chilling feet

chilling feet

Sunday, December 15, 2013

This Year's Christmas Card: Merry Christmas

            Merry Christmas!!         

(Sarah found these super perfect NZ Christmas ornaments - pretty
much the only thing we purchased to make this tree happen.  They give
our tree a homely feel as our NZ roots deepen.)

Well in the effort to save a little money in postage, we are doing a Merry Christmas blog post this year. It will not feel the same in your hands and you will not get that same fuzzy feeling from getting a card addressed specifically to your or yours, but we hope you still feel our love being sent your way!

We have tried to take a few fun pics from our Christmas tree to add some festivity.  Our tree/branch, stump, and most ornaments were found out in parks while on our walks (no worries, all kosher, we think). No making fun of our tree!

(Yes our tree is just a little bit scraggly but that's
OK by us.  We are loving "Frederick" just the
same.  I named him that and he loves it.)
(Sarah loves finding Paua shells and they are a huge NZ
deal.  People make jewelry and all other sorts of pretty
things out of them.  The Maori have always used them
to decorate their statues among other things. They have
a very distinct look to them!)

(Our garland and rings were made courtesy of Sarah's mad magazine recycling skills.)
(Google has a new auto awesome that tweaks your photos.  It just happened to put the sparkles to this shot of the tree, almost creating the same affect as Christmas lights!  Cool.)
(We discovered this amazing piece of a tree that had been cut almost all of the way through.  We managed to get this bad boy home - very heavy - and then I used it to make one of the sweetest tree stands I have ever seen. Seriously, can you show me a cooler one?  The extra pine needles are hiding the water bowl.  Is it growing out of the floor?)
(Up close Paua Shell and you can see our homemade snowflake in this pic as well.)
(We have talked about Tui birds and these Tui birds are used to decorate the Tui brewing company.  We needed some more shiny on the tree and Sarah was not about to let these go to waste - probably have our time living with the Johnson family in Norfolk for this sort of thinking.)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

New Zealand is Better with Miriam and Gordon!!

(Yes we look silly but we could not resist taking a pic
in this chair carved right out of a tree.  This bad boy is
just sitting right on a trail.  Not only is it quite a nice
rest option, but it also provides entertainment!)
If you have read our previous posts you already know that Queenstown is a magical place, but now it holds for us an even more special allure.

For just over a month and a few days now, Miriam (Sarah's sister) and Gordon (her most handsome man friend) have been living in Queenstown, NZ and we have been unable to go see them!  It has been quite unusual to have family living here in the same country (and only two hours away) and combining that knowledge with the fact that we have yet to see them - strange indeed!

Well no longer!  Sarah had four days off from work so we packed up some gear and headed up to see our beloved Miriam and Gordon (and it was about time too).  And they have done a great job at settling into the community there, making friends, getting jobs, and investigating much of the mountain trails this area has to offer.  No sooner than we had arrived, we threw on our walking attire and headed up a mountain Miriam had chosen for our first hike together.  So much fun!

It is an absolute pleasure to see people you love and like, but to also do things that you love with those same people is a true blessing.  Our days with Miriam and Gordon were spent traversing amazing trails in the beautiful mountains surrounding
(For our first hike Miriam and Gordon took it easy on us but it still
pretty much kicked our butts - literally.  We were pretty sore from the
hike.  But how can you complain with views like this?)
Qtown, tasting some of the best wines NZ has to offer (everyone calm down - even Jesus drank wine and if for some reason you don't think so it's because you're reading your Bible wrong - see we can laugh), eating at some very fine establishments, listening to amazing music, and having some much needed conversation with our friends.  We cannot really find the words to describe how truly wonderful it was to see Miriam and Gordon and spend this time with them.  Not long after we had decided to move to NZ, Miriam called Sarah and asked if we minded her "crashing our adventure."  We laughed, not only because we have no rights to this truly amazing place, but because (as the blog title suggests) we love love love the idea of family and/or friends being here with us (and we like Miriam more than most...and Gordon, but don't tell them as it might go to their heads).
(These two really love one another.  Sarah is always so much happier
when we are around Miriam.  I am not sure if Miriam knows just how
much she is loved by her big sister.  I suppose it's hard to see b/c she
cannot see a Miriam-less version of her sister!)

Such a fun four days!  As usual we will show most of our adventure in photos because they speak so loudly. I will add some captions to each photo to explain where we were and what we were doing, as most of them have stories worth an entire blog post... but seriously who is going to read them!  Ha. And this is very few of the photos taken.  We hope you enjoy looking through them even 1/4 as much as we enjoyed taking them. If you click on one of the photos it should enlarge the shot and then allow you to scroll through one at a time if you should so desire. Happy day from NZ everyone!!
(While near such wonderful mountains I was able to steal away for a few runs with my new friend Ben - a co-worker of Sarah's who loves to run mountains and such.  He came and stayed with us while we were in Qtown.  Ben took me on some crazy runs - you can hear more about that by clicking anywhere on these words and it will take you to another blog my brother and I write about our running called - Baddrunners.  Get it?  Pretty awesome views though.  This is us running up Ben Lomond, the highest peak nearby.  Miriam and Gordon summited this peak a few weeks ago - it's tough.  Good on them!)
(Taken by Ben during our run, I'm finally learning how to use some of the amazing qualities our camera has!  Be on the look out for some stellar shots in the future thanks to some of the teaching Ben is giving me.  He fortunately has the very same camera.)

(It is staying light now until around about 10pm in NZ.  In Qtown this offers some amazing views as the sun starts heading behind some mountains.  Sarah was taking some great shots of the landscape this weekend and this is one of them)
(I am sorry Miriam that I did not have a better pic of this occasion but thems the breaks.  We went to have some dessert at Miriam's restaurant Sasso - well she does not own it but she does work there.  It's quite nice but the help is really the best part!  If you're in Queenstown head by Sasso and ask for Miriam.)
(The area around Qtown is riddled with some quite tasty wineries that should not be missed when in the area.  The people were knowledgable, clearly loved making and being around wine, and the wine itself was superb.  Having lived in VA for a few years and spent plenty of time investigating the wineries of that great state, Sarah and I were both very happy with what NZ has to offer in the way of wines!)
(I warned you that I would be trying to get fancy with our camera.  One winery we visited focused on making "the bubbly" or sparkling wine - can't call it champagne because of the French rules.  But we learned a lot about the process of making the bubbly that we did not know.  Quite informative.  These bottles, and there were many, have to be turned by hand one quarter turn twice a day for the process to work.  Wow.  I still prefer no bubbles but Sarah likes the bubbly.)
(We visited Cromwell while seeking out various wineries.  It was a pretty little town with a fantastic pizzeria where we ate lunch.  And then there is Old Cromwell which has been maintained to look like it did when first settled - pretty cool.  This shot is taken on the water down by Old Cromwell.  I love shots like this of Sarah and me.  I still have no idea how a clown like me is holding a princess like her, but I'm not letting go!)
(Old Cromwell at a shot - the horse is not real.  It really was pretty neat seeing this place as it might have looked back in the day.  Sarah and I might just have to come back and give Old Cromwell one more looking over when we have time.)
(Well Farmer Gordon has cashed in his crops and is ready to drive in off the land for the day but Lady Miriam has halted his progress by jumping on his tractor... sorry, couldn't come up with anything good there.  A winery with a tractor, so we had to take a photo or two.)
(This grill you see before you is for anyone's use - pretty cool public option.  While we were taking advantage of said grill, this visiting family came up and were enamored by our goings ons, so much so they began taking photos of it. Well we were pretty excited, as you can see, by their excitement and had to document the whole ordeal with some photo taking of our own.  The lamb burgers Gordon cooked came out quite delicious, as did our times with our friends pictured here!)
(Taken right off of the banks where we were grilling, we had a mesmerizing view for our dinner.  With all of this going on our friends were still more interested in our grilling out than these views!  Ha.  But in all seriousness this is the kind of shot that belongs in a magazine - Qtown never disappoints.  Ok, it did rain one day we were there but it was still pretty.) 
(With all of the views that Qtown had to offer this is by far the best.  I know I am biassed when it comes to the beauty of my wife, but just look at that face.  I remember when I was peering into those beautiful green eyes just over six years ago in Germantown Methodist Church at our wedding.  It's pretty hard not to smile when looking at her isn't it?)
(Ok, now this guy is talented.  Gordon met him while working outside of his place of employment, which is actually not too far from this exact spot.  Graeme James (you can click on his name for his FB page) will play an entire song we all know and love by himself.  He begins by playing one instrument into a looping machine, then the next, and so on until he plays them all back together.  With perfect timing, amazing dexterity, and mad skills he plays some pretty fantastic music.  We stayed and listened to him until 2 in the morning one night - that's how good he is!)
(These girls love to hike and be outdoors.  This is part of the hike Miriam took us on the last day we were there.  Gordon unfortunately had to work.  This monster of a hike head up to a restaurant up the mountain.  It's so high up that a gondola can be used to get there instead if one so chooses.  But then you would miss sites like this, and wonderful photo ops.)
(Taken right after the shot above, the water in this area is just so beautiful.  Clean, clear, rippling over the mountains... awesome.  Also, still working on my camera but I think this one came out well.)
(When we reached the restaurant/gift shop area at the top of our hike, we were inclined to stop for a Flat White, which is basically a latte of sorts.  Usually folks will put a heart into the top of the foam but this guy showed real skill!  The fern leaf, which you can see in the foam, is a huge symbol here in NZ.  This is talent, perhaps wasted on my flat white, but appreciated nonetheless.)
(What a great trip!  We love being active.  We love Qtown.  We love tasting wines. We love seeing Miriam and Gordon. Just a good ole' time.  And just look at the weather we had that last day - really three out of four days were pretty accommodating to our outdoor desires.  Thanks to Miriam and Gordon for a great few days!) 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Motorcycles and The Invercargill Blighs

(It was pretty cool how many people were out to watch)
This past weekend the entire city of Invercargill transformed into a motorcycle haven during the Burt Munro Challenge.  Burt, who has been mentioned in a previous post, helped to make the city famous during his lifetime when at over the age of 60 he broke the land speed record for under-1000 cc on his motorcycle that was around 40 years old.  He tinkered and tweaked until it really moved.

In honor of this man and his accomplishments, the city of Invercargill hosts numerous days of motorcycle racing every year.  Quite unfortunately Sarah had to work during the coinciding times of events for this momentous weekend, so I headed out solo with some friends we had recently made during our Thanksgiving dinners to take in some Munro Challenge.

(I had to take numerous shots to actually catch these guys!)
It was quite impressive to watch different groups of competitors (broken up into packs based on their bikes and how old or fast they are) speed around the small city of Wyndham.  After learning about the life of Burt it did seem quite fitting to see it memorialized with the smell of rubber burning on asphalt at high speeds.  I know Sarah would have loved this high energy, fast racing, seldom crashing, day of motorcycle crazy, especially after her enjoyment of working at Talladega a few years back.  Who would have thought my little princess would enjoy the shaking stadium of race cars?  Well she missed out on this day and the tasty chips (fries for you back home) and a mince lamb pie (sort of the specialty round these parts - a little pie made for one that is amazingly good).  She helped put those who did crash back together as they were brought into the ED.

(What a front yard!  And this shot does not include the gardens just to our
left, the small pond, the small Maori replica house he built out back, or
the amazing playground just to the right)
While Sarah could not make it to the Munro Challenge, we were able to hit up another museum in Invercargill a few days before.  Anderson House Park is a house that the Anderson family built and lived in (obviously), which has now been renovated into a fabulous art museum.  As also previously mentioned in a prior post, we are watching a show called "A Place to Call Home" that centers around the Bligh family from Inverness, Australia set just after World War II.  Driving up onto this property felt similar to the sort of feel one gets while watching this show, and from doing some reading it seems the Anderson family was equally as active in the Invercargill community as our TV family is in Inverness.  We were not allowed to take any photos inside of the house due to the artwork, which is a shame as the house is beautiful inside and out, but we have some nice shots from outside.  
(Sarah catches me enjoying the gardens. Real men like
flowers, I think)

The house is surrounded with walking paths, gardens bursting with vast arrays of colorful flowers, littered with waterways surrounded by boisterous ducks, and a giant playground for any children that one brings with them to the park.  This place is all put together quite nicely and after all of that admission is free when it is the normal exhibit!  The house and grounds by themselves are well worth the visit, so when the art is added on top of the rest it all just "sweet as," as they say round these parts.  We wandered through as much of the house as we were allowed access to (visitors are not allowed up the narrow stairway to the third floor - bummer), and then headed out to enjoy the scenery and the nature walks.  What a perfect way for us to spend Sarah's day off!

I had to put this next photo in at this size because we like it so much.  The other night while driving home Sarah noted a rainbow in the sky - who doesn't like rainbows?  While driving past Queenspark we could still see it and snagged this shot.

Enjoy the rest of the photos - pictures of flowers from the Anderson House Park gardens that Sarah took.  This next week Sarah has a few days off in a row and we are going to finally have the chance to go see Miriam and Gordon up in Queenstown!  If you know them or are interested in hearing some more New Zealand tales about Americans traversing through Kiwi land, feel free to follow their blog as well - click here.  They are fun people and it's been a great read so far!

(We caught a lot of bees doing their business on the flowers - so fun to watch them at work)
(This guy wasn't flying but instead was traversing on the ground. From what we have read about bees we learned that they will continue to fly and do their job until their wings stop working.  Then they will fall to the ground and eventually starve to death.  We hoped he was just choosing not to fly, but either way, he kept working from small flower to flower on the ground! Can't keep a good bee down, or from doing his job even if he is down)
(Fantastically PINK and YELLOW!)
(They have a few of these arched walkways at Anderson House Park - so pretty and inviting)