Monday, June 30, 2008
So, you want to know what a fantail is? (I mentioned them in an earlier blog.)
Our fantails are small,aerial feeding birds. They have small bodies with long tails; (often the tail is longer than the body.)
The New Zealand species is called the Grey Fantail, its Maori name is Pīwakawaka.
During daylight it is almost never still and flits from perch to perch, looking out for flying insects. These birds are not shy, and will often flutter within a few metres of us, so that they can catch any small flying insects that we may have disturbed.
Their call is an almost metallic "cheek", sounding a bit like a squeaky toy. Watch the you-tube link to see one! They make tiny,cup-shaped nests, from moss & bark, and finish them off with spider's web.
Sadly,the fantail's lifespan is very short,the oldest recorded being only 3 yrs.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Struggled up and out of bed this morning - no rain! We headed for Titirangi Craft Market with our friends Tim & Emma & Julie.
Having exhausted our shopping energies and replenished with strong coffees and a sausage sizzle, we then went on to Piha through the Waitakeres.
The black sand had been blown up over the carpark from the last few days of storms, creating huge dunes.
The sea was anything but calm and we could hear the sound of the waves thundering right from the viewpoint.
We tried to get to The Gap for some photos but the waves were crashing on the rocks and the clifftop walkway was washed away and closed. So, just pictures of Lion Rock, sea spray and waves! Absolutely exhilerating!
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Finally the ferns are dripping and the world has been washed clean.
Everywhere you look is bright green and Spring feels as if is beginning.
The streams and rivers are full to overflowing and the storms at sea have blown the beach sand up several feet. The fantails have come out to snap up all the insects in sight and the bouganvillae have started growing wildly down the patio walls.
Only one week left at work and the holidays! YAY!
Friday, June 27, 2008
After the rain there are always huge double rainbows across the bay and the fields here. You almost think you can see the end, but it constantly moves further away. The colours don't get fuzzed together as they do in England, but are always clearly in seven bands: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, just like in the song!
I bet you didn't know that rainbows can have shapes other than an arc, including stripes, circles, or even flames! I've never seen one, but I have the camera ready!
This is our rainbow across the fields looking out to Whitford.
And just for my brother, Alex... did you know that the dark area of unlit sky lying between the two arcs is called 'Alexander's band', after Alexander of Aphrodisias ?
We've had torrential downpours and even showers of hail this week; there is a warning of tornadoes on the way and the seas are dark and stormy.
I ventured out to the beach, the wind whirling round, for this picture!
Even when the weather is this wild, it's beautiful..
We all come home after a day's work and snuggle by the fire. The girls are baking up a storm in the kitchen, and "it's all good" as they say!
Thursday, June 26, 2008
I went to a student's funeral yesterday. He was fourteen. He was the life and soul of my class. He died of cancer.
The Chapel was filled with over four hundred people, who had come to 'celebrate' his life. It makes you think.
About how wonderful living is.
About how we should make the most of every moment.
About how much there is to celebrate, about our time so far.
As for cliches, sometimes they're true.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
I bought this painting from a talented artist called Lara Boddington.. I love Cathedral Cove and Piha, so I have one of each. Even the girls like this one since 'Prince Caspian' came out in the cinema and the film is set in Cathedral Cove ( don't bother looking for the styrofoam castle, they removed it!)
We kayaked to this rock and chanced the rolling waves which threatened to overturn us.. absolutely beautiful place!
The rocks stand straight up out of the ocean and children climb them and dive off. It's an hour and a half walk or a twenty minute kayak from the nearby beach - but dangerous surf.. we've done both and it's otherworldly there..
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Interestingly, in New Zealand, there are lots of unusual animals, which can only be found here. The Hochstetter frog is one of them!
It is, of course, endemic, and found only in the northern half of the North Island of New Zealand. What makes it unusual is that it does not go through a tadpole stage. It's also nocturnal - again unusual, has round - not slit - eyes like other frogs, only has partially webbed feet, but to top it all, it doesn't croak!
In 2004 there were only 11 known to exist, on Maungatautari Mountain. They are the most ancient species of frog in existence. Highly protected and classed as vulnerable.
Sophia had a technology project to do based on Auckland Zoo and 2008 is 'Amphibian Ark' year, saving the frogs! Hence the photo..
Monday, June 23, 2008
You know what we British are like - common topic of conversation.. the weather.
Just imagine, you can drive down the road (with little or no traffic) and stop at a place like this for the afternoon .. and it's not an unusual view either.
Although it's winter at the moment, it's never grey.
Although it rains, it never drizzles for days on end.
Although it's misty some mornings, it's beautiful.
We can have six seasons in a day here sometimes!
The weather's never boring and there's always sunshine round the corner!
And as for the summer.. well..
* This one is for those of you who complained, that there weren't any pics of me! *
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Rained torrents last night and this morning, that's what keeps it so green here.. Land of the Long White Cloud is what Aoteroa (New Zealand) means, and those are the clouds of mist and steam that sit on the slopes and mountain tops after it rains..truly beautiful.. and as always, after the rain, the double rainbows appear; followed tonight, by the full moon.
The shortest day has been and gone, so Spring is on the way!
Saturday, June 21, 2008
This blog is specially for my kiwi readers!
THERE’S long been an argument raging about the pavlova (with a small ‘p’)named after the Russian ballerina, revered for her solo dance, the Dying Swan.
To honour her, the pavlova, a meringue filled with tropical fruit and served with cream, was 'invented'. Of course the first recipe comes from Mrs.Isabella Mary Beeton who was the eldest of a family of 21 brothers & sisters, from England.
I've noticed that Australians pronounce it PAVlova (and claim they invented it) and New Zealanders pronounce it PavLOVa, (and claim they invented it.)
Interestingly the story goes that the hotel chef who invented the 'pav' (as it's affectionately called here) was inspired by Anna Pavlova's tutu, which was draped in green silk cabbage roses.
The shape of the tutu was provided by a meringue case, while the froth of the skirt's net was suggested by whipped cream. To achieve the effect of the green roses the chef used slices of kiwifruit, then known as "Chinese gooseberries".
To finish - the pavlova is a Kiwi food icon – and is frequently eaten during holiday meals such as Christmas dinner. So, even though it clearly originated in England; the NZers added the kiwi fruit.. after all, it's quite obvious that an English -style meringue cake covered in 'Chinese gooseberries' and named after a Russian ballerina could only be a New Zealand invention!
Friday, June 20, 2008
This is one of the most distinctive trees that are all along the coast.The tree is endemic (of course) to Norfolk Island, a small island in the Pacific Ocean; NOT from Norfolk, England.
It is called a 'star pine', beccause of its shape.
There is one about 65 metres high in our park and at Christmas it's decorated with hundreds of lights and the choir and orchestra gather under it to sing Christmas carols! Sometimes we see an impossibly tall one with a traffic cone on the top - how did that get there? One of the things the 'youths' do here for fun!
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Amazing what technology can do nowadays - here we are, the one on the edge of the green stuff, that's our valley! The sea, as you can see is literally 5 minutes walk away, all downhill (we seem to like living on the top of hills)and the view from the balcony is of the bay, Cockle Bay. Our nearest 'town' is Howick, lots of little shops, cafes and bakeries, similar to a village at home..
Since we've just been to the movies to see Prince Caspian (it finally reached us!) I thought I'd do a blog on a popular cinema sweet here, called jaffas.
They are related to our jaffa cakes, in that they are orange-coated choc balls. They were first made in Sydney by Mr James S. Sweets ( I bet he knew what he wanted to be when he grew up!) You buy them in bags of hundreds and they have a soft chocolate centre and hard orange flavoured candy on the outside. Very yummy, often served with coffee in the trendier cafes.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
New Zealand always has something new for us to discover. I'm sure you've heard of sheep shearing? Well, here they have a place called 'The Shearing Shed' where white angora rabbits are sheared of all their fluff and it's made into the softest jumpers. The girls were fascinated. This is bunny before she got sheared! She then gets stretched out and 'purrs' while she's sheared ( or so they say) some noise like purring anyway..it's nearly as soft as possum fur!
Monday, June 16, 2008
In winter here there are some awesome sunsets, as you can see from the photo taken tonight.. The skies turn the colour of candy floss and then all the differents shades of colour appear, depending on how much cloud there is! In summer we tend to get purple and silver sunsets and the moon shines on the bay below, that's a different kind of stunning. We still think how lucky we are to live here and what a beautiful country it is! And we still want you all to come and visit us and enjoy it too!
I'm just coming to the end of my first cold in three years and sipping a concoction made from lemons grown in the garden and fresh wild ginger with local honey..so few germs out here! No wonder everyone looks so happy..
Sunday, June 15, 2008
We went to Mount Eden at the weekend, even though it was windy! In Maori it's called Maungawhau and is south of Auckland, it's the highest volcano cone in the city. It was named after George Eden who was the 1st Earl of Auckland (bit of history for you). The volcano is dormant now, and you can see the crater in the photo, just like a bowl. It's 50 metres deep and the summit 196 metres high! The views are fabulous, and remember, there are 50 volcanic cones here!A really safe feeling!!
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Winter here in New Zealand is basically like a mild autumn in the UK. The photo is at Cornwall Park under the ginko trees; all over the park the leaves are golden and russet, but they don't crunch under your feet, they're soft!
Our shortest day is June 21st, so this is us in the grip of winter. Tee Hee!
We are wearing jackets and scarves though, (because we've acclimatised) and at the match last night some folk were only wearing shorts and facepaint..
Went to the rugby last night - All Blacks vs England - lots of English flags and chanting, lots of black and white, and an electrifying haka.
The atmosphere was amazing, the photo is from our seats, right at the front of the action (even though it wasn't English action - an embarrassing 37 to 20!)
Supporters of different teams are mingled in the seats and there were two policemen.The girls joined in the Mexican wave which went five times round the stadium. The only disappointment was the score.
Got to get better lads!
Friday, June 13, 2008
Thought I'd do a post on special foods in New Zealand!
The chocolate fish, for those of you who don't know, is a "species" that is "indigenous" to New Zealand.
It is a fish-shaped confection,made of pink or white marshmallow covered in a thin layer of chocolate!They are delicious!
In NZ Chocolate fish are recognised as a "thank you", an apology, or a reward for a good idea...
They are a part of New Zealand culture to such an extent Kiwis have the expression, "Give that man a chocolate fish".
Bet you're all jealous now!
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Of the list of things we miss in New Zealand, Marmite is one of them ... and vegemite just doesn't do it for us.
My wonderful brother has sent us all sorts of different Marmite products, including Champagne Marmite, YUM! Unbelievable!
Besides missing Marmite we miss Thorntons Chocolates, Walkers Crisps, Hula Hoops, Chocolate fingers, Jellybabies, Birds Eye Custard, Quavers, & Cress - all foods!That's not to say we don't like fejoas and kumara!!
Thank you for the parcels of treats!
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Another event we've been to recently is the craft show in Auckland. We spent hours there looking at the jewellery, pottery, wines, jams, clothes, crafts and saw a really neat idea for using serviettes in a way you would never dream of!
We bought roasted garlic, chocolates, dessert wines, necklaces, craft making kits and came home all inspired!
The gollywogs were a surprise!
Monday, June 9, 2008
In New Zealand coffee making is an art! When we first arrived we tried to order filter coffees, but no luck.
You can have a tall black or a short black and a flat white.. It's not called 'The Land of the Long Flat White' for nothing.
They take their coffee very seriously here and it's good! So we headed for the Coffee Festival in Central Auckland and we weren't disappointed - all coffee is free of course, and the aroma, liqueurs, machines and competitions were all part of the fun.
Even the decaff tasted great!
Friday, June 6, 2008
The Chinese Lantern Festival is an annual event in Auckland, and has to be accompanied by all the different, delicious Chinese meals cooking at the stalls there! As it gets dark the lanterns glow all through the park, all different designs and colours. Quite a sight! It's to welcome the Chinese New Year, Year of the Rat this year... there are tea ceremonies, martial arts, crafts and fireworks.. It runs for three nights and is fun! We always try to eat something different, which isn't hard, and the crafts are exquisite. Last time we strayed into the huge tents for champagne and nibbles as well!
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Out West are the beaches where 'The Piano' and 'King Kong' were filmed. We lived out here in our first year and discovered some fabulous coastline! Piha is a surfers' paradise and has one of the most dangerous "rip tides" in New Zealand.
They even have a television programme here; 'Piha Rescue' and stage world class surfing competitions. Lion Rock is in the picture, quite a steep climb!
Lifeguards are very much in evidence and the waves are HUGE! The girls like to body board here and we walk to starfish bay, where they are purple and orange with twelve arms, clinging to the rocks when the tide goes out.
If you want foaming waves and miles of wild, rugged coastline and black sand - this is the place. One of my favourite haunts! I'm saving up to buy a bach there one day. Dream on!
Greg is very into his fishing, both off the boat and off the kayak. Caught the snapper in the picture & it was delicious! We both have fishing rods now and even fluorescent bait..
The next photo is of me holding the walu caught in Fiji ! We had marlin jumping out of the water at the bow of the boat.. And then the girls with the kingfish!
The waters are teeming and kite fishing is popular. We've even seen jetski boat fishing, and when shopping, if you buy lemon fish in the market, it means it's shark. The kiwis think that fish and chips is their national dish - the girls had a kiwiana list to do with food & fish & chips was on it!
Arataki is a centre in the Waitakeres with walks & waterfalls and miles of rainforest with giant ferns - like in dinosaur times!. It has spectacular carvings created by local Iwi (tribe). This is the girls next to an 11m high Pou (guardian post) at the entrance. The carvings represent ancestors of Te Kawerau a Maki and it is one of the largest pou of its kind in New Zealand.
Generally you wll find smaller ones on sacred sites and Maori lands, guarding the entrances, and on marae.
For those of you with raised eyebrows at the anatomical details, yes it is!
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Of course, no blog on NZ would be complete without one on the kiwi - is that the person, the fruit or the bird? We get confused!
We've seen lots of kiwis here,of all kinds, but the feathered kind always in zoos or reserves; there's still a battle on to kill the introduced predators that kill them & eat their eggs.
They are of course, flightless, about the size of a chicken and the country's national symbol ( along with the fern). There are five different kinds and they are all nocturnal.. now you've learned something!
We love them because they make the tiniest cheeping noise, run really fast and their feathers are the softest things!
Here in NZ postboxes are a way of expressing your personality! No rectangular slots in your front door, everyone has a postbox at the end of their drive - saves the postie time & effort! Anyway, there are some bizarre, some unusual, some beautiful.. this is one of the more 'interesting' ones we have seen on our travels! Can you spot the light for nightime? The top hat is where you put the letters, thankfully. We're trying to think what design we want for ours at the moment.. suggestions on a postcard please.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
Today we went rambling in one of the regional parks, Duder Park. About 40 minutes from where we live.Quite a steep climb through fields of sheep and cows. Jessica was telling us all about the 'pugging cows' - a new term for us to learn, in relation to Dairy farming here! Apparently it's what you call the trampling up of the field, that they do; it's pugging!
The picture shows where we climbed to, and 360 degree views of the ocean.
It was very peaceful for a Bank Holiday (Queen's Birthday) and warm for the equivalent of the middle of winter!
Then we headed home for finishing off homework and a log fire..