a bagpipe group followed by the local RV camper's group driving their RV's, other floats, kids on bikes and Santa at the end.  The kids had fun grabbing the candy that was tossed.  After the parade passed (It took about 5 min. to pass) I said "OK kids time to go" and my friend said "Oh no, this is the only parade we get here in Waiora.  It will be coming back again!"  So we stood around and talked for about 20 min. and then sure enough the parade came back again!  That's a small town for you!

No worries - Kris

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sailing




On Sunday was our first day of sailing.  Mom, Damon, Elena, and Me went to sailing.  The next time we went was also on a Sunday.  The boats weren't that big.  We had to tie the sail to the poles with a square knot.  Then we had to put the poles on the boat and put the rope, called a sheet, through the pulleys.  We got the sailboats to the water by putting them on a little trailer and pulling them down to the water.  When the boat was in the water we had to sit on the edge of the boat and hold the rudder and the rope.  When we wanted to turn the boat, we had to put our foot closest to the rudder across the boat and duck under the sail so it didn't hit you and then switch the rudder handle and the rope behind your back, turning so that we faced the pole that the sail was hooked onto.  On the first day we went with somebody who already knew how to do everything.  On our second day, we went by ourselves.  It seemed harder by myself, and there was a lot of wind.
-Maddie

Friday, December 5, 2008

Black Swans



I love watching large, graceful birds.  There is a quiet strength in their size yet a gentleness in their beauty.  In Michigan I was often entranced by herons as they silently strutted in the water fishing for their dinner.  Here in New Zealand black swans inhabit the lakes.  There is a stunning elegance to them as they float on a glassy lake.  They were introduced to NZ from Australia as a game hunting bird.  A black swan would be very rare in Michigan, yet I have not seen a single white swan here.  I asked a friend about this one day and she responded "that's because the queen owns them all"! 

No worries - Kris

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Kapa Haka



Practice, practice, practice every single day! I guess we did need the practice but my legs always got tired. I wanted to sit down but my teacher would give me a growling if I did! Finally, the day came! We got on the bus and we were on the bus for an hour! No need to worry, we sang all the way to Te Mahia school.  Before I knew it we were already there. We entered their entrance to the field where there were kids from Te Mahia school and the girls had Moko's on there chins like us, and the boys had things kind of like Moko's except it was all over there chests(the boys at our school did not have that!) A man spoke in Maori and he called for us to enter, someone by us called back. I do not know if it was a teacher or anything because I could not see that well over everyone. We entered and some people sang songs and the Wairoa College sang some also, and then we did too! It was not the real performance, we just sang Whakapunake (a welcome song about the waka (boat)). Soon the first school got on stage, we did not get to see them because we were too busy getting on our Pupus (skirts) and putting the grass flowers in our hair. We looked beautiful! We got into our starting positions and the other school got off stage and we got on! John called out to a lady and they called back and forth in Maori so I didn't know what they were saying! Sian (my friend the leader) led and then we sang along! We moved around a lot and our whole performance was 12 minutes long! There were different leaders for all the different songs. We finally got to the song were we had to use the poi! A poi is a string with a ball on the end that you swing around while you sing.  Using the poi is the hardest part I know. All the motions are hard to learn but when you are swinging around a string with a ball type thing on the bottom, that is a whole different story! Lucky we had done all that practice, practice, practice stuff that I was moaning about! I had to put lots of effort into that! When we were finished we walked of the stage and everyone else went to get changed.  
We watched lots more performers and there were some really good girls at doing all the faces the boys do in the Haka, there were some really good boys doing the Haka but all in all we did really well! Several  hours passed and finally we lined up to leave. We were going to miss a couple performances but we had to get back to school by 3:00 so the bus people would not miss the bus! On the bus ride home we did not sing much because we were tired. We had all had a very long day, because we had to be to school an hour and a half early to make it there on time! I wanted to go home! Mom took me home so we did not have to wait around! I had a very, very good day! (Good thing we had a dress rehearsal because I don't think we would have been as good!)
No Worries - Elena!

Mom's note - Elena did a great job in the kapahaka!  I posted a video on my facebook page.  Check out this  link!  www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1056524458812

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Day from God

Have you ever had a day or an experience that you feel was simply a gift from God?  A moment that was so special you knew you hadn't  done anything to earn or deserve it, it was simply God smiling at you and asking you to enjoy the gift to its fullest.  Last week I had a day like that.  Chad was helping with a race an hour away in the mountains that would be ending the next day here in Wairoa.  I decided to go up for the day to help out with whatever needed doing.  I arranged for the kids to spend the night with friends and had just cozied up to the computer when the phone rang.  My friend Ruth asked if I would like to ride up to the race in the helicopter with her.  Her husband, Russell, was going to be doing the air support for the race.  At 4:30 the next morning Ruth and Russell picked me up.  We headed to the hanger and got into the helicopter.  I had never been in a helicopter before.  As we went up, my grip began to relax and the peacefulness of the darkness surrounding us washed over me.  As we came into Tui, Russell turned the helicopter around as a glorious sunrise was coming up over the mountains then we descended into the fog below.  I hopped out and ran over to Chad who was waiting for me.  We got a coffee and watched the race begin.  The race was well staffed with volunteers so Ruth and I were not needed.  We decided to catch a water taxi to the other side of the lake to cheer for the runners as they passed a checkpoint.  For 30 min. we rode across Lake Waikaremoana, the wind whipping our hair and the sun smiling down on us.  A friend who is an EMT was also headed out to the checkpoint to help with emergencies.  He told us about a waterfall a short hike from the drop off point.  When we landed we knew we had about 2 hours before the first racer came through so Ruth & I decided to hike up to the waterfall.  We walked through stunning rain forest, jumping on rocks to get across rivers and streams.  We turned a corner and our breath was taken away by the view of the waterfall in front of us.  We went off the trail climbing down rocks, getting as close to the bottom as possible.  We sat down on a large rock and with the mist from the waterfall dampening our skin we ate a few oranges picked off the tree that morning, and soaked in the beauty.  After hiking back we sat and cheered for the racers passing by.  After awhile we caught another boat heading back across the lake.  Another 30 min. ride with the wind blowing in my face while mountains were flying by.  We arrived in time to enjoy another coffee before the first racer crossed the finish line on his bike.  After watching several cross the finish, Russell announced he was done and ready to head out.  Leaving Chad behind I followed Ruth into the helicopter and we headed out over the countryside for Russell to do another quick job for a farmer before heading home.  The scenery of New Zealand from the air was beautiful.  As Wairoa came into view I was taken aback by the beauty of the town surrounded by hills, a river winding into it on one side and the ocean crashing into it on the other side.  By 5:00 I was back home with the kids, but not quiet ready to let go of the beautiful day.  We picked up some fish and chips, went down to the river to eat them and then popped in a movie in the evening as we waited for Chad to come home.

No Worries - Kris

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving

Many people have asked us if we would be celebrating Thanksgiving this year.  I had this brilliant idea of throwing an American Thanksgiving feast to share with our friends.   The main item needed was a turkey.  As turkeys are considered a bit of a rodent here, I have never seen one for sale in the grocery store but they are running around all over the place, so that didn't seem too difficult.  Our friend Russell took Chad and Damon hunting for a turkey one day with the promise that I wouldn't make him eat it.  They shot several with Damon apparently doing quiet well.  Upon examination they determined that there wasn't enough meat on any of them (because it is spring) to justify bringing one home to me.  Not having a turkey took care of the problem of who was going to have to pluck the feathers out of it when Chad got home!  So without a turkey I gave up on the idea of having a Thanksgiving feast.  Turns out we have a Christmas party on Thanksgiving anyway.  I think I will bake a pumpkin pie (although the weather has me a bit turned around and what I am really craving is a lemon meringue pie) and take it up to Chad's office!
I hope each of you enjoys the holiday weekend with your family, remembering all we have each been given in the past year.

No Worries - Kris

Monday, November 17, 2008

Guy Fawkes


In New Zealand there is no 4th of July but there is Guy Fawkes day.  Guy Fawkes day is basically the same.   Heaps of people go out and shoot off fire works, the only difference is they are not celebrating their country's independence.  Guy Fawkes was a man who was part of a Roman Catholic group of men that wanted to blow up the house of parliament and kill all of parliament with it.  This is known as the "Gun Powder Plot".  The master mind of the plot was not Guy Fawkes, as you might have guessed, it was actually a man named Robert Catesby.  Guy Fawkes was just appointed the position of executing the plan (because of his military explosives experience).  So, they hid 1,800 pounds of gun powder in a cellar under the parliamentary building ready to be set off to kill all of parliament.  But when their plot was uncovered, Guy Fawkes was going to blow himself up while blowing up Parliament.  He took a flare and attempted to ignite the powder charge, and at the last instant Peter Heywood took the flare from him.  Guy Fawkes was tortured then was hung almost to death.   He jumped off the gallows, breaking his neck to save himself from being disemboweled.
So we had a great Guy Fawkes night lighting off of heaps of fire works into the pitch black sky.  Even after hearing the story behind Guy Fawkes day it still brings up the question for me, why would your country, which hails to the Queen, celebrate a man who tried to kill her and all of parliament?
(This happened in 1609 so don't really mean this Queen just the one way before it).

~Damon

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Old Church




We have been working on manners at dinner.  Things like put your napkin on your lap and don’t sit on your knees.  But the biggest problem was not putting your elbows on the table.  So as a reward, on Sat. the 8th we went to Napier for dinner to a nice restaurant called The Old Church (it really was an old church).  After a long day of shopping we changed into our nice clothes and we were on our way to The Old Church.  Mom and Dad had already been there, so they were quite familiar with it.  It was a very big and beautiful church.   Once we got inside we were led to our seats, which were very big and comfy.   The table looked nice.  We picked out what we wanted, and then the waitress took our drink order.  All us kids got different, fancy, new (to us) drinks.  They were all very cool fun, fruity drinks!  When our food finally arrived it looked very fancy and it looked pretty good!  I did not really like the fettuccine, so Dad gave me some of his yummy, juicy steak! (Yum!)  After we had finished eating our dinner, we ordered dessert! (My favorite!)  They were very fancy and they looked the best!!  They had put looong pointed sticks on the tops of them that they had made out of caramel!

-Elena and Maddie

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Hut


The kids & Chad recently had a 4 day holiday weekend celebrating Labor Day.  Paul, whom Chad has gotten to know through the rescue society, invited us out to his farm to spend the night with some friends in "the hut".  We packed our stuff knowing it would be a bit of a camping experience and followed Ruth and Russell out to the farm, 30 min. away.  We pulled into the driveway and in the drizzle packed all our stuff and kids into his truck and headed out over the farm, through gates and pastures and wooded areas.  Absolutely beautiful!  Russell pulled up to a couple more trucks and said because of the wet we would not be able to ride the 4 wheeler in so we would have to hike it.  He was prepared, handing each of us a pair of gum boots to wear for the weekend.  We headed off into the woods down a very, very long hill.  From the car I have often admired the hills, wistfully saying "wouldn't it be fun to climb one of these hills?"  The next morning would fulfill all desires for a lifetime to come.  We slipped and slidded down the hill and coming around a curve "the hut" came into view.  Situated amongst the trees a corrugated metal building with a porch and new awning welcomed us.  We made it with all our gear and were greeted by two other families.  Throwing our bags inside and tossing our sleeping bags on the bed we grabbed a chair and settled in on the porch for an evening of visiting and cooking out sausages and venison steak.  As it began to really rain and cool off we decided to head inside.   For some reason the kids all decided to come out to the porch and closed the door behind them.  We were all locked out.  After 30 min. of hemming and hawing, walking around "the hut" and going back and forth with different lengths of wood and other things, the men were able to pry a window open and lower Elena through.  Everyone headed inside and I visited the long drop (outhouse).  The wood burning stove was nice and toastie, the kids began playing games, and the marshmallows were pulled out.  No one was familiar with smores but one family had heard of them so they brought the fixing.  New Zealand marshmallows are not the same as US marshmallows.  They are small, pink with powdered sugar on them and a bit grainy.  After unsuccessfully trying to explain the concept of roasting rather than burning the marshmallows we put them on cookies.  Again, there are no graham crackers in New Zealand.  I have searched high and low and nobody has heard of them.  So chocolate coated cookies were used.  After the smores attempt we prepared for bed.  There was one bunk bed along the wall, so the 8 kids snuggled in on top and the 8 adults laid down like sardines in a can.  Fortunately no one snored!  We woke fresh.  It was still drizzling but after a trip to the long drop I headed out for a bit of an explore.  Following a beautiful path I came across a river with several fabulous swimming holes.  What a place to relax on a beautiful day!  After breakfast and dishes were done, we packed up and headed back up the hill.  It was long, steep and slippery but we made with without loosing anything.  It was a good night of meeting more people and enjoying some company.

No Worries - Kris

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Redwood Forest




While we were in Rotorua we went to go see the red wood forest.  Redwood forests only grow in the USA (California area) and New Zealand.  Walking through the redwood forest was like walking through something from a movie, everything is five times as big as normal  and you almost expected a T-rex to come hurdling from out behind one of the the redwood trees.  A single redwood tree can produce up to 500 gallons of moisture into the air per day.  When a redwood tree finally dies or gets blown over by a wind storm it can take 500 years for one of these huge logs to rot away.  During this time new plants will grow from the dead tree.  Fungi will begin to break it down, animals will lay there eggs there and many more things will happen.  The redwood forest is also an amazing mountain biking place, I did not get to personally ride any of the tracks but during some of our walk I had the chance to see glimpses of the track, and it looked really fun.  The day after we went to the redwood forest it was raining so we went to go see the "Journey to the Center of the Earth" in the theater.  We thought that Rotorua was a perfect city to see the movie because of the boiling mud pots and the giant redwood forest.

-Damon

-suggestion, "Journey to the Center of the Earth" is a good movie, and it is worth it to see it. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Moko




One night we were invited to the beach, Mahia, which is about 40 min. away.  I love going there and this time it was better because we were going with some friends to see if we could find Moko the dolphin!  When we got there, the Vickers (our friends) were already there.  They had brought 2 - 2 person sit on top kayaks!  It was about 5:00 when we got there so immediately my Mom, Dad, Ruth, & Russell went out to see if they could find Moko for us!  Suzelle, Maddie, Damon & I put out some cushions and blankets so we could get warm and watch them go out there!  They all got out there and we were in luck!  Moko was out and nobody else was there with us, so we got Moko all to ourselves.  Moko came up to the boats and he let them pet him and everything but they did not get out of the boats!
Soon they all tried to come in at the same time but Moko decided that he did not want that so he went under my Mom & Dad's boat and kind of picked it up and brought it back out.  My mom screamed!  I did not know what about.  I kept on playing cards with Suzelle and Damon and Maddie.  I only wanted to go in the boat if Moko was out there to play with me!  Russell came back  and Damon went out with him.  Russell and Damon distracted Moko while Mom & Dad came to shore to get Maddie.  Soon enough Russell came in to get Suzelle and they kept on switching until they got me out there.  I was out there for a long time just playing with Moko!
Soon pretty much all the kayaks went in to shore except for Suzelle and Russell but the rest of us were out in the water with our clothes on.  We had lots of fun when we were with Moko.  I went up to Moko and pet him a little, I grabbed onto his top fin and he started to swim.  It was so much fun I could not believe that I was pretty much riding a dolphin!  I think I had a lot of fun when I was swimming around with Moko!
-Elena

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Zorb




When my family went to Rotorua during our two week break from school, one of the things we did was go in the Zorb.  New Zealand is the capital of extreme sports of the world.  Zorb riding was invented in New Zealand.  The Zorb is an 11 foot high inflatable ball that you can see through.  Another ball just like that is inside of it and is seven feet high.  Two feet of air separates them, but tight strings hold them together.  It was cold the day we went.  We had to get in line to sign in on a computer.  Then we could put on our swimsuits.  We had to wait for the van to come to bring us to the top of the hill.  While we waited, we watched the other people come down.  If you go down the hill by yourself, you go down the curvy path.  If you go down with another person, you go down a straight path.  Damon, Elena and I went down together.  There was warm water in the Zorb.  Damon dove through the opening of the Zorb first, then Elena crawled through, and then me.  We felt a push and then down the hill we went.  We were splashing and rolling around.  I tried to sit up, but I just fell right back down again!  I was riding backward most of the time!  When we finally got down to the bottom of the hill we got out in the same order we got in.  It was like going down a water slide when I slid out of the Zorb.  We had a picture taken in front of the Zorb.  Elena and Damon went down two more times by themselves on the curvy path.  I was too cold!  It was fun though!
- Maddie

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hell's Gate




"Where are we going?"   Maddie asked mom.  "Hell" she said.  "Where is Hell?" I asked but she did not answer.  When we got there I knew right away because of the smell.  I could recognize that smell from anywhere!  Rotten Eggs!  Yuck!!!  (I plugged my nose right away!)  We walked up to the front desk.  If you don't know where we were, we were at the boiling mud pools.
Hells Gate geothermal reserve was formed about 10,000 years ago as a series of geothermal eruptions when an ancient lake drained to form lakes Rotoiti and Rotorua.  With the water gone steam, gas and hot fluids came to the surface.  Hell's Gate is unique because the heat source is only 1.5 km below the surface rather than 10+km of most geothermal spots.
I looked at some mud pools and I was hot I wanted to take off my jacket, but I would have to unplug my nose! I carefully took off my jacket, I stared at the pools. They were hot, boiling and had lots of steam coming up from them.  Next we came to the Mud Volcano.  My mom tried to lift up her arm because she could not see what she was taking a picture of but she was not tall enough so she handed the camera to me.  I took it from my mom and my dad lifted me up.  I got some pretty good pictures of inside the Mud Volcano but I was still a bit hot!  Bubble, Bubble, Bubble!!!  It was actually making a loud kind of sound when the Mud Volcano was bubbling!  
I can't believe people actually pay money to take spa baths in this mud!
It sure does smell but it actually is worth the money to go to Hell's Gate!
-Elena

Monday, October 6, 2008

Docking


"What"?
"Why"?
"Where"?
"Now"?
"Do I have to"?

This was my response to my mom after she told me what I was going to be doing that afternoon.  I have to admit that I was not very excited to be told that my afternoon was going to be spent helping dock sheep.

Docking sheep is were they cut off the lambs tails and put a rubber band around there balls.  They do this to keep them cleaner and free of disease.

So, if you are going to go work on a farm you should probably wear some clothes that can get dirty, right?  Well, when I was packing my clothes to bring to NZ I packed all of my nice clothes, not old ones with holes that I used for paint ball and could get dirty.  That was a problem, so I just put on some jeans and soccer zone t-shirt.

When I got there it was not anything like I had imagined.  I did basically nothing and they did everything.

I had to hold a special blow torch that had scissors as part of it.  The flames heated the scissors and cut of the tail. The heat made it easier to cut the tail.  Holding this contraption was like sticking your hand in the oven for a while.  Finally, after what seamed like forever, someone took the contraption from me and started to use it to cut off the lambs tails.  While one person would be docking another would be drenching (deworming) the lambs.

After we finished there was still one lamb left out in a paddock that we had to go round up with the 4-wheeler.  Another boy and I stood so that there was no where for the lamb to go except for out the gate.  Once we finished with that lamb we were finished and I went home.  

But before I left for home they gave me a little tub of white bait and that is how our white bait experience began.

I don't have a picture of me working that day so I put a picture of our friends Paul & Josie docking our two lambs.

-Damon

The garden


The house we are living in has a wonderful spot already prepared as a garden.  Now I have never had much of a vegetable garden before, just a "bruschetta garden" - tomatoes & basil.  So I have decided to give a try at gardening.  A friend sent me a unique book on "square foot gardening".  This sounded like a unique and creative method - something I could really get into. I mentioned this to my neighbor behind me shortly after we moved in.  He has an incredible yard of fruit trees and flower gardens with some vegetables mixed in.  He also has a rather large garden out at his son's house.  He wasn't too hip on the square idea, but I went ahead and got some rhubarb and garlic in.  
One day Stew rang me up and stated that he would be stopping by to turn over the garden for me.  I hurriedly got ready to help him out but he would hear none of that.  A week later he called again saying he wanted to take me out plant shopping.  Stew treated me and his wife Val to some coffee and treats then we picked out some lettuce, broccoli & cauliflower plants.  I thought I would get busy planting them, but Stew was a step ahead of me (literally) and made it to the garden first.  He has been over several more times turning over soil, hoeing, and planting seedlings he started.  Each time I have offered to help but Stew says "none of that Kris"!  
This morning we began the summer garden with a trip to the greenhouse.  Tomato plants, seeds, potting soil and a few flowers.  We then headed to Stew and Val's house to split a few of their plants for me and pick up some tools.  Oh, and it was time for a tea break in their garden.  Then Stew and I continued to my house for planting.  I found that planting the flowers I wanted while Stew planted the vegetable garden worked well.  Each time I moved to a new space to turn over some soil Stew would say "I'll get that for you Kris".  Stew suggested that we take on the square foot lines so he could plant a row of carrots.  Sorry April, but I gave up the idea and let Stew go ahead.  We lasted a few hours then Stew said that he would be back on Fri. to turn over and plant the melon area.  Secretly I do want to get my hands in the dirt, but regardless I think I will end up with a fabulous harvest and a good friend!
No Worries - Kris

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Laundry


I have never really minded doing laundry.  I did it once a week and it took me around 6 hours from putting the first load into the washer to putting the last item folded and ironed into the drawer.  I have a ritual:  wash and dry it all, put in a movie, sit in the middle of the family room floor and fold everything putting clothes in piles by person and article type.  Then I do the ironing.  About the time I've completed ironing the movie is finishing and the kids come put their piles away.  
What a surprise it was to not find a dryer in our house here!  There was a washing machine but no dryer.  I remembered seeing a clothes rack outside and lines strung up under the carport.  As I have come to find out, most people in this town don't own a dryer.  Everyone hangs their clothes out to dry.  So what used to be a 6 hour job has turned into a 12-15 hour job.  This is due in part to the fact that the washing machine only holds half of what my previous machine did.   So a new ritual has been born.  
On Fri. I check the weather forecast to see what the weekend holds.  I pick the best looking day and start first thing in the morning.  I have learned that heavy items such as jeans and towels need to be in one of the first loads.   When the load is completed I take it out to the line to hang up.  It takes me about 10 min. to hang one load of laundry.  Things I don't want to fade go under the carport and the rest in the backyard.  At first I did not want my underwear hanging out for the neighborhood to see so I have a method of hanging them in the center of the clothes tree so they are hidden by all the other clothes and towels.  I have relaxed a bit on this as I have noticed everyone else's underwear is in plain sight.  After a few hours things are beginning to dry so I start bringing them in.  A bit more ironing is required as things are not fluff dried.  The last few loads need to stay out all night as they have not dried before I go to bed.  
The winter proved a bit challenging.  Some things took days to dry.  In the morning the clothes left on the line would be frozen stiff.  I have a drying rack I would put by the fire.  All evening I would rotate damp things off the line into the house to dry.  Things were usually folded and put away still a bit damp.  I learned that within the first 30 min. of wearing something, it will finish drying out.
I have adjusted to hanging things out to dry and even enjoy the quietness, and simplicity of the task.
No Worries - Kris

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

whanau day



This past week I went to my second whanau day (pronounced fawn-o) since arriving.  Whanau day is parent's day at the  primary school and happens towards the end of each term.  The first time I went I was still so overwhelmed with the cultural changes that I did not absorb much of the day.  This time around I knew what to expect and so did Elena!  We began the day in the gym with the rest of the school for a singing time.  Each Thur. morning the kids have singing time in the gym.  The songs are sung in Maori and have a very Polynesian feel.  With the Maori's being of Polynesian decent, the same as the Hawaiians, the motions had a very soft hula feel to them.  The boys really got into the songs when they had parts that had haka elements.  (see previous blog)  Next we headed to Elena's classroom.  The only words I can think of to describe her room is "creative chaos"!  Miss Grant (the kids call her Miss) is very creative in her methods of teaching.  For example Elena has a project right now to start a business.  This includes working with a budget, buying a building, design and furnish building, create business cards, purchase equipment, hire and pay staff, etc.  This project is done by looking though the newspaper, adds, and searching the computer for information and items to buy.  All this is done with music playing.  You can see all the subjects touched in this one project.  The result of her creativity is no wall space to hang more learning tools.  Miss even has a fishnet attached to the ceiling with papers clothes-pinned to it!  After classroom it was tea time.  Parents brought a plate to pass (a snack) and we had a social time of visiting.  Whanau day has been a great way for me to get a glimpse of the cultural experience the kids are having.
No Worries - Kris