Friday, December 31, 2010

New Zealand is Different...

Yesterday, Jeff and I were waiting for a bus that was late.  We saw it stopped down the block and wondered if it was having engine trouble.  It finally headed towards us and when we got on, the busdriver said, "Sorry, dears, I had to go to the chemist."

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from New Zealand

We both wish everyone a very merry Christmas and hope a great time is had by all.  We are spending Christmas in Wellington and we've been treated to good weather (not always a given for Wellington), great food, and a really fun time.



Christmas in summertime is very odd but highly recommended.  Oh yes!

But we do miss everyone.

Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

World Famous Snowmaggedon

To everyone in Minnesota, we thought you might find it fun to know that your little snowstorm last weekend and subsequent collapse of the Metrodome roof caught on video made the local news here in Auckland.

We find that maybe half of Kiwis know where Minnesota is in the U.S. so perhaps this will make it more memorable.  Yer famous!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Auckland Christmas

Big Santa on Queen Street
It is still very odd to be experiencing Christmas in the height of summer.  Not only is it warm but everything is green with flowers blooming and weirdest of all it's light until past 9:00.

So it's kind of strange to see people walking around with wrapped presents and Christmas decorations up everywhere.  So I thought I'd post some pictures of Christmasy things around Auckland.

The trees in the last of the photos are called Pohutakawa Trees and they are "New Zealand's Christmas Tree" because they bloom bright red in mass quantities in December.  They're really something.

Big Santa Closeup

Sidewalk Ornament

A Splash of Color Downtown

Sky Tower Lights

Franklin Road Christmas Lights



Pohutakawa Trees in Bloom
Sky Tower Color


Pohutakawa in the Viaduct

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Visit to the Wogens'

Many of you have requested to see some pictures and descriptions of our apartment and surroundings in our neighborhood of Herne Bay in Auckland.  So we've created a little tour on wogenwatching.com that we hope will get you better acquainted with our new home.  (Click on the link above or on the right side of the blog to get there.)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas in the South Pacific

The Kiwis have their own Twelve Days of Christmas!

On the twelfth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Twelve piupius swinging
Eleven haka lessons
Ten juicy fish heads
Nine sacks of pipis
Eight plants of puha
Seven eels a swimming
Six pois a twirling
Five - big - fat - pigs !
Four huhu grubs
Three flax kits
Two kumera
And a pukeko in a ponga tree.



1. A pukeko is a native bird about the size of a chicken that has huge dinosaur-like legs and feet.  They are really common around here -- you see them eating alongside highways and parking lots.  A ponga tree is a brown tree fern.


2. Kumera is a kind of sweet potato that Kiwis go nuts for.


3. Flax kits are little bags woven out of the native flax fibers.


4. Huhu grubs are edible larvae of the huhu beetle.  They're about the size of a cigarette and some people like to eat them -- largely, I think, to freak other people out.


5. There are wild boars here.  


6. Pois are fluffy balls on cords that are swung around in some traditional Maori dances.


7. Yeah, Maori eat eels.


8. Puha is an edible plant that can be cooked up like collard greens (except not as tasty).


9. Pipis are a kind of edible shellfish.


10. Yeah, Maori also eat fish heads.


11. The Haka is a traditional Maori postural dance.  The All Blacks rugby team perform a war Haka before every game.


12. A piupiu is a type of Maori skirt which looks a lot like a bead curtain.


Now I'm going to put on my swim togs and jandals and go to Caroling on the Beach!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Weekend in the Coromandel

Last weekend we had our own long weekend to take advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday since I wouldn't have to work.  We went to the Coromandel Peninsula, a two hour drive form Auckland.

It's a beautiful, secluded area with mountains, beaches, and lots of activities.  We mainly did some light hiking and exploring end enjoyed some good food and scenery as well.

The first night we stayed in Coromandel Town and the second night was at Hahei so we got to see most of the peninsula without having to rush.


More pictures are posted at wogenwatching.com - click the link to the right to get there.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Life and Hiking

Last weekend, Jeff and I were spending some time on the Coromandel Peninsula and were hiking around the forest park. The hike we chose to go on included a 1 km tunnel through a hillside and as we walked along, holding hands tightly in the dark, slipping and sliding on the wet ground, and helping each other when we stumbled, all while headed towards the light at the other end, I realized that we seemed to have wandered into a metaphor.

Friday, November 26, 2010

U2 - The Recap

U2 at Mt Smart Stadium
OK, I'm going to give you a little more detail on the U2 concert last night than Anne did - whether you want it or not!

It was the first U2 concert for both of us and we were blown away.  Absolutely blown away.  It was an amazing show!  It's awesomeness still lingers.

More pictures are posted at wogenwatching.com - click the link to the right to get there.

The venue was Mt. Smart Stadium, a huge open-air rugby stadium which added a new dynamic to the show - I've only seen concerts indoors.  So that was pretty cool.

We conveniently missed the opening act Jay-Z because why would a U2 fan like rap for crap sake??  U2 played for over two hours with no intermission so it was nonstop music.  They really know how to put on a show.  Although our seats weren't super close they were close enough and with the 360 degree stage concept it was an excellent perspective - and of course the giant 360 video screen helped see them really up close.

At the start of the show the band strode out on stage to David Bowie's "Space Oddity" and then launched into Beautiful Day which was so perfect for us.  The very first video we made following our first vacation to New Zealand in 2004 starts out with Beautiful Day and whenever we hear the song we associate it with Auckland and New Zealand.  So we both enjoyed that!

They played a great variety of songs - from the ones you'd expect to hear at any of their shows like Pride, Where the Streets Have No Name, and Sunday Bloody Sunday - to unexpected ones like Ultraviolet Rays, Scarlet (albiet with Jay-Z, bleah) and One Tree Hill.  Although maybe One Tree Hill was not so unexpected because One Tree Hill is an actual place in Auckland.  So that was really cool. They played a couple of new songs from No Line on the Horizon which they really made rock.

The did a very moving tribute to the 29 lost miners on the South Island with I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For and seriously rocked the place with Elevation, Vertigo, and Mysterious Ways.  In all they played some 25 songs - fully...awesome.

Part of the experience was getting there and back.  Auckland provided free bus and train service to and from the stadium (about 20 minutes from downtown Auckland) and on the way there one rather outgoing  Kiwi with perhaps a couple of beers in him decided that everyone on the bus was to stand up and say their name and a few words.  Now if you're like me you've rolled your eyes and hoped he wasn't serious.  He was.  And you know, it was actually kind of cool.  Anne got a boisterous round of cheers when she said "I'm Anne and I came all the way from the U.S. to see U2!"  My comment of "I'll be pissed if they don't play One Tree Hill tonight!" got a tepid response at best...

Getting thousands and thousands of people onto buses for the way back was, as you can imagine, not an orderly task.  Oh my gosh.  We only had to wait for a few buses but when it was our turn I don't think my feet actually moved me onto the bus.  The crowd managed that for us!  It wasn't unsafe or disorderly mind you - Kiwis are very polite usually - but they wanted on that bus and moving as one mass seemed like the best way, I guess!

Long (very long) story short - one of the best shows we've ever seen.  We were just giddy afterwards.  And our hearing is now slowly starting to get back to normal.  :-)

U2...

ROCKED!!!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Scooting Revisited

I'll have you know that I took Francesca to the library yesterday and did a mighty fine job! I found that as I rode, I had a big smile on my face -- all the coolest people do. And yes, when I got to the library, I did have a bug in my teeth.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Golf

Takapuna Golf Course
It's been a long time coming, but I played my first round of New Zealand golf today.  Golf is pretty popular here and there are many inexpensive courses around.  I tried one nearby just over the bridge on the North Shore called Takapuna Golf Course which is a simple but worthy municipal course.

I'm shaking the rust off after four months without playing but it went well enough and I'm looking forward to playing more often.  Just gotta start learning my club distances in meters instead of yards...

Best burger joint name ever

We tried out this burger place not far from us on Ponsonby Rd. called Murder Burger.  With a name like that and employees that wear shirts that say "Meat is Murder" you'd think it was a vegetarian joint.  Nope!  They serve burgers and chicken and all things meat.  And you know what?  They're quite good!

I would rate the burgers better than Burger Wisconsin for sure.  Very tasty.  And clever.  And they have gluten-free buns for Anne (as does Burger Wisconsin).  How nice is that?

My favorite bit is the evil kitty logo.  :-)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Scooting Practice

Turns out my mighty steed has a poor rider.

I took Francesca out for a little neighborhood spin after lunch today and seem to have forgotten everything I ever knew about riding a scooter (admittedly, it wasn't much to begin with). I lurched up the driveway, nearly knocking into the house (missing Jeff, though, who unfortunately saw the whole thing), and then worried him when, after taking off, I didn't return right away. The second thing I did was annoy a driver behind me who wanted to go 80 (I was doing a solid 30kph -- reeeeally slow) and then went around a quiet block several times. I usually remembered to turn off my blinker, and I only found myself in the wrong lane once.

Practice, practice, practice!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Scooter!

Vespa & Harbour Bridge
Today we are proud scooter owners - we got a Vespa LX50 and you may now roll your eyes.  Hey, Vespas are cool and we don't care what you say!

It's really fun to ride and because it's a 50cc scooter which is limited to 50 kph (30 mph) we don't need a motorcycle license - a regular driver's license is all that's needed.  So we can't take it on the motorway but that's just fine.  Tooling around the city is our plan.

Anne has named her Francesca.  She is Italian after all.  :-)

Francesca at Westhaven Marina


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A (brief) Kiwi-Yank dictionary

Aubergine -- eggplant
Bach (pronounced "batch") -- holiday home, cabin
Beetroot -- beets (Kiwis can't get enough beets; they're in everything)
Bikkie -- cookie; short for "biscuit"
Boot -- trunk of car
Brekkie -- breakfast
Chilly bin -- cooler
Choc (pronounced "chalk") -- chocolate (sounds yummy doesn't it?)
Dairy -- corner store
Ditch -- the Tasman Sea; "Across the Ditch" means Australia
Good on yeh -- good for you, well done
Jandals -- flip-flops; short for "Japanese sandals"; the Kiwi national footwear, appropriate for every possible situation, weddings, funerals, job interviews...
Kumara -- a kind of sweet potato; Kiwis LOVE them
Lollies -- candy
Mate -- friend
Metal road -- gravel road
Partner -- spouse or boy/girlfriend; used irrespective of sexuality or marital status
Pav -- a Pavlova; famous Kiwi dessert
Rattle ya dags -- hurry up (dags are the poo-bits that dangle off the backsides of sheep)
Sav -- Sauvignon blanc
Smart -- nicely dressed
Smart casual -- business casual
Sweet as -- really cool
Tramping -- hiking
Wheelie bin -- rubbish bin, garbage can
Yum -- yummy; "This is yum," "That looks yum."
Yum as -- really yummy

Now, put them together: "Rattle ya dags and chuck me some of that Pav, mate, it looks yum as!"

Monday, November 15, 2010

Snow?

OK, we promised ourselves we wouldn't get all snooty when the snow started to fly there and it was warm and sunny here.  Yep.  Promised.  So...very...hard...

For example, we wouldn't mention things like we did some lawn bowling in shorts yesterday.  No, that would be mean and heartless.  So we won't go there.  We're better than that.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Time Change - Again

Now that Daylight Saving Time has ended in the U.S. the time difference here is now 19 hours ahead of MN instead of 18. Or to make it easier, just subtract 5 hours from now and it's that time in NZ - but tomorrow.

So if it's 6:00 pm on Saturday in MN, it's 1:00 pm on Sunday here.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lawn Bowling

Bowling at MIB (Mates in Bowls) league
I've decided to take up lawn bowling, a popular activity here.  Actually, they just call it bowling - what we know as bowling is also common here but called 10-pin bowling.

Last night I played as a sub in a league that just got started for the summer at a bowling club right up the street.  It's really more of a social activity - have a pint and roll some bowls.  Perfect! Most people were beginners, too, so that helped.

Anne and I will play recreationally, too.  It's quite fun!

The bowling club right up the street from us

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Scooter Time

Anne hits the scooter slalom
We're thinking about getting a scooter to tool around on (stop laughing) so on Monday we took some training since neither of us knows what the crap we're doing on a scooter.

Well, we know what we're doing now.  We'll have to see if we actually get one but it would be fun.  And then your incessant mocking can begin.  :-)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rangitoto Island Visit

Rangitoto Island from the ferry
Yesterday we went for an afternoon hike on Rangitoto Island which is a volcanic island created when it erupted 600 years ago.  It's just a 25 minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland and we spent a few hours hiking to the summit and back.

When we got off the ferry it was raining horizontally but things turned nicer as the day went along and it was sunny by the end.

Hiking through the forest

At the summit


Walking amongst the lava rock

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Holiday Weekend

This is Labour Day weekend here in NZ and since Monday is the first "bank holiday" (as they call them) since June people are very excited.  And to make it even better, the weather is fantastic so people are doing their barbecue thing and all.

Of course it doesn't really matter to us since with one not working and the other working from home for a U.S. company it'll be just another day on Monday.  :-)  But for some fun today we're going to try some lawn bowling...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Things I miss (besides the obvious)

Gluten-free pasta in restaurants
Driving on the right side -- (they call the left the "correct" side here)
Almond Nut Thins -- they haven't mastered GF crackers in NZ
Udi bread -- see above and substitute "bread" for "crackers"
Going to hear jazz at the Riverside Wine Bar or the Dakota
Biaggi's
Target
Costco
Betty Crocker GF baking mixes
Chex cereal
Kettlebells class
Walking around lakes -- can't find many circuit walks
Eddie Bauer and CAbi
Amazon.com
Cooking with pounds, ounces, cups -- what the heck is a millilitre?
Central heating
Dunn Bros. coffee
Walgreens
OPH gluten-free pancakes
To be continued...


Things I don't miss: election nonsense; politics; Raceway Park; hayfever; onset of winter; yardwork

Things I miss most: all of you!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Yet More Photos

In case you're not bored yet I've posted more photos of the recent trip at wogenwatching.com - click the link at the right to get there.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Last Day - Kauri Walks

Starting the day looking out from our hotel room in Omapere
The wind has not relented much for our last day but that's OK because we have planned to do walks in the forest protected from the wind.  In the Waipoua Forest live some of the largest and oldest known Kauri trees so our goal is to see them.  They're massive!

The braches are so big that other plants grow on them.  Pretty cool to see.

Tane Mahuta - the biggest Kauri by volume. It's about 170 feet tall.


Te Matua Ngahere - the widest (54 feet around) and oldest Kauri (2,000 years)


Anne and Te Matua Ngahere

Cape Reinga - Oh, the Wind

The lighthouse at Cape Reinga
On this day we were at Cape Reinga up at the northernmost tip of New Zealand.  Very rugged and beautiful, but the wind was blowing like we've never experienced before.  I would estimate gusts of at least 70 mph - the kind that nearly knock you down and you have to really fight to walk against.  Unreal!

Unfortunately the unrelenting and cold wind kept us from doing some hikes we had planned along the coast but we made the most of it and spent a good amount of time in the car driving to and from the cape as well as down the west coast.

A view of the massive dunes near Cape Reinga.  Note that the "haze" over the dunes is from the strong winds blowing the sand


Even the gulls sought refuge from the wind, and this is at a bay on the leeward side of the cape


A rainbow greets us on the car ferry across Hokianga Harbour

Doubtless Bay

A walk down to Karikari Beach
OK - I wasn't able to post for a couple of days either because of running out of time at the end of the day or not having internet access.

Anyway, here is the next day of the trip which we spent mostly around Doubtless Bay and the Karikari Peninsula with some light walking and a winery visit.  It was good to have a fairly restful day for a change.



Fishing for something big
Impromptu wine tasting at Karikari Vineyard overlooking the sea
Near the end of the day at Matauri Bay

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Bay of Islands - Hiking

Boardwalk through mangroves
Today we did a nearby 6 mile hike that had forest, mangroves, a shag nesting colony, and a waterfall.  We then took the ferry to Russell for lunch and a short hike up to the vista on Flagstaff Hill overlooking the area.  It was another nice day of weather and fun.

Shag nest with two young ones
Hururu Falls



A view from Flagstaff Hill


The town of Russell

Friday, October 8, 2010

Bay of Islands - Sailing

"She's a Lady" from the top of Waewaetorea Island
Today we went for a 5 hour sail in the Bay of Islands aboard the "She's a Lady" with skipper Glen.  We sailed from Pahia to the uninhabited Waewaetorea Island in the outer islands where we got to go ashore and hike up the hills for incredible 360 degree views.  The beauty of the area is amazing.

We were the only passengers (the beauty of low season) and although it was a nice, sunny day in the 60's we think it would be even better here during the summer with temps in the 80's.

The heart of The Bay of Islands
Relaxing on the boat
Skipper Jeff
We sailed right by these two Blue Penguins
The beach we anchored at for a hike and lunch

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bay of Islands - Kayaking

Today we spent a good part of the day kayaking in the Bay of Islands.  We started out in Paihia (near where we are staying) and went across the bay to the charming town of Russell where we walked around a bit then continued towards Oronga Bay before going back to Paihia.  The water was smooth and calm and it was a lovely day.  We kayaked for almost 4 hours and when we got back we had ice cream then had to nap because we were so worn out.

I think our B&B hosts are the nicest people ever but I'm not sure.  :-)  We're having a great time so far.  Tomorrow we're going sailing.