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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

McDonalds





To say "I love McDonald's" is an understatement.  A double cheeseburger, french fries and coke does more than just fill me up.  It is comfort food.  It makes me feel warm, happy, relaxed.  It invokes memories of high school away games, traveling on the bus and stopping for dinner.  The excitement of the game just played, the fun with friends.  French fries being flicked around.  Then as a young mom meeting a friend at McDonald's while letting the kids loose in the play area.  We would talk for hours sipping a cheap cup of cappuccino, conversation flowing.  Fortunately I made it though that time of life without a case of hand, foot, and mouth disease!  In recent years McDonald's brings memories of traveling with the kids and my sister to visit my parents.  Jenny and I would pile out of the van with all these kids in tow.  We mainly stopped because Jenny knows this is my favorite restaurant and she took pity on me!  The cousins would all cram into a booth together, Jenny and I would sit at a different table - peace for a few minutes before we all crammed back into the van.
I actually only ate at McDonald's once a month because I knew that more often would be a slow death to my body.  My last meal at McDonald's before we left was with intention.  I knew the day I would need to have a quick meal and I looked forward to it for 2 weeks.  I decided because of time to do the drive-through.  I pulled up to the order machine and said "double cheeseburger value meal with catsup only."  I paid and pulled away with my meal in a bag.  I was truly in heaven anticipating this last meal.  I pulled onto the road, opened my sandwich and took a bite.  They had totally messed up my order.  Everything was put on the sandwich and the catsup was left off.  I had no time to go back and correct the order.  I wanted to cry as I ate my messed up burger.  My last McDonald's and it was so disappointing.  
Yes, they do have McDonald's here in New Zealand.  The closest one is a 1 1/2 hr. drive.  Seven weeks with no McDonald's - my blood is running thin.  This past week I took the kids to Napier for the day.  We packed sack lunches and had a picnic on the beach.  We went to the aquarium, did some shopping.  Late afternoon the kids were complaining that they were hungry.  I had no resolve left.  We were going to McDonald's.  I pulled in and began to feel my toes twinkle, an energy running through me.  We opened the doors and the heavens sang - Ahh, Ahh, Ahh!  My jaw dropped on the ground.  It was huge!  I was like a little kid in a candy shop.  To the left was "McCafe".  A glass case with tortes and cheesecakes.  A real cappuccino machine.  Ahead of me was the restaurant.  They had some funky sandwiches - no Big Mac rather  a Kiwi burger.  Who wants beetroot on their burger??    I search the menu and YES!  they have a double cheeseburger!  We place our order, we sit down.  I open my sandwich breathing in the greasy scent.  I take a bite.  After seven weeks of onions in hamburger patties, I have finally found some American food.   Everything seems right with the world as we eat our dinner or as they say on this side of the world, tea. 
No worries - Kris

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tractor pull



While the kids were on their school break I took them to the beach in Mahia one day to kill a bit of time.  Because it's winter right now it was much too cool to swim, but we packed a picnic lunch, brought some books to read and balls to kick around.  Mahia is located on a small bay which makes it safe to swim because there is no undertow.  It was a very quiet day (who else goes to the beach in the winter?) so I snuggled in a blanket and looked over the water while the kids were playing.  A small fishing boat came into the bay and pulled close to shore.  Next thing you know a guy jumped out of the boat into chest deep water and wadded to shore.  Then he got on a tractor which had a boat trailer attached to it and backed it into the ocean.  The boat drove up onto the trailer and the tractor drove out of the water and off down the street.  At this point I realized there was a parking lot with several tractors and boat trailers in it.  A little while later another boat came into the bay.  Same thing, man jumped out, got a tractor and pulled the boat out.  I watched this scenario several times.  As we were leaving town I noticed several tractors parked in driveways.  Wow, not only do you have to buy a boat and trailer here but a tractor as well!  Julie - how would you like one of those parked in your front yard!
No worries - Kris

Making Pretzels


One day Mom, Damon, Elena, and I made pretzels.  We made pretzels because they do not have soft pretzels here.  It was fun.  We had to make pretzel shapes out of the dough and boil and cook them.   We sprinkled salt on half of them and cinnamon sugar on the other half.  They tasted really good when they were done.  Here is the recipe if you want to try them yourself.
- Maddie

4 to 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons salt
3 quarts boiling water
1 slightly beaten egg white
1 tablespoon water
   sesame seed, poppy seed, or coarse salt

In a mixing bowl stir together 1 1/2 cups of flour and the yeast.  In a saucepan heat and stir milk, sugar, oil & 1 tsp. salt till warm.  Add to flour mixture.  Beat on low for 30 seconds.  Beat on high for 3 minutes.  Using a spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.
turnout onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead in enough of remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic.  Shape dough into a ball.  Place dough in greased bowl; turn once to grease surface.  Cover and let rise in warm plat till double (approx. 1 1/4 hr.)
Punch dough down.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface.  Cover; let rest 10 min.  Roll dough into a  12x10 inch rectangle.  Cut into twenty strips.  Gently pull each strip into a rope about 16 in. long.
Shape each pretzel by crossing one end over the other to form a circle, overlapping about 4 in. from each end.  Take one end of dough in each hand and twist once at the point where the dough overlaps.  Carefully lift each end across to the edge of the circle opposite it. Tuck ends under edges to make a pretzel shape.  
Place pretzels on greased baking sheets.  Bake in a 475 over for 4 min.  Remove from oven.  Lower oven temp. to 350.  
Dissolve the 2 tablespoons salt in boiling water.  Lower pretzels into boiling water.  Boil 2 min. turning once.  Place on well greased baking sheets
Combine egg white and the 1 tablespoon water.  Brush pretzels with a little of the egg white.  Sprinkle pretzels lightly with topping.  Bake at 350 for 20-25 min. or till golden brown.  Makes 20 pretzels.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

N.Z.'s Government


New Zealand's system of government is described as a constitutional monarchy, and that means the Queen is the Head of State.  The Queen has to follow the rules of the constitution.  Queen Elizabeth the 2nd was announced "Queen of this realm and all of her other realms" in 1952.  She reigns over New Zealand independently from her position as Queen of England.  The Queen doesn't actually sign the bills, she appoints a governor general to sign the bills for her.
Parliament's job is to make new laws.  Parliament is made of two parts:  the Sovereign and the House of Representatives.  
The Sovereign is the role of the Queen.  This is a role mainly in title and very little power is actually given to this role. 
The House of Representatives proposes and makes laws.  The Representatives are voted in by the people.  The people vote every three years for new members of parliament.  To pass a law a committee works on the bill.  The bill is read 2 times to the House and revisions are made.  The third reading is the final reading and the law is passed.  The Queen's representative then signs the law.
The government building has been in Wellington since 1865.   The Act of 1990 specifies the rights of citizens when dealing with government and the Human Rights Act of 1993, which prohibits discrimination on various grounds.  The Labour party and the National party are New Zealand's two main parties right now.
Damon
&
Maddie

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Herding the Goats



Some friends invited us over to their house to help with de-worming the goats, so we thought we would give it a try for the experience.  In order to de-worm  the goats we had to heard them down through all the hills to the main farm house.  Herding the goats was pretty easy work especially when you have a 3 legged dog who knows how to heard sheep on your side.  All you have to do is stand in the direction that you do not want the goats to go so they are forced to go in the direction you want them to go.  Where it gets hard is when two of the dogs who do not know so much about herding the sheep try to help causing the goats to go in the wrong direction.  One time when we were herding the goats, Elena came - not paying attention to anything and looking at the pictures on the camera.  She walked straight into the gap where we were tying to get the goats through, resulting in the goats being completely surrounded so that their only choice was to panic.  The group of goats split in half so that we had to herd one half back to the other.  When we had them all at the farm they did the de-worming.  In order to de-worm you have to catch a goat so that the medicine can be put down the goat's throat.  When the goats were de-wormed,  they let me try catching one of the goats.   I tried and tried to catch one and then I finally did!  Herding the goats back up into the hills was supper easy, all we really did was hop on the 4-wheeler and let the 3 legged dog (his name is Spit) do the work.
-Damon

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Goose That Thinks It's a Goat




Once upon a time there was a farmer who had about 100 goats and there were a bunch of geese too.  The farmer did not want the geese in his flock of goats.  So one day the farmer went up to the geese and shooed them away.  He hoped they would never come back.  The farmer watched the geese fly away but then he noticed that one goose could not fly!  The farmer did not know what to do with the goose that couldn't fly so he decided to leave it there with all of the goats.  Three or four years had past and the goose still lived with all the goats.  The goose for some reason thought he was a goat.  He ate grass like the goats, he drank water like the goats and he liked the hills like the goats.  The goats were his friends, he even had a best friend named Billy the goat!  Billy was a black and white, young goat.  Sometimes the goose would get trampled by the goats but he never got hurt.
One very nice winter day it was time for the goats to get dewormed.  People that the goose did not recognize came.  The goose just carried on eating grass with the goats.  The people walked towards the goose and the goats.  The goose asked Billy if he recognized the four people, or maybe it was three.  The goose was not very good with numbers!  Billy only recognized one of the people so soon all the goats and the goose were  on the run.  Running away from the people!  The goats and the goose gave the people a good run.  They were very hard to catch but the goose thought is was hard work running over all the hills.  After awhile they had run over the road and were trapped in a big building.  The goats were split into two groups.   The goose was in the second group.  After a long wait it was time for the the second group to be dewormed.  I watched Billy get grabbed away from the group by his horns.  It looked like a man was ridding on his back with Billy's head stuck between the man's legs.  Something was pushed into Billy's mouth and then they took him away from me.  I ran for my life in circles.  The goats were going bonkers!  They started to trample me - just like they always do when they get excited.  All of a sudden one of the men grabbed me.  I was scarred out of my pants - even though I don't wear pants!  1,000 questions went through my mind but guess what they did?  Nothing!  I was skipped over and the men moved on.  I had come down here for nothing!  A little later the people were starring at us and pointing.  They had a little thing they looked through, they posed and then it flashed.  I looked at them and posed also.  They pointed the thing at me but it burned my eyes!  After that they made us go all the way back into the hills.  It took a lot of time and I was tired.
The End
- Elena

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Feeding The Deer




On Sunday, we all went to a farm.  They had deer.  We helped feed them.  First he filled three bags full of dried corn from a large corn bin, Damon filled the last one.  Paul, who owns the farm, put the bags in the back of the truck and Dad, Elena, Damon and I rode in the back with Mom in the front.  We drove up this steep, long rode with a couple of gates.  We had to keep stopping to open and close them.  After we finally got to the last gate, we went through it and there were lots of deer running towards us (around 100) because they knew it was time for dinner.  The deer were coming to us from other hills and a pond.  We had to wait for all the deer otherwise the ones still coming wouldn't get to eat.  Once all the deer came, Paul started pouring out the food in a long line.  The deer lined up nicely next to each other and ate.  In the spots were he poured the food first, there was none left because the deer ate all of it.  If you come up behind the deer so they can't see you, you can pet them.  After a minute we had to go back, I rode in the front with mom.
-Maddie

Thursday, July 10, 2008

ART DECO




ONE OF THE TOWNS THAT I WAS EXTREMELY EXCITED TO VISIT LONG BEFORE WE ARRIVED IN NEW ZEALAND IS NAPIER.  ON FEB. 3, 1931 NAPIER WAS STRUCK BY AN EARTHQUAKE REGISTERING 7.8 ON THE RICHTER SCALE.  (THIS WAS THE LARGEST EARTHQUAKE EVER IN NEW ZEALAND.)  VERY FEW BUILDINGS SURVIVED THE QUAKE AND SUBSEQUENT FIRES.  OVER 100 PEOPLE WERE KILLED.  IN A RUSH TO REBUILD, ARCHITECTURAL STUDENTS WERE CALLED IN FROM AUCKLAND.  BECAUSE ART DECO WAS IN ITS HEIGHT AT THIS TIME, NAPIER WENT MAD FOR THE BOLD, GEOMETRIC STYLE. NAPIER IS NOW CONSIDERED ONE OF THE FINEST CONCENTRATED COLLECTIONS OF ART DECO.  
THE ART DECO PERIOD RAN FROM 1925-1939.  "STYLE MODERNE" WAS THE ORIGINAL NAME, BUT FOLLOWING THE EXPOSITION OF 1925 PEOPLE BEGAN USING THE TERM "ART DECO".  ART DECO IS A PURELY DECORATIVE STYLE THAT INFLUENCED ARCHITECTURE, INTERIOR DESIGN, ART, FILM AND FASHION.  IT IS BASED ON MATHEMATICAL AND GEOMETRIC SHAPES WITH INFLUENCE FROM AFRICA, EGYPT, MEXICO AND THE MACHINE AGE.  STEAM LINERS AND SKYSCRAPERS WERE IN THE BEGINNINGS OF THEIR FORMATION AT THIS TIME.  BOLD STEPS AND SWEEPING CURVES GIVE A DRAMATIC LINE TO THE OVERALL STYLE WITH THE SUNBURST MOTIF EPITOMISING THE ERA.  STAINLESS STEEL, INLAID WOOD, AND ZEBRA SKINS ALL GAVE DRAMATIC CONTRAST IN TEXTURE AND COLOR.  ART DECO WAS AN OPULENT STYLE IN REACTION TO THE AUSTERITY OF WORLD WAR I.  IT WAS CUT SHORT DUE TO WORLD WAR II BUT OPENED THE DOOR FOR MODERNISM.
WALKING DOWN THE STREETS OF NAPIER ART DECO IS AROUND ME.  I FEEL LIKE I HAVE STEPPED BACK TO A TIME WHERE CARS WERE NEW ON THE SCENE.  THE BUILDINGS, LAMPPOSTS, SEWER COVERS, TOWN FOUNTAIN AND OTHER LITTLE DETAILS ALL SPEAK OF A TIME OF RENEWAL FOLLOWING DISASTER FOR ONE TOWN.
NO WORRIES - KRIS

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

New Zealand Parliament Architecture



The New Zealand parliament buildings have many different forms of architecture.    The Executive office building (also know as the "Beehive") was made into the shape of a beehive.  Since this building is circular there are no rectangular rooms.  The "Beehive" is designed by British architect Sir Basil Spence.  People make jokes about this building like "What's buzzing in the beehive?"  or "We always knew our politicians spent most of their time going round in circles!"
The materials used in these Parliamentary buildings are all materials from New Zealand (marble and wood).  All three of the Parliamentary buildings are connected together so that you can walk from one to the other without going outside.  The Parliamentary library has an attractive pink Gothic-Revival structure.  The Parliament house, next door is built out of marble in a colonial style.
The Base Isolation Earthquake Proofing (for the sake of time B.I.E.P.) system can absorb the impact of an earthquake up to 7.5 on the Richter scale and can move up to 30 cm in any horizontal direction.  The B.I.E.P. works with numerous pillars located in the basement of the building, holding up the top of the building. These pillars shift if an earthquake were to occur, so that the building does not get damaged. The building will sway slightly.  New Zealand designed this system and it is now being used all over the world.
-Maddie
&
-Damon

Monday, July 7, 2008

Mum's thoughts on Rugby




Tonight we went to a rugby test (game).  Being on this side of the world is interesting in the sense that all the countries are small so they have a national team to represent their country.  For New Zealand the team is the All Blacks.
Tonight the game was in Wellington against South Africa who is a major rival.  Prior to the game we put on tattoos and face paint to show some national pride.  The game was sold out despite the cold rain.
The pre-game entertainment was opera.  As the opera concert was going they brought 2 huge flags onto the field and the teams entered.  The South African national anthem was sung in Afrikaans and then English.  Next the New Zealand national anthem was sung in Maori then English.  I'm feeling far from Michigan!  Next the All Blacks put some fear into South Africa with the Haka.  South Africa stood facing New Zealand quaking in their shoes as New Zealand did this war dance ending with their faces bugged out and tongues hanging out of their mouths.
Suddenly without warning the test (game) was going.  Within minutes the first, what I call "WWF Move" happened.  A New Zealand guy picked up a South African guy, flipped him over and threw him on his back onto the ground!  The refs. conferred and decided it was legal.
Another move is when the refs aren't really sure whose ball it is so the teams both get into what I call "tackle dummy" position.  Each team makes 3 short rows facing each other just inches apart, head to head ready to plow one another over.  Then another smallish guy timidly tosses the ball under this huddle between the 2 teams.  He literally turns and hightails it out of there to the back of the pile so he doesn't get crushed.  It's a toss up as to which team will win the ball.
My personal favorite move is what I call the "cheerleader lift" move.  The ball has gone out of bounce so each team hoists a man into the air in an effort to catch in ball.  The men fly up with grace and then come down sometimes being caught by their teammate and sometimes not.
Quite frequently there is the "greased pig" move.  The ball has been passed around a lot and they finally figure out which guy to tackle.  Guys from both sides pile on top of the man carrying the ball.  Punches fly and the next thing you know the ball has reappeared and is in play again.  They all run after this new guy and pile on top of him, the ball reappears again and play continues.  This is a bit like the "clumping method" seen in 4 year olds playing soccer.  
Last we have the "slip and slide" play when the guy with the ball dives to the ground and slides 10 yds. to make a "try" (points).
Oh, did I mention that they do all this with no helmets and no pads?  Incredible!
I did enjoy this a lot as it is a quick game with the ball continually in motion and changing directions.  There are no time outs - keeping the game going.  40 min. in each half.  Just throw the boys in the back yard and let them have at it!
No worries - Kris

Friday, July 4, 2008

the alley



Just a few houses up we have an alley.  The kids use the alley every day going to and from school, Chad uses the alley to go to work and I use the alley to go to all of the above places.  The alley has a feel about it.  It's lined with corrugated metal, fences and plants.  It feels secluded.  Like all good alleys it has its share of trash - old pop cans, food wrappers and other garbage.  There is a backyard with a fence bordering the alley.  The resident's personal garbage heap takes up the far corner.  We have counted at least 7 cats in the backyard at one time.  There is a distinct alley smell - garbage, rotten fruit, rain and smoke.  At night I walk quickly with my mace ready.  I have only needed to use the alley in the dark a few times.  I will never let the kids walk it in the dark.  The fear of a dog rather than a person is what keeps me out of the alley at dark.  When I walk the alley alone, I am taken back to the street we stayed on in Zambia.  The same smells, the same look, the same feel - only a different time in a different place.
No worries - Kris

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Sewing


In school I have sewing class for one term.  The term is almost over.  In sewing I made a backpack bag with sheep fabric, a pencil case which is pink and green with my name on it, and boxers (shorts) that are light blue and silky.  Some people got to make a cushion.  We also are borrowing a sewing machine from someone.  It looks old.  It only does a straight stitch forward.  I sewed a case for Damon's PSP with it.  We also borrowed two other machines before this one, but the first one broke and we returned the other one because this one was at our door.
-Maddie