Christmas in Stratford

Each year, the Christmas season begins with the Christmas Parade on the first Saturday of December.  OtterBoy was riding one of the floats this year, so we went early to get a good view of the parade as it proceeded one whole block down the center of town, around the round-about and back again. Gotta love small town traditions!
Just before traffic was blocked off, we saw a trickle of motorcycles passing through town that I discovered was the annual Teddy Bear Run that was actually hundreds of riders. This is a yearly ride for the bikers and the entrance fee to ride is one stuffed toy which is donated to the local women's shelter.
Here are a few more pics of the parade...

Since we wouldn't be seeing the kids on Christmas Day, we decided to have our Christmas celebrations early this year, on Monday the 22nd.  All day on Sunday, OtterBoy kept 'informing' us how many hours and minutes it was until 8AM when he was allowed to get out of bed for our official Christmas celebration. We went to New Plymouth on Sunday night for the annual 'Christmas in the Park' gathering--which marked the opening of the Pukekura Park Festival of Lights  --and finally decided to open the 'big stuff' when we got home.
Missy got an MP3 player and we haven't seen her since--except for meals! OtterBoy got the beginning of his N-scale train that will be built over time on a pretty large scale.
Next morning we had the annual treasure hunt for the kiddos.   This year we hid 17 little gifts for each of them (each with their own wrapping paper)  around the house before we went to bed and they enjoyed themselves immensely searching cupboards and shelves and strange places to find them all.
After the pressies, we went to Kai Iwi for a picnic of Peachy's Fried Chicken with potato salad and other trimmings.  I even put on my suit and got some sun this year while the others took a dip in the river where it runs into the ocean. After some strolling on the beach for shell and rock collecting, we took our time driving home and all collapsed in a nap-needy heap.  It was another good Christmas at the Luckhursts and we have a lot to be thankful for.


A few random thoughts

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 civilize 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.


Raindrops on roses....

OK, it's not a rose, but it's still pretty cool, isn't it?!
After being housebound with a bug and two days of rain, I took the first opportunity I had to go outside and take some pics!
This lupin shows how fine the raindrops are.

Here is the bloom of a groundcover I picked out last year. Unfortunately, I have no inkling of it's name.

This is the huge white calla lily along the pond's drainage ditch that gets bigger every year!


We have a winner...or two!

At the beginning of October, we went out to enjoy the Rhododendron Fringe Festival and the four of us took oodles of pictures. It was interesting to see how alike a lot of our pictures were, but also how diverse some of the subjects were. We all chose the pictures we wanted to enter the photo contest and they were all printed up and sent in--a total of about 20. It seems that 14-year-old Missy has the keen eye of the family, because, out of over 200 entries, she was the winner of the overall best picture, besides the same photo being the winner in the children's division, too!

This is her winning photo, much to the chagrin of a nameless cross-town rival!

And this is my 2nd place winner in the animal division.

We are very proud of our endeavors with photography, since none of us have any prior experience to speak of.

We are also proud of Missy on her educational accomplishments. She was the top prize-winner [we called them awards] in her class for her excellent grades and will have her picture in the paper for that, as well. Of course, it was her first year in high school and the students won't be streamed into groups until next year, so it was just general courses for her that she found rather easy. Next year might be a different story to tell, but I think she will hold her own when the going gets tougher. In addition to being a good photographer, she is also a budding author!


Hollard Gardens

There is a very well kept secret just 20 minutes from Stratford where hubby and I go often just to get out. It's called Hollard Gardens, outside of Kaponga, and it's a beautiful place to walk all year round. We like to take the children along sometimes and we end up with some awesome photos!

It's part of the Taranaki Regional Council and the entrance is free, but most of the time when we go there, we scarcely see another soul. Click here for some history and information about the garden.

It's so spacious, it's hard to believe it started as a hobby for one man! And, they have made some upgrades this year with a small playground and free barbie pits. I have included some of our pictures we like a lot and if you click the title, it will take you to a folder of more pics.

It's really a shame it's so under-appreciated, so maybe I can help a little by telling you about it!


Fringe Festival

Every spring, when the camellias and rhododendrons are in bloom, there are two organized "festivals" that show off the surrounding spring blooms. If you think your garden is grand enough to share then you register for the festival and your info is placed in the guide book. You can choose how much to charge for an entry fee--most of the Fringe Festival entrants are only $2 per person.

Over the years, the Rhododendron Festival [proper] has become more of a money-making proposition that has lost the focus of sharing the beauty; and, so the Fringe Festival has appeared. It is the same time and design as the original festival, but the entry prices are from free to $4, as opposed to up to $8 per person for the original festival entry fees.

A few months ago, there was an article in the local paper from a proper festival participant who talked down about the Fringe Festival as if it was trailer trash. Funny that this person is one that charges $8 per person. If it's about sharing the beauty, why charge at all?!?

Below are some random photos we all took this year. Click the images for large views.  Enjoy!

All the pictures you see here were taken by all four of us. We even entered some in the photo contest of Fringe Festival Gardens. It would be great if one of the kids won!


Rude kiwis...again!

Actually, it's not 'again', it's 'still'! And I don't actually think all Kiwis intend to appear rude. I tell myself that it's just cultural differences that are difficult to get used to. Let me explain...

I go grocery shopping every other week, usually late morning and it's not crowded. But it never ceases to amaze me how New Zealanders are NOT at all like Americans when they interact with strangers. [ See my 07 February 2008 post] I couldn't count the amount of employees that had carts on both sides of the aisle and were STANDING in the middle opening talking! The lady in front of me was trying (but not really succeeding) to be patient, but I just said, rather loudly, "Good grief!" to get their attention so they would get out of our way! The only employee that bothered to ask if she was in my way was working in the cleaning products aisle. I told her, "No, you're not in my way, but thanks for asking. You're the first one to bother today!" I wish I had gotten her name. Oh, well.

So, with the employees blocking the aisles and the customers stopping wherever they get distracted by a shiny object, it's a real nuisance to shop here. There are no 'Sorry I'm in your way' smiles or 'just being friendly' smiles, except for the occasional elderly shoppers. [My theory is that they're probably not real Kiwis anyway.] And there's still no polite prattle as your items are checked out.

Also, being a pedestrian is a challenge here. Even if you're crossing at a designated crosswalk, it's a good idea to make sure the cars stop before you start into the street. It's amazing how drivers give no mind to pedestrians. Personally, my philosophy is that they probably don't want my blood on their bumper and probably don't want the paperwork, so I do take a bold chance occasionally or, at least, it looks like it.

For the record, there are kiwis who are nice and have manners. Even though some were drunk as skunks, the hubby's coworkers were really nice and polite when we all went out for dinner a few weeks ago... ok, a couple didn't pay their restaurant bill and had to be chased about to get it done, but that wasn't really a matter of manners...but I digress....

**EDIT** This post was written in 2008. Now, in 2012, I still get comments on it. If you feel the need to prove my post correct and leave a rude comment to tell me I'm not wanted here (like some before you), don't bother because I won't publish it. It's my blog and my opinions.


I don't get out much...

...but I like it that way. And keeping an eye on the ducklings outside my dining room window is a terrific study for me. I don't profess to ever be a duck expert, but I can tell you now that ducks and humans have very similar traits, if you look hard enough.

The ducklings this spring showed up in this order:
  • Mom(1) and Dad with 6, that are now only 3
  • Mom(2) and Dad with 3, that are now 2
  • Mom(3) with 10, that are now 9
  • Mom(4) and Dad with 3, that are now 2
  • Mom(5) with 11, all still here
  • Mom(6) with 8, all still here
The first 6 were down to 5 within a few days and then I noticed that the babies would come alone with the parents following--it definitely reminded me of alcoholic parents, where the parents and children exchange roles. After only a week or so, Mom and Dad only showed up sporatically to feed. Sometimes, they all would all trot off together, but the babies would inevitably come back alone. When the babies were at the pond, it was obvious that they were outcasts.

Babies of Mom2 and Mom4 were abandoned when they were about a week old. [Guess I was off the mark thinking Mom2 was going to be attentive.] They would hang around, at a distance, to the Mom3, but spend some nights huddled together here at the pond.
Curiously, the male ducks would always run Mom4 away, much to my dismay. Mom and Dad's compromise would be to stay at the front of the house while the little ones would make their own way to the pond and back

The good news for all the orphans is that Mom3 eventually took them in and they are one HUGE family!! So, of course, I make sure they all get special attention--even when they make their way to the back door to beg for food!

I'm very proud of Mom5 and Mom6 who have succeeded in keeping the whole family intact. They must have some great hiding spaces for sleeping because they have only ever spent a night or two on the side of the pond.

Needless to say, it gets a bit loud and splashy when all 35 ducklings show up. And, with them all quacking and diving and molting and finding their wings, it's quite good entertainment!

By Christmas, they will all be gone and it will be quiet, once more.


Meet some of my garden friends

Here is the patheticat we call Bubba. I always thought that cats innately chased winged animals, but obviously I was mistaken in that theory. The fact that the ducks are not even the slightest bit bothered by his presence is almost as eerie as his lack of enthusiasm to attack the ducks.

This is the neighbor's cat. Shhh!! She thinks she's a lawn ornament!

This is a tui that caught me taking his picture as he dined on the nectar of the kowhai (ko-fie) tree. They have a white tuft at the throat of a metallic black/green body. Their own song is hauntingly metallic, but beautiful to hear, but they are also mimics of humans and other animals--it's strangely funny to hear a duckling calling from a treetop!

I believe you have met the fantail in a former post. They are very nice to have around, especially in the summer, as they eat flying bugs like mosquitoes (called mossies, here). They are not particularly afraid of humans and seem to be showing off their beautiful tails all the time. There is a pair of these that have discovered our compost barrels!

I know this isn't the mental image you get in the US when I mention the word 'pigeon'. It's a wood pigeon and is much larger than those in America. I love their red beaks and feet, such a distinctive trait. They eat berries, so they are attracted to the strawberry trees across the lane in the summertime.

Earlier in this blog, I mentioned Einstein, who seemed to know when I was going to put out bread or seed. These are a few more of the gorgeous yellow finches that beg for food on the back patio. Their color is quite striking and they apparently don't mind getting wet if there is birdseed involved.

These are cute little waxeyes. Click the picture to get a better look to find out where they got their name (warning, the pictures are big). They are smaller than the finches that come around and they definitely let the other birds get to the seed first! But, I find them fascinating in their color and deftness of flight. I don't recall anything quite like them in Kansas.


New Zealand trivia

Some of this is personal observation, some was blatantly stolen from various websites.

In New Zealand you can get milk from Bulls.

Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand, has the largest Polynesian population in the world.

There is no tree on Auckland's One Tree Hill, but there was one until a few years ago.

Most native New Zealand trees are evergreen. Not pretty green, but definitely green.

The only accordion museum exhibition in the southern hemisphere is in Dargaville.

This country is the size of Colorado or the UK and would fit into the Caspian or Baltic Seas.

Lake Taupo, the big lake in the middle of the North Island, is the worlds largest volcanic crater.

There are over ten million beef and dairy cattle in NZ.

The Kiwi bird, which is about the size of a domestic chicken, lays an egg that is almost a quarter of its total body weight.

New Zealand is actually some 1,000 miles from Australia.

We have the world's:

largest flightless birds [ the kakapo],
largest earthworms,
greatest timber volume of any tree [the kauri]
heaviest insect [the Weta].

If you live in Gisborne, you are living in the first city to see the light of a new day.

New Zealand has one of the highest car ownership rates in the world, with 884 per thousand people.

We have the first documented case of 'exploding trousers'.

Unlike most countries around the world, New Zealand Pizza Hut offers chips with its deliveries.

New Zealand is one of only three countries that have two official national anthems.

The Wildfoods Festival is held in Hokitika, New Zealand each year. You can sample icky cuisine like possum pate and fried duck tongue.

Bungee jumping was invented here, as were
tranquilizer dart gun,
milking machines,
ear tags for animals,
disposable syringes,
blokarting and
THUS proving that there's not much to do here when it's raining! 

Here, same sex marriages, prostitution, soliciting, and brothel keeping are all legal.

Ninety-Mile Beach isn't.

New Zealand oversees two overseas territories, Tokelau and Ross Dependency (in Antarctica). We also keep an eye on the Cook Islands and Niue.

Wellington, the capital city, is windier than Chicago!

New Zealanders consume 4kg of chocolate per capita annually.

The Maori name of New Zealand is Aoteroa, which means "Land of the Long White Cloud."

New Zealand has 6000 kilometers of coast line and nowhere is more than 120km from the coast.

There are no native predators here--no snakes or lions or tigers or bears, oh my!

New Zealand has every climate in the world.

Each year New Zealand has about 100 to 150 quakes that are big enough to be felt. The last fatal one was 2016.

The longest road bridge in New Zealand is the Rakaia River Bridge and is 1,757 metres long.

The population of the city of Sydney, Australia, is greater than the entire population of the country of New Zealand.

We have one ski resort called The Remarkables and one called The Aspiring.

Ernest Rutherford, who is known as the father of nuclear physics for his orbital theory of the atom, is from New Zealand.


They are everywhere!

A few days ago, we were surprised again by our second duck family. This time there were only three ducklings, but their dad is older (his colors are mature) and both parents appear to be much more experienced than the first pair.

All of this sharing of the pond is cute during the day, but last night, about 1AM, first mom came wandering to the pond with her four, which upset the trips' mom, of course, and...well, you can imagine the noise and splashing that ensued!!

Then, this morning, I hear babies cheeping and thought it was the trips, but it was the older babies crying. It bothers me a lot because mom and dad, both, had deserted them...again... but we know we mustn't interfere. I tell everyone, myself included, ...'we don't want pet ducks, we don't want pet ducks'.

In reality, the remaining four of them are old enough to huddle together for safety and they dive for the water when they are scared, so I'm not real worried about them as long as they stay closeby.

It's not unusual, but I still find it giggly that ALL the ducklings have connected the opening of the patio door with being fed, so they look like jet boats on a mission whenever the door rattles!

Some days I'm glad that they only take 3 months or so to learn to fly and head out on their own...and some days I feel sad about it.


The morning after posting this entry, I awakened to find family #3 huddling on the side of the pond. This time mom brought 10 little peepers!

^^^^^^^^ANOTHER NOTE^^^^^^^^^

Then on September 19, another mum with three ducklings showed up, and on September 20, a mom with 9 or 10 came to the pond, but got sidetracked in the drainage ditch.

I really don't think this is the end, either!!


Spring is early this year!

It's not the weather I'm talking about when I say that spring is early this year because, although it's not rained during daylight hours for the last two days, it's suppose to be below zero tonight [C, not F, thank the Lord].

The early spring is the arrival of our first ducklings for this year!

It was quite a surprise to see them on the pond this morning, so it was a quick snap of a pic before they were off again. Since they're early, we figure there will be at least one more brood, if not more, over the next few months for us to giggle over and feed.

Last year, we were pleased to have 8 of 12 that made it past infancy in one of our broods, but there are only six ducklings in this family. One of them is distinctively lighter in color than the other 5, so it will be interesting to see if he/she keeps those colors when the mature feathers come in.

Their arrival spurred us to 'furnish' the duck house with round stones for the family. The house is a pumphouse that Kevin converted specifically for the ducklings last year. [Ducky info: Mom warms up the rocks with her body heat so she can go for food without the babies getting cold].

BTW, that's my birthday bridge in the picture. The house owners built this...shall we say, inconvenient water feature at the edge of the pond. It takes up the walking space on the side of the house, so I mentioned that a bridge would be nice, and VOILE!! Kev worked out to have it built for me! Is that cool or what?!!

Hopefully, this will be the last cold snap of the season for me to complain about and we can get on with gardening and such. With the renegade daffodils and some crocuses [that we didn't plant] blooming, and the freesias, glads, rhodos, camellias and azaleas trying to bloom, it can't be to long before spring arrives. As always, we have unknown plants shooting up, so we will, once again, have some surpise arrivals.
I want spring!!


Rainy day ramblings

It's still winter here and I'm so tired of rain. To keep from total boredom, I've been thinking about the garden  and trolling throught photos. Here are some thoughts on yet another rainy day...

If you got my email updates that preceeded the blog, you might remember that I fell in love with purple carrots. After some research by the googlemeister hubby, it seem that all carrots were originally purple. According to the fine folk at the carrot museum, http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/history.html , they are making a comeback all over the world! So, if you see some in the grocery store, try them!

I don't recall ever seeing a sink like this in the States. They make perfect sense for those small places. Mostly, I find them in public toilets, but also in houses with a tiny guest bathroom (ok, it's not actually a place to take a bath, as hubby points out, but it sounds so much better than 'toilet'). They can have a tap at each end and serve their purpose well.

I miss having a decent fried egg with sausage patties or links. Breakfast eggs are more like poached than anything else I can describe. When it comes to pizza, a decent substitute for Italian sausage is fried ground pork with Italian seasoning. I have looked up recipes and the main ingredients seem to be fennel and anise, but I can only find fennel. How sucky is that!

It seems that the dominant male duck for this year's pond rights is a polygamist. He has shown up with two females for a couple of months now. Since ducks mate for life, I'm guessing that the 'other' female has lost her companion somehow and this pair have allowed her to be a part of the family. Kinda nice to think about it that way, I think. If he is, indeed, this year's winner, I wonder if there will be two sets of ducklings.

All in all, in the last few months--since hunting season, anyway-- there haven't been nearly as many ducks as in the past. It makes for a quieter day, but the females are still bold enough to peck on the window when hungry. For some reason, that makes me giggle each time they do it.  Can't beat it for a cheap laugh!

WOW!! The sun is out!! I'll take advantage of the weather and look around the garden. I have lots of plans, muahaha.


Cabin fever!!!

Cabin fever sucks. I have been obsessing about the garden the last few days because I haven't been out of the house for days except for necessities!! I just checked the last month of rainfall for Stratford and there have been only about 10 days with no rainfall at all. The rest of the days have accumulated 383.5mm of rain [that's 15.1 inches] and I am so sick of being housebound  ! I know I won't melt [my mom told me that plenty of times], but everything is waterlogged and soggy and squishy and, well, I just don't like being wet and cold. I guess it's worth the misery knowing that the water tables are full for next year.

The ducks don't seem to mind, they just peck on the window for food as usual! There are two pairs of ducks that show up on the pond, one in the morning and one later in the day, that are apparently vying for ducky rights for the inevitable broods. Hopefully, there won't be any fiascoes like last year with 3 different sets of parents and babies, and one of the female brought babies that weren't even hers!!

The finches and sparrows are only slightly put off by the wintery weather, but, being the softies we are, we put bird seed out for them on the back patio or along the fenceposts. As a matter of fact, I think they are starting to take us for granted, now that I think about it. Hmmmm.... They accumulate in the trees across the access road to the stables that is next to our property and I swear they have scouting parties that watch for movement at the door. More and more often, I barely get the door open before one beautiful yellow finch flies in and perches on the jasmine vine at the steps. I call him Einstein, since he's smart enough to be the first at the seed. Isn't he cute??!

When there are 30 finches and sparrows and wax-eyes and riflemen on the patio, they are quite pretty [even when they are soggy] and, as hubby says, they are free entertainment!!

We moved the dahlias to one central garden spot last week and have several hundred bulbs that we couldn't cram into the space we made for our favorites, so we are selling them on trademe for a bit of spending money for the kids.

And, daffodils.....*sigh* I thought we had a handle on them last year by selling a few hundred bulbs and planting a portion of them to sell next year. Boy, was I wrong! We now have a different kind of daffodil sprouting all over the garden! They are a sort of miniature that we hadn't seen before.

And have I mentioned that we still have 'dunnos' everywhere? This will be our third summer with this garden and it looks like our digging and moving have stirred up mystery stuff, so, it's a regular thing for one of us to point and say, 'what's that?' and the other to say, 'dunno, have to wait and see!' Slowly but surely, so we are making progress with names of plants we have in the garden. Lachenalia...agapanthus...daphne....sounds impressive, doesn't it!?

Oh, yes, I forgot to mention that we have one black calla lily growing in the runoff ditch. Out of curiosity, I found that they sell for about $20/bulb. I can't see paying that much for one flower, but if someone else will buy them, we might be persuaded to part with a few extra bulbs

There's another storm passing over today--should be gone by tomorrow. With lots of spring flowering coming out all over town, I hope this is the end of the winter with spring just around the corner.


I might not like some things about NZers..

...but I have to admit that New Zealand is a very clean place--literally. You don't see burger wrappers and drink cups and unmentionable things lying on the side of the road or blown up onto the hillside. Even in the 'big cities' there's not much litter and it's usually taken care of promptly. I guess that's one of the perks of being a country about the size of Nebraska.

In Taranaki, there is a company that does all the construction work for the area and it looks like part of their contract is to make sure that the curbsides are clean. It has rained a LOT lately and right now I am watching one of their workers shoveling mud and debris [pronounces 'deb-riss, here] into the back of a modified pickup--I mean, ute--as another worker slowly drives it along.

And, since community is a big part of the school system--don't get me started on what it lacks...but I digress--I notice that the children I see, including our two, put wrappers in their pockets or run to the nearest rubbish bin to dispose of them instead of dropping them where they stand. 

Of course, our share of litter has ended up in the washing machine filter, but I guess it's easier to live with there than on the roadside.


Fantails and waves

In a very long list of new experiences, I never thought about composting before I moved here. In Kansas, it was just part of the trash that magically disappeared from the curb every week. Not any more. Since we have such a large garden and since things like fertilizer and plant food are expensive here [because it's all imported, with the exceptions of fruit, dairy products, and some clothing lines], we now make out own compost for the garden, and I must say that it does an excellent job! The composting barrels sit behind the garage and, in the summer, get a good workout. Since it's winter, there isn't much to compost except food scraps. This, of course, attracts bugs--but the news isn't all bad, kids--the bugs attract fantail birds. It looks like a pair of them have decided to claim our bright, ugly, yellow compost barrels as their own gourmet food dispenser! They are very fast moving and rather elusive for the camera, but with some patience [and the 'continuous' button], I managed to snap a few last week.

The are so awesome to watch flitter and bob around! And they're not particularly afraid of people.

It's officially winter here [I think--it feels like it, anyway] and the weather makes for amazing waves on the ocean. There are slight reminders of last week's coastal storms still pushing the waves a bit high and we took a trip to the beach so I could photograph them. So, as the kids occupied themselves with rocks and shells at low tide, Kev and I took most of 500 pictures in less than an hour of the waves . Boy, it was fun to be that close to such angry-looking water. Here's a sample. I will have more up on the picassa site later.

I don't think I will ever take the ocean for granted. It's beauty astounds me every time I see it!


It's not all bad, honest...

Before I go on about the flora, I must admit that I never went out of my way to notice the flowers that grew in the states, so it's all new to me.

I can't remember palm trees anywhere I lived, but there are several types here that are common. There is an actual, full palm tree [I have no idea which type] two doors down and we have 2 ponga trees [scrawny looking palms] in our garden. Also, there are lots of ferns all over the place that look like palm leaves. The silver fern--known by the silver underside of the fronds--is one of the unofficial symbols of New Zealand. [I believe there are NO official symbols for the country at all--just items associated with NZ.]

Across the street is a tributary of some sort and the area around it is wild. There are holly trees about 12 feet tall; some sort of conifer, I think, that reminds me of an asparagus fern; honeysuckle and wild jasmine that smell delicious in the summer; and many other plants, shrubs and trees that I don't recognize [except the pongas!].

Norfolk pines dot the horizon and coastline of the country at up to 30 feet tall. They look cool peeking over the tops of other trees.

In our garden, there's a bush that I have no inkling of it's name [ok, there are lots of them, since gardening is a new thing to all of us, but I have one in mind at the moment]. When you shake the colorful leaves, it sounds like paper rustling. I just call it the paper bush. : )

Then there are the daphnes bushes that smell wonderful when in bloom and the bottle-brush bushes that bees love. Hydrangeas, azaleas, pansies, dahlias, naked ladies, daffodils and begonias in a variety of colors are very abundant.

Rhododendrons and camillas grow vigorously in the spring in just about any color you can imagine. There are area festivals where gardens are listed and you can visit the ones you prefer. We have done some travelling to find a few of the gardens, but they were worth the effort. Some are just magnificent.

There is a type of jasmine in a stone planter on the back patio that is in bloom year round so far. It is absolutely huge and only dies down momentarily when a male adult of the household who shall remain nameless decides to give it a haircut.

Ericas are one of my favorite plants. They are full of tiny, delicate blooms around town in the summer. Some are white, some are pink, some are purple. All catch my eye.

I'm sure I have missed some of the great things here to pass on to you, so if you click the title to this post, you can see some of my favorite flowery stuff.

BTW, did I mention that it doesn't snow in Stratford? ; )

It's not all bad

I know that my posts til now have been concentrated on the things that are different and frustrating for me since my move here almost 2 years ago. Sure, it's no fun when you can't find that 'something' that you are hungry for or the 'things' that you can get for a dollar in the states but are nowhere to be found here, but there truly are also many new things that are wonderful and beautiful and scrumptous.

You can click the title of this post to view some of my favorite scenery.

There are rainbows in the sky quite a lot. I just came in from a walk and saw one because it's misting a bit. I quit taking pictures of them because they are so common--but that doesn't mean they don't still take my breath away. And the kids think I'm crazy for being amazed at the cloud formations. I don't recall seeing three distinct and totally different layers of clouds in Kansas skies or Georgia skies for that matter. I am sure that being so close to Mt. Taranaki has an extreme impact on all weather facets and am continually amazed by it all.

I know you can find kiwi fruit and star fruit in the grocery stores, but they are nothing at all like a feijoa. I have no references to describe it to you because it's so unique. It's an oval, like a kiwi fruit, and you can bite the top off and just suck the pulp out [that's how the kids eat kiwis sometimes] and it's sweet and juicy and I hope you get the chance to sample one some day!

And nashi pears... They are shaped like an apple, have peel like a pear with pulp that is a combination of apple/pear and are always so juicy that it runs down your arms if you're not careful!

There are no large predators or snakes here. All mammals were introduced species [yes, probably including 'native' maori], so the biggest danger in walkabouts in the bush are small fantail birds flying close to get the bugs that your presence disturbs!

One of the best parts of the weather is---there's no snow! OK, it did actually snow in Stratford about 12 years ago, but I can live with snow every 12 years!

The wax-eye birds are tiny and very cool looking with the ring around their eyes. And tuis are elusive. They love kowhai [ko-fi] blooms, so I get to watch them out the bedroom window as they suck nectar from the yellow kowhai blooms and listen to them as they mimic other sounds, so we often hear them repeating noises from the ducks.

Possums here [different than US possums] are also night creatures and they sometimes sound like a woman screaming for help. There are some in our area, so I hear them occasionally before drifting off to sleep--probably as they encounter Bubba, our cat.

And, did I mention it doesn't snow here?!


This and that

Years ago, long after I moved away, my mom swore that there had been an earthquake where she lived outside the Chicago area and it cracked the wall in the basement of their house. I found that hard to believe since I had lived there for over 20 years and never noticed any earthquakes, but I had no reason to think she was making it up. It really upset her and she mentioned that she could never live where that was an everyday occurance.

Well, I felt my first genuine earthquake a few months back. I was minding my own business, sitting on the couch when I could have sworn that Hubby had sneaked behind me and was shaking the couch with gusto! In actuality, he was outside and didn't notice anything amiss, but it was felt all across the north island and into the south island, too. I must say it was a bit disconcerting, especially when I remembered that he had told me there were major fault lines running through New Zealand. Of course, if I weren't such an anal thinker, I would have figured that out simply from the fact that there are several active volcanoes on both islands. Duh.

When we have a bit of free time, Hubby takes me to the beach. A lot. On two occasions, we noticed wedding parties shooting photos with the ocean in the background, which was really cool--even if we had already done that at our reception. We also noted that all of the bridesmaids were dressed in black and white, which was quite interesting--even if we had already done that, too. Maybe we started a trend.

I met my in-laws for the first time last March. They are quite nice folk and we got along well. They mentioned that they think Americans in America are really nice, contrary to the impression that travelling Americans give. They also mentioned something was a bit confusing in America I had never even given thought to before--that American money is all the same color. It wasn't until then that I realized that Hubby sometimes referred to New Zealand money by the color.

There is no one dollar bill anymore, though. Instead, there are one- and two-dollar coins.

I think I have notice a trend at KFC that would never be allowed to happen in America. In all the orders we have had, I don't recall seeing any parts but thighs and legs. Kinda makes ya wanna go "hmmmm". I suppose (in the name of research of course) I shall have to eat more KFC to make sure. I will keep you posted on the progress of my research. Oh, yes, they only serve 'original recipe' chicken here. If you want extra crispy, you're out of luck, except for a chicken fillet sandwich.

Another thing that is weird--what am I saying?!?! Most of the things here are weird!! Oops, sorry, I digress...
I find it strange that 'white out' is called 'twink' here. I guess I should google it to find out why, but I don't really feel like it now, since it's after 1am. Maybe I will do it later and give you an update, but don't hold your breath.
BTW, White Zinfindel and Long Island Tea are apparently prominently American. One lady said she had a LIT before , but it was in Japan.

edit: KFT goes back and forth serving just thighs and legs or all parts of the chicken.