Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Two gorgeous nights in Auckland

I know that we have gorgeous sunrises and sunsets here, but I've never seen so many stunning skies as we did in our six short months in New Zealand. Is it the hole in the ozone layer, the position on the globe, the magical air that hangs over the country? Someone must know, but that someone is not me. From two of our last nights in town, I give you Mount Eden at sunset and a view of the Eastern Bays from St Heliers to Mission Bay with a touch of Rangitoto.

Mt. Eden (Maungawhau, the mountain of the whau tree) is the highest volcano in Auckland's volcanic field (one of the 48 volcanoes the city is built on) and a popular spot to take a picnic, a rugby ball, and watch the sunset.

How gorgeous is this??

And the Eastern Bays, our 'hood. Such a lucky, lucky place to spend six months.

The first two are nearly identical, but I cannot choose between the clouds. And because this is my blog and I'm not even sure that anyone else reads it, I will take the liberty to post both.

And one cute girl! We were walking back to St. Heliers after eating our last dinner in Mission Bay. A lovely tradition that we were so sad to leave.

Goodnight, all!
Cheers, K.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The French Market in Parnell

There is so much interesting, delicious, and just excellent quality food in New Zealand. That was definitely one of our favorite parts of living there. On our last Saturday before we headed back stateside, we finally visited the French Market in Parnell. Parnell was about a 15 minute drive into Auckland from our house. A lovely upscale suburb just on the edge of downtown. We'd spent much time in our six months shopping and eating there. And, in fact, my friend, Prime Minister John Key, lives there. 

We parked in the shopping and restaurant area on Parnell Road and walked down through the secret path that the kids and I had discovered previously. We wanted Dennis to see how you just walk down through somebody's driveway and into this little park sandwiched between two residential roads. We discovered this one day when we parked at the end of a long, narrow dead-end street and then got trapped by the oncoming garbage truck. 

Anyway, walking through Parnell, we saw these lovely sights.

This dog apparently visits the market each week and hangs out under the sausage guy's table. A discerning shopper, I guess.

We found the stinkiest most wonderful cheeses that day!! The kids were repulsed. 

Lots of photos in this one. Hope you all have fast Internet connections. :o) Sorry... 

Took home so many yummy things that day and just opened everything up on the kitchen counter and had a lovely feast outside. Perfect day.

Off now to buy some pants for L's band concert and a birthday gift for a classmate and apparently we are looking for some sort of semi-permanent hair color because purple highlights are now all the rage? OK.

xo to all!! K. 

That's gonna leave a mark

One of our last days in Auckland, the kids and I walked over to Churchill Park School to place a few fattypillar stragglers that needed more time to grow than we had left. The school has heaps of swan plant bushes and plenty of nice healthy leaves for developing butterflies.

I took a few photos of the projects that both kids were lucky to participate in during their half year there. The Year 6 students each took part in a wall mural for the side of one of the buildings. For years to come, everyone walking down the main path from Ridell Road onto school grounds will see this lovely mural depicting native plant and animal life. Laurel painted the little ladybug on the left.

Just a few steps from the mural is a cement area with inlaid ceramic tile mosaics created by the Year 8 students. They were instructed to create something that represented a part of themselves. Trey made the red, white, and blue star. There were so many cool ones!

This last one is a Pukeko, the funny NZ swamp hens with the long, long black legs and feet. They are purple with red beaks. Very unique! UB, please show Em! :o)

Hope everyone is having a great weekend so far.

xo, K.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

New World Supermarket's chocolate chip biscuits

Just a random thought to share with you all tonight: I would literally pay $100 (US) for one of these cookies right now.

Hugs and chocolate smeared kisses, K.

The fire

One pretty evening just before dinner, I was outside admiring something or other -- a pod of dolphins, whales that were thought to be extinct, leprechauns dancing on the little table down by the water, unicorns frolicking in the surf -- something New Zealandish. Dark clouds caught my eye and I wondered for just a moment if a column of black smoke was normal in the evening sky. Of course it wasn't!

We all headed over that way thinking maybe it was a house or then, no, maybe it was our tennis club -- uh oh. But it turned out to be Glendowie Primary School, the other school in our little town. It was quite a fire. Lots of rebuilding needed but I heard that all the kids had a place to go when they returned February and that things are coming along well there. And no one was hurt. But what a scary mess!

On the other side of the sky, things were very beautiful!

Most Aucklanders flee the city in January, so I imagine it was quite a shock for all of the happy holidayers to learn of this. Not cool.

Hope everyone enjoyed the weekend! Talk to you all soon.

Cheers, K.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Kelly Tarlton, Antarctica, and ancient photography

Kelly Tarlton was a Kiwi diver, explorer, and inventor who opened an Antarctic theme park in a series of abandoned sewer tanks beneath Auckland. Sounds a bit odd, but it's a much-loved destination and was only about 15 minutes from our home so we bought year-round passes and went after school when it was nearly empty and we could ride the snowcats around the penguin habitat over and over again without standing in line. Our favorite was when they had baby penguins, but the whole place was pretty cool.

These were the social piranhas.

Loved the plentiful Lego divers and submarines in the fish habitats. The fish seemed thankful for the diversions.

On the way in to Kelly Tarlton's, visitors walk through a replica of Captain John Falcon Scott's Antarctic hut, from the early 20th century. We learned after being in NZ for a little while that it's a common Kiwi dream to get down to Antarctica. New Zealand is one of the closer places in the world to that harsh and mysterious continent and Air New Zealand actually ran sightseeing flights down there for a while in the 70s until a terrible crash killed a couple of hundred people. Now you can take a long boat trip (a few weeks), best done from S. America, or donate heaps of money to one of the conservation groups. Or be a scientist. I'm sure there are other ways, too. What do I know?

Our friend Pete's brother, Nigel Watson, heads up the Antarctic Heritage Trust which preserves the explorers' expedition bases. He worked on this stunning book of photos done by a wonderful New Zealand photographer, Jane Ussher. I am ordering it as soon as I hit the Publish Post button, as I've been meaning to do that and now is as good a time as any. (Done! While I waited for the photos to load. Hooray.)

I was particularly interested in the darkroom supplies of the expedition's photographer. I wonder who it was -- was he chosen because he was a photographer or was it just one of the scientists who was given a camera and told to start shooting. I wouldn't think that many cameras were floating around in those days. Photography was just becoming a known entity, if I remember correctly. But what a gig!

Unfortunately, Captain Scott's second trip to Antarctica ended when everyone, including the sled dogs, died in white-out blizzards that lasted for eons and they all either froze or starved to death. Unimaginable, really.

Really cool to have the chance to learn about a part of the world that is so far away from the US that we barely know anything at all about it all the way over here. Names of people and places that have never been uttered by anyone I know in my 41 years are household words over on the other side of the world.

Now I'm really looking forward to receiving my Still Life book and staring for hours at its gorgeousness.

xo all! K.