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Swimmming with the Wild Seals
Feb 16th, 2010 by Phoebe

Swimming with the WIld Seals

By Phoebe Wells

 

Frigid water crashes on the shore

Dark as a rain cloud

Thick as a misty day.

Monsterous waves rolling on top

of me crashing with foam.

 

Kelp clinging to the rock

Flowing like hair

Of a sea Medusa.

 

Rocks moody grey

Coated in bird droppings

Small shrubs cling on.

 

Seals glide through the water

Slick and smooth

Barking with joy

Graceful in the water

 

Just within reach

Happiness

But nervous as I look

Into their soulful eyes.

Our last major stop in NZ…..Ross
Feb 11th, 2010 by Jeff

Our last stop in New Zealand was definitely one of the best! We spent three days and two nights with a lovely couchsurfing host family just outside of Ross on the southwest coast of the lower island. Annie, Ted, Katie (13) and Jessica (9) – how perfect is that for a matching up with the Wells crew- took us in and showed us a great time. Even thought this part of the coast gets 250 days of rain a year, we brought good weather with us and had three straight days of glorious sunshine.

View down the beach at Annie and Ted's - not too shabby!

View down the beach at Annie and Ted's - not too shabby!

To really appreciate how well we had it with Annie and family, you need to understand their setup. They have this gorgeous house on 200 acres of land right up on the beach, with a wetlands preserve to the south and a river to the north that empties into the ocean.  On the farm they have cattle, horses, sheep, a pig, four dogs, and six cats (I think – we didn’t see the cats much). Needless to say the girls, especially Phoebe, were in heaven. They also have all the fun toys and things that go along with the farm: trampoline, kayaks, canoes, gold panning equipment and river rafts.

Some of the animals

Some of the animals

When we arrived at the home in the afternoon, Ted and the girls just happened to drive in right behind us. They warmly welcomed us into their home, gave us cold drinks and let us get a little settled. Once Annie got in from her work (she is a nurse) we ventured to the beach with kayaks, boogie boards and kids in the back of the pickup and the dogs running eagerly along as we drove down the access road. We made our way to the water. The kids, Ted and I traversed a little stream (that gets dammed up between rain storms) on the kayaks and boogie boards while Kate and Annie walked around to get to the ocean. The kids spent the evening swimming in the creek, while the adults walked the beach and collected stuff (needless to say, Kate has sent another box of rocks home to AZ). We also made plans for the next day. We ended our first evening, with a delicious late night dinner of pasta Bolognese a la Annie, and wonderful conversations late into the night.

Tessa, Jessica (left) and Katie (right) in the back of the truck ready for the beach ride

Tessa, Jessica (left) and Katie (right) in the back of the truck ready for the beach ride

Everyone, but Ted – who had to work, slept in the next morning. After my girls helped Katie and Jess move the calves from one paddock to another, Annie, her girls, Phoebe, and I went off for a haircut, leaving Tessa and Kate to fight over the computer (a good internet connection in New Zealand will do that to you). When we got back it was time to head back to the beach. The second day was much like the first evening, but with a few extra adventures.

First of all, we decided we needed to try a New Zealand specialty – mussels fresh from the ocean and cooked on the beach! We planned another walk to coincide with low tide and then found a rock covered in mussels. We picked two large grocery bags full, and brought them back to our beach site where we started a small fire. The kids and I all experimented with the best way to get the mussels in to the fire and cooked, while adding the least amount of sand to our meal. At first we just set the shells in the fire, which worked but added quite a bit of sand to the meal. We then placed them on large rocks we had set in the fire, which worked a little better. Actually, this amounted to the dogs getting a meal of fresh mussels, as none of the people wanting the extra grit with their meal. Finally Ted and the girls decided to use the shovel from the truck as a pan they could hold while the mussels cooked. This worked quite well (they even put water in the shovel to aid the steaming process). Tessa happily devoured a number of the mussels – looking somewhat like a Neanderthal, crouched over, pulling them apart with her hands and munching away. “It’s kind of like seafood gum!” she happily exclaimed.

Dogs waiting for Tessa to discard mussel remains - they went hungry!

Dogs waiting for Tessa to discard mussel remains - they went hungry!

While the girls were using the shovel, I decided to be a survival purist and wanted to only use items found on the beach for my portion of the meal, using a forked stick from the beach I continued to cook my few pieces on the hot rocks and was able to get a few cooked and eaten (but to be honest I think Ted and girls food was cooked better and less sandy).

Getting back to our beach walk that evening, after pulling the mussels from the rocks, we continued on down the beach towards an area that often has seals basking in the sun. We were not disappointed, as the dogs flushed a large male out of the rocks and into the ocean. They never really got close to him, so none of the animals were ever in any peril. On the way back to our beach sight, with mussels in hand, we then spotted dolphins playing in the waves. This was my cue to get back and get in the kayak!

I ventured out in the kayak to try and catch a glimpse of the dolphins and try to ride a small wave or two. The dolphins shot past me once while I was out in the surf. However they did not stick around while I paddled in the water. I did catch a wave or two (after being dumped two or three times – in my defense the kayaks didn’t have a fin and weren’t really set up for catching waves).

Getting across the "dammed" creek

Getting across the "dammed" creek

After the beach we headed back to the house for a proper dinner. While the mussels were a good appetizer, we really saved the vast majority of the mussels for dinner later that evening. We steamed two large pots of them. I made a white wine and garlic sauce and a coconut curry sauce, which were both quite tasty if I do say so myself. Ted also cooked up some fine sausages and no one left the table with any room, as Annie had also made a cheesecake dessert.

The following morning we got our things packed for the next part of our travels before the girls went off with Kate to ride the horses on the beach. From what I hear, Tessa was taken on more of ride by the horse, then actually directing the horse on where to go! But I’ll let Tessa tell that tale. While the girls were riding, Ted and I went off to see if we could find some gold near the creek. I am happy to report that we were successful. The tiny flake I found would probably only buy me a stick of gum- if that, but I’m sure Pappy would have be proud of me anyway!

Phoebe and Jess taking a ride on Gypsie

Phoebe and Jess taking a ride on Gypsie

It was with much sadness that we left that afternoon, in order to get back to Christchurch to start our journey towards Thailand. Ted and Annie said if we stayed longer and the weather held out we could all go rafting. (Ted is a conservation officer and oversees the area he lives in. He knows all the good areas to trek through). Unfortunately we had already purchased our onward tickets, or it would not have been hard to convince us to stay awhile longer. We hope that one day we might get back to NZ to take them up on their offer, or maybe they will head our way and we can return the hospitality they showed us. We would love to share Arizona with them.

We ROCKED Fox!
Feb 9th, 2010 by Kate
Franz Joseph Glacier from afar
Franz Joseph Glacier from afar
Fox Glacier from afar - the part on the left is where we hiked, but you can see it actually "flows" down the mountain from another area before heading westward - massive!

Fox Glacier from the car park - the part on middle right is where we hiked, but you can see it actually "flows" down the mountain from another area before heading westward - massive!

The west coast of New Zealand is absolutely beautiful.  Rough, wild, and very wet.   The coast quickly gives way to mountains, and then really big mountains, in a relatively small amount of space.  It is a temperate rain forest – meaning it rains a TON.  I’m talking rain 290 days a year, with 3 meters (9 feet!) of rain on the coast, and up to 9 meters (27 feet!) of snow up on the highest peaks.  The storms brew over in Australia, and then gain liquid and speed as they head towards NZ.  The mountains are so tall they form a giant wall and the storms just let loose – creating the most bizarre mix of fern filled jungle and massive ice glaciers. 

The glacier field is enormous, and during the last ice age the Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers actually jutted out past the coast up to 3 km into the sea!  The paths they cut down to the sea are now mostly beautiful canyons, but drive up just a few kilometers from the beach and you reach the “terminal face” of the massive, living, moving mountains of ice.  

We saw some totally amazing glaciers in the Canadian Rockies too – but only one was really accessible to us non-mountain climbers.  You had to pay a ton of money to take a very strange mega-bus onto the glacier and then get out and walk around with, oh, about 300 other tourists in a very small area.  Not really our cup of tea, plus it was out of our budget.

Now the Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers were totally a different story.  Both of the glaciers were climbable with guides, and since we totally blew our budget in New Zealand anyway, we figured what the heck (and as Tessa added, with global warming and all – when might we get the chance again…?).  So we called up one of the local outfitters, hired ourselves an experienced guide, and headed up Fox glacier!

The hike towards the terminal face of the glacier wasn’t bad at all, a nice wide and flat hike.  BTW the terminal face is the part that you see from below the glacier – like the front of the train coming down the mountain.  The terminal face is one of the most dangerous parts of the glacier as it is crashing forward and being dragged under itself all the time.  It is also one of the most impressive parts of the glacier to see, as even from a safe distance you are looking up at a piece of ice that is as tall as a 50 story building – but its solid ice!

This is about 1/5th of the terminal face of Fox Glacier.  Look in the lower left side of the photo and you can see a bit of greenery and some dark spots - those are people that area standing about 300 feet back from the face.  The dark hole on the lower right is a cave with a river running out of it, you could drive 2-3 tractor trailer truck through that cave at the same time!

This is about 1/5th of the terminal face of Fox Glacier. Look in the lower left side of the photo and you can see a bit of greenery and some dark spots - those are people that are standing about 300 feet back from the face. The dark hole on the lower right is an ice cave with a river running out of it, you could drive 2-3 tractor trailer truck through that cave at the same time!

Oh but then we had to hike UP the mountain next to the glacier so we could get up along side of the glacier away from the terminal face – and that hike just about kicked our butts!  It was quite an advanced trail, there were ladders at some points because it was so steep – and our legs were like serious jelly by the time we got to the ice. 

We hiked up and over the mountain along side of the glacier ot get to a point where we could get on the ice.  We're about 400 feet above the 500 foot glacier at this point!

We hiked up and over the mountain along side of the glacier ot get to a point where we could get on the ice. We're about 400 feet above the 500 foot glacier at this point!

We put on our “cramp ons” and then followed our guide Melisa to the glacier’s edge.  To tell you the truth – the edge of the glacier where it grinds the begebbers out of the mountain rock didn’t really look much safer to me than the terminal face.  There was a “rock” the sized of the Children’s Museum building being dragged along the top and side of the glacier.  I am sorry, but a rock that big is not a rock – it is a mountain itself!  But truthfully, the glacier was so big that it looked like a rock – which is freaky.

This is where we climbed on to the glacier - can you see the tiny black dot in the middle - that is our glacier scout!

This is where we climbed on to the glacier - can you see the tiny black dot in the far upper left corner - that is our glacier scout!

 fox ktp

Earlier in the day, ahead of the guides, the outfitter sends up some glacier scouts to access the conditions on the ice and cut some paths in the ice for us to follow so we stay on the most “solid” ice.  I put that in quotations because not a whole lot of it seemed very solid.  And where it did feel solid, it was as often as not just a few feet away from a huge crevasse or a Moulin (a hole then funnel created by the melting ice). 

This is a "moulin".  We threw chunks of ice down it and never heard them hit the bottom... see Jeff's boot for scale - they can be as small as a tin can or large enough for a car to fall in...

This is a "moulin". We threw chunks of ice down it and never heard them hit the bottom... see Jeff's boot for scale - they can be as small as a tin can or large enough for a car to fall in...

The big pieces of ice behind Tessa were about 30 feet high and really looked like GIANT waves about to crash.  The dark areas in between the waves led to the abyss...

The big pieces of ice behind Tessa were about 30 feet high and really looked like GIANT waves about to crash. The dark areas in between the waves led to the abyss...

You could hear huge crashing sounds coming from deep below the ice, and our guide said that you can see the difference in the ice (and the cracks and moulins) on an hourly basis sometimes.  It was amazing and awesome and scary and totally cool all at the same time.  The terrain was SO foreign and massive – I really felt like I was on an alien planet.  The compacted ice creates formations in shades of white to turquoise blue, something I was surprised to see.  It was by far one of the most different things I have ever done, and like being in the ocean, it really humbles you to the power of Mother Nature.

Thank goodness Tess had on her trusty legwarmers - they were the perfect ice trekking accessory!

Thank goodness Tess had on her trusty legwarmers - they were the perfect ice trekking accessory!

 

fox fam on glac

fox family big glac

Goodbye to Olivia!
Feb 9th, 2010 by Kate

qt bye liv

We sadly bid farewell to Olivia in Queenstown after 3 amazing weeks with her!  What a great travel companion she was – fun, easy going, open minded and happy to give anything a go!  It couldn’t have been easy… the four of us spend 24/7 together, we all have our “ways”, and probably seem to the outside world like a traveling sideshow.  I wasn’t sure how Olivia would fit in to the days and nights of couchsurfing, binge reading, random meal eating, adrenaline seeking, aimless driving, giant backpack stuffing, laundry-in-a-sink and occasional bickering that naturally go along with schlepping around the world.  She was in fact an AMAZING travel companion – and our only regret is that she had to go back to school when she should really be heading off to Thailand with us! 

So thanks to Dad and Bo for sending her, and Olivia darling – we miss you and we hope you’ll catch up with us wherever we are for your spring break!

Middle Earth (aka Milford Sound)
Feb 6th, 2010 by Kate
The road to Milford Sound - we're pretty sure this shot was in the first Lord of the Rings movie

The road to Milford Sound - we're pretty sure this shot was in the first Lord of the Rings movie

The five of us have decided that New Zealand doesn’t look how we expected it to look.  All of us had visions of “The Middle Earth” (Lord of the Rings, duh!), and for 3 of our 4 weeks here, pretty much all we saw were lots of grassy rolling hills, with an occasional large swath of very evenly planted forest hillside.  Where oh where were the giant moody mountains covered in mist and the lush green forests?

Seems that back when the Maori people came here from the other islands, the only thing that had to hunt here were these big birds called Moa.  And it seems the easiest way to “hunt” them was to burn the forest around them.  So they burned, and they burned, until many of the mountainsides, and all of the lowland, were pretty much barren (and the Moa totally extinct).  Then the Europeans came over and logged whatever hadn’t already been burned.  So most, and I mean MOST of New Zealand looks like rolling pastureland.

Baa...

Baa...

Perfect for sheep.  And cows.  Did I mention yet in our blog that there are about 4 million people in NZ and 40 million sheep!  And that number is down from an all time high of 60 million – as many many farmers are changing over to cattle as their livestock of choice.

Thankfully, some of the milk from these happy cows stay here to make cheese, but the vast majority of it is made into milk powder for the Chinese market.  Very interesting…

So imagine our happiness when we drove from Queenstown to Milford Sound – and found our Middle Earth!!!  Great mountains, low lying clouds that shrouded the peaks and filled the valleys, forest floors carpeted with lichen and bursting with giant ferns, and soaring Dr. Seuss-like trees dripping with fog and moss.  Phoebe said 100 times in 2 days – oh yes, this is totally Org country.

Milford Sound as the mist moved in... if you look closely at the rocks on the right, the dark spot on the upper rock is a one month old seal baby - boy can they climb!

Milford Sound as the mist moved in... if you look closely at the rocks on the right, the dark spot on the upper rock is a one month old seal baby - boy can they climb!

Milford Sound isn’t actually a sound (sounds are created by rivers) it is a Fjord (which are created by glaciers).  During the last ice age a big boy glacier cut right through the granite on its way down to the ocean and left one of the most picturesque waterways in the world.  The only way to really experience the sound is to take a cruise on it, so we handed over our Master Card and selected the upgraded “Eco Tour” with the promise of an upclose and personal trip down the Fjord.  We weren’t disappointed!

                                      mil all 5 on boat

It was one of only a handful of days we haven’t had great weather, but it rains 290 days a year in the sound (and gets over 7 meters of rain!) so our expectations for sun were low to begin with.  Actually, a few people had suggested we get to the Sound as early as possible to avoid the tour buses, and we were on the first boat out in the morning – which turned out extra good as the weather got worse as the day went on.

Aside from the sheer walls of the fjord that are as tall in the air as they are under the water, the most impressive parts of the sound are the zillions of waterfall EVERYWHERE.  Some are always flowing, but most are dependant on the rainfall – and when it started to rain, they started to flow.  It was amazing.

After 15 minutes of rain, the waterfall came out of EVERYWHERE!  Sorry about the dots on the pic - rain drops!

After 15 minutes of rain, the waterfall came out of EVERYWHERE! Sorry about the dots on the pic - rain drops!

Queenstown!
Jan 31st, 2010 by Kate
On to Queenstown!
Lake Takapo

Lake Takapo

We headed across the middle of the South Island to Queenstown.  On the way we spent an night at one of the glacier fed lakes – Lake Takapo (yes Jack, it is indeed pronounced take-a-poo ! ).  It was the most amazing color blue EVER!  The blue color is created by “glacier dust” which is rocks that are ground by the movement of glaciers, and then washed down the many waterfalls and streams.  When it finally settles, the “flour” that is suspended in the water reflects or refracts the light (or something like that) and makes the lake look freaky blue. 

Queenstown and lake from high above on the gondola

Queenstown and lake from high above on the gondola

 Queenstown is known as the world capital of adventure sports.  It totally is!  We drove into town, and everywhere you look, there are people hurdling themselves in harm’s way.  Literally, paragliders, hang gliders, bungie jumpers, zip liners, white water rafters, sky divers- you could not look up into the sky without seeing someone!

Phoebe zipping through the trees!

Phoebe zipping through the trees!

Tess already posted on their sky diving adventures, and while not quite as high off terra firma, Phoebe and I had a blast zip lining high above the trees high above the town.  We also had a great time with our couchsurfing hosts Trish and her great son Lucas in their stunning home overlooking the lake.

The view from our couchsurfing host Trish's beautiful home - couchsurfing rocks!

The view from our couchsurfing host Trish's beautiful home - couchsurfing rocks!

It was such a fun town with lots of great places to eat, shop, party (Olivia, you can write a guest blog about the night and morning life!) and take risks that don’t seem like that big of a deal when everyone else is “just doing it”!

Fergburger - a Queenstown institution - gotta have one, or two, or four!

Fergburger - a Queenstown institution - gotta have one, or two, or four!And we love Ferg!Olivia had to leave us in QT and go back to school - we miss you LIV!

Akoroa – ooh la la!
Jan 30th, 2010 by Kate
The drive in to Akoroa

The drive in to Akoroa

Further south along the coast, past Christchurch is a beautiful town on a beautiful bay called Akoroa.  Oddly enough, this town was settled by the French, and it has a deliciously French feel to it – cute houses, great gardens, a proper cheese shop, and they even fly the French flag!

                                                            AK girls at harbor

                                                                AK house

We all enjoyed our few days here, would have stayed longer but it was being invaded by musicians coming for a music festival (there were no rooms left in town for anyone to stay for the festival – the musicians took them all up!).

Tess and Jeff braved the bay so Tess could satisfy her need to sail, it was Jeff’s first time sailing and I think he enjoyed himself in spite of spending a bit more time IN the water than on the boat. 

Jeff and Tessa after their day on the water - they each had their own boat to captain

Jeff and Tessa after their day on the water - they each had their own boat to captain

                                                   AK Tessa post sail

If you are ever in NZ, this is a great little town to spend some down time in – small and quaint but with just enough to do…

“Look at the sea lion, this must be where he lives” (sung to the opening tune of the National Geographic TV show)
Jan 30th, 2010 by Kate

We bid farewell to the Castle/McLean clan and boarded the ferry to Wellington.  All the other times we have taken ferries it’s just been us, but this time we got to drive our car onto it.  Cool.

Driving onto the ferry - it carried about 50 cars and about a dozen big trucks.  After you park, you go up on deck and hang out in the bar - they had the Cardinal's game on!

Driving onto the ferry - it carried about 50 cars and about a dozen big trucks. After you park, you go up on deck and hang out in the bar - they had the Cardinal's game on!

The trip over wasn’t rough really, but the waves were large and rolling and we all felt a little green.  We shared our motion sickness pills with some Americans who were cycling the entire length of New Zealand in preparation for the Iron Man Triatholon in Hawaii.  One of the guys was an ER doc from Scottsdale Osborn – funny small world.  I can’t remember his name exactly but it said it rhymed with Bethleham… anyway…

Olivia & Phoebe sleeping off their motion sickness pill in the back of our luxurious "Sunny Salon" economy car.  This is how we traveled for the whole month - jammed in this tiny car - we looked clowns getting out of it!

Olivia & Phoebe sleeping off their motion sickness pill in the back of our luxurious "Sunny Salon" economy car. This is how we traveled for the whole month - jammed in this tiny car - we looked clowns getting out of it!

Phoebe "hiking" in Kiakoura

Phoebe "hiking" in Kiakoura

We are on a hike on the point outside of Kiakoura.  The bluff we are on is about 300 feet above the water in a pasture with sheep and there is quite a shear cliff behind us - good thing sheep aren't like lemming!

We are on a hike on the point outside of Kiakoura. The bluff we are on is about 300 feet above the water in a pasture with sheep and there is quite a shear cliff behind us - good thing sheep aren't like lemming!

Our plan was to head from the port up in Picton on the northern tip of the south island down along the east coast.  Our first stop was Kiakoura, a city known for its whales, dolphins, and seals. 

We weren’t disappointed.  As we headed along the main road (one of only 2 roads heading south on the ENTIRE island – and it is like a 2 lane country road – I am not kidding) we saw a huge colony of seals right on the beach!  We got out and were able to get pretty close while still respecting their space.  There were a ton of baby seals too, and we spent quite a while watching them.  Totally cool.

This is the coastline driving south along the eastern side of the island - all the sand is black! Totally beautiful!

This is the coastline driving south along the eastern side of the island - all the sand is black! Totally beautiful!

Our first seal spotting!

Our first seal spotting!

After checking out all of our “animal sighting options” in Kiakoura, we decided to actually go swimming with the seals out in the ocean off of a sea mammal and ocean bird preserve.  Phoebe is currently working on a poem about our swim with the seals, and the photos are still in the underwater camera that we bought for the occasion, but let me just say that the water was 51 degrees, we had to wear 2-3 wetsuits and hoodies each, and the preserve was a good mile off the coast in deep grey (freaky) water with massive (the world’s largest) spaghetti-like kelp.  BUT, it was like TOTALLY BEING IN A NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MOVIE!

Not our National Geo swim with the seals, but it was still fun to poise with this sleeping lump of cuteness!

Not our National Geo swim with the seals, but it was still fun to poise with this sleeping lump of cuteness!

Cricket is NOT, I repeat NOT the game that Harry Potter plays…
Jan 30th, 2010 by Kate
Olivia & Phoebe with Cricket field in background

Olivia & Phoebe with Cricket field in background

Don’t feel bad, we didn’t know a thing about Cricket either. 

Actually, we were worse off than knowing nothing – Tessa and Phoebe’s friends in Australia from the campground “taught” them to play Cricket but what they learned seemed to combine the finer points of Cricket and RUGBY into one insane game… so the girls very authoritatively “explained” the game to us, and, silly us, we believed them.  Their version involved “pegging” the ball at the runners and also trying to trip them.  They said although it looked civilized, and they wore cute outfits, it was really rather violent.  Hum.

We were SO psyched to hear about a 20/20 match being played in Wellington – local sporting events count as “cultural experiences” because our definition of homeschooling has become quite broad.  Plus, we were curious about this crazy sounding game that seems to capture the imaginations of people from each and every country that used to be a British Colony.  So on an unusually nice day (we bring good weather with us!) we made our way to the playing field for a match pitting the hometown team the Wellington Phoenix’s (we took that as some kind of sign) against Auckland. 

A few our new "Cricky" friends!

A few our new "Cricky" friends!

Tickets were cheap out on the grassy hill, there were “American hotdogs” (they call corn dogs “hotdogs”), and there was beer a-plenty.  All the makings of a great afternoon of “Criky”.

It was packed, with very little room left on the grassy hill, so we cruised around looking for a place big enough for 5.  We also wanted to sit in the fun section if possible.  We climbed up through the crowds and Jeff found us a small patch of grass – right next to the MOST drunk guys in the entire country of New Zealand.  Oh, yes, this was the fun section all righty!

Just like at baseball games, they give you free stuff when you are one of the first 100 people through the gates - well we weren't even close to being in the first 100, but our new friends were!  They all signed the hat (Olivia even got a few phone numbers!) and now Jeff totally fits in to the Cricket watching crowd...

Just like at baseball games, they give you free stuff when you are one of the first 100 people through the gates - well we weren't even close to being in the first 100, but our new friends were! They all signed the hat (Olivia even got a few phone numbers!) and now Jeff totally fits in to the Cricket watching crowd...

The Cricket match was a blast.  Thankfully, among our very drunk friends was actually a professional Cricket player from one of the other teams just out with his buddies.  He explained how Cricket is REALLY played, and now we are Cricketophiles.  FYI – the game does NOT include pegging and tripping, much to Tessa’s dismay.  We even did our best to get the wave started, but alas the Kiwi’s didn’t really get it. 

The Phoenix' are Number 1 !!!

The Phoenix' are Number 1 !!!

Sadly, the Wellington Phoenix’s lost to Auckland that day, but for our first foray into Phoenix Wells’ were BIG winners!

Oh no, they lost... we're Number 2 !!!

Oh no, they lost... we're Number 2 !!!

Peace out...

Peace out...

Pavlova – YUM!
Jan 25th, 2010 by Kate
There are many many tasty foods here in NZ.  To start, ALL the land animals that we eat here are eating what they were meant to eat – cows and sheep grazing on real grass while walking around pretty green pastures.  Not a feed lot anywhere.  The meat and cheese REALLY do taste different, and better.  And I should know – as I have made it a really bad habit of buying a round of “local” cheese just about every evening.  Needless to say, I will be dieting next month in Thailand.  To make matters even worse, they do fish and chips here that are SO light and crispy and perfect!  WAY better than in England!   And the steamed mussels are meals fit for a  king.  ANd don’t get me started on the fresh fruit ice cream stands that dot the countryside – if you’ve never had fresh kiwi ice cream you haven’t lived.

So imagine our surprise when we couldn’t find New Zealand’s official national dessert – Pavlova!  For our first 12 days in OZ we checked every menu we came across with no luck.  We had Pavlova made for us by a Kiwi couchsurfer in Phoenix last year, and Australian’s all over make it a point to let you know that Pavlova was REALLY invited by them – but we are going to give credit to the Kiwi’s for inventing it, as we always root for the underdog.

Olivia & Tessa overlooking the Wellington and the Bay

Olivia & Tessa overlooking Wellington and the Bay

Our quest for Pavlova brought us to Wellington – New Zealand’s capital (I am ashamed to say I didn’t know it was NZ’s capital until we were on our way here!) and a really cool city on the southern end of the Northern Island.  Wellington is yet another city on the water, has a great “walking” downtown with lots of cool shops and resturants, and a couple really cool museums. 

City Gallery Wellington - covered in dots for the Yayoi Kusama exhibit!

City Gallery Wellington - covered in dots for the Yayoi Kusama exhibit!

 

In one of the Kusama instillations - Kusama is from Japan and came to America in the 60's where she was a contempory of Andy Warhol's.  She has always been obsessed with dots, and has made quite a name for herselft in the dot (and art) world.  She is still alive, but suffers from pretty significant mental health issues that she blames on the dots.  While I'm making all this "dot" stuff sound really flipant - her work is really good and Olivia, Tessa and I totally enjoyed the exhibition!

In one of the Kusama instillations - Kusama is from Japan and came to America in the 60's where she was a contempory of Andy Warhol's. She has always been obsessed with dots, and has made quite a name for herself in the dot (and art) world. She is still alive, but suffers from pretty significant mental health issues that she blames on the dots. While I'm making all this "dot" stuff sound really flipant - her work is really good and Olivia, Tessa and I totally enjoyed the exhibition!More dots - but in the form of lights this time. The Phoenix Art Museum has an exhibit very much like this (I actually like PAM's better) called "Fireflies" (I think!). I'm not sure who the artist is - maybe it is Kasuma - but if you are in Phx you should go check it out, it's really cool and Tessa & Phoebe's favorite exhibit at PAM.

But what really made our time in Wellington great was meeting back up with our friends Diana, James, Theo, Iris and our main little man Bruno!

Our friends the McLean/Castles.  We met them back when we were in Hanoi, Vietnam at our favorite cafe and spent Halloween with them celebrating with ice cream.  They generously took the five us in when we visited Wellington - and we had a blast with them!

Our friends the McLean/Castles. We met them back when we were in Hanoi, Vietnam at our favorite cafe and spent Halloween with them celebrating with ice cream. They generously took the five us in when we visited Wellington - and we had a blast with them!

Phoebe & Bruno in the tree (photo courtesy of Iris)

Phoebe & Bruno in the tree (photo courtesy of Iris)

7am Twister anyone?  "Kids in New Zealand are just like kids in the US but they talk funny" says Phoebe.

7am Twister anyone? "Kids in New Zealand are just like kids in the US but they talk funny" says Phoebe.

The McLean/Castle crew totally spoiled us – we ate, drank, played (Phoebe spent about 10 hours a day on their trampoline and in their tree house with Theo, Iris and Bruno), and Diana did her best to totally fatten us up with her amazing baking EVERY day!   We woke up to the smell of fresh muffins, then munched on no fewer than 3 different kinds of amazing cookies throughout the days (I will be adding a few of these cookie recipes to my Christmas cookie repotorie!).  We causually mentioned to her on the morning of our last day there that we’d yet to find Pavlova – and when we returned that afternoon from museuming – there it was – the Pavlova of my dreams!

pavlova

Pavlova

(recipe from Edmond’s Cookbook – perfected by our friend Diana)

 

For Meringue:

4 egg whites

1 ¼ cups fine sugar

1 tsp white vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbs corn starch

 

For Topping:

Kiwi fruit, peeled and sliced (traditional Kiwi way to eat it!)

Strawberries, blueberries, or other assorted berries

 

Fresh Whipped Cream:

1 pint heavy whipping cream

2 tbs powdered sugar (frosting sugar)

1 tsp vanilla extract

 Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).  Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and sugar for 10 minutes on high until thick & glossy.  In a separate bowl, combine vinegar, vanilla, and corn starch.  Add to egg mixture & beat for an additional 5 minutes.

 Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Using a pencil, trace a dinner plate or a 9 inch round cake pan onto the parchment paper.  Spread the mixture to within ½ inch of the edge of the circle, keeping the shape as round and even as possible.  Smooth the top.  Put Pavlova in the oven, and turn temperature down to 210°F (100°C).  Bake Pavlova for one hour.  Turn off oven & open door slightly, leaving the Pavlova in the oven until it is cool.  Carefully transfer onto serving plate.

 Combine heavy cream and powdered sugar with 1 tsp vanilla extract in an electric mixer.  Beat until fluffy and peaks form.

 Fill top of Pavlova shell with whipped cream (the middle of the shell may cave in) and decorate with fresh fruit. 

 YUM!

 

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