Rerun 12/08

Remember the old, old, old western saloons where they served the young cowpokes "sasparilla"? [I bet that thought takes you back!] Well, I wanted to make the kids rootbeer floats, but there is no such thing as rootbeer in this strange little country that I live in. So we went to the supermarket chain that carries more imported items than the others and that's  where I found 'sarsaparilla'. I had always heard it was the same as rootbeer [even if it was spelled weird] and it worked quite nicely. The kids were impressed with yet another American delicacy. 

Paper dinner napkins are just not a part of the culture here. Some takeaway places have a stack of them on the counter that you can help yourself to but most don't even bother to offer them. I know that the first time I put them on the table, the kids asked 'what's this?' Now, it's a game at each meal to see who will be the last to put your napkin--sorry, it's called a serviette here-- on your lap!

Hubby's driving used to make me hold on for dear life--crossing the middle lines, especially around tight curves in the road--until I realized that there is rarely any traffic in the outlying areas. 

Tuis have the most melodious metallic sound when they sing. 
I love to listen to them and I am so glad they hang out close to the house.

Pukekos, on the other hand, sound like a strangling cat.

You can go anywhere, including restaurants, barefoot in NZ. Many children don't bother wearing shoes to school.

Morning glories are considered a noxious weed here because they spread so quickly. 

Long before I got to the age that I am, I quit thinking about running. I would tell people that I only run if the house is on fire and we would snicker. That was before I became supreme evil stepmom to pre-teens. I really didn't think my legs were capable of running--what with the muscle tone loss from my thyroid problem and being a bit on the 'fluffy' side--but, I do actually run! I don't run a lot, and it's not for long distances, but I actually run after soccer balls and cricket balls and chasing ducks away from the pond. I guess it's true that you should 'never say never'.

I had very little occasion to look at new stoves in Kansas, but I did notice that they were selling 'convection ovens' that had a fan in them. That seemed pretty uptown to me, since it didn't understand why one would want a fan in your oven. In this strange country, it seems those 'cookers' are the norm. It's not as bizarre as I had imagined since the only real difference is that you can cook at about 10 degrees C less if you use the fan. 

Most of the towns that we have visited have huge memorials to the veterans of all the wars that Kiwis fought in. That's pretty cool. Many towns also have a park named 'King Edward's Park.'

I put a poll on a forum I visit about whether or not others thought their fellowmen were polite or rude. From the votes and comments, I have come to the conclusion that Americans are by far friendlier than most Europeans. Thus, it seems that it is my duty to civilized the country of New Zealand--or at least raise the stepkids to be friendlier and more mannerly than the norm seems to be here.

Apparently, the whole 'outgoing' and giving American persona is a totally foreign concept, because the little old ladies who run the 'op shops' [charity shops] are genuinely surprised when we buy a little something and tell them to keep the change. I'm talking shock and stammering. Real shock. How sad that is.

And for those keeping track of the ducklings, we have had 65 babies in 10 broods this year. But it looks like the parade is coming to an end.  And, when it does, it will be for good because we are going to net the pond.  The first spring was cute with one brood, the second spring was also cute with two broods, but this is just a bit overwhelming!!

We will be concentrating on the poor fishies that have put up with the ducks.  There are some that are as long as hubby's size 13 feet! More on them later.


This and that...

Why in the world is there a health warning on the new keyboard we bought the other day? I think I (along with my doctor) could eventually figure out the problem if my wrists and hands started giving me problems.

Grace, out latest cat--who was suppose to have been fixed when we got her from the humane society--still hasn't had her kittens yet. I wish she'd hurry up! I can't wait to photograph them! Hubby keeps saying that if she's just fat, he's going to be mad! 

Earlier this year, Missy decided to live with her mom (H) full time. A short while later, Otterboy decided to live with us. NZ law says that if we have shared custody (like we used to have, with both the kids alternating one week at each house) then each house will support the kids with their own income. Now that there is one child at each house, you'd think it was the same, but nope, it's not. H has petitioned for child support and will get some. We counter-filed but haven't got the paperwork yet. I don't think H has thought things through because we will be entitled to support for Otterboy for two years after Missy is ineligible. Even though it's very stressful, it's quite an interesting situation and I am just praying that God will work it out the best way. If you join me, I'd appreciate it.

The snow has disappeared from our yard garden. I can't say I'm upset about that, though. It was fun to see it and I have some good pictures, so if it's another six years before I see that much again, I'll be happy.

A very dear friend of mine who knew I love to cook made me a cookbook a few years ago, not long before he died. He hand printed several hundred recipes and sent it to me in the mail. I was so touched by all that time and effort! 

I have decided that his work should not have been in vain, so I am typing them all out to put on the internet for others to appreciate along with me. It's got some weird stuff--lots of rabbit and game recipes, to mention some. When I started typing it, I gave myself a year to get them all done, but I have about two-thirds of them typed out already, so keep your eyes peeled for the grand announcement here in the near future.

I think I mentioned before that I tutor at SeniorNet (either here or on FB, I can't remember which). Anyway, I enjoy being involved there. It's quite obvious that I am one of the younger active members because I actually thing of 'google' as a verb! When we got the command from higher-up to set up a website, I made a simple blog page, despite the thought that 'nobody will see it because they need us to learn how to find a webpage'! They were quite impressed, although it was 'just another blog' to me!  You can see it here.

Oh, yeah, the schools rescheduled the whole school year in NZ so that the kids can be off for the World Rugby League games next summer. Just another reason that I am sure the educational system here is wonky.

Grace has decided to lay on my chest and I only have one hand to type so I will take it as a sign to stop typing and post this.


Snow and lots of it!

Before I came to NZ, Hubby had told me that it only snows once every 10 or 12 years in Stratford. Well, in the last 5 years, twice it has snowed enough to cover the ground and be gone the next day. And then we woke up to this today!

It's not all that bad, knowing it won't be a Chicago snowfall that lasts for months. Actually, it was kinda fun to help Otterboy with his snowman, but, shhhh! Don't tell anybody I said that.


Rerun 2/09

These are one type of Maori potatoes that my hubby thought would be fun to grow.  They are purple, inside and out, and make very interesting potato salad!  They are called 'roke kuri' .  The literal translation is 'dog poo' (well, not exactly 'poo', but this is a G-rated blog).  Gotta love the Maori language.

There seems to be a trend in food color here.  You can read about purple carrots here. I found them quite tasty, a bit sweeter than orange ones.

And we have some purple cauliflower seed to plant later in the fall.

The food may be boring, as I have blogged about before, but it is colorful.


When you thought I wasn't looking

                 WHEN YOU THOUGHT I WASN'T LOOKING                   
            When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you hang my         
          first painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately         
                        wanted to paint another one.                     
            When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you feed a         
            stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind         
                                to animals.                             
            When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you make my         
                   favorite cake for me, and I learned that the little         
                      things can be the special things in life.               
            When you thought I wasn't looking, I heard you say a         
          prayer, and I knew that there is a God I could always         
                  talk to, and I learned to trust in Him.               
            When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you make a         
              meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I           
        learned that we all have to help take care of each other.       
          When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you take care         
          of our house and everyone in it, and I learned we have       
                    to take care of what we are given.                 
              When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw how you           
            handled your responsibilities, even when you didn't         
              feel good, and I learned that I would have to be           
                        responsible when I grow up.                     
            When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw tears come         
            from your eyes, and I learned that sometimes things         
                      hurt, but it's all right to cry.                   
            When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw that you           
          cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.         
            When you thought I wasn't looking, I learned most of         
            life's lessons that I need to know to be a good and         
                    productive person when I grow up.                   
          When you thought I wasn't looking, I looked at you and         
            wanted to say,"Thanks," for all the things I saw when         
                      you thought I wasn't looking.  


Stratford High School Sucks

I have tried really hard to adjust to things here in NZ. I have put in a special effort to accept things that I don't find quite right and have tried to let everybody be who they are--ok, I call noise control on my neighbor, but he is stomping on my rights when his music invades my house, so that part of 'who he is' is just a red-neck trailer-park jerk....but I digress.

I know schools have changed a lot in the many, many, many years since I attended, but common sense should still prevail, even here in NZ.

The local Stratford High School doesn't have enough lockers for all the students, so most of them have to lug all their books to every class every day. That wouldn't be quite so bad if schedules were regular, but each student has 6 classes in a 5-class school day. That means that each day is totally different than the day before or the day after. And now that I think about it, it means that each class doesn't get a whole 'term' worth of study.

Otterboy got into a bit of stuff the other day in first period, about 9:30AM. After filling out incident reports at the moment (when they all were still a bit angry), those involved went on to other classes before the principal called me at 1 PM to say he was sending Otterboy home because he was afraid our son would seek out revenge at lunch time because of what he wrote on the incident report--over 3 hours earlier. By that time it was all forgotten and the principal didn't even bother to talk to Otterboy before sending him home. Of course, the others involved weren't sent home. Couldn't he have simply separated them for the lunch period? I think that would have taught them both a lot more than 'solving it all' by sending Otterboy away.

In the 'incident', Otterboy's phone was taken from his pocket and totally stripped while he was otherwise occupied. Not just dropping on the ground and the battery falling out, but the sim card and the memory card, too. Now, the memory card is hard to get out, so I know it was done deliberately. 

The principal's view of this was that phones are 'not allowed' in school. How much bull pucky is that? Otterboy (and I'm sure many other kids with parents who care or work) needs his phone so that we know where he is since it's quite a walk to and from school--it may not be a popular stance, but Hubby and I actually care where, when, and with whom he goes. And we want to know when to expect him home.

I can understand phones not being used in class and the teachers needing to enforce a bit of discipline, but not at school at all? How utterly out-of-touch. Would it not be actual teaching to make the students pay attention in class? Perish the though in Stratford.

I don't socialize a lot, but the few times I have discussed Stratford High School with other people, I have found that graduates from Stratford who go on to university have all had to work very hard to catch up the first year--even those at the top of the class. That does not make for a good school reputation.

We have no solutions. Both primary and high school principals have spend all their time defending what they do when we go in to talk. I just hope it's not this bad all over.


Rerun from 4/08

New Zealand is a great place. Really it is. It's just rather limited in every possible thing, except maybe cows, sheep and cheese.

There are a few things that I would consider bargaining for, though.

1) Lysol. There are a few air fresheners available, even Glade. But nothing I can find that is an actual spray disinfectant.

2) Hostess Suzy Q's. Most stores have fresh baked goodies. There are even bakeries that have wonderful local snacks. But none of them even remotely resemble or satisfy the taste for a Suzy Q or Twinkie.

3) Screen doors. What were they thinking when they set the standard for home building? There are places named after flying annoyances, for pity sake, so it's not like they aren't plentiful. Screens on the windows and doors would certainly cut down on the flies leaving gifts on the ceiling!! Yes, I'm talking about fly poo. It's disgusting, but apparently it's just part of life here. ICK!

4) Italian sausage. I would be willing to give up something serious for a supply of Italian sausage. They think bacon (ham, in the rest of the civilized world) is the great thing for pizza topping. It's fine, but it's not Italian sausage. And, for the record, barbeque sauce instead of tomato sauce should never be an option for pizza.

Digression on NZ food ----> Most foods here--including baked cheese snacks that resemble cheetos--have a sweetness to them. It's just wrong. They are not suppose to be sweet--you're suppose to be able to taste the food, not the sugar. Sugar is for things like peanut butter, but do you think they'd put it in NZ peanut butter? Noooooo.

5) Central heat and air. TV ads are abundant for heat pumps here, but I never hear mention of central heat/air. It can't possible be that much more expensive than having enough heat pump units to heat the whole house. Central heating would definitely omit the need for doors on every stinking doorway in the house.

I shall update this list occasionally, as I find things I should not have to live without [but, I do, so I complain about it] .


Five years, already?

I woke up this morning to Hubby saying 'Happy Anniversary' in my ear. When the fuzzies left my brain, I realized that it's the anniversary of my arrival in New Zealand.

Yes, 5 years ago today, at 5:30 am, I got off the plane in Auckland and saw Hubby for the first time. 

My life since I've been here has been nothing at all like I was used to in the US. But that's all OK.

Life should be lived. Risks should be taken. Obstacles should be confronted. Those are the things that make us grow and appreciate what we have. And make us know we are alive.

To tell you the truth, I never, ever thought in a million years that I would be living the second half of my life halfway around the world....in a country I barely know how to find on a map...with a husband after many, many comfortably boring years alone...with teenage kids and all that entails...and having to adjust and find who I am again.

But, I know that I know that I know that I am where I should be.

And it's all good.