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Archive for 'New Zealand'

The Giant’s House, Akaroa, New Zealand #travel

The Giant’s House was build in 1880 and is made of native totara and kauri timber. The house was originally owned by a bank manager. Artist and sculptor Josie Martin purchased the house and has used the gardens as her artist canvas and created a wonderland—a fun place for both children and adults to explore. It is also a bed and breakfast.

Here are a few photos of the gardens and sculptors.

GiantsHouse

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GiantsHouseFlowers

The sculptures are whimsical and colorful and highlighted by the different plantings.  I’ll be back later in the week to post more photos of the Giant’s house. It’s a photographer’s dream!

The White Heron or Kotuku

While the white heron is common in Australia and parts of Asia, we’re lucky to see them. They are considered rare in New Zealand. The Maori called them kotuku and their white feathers were highly sought for decoration. It is known as a graceful and beautiful bird and is featured on the New Zealand two-dollar coin.

We have a resident kotuku in our area. He or she hangs out at the local pond where he wades and fishes for fish and eels. We never know when the heron will be at the pond, and it disappears for months at a time.

Here are a few photos taken during one of the kotuku’s visits.

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Kotoku

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A beautiful bird. Have you seen one before?

Rangitoto, Auckland. The Youngest Volcano #travel #newzealand

This year we’ve had lots of overseas visitors, which means we’ve been reacquainting ourselves with the sights around Auckland.

The city of Auckland is built on on a field of volcanoes, and Rangitoto Island is the youngest one – a mere 600 years-old. The island is pest-free (a big deal for our native bird populations) and is a short ferry ride from the central city.

The fascinating thing is that the silhouette of Rangitoto looks the same, no matter which part of the city you’re viewing it from.

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Auckland_RangitotoDevonport

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These photos were taken on different days, from different parts of the city.

We didn’t have time to do the walk to the summit, but if you visit Auckland for a few days, I highly recommend it since the walks are easy and the view back to the city is beautiful.

For more information on island walks and details of travel to the island check out the Rangitoto Govt site.

Fiordland, New Zealand #travel

Fiordland is the largest National Park in New Zealand and at 1.2 million hectares (3.1 million acres) is also one of the largest in the world. It is an area of wilderness that stretches from Martin’s Bay in the north of the South Island to Te Waewae Bay in the south, and from the lakes of Te Anau, Manapouri, Monowai and Hauroko. It contains 14 fiords, some of which reach up to 40 km inland.

The area is known for rain. It rains over 200 days each year, which makes the waterfalls spectacular. The heavy rainfall creates a permanent freshwater layer above the sea water within the fiords. The freshwater is stained by tannins that cut down the sunlight and restrict marine life to the top 40 meters of water depth.

Whales and dolphins frequent the area, along with little blue penguins and fur seals.

We cruised up the coast and visited Dusky Sound, Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound. The scenery is simply stunning, and my camera got a real workout.

Dusky Sound

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Entry to Milford Sound

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One of the many waterfalls that tumble down the steep sides of the fiords into the sea.

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As you can see from this photo, Milford is spectacular with tree-clad cliffs and waterfalls. Captain Cook and many of the early explorers sailed right past Milford Sound, not realizing the existence of the fiord.

There is one road in to Milford Sound. By car it takes about 2 –3 hours via Te Anau. The bus ride is about 4 – 5 hours. Access is available by plane or as we did on a cruise ship. Some people walk in via the famous Milford Track, which is a four-day walk.

If you’re ever in this part of the world, I highly recommend a visit.

Recipe: Kiwi Crisps

Last Saturday I made some biscuits (that’s cookies to those of you in the US) and I took them out to my father’s farm on Sunday. Last night, my sister rang.

Sister: I’m sending those biscuits back to you via courier.

Me: Why?

Sister: I’ve eaten three, and I’m not meant to be eating sugar. They’re very moreish.

Me: *laughing* I’m so sorry! I didn’t think.

Sister: It’s only three. I’ll start my diet again tomorrow. Only another 20 kg to go.

My sister has lost a lot of weight already since visiting a dietician. Her new sugar-free diet and increased exercise has made all the difference. I’m so proud of her.

Anyhow, here is the recipe for the troublemaking biscuits – Kiwi Crisps.

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Ingredients:

4 oz butter

2 Tablespoons of castor sugar (2 oz)

2 Tablespoons condensed milk

1 1/2 cups plain white flour (6 oz)

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 oz dark chocolate chopped

Method:

1. Heat the oven to 350 F (175 C)

2. Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl.

3. Add the condensed milk and mix well.

4. Stir in the chocolate.

5. Add the baking powder and the flour and combine well.

6. Line a tray with baking paper.

7. Roll the dough into small balls. Place on tray and flatten slightly with the heel of your hand.

8. Press down with a fork. To keep it from sticking to the dough, I dipped my fork in a cup of warm water.

9. Bake for approx 12 minutes.

10. Cool on the tray for a few minutes, then remove to cool completely.

Shelley’s Notes.

1. I used dark chocolate chips and they worked perfectly.

2. The recipe said to bake for 20 minutes, but in my oven this was way too long. I cooked mine until they turned color slightly because I prefer my cookies crisp, but around 10 – 12 minutes should be okay, depending on your oven.

3. These biscuits have a caramel flavor, thanks to the condensed milk, and sprinkling the biscuits with a hint of flaky salt would give them a salted caramel taste, although I haven’t tried this yet.

As I said, these biscuits are very moreish, and it’s difficult to eat only one. Now, my question for you. Are you able to stop at one biscuit/cookie?

Behind the Scenes: Summer Encounter #Kindle #Romance

Summer EncounterA few years ago my husband organized a golf trip to the Gold Coast of Australia for members of the local New Zealand RSA (Returned Services’ Association). I’m not a golfer, but the lure of sunshine, half naked lifeguards on the surf beach, great shopping, and the chance to relax and do a little writing was all the incentive I needed. I packed my bags, ready to tag along.

Most of the group was a lot older than us, although I hasten to add, very fit and lively and definitely switched on. Our group consisted of couples plus three elderly bachelors. We called them “the boys”.

On the first day we arrived late morning and checked into our holiday apartments. We lazed around, deciding to meet up in the bar later that evening before going out to dinner in a group. The three boys were in the bar when we arrived for drinks. We purchased beer and wine and sat down outside to enjoy them while waiting for everyone else. The boys had already been out exploring.

“We’re going to the Burleigh Bowls Club for dinner,” one of the boys said.

“Yes,” another agreed. “Cheap meals. The beer is a good price as well.”

We nodded.

“And,” said the third boy, “There’s a dance at the Bowls Club tonight.” He paused to waggle his eyebrows. “We’re gonna grab us a granny!”

We roared with laughter. Not terribly P.C., I know, but I still grin each time I think of the three elderly men going off to the dance.

The next day, while the others were out playing golf, I pulled out my laptop and started pondering about what to write. The phrase “grab a granny” popped into my head and refused to leave. I decided to blend fact with fiction and write about a woman on a golf trip meeting with a younger man. Of course, the phrase “grab a granny” was in the story, although it wasn’t in relation to my heroine. I called my story, Grab a Granny.

Of course, the title Grab a Granny isn’t terribly romantic, so after consideration, my story became Summer Encounter.

Believe me, ideas are everywhere!

Shelley

Here’s the blurb for Summer Encounter:

Sophie Walker is on holiday in Australia when a hot and handsome cutey kisses her right in the middle of the Burleigh Bowls Club. The man fires slumbering sensual fantasies and sends her hormones swooping. Sophie wants to take a bite before she realizes it’s Isaac Shepherd—one of her daughter’s ex-boyfriends. Chastened, Sophie tells herself to forget the younger man, but it seems the attraction is mutual.

Sunshine. A hot, young stud. Steamy sex. The perfect recipe for total relaxation until the end of the vacation looms and Sophie doesn’t want to let Isaac go.

Purchase or Borrow at Amazon

Gold Coast Beach

Gold Coast Beach

Taking in some sun on the Golf Course

Taking in some sun on the Golf Course

Beautiful Tekapo, New Zealand #travel

Tekapo is a gorgeous spot in the Mackenzie basin of the South Island. Lake Tekapo is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.

Lake Tekapo

The lake is glacier-blue since it is fed from the Southern Alps.

Church of the Good Shepherd

The Church of the Good Shepherd was built by settlers in 1935. It sits on the lake shore and worshipers have a stunning view of Lake Tekapo.

View from Church of the Good Shepherd

The dog statue, not far from the church is another popular landmark. The statue of the collie sheepdog represents the contribution of man’s best friend to the Mackenzie region.

Tekapo Collie Statue

Tekapo Dog

A close up of the statue.

The entire Mackenzie basin is known for one other thing. It is part of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. Both nights we were there we got up in the small hours of the morning to stargaze. I don’t have any photos, but I have never seen so many stars in all my life. The sky was carpeted with stars and planets, and this is a memory that will live with me for a long time.

I love this region of New Zealand and highly recommend a visit if you’re ever near this part of New Zealand.

Christchurch: Then and Now #travel #NewZealand

On 4th September 2010 an earthquake struck Christchurch in New Zealand. A second struck on 22 February 2011 with loss of life and property damage.

I visited Christchurch in 2006 and this year was the first time I’d returned. It was sobering, even now almost five years later. The center of Christchurch remains empty with ruined buildings and lots of vacant lots.

Christchurch Cathedral

This is a photo of the cathedral and the square, taken prior to the Earthquake.

Christchurch Cathedral

A second view of the cathedral.

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Cathedral Ruins

Cathedral Ruins

Cathedral Ruins

As I said, sobering. The cathedral is one of the many buildings in the city center that is still damaged. There are also many empty lots where the buildings have been removed. There is talk of restoring the cathedral, but the cost is phenomenal. I would like them to reinforce the shell enough to make it safe and to use it as a memorial. It’s certainly an emotional topic for the Christchurch locals.

Update: A 5.7 magnitude earthquake occurred on Valentine’s day (14 Feb 2016)–the first big quake for some time. Thankfully, there were no fatalities.

The Famous Fairlie Pie, New Zealand #travel

Last weekend, hubby and I set off on a three-day adventure and flew south to Christchurch. I was very excited to learn we’d drive through the small town of Fairlie on the way to our final destination of Tekapo. Excited, because Fairlie has a famous bakery that produces excellent and delicious, award-winning pies.

Fairlie Bakehouse, New Zealand

I said to hubby, “We must visit.”

And being the perfect husband he said, “All right.”

According to our local news, the queues have been out the door all summer since now tourists, as well as locals, are in on the secret. We climbed from our rental car prepared to wait for our turn to order.

The line wasn’t too bad, but then came the first stumbling block.

They didn’t have any vegetarian pies.

“Never mind,” I said. “You have a pie.” I scanned the other offerings. Nothing vegetarian and I didn’t feel like a cake, even though they looked delicious.

You know how it is when you set your mind on something and only that will do? That was my mind set. I wanted a pie.

Hubby chose a pork and apple pie. He ate it with relish and proceeded to tell me how delicious it tasted.

Fairlie Pork Pie

I drank my coffee. Very good coffee, but not a pie!

Hubby said, “We’ll visit on the way back. The girl said they’d most likely have vegetarian pies then.”

Fast forward to Monday…

We drove through Fairlie, parked and joined the line.

The next stumbling block. No vegetarian pies on the menu today either.

“I’ll have coffee,” I said. Talk about disappointed…

Hubby chose the Venison and Cranberry pie this time.

Fairlie Second Pie

We dined in this time. Hubby cutting his pie.

Fairlie Venison Pie

The venison and cranberry filling revealed…

Fairlie Happy

And this…this is a Fairlie Happy Pie Face.

I think I must be the only person in New Zealand who hasn’t worn this face.

Me…I’m not so impressed with Fairlie pies and the Fairlie Bakehouse, although they do have great coffee.

The Ladder for Spirits

At the very top of the North Island of New Zealand is a point called Cape Reinga. This is a special site in Maori mythology. According to the tales, an old pohutukawa tree grows on the cliff, and it is said that the roots of this tree provide a ladder for spirits to descend into the tumultuous waters and the final underworld below.

A non-stop procession of spirits travels through the far North to reach Cape Reinga and the ladder path to the underworld. The northern Maori tribes used to hear the rustle and passing of countless people and especially after a big battle when many warriors were slain.

All the ingredients for a fictional novel, I think!

Cape Reinga Lighthouse, New Zealand

This is the lighthouse at Cape Reinga. The ladder for the spirits is supposedly on the cliffs beyond.

Source: Favorite Maori Legends by AW Reed, revised by Ross Calman.