Making up for city life

When I wasn't in rural areas in the US, I lived just outside of the bigger cities which was quite enough of the 'city' life for me. [The time I lived outside Chicago was enough 'city' for a lifetime!]. But even the smaller towns were urban enough to keep the birds at a distance and the night skies hazed with light.

Nowadays when I look up at the skies, I am reminded of something  my mama used to say--'She lived at 40th and Plum' (40 miles from town and plumb back in the sticks). That certainly doesn't hurt my feelings a bit.
We live close to a horse stable and there are quite a few streams around, so the wild ducks are always flying overhead (yes, the same wild ducks we thought were so cute for two years with their babies on the pond but have now outlived the cuteness). 

They might not be cute in the garden any more, but ducks are really awesome to see in the sky. I love to watch them soar overhead.

And this is one of my favorite photos of Mt. Taranaki because of the hawk that I captured in it.

I'm not sure I would have ever made it as a pioneer woman, though. I'm sure I'd have starved that first winter!  But, I am content to appreciate the wildlife that is visible outside my door. Like these:

The scenery almost makes it worth not having Suzy Q's and central air. Almost.


More on Patheticat

Since the last post, Hubby and I have been discussing the pathetic creature we call Bubba and how he amuses us. Yes, I guess we do 'use' him for our giggles, but hay, everybody has to earn their keep.

He doesn't drink milk. I thought all cats loved milk. Bubba won't touch the stuff.

And, he won't drink water out of a bowl, either. I do not know what's up with that. I have seen him perched on the laundry room sink licking the drips out of the water faucet. I have also caught him in the bathtub after one of us has been in there and he was licking the water pooled around the drain. But his favorite place to drink is directly out of the fish pond. Of course, he makes sure those bullying fish are not around to terrorize him first. If he's just being too lazy to walk down the three steps to the pond, he will settle for the rainwater out of the empty flowerpot saucer.
The most unexpected time we rolled on the floor laughing at him act we have seen was when Otterboy got his black goldfish that he named Obama. [Hay, don't look at me--he thought of it all by himself! (well, with Hubby's help) But, I digress.] Anyway, Bubba discovered Obama's tank on the bookshelf and crept up to it and sat quiet as a statue just watching...

and watching, mesmerized by this new addition to his catdom. As soon as Obama darted toward him, Bubba was out the door.
I guess cats are useful, after all.



I don't know how I ended up owning a cat. I've always considered myself a dog person. I have had cats in the past, but never really 'bonded' with them. They were always just way too persnickety for me. I am a very 'involved' sort of person and I want to be involved in your life if we are going to live in the same house. Cats don't get 'involved'.

I guess cats are smart enough to figure out who feeds them and who doesn't particularly want to pick them up and search their fur for bugs. I leave that to the kids. And, I'm pretty sure that's why the cat--his name is Bubba, btw--usually high-tails it out of the room, or the house, when they show up.

I am alone with the cat a lot and, of course, he likes attention--at least, when it's convenient for him. So, my solution is to hang my arm off the end of the couch where he can rub up against it at his leisure and I don't have to care worry that he is not getting what he wants.

That worked quite well for a long time, but then Bubba decided that he wanted more than just a disembodied hand to play with. So, he started whining politely meowing at my feet until I would rub his belly.

That seemed un-committal enough for me. Until he wanted to really 'play'. Apparently, he decided I could be the huge animal he had just caught and wanted to toy with before the final, killing blow to the neck. Before I could figure it all out, the claws were around my hand. The back feet were kicking my arm in tandem. (I guess I wasn't 'lively' enough a prey so he wanted me to move around?! I don't know!) and I could feel the teeth on my fingers. It was weird because I could tell he was 'pulling his punches' so to speak. His mouth would quiver as he tried not to bite me very hard.

This all happened in a very short space of time and it took me by surprise. In fact, I was so not focused on the situation so much that I started to giggle. He was not impressed with the giggling, and kicked me all the harder and the claws settled deeper into my skin. Now, I was laughing out loud as I tried to pull unsuccessfully to free my hand--maybe because I was recalling how this patheticat would slink around the fishpond, pressing himself to the wall and hoping to be inconspicuous, when there are ducks present. Or of him taking a nap when the grass is full of birds eating bread and he is sufficiently hidden behind the brick planter with the uncontrollable jasmine. Not the fierce hunter he seemed to want to be at the moment.

He finished whatever scene was playing out in his little cat head and I eventually disconnected myself from his grip. He wandered strutted off in total satisfaction at having tamed 'the hand' and I snickered a bit longer as I tended to my wounds.

This has become an occasional occurrence and I still giggle when he goes into attack mode. I don't know why. But it's as 'involved' as I want to be in a cat's life.


Kiwi as?? Huh?!

When I began to anticipate moving from the States to New Zealand, I don't think I ever expected the English language to be so diverse that I would be shocked at what I thought I heard.

The kids would say something was really great and I swore they were saying it was 'sweet *ss'. Considering the are still children, I was a bit concerned, at first. Come to find out, they were saying 'sweet as' which makes you wonder why they didn't finish the thought.

I blogged about a few differences before and, after almost three years here, I'm getting the hang of most of them.

Then I saw this on the grocery store shelf and it hit me--if you weren't living in NZ, you wouldn't have a clue what kind of crap what was in this bag until you got to the last line on the label.

First of all, you are correct, it is simply labelled 'kiwi as'. Again, the thought doesn't seem quite finished, but that's how it is here. Bloody English influence.

Secondly, I don't understand the popularity of ketchup flavored potato chips, which is apparently another Kiwi thing. But then, I cringe at the thought of 'chicken' flavored chips, too. (And, no, they aren't better than they sound)

Thirdly, the 'classic kiwi cut' is a rippled chip. I don't think this place possessed machinery to cut a decent thin chip or I just haven't found it. Naw, the country is too small to hide them for long, so they must not exist.

All in all, it just proves my point that labeling here is just as bad as reporting. Certainly not up to American standards. And my English Hubby knows good reporting when he read it, too, so I am forced to assume that it's just 'another Kiwi thing' that they can't blame on England.


Love, Marriage and Stinking Thinking

I caught part of this show 'Love, Marriage and Stinking Thinking' on TV today. And, I must say I agree with a lot of what Mark Gungor says.
This particular show was about the myth that 'I have to be honest with my feelings.' Here are some highlights.
Would you talk about 'how you really feel' to your boss? Of course, not! At least, not if you want to keep your job! Musicians don't become great by 'feeling' like it. They practice and practice and get past whether they want to or not. Success always overcomes 'feelings'.
So why would you feel you have to 'be totally honest' in the most important relationship you ever have--your marriage? When you 'emotionally vomit' all over someone else by telling them 'what you feel', it's never justified and you are just being mean.
When you say 'what you feel', you are saying 'What I think or feel is much more important than you are and I don't care what affect my words may have on you.'
You might 'feel' differently tomorrow, but the damage was done today. Words hurt. They make some very deep wounds. How does this help?
What's wrong with just being 'nice'? You don't tell a new mother that her baby is ugly, so why do you tell your spouse what you don't like about them?
Your spouse is the most important person you have. Live with them by what you believe--not what you feel. Don't treat strangers better than your spouse.


Why should I give a horse's patutti?

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches.That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Well, because that's the way they built them in England, and English engineers designed the first US railroads.

Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the wagon tramways, and that's the gauge they used. So, why did 'they' use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they had used for building wagons, which used that same wheel spacing.

Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break more often on some of the old, long distance roads in England. You see, that's the spacing of the wheel ruts.

So who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (including England ) for their legions. Those roads have been used ever since. And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match or run the risk of destroying their wagon wheels.

Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. Therefore the United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Bureaucracies live forever.

So the next time you are handed a specification/procedure/process and wonder "What horse's ass came up with this?", you may be exactly right. Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses. (Two horses' asses.)

Now, the twist to the story: When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains, and the SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses' behinds.

So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's ass.

And you thought being a horse's ass wasn't important?!

Ancient horse's asses control almost everything... and CURRENT Horses Asses are controlling everything else.

PS--I checked this out on Snopes and they said it was 'sort of' true, but then what if Snopes is a hoax?!

Frosty photos

It looks like winter is definitely here! I took these photos of the heavy frost that covered the area last night. I will also post some in monochrome on my photo blog.


Who'da thunk?

Let me make it clear from the beginning:


That's all there is to it. I see no reason to be uncomfortable if you can do something about it, especially if it's because you're chilly.

So, it's one of those cosmic conundrums that I would end up in a country where, up until the last 2 decades or so, insulation was a non-issue in housing construction. If you let your mind wander a bit, you can imagine what comes with that problem--dampness, mold spores, windows covered with water drops. It's not pretty. And it's definitely not warm. As a matter of fact, I can only think of two times in the last three years when I didn't have to turn the bedroom heater on to take the chill off before going to bed -- yes, that's year-round, not just in winter, but I digress...

There has been a push for heat pumps to heat your home lately. And they are definitely a step in the right direction, I suppose, but they are pretty expensive--a few thousand dollars here in the world of New Zealand. I can't see our landlord shelling out that kind of money, so we decided to take a baby step to make a difference in the temperature of the house.

We bought a dehumidifier. And, I am thrilled beyond words. In fact, I'd do a happy dance if I weren't so old dignified. We plugged that puppy in about 5 days ago and I bet we have emptied 3 gallons of water from it so far. It has made a difference beyond my expectations.

I'm sure this tidbit of information isn't earth-shattering to you, but, believe me, my family is very pleased about it because 'when Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy'!


New Zealand roads

One of the many differences between the US and NZ is the road system. In the US, you can take several roads to get out of just about any town, no matter how small. Here, every place has basically two ways to go if you are trying to get to the next city. The inland cities of Hamilton and Palmerston North have more than two ways out, but that's not much to brag about.
Here's a map to show you what I mean:
Hubby sometimes takes me on some minor detours when we go out, but it's nothing at all like 'getting there another way'. The downside of the road system here that you have to see the same things over and over if you are going in a direction you've already been.
Being that we live in Taranaki (the lump on the left side of the island), we travel Highway 3 a lot. There is a point where you can see:
Mt. Taranaki/Mt Egmont on one side of the road

And Ruapehu on the other side.

It's a small compensation, but I never saw anything like this in Kansas!


For my children when you are 21

You will learn a lot of things over a lifetime and it will, hopefully, be a wonderful experience. There will be ups and down (as there are in every life), but if you are secure in who you are and what you stand for, you can see things from different angles and learn a few things as you go along.

I have put down a few things that I feel are important for you to know, if you haven't learned them already.

Words are very powerful tools that can be deadly weapons. Always choose your words wisely because you can never take them back.
You are not perfect, and it's ok. You will make mistakes. We all do. When you make a mistake, take it in stride and take responsibility for it. Apologize to anyone you have wronged. You will feel better about yourself and so will the other person.
The world will keep turning and nobody will fall off if you fail to express an opinion. Really.
When someone is speaking, LISTEN. Don't start forming your rebuttal before they finish their sentence. HEAR what they have to say before you speak.
You don't have to prove you are smart by giving a diatribe every time you open your mouth because we love you the way you are. Sometimes, you can even let others 'tell' you something you already know. It will boost their self-esteem and won't cost you a thing.
When others disagree with you, it's not a personal attack. It's the start of a discussion-in fact, you may learn something new by listening to their side.
Communicate with everyone who is important in your life. The more information you give, the more your caring shows.
Always be the "bigger" person. Be the first to speak or do. Yes, it involves some extent of being vulnerable, but you have to trust people, sometimes.
"I am what I am" is a cop-out for people who care more about themselves than others. Don't think yourself so important that you can't be bothered to change to make yourself or someone else happy.
You don't lose any of yourself when you put other people first. At the end of the day, you are a better person.
We still have a few years together before you fly from the nest. There will be some 'growing pains' but I hope they are happy times and you remember them fondly.

Lots of love,
Your evil stepmom


Still in the dark...

I have been here in NZ for almost three years, now, and I still have to ask the children to decipher the papers they bring home. I'm not enthralled with some parts of the NZ education system, anyway, so I shouldn't be surprised.

It's not like we don't all speak English. It's that the writers of the papers (and the newspaper, too, for that matter, but I digress....) apparently think you're psychic or have had children doing the same activities in the past and they don't want to bore you with details.

A couple of weeks ago, Otterboy brought home some papers for an overnight stay in Wellington. It said when they were leaving and how much it costs and when to have the money in and 'please return this permission slip' blah, blah, blah... It didn't mention what adults were going, how many adults were going or even where they were going to stay, but we were to make sure the permission slip was turned in asap. You can bet I emailed the principal and I got a prompt response with all the info I requested before we signed the paper.

I just don't get it...do NZer's send their kids off to anything the school offers and assume it's all ok because it's from the school? If they do, shame on them!

I have emailed both the primary school and the high school in our district and explained that they should quit assuming that parents have gone through these things before. I had a one-on-one with a teacher and explained to her that I have not done this before and giving too much information is infinitely better than not enough.


Amazing things

Today, Hubby and Otterboy and I went to Waitara so the guys could go fishing. I wandered off, as usual, to see what I could find to photograph.

As I was examining a tree stump on the beach, I looked out to the water and saw something go under the water. It seemed a bit far out to be any of the surfers, and as I waited for it to resurface, I noticed there were some fisher-guys watching the same area. They would break out in a short cheer occasionally, and I realized they were saying "Orca whale" as they pointed and cheered!

Yes, I was watching a small pod of whales make their way along the shore! It was incredible to see a few fins and white bellies break the surface, though it was impossible to get any photos.

There ended up about twenty on-lookers all watching and pointing, "there!" as they passed by. It was something I won't soon forget.


More signs and roadside things

Defines "summer" accurately

This sign wasn't up long because people were getting into accidents trying to get the phone number.


Signs and roadside things

I've always thought this building is classy.

Bench outside a church

The "Jesus" rock

We call this a "Doing"[the noise, not the verb] sign.

Wild goats along a mountain road


Here and there photos



I thought this color swatch on the hardware store was clever.


Beach at Waitara