Saturday, December 18, 2010

mon, 12/ 361

Our first full day in Motueka!

We drove about ten minutes to Kaiteriteri Beach, which is a beautiful orangey beach full of shells. Niall, Cory and I enjoyed collecting a number of them.

Later Niall and I went swimming in the ocean (Alice had already been in for a swim first thing). It was COLD. Took me forever to get used to it, and even then, I didn't last long.

Niall stuck it out much longer. He's not nearly as sensitive to cold as I am, and was thrilled to swimming in the actual ocean.

sun, 12/ 360

We got up early this morning to finish packing, load the car, and get to the Interislander ferry in time for 7:20 boarding. The ferry didn't leave until an hour later, but cars had to be there early. We managed to fit all six of us and all our gear into Joanna's little minivan, which is nearly identical to the small Odyssey I had before the newer big one. Remarkable!

On the ferry, a magician performed part of the time in the "family lounge" where we were. Cory got called on to come "help" for one of the parts! He was delighted. Unfortunately, I missed that part because I was up on deck getting some fresh air to help with a bit of queasiness, but Joanna took pictures and Cory got this special balloon six-legged, red-backed spider as a prize.

Niall came out on deck with me several times and enjoyed the view despite the wind.

sat, 12/ 359

Merry Christmas!

We had a lovely Christmas morning at Joanna's. I brought some gifts, and she also had little gifts for the boys and me, and filled complete stockings for them as well! They were delighted.

Late morning, we headed around the bay to Joanna's aunt's house where we spent the afternoon visiting and eating, perched up above the harbor with beautiful gardens and views all around.

fri, 12/ 358

A record-breaking windy day in Wellington!

We walked down through the city center and by the waterfront, and nearly got blown over!

We also went up to Mount Victoria to see the view, but it was hard to even hold onto my camera, it was blowing so hard. Gale-force winds - amazing!

thu, 12/ 357

Today is Niall's 10th birthday! We celebrated before our daily outing with breakfast-time gifts, and afterwards with "candy for dinner," including fairy bread. Quite a hit with the kids! (Also had party sausages and chips, so a *very* well-rounded meal. LOL)

We visited Zealandia today, a bird and other wildlife sanctuary right in Wellington. Saw amazing presentations and interactive displays about New Zealand's history and the devastation of its native population of birds, animals, and plants. Zealandia provides a pest-free environment where some of these populations can (and have) be safe to blossom again.

There are two dams at Zealandia, and this is Cory checking out the binoculars in the middle of the upper dam's walkway. The wind was really whipping across the bridge!

wed, 12/ 356

We arrived at Joanna's safe and sound yesterday!
Here's Cory, opening the gate to her house.

We spent today touring the fabulous Te Papa museum, that has lots of hands-on, interactive exhibits and features NZ history and culture of all sorts.

Here are the three boys on a rock in an outdoor play area that included a big sandbox with "dinosaur bones" you could clear sand away from.

A famous statue that seems to lean out over the bay, just below the museum.

Monday, December 13, 2010

tue, 12/ 355

Since we headed back to Matamata yesterday for our tour, we didn't have a chance to see any of the thermals that Rotorua is famous for.

So today, on our way south, we stopped at Wai-o-Tapu, a "thermal wonderland" that includes a geyser (we got there just in time to see it go off) and paths that take you past all kinds of colorful, boiling, glopping, craggy thermal lakes, rivers, and formations. Very cool!

mon, 12/ 354

We're staying in a wonderful, comfortable, friendly motor lodge in Rotorua, with a soaking pool and a hot springs pool. We enjoyed trying those out in the afternoon.

But first, we drove back up to Matamata after breakfast, as planned, and had a fabulous time on the LOTR tour. It hardly even sprinkled on us, so much better weather than yesterday.

After the tour, the boys got to see a sheep sheared (the LOTR set is on a huge sheep farm) and got to feed baby lambs. Fun!

sun, 12/ 353

We stopped in Matamata today on our way to Rotorua, intending to take the Hobb iton tour. But rain was deluging down, and the person at the front desk asked if we wanted to defer to the next day instead. She said that two of the families on the tour before the one we planned to take had left in the middle, it was so wet.

So we'll come back tomorrow (only 45 minutes from Rotorua) and hope for a bit drier weather!

sat, 12/ 352

Today we made it to Cathedral Cove on our second try (too rainy in the morning). It's a 45 minute hike, up and down over a rocky, uneven trail.

We didn't go through the cove to the other side because there was a rope blocking it off, though I realized later that it was just a warning (about possible falling rocks) and we could have taken a risk and gone to the other side.

fri, 12/ 351

Today was drizzly and I decided to take my host, Brian's, advice and visit a local amusement park called The Waterworks. On the way, we stopped to walk through a kauri reserve - huge old kauri trees, saved (barely) from being clearcut with the rest of the kauri.

The boys' favorite part of the Waterworks was the "Flying Fox" ziplines. Whee!

thu, 12/ 350

We arrived safely in Auckland, very tired but glad to be in New Zealand at last.

As we sat not far from the rental car place, waiting to see if Joanna would come as she thought she might (for a court appearance in Auckland), we struck up a conversation with a couple travelling from Germany. The woman was doing a wooden solataire puzzle kind of like a mini-Chinese Checkers, and Niall was intrigued. Then she got out another kind of puzzle, like triangular dominoes, and invited Niall to play with her. They enjoyed several games before they needed to leave to shuttle to their rental car.

And just about then, Joanna arrived! Delightful to see her, and she got us started with getting a phone from Vodaphone, maps of the area, and getting some money changed to NZ dollars.

She also showed us her formal black robes, which she has to wear to court appearances. A bit more formal than America. :-)

We had a dodgy time finding out way out of Auckland and to the Pacific Coast Highway that we'd take all the way up to Hahei (the road signs didn't match the map or directions at all), but managed it eventually and wound our way up the coast. The little studio at Hahei Retreat is new, clean and comfortable, and we're glad to be settling in.

wed, 12/ 349

We didn't really have a December 15th, since we crossed the International Date Line on our way to New Zealand, in the wee hours. But I thought I'd post pix of the boys and me on the flight, commemorating the crossing. :-)

tue, 12/ 348

On our way at last! Next stop: SFO, and then on to Auckland, New Zealand.

Getting checked in at the airport took much longer than expected, since we had to have an actual agent check our bags and he was busy helping out every other person who came along (getting them started with the automatic machines) until he could finally get to us.

The flight to San Francisco went quickly, and soon we were on our way in a 747 winging over the Pacific.

The boys were quite enchanted to have their own view screens to watch whatever they liked, though they seemed to prefer checking out whatever I was watching. :P

mon, 12/ 347

The craft room aka gift wrapping room, in full swing.

sun, 12/ 346

We've been having torrential rain the past day or so. The river next to Grandma's is so high, the walkway that goes down to the floating dock now goes UP to the floating dock. Yikes!

We celebrated "early Christmas" today, since we'll be off in NZ for the real day. I set up our mini-Christmas tree in the living room (after clearing out the couch area) and set the presents there.

The lights on our big tree nearly all died by the end of the season last year, so we'll be getting a new one. But I'm putting it off another year, since I didn't really set up Christmas this year (too busy and seemed odd to do it when we'd be gone anyway).

sat, 12/ 345

Cory continues with his paper-made outfits, with today's version being a knight's helmet and armor.

Love the bright colors, not to mention the cute boy behind them. :-)

fri, 12/ 344

Dinner out tonight at Spud in Juanita - yummy fish and chips.

And then off to a party at the jumpy place in Kirkland, for Theo's 7th birthday. Niall and Cory loved it, though me not quite as much. A late outing for a Friday, and so close to the day we leave on our big trip.

thu, 12/ 343

It was a Skate King afternoon for Little Schoolers today, and Niall and Cory both had a grand time.

We hadn't been since Zoe's birthday party, a month or two back, but they both quickly got back to being able to get around a bit and then got moving a lot more by the time skating was over.

Now if their mom would just take them a bit more often, they'll probably really get the hang of it! :D

wed, 12/ 342

I took a few hours and headed to Pike Place Market for some quick Xmas shopping today.

These tourists making a video got the fish mongers to do their yell and fish throw, just for them. Quite entertaining.

The Market pig is one of my favorite sights there.

When I picked up Cory from school later, he (as usual) had a cool project to show me and posed in a dramatic way (also as usual :D) with his creation.

tue, 12/ 341

Dipping candles is a long-time tradition in the Woods Building at the boys' school.

The candles were dipped yesterday, and are now hanging to dry in the courtyard.

mon, 12/ 340

Niall still sits on this little couch in the TLS library to read, even as he gets bigger and bigger.