Loving New Zealand

Looking down over Queenstown, New Zealand

Every cliché you’ve heard about New Zealand is true.  There really are more sheep than people, the hills really are that green, and the water really is that clear.  New Zealanders are warm and friendly, epitomized by our hosts Pauline, Danella and Jo.

All the stresses of delayed flights and airport checks fell away with Pauline’s first embrace. I’ve been ensconced in a warm cocoon ever since.

Here’s what we’ve been up to since my last post Three Days in Dunedin.

Pauline organized a thrilling ride on a four-seater motor bike known as the trike. There are only seven of them in the world. Our charming guide Andrew met us at the city center known as the Octagon and graciously put up with all our picture-taking.  We maneuvered through town, then along the harbour and into the hills for a breathtaking view.  I should mention that we were also part of the view, as tourists waved and stared at this fascinating trike. I now have an inkling of what it must be like to be famous. Complete strangers smiled and waved and took pictures of us along the way.  What fun!

We were on the road for nearly an hour, wind in our hair, smiles on our faces, laughing much of the way. Experience Dunedin just celebrated their first anniversary. You can see some closeup shots of the trike on their Facebook page.

Back on terra firma, we stopped for lunch. While the others stayed on for drinks, Pauline organized a visit to her chiropractor to help with my gathering pain, the result of too many hours sitting on the long-haul flight. Did I mention the warm cocoon?

We rounded out the day with a walking tour of the University of Otago (Māori: Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo). Danella has worked at this beautiful university for a decade.

Danella at University of Otago

Danella the trooper, still recovering from a broken leg

I inadvertently set my camera to manual, so many of my photos turned out dark and grainy. Here are a few to give you a flavor of the place.

University of Otago

Clock Tower University of Otago

If you want to see how a real photographer does it, please check out Laurie’s post University of Otago.

The following morning we were off to Wanaka (rhymes with Monica). We caravanned in two cars for the five-hour journey with several stops for lunch and photographs along the way. Steven is a CB radio enthusiast so he rigged the two cars with radios. We were in regular communication between cars, alerting each other for stops and other practical matters. There may also have been some singing in the round, just to keep things interesting.

As if!  It’s all interesting and wonderful. I’m like a mum with a new baby, constantly gushing at the wonder of it all.

I’ll share details of Wanaka and Queenstown in a future post.

Above Queenstown

You can catch up on the start of our journey by reading Three Days in Dunedin, followed by The Drive to Wanaka.

Blogging Babes in New Zealand

Pauline: The Contented Crafter

Laurie: Life on the Bike and Other Fab Things

KPB: Boomdeeadda

Season’s Greetings

fluffy under the tree

Fluffy under the tree, 2011

My friends in New Zealand, Australia and other parts of the Southern Hemisphere are already celebrating Christmas so I’m putting my well wishes here mid-day so I can split the difference.

If you’re celebrating now then you’re not reading this anyway, but you’ll know that I’m thinking of you.  If you celebrate tonight or tomorrow, wishing you lots of good cheer.

If you don’t celebrate Christmas, wishing you a wonderful Tuesday and Wednesday.

Thanks for following along.  Your presence here is  a gift of joy.

Merry Christmas!

Snow-in-a-Can, Winter Wonderland

Early last week, I received a package in the mail.  Not just any old package, but a package from a garden gnome named Alyster.  He’s a clever little fellow, small enough to fit in your hand, but full of big ideas.

Alyster says he’s “up to his eyeballs in snow” and wishes he could come back to stay in sunny California.  I wish he would come and stay, too.  I need to check in with his traveling companion, Boomdee.

Since Alyster is missing the sun, he thought I might be missing the snow.  (You are so right, Alyster).  That clever garden gnome sent me snow-in-a-can.  Just add water and watch the snow grow.  Along with the snow came a tiny glass igloo, and the smallest scarf you’ve ever seen.

snow in a can

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

So what does one do with snow-in-a-can, a tiny igloo and a pint-sized red scarf?  You make a snow globe!

Several years ago, my friend Marcia sent us this super-cool acrylic globe.  We’ve used it in many ways over the years.  It was a terrarium for a while till the plants outgrew it.  One year we filled it with colored silk Christmas ornaments.  It’s also beautiful unadorned.

Acrylic globe

Acrylic globe

This season it’s a tiny winter wonderland.  Here’s what I did:

I filled the bottom with airfill packing, then topped with a paper plate, cut to fit the opening.

Airplus Packing material

AIRplus Packing material

I foraged a couple of Christmas ornaments from our tree to help set the scene.  We bought the tiny wooden snowman for our first tree 18 years ago.  We were starting from scratch so we bought a small tree and even smaller ornaments at a local import store.  The little door decoration came from our local Hallmark store the year we remodeled our house.

snow globe details

Snow globe details

I added sprigs of Christmas greens, a small pathway and then it was time to let it snow.  I haven’t had this much fun in ages.

It’s ‘snowing’ on WordPress throughout December.  I can’t wait to hit the publish key so I can watch the snow falling on my winter wonderland.

PS…Alyster, I found your flip-flops.  You left them on the bottom of the box.  Please pop over to pick them up whenever you like.  🙂  I’ll keep the light on for you.

snow globe

Snow globe

under the dome

Under the dome

falling snow

Now just linger over this last photo and wait for the snow to fall

 

Lawn Tree Traditions: Greening up the Neighborhood

mother and son

Mother and son

If you drop by this week, you’ll see Christmas trees up and down the block. Our neighborhood has an extensive and coordinated effort to display cut Christmas trees on our lawn each year. The trees go up the first week of December and come down New Year’s day. I’m the block captain for our street.

We try to make it a family affair, but now that our boys are teens, their interest wanes.  This year my older son did the heavy lifting along with his dad, dropping trees at each house while I drove the truck.  My youngest son asked if he could stay in bed!  So it goes.

the muscle

The Muscle

Our neighbor, Greg lends us his truck for deliveries.  I get to dust off my manual transmission driving skills once a year.  It keeps me in the game.

christmas tree bundles

Ready for delivery

The Bay Area is diverse.  Not all neighbors celebrate this tradition.  When I was a young, I wondered why one or two people wouldn’t want a tree in their yard.  Then I grew up and understood that the world is full of different religions and cultures and it all made sense.  We see Menorah in neighboring windows and understand others simply don’t embrace the ritual.  It’s a great time of year to pause and reflect on the richness of diversity.

We have an artificial tree indoors, and a cut tree on the lawn.  I wrote about the pros and cons of real vs fake last year.  You can read more about that here.

Do you celebrate Christmas?  Do you display a tree?  Real or fake…or both?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, below.

Organized at Heart

I’m posting a series of articles featuring organizing around the holidays this month on my blog Organized at Heart. If the subject interests you, please go take a peak. Today’s blog: Holiday Storage: The Case of the Shrinking House. 

Of note: Wikipedia has a wonderful and detailed article on the origins of the decorated Christmas tree.  I’m always learning something new on that site and must remember to make my annual donation accordingly.

Coming Full Circle and a Blogger Surprise

Party girl, 1920's style

Party girl, 1920’s style

Boy am I tuckered out!  We attended two Halloween parties this past weekend, our own kid-friendly party and another one hosted for adults. Great fun.

I finished my Halloween costume Friday night, but for a few hand-stitches the next morning. Talk about cutting it close.  Party guests arrived here at 1:00 pm Saturday.  Nothing like a little pressure to keep your energy up and your adrenaline pumping.

We host a Halloween party every year for our boys.  We invite adults, too, but the focus is on the younger ones.

Later that night we attended an adults-only party, just a couple of houses away.  It was fun wearing my ‘party dress’ all day.  It’s not often you get to wear pink shoes, false eyelashes and a petticoat.

Many moons ago I attended San Jose State’s Theater Arts program.  Everyone studied a little of everything including acting, literature, backstage work and technical theater, but costumes are my first love.

Coming Full Circle

The inspiration for this year’s costume came from my dear friend Boomdee.  When she visited here in May, she brought me a beautiful hand-made easel decorated with lace paper, ribbons and bows along with tiny hearts and roses.  Featured on the easel: a lovely dancer from the 1920’s, dressed in soft pinks.  She chose the paper with my theater background as inspiration.  Now it’s both art and costume.

costume and muse

My costume muse

cottage craft flowers

I found these flowers at Cottage Craft

Lindy on the petticoat

Lindy is rethinking her costume…or simply keeping my petticoat warm.

Blogger Surprise

As if back-to-back parties weren’t enough excitement, an amazing treat arrived in the mail from Catja at Gjeometry.  Her tag line says it all: It’s in the Lines……hem, seam, stitching, grain, style.  I made it on to her Craft-it-Forward list earlier in the year.  She blew me away!

Be sure to check back tomorrow for the full reveal.  Meanwhile, Catja, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Halloween Countdown:

mini pumpkin patch

My son set up our ‘pumpkin patch’. Individual pumpkin creativity ensued

Final Score: Pumpkins, 8, Squash Bugs, 2

Things got a bit dicey in the pumpkin patch last month.  Nearly a dozen pumpkins grew happily on the vine until disaster struck.  A rapidly producing colony of squash bugs moved in and things turned ugly.  If you have any doubt, take a look:

This pumpkin never had a chance

This pumpkin never stood a chance

Instead of leaving the orange pumpkins on the vine to harden, I harvested all but two and set them on the patio thinking I would wipe them off before bringing them indoors.  The next day, the squash bugs found the harvest!  Eek!

I brought the pumpkins inside one by one, wiping them down with the first thing I could get my hands on: my son’s lip balm. (Desperate times call for desperate measures).  I didn’t want to bring garden pests indoors, so I figured the coating would put an end to anything I missed.

polished pumpkins

Polished pumpkins

We’re big on pumpkins around here: we grow, harvest, decorate and carve them. It’s been a family tradition for a decade.  I also enjoy saving  seeds for the next season. This year I gave a few starters to friends, and passed on some seeds to an adorable pair of three-year-old twins that walk by the house with their dad. They planted the seeds and grew pumpkins of their own. I’m delighted.

The pumpkins hung out in the living room for several weeks, but as October approaches, it’s time to bring them center stage. I created a display on my iron bench combining an eclectic mix of drying lavender, three pumpkins and a refurbished fairy garden. Check back next week for the fall upgrade.
DSC_0012

DSC_0013-001

I love October. It starts with my birthday, ends with Halloween with plenty of goodness in between.  Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, this Boo season brings a special visit from Boooooomdee. She told me to expect her on the whisper of a dandelion, but I think she was teasing. I’ll go to the airport to fetch her just in case.

Boo season, here we come!

 

Celebrating the 4th

red, white and blue for the 4th

Showing our colors, gardening style with blue Delphinium and red and white petunias

Tomorrow is Independence Day in the States, simply referred to as ‘the 4th.’  Many years ago one of my teachers presented us with a series of logic questions including ‘do other countries have the 4th of July?’  Of course the answer was, ‘yes’ referring to the date, not the occasion.  I probably got it wrong too, but hey, I learned from my mistake.

On the subject of mistakes, here are a few to avoid altogether, as told from the perspective of a garden fairy:

Keep your animals indoors.  More animals go missing on July 4th than on any other day of the year. The fairy garden critters are under wraps for the next 24 hours. Please keep your cats and dogs, deers and frogs safely indoors as well.

Safe and sane fireworks.  Anything with the word ‘fire’ in it deserves our respect.  I’ve set up extra chairs and few lichen-covered logs for fairy garden fireworks viewing at a safe distance from all the action.  If you’re watching the works, be sure to keep your distance, too.

4th of july fairy garden

Safe celebrations in the fairy garden

If you reside in the US, happy Independence Day.  Happy 4th of July to everyone else.  😉