4/30/2009

Eltham Toy Wall

This quirky attraction. in the town of Eltham in Taranaki, started in the 1970's when the late Faye Young found some toys in neighbouring Bridger Park. She left the toys on the wall between her house and the park in the hope that the toys' owners would find them. Instead, more toys appeared on the wall. Mrs. Young and her family decided to cement the toys into the wall. There are now thousands of toys in the wall to be enjoyed by young and old.

This castle is on the other side of the wall,
part of a tribute to the Toy Wall Lady.


4/28/2009

A few thoughts...

  • Chocolate. We try our best to send sensible foods to school with the kids for their lunches and snacks. The only chocolate I can recall would be in granola bars, and that's not very often. And we feel it's all well and good for the school to teach kids to eat healthy foods, but I think it went over the top last night. Otterboy told us that he couldn't take a Snickers bar in his lunch because the school doesn't allow it. After a brief discussion in which we were informed that we can't send chocolate, but the teachers can give it as rewards in class, he decided he could take it and eat it at some point, so we just let it go at that. Today I call the school and ask about it and they don't even have a policy about any specific foods--not even chocolate. Now, I know that Otterboy is a bit anal-retentive (just like his evil step-mom ), but Hubby and I found it interesting, maybe to the point of alarming, that he got such a notion into his head.
  • NZ news. The news reporting in New Zealand is a strange creature. I am trying to understand how they figure out what is important enough to report and what's not, but, with little success. I mean, the NZ government owns 2 of the 4 free-to-air channels, some Australian company owns the third and somebody in Canada owns the fourth . I do wonder what it means that there have been 60 deaths of Swine Flu in Mexico but none of the deaths merited reporting until NZ students returned from Mexico with flu symptoms.
  • Coleus. When I was in my 20's (yes, I know that was long time ago, but it's till relevant) in northern Indiana and Northeast Georgia, I used to grow coleus with great ease. It was one of the few plants that didn't need much care but grew wondrously for me. I have tried to grow it recently and my results just suck. I choose to believe that it is a different strain of plant down here that doesn't bush out or do much of anything except make seeds and just stare at me .
  • Kiwis. Hubby and I went grocery shopping today and ended up at the checkout of a lady we hadn't seen before. She very chattily bantered with us the whole time she was checking our stuff and we just enjoyed it immensely (I have blogged about 'rude kiwis' before, click here. And here, too). Such a nice change from the oriental lady who spent 20 minutes cleaning off the conveyor before acknowledging our presence or the others who think a quick 'hello' without eye contact is all we deserve for paying their wages. Funny that the store manager kept hovering about, though. I think she was worried that Michelle was going to insult us or something, so we made sure we were loud when we informed her that she was a refreshing change. Michelle considers herself 'cheeky' but we enjoyed her company!
  • Roads. Hubby complains about how bad the roads are any time there are roadworks going on here. I just smile to myself and wonder what he'd think about driving down Highway 41 outside of Whiting, IN . I can't imagine they have done much to it, since there was absolutely no room to work on it back in the 60's and 70's. Would be interesting to see it now, though.
  • Bad tv ads. There are two ads on tv that annoy me and make me wonder how responsible the advertisers think they are. One is for KFC that shows a dad trying to 'get away' with 2 extra pieces of chicken, even though the kids try to show him that it's part of the special. The other is for McDonald's and gives the impression that it's just fine to screw your friends out of money. Just what is this world coming to??

  • Mayo vs butter. I don't know if it's solely a NZ thing or a hold-over from English ways, but the only condiment you get for a sandwich anywhere (except fast-food chains) is butter. I have since, brought mustard and ketchup and mayonnaise into the lives of my NZ family. The bad news is, I haven't had much luck with Otterboy and Hubby, but the good news I have converted Missy to mayo for her sandwiches. So many NZers, so little time .

4/26/2009

anzac day

ANZAC Day is celebrated yearly across Australia and New Zealand.  It is marked in our town every year with a short parade and the laying of many wreaths at the Veterans Memorial. The ATC cadets (top photo) add a lot with their silent memorial salute every year.  It's very touching.





4/20/2009

Napier weekend

We made a weekend visit to Napier this weekend. The city is located on the Hawkes Bay and is a great tourist place. The area has some terrific autumn color (which are missing in the Taranaki area) and the weather is much milder on the east coast of the country.
This is the most famous backpackers in NZ. It used to be a prison in Napier.


The city itself was virtually destroyed by an earthquake in 1931. It was immediately rebuilt in the then-popular art deco style and that is now one of the biggest tourist attractions today. The small details of the building are the parts that fascinated me, although there are some amazing facades, too.








There is also a great aquarium there with a walk-through section where sharks and rays and lots of cool fish swim over your head. The diver who feeds the fish puts on a great show for the kids of all ages!

We visited Norsewood and Dannevirke along the way.  The Norse history is New Zealand began in September of 1872.  You can find more information by clicking here.








It's quite interesting to discover the history of this tiny, wee island country. I guess moving to a new place gets the curiosity flowing.

There were some great puns and strange things along the side of the road that I have posted over at my other blog. 

Backpacking 101

If you're from anywhere except the US, you probably already know all about backpackers lodges and such, but I find it a fascinating new experience.


I recall many American movies and sit-coms from the 60's and 70's that had a high-school graduate who wanted to 'backpack across Europe for a year to find myself' before they joined the 'real world'--all much to their parents' chagrin.

I always envisioned them sleeping on the ground in a field or forest or by a riverbed and then foraging for berries or some such stuff the next morning--all in all, not a tempting mental image for me. And they also talked about staying in 'youth hostels', but I never had a reference point for that, either.

Well, my Yankee pals, since my journey to NZ, I have experienced the 'backpacker' world and, I gotta tell ya, it's nothing like I thought it would be. The distinction between the hostels and lodges seems to be blurred these days, but the experience is the same.

We have stayed in these accomodations on a few occasions and have experienced a couple of options. These options and expenses can range from a 'luxurious' room with its own bathroom (and a tv, if you're really lucky) to a room with just a bed and a table to sharing a room with 6 strangers. You can even just rent a space to park your tent if you like (but I'm not too proud to admit I don't do camping). All of the 'places have communal kitchens, lounge areas, laundries and showers/toilets and I'm sure makes for some great conversations and possible new friendships. (The kitchens and stuff, not the showers and toilets.)

I know that I heard a little about youth hostels growing up, so I'm sure they existed at some point in the US, but for some reason I was never really familiar with the concept. The older I get, the more I realized how sheltered my life was. But not any more.

Have you ever stayed in these places in the US? I would sure like to hear about it if you have.

4/12/2009

Birthday walk

Our family went for a walk in the national preserve around Mt Taranaki/Mt Egmont yesterday on my birthday.  I find it amazing how tropical it all appeared at this time of year.





Black, white and gray

I like things to be black or white.  I don't care for gray and mottled just makes my head spin. Take, for example, the Easter holidays in New Zealand.  Since school is year-round here, Easter simply heralds a two-week break between terms.
Good Friday and the Monday after Easter are official holidays. That should lead one to logically conclude that the two days between are holidays, too--if, for no other reason, but to make it a long holiday in general.
If you think that, you'd better think again.  
Neither day is an official holiday.  Not even the Sunday that the fuss is all about. Nope. Not an official holiday at all.  
'Why?' you may ask yourself (or me if we were in the same room). 'Where, oh where, would I find the solution to this conundrum?' you might continue as you pace about and wring your hands. 
Well, lucky for you, I happen to have the answer to that burning question. It's because neither day is a part of the working week, so it can't be a 'day off' in the real 'Monday through Friday work week'  so there's no need to proclaim it a holiday.
I bet you're thinking to yourself,  "Hmmm.  Interesting.  As strange as it is, that's all there is to it." 
But you'd be wrong.
See, Easter Sunday is not a national holiday, but there is a national retail law that says that stores cannot be open on this day unless that place of business provides a vital service, like gas stations. And, even though the Monday after Easter is an official holiday, shops may open and do business as usual on that day.
So, the kids and M-F workers  get all the days off, workers who are  'rostered (that means anyplace that isn't M-F) off'  get holiday pay and  if you are 'rostered on'  you get mega holiday pay.  Retailers are forced to be closed on a non-holiday but open back up on Easter Monday holiday.
Clear as mud.  Gray, mottled mud.
Any questions?
The good news about New Zealand and holidays is that there is absolutely no advertising on TV on holidays.  It throws the lineups out of whack, but when you find something you're interested in, you only get a few promos and then back to the show! 

4/10/2009

Resurrection and Bunnies

This is my attempt to reconcile the Resurrection of the Risen Christ and bunnies and chocolate. Many years ago, I heard a very plausible explanation and have been searching for factual evidence ever since.  This is my version:


We all know that the true meaning of Easter is a celebration of Jesus Christ rising from the dead to save the world from eternal separation from God if we accept and believe. [My blog, my facts] Obviously, many rulers over the ages also believed this, among them Charlemagne, king of Rome (or whatever it was called back then) for a while in the triple-digit years.

[History is a problem to me because, in my analness, there is not a timeline for all of history, so I have trouble getting it all in the right order and connected to the correct stuff like people/king/curse/battle/plague or whatever else happened, but I digress...]

Anyway, Charlemagne was a real go-getter in everything he did and he was a believer in the resurrected Jesus and wanted everyone else to be, too.  So he declared the Roman Empire to be Christian.  End of story.  Almost.

One day, one of his buddies said, "Hay, Charlie, you say we are all Christians, but, look!  'Those people' are worshipping the sun and that funny stuff growing in the fields. And they are worshipping bunnies so that their crops and families will be fertile."  So, Charlemagne send some soldiers to tell they they are Christians and to stop that stuff immediately.

'Those people' said, "I don't think so" and started laughing and rolling on the ground.

When they reported the incident to Charlemagne, he was not happy.

He paced the halls of the castle for days and days and days, trying to figure out how to  get them to convert to his way of believing.  I mean, he had declared the whole place Christian, but the people are not complying and it's probably making him look bad to his royal buddies over in wherever there were other kings (I already told you I am really bad at history).

One day in his pacing, he came upon a very enthusiastic servant who was tired of emptying the staff chamber pots.  The servant meekly approached the king and proposed an idea.  The king was very delighted with the idea and advanced the servant to his personal chamber-pot-emptier.  The kid was not amused.

The king immediately called a cabinet meeting and sent out a decree.  He would move Easter celebarations to the  spring solstice when 'those people' celebrated the sun! He figured that the Bible doesn't really say what day the Resurrection actually happened and it's the believing that counts, anyway.  And, while he was at it, he moved Christmas to the winter solstice day that 'those people' celebrated because the Bible doesn't really say what day Jesus was actually born and it's the believing that counts, anyway.

So, Charlemagne made the Roman Empire Christian whether they wanted to be or not--or, at least, they looked like they were Christians because now they celebrated the two major Christian holidays. Charlemagne was very proud of himself and he got to eat chocolate and color eggs after the sun-rise service.

4/07/2009

the things I have learned

It pays to read the labels. They put sugar in the canned tomatoes and sauces. (FYI,the term 'tomato sauce' covers anything from flavored cooking sauces to ketchup). They don't put sugar in peanut butter. 


There is no 'finding a better price'.  I have learned that if I want something, I'm talking really want something, I should buy it any time I have the chance. It is very likely that I will never see it for sale again.  How sad is that?  Since there are no Walmarts here (talk about having it rough!), I can't find a better price down the road. Even the 'big' (meaning NZ owned and operated--they like to keep it in the family, I guess) grocery stores don't keep the same things stocked all the time. Very strange.
Brand names from America are scarce.  I have found: 
  • Ritz crackers (but the local Jatz brand is exactly the same) 
  • Purex toilet paper 
  • ActII popcorn
  • Vanish stain remover 
  • Palmolive dish soap 
  • Electrolux appliances 
  • Ford cars (but no models I recognize except Falcon) 
  • Shell and BP gas stations 
  • Uncle Ben's rice 
  • Kraft peanut butter and mac and cheese 
  • Nescafe (of course) 
  • Coffee Mate creamer on very rare occasions (no flavors) 
  • Colgate toothpaste  
  • Macleans mouthwash and toothpaste 
  • St Ives lotions and soaps
  • Glad storage bags
That is a pretty exhaustive list as I remember. Now consider all the brand names in just one aisle of Wally World, you can see how life is different.  A lot different. But then, I think I've been here so long that it doesn't really matter to me any more.

4/01/2009

TMI

OK, I admit it.  I have trouble thinking 'outside the box'.  I get along in life just fine, as long as I am informed about the world around me. I don't get crazy if I don't know every detail, but ther more info I have, the easier I can understand things.  For example,  if a movie doesn't have a definitive ending, then I am disappointed because I want them to tell me how it ends.  Period. Yes, it's a sad part of my anal-retentive personality.
So, I went to buy a brand-new vacuum cleaner today.  I was totally gobsmacked that the Volta brand of cleaner that I had picked out was made by Electrolux.  It never occured to me that Electrolux made anything more than the excellent brand of vacuum that my mom spent a lot of money on.  The New Zealand site  http://www.electrolux.co.nz/  has a whole heap of things that the company makes. Upon further  investigation, I found this site  http://www.electroluxicon.com/  that said the 'other things'  are just now being offered in America.  
As small as New Zealand is, and with the limits its size imposes, it amazes me that there is a such a commercial difference from America.