Sunday, February 27, 2011

Neudorf Vineyards

Ohio, New Zealand, Ohio, back to New Zealand. Sorry, I know this is a bit confusing -- where will she be today?? But soon I will run out of New Zealand photos and then you'll all be stuck with me in Ohio and wherever else I wander. I'll keep showing you cool stuff though, I promise. Cool stuff is everywhere.

Today, we're back on the South Island and it was one of our most favorite (Trey says this is not "vocabularicly" correct grammar) afternoons ever in the entire world, so if you're planning a trip to NZ, please do include a stop at Neudorf Vineyards on your itinerary and have a glass of Pinot Noir for me. I would be so grateful!

I don't know much of anything about wine, and really only started drinking it regularly a few years ago. For a long time I only liked the sweeter varieties, like Reisling, or really if you'd have given me a wine cooler a la 1989, I'd have been perfectly happy as well. So I'm awfully proud to say that after living the Kiwi life for six months, my favorites are now Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. They sound like grown-up wines to me, though for all I really know they could be the most embarrassingly amateur wines ever. Reisling tastes like cough syrup now so I guess I'm progressing in some way. By the time I hit 75 I hope to be able to enjoy turpentine.

In the five or six days we had in the Nelson area, we only had actual plans on two of those so one afternoon we headed into town (Motueka) and then stopped at Neudorf on the way back to Lemonade Farm. It was just down the road -- we really could've walked there it was so close. Paradise vacation time was nearly over, so we packed up all of the leftover odds and ends of cheeses, breads, crackers, fruits, and dips and stopped in to see what it was all about. 

A really lovely woman asked us what we liked ("NOT Reisling or Fuzzy Navel wine coolers!!!", I shouted) and let us try a few. Then we got to set up our snack assortment on a beautiful little table on the edge of the vineyard and enjoy the view and a glass of such delicious wine. Very fun! And they didn't mind at all when I poked around taking heaps of photos either, so now Neudorf is my all-time favorite wine. You can actually get it in the US, but not everywhere, and not Ohio, sadly. Bummer.

We'd love to spend a few days out in Napa Valley exploring some of the California vineyards now that we've whet our appetites for hanging around wineries all day. It's a very relaxing way of life!! On that note, if you're interested at all in wine and its production, you might want to rent Bottle Shock which is about the California wines' entry into the world market (and beat the pants off some French wines) back in the 70s when they were just thought of as a bunch of hicks. Really well done and interesting.

Talk to you all soon... xo, K.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A dash of glitter

My lovely friend, Judy, once gave me a ridiculous sparkly birthday card with a singing monkey on it and inside she suggested that this might be the kind of photography that I should pursue. Her reasoning was that if my images weren't all that great, I could always just add glitter.

I'd forgotten about that until this week when, in my post-New Zealand house-purging frenzy, I tackled the nightstand drawer next to my side of the bed and its assorted contents ranging from 7 pens to 3 Chapsticks to birthday and Mother's Day cards dating back to 2002. Obviously the glitter monkey card was in there and it made me laugh as Judy's cards always do.

On Sunday and Monday we had a bit of an ice storm and it left every single thing in its path all silvery and gorgeous. Dare I say -- glittery? I think Judy might have something there. How can you go wrong with glittery?

What do you think? Should I stick with the glitter theme for a while or return to sunny warm New Zealand? Not that a I have a choice...just making chit chat.

Here's something cool. A big tree was uprooted in our backyard about 7 years ago and it got wedged into the branches of another tree so it's been just hanging out back there causing a small amount of concern. The ice storm brought it down all the way! Hooray!

Unfortunately, the ice also brought down some power lines and our friends just across the main road lost their electricity for two nights. We were without power here for just one night ourselves, but that wasn't too bad. On Monday, our good friends, Sam and Jack, spent the night here with us to avoid freezing to death and we were so happy to have them here!

It's supposed to snow quite a bit starting any second now, and more ice was mentioned. I need another dose of glitter if I'm going to make any sort of career of this, so here's hoping.

Be well, all. And stay safe out there. It's looking nasty.
xo, K.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The hut

As we continue to monitor the earthquake news out of Christchurch, I'm thinking that I should go ahead with the rest of the blog posts in the spirit of the the ever-flowing tides of life. This is probably a good subject to start back up with, as I think it might show non-Kiwis a very small and specific glimpse into the strong character of New Zealand's people.

Do you remember when I mentioned the DOC huts a few posts ago? The NZ Dept. of Conservation maintains what they call huts in the parks and along popular tracks. Because most all of these are only seen after one hikes for a full day and stops for the night, we didn't see any. We did hear about them many times though. The huts would come up in conversation often, because as I said, it's very common for Kiwis to head off and walk for a few days through the woods and mountains. It's not as if there are Hilton Garden Inns along these tracks, so you either camp out for the night or sleep on a plastic-coated mattress in a hut. Either way you bring in (and take out) all supplies -- food, water, bedding, etc.

Here's where I will sound like a big sissy again and that's OK. The huts were reputed to be open and shared by any and all for around $10/night, and that was true. As in -- everyone sleeps in the same room! Right next to each other, 6 in a row on top and 6 in a row on the bottom. Two big ladders. I don't even like hotels, so there really was no way I could consider bunking with a bunch of strangers. Strangers who would be snoring, moving gases through their bodies, sneezing and coughing all night, and God knows what else. Really?? Good lord, no way! But nearly everyone we talked to had done this many times. They go right along with the flow and they don't shy away from the less than palatable stuff. I guess I didn't meet all 4 million Kiwis, but that generalization seemed to hold true pretty often.

Since we kayaked into the park we were far enough in that we were able to finally check out a hut in person!! I thought I'd never see the day. This one, The Anchorage, was just steps away from the beach and had two big bunk rooms, a large kitchen to share, and restrooms just a short distance away. By the way, neither the restrooms nor the bunkrooms were divided by gender in any way. Yikes!! Yes, I know I'll never win the Fearless Cool Kiwi Outdoorswoman of 2011 award. I'm fine with that.

Pretty interesting to look through the log books to see where everyone had come from. It was holiday time when we were there so the entries were from all over. Cool!

Even Ohio! Alright!! :o)

Hope everyone is well. Keep thinking good thoughts for the people in Christchurch. They're going to need that for a while.

-- K.

Monday, February 21, 2011

God Defend New Zealand

Just had to sign in here for a minute to say that our thoughts and prayers and hearts are with New Zealand right now as the citizens of Christchurch have just experienced another even more devastating earthquake. A 6.3 magnitude quake hit very close to the city and at a very shallow 5km depth, which means it was more violent than the higher magnitude quake last September.

I am currently texting friends in Auckland who are telling me that they can't reach many family members and friends in Christchurch. News reports say that roads are impassable, bridges are out, liquefaction has been seen (soil acting as liquid), and buildings have collapsed.

My dear friend Jenny tells me that because it struck just before 1pm on Tuesday, kids are in school and adults are at work and no one can reach anyone else because phones are down. She just spoke to someone who swam across a river and is now running home because that's the only way he can get there.

We're so far away now. I can't bear the thought of anything bad happening to this most magical place and its people. Hoping for the best for them.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Even cold and dormant can be beautiful...right?

Kia Ora and hey there everyone. We decided in New Zealand that upon returning home, we'd be making some changes in our lives that would free us up a bit to enjoy a more, shall we say, balanced array of activities. And right behind that revelation came the idea to explore our own country even more than we already do.

Given our newfound love of the outdoors, we figured we'd give it a try in a different environment. Everyone got all bundled up yesterday and headed to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which is literally a 15 minute drive from our house. Have we EVER been there? Once, many years ago. How sad is that! Not for long, Bubba!

The only itty bitty little catch with this plan lies in the fact that we live in a place where winter really makes its presence known. Having grown up in Florida, I just have never made peace with winter and its sub-zero wind chills. Of course I've also never been interested enough to go out and get the right gear. So now I have a new pair of waterproof hiking shoes and some (New Zealand merino wool) long johns AND a pair of warm, warm waterproof hiking boots for winter on the UPS truck and due to arrive here in a few days. So that's taken care of. :o)

I am really determined to get outside more and really live here full-time, rather than ignoring the outside world for nearly half of each year. The other key to getting myself motivated to leave a perfectly warm cozy house when it's 25˚ outside is to realize that the whole world looks different in the wintertime and that means photos.

So, shoes and long johns, check, and camera with beloved new backpack for my camera gear from NZ, check. Not much more I can do except suck it up and get in the truck.

If any of you have suggestions for other places to hike in the wintertime (or hike and kayak when it gets warm, too!), please please share!! Let's take advantage of this spark of adventurousness!! (That is apparently a word. Spell check didn't underline it, too funny!)

I'm a bit confused though about the lack of Tui songs and Koru (the spirally unfurling new fern fronds) and green, green, green everywhere. This is going to take a little while...

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Without stretching the truth even a tiny bit in the interest of storytelling, I believe that the Tui began to work his way into my heart the very first morning that we woke up in our house in Auckland. In that 4:30 a.m. topsy turvy and mixed-up jet-lagged early morning and the 10 or so that followed, I would lie in bed hoping for sleep and wondering -- is that a ... bird?? 

Never had I heard a bird sing a whole lovely little song, with many different notes and possibly a rest, if I can remember back to my clarinet days. Each time, the same little song. Not a tweet tweet or a caw or a coo, but a whole song. A beautiful gorgeous lovely song that, in my pre-dawn brain haze, sounded like sweet heavenly bells.

As I began walking for miles and miles exploring our new city and trying to wake up, I heard the song everywhere -- in Churchill Park, on the trail behind the houses on Robley Crescent, at Tahuna Torea nature preserve on the way to the sandspit. As much as I heard the song, I could never see the bird that was singing it and I really wanted to. Finally I learned that this magical creature I was seeking was the Tui bird when we ran into our friend Helen at an art gallery and saw some ceramic Tui's on the wall there. I asked her what they were because of the odd bubbly little tuft of white feathers on its neck, talked for a bit about them and then put it all together. About time!  

Tui birds were our constant companions as we hiked, climbed, walked, and paddled our way through New Zealand. Their song was the first thing I heard when we woke up every morning and at least two of them hung out high above our home each day, with their crazy assortment of obnoxious (but charming!) sounds. I read that they are very smart and can mimic human speech like a parrot. The beautiful song is only a small portion of the repertoire. The rest includes braying like donkeys, clicking, and cackling. They also make sounds that aren't audible to humans. And they didn't like to be photographed, but Dennis spotted one behind the Lemonade Farm cottage one afternoon and I was able to get some shots at last. With just weeks to spare! Hooray, hooray Dennis!!

As we approached the 22nd of January, I tried very hard to get some good video on the kids' iPods because I knew that I'd not hear another Tui once we boarded the plane to go home. As much as I love them, I have to say they are very stubborn! I swear those birds knew when I came out with the iPod and would either stop singing altogether or just do a few notes here and there. This is the best I could get, but it's really only half of what I heard when I wasn't filming. Cheeky little bastards! You'll all have to get over there one day and hear my beloved Tui birds for yourself. Like everything else, I promise that just this alone is enough reason to make the trip. 

Oh right, so the license plate. The registration on my truck expired just before we got home and since Dennis had started calling me Tui, I changed my plates from honoring the Florida Gators to honoring our time in New Zealand. There's a NZ Air Force sticker on the back window too. And the gator stayed. Hope there's no Wild Kingdom episodes in the making back there. 

Enjoy the long weekend, everyone. xo to you all, K.