Tuesday, April 5, 2016

we went to New Zealand (and it was worth writing about.)

I think I might be falling out of love with social media. I know for sure that when we went to New Zealand in March of 2016 the last thing I wanted to do was write about my experiences every day. I wanted to experience them, instead.

I did have a lot of thoughts, photos, and experiences, and since the people reading this blog are almost all family and friends, I thought I'd share. It's taken me a million years to tackle this, so I'm not going to stress too much, just share some of what we did. If you have any questions let me know and I'll try and answer any questions. (=

You can see our route on the map above. We left Los Angeles on March 3 and arrived in Auckland on March 5. We did a LOT of driving on the North Island over the first week; from Aukland all the way down to Wellington, with many stops in between. From Wellington we flew down to Christchurch (a change from our original itinerary) then took the train up to Picton, along the gorgeous coast. We picked up a car there, and drove into Nelson where we spent a couple of days (including a sea kayaking tour in Abel Tasman park) then flew back to Auckland where we hopped a ferry to Waiheke island and chilled by the beaches with wine. Then is was back to Auckland to fly back home, right at 2 weeks later, March 18.

Two weeks...

was enough to see what we saw, without getting too homesick. If you have more time, I definitely think at least 3 weeks is a good idea. (Most other travelers were there at least 21 days, even those from Australia.)

The flight...

was better than expected. We took Air New Zealand out of LA (about $1300 round trip) and paid for the "Sky Couch" upgrade which meant we had a whole row to ourselves. There were footrests that popped up to make a kind of sleeping platform; with a padded sheet to go under you, big pillows, and special seatbelts so you could sleep in weird positions. It was great for me (who sleeps in weird fetal positions anyways) and Patrick (who was able to move his legs around with the footrest.) [If you decide to fly this way, I have lots of good tips.] The flight was supposed to be around 13 hours, but we were about 2 hours early each time. The crew on the way out was really nice, the one on the way back not-as-much, but better than most domestic flights for sure.


If you are a fast food fan, you will be happy to know that most of New Zealand features your American favorites. McDonald's, Burger King, Kfc. If your thing is more charcuterie and seafood, you are also in luck. If you are a vegetarian with a nut allergy, you are going to have to work for your vittles.
There doesn't seem to be a traditional food type, but we got luckiest with small dishes from the case at coffee shops, and of course Indian and Mediterranean places.
Timing is an issue. Many places are open for lunch only, or dinner after 5, or have done sort of arbitrary closed hours throughout the day (2-5?) Since the shops all close early, and you're also dealing south travel times, eating can become kind of a hassle.
No tips are expected at any restaurant (or other service) which is awesome in a way you quickly discover (especially if you're someone who is hyperaware in socially sensitive situations.) Still, servers are nice and friendly. More so than up here, for sure.
*Pay at the register! I swear this was not in any of our guide books. Almost all of the places we ate (even nice restaurants) kept the bill and took payment at one central register. We sat at a few tables too long, wondering why they kept smiling at us and refilling our water glasses. We got SO MUCH free water. (;


Like I mentioned above, most shops close right at 5pm, so if you're a shopper plan to get there early. Tax is included in prices. The New Zealand dollar usually hangs somewhere below the US dollar in value, but the prices of items are similar. So if you're used to paying $5 for something, expect to pay $7 in New Zealand. Food especially seemed high- but I guess without tax or gratuity it was about the same.


Happens on the left side of the road. Yes, it's tricky. Yes, the gas is still in the same place. Don't worry, there are arrows to remind you EVERYWHERE.
People drive CONFIDENTLY in most places, so you'll need to be quick on your toes. Lots of roundabouts, lots of 80KM-100KM zones. People do seem to follow road-laws unlike some places we've visited, which is a good thing.
Public transit seemed to be pretty lacking in most of the places we visited. It seems like people rely more on cabs and driving than buses.
Domestic flights were extremely easy, quick, and abundant.


I think pretty much everywhere we stayed was delightful.  For the most part we were in B&B's, but there are a lot of "apartment" options too. I'll list the specific places we stayed on the appropriate cities, since they were great. Patrick did all the planning for this trip, and at some point I mentioned the awesomeness of the accommodations, and asked if there were just more good places to choose from. He said it seemed like there were more quality places to choose from. Cost of rooms varies greatly from city to town, but in general was as cheap or cheaper than similar accommodations in the states.

Okay, let's get to it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Things are growing.

I know I know. I'm sorry I never write. Big things have been happening and there isn't time. My days are spent at the So, There store and the time I'm not working I live life!

On that note, I've been meaning to share the results of our "garden". We really just planted stuff all over the yard to see what happened. It was tricky to keep the first sprouts from being eaten by slugs and bugs, but once they got started....

Here are a bunch of pictures of our plants at the beginning of June.

One of our three artichokes.

A couple of summer squash plants.

Broccoli finally looking like broccoli.


Potato flower.

Potato bags.

Snap peas!
But now it's July, and SPIDER SEASON!

The lettuce is still going strong!

The kale is DELICIOUS.

Delicious I say! (Patrick loves Kale, even more than I do. He brings it home.)

Lots of flowers one of our GIANT tomato plants. We've already had 2 early tomatoes off of this one- they're Sungold.

There are sprouts starting on our brussels.


Our new strawberry plants are going crazy, but something keeps eating the fruit before we can get to it. (It leaves teeth marks! This has been a problem in several areas of the garden.)

But not at the summer squash. Which are GIANT and delicious.

They have the prettiest blooms.

Lookit that squash! We've gotten probably 4 times that amount off the 2 plants already.

Then there are the true miracles- artichokes!

These two plants are supposed to be the same variety but they sure don't look alike.

There's our first harvested artichoke with some of the kale. I braised the kale tonight and we ate it with

Zucchini sandwiches!

Not shown : We harvested the first bag of potatoes. They were DELICIOUS. So perfect and amazing. The other bag has  purple potatoes, which we'll probably harvest this weekend.

The broccoli made food- but we didn't love the taste. We've definitely figured out what's worth the effort (which is minimal, really) and what isn't.

So we probably won't do Broccoli next year, but we will do:
Snap Peas - delicious and effortless.
Cherry Tomato
Squash (also effortless, after the bed was built.)
Potato (maybe)
Kale (in containers again)
Lettuce (")

Still don't know about:
The brussel sprouts

MINT (More of a weed. A nice tasting weed.)

We have a little bit of asparagus planted, it shot up one sprout-- who knows what will happen with it next year. It's all magic!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

and some days you just have to stop and eat the flowers.

I've been running on full speed for a while now- but when I looked up and realized I was missing another beautiful day, I decided to go for a short walk and admire what we have planted.

Unfortunately, I didn't take my camera, so you'll have to use your imagination.

Went exploring under our Big Tree (because I was hoping to find morel mushrooms.... some people have all the luck) and found these pretty flowers, which I plucked from their homes so I could admire them while I work work work work... sorry. Got on a loop.

No luck identifying them with my nifty wildflower app.

Cooper offered to taste-test them.

This is why I can't have pretty things.

Monday, April 22, 2013

so get a log little doggies.

I'm not sure the images in this post are for the faint of heart.

Let's talk about Mushrooms. It was only a few years ago that mushrooms moved from the list of foods I would not touch with a ten-foot pole swiftly to the list of things I crave. CRAVE. 

Then one day I see something called a "Shitake Log" at the Capital Hill farmers' market and although I don't buy one, I obsessed about them until, nearly a year later, Patrick brought one home for Valentines Day. (This one from our local Feed Store, the Grange.)

This particular log,from Cascadia Mushrooms, looks less like a piece of wood and more like a loaf of bread someone made from the backend of a wood chipper. But that's not the point. The point is that you get it saturated with water, wait a couple of weeks, then you start to see little bumps pop out.

Then the little bumps become more pronounced, in kind of a creepy "HOW DID THAT GROW SO FAST" way.

Then even bigger, and lewder.


Bigger, and more populated...

Until all of a sudden you look at them and they are little mushrooms.  So that's where we stand today- adorable little mushrooms on a stump in the living room.

This is actually the third cycle on this log, so I know that soon the little mushroom group will look like this...

Then this...

And (this is where it gets gory) it will look like this...

Then this...


Saturday, April 13, 2013

that I heart stew.

We've had another couple of craft days, since I spoke of them last. There is no photographic evidence, which I think is proof of how much fun we had.

I WILL speak for everyone!

I decided to make a version of my favorite vegetable stew for the pre-valentines event, and used a little inspiration from Tara to sweeten the pot. (ALL PUNS INTENDED.)

I don't have the original links, but if you decide you're whimsical enough to make hearts from carrots to spice up your stew, I'm pretty sure you're handy enough to find a how-to. All I did was carve a divet along the length of a carrot, sharpen the other side, then cut of slices. (Think- extruding a heart on one of those Playdoh Fun Factories

The best part- I froze two batches of stew for later consumption- and I by the time we got around to eating them, I was surprised by the sweet little hearts.

I think I "Awwwwww"ed.

Monday, April 8, 2013

I went batty.

I'm not someone who usually decorates my home for holidays. I should be that person. I WANT to be that person, but I'm just not.

However, this last Halloween I went batty (pun intended) and cut creepy-crawlies-and-flyies from scrap cardstock and hung them around the room with thread and tape. (My favourite trick is to tape them on the inside of a lampshade so they surprise you when you turn on the light. GAH! SPIDER. Oh right, I did that.)

Oh course, the cats removed them, one-by-one, so all I had to do after Halloween was pick them off the floor and put them in the trash.

Are you a crafty decorator?

Monday, April 1, 2013

you aren't getting an Elevated Envelope.

This Elevated Envelope is brought to you by willful misunderstanding. That is to say, Tara gave us 9 different theme options (Black and White, Nature Attacks, Softly, Lucky 2013, Phoenix Rising, It's a Zoo in Here, Cats of the Internet, and I Want a Bunny) and told us to "Choose [our] Own Adventure" by picking one theme to represent.

So I made a "Choose Your Own Adventure" envelope, cause I like bending the rules (sometimes.)

Everyone got a double sided envelope, and were told to open one side or the other for an adventure.


I made and illustrated (adventure) card for each of the 9 themes, and included 1 in each envelope.

Then I doubled up the envelopes, so that the recipient could open one at a time. (Kinda like an envelope version of a scratch-off.)

Click on the next image to see the whole collection of "adventures" in all their colored pencil glory.

Like what you see? Well, you should see the other envelopes that are going around right now. AAAAAANNNNNDDD sign up for the next Elevated Envelope to get in on the action.

This is my first second third fourth envelope go-round. It's fun!