Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mission Possible

Another weekend. Another little adventure! This time Lowell introduced me to some already-known-to-him territory. While I’m at work, Lowell spends part of his days training for the Auckland marathon. The only problemo is that we live on a highway with teeny tiny shoulders, and highway runs are not optimal (or recommended). Lowell discovered a little back route that cuts out like 3km of busy highway. The only catch is that he has to cross a 12-foot wide creek. So what did he do one day? He spent 2 hours constructing a bridge (sans tools).

Here he is repairing his little pride and joy so it’s fit for a lady to cross (me being that lady).

Now he's just showing off...

Aaaaaand he’s across!

Now it’s my turn…

Whew, safe and sound on the winner’s side. Next came an unexpected obstacle. Lowell usually ducks under a fence, skips across an empty horse pasture, then lets himself out of the gate. This time, however, the pasture was not empty. There was a veeeeery curious race horse staring us down (this particular pasture is adjacent to a horse racing track).

(I realize he doesn't look overly curious, nor is he looking directly at us... but he's still an obstacle!)

Lowell glanced around to look for another way to freedom, but there was none to be found.

Eventually the horse turned it’s back and Lowell BOLTED.

Back turned...

Cleared path...

Victory on the other side...

Next I ran across, but the horse really could’ve cared less. STILL… it was exhilarating.

After enjoying a long walk through a cluster of acreages and other homes, Lowell and I returned to the horse/creek obstacle on our way home. But another obstacle awaited… a FARMER WAS WITH THE HORSE. Now, we could’ve easily approached the farmer and let him know what we were doing so he didn’t think we were creepy creepos, but instead we turned and headed in the other direction. Since we weren’t in the mood to walk 3km ON THE HIGHWAY, we hopped on the railroad tracks to see where they would take us.

They took us to the highway… but still cut out a big portion of it.

We did get home, and the invigorating adventure was good for our complexions.

The next day we visited a popular shopping centre and I was completely overstimulated. There were like 12 awesome clothing stores in a row- none of which I’d heard of before! I could’ve spent a billion dollars… but instead I spent NOTHING. It was just too overwhelming- I couldn’t choose. Kind of an all-or-none situation. (Mom, are you proud?)

Shopping without buying anything is exhausting, so we stopped at a coffee shop to have a little sit-down. We randomly chose ESQUIRES! I’m pretty sure it’s a Canadian company, and I’ve never actually seen one outside of Lethbridge. Well, we made ourselves right at home there.

After our shopping trip, we checked out Brown’s Bay (a popular little beach on the East Coast). It was very pretty and tons of people were out with their dogs taking advantage of the beautiful weather. One thing I noticed about EVERY SINGLE DOG OWNER was that they had these long shoe-horn-looking-scoop things. They seem to be all the rage. Do these things even EXIST in Canada? According to my research, they’re called ‘dog ball throwers’ (very original). They have multiple purposes:
1. Reduce arm/shoulder stress when hucking balls.
2. Prevent constant bending down (i.e., back pain).
3. Avoid constant hand-to-slobbery-slime-ball-contact.

Anyhoo, here's the beautiful beach.

Julie out.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Waitakere Ranges

Last weekend, Lowell and I did a hike (oh pardon me, a tramp) in the Waitakere Ranges. First thing we saw when we approached the visitor's centre was this huge massive picture frame which screamed "PHOTO OP PHOTO OP!" So we did some monkeying around. Apparently these giant frames are at all of the Regional Parks around here. I'm sensing a lot more monkeying around in our future...

The nature of the trails (or tracks) is a lot different than that of, say, Bear's Hump. There was a variety of scenery as well as historical tidbits.

If you're not one for historic facts, feel free to skim the pictures and call it a day. But for those of you who are interested... stay tuned. We'll start with the scenery then review some history.

Beautiful hey? Who knew there were so many different shades of green!

Now for some historical information. To start with, I think I should make sure that we're all clear on who the Maori people of NZ are. It is my understanding that they are considered the original settlers in NZ. Eventually Europeans came and after many years of war signed a treaty with the Maori people stating that Britain would have rule, but the Maori people would retain equal rights.

Anyhoo, these historical tidbits that we discovered on our tramp are based on Maori beliefs.

The following is the kahikatea- NZ's tallest tree. This tree has been the perch for a large range of plant life. It is said that the watery abodes among the widespread roots was the home of the taniwha, the dragon on Maori mythology.

The next picture is of 'Kauri cathedral'. It's basically a circle of several famous trees whose branches have formed a dome in the sky that is said to protect living things beneath it. 

Maori legend says that it was the power of growth that pushed sky and earth apart. This power is manifested in the god Tane Mahuta, and the following huge giant tree is a symbol of that strength. It's called the Kauri tree. It's trunk can be as wide as a two-lane road, and it's branches can be up to 6 feet in diameter.

It's a pretty big tree.

Lowell also got up close and personal with a sliver fern- NZ's national plant. (The other side is actually silver)

Thus concludes last weekend's adventure!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Our first visitors have arrived...

... in the form of fleas.

Apparently we're infested. 

Over the past week I (in particular) have been developing suspicious looking (and stinkin itchy) little bumps over various aspects of the vast expanse of my body. I even feel as though eggs are hatching in the tiny little fine blonde hairs (that shouldn't be but are) under my eyebrows. I've wanted nothing more than to wax my entire face... and body. 

After a colleague confirmed today that they were indeed flea bites, we invested in bug bombs, set them up in our cottage, and evacuated the premises  for 3 hours. 

(At least we got a good work-out and a delicious Indian meal out of the deal.)

When we came back, we vacuumed the entire surface area of our abode. Normally this is a tolerable task- pleasurable even- but not this time. We don't have any vacuum ends (we can't find them anywhere), so we had to do the entire floor with just the little tubey suction end-- being irritatingly careful not to miss a spot lest we allow a flea egg to go unnoticed, hatch, and start the whole infestation process again. The floor is like 20 square feet (slight exaggeration), but it took 2 hours to vacuum.

I guess this just continues the theme of weird things happening to weird people. It's a completely different situation... but equally ridiculous.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

All Blacks

Rugby in New Zealand is like hockey in Canada. The All Blacks are a national icon.

Since we now have Kiwi friends (did I mention that? It's super!), we were invited to join some of them as they cheered on their national team playing against the ultimate rugby enemy: Australia. Lance summarized for us why witnessing such a game is vital to our NZ experience.


1. Kiwis and Ozzies are friends, but in sports they are bitter enemies.
2. Rugby is NZ's biggest religion.
3. This cup is only ever competed for by NZ and Australia.
4. Australia started as England's largest prison island and they are all the sons of criminals.
5. This blood makes them hard rugby players.
6. There is nothing sweeter than beating the Ozzies in rugby.
7. Having witnessed the Bledisloe, you will have participated in the pinnacle of Kiwi culture and you will never be the same.
8. The 'throat slitting haka' is banned because it is too threatening.
9. When playing Australia, they usually do it anyway.

Well, an experience it was! Emotions were running high as the All Blacks led, then fell behind, then took it back again, then almost slipped....then WON.

"We're Lance and Natalie and we're very content that the All Black's took the lead right off the bat."

Shoot. The Ozzies are now ahead.

It's all good. We got it back.

Uh oh, the Ozzies are coming so close to taking it again. Noooooo!

And it's a VICTORY FOR THE ALL BLACKS (28-24)!!

Showing off our new Kiwi/All Blacks pride with Lance and Natalie:

Lance was right. We will never be the same!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

He did it. He's the new Canadian Idol.

Remember Theo Tams? The Canadian Idol contestant from Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada? MY HOME?! He won. HE WON!!! (Not that I ever doubted that he would...)

And that’s all I know. I have no clue what else happened on the show as it wasn’t broadcasted here. Apparently Kiwis aren’t avid Canadian Idol watchers…for shame!

So, google him and find out everything you can. Look at pictures, and watch the videos. You won’t be sorry.

CONGRATULATIONS THEO!! You make Southern Albertans proud.

PS- Theo, I'm going to need a picture with you as well as your autograph to add to my slowly expanding celebrity connection file.

Saturday, September 06, 2008


We finally have some more NZ exploration under our belts. On Saturday, we drove about 30 minutes to North Head and Devonport. We took in the sights, and SURPRISE SURPRISE took pictures.

This is Lowell strutting his stuff Canadian style. He's really not shy about flaunting his Canadianism around here!

We then continued on to North Head which was a defense fort that was set up in the late 1800s to defend Auckland from a feared Russian attack. The fort was later expanded as part of Auckland's coastal defense system during World Wars I and II.

I'm no history buff, but it was fascinating nonetheless.

The view from the top (oh, and me doing kung fu on a stick) :

The defense system included a big 'Disappearing Gun':

Man, that's a big gun (well, a big replica of a big gun).

I would explain more about it, but if you're interested... you can read it for yourselves!

Here's a closer view for those of you whose eyes have suffered the effects of aging (Mom) :

There were creepy looking underground tunnel areas that we toured as well. They were dark, confined concrete halls with little cubbies. It did not look inviting but Lowell forced me to go in anyway.

And there was NO colour. Except... is that blood splattered against the wall?


The view from the other side of North Head was also spectacular. And somewhere in there is one of the hospitals that I work out of (Lowell fed me that information. I have no idea where in there it is) :

As we were heading back into Devonport, I spotted a road sign, slammed on the brakes, and exclaimed, "Lowell, we MUST get a picture of you with that sign!"

He looked back, and agreeably inquired, "You mean with the 'NO EXIT' sign?"

Me (a little confused that he would be excited about getting his picture taken with a 'no exit' sign) : ""

There was a sign for 'Duders Ave', and Lowell used the term 'duder' incessantly during his undergraduate University days. So here is Lowell on Duders Ave being a cool dude(r)!

After that invigorating little adventure, we thought we'd complete our Saturday outing with some fish 'n chips. We received our meal sans ketchup (which is a crime in my books), so we returned to the counter and requested some. We were met with a blank stare, then the kind gentleman pointed to a bowl of tiny little packets of (fake) ketchup that were 50 cents EACH. I'm talking like those weeny little jam packets. That wouldn't even cover one of my fries. Soooo...we decided to wrap up our meal in Lowell's jacket, and drive home where we had unlimited access to an entire bottle filled with the heavenly red stuff. And then we watched PS I Love You while chowing down.

Oh, and for the record...I don't think it's part of NZ culture to withold ketchup, it was probably just that shop. I sure do need to be careful about the generalizations I make because often when I see something new/quirky, I tend to automatically apply it to the entire culture. Let's hope that people here aren't generalizing everything Lowell and I do/say/think to all Canadians... ha!

And now fast forward to Sunday afternoon. Have I mentioned that we live down the road from like 6 produce stands and 5 Strawberry farms? Yep, one of the farms is our next next door neighbour. We can hardly wait 'till summer when the strawberry fields will be busting with big juicy strawberries.

Today we took a walk to our nearest produce stand. It was a brisk 10-minute walk. Fun hey?

It's okay to not change your pants in NZ... isn't it?

I also did laundry today. Not generally an exciting affair because I usually force Lowell to accompany me to the big, dark, empty lodge where the washing machine is. It scares me half to death to even think about entering alone, but I decided to be a big girl today.

And of course, the first time I go there by myself, THE ALARM GOES OFF! I don't know who set it or WHEN, but it scared the daylights out of me. Not good for my Jumping Frenchmen of Maine Syndrome. (Carlynne diagnosed me this summer. It's a real thing. It means I'm jumpy... look it up.)

While we're on the topic of our abode, I think I should update you on the bed situation. We brought over another single bed (from the lodge), so we are now upgraded to a KING sized bed. Thank you to those who offered to hook us up with a bigger bed though!

Oh, and we also have a groundskeeper. Well, I use the term 'we' loosely here. He's not OUR groundskeeper per se, but he keeps the grounds that we are living on. So, we'll just continue to refer to him as our groundskeeper!

We'll see where the wind blows us tomorrow!