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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