Slouching is bad for you

...because your cat will think you have become a place to sleep!

I'm not sure why or when she decided my right shoulder is a good place for a nap while I am at the computer, but it has become a regular stopover on her way to the inbox for a second nap.

It's such a tough life being a cat....


It's still weird....

Even after five years in NZ, it still doesn't feel like Christmas without cold weather. I guess growing up outside of Chicago will ingrain that in you.

However, as hard as it is, I am willing to sacrifice snow and sleet and cold temperatures in favor of gardening and picnics on the beach and walks in the park on Christmas day :). It's great fun to see who gets bikes and skateboards and scooters for Christmas because they can actually be used the day you get them!

The only fear of electrocution and fire while putting up lights is if the sprinklers are not turned off and not snow getting into the wiring. But, I guess the down side is falling off the ladder onto the hard ground instead of soft snow.

I still giggle whenever I see Santa with shorts and he still seems a bit out of place sitting on a blanket on the sand and elves in bikinis are mind-boggling.

Since our move, Hubby has been gardening like crazy. Just because he can. So I thought I'd share a bit of Christmas sun and color with you--just in case you're covered up in snow. *trying very hard not to snicker*

For more colors of our southern hemisphere garden, click here.

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to all my blogger buds!


She turned me down

I just had an interesting chat with a Jehovah's Witness lady who comes around occasionally.

She is a very nice person to talk to--not demanding or one to pressure you--and we get along quite well. I know that we won't ever agree on any of the 'interpretations' that divide religious groups, but we do agree on the basics, that Jesus died for our sins and acceptance of that fact into you life leads to a better life after this one. In their case, it's not immediate, but eventual, but I digress.

Anyway, since we are both believers and since I am a huge advocate of prayer, it seemed like a good idea to invite her to start a regular prayer time for our city and it's citizens once a month or so. I have never actually invited her into my house until today so the past visits have been spent on the doorstep.

She came at the appointed time and I invited her in.

I was a bit expectant when I gave her my proposition to pray and she was duly impressed that I would offer her such an opportunity.

She declined.


I'm not exactly sure why, even though I did ask her directly 'why?' but I think it's about the fact that she thought I prayed to Jesus and she prays to Jehovah....Personally, I think God is big enough to figure out the details if we pray together, but, oh, well.

I hope there will be a change of heart for her. I will let you know if there is. It would certainly be the beginning of some good things for our city.



Isn't this sweet?

We got this letter in the mail today from Otterboy's school.

"Dear Mr and Mrs ***,
Re: Otterboy's absence from school
I am writing in reply to your letter requesting that Otterboy be absent from school from the 5th December onwards. Under the terms of the Education act students are legally required to attend school when it is open for instruction for that year level. Therefore, Otterboy's absence will be recorded as an explained unjustified absence. 
I am disappointed that you are not allowing Otterboy to remain at school and participate in activities week. This week is still part of the school year and Otterboy should be at school or on an activity until Thursday 8th December the last day of the school year. 
Staff and students value this week as it is a time where students can undertake new experiences and learn new skills  in an enjoyable end to the year. 
Yours sincerely
PH Keenan, Principal"
(All lack of punctuation is in the original letter)

Doesn't that sound so very concerned and caring?! 

Well, this is the same man that sent Otterboy home four hours after an incident because he thought Otterboy might do something to another boy at lunch. In reality, if he had bothered to talk to Otterboy before his being sent home, he would have known that both boys had forgotten about the incident and gone on with life. This isn't teaching students how to deal with conflict if they don't actually deal with it. So they learn to never confront any situation and then expect the world to right itself, I guess.

This is the same man that had Otterboy sent home because a teacher "thought he looked angry". What 15 year old boy doesn't look angry! 

This is the same school that showed 'R' rated movies to 14 and 15 year olds last year during 'activities week' without any parental consent.  Apparently, we don't have the right to know what they are showing our kids at school, but they sure better show up!

Activities week, in my opinion, is just another week that is wasted by the school. They are only 'in school'  because the school requires to have the kids in class. That's why Otterboy didn't want to go, and we certainly couldn't blame him. And that's why he's not in school. So sue us. At least, we know where he is and what he's watching.


What a great act of vandelism

Spate of 'bearable art' in New Plymouth

bearable artTeddy bears are turning up all over New Plymouth in a spate of "bearable art" graffiti attacks that have city residents baffled.
In the past seven days, cute and cuddly bears have appeared overnight at Puke Ariki, Huatoki Plaza, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and the New Plymouth District Council offices.
Despite knowing it would be no picnic, the Taranaki Daily News launched an investigation into strange but heart-warming activity and quickly found two women who had witnessed a "bear bombing" event near the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery.
"We had been trying to find out who it was before this and we were working here late one night and saw her tying bears to the trees outside," Kirsten Peterson said.
"She just said she was doing it to make people smile. She said she was going to keep going until Christmas. She said: all I am going to tell you is that it is bearable art," Hannah Whiteman said.
The teddy artist was thought to be in her 40s, drove a large van and had not been happy about being discovered, Ms Whiteman said.
New Plymouth is thought to be the first city in the world to experience "bearable art", though it is not the first time art has been brought to the streets by people who would prefer remain anonymous.
In May, Mikaere Gardiner was outed as the man behind Eno, the artist responsible for dozens of pictures pasted up around the city.
He has since gone on to some renown and the works he once gave away for free now attract a healthy price tag.
Knitted jumpers and scarves have also appeared on parking meters, street signs and other city implements from time to time in woolly attacks known as Guerrilla Knitting.
Regardless of its benefits, all such "art" is the modification of public property without permission and therefore classified as vandalism by the New Plymouth District Council.
Its policy is to remove graffiti within 24 hours of being notified.


How many....?

I was bored earlier today and so decided to do a search for 'jpg' to see how many pictures I have stored on the computer and my external hard drive--the one that Hubby bought specifically for storage for my shots.

I knew I had a lot...yes, A LOT...of them.  I mean, if you moved from KS to NZ, I think you'd have a lot of photos, too!

I was truly gobsmacked when the search was finished. The result?


How many do you have?!


Smart birds

We went to KFC for the first time in ages the other day. They have automatic doors that use a sensor at the top, I'm sure you've see them. Apparently, sparrows are smart enough to figure out how they work!

Yes, for the second time, Hubby and I witnessed a lone sparrow open the door and fly in to help himself (or herself) to the leftovers sitting on the table and the crumbs on the floor. After eating a bit, the bird flew to the door, tripped the sensor and flew out again. Twice.

I was impressed between giggles.


Enjoying the new place

For the first time in longer than I can remember, we had a little barbecue in the back yard garden. Otterboy invited his inseparable buddy over, Hubby grilled sausages and it was so wonderful to be able to sit outside and eat and watch the boys kick a ball around, knowing the neighbors aren't going to start acting rude at any moment.

Hubby has also been working hard getting a small  veggie garden planted with peas, carrots, beans and a few other things I can't remember. He has put out planterboxes that he made along the front with some potted color in them, as well. Otterboy took over the flowerbed alongside  the house and is growing some really pretty impatiens and pansies.

I have some tomatoes growing in the glass-enclosed porch along with a few more veggie sprouts.

We are really settling in and enjoying the change. It's a bit less room in this house, I think, but the layout of the house makes it seem bigger.

Since we are only a few blocks from town, I don't have to take Hubby to work when I have to tutor at SeniorNet--I can just walk there and to the grocery store, too.

Speaking of SeniorNet, I am writing a few short courses to be taught on photo storage, trademe (NZ version of ebay), Facebook and different ways to search for things on the internet besides using your ISP homepage. I've never done anything like this before, but it seems to be coming along quite nicely.

I think this place will do until we get a transfer to a different district so Otterboy will be in a different school system.


Faith is free and prayer should be, too

Did you ever notice that, when you pray for others, answers come quite quickly; but when you pray for your own needs, it's hard to see any answers? I guess that's why the Bible says, "Share one another's burdens". And so I have looked online for groups that have the same beliefs as me to share some of my innermost concerns--sorta like a world-wide Wednesday night prayer meeting. :)

Sadly, there's a very prominent paid ad on Facebook for prayer that comes up a lot. The same site is a paid ad in Google at the very top of the list when you search for christian prayer.

I looked at the site and was appalled. You fill in the boxes for your request and then they ask how important this request is to you. When you click a box for that, there appears another window that asks for money! I couldn't believe it! When you leave the page, they offer to pray for free, but that seems a bit sacrilegious to me.

I know it costs to have websites, but if the owners of the site believe God wants it up on the internet, then they should trust that God will certainly provide. I was reminded of Smith Wigglesworth, a great British evangelist, who made a deal with God when he became a full time preacher. He told God that he would preach as long as God provided. He would never ask for a penny and told God that, "if my suit ever gets shiny (old and worn) I will go back to plumbing." He never did go back. God is so good!

Times may have changed, but God hasn't. Faith is still simple and still free. And prayer is, too if you know where to look.


Simon Baker does NZ

One of the few good programs we get is 'The Mentalist'. I love Simon Baker's character and  so I was surprise to see him in a commercial for ANZ, a bank here in NZ.



We are pretty much settled into the new house and it's feeling like home. The mornings and weekends are wonderfully quiet and we have gotten into our routines.

One of the great things about this house is that it's within walking distance to the only grocery store and the main shopping street. That means I can walk to my SeniorNet tutoring sessions, too. And since I have been walking, I feel better about myself and my abilities to get around. I had some thyroid problems a few years back and I still have some deteriorated muscle use in my legs that is gone forever, I think, even with some adjustments of my meds, and so I felt a bit trepiditious about walking too far. But, I am glad to say that it's working for me.

Interestingly enough, in my walking I have encountered Mrs. Numnuts--twice. She manages the local chain of the 'two and five dollar' stores and each time, she seems to be shocked as I walk past for some reason. Personally, I think it's karma (God) that she recognizes. For the record, I blame her by association for the atrocious treatment we got from her house. I don't know if she contributed to the abuse, but I certainly never saw her try to stop any of it.

Numnuts did give us another phrase to mean 'trailer park'. He would wear his hi-vis work vest in the yard garden when he worked or washed is car. And when two vests were on the clothes line, we would joke that he's probably naked and make appropriate noises. So, now, when we see someone acting crazy, Hubby will say, 'I bet he wears hi-vis in the garden!' and we get a good giggle.

I feel so much free-er here. I don't have the need to stay inside like I did at the other house. Hubby and Otterboy have been working quite hard in the garden to prepare it for flowers and veggies. If the rain stops this weekend, we can get some plants in the ground. I'm really excited! But just walking around looking at the empty flowerbeds feels really good.

Since tv here sucks sooooo very badly, Hubby very cleverly set up one of our computers so we can wheel it into the lounge to watch free movies on the internet when nothing is on. (That is a sentence I never thought I'd write!) I'm very impressed!

Things are looking up at work, too. Hubby put in an application for a job in another part of the country that he is very qualified for. I sure hope he gets it, as I am ready to move. I'm hopeful that any other school system would be better than Stratford for Otterboy and he's willing to move, too. Please say a little prayer for our success if you get a chance.

Otterboy asked if we could have a chocolate cake with chocolate cream cheese icing (you can find my recipes by clicking the 'my recipes' tab at the top) as a celebration for our new house, and, of course, I had to comply!

So, we are moving on and enjoying our new place. I will definitely keep you posted when the garden gets growing.


Bet this wouldn't happen in the US

It's a holiday weekend so everybody has Monday off. Sunday was also the day that the All Blacks won the Rugby World Championship for the first time since 1987. And these people take their Rugby seriously.

So with all the celebrating and the weather being well into nice springy weather, there are more traffic cops around and, of course, more tickets being issued.

I can't imagine anybody ever being stopped for flashing their headlights as a warning of a police car waiting by the side of the road. I mean, it's an unspoken courtesy to those that might not be as vigilant as they should be with their speed. I've done it and seen it done for as long as I can remember--and that's a long time. Maybe the police don't like it, but illegal? Can't be, can it?

Well I'm here to tell you that it is. At least, in NZ, it is. Some snot-nosed kid that we figure has been out of the Police Academy for about three weeks stopped us for exactly that today. We only got a warning, but he wrote down Hubby's name and our license number in a little notebook.

According to this newspaper article in Otago from September, we aren't the only ones and the guy in the article wasn't so lucky.

It's a great Kiwi tradition, but a Taupo man who flashed his headlights to warn another driver of a speed camera was pulled over by police.

As police yesterday announced a big increase in speeding tickets last year, Paul Gamble was driving to work on State Highway 1 between Taupo and Tokoroa when he passed a mobile speed-camera van.

"It was hidden behind a bush on a downhill stretch of road so they're clearly after someone who is just going down the hill and speeding up a bit.''

Mr Gamble, 39, said he carried on for half a kilometre and saw a vehicle coming in the opposite direction.

"I thought, `He's travelling a little bit', and did the friendly thing and gave him a flash.''

A police vehicle was behind the car and its driver pulled Mr Gamble over.
"I can't remember the exact words; it was either inappropriate or excessive use of headlights,'' he said.

It is against the law - with a penalty of $150 - to flash dazzling, confusing or distracting vehicle lights, although police say the law is used sparingly.
Mr Gamble wasn't given a ticket for that but for having only one working headlight. But he says he was still stopped on the "premise of excessive headlight use''.

He said he flashed his lights only once and did so to slow people down _ which in theory was what the speed camera was set up to do.

 I know I've encountered many cultural differences that shouldn't be so different, but this is one that I can't ever see being repeated in the US. And I hope he dropped his little book in a mud puddle before he got home tonight.


Home, sweet home!

Hubby makes moving easy. He and Otterboy got all the furniture and big stuff done in record time and I am so happy and proud of them.

Apparently, this house hasn't been occupied in at least a month but somebody tried to grow a veggie garden somewhere along the way. After a long mowing session and quite a while with the weed-eater, Hubby brought in a huge handful of carrots! They were quite tasty and I thank the mysterious planter of carrots. There are also broccoli and cabbage plants that have gone to seed among other things that I don't recognize. Hay, I'm from Chicago. Give me a break. I'm learning about plants as I go.

The back of the property borders a small cemetery that I haven't visited yet. There are many years of grown of an ivy and a jasmine vine climbing the 30-foot trees that separate the properties. At our 'garden' house (almost 2 years ago) there was a brick planter on the back porch with some of the same jasmine. I loved seeing it and smelling it and was impressed that it was so hardy but seeing a whole wall of it is a bit intimidating.

Otterboy bought another TV for his playstation this weekend It's older but huge! Since our flatscreen needs an aerial and his older TV doesn't, we have traded him until we can get an aerial up. So he's playing playstation on our flatscreen  and we have rabbit ears on his in the living room lounge. It works for me since Hubby and Otterboy don't watch much tv and I usually have it on for noise. 

With the cable company spending lots of money on promoting the Rugby World Cup--did you even know that NZ is hosting it even now as I type?!--and not much else, we had decided months ago to forgo cable for a while. The movies that they bill as 'premier movies' are many that I watched for $1 before I moved 5 years ago! Occasionally, we get  a movie or series that is less than 5 years old but the series usually gets cut off without notice. Knight Rider and Charles in Charge are making the rounds again. Go on. Laugh. I'll wait ;). Sometimes I miss US tv, but it's a small price to pay for NZ and my new family.

So we are officially settled into our new house. I am so loving the peaceful weekends here. Apparently, our house is the only concern on the block for noisy neighbors. OK, it's a very small block with only 4 of the 7 houses actually facing our street,  but, still, I think we will be good for the neighborhood.



I just wanted to let you know that we are in the midst of moving. We are so excited as we will have a quiet neighborhood (so the future neighbors say) and we will be gardening again. That's something we really missed doing at this house.

It seems that the police told both Numnuts and us that we were both 'sorta right and sorta wrong'. I guess they don't take sides and leave things to work out--too much paperwork, otherwise.  The good news is that Mr Numnuts has been behaving quite well since the confrontation with the cops. His Jr Numnuts sons have been acting like 12-year-olds, leaving their cars running longer than necessary (with the stereos blasting, of course) and making silly noises at night on occasion. *roll eyes*

The other good news is that I'm sure they are not typical representation of the country. We just happened to find one of the few rednecks in town.

Hubby and Otterboy moved the outdoors stuff today. We have lots of flower pots and a few flowerbed boxes that Hubby made for me. They should have the rest of the furniture moved tomorrow (Friday) and the power should be on and we should be spending Friday night in our new digs! Yay!

More later.


The neighbors from hell won

[I try to keep my posts short, but this one might take a while...]

It's been almost two years that we have rented our house. It's really nice and warm and the landlord is nice. The neighbors are not. Click here for more details from a past post.

The house sits on a corner lot. The house behind us has an older couple with their pot-smoking son (I know this because he works with Hubby and they all make fun of him at work.) who looses all sense of decibels when he's high. After several calls to Noise Control, plus one loud, rude call from his daddy to our house to tell us to leave his son alone, he mostly got the idea.

The house beside us is a different story. After many, many calls to Noise Control (NC) for music from the house and from the garage shed, plus a visit from the local Constabulary because he thought I was harassing him with my calls, Numnuts still doesn't understand that annoying the neighborhood is not acceptable.

The latest episode was an excuse for Numnuts to loose the small amount of self-control he ever had. He was working on his car with the nasty lyrics of music blasting away and, with my very low tolerance for that sort of thing, I called NC. Again. Now you have to keep in mind that there have been a few occasions that they were in the shed with music but I had no idea until I went out to hang clothes or put out the trash rubbish. That tells me that they know where the limits are on the noise. Maybe I'm wrong.  But as long as I don't hear it thumping my brain inside my house, I don't have a problem with it.

Anyway, I called. When NC left, Numnuts stood on his deck, which is about 20 feet away from our house, across the fence, and started yelling, 'Come on out, ya b*stards!' which, of course we did not do. Instead I called the police because that's what the cops told us we should have done the last time. [His grown kids were drinking on the deck one weekend and yelling racist things at the house and at Otterboy when he came in with a friend. It wasn't really loud, so we didn't think much about it until the next day when we went to the Stratford Police Department to make a complaint. We were told they have to be called while it's going on.]

So, I give them the details they need and am told that 'a car is on the way'. We waited. And waited. Twenty minutes later, we hear Numnuts with his chainsaw revving and revving on the deck. During that noise (which I really don't mind, btw, because it's not the thump, thump, thump of the bass on his music), he's yelling, 'Ya want noise? Here's some noise!' I couldn't help but giggle at his stupidity.

I call the police back and say that he seems to be threatening us with a chainsaw! I hear the lady writing and she calmly says, 'A car is on the way, Betty. There is no need for you to call us again.' HUH? Isn't it the job of the Stratford Police Department to 'protect'? Hello! It's a BIG chainsaw!

Well, they finally show up at Numnut's house and I watch through the window as two cops listen to him for about 15 minutes. Then they come to our door and 'explain' that he was frustrated with NC coming and that's why the chainsaw (no kidding).

They also tell us that we are the only ones that complain--which I find very hard to believe since the house on the other side of Numnuts is closer to his than we are--and that it's just a matter of our word against his so there's not much they can do.

Hrumph. Now what to do????

I think I mentioned that Missy decided that she didn't like any rules or being told that she's wrong, ever, so she went to live with her mom (H). A little while later, Otterboy decided to live with us. Seemed even, one kid at each house, right? Wrong.

With shared custody, it is even. With one kid at each house, it's not. Each parent can apply for child support from the other, which is based on income. 18% of your income, to be exact. Since Hubby makes a very nice income for his family, that 18% puts us in a bit of a financial bind. We pay about 28% income tax to begin with because of our tax bracket, but with the additional 18% taken out, you can figure it out for yourself that we get just over half of what he works so hard to make. A bit disheartening.

Well, we had been talking about moving to a cheaper house for a couple of months now, but Numnuts was the last straw. It seems that he was the catalyst for our getting on with moving, so we should probably thank him. But that's not going to happen.

Next week, we will be moving to a quieter neighborhood (at least, that's what the neighbor there said). We will be able to have a garden again, so that's a big plus. It will be nice to be outside again.

The neighbor from hell might have won this round, but I think it might actually be a tie.


Pretty cool

I never knew this would happen...


Just for fun

I was reading over at Belle's blog (click for link)  about designing a 'Dummies' book (who found it on another blog) cover and just couldn't resist joining in!

Click this link to make yours! http://www.images-graphics-pics.com/signs/books/dummies/cover.asp?pic=no-arms&title=Going+to+NZ%3F&text=I+came+all+this+way&text3=Your+mama+never+told+you+things+would+

Thanks, Belle!


Harden up!

That's what they say around here when you whine about something.

That's what they should have said to the 2000 people who missed the opening ceremonies of the Rugby World Cup earlier this month instead of rewarding them with free tickets to later matches.

Free tickets for those who missed out

Fans who missed the Rugby World Cup opener due to Auckland transport failures may be offered free tickets to an All Blacks semifinal as compensation.
An estimated 2000 people missed some of the opening ceremony or the All Blacks-Tonga match due to transport delays, mainly with the overcrowded trains.
A report presented to Auckland councillors on Wednesday said it was appropriate for the council to compensate those who missed out.
It says those who missed both the opening ceremony and the match should be given tickets to an All Blacks semi-final if they reach that stage of the tournament.
Those who missed the opening ceremony and part of the match should be given tickets to a All Blacks quarter-final.

Is no one responsible for their own actions any more? Do they think that everything wrong in their life is really someone else's fault? Is the reward for whining compensation worth the humiliation or don't they have enough pride in themselves to know they look like fools?

I'm wondering how many of those that missed out on the opening ceremony arrived at the airport many hours early to make sure they were ready for the flight over here. There were 60,000 people who had enough sense to get to the opening early enough to see everything!

Kinda makes you want to go, 'Hmmm...' 


trivia rerun 9/08

Some of these 'facts' are personal observation, some was blatantly stolen borrowed 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 nine 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 2.5 million cars for 4 million 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!

We have won more Olympic gold medals, per capita, than any other country.

New Zealand has more punk rock bands per capita than any other country.

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."

Here, the driving age is 16, the consensual sex age is 16, and the drinking age is 18.

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 1968.

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. 

The city of New York has twice as many people as the whole of NZ.

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, was from New Zealand.


rerun 5/08

I amuse myself a lot these days by doing things I never thought about before.

I had my little boring routine in Holton, Kansas, and it served me well since I had no one else in the house to worry about or work around. I cleaned when I wanted, I washed and dried my one or two loads of clothes each week, cooked and baked when I felt moved, slept as long as I desired. It was perfect for one person.

Today, I hung clothes out in the rain. The fact that I actually hang clothes on a huge, rotating station in the back garden ['yard' for you yankees] is something that never crossed my mind in Holton. I just put the clothes in the washer and then the dryer and then put them away like everybody else, I assume. But here, I rarely use the dryer--mostly because not much is that urgent to be dried plus the dryer is in the shed ['garage' for you yankees] because laundry rooms don't usually have outlets for dryers, so it's not exactly convenient. But, since I'm a lady of leisure now, I really don't mind hanging clothes out. The slower pace of life allows for the time it takes and they get that 'fresh' smell to them.

And now I shall explain why I'm not crazy because I hang clothes in the rain.

Rain here is much finer than any I have ever encountered in the States, whether it was Georgia or Kansas. It is so fine that, most of the time, it doesn't even make raindrop puddles in the pond or any sound at all on the plastic sunroom roof. The patio deck being wet is a dead give away, but sometimes, I only know it's raining because I look up at the trees and see it falling against the dark shades of the leaves and I'm amazed at how much rain is really falling without notice. So I find that, even with the rain coming down the clothes will get dry in a few hours.

We do have stormy rain with pelting drops on the odd occasion, but that is usually at night. And thunderstorms are very rare here. I'm told it's all because of the mountain being between us and the ocean, but I will just take their word for that.


Bill's Recipe Book

Click this link for the blog with recipes collected by a friend. They are definitely different.


Happy Feet is home!

Happy Feet

Two months after he washed up on a beach north of Wellington, Happy Feet has been released into the Southern Ocean.
The emperor penguin was freed earlier this morning just north of Campbell Island, from the stern ramp of the research vessel Tangaroa.
The boat left Wellington on Monday, with Happy Feet housed in a specially-designed crate filled with ice.
The journey south was hampered by rough conditions, but overnight the Tangaroa finally made it to the drop-off latitude of 51 degrees.
Sea conditions were too rough to release Happy Feet by hand, so he was released down a tarpaulin 'hydro-slide' from the boat's ramp.
Wellington Zoo vet Lisa Argilla, who has been looking after the penguin onboard, said he needed some "gentle encouragement" to leave his crate but the release had gone well.
"He slid down his specially designed penguin slide backwards but once he hit the water he spared no time in diving off away from the boat and all those 'aliens' who have been looking after him for so long."
The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research team and boat crew were all on deck to say goodbye, she said.
"It's an indescribable feeling to see a patient finally set free!"
Voyage leader Richard O'Driscoll said apart from a few nips at feeding time, Happy Feet had been a well-behaved passenger.
"It's been a pleasure to have Happy Feet onboard.
"We are just happy to help him on his journey home."
Happy Feet has been fitted with a tracking device so the team and public can follow his progress back home.
The wayward penguin was found on Peka Peka beach in late June, exhausted and hungry after journeying 1000km north of his normal habitat.
He was treated at the zoo after swallowing large amounts of sand.
The Tangaroa research team will now continue its month-long survey of southern blue whiting stocks.
-The Dominion Post



When I was a kid, Mom would hang clothes out to dry. There was usually a row of 4 or 5 lines connected to capital 'T' posts and she'd have a couple of poles with notches in the end to hold the heavy clothes off the ground.

I never thought about the neighbors seeing what we hung out and I never thought to look at their washing, either. We all wore clothes--outer clothes and under clothes. It was  just a fact of life to see work clothes, jeans, shorts, shirts and undies waving in the breeze over the back lawns.

So, I get here and most of the lines are like the one in the photo. Several lines that run around a central post, each circle of line getting smaller as you get closer to the post.

                                     (photo stolen borrowed from the internet)

No big deal, I thought. Until Hubby did the laundry one day. He made a point to put the underwear as close to the pole as possible. Since I only used the outer few lines, I asked him why he did that--purely, out of curiosity. He told me that he was taught to put the undies on the inside so that the other clothes would hide them and the neighbors wouldn't see!

And they think Americans are stuffy!!


Nobody cared when I said it!

This is an article from the South Taranaki Star. Underlining is mine.
Really that bad? Yes!

Hub Catering operations manager Shona Nicholson is horrified at service in the area and says something needs to be done fast. She is calling on Taranaki businesses to get in touch and create a workshop to have service standards taught immediately.
Bizlink town manager Jane Burke agrees and says she is not sure Hawera retailers are aware of how their staff treat customers.
Rugby World Cup 2011 organisers have created a free online course – ‘‘First Impressions Training’’– to help frontline staff prepare for the Cup.
Mrs Nicholson recently spent several hours travelling from New Plymouth to Hawera delivering Halimoana business award nomination forms to Taranaki businesses.
She says it was part of the worst hours of her life and left her totally depressed.
‘‘No-one had a smile about them,’’ she says. ‘‘I was really disappointed, there is only one [shop] I would go back to.
‘‘We are not going to meet satisfactory standards as far as the World Cup goes.’’
But Mrs Nicholson has never been one to complain without putting in a bit of effort so she is offering to host a workshop for customer services staff throughout Taranaki to improve public relations before the World Cup frenzy hits.
‘‘It’s all about presentation and customer service, I just feel that Taranaki as a whole has lost it somewhere.’’
Jane Burke says, unfortunately she has to agree.
‘‘I definitely feel there are businesses out there where maybe managers or owners aren’t aware of how their staff are acting,’’ she says.
‘‘Many businesses in Hawera as a whole have room for improvement.’’
‘‘It’s learning how to deal with the customer right there and then, it’s something Bizlink would like to address.’’...

I have written a few times (ok, it's been more than a few times...) about how I find the customer service here lacking.  If you have time, you can click 'rude kiwis' in my label cloud and read more. So, now I am proven correct and all you people that sent anonymous comments that said '...if I don't like NZ, I should move back to the US because I'm not wanted here anyway' can bite me!


Does evil exist?

The story goes that an atheist professor enjoyed tormenting those that believe in God by asking the same questions with each new classroom of students. He had his plan down pat and  loved to watch them sit down in failed silence.

In each classroom he would write on the blackboard in very large letters-- "Does evil exist?"

After making sure the students noticed the question, he would then launch into his attack with the question, "Did God create everything that exists?"

There was usually a brave soul that would answer, "Yes, He did."

The professor would then continue, "Everything?"

"Yes, everything."

"So, God also created evil--since we all know it exists in our world, correct?"

And at this point, the student would usually sit down without having an answer and the professor would smile with smug satisfaction.

But,  then it happened. Another student in the back of the class raised her hand and said, "May I ask a question, sir?"

"Of course, you may!" he answered.

"Does cold exist?" she asked.

"Of course it does! Don't you ever feel cold?"

"Actually, sir, according to physics, cold is the total and complete absence of heat. An object can only be studied if it has and transfers energy in the form of heat.  We created the term 'cold' to explain the total lack of heat.

"Let me ask another question, sir. Does darkness exist?" she asked the professor.

"Sure it does," he answered.

"Again, you are wrong, sir. We can only study light and brightness. Prisms show us the different colors and lengths of light waves. We created the term 'darkness' to explain the total lack of light.

"And, as for your original question, 'Does evil exist?',  I can answer it the same way as the other two questions. Evil is the absence of God in people's hearts and lives...the absence of faith and love. Faith and love are like heat. They do exist, we see them every day. Their absence is what we call 'evil'."

With this the student returned to her desk and it was the professor's turn to sit down in failed silence.


NZ telly

We are considering doing away with our Sky (cable) TV because there is nothing new on lately. My favorite few shows are showing reruns--even though there are many more episodes of them made.

The movies channels show, mostly, movies I rented from the grocery store in KS before I moved here 5 years ago. That's just a statement of fact, not a judgement of the situation.

I understand that this is a very small country whose number of residents would have to be doubled to be the population of NYC. Yes, there are a few NZ made shows, but I don't  understand the jokes because I'm not British or Kiwi.

So when I read the following article on Stuff.co.nz, I thought it would be more advantageous for all the stations to just get together and show stuff that is more up-to-date from England and the US. But, that's just my opinion and it's not going to happen. But, hay, a girl can dream.

Sky TV ponders alternatives
Sky Television is weighing up whether to launch a new low-cost, pay-television service, dubbed Sky Lite, or add up to an additional 24 channels to its existing satellite service using radio spectrum freed up from the closure of analogue television broadcasts.
Chief executive John Fellet said he was cooling on a third option, which was to use the spectrum to broadcast a pay-television service to a new class of mobile phones that would be specially designed to receive television broadcasts. Another possibility was that Sky would simply hand back the spectrum to the Crown and claim a multimillion-dollar refund.
Fellet expected the company would make a decision by the end of the year. Read more here.

Hubby and Otterboy aren't that interested in tv and I usually have it on for the noise, so I think we'll just get another computer for games and stuff and be happy with no tv. It's time to get back to reading books. And there's always Youtube.


rerun 9/08

I wish you could go grocery shopping with me and see the limit there is to most every kind of foodstuffs. I can't begin to describe how frustrating it is when I am used to Walmart Super Stores!! Things like corn meal are non-existent, so I guess I will live without 'real' cornbread. Even chocolate chips or raisins are not always stocked, so I buy extra when they are.

I have learned to bake 'mince, bacon and cheese pies' [which are ground beef, ham and cheese in American]. You can buy them in most dairies, bakeries and restaurants, but it's always better when you make them from scratch and my bunch prefer bacon on everything!

I have discovered that there are several food items that I have cooked for years as staple foods but are 'new' to my NZ family. Among them are home-made mac and cheese, home-made soups, home-baked breads of any kind, cookies of any kind and cakes. Their favorites, by far, are Toll House cookies and American pound cake. [In case you're wondering, there are 'pound cakes' in many countries. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pound_cake ]

So, in tribute to those who have yet to experience my version, I gladly share it now.

Betty's Pound Cake
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 tsp flavoring
4 eggs
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream
Powdered sugar for final dusting
Preheat oven to 325 (160C). Grease and flour 10-inch bundt cake pan.

Cream together sugar, butter and flavorings [I sometimes use strawberry, orange and banana, but you can use your own combinations, or just vanilla]. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt and combine with butter mixture alternately with sour cream.

You can stop there for a delicious plain cake or add a cup of chocolate chips, raisins, nuts, dried currants, dried mixed fruit, coconut or whatever you like best!

Bake 70 to 80 minutes, until toothpick in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for about 15 minutes. Remove and cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar.
Serve plain or with fruit [if yours lasts that long!]


Is communication a lost art?

A few weeks ago, Otterboy bounded home with a paper from his 10th year French class. He was excited about it because it was a form to house an exchange student from New Caledonia, an island north of New Zealand, for a week.

Seeing his eagerness to be a part of the yearly exchange of students, we gladly filled out the paperwork and he was the first one to turn his in the next day.

Last week we got an email with the details of the exchange students' itinerary and were happy to be one step closer to being a part of this project. We just assumed that everything was on course.

This week, Otterboy came home to say that the French teacher had put us on the 'reserve' list for the kids. He didn't really know what that meant, so I advised that he go to school the next day and ask the French teacher to explain.  He didn't get to see her the next day but was going to be sure to find her the next day.

Before he could go the next day, the French teacher called. And after the conversation she had with Hubby, I was not a happy camper. It seems that they pair the students up by age, which seems fair enough. The bad news was that most of the students are almost always from year 12 and 13.

Since Otterboy is only in year 10, there was no one his age to come to our house. But, they don't tell the students this because then 'they would have no homes for any younger students' who, by some strange quirk, got to come. Needless to say, Otterboy was shattered and Hubby and I were disappointed.

But it seems that it's about par for Stratford High School and their utter lack of communication and compassion and just plain good manners.

I mean, I don't think I would have really minded so much if the teacher had explained this to Otterboy when he turned in his form. That would have been understandable and would have softened the blow a little, I think.

I don't think it's asking too much to actually know what's going on at the school, but they just don't seem to care.

I do hope that we get to move to anywhere else before the next school year starts. If not, then I will just have to vent here, but I will warn you and you can just skip those posts :)

Stratford High School is not impressive.


WWII Diary returned to San Francisco family

The words of Delmar Grenz have finally made it home.
Retired Hawera couple Dougal and Barbara Kerrisk personally delivered the World War II diary their family has kept for 69 years to widow Kathy Grenz and three of her children in San Francisco recently. It completed a journey that started on a Wellington wharf in 1942 when Dougal Kerrisk's late brother, Gordon, found the diary while on guard duty.
Since the Taranaki Daily News tracked down the Grenz family in June, the story has made headlines in the United States, with Mr Kerrisk being filmed giving the diary to Mrs Grenz, who travelled from Idaho to her son David's home to receive it.
"I think I'm gonna cry," Kathy Grenz said on Idaho television. "I feel like I have a part of him again."
David Grenz said his mother's poor eyesight meant she just wanted to hold her late husband's diary, written when he was 17 during the bloody battle of Guadalcanal.
"She was just all emotional, just shaking. This has been a wonderful experience for her."
Mr Grenz read the diary for his family audience, including two of his sisters and his nieces and nephews, including one following his grandfather's footsteps by serving as a US Navy corpsman in Afghanistan.
"I wasn't prepared for the impact. There was this emotional buildup as I read and I got to a point where I got choked up and couldn't read any more.
"It was like for that Sunday afternoon we had our dad back for a while and that was wonderful."
Familiar with his father's handwriting and speech patterns, Mr Grenz had no problem interpreting the faded words and even offered insight into how the diary may have been "lost".
"He was desperate to become a raider. The raiders were like the Navy Seals, the guys who go in first.
"They had told them: `You have to get rid of your personal letters, no diaries or anything'."
His father was also "torn up" about choosing between his first wife Margaret, to whom he was married during the war, and staying in the navy.
"You could see he was crying as he wrote that because the writing was stained."
"He states `This diary has to stop now, we're going back'."
The Kerrisks spent the afternoon with the Grenz family, before David and Kathy showed them San Francisco the next day.
Kathy Grenz has returned to Idaho while her son is transcribing the diary on to a computer to provide copies for family members and interested parties.
"Whether she wants to keep it or maybe one of the museums might be interested, we'll see how that plays out," Mr Grenz said.
He wrote the Kerrisks a special message for returning the diary his family had never known existed. "I wrote, `From the bottom of my heart, thank you for bringing our father home to us'. I think that says it all."


Toilet paper and God

I am not the most observant person in the world and, as I have mentioned previously, I don't usually 'think outside the box'. I want a movie to have an ending. I don't care if it's happy or not, just tell me how the story ends.

I do, however, know when God is speaking to me--most of the time, anyway. And today He spoke to me through 'Cotton Softs double length, softly white, unscented, 2 ply toilet tissue'. OK, not through it and, of course, not with an audible voice. But, nevertheless, the TP sparked a God-thought (one that I know in my heart is from Him).

See, I have to buy 'Cotton Soft's brand toilet paper because all the others I have found here irritate me in places I would never be able to mention to you face to face. This was never anything I had reason to think about in Kansas, but when you move to another country, anything can be a challenge.

I prefer the double length rolls because they, obviously, last longer on the roll. I found them once in the local Stratford store, a couple of times in a Hawera store I sometimes shop at and a couple of times in a New Plymouth store. But, again, in this country, store stock isn't as reliable as it is in US stores. That doesn't keep me from looking in every store I enter.

Things have been a little intense around our house financially, as I'm sure it is in many homes across the globe right now. So, in an effort to save gas, I did our pay-day shopping in Stratford today. When I got to the TP aisle, I found the double length rolls for the second time ever! As I gleefully pulled three packs off the shelf, the God-thought crossed my mind that, if God can make sure I have the surprise of my favorite toilet paper, then He can surely take care of everything else that is a problem in my house at the moment.

That might not make any sense to you, but I will never be convinced that it wasn't the Man Upstairs telling me that He has it all under control.

Please don't go to the toilet paper aisle in your store and hang around waiting for a voice. Even if you do, it won't be audible. And you have to find your own aisle.


A great night out for dinner

Otterboy has been selling his model trains and accessories on trademe (NZ ebay-type place) because he has outgrown them. He got quite a bit of money for them and the first thing he wanted to do is take Hubby and me out to dinner at Marbles Restaurant (the only real buffet-style restaurant around). It was a fun night out for an occasional change of pace.

Thank you Otterboy for being so responsible and charitable!

I forgot to take my camera and can't find photos on the internet, but it's decorated with Roman gladiators with big noses on the walls and as huge statues. There's a HUGE dining area with big round tables placed throughout about a third of the space. Each one has a different cold food, bread, salad, seafood, dessert. There is also a hot bar along one wall  and a guy slicing roast beef and pork along another.

The food is pretty good, but I still have problems with the prices, but maybe I'm just cheap.

They are also advertising for Christmas. Yes, it says $35 for children under 5!

It's good to know that we have raised our son to be such a caring kid. He will do well in life.


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.