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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Gallivanting around the Nth Island (Pt 6)

This gallivanting around is taking an awfully long time, what with having to post retorts to cheeky blog commentators!!! :-) Actually, if the truth be known, it is taking a long time because I have far too much to say, and because I take far too many photos and then have a real problem trying to decide which photos to use. It’s a tough life.

So…where were we? Oh yes, Wellington.

Wellington, as I’ve mentioned, is the capital of NZ. Actually, parliament moved from Auckland to Wellington in 1865 (many think that the capital should be back in Auckland where everything happens! I say this with tongue in cheek, as almost everybody who lives outside of Akl already think that Aucklanders have an inflated sense of Auckland-ego…quite true, quite true, but then it does have EVERYTHING one needs as a city! This should give all non-Kiwis a peek into the passionate regional loyalty which grips our country….)

Anyway. The capital city is home to NZ’s parliament. One part of the Parliamentary precinct houses the Executive wing, in what is known as the “Beehive”….because that is what the building resembles. An oversized beehive. The beehive was a British architect’s answer to Parliament’s aging buildings and lack of space. Some hailed it as a national icon, and others as an eyesore. You decide.

The tour of the Parliamentary buildings was fascinating. We didn’t get to see any of the more lugubrious places which are known to exist therein, such as the swimming pool or the flash restaurant (‘Bellamys’)…but then, our hardworking Parliamentarians don’t have time for such frivolities anyway… We saw other things like the library, the grand ballroom, and the debating chamber, and all the other places where tough work is carried out.
In 1907,a huge fire razed most of the Parliamentary precinct and took with it, many beautiful national treasures. The place was gradually rebuilt. In 1991 architects and engineers began NZ’s biggest project – designing and strengthening the buildings to enable them to survive the many earthquakes that happen in Wellington each year, as well as the potentially Big One. Of particular concern, was the presence of the Wellington Fault within 400m of the site. Our family voted this as the most interesting part of the tour (a fact I noted with personal astonishment, since earthquake engineering doesn’t usually feature high on our list of interests!). The interesting part was that Parliament buildings had to be separated from their original foundations (pretty solid as you might imagine!) and placed on more than 400 rubber bearings. Called “base isolation technique”. Essentially, the buildings become like a stiff box on top of horizontally flexible supports. Fascinating technology. The flexible lead-rubber bearings allow the building to move up to 300mm sideways, and also act as shock absorbers in the event of an earthquake. Needless to say, the inventor of this novel technology has since gone on to develop this work in other earthquake-prone areas of the world.

Enough on the Parliament buildings, except to say, that wee L thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the Chairperson’s seat in a Select Committee hearing chamber, and the tour guide told him that he did a great job! I think L is a bit cuter than the present Chairperson of that committee, no slight intended!
The Wellington Tram car which takes you up from Lambton Quay in the city to the top of the Wellington Botanical gardens is an icon in itself. It’s been there ever since I can remember…..forever it would seem! Begun in the days when the trolley buses ran the streets, it has now become a tourist thing to do. So we did it.

I think it’s time to leave Wellington now.
But first, a stop at Weta Studios – the home of animation, and made world famous by providing the amazingly intricate costumes and animation in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings”. The studio has been part of the NZ film industry for yonks, making the sets and costumes for many well known films including “Narnia”, “Jane and the Dragon” etc. Needless to say, it was all totally fascinating, but I’ve waxed lyrical for long enough.

Today it is a wet and stormy day here in Akl. The weather forecasters warned people not to travel this weekend if they don’t have to. Heavy rain and winds of up to 120kmph were forecast but it doesn’t seem quite as bad as all that here in Akl…..yet. Perhaps the worst is yet to come. We are all enjoying the opportunity to have a day at home, before heading out for dinner tonight – warm, dry, fresh baking, music, lights on inside, dark outside……mmmm…what a treat!
I love it!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Great White North - Again!

As I sit in my living room today (not at school) with a painful neck, the view out of the window has changed. Yet again, hopefully for the last time this season, it is snowing.
I first noticed that the rain was getting a little chunky. Hmmm... And it got chunkier, until I could actually call it snow. And an hour later, it was sticking to the ground! Maybe it won't last beyond today....

I'm feeling a little repentant after my Becky rant yesterday. The truth is, I really would prefer to sit today in a beautiful, well-ordered home. And do everything else with those perfect details all looked after. Maybe one day, when teenage boys don't dominate the house - but for now, I would rather have them around with disorder.
Southern Ange, I hope you enjoyed your farm day - it looks like fun! I'm wondering, though, where the photos are of you on the quad?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Old MacDonald Had A Farm

Old MacDonald had a farm…EIEIO!
And on that farm there came some gals…EIEIO!
With a vrrrooom vrrrooom here,
And a yahoo there
Here a Moo, there a Baa
Everywhere some Hee Haws
Young MacTessa had some cows…EIEIO!

"You lookin' at me?!...I'm lookin' at YOU !"

"A kiss?! You gotta be jokin' lady!"

Young MacTessa was a hoon.....EIEIO!

Good farmhands are hard to find these days...

"I'm just rounding up the cows"....yeah right!

Anjous - a friendly French breed of Moo
"Oi! Can a woman not have her meal in peace?!"

All work and no play...

Imperfection: A Rant

I've just been reading Becky Higgin's blog. Becky is one of my scrapbooking gurus (along with Ali Edwards); I love her clean style, and her sketches for scrapbooking have been the best idea books in the world! So it was with joy that I discovered her blog last November. However, she is so very accommodating and always answers her readers' questions. A good quality, yes, but maybe too good. Many people want to see every detail of her home, and she willingly provides photos, explanations, and even paint colour names, so that her many fans can make their homes look exactly like Becky's.
I'm exceedingly irritated.
I like to think of my scrapbook gurus as artistic geniuses, who spend all their time and energy on designing, and whose homes are an afterthought. What gives any woman the right to be perfect in every way? Other than Mary Poppins, we really should be slightly limited. Becky, however, seems to have the perfect home, the perfect marriage, the perfect cute children, an extremely successful career, and on top of everything else, scrapbooks every detail of life. AND she travels!
I am embracing imperfection at my house. No baseboards in the kitchen and bathroom. Unfinished door frames. Old, icky carpet. Very dusty glass coffee table. Laundry piled up. Old kitchen cabinets and countertops. Cables running through the living room. (Sorry, no photos for you to examine)
Now that's real life!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


ENJOY! What a great word. It conjures up promises of things desirable, things worth pursuing, things happy & positive….and well, enjoyable!

Nothing beats being able to enjoy a Sunday afternoon together with good company.

Just hanging out together, enjoying food, having fun & easy fellowship with friends and family.

Outstanding nosh, relaxed conversation, plenty of laughter, and the enjoyment of mushrooms!

Yep! That’s life! Might as well

Zee Hostess wiz zee Mostess!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Te Papa's Treasures - Gallivanting around the Nth Island(Pt 5)

All good things begin with food (well…many of them anyway!). And so it was, that we began our first morning in Wellington with a visit to the hotel restaurant for breakfast.
The boys were FAMISHED after a hard night’s sleep.
The Maitre d’hotel greeted us warmly and enthusiastically told us about the “Kids eat free” deal that the hotel embraced. He brushed over the ‘eyebrow-raising’ cost of an adult-sized breakfast, and quickly added, “But you kids GET TO EAT ANYTHING AT ALL that you like…for FREE!” Good sales pitch – target the kids! K and I were so grateful that he didn’t notice the wild gleam that came on in our boys’ eyes – we knew they were thinking, “Woohooo! We get to eat whatever we like, and as much as we like!”.
I guess the Maitre d’ hadn’t met kids like ours before. …and perhaps he'll never want to again!
I’m not sure how many changes of breakfast sittings we managed to sit through. But we certainly were very much the focus of our neighbouring diners’ attention. It wasn’t that the boys were outwardly greedy or ill mannered. They had impeccable manners. It’s just that they took the Maitre d’hotel at his word, and they ate…..and they ate….and they ate…with ill-concealed enjoyment! From memory, I remember some large bowls of cocoa pops being consumed (several each!), plates of bacon, eggs, crumpets, pineapple, apple, banana, dried fruit, peaches, croissants, sweet pastries, hash browns, fresh orange, apple, and pineapple juices, more cereal, toast….and so on. And that was just the boys! You get the picture.
The older couple beside us (at the first sitting) just looked stunned. It’s funny how people try not to stare, but you know they just can’t resist it. The foreign couple on the other side of us were openly astounded. In fact, they lasted a couple of sittings because the wife kept watching the boys demolishing their breakfast, and couldn’t be persuaded to go even though her husband had been ready to leave for sometime! And we did notice that the coffee refills came around less frequently and the Maitre d’ seemed less and less inclined to smile, the longer we lingered. By the way, in case you’re wondering, we do actually feed our children.
We weren’t brave enough to return to the restaurant the next morning to see if the hotel had reneged on their “Kids eat free” deal…..

Wellington was memorable for many other things too – fabulous Italian food (oh, there’s that food thing again), Te Papa (NZ’s national museum), a ride up the tram to the Botanical Gardens, a tour of Parliament buildings, a trip to the Weta animation studios, and spectacular views everywhere.

We loved Te Papa and could have spent a lot longer than the full day we had there.
Museums these days are so much fun! Not at all like the ones we had to endure on school trips when I was a kid (“Look only, don’t touch”!!).

We rode on simulators and had the most wonderful time with all the ‘hands on’ exhibits.

And the boys (all 3 of them) thoroughly enjoyed the technology everywhere, especially the interactive wall which was a cross between Wii and Touchscreen technology.

Perhaps one of our favourite exhibitions though, was the Colossal Squid Exhibition.
In 2007, a NZ fishing vessel (which was coincidentally being filmed for a documentary about fishing in Antarctic waters) caught a Colossal Squid in the Ross Sea. A Colossal Squid (CS) is not the same as a Giant Squid! The Giant Squid can be longer, but is less massive. The CS caught in this instance weighed in at over 1000 lbs (twice as heavy as the largest Giant Squid ever found), and was about 10m long. It is the largest invertebrate ever found. Also, Giant Squidies have suckers with teeth on their tentacles, whereas the Colossal Squid has these amazingly vicious hooks which can rotate a full 360degrees, on the end of its tentacles! Truly nasty stuff. Especially for a Toothfish.
Toothfish caught on longlines often show signs of squid damage. Adult toothfish can grow up to 2m long, so the CS is obviously a good hunter. The CS uses its giant fins to propel it when it is hunting. It then shoots out its 2m long tentacles to catch its prey. Those nasty rotating hooks at the ends of its tentacle clubs hook into the fish and escape is pretty difficult. The tentacles will then draw the prey within reach of Squidy’s arms which will envelope the fish and move the unfortunate fish towards the Squid’s beak. Like the octopus, all squid have a beak, which is used to chop up its prey before the food travels down the oesophagus. I was fascinated to learn that the food has to be sliced into small chunks because the CS’s oesophagus is narrow and passes through the middle of the squid’s doughnut shaped brain…..now it is about this moment that I am glad that I (and my boys with their voracious appetites) are not squids! If the squid takes too big a chomp on its food, then it can blow its brain out!!!! Ugh. I am just contemplating that last delicious (but embarrassingly indelicate) mouthful of sushi I had not so long ago…..it could’ve proved to be the unhealthiest sushi, if I’d been a squid!! And think how long it would take my boys to get through their breakfasts….! But I digress…..
Vision is also very important for CS’s. The CS has the largest eyes of any animal in the world!
Its eyes are the size of a soccer ball and equipped with built-in headlights – all very necessary for a successful life way down at the dark depths of the Southern Ocean. Herein lies another distinction between the CS and the GS. CS’s have eyes which are placed forward so that this gives them stereoscopic vision. On the other hand, GS’s have eyes on the sides of their head so that it can see forward and behind to detect predators. It doesn’t need to judge distances like the CS, and hence does not need the binocular vision.
There haven’t been many CS’s caught (8 in total to date, with 6 found in the stomachs of sperm whales) because they usually live at depths which are not easily plumbed. This CS was estimated to have been at a depth of about 1500m below the surface! Can you imagine the G-forces present at such a depth?! It would’ve been quite a ride up for ol’ Squidy….she must’ve really wanted that meal! And yet, she hung onto her prey (a huge Toothfish) and was hauled up alongside the fishing boat.
Video footage was broadcast around the world and this raised considerable public interest in the Colossal Squid specimen. Scientists from around the globe were summoned to decide what was to be done with such a unique find.
Te Papa now has the world’s only complete Colossal Squid specimen.
The documentaries on this were totally fascinating. We thoroughly enjoyed the 3-D animation that was made of the whole thing. And viewing the enormous specimen in its specially designed tank, was fascinating in a morbid sort of a way. There was so much to be learnt…especially since we personally knew zilch about Colossal Squids until this point! The good thing about blogging, is that you can share all your new found knowledge (whether or not people want to know!).

The last very important piece of information that we discovered, was that if squid rings were to be made from Te Papa’s Colossal Squid, the squid rings would be the size of tractor tyres!
Perhaps I should leave it there.
Now, did you want to know about Blue Whale hearts??!
(please, please let me share all my newfound knowledge!!)
Te Papa has a life sized model of a blue whale’s heart. Adult blue whales can reach lengths of 100ft or more. In fact, the longest whale measured in at over 110 ft (33m). That is apparently the length of NINE family-sized cars.

But wait. There’s more to go with ENORMOUS!

Because the Blue Whale can weigh as much as 24 full grown elephants (150 tons), their heart is the size of a big pony (or a Volkswagon Beetle car). A child can crawl through an artery. And our L certainly enjoyed crawling through Te Papa’s blue whale heart. In fact, he stayed in there for so long at one stage (listening to the various tapings one could listen to eg. of a whale’s heartbeat, their underwater singing etc) that I thought he might have turned into a blood clot,
never to emerge.
Even given L’s substantial breakfast earlier in the day, he would’ve not added too much to the weight of the whale’s heart. A blue whale’s heart can weigh up to 640kgs (1410 lbs), and pump 190 gallons of blood. In fact, the lungs of a blue whale can hold more air than a bedroom. Mind you, a dinosaur could fit in a blue whale’s mouth too (but how he would’ve gotten there would be matter of conjecture)! But perhaps the scariest part of it all, given my predilection over how much my own two cherubs can eat, is that after birth, baby blue calves can gain a phenomenal 200lbs per day!!!!
Doesn’t that just make you want to cross your legs?!

I think that’s enough learnedness for one posting….!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Some Canadian Culture

My friend, Rikki, came to school today to speak to the grade four classes. Rikki is a member of the Coast Salish nation and is, obviously, more than qualified to teach the kids about First Nations. Rikki is passionate about everything, especially about her culture and her Christian faith. Quite cool!

Rikki played her drum and sang for the kids and showed some really precious pieces. Her hat, which she received at a special naming ceremony, has a copper circle on the top - very valuable - and an ermine pelt, which is a sign of great honour. It was awesome to listen to Rikki and to gain insight into the First Nations culture. It gives me hope for our country.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On friendship

Well, I don't think I'm going to manage to get the rest of the post up on "Wellington" tonight, due to my lack of time today.
I'll try for the "Wellington take two" in the next day or so.
My son's "best ever" friend has moved schools and location.
In the long run, this will undoubtedly prove to be a wholly beneficial move for him and his family. For the moment though, it is a heart wrenching time.
My son (who has been uncharacteristically 'mopey' about school), told us that he doesn't want lots of friends. "I just want my best friend."
And today, I heard that J is also suffering.
"I don't want to see L once a month.....I don't want to see L once a week.....I WANT to see him EVERY DAY!"
Oh how I can so relate to that.
Perhaps though, the boys may one day realise the truth in having such a special friendship :
"How lucky I am to have known someone who was so hard to say goodbye to"

I would also hope, in time, they might appreciate that...

"No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other's worth."
Doesn't lessen the ache though.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wellington - Gallivanting around the Nth Island (Pt 4)

Time to leave Napier, and travel southwards towards Wellington. En route, we travelled through Hawkes Bay wine country – brown rolling hills with long rows of luscious-looking vines.

Naturally, we took the opportunity to stop off at the vineyard which produces some of my favourite wine. We thoroughly enjoyed testing the keen-ness (or not!) of our olfactory senses with the potential bouquets that wine can have. We had about 50-60 little phials of liquid fragrances from which to guess the bouquet intended. I think my tastebuds might have more accuracy than my nose!

And onwards we drove, introducing our boys to those famous little rural townships which are famous in NZ, simply by virtue of their insignificance!

It was lovely to drive towards Wellington, with a beautiful sunset above, the sea on one side, the hills on the other, and the beckoning lights of the city ahead of us.

WELLINGTON… Nestled at the southernmost tip of the North Island, surrounded by a stunning harbour, and nestled amongst rolling hills. Some facts:

- the capital city of NZ, and home to the seat of Parliament (Parliament buildings are known as ‘The Beehive’ – see tomorrow’s post);

- Wellington is the world’s most southern capital;

- Only capital in the "Roaring Forties" latitudes (Wellington is familiarly known as “Windy Wellington”. As a child I remember seeing a horse and some people being blown across the road during a storm!);

- Pilots wishing to fly in and out of Wellington Airport are required to do a special course to learn to deal with the strong winds. Many a story has been told by airline passengers who have had to fly into Wellington at wacky angles, or where planes have had to come in for landing at an unusual angle only to be ‘blown’ correctly onto the tarmac at the last minute;

- Nearly all residences of Wellington are situated within 3 km of the sea;

- I would wager that a huge percentage of the houses would have sea views to some degree;

- Probably has some of the world’s garages and carports with the most amazing views!;

- Has steep, winding, and narrow roads, with houses nestled on amazingly steep terrain in the hills.

- I love the old terrace houses and old buildings mixed in with the modern.

- Still has tram lines all over the city, but these days, the trams have been modernised (softer seats for softer bods!);

- More eateries per head of population than New York;

- Unfortunately, Wellington is right alongside a major faultline, and often gets earthquakes. The Big One is still expected…..one day.

More on Wellington tomorrow.

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