Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Whiting Christmas: Part 4 - Abel Tasman

We headed north from Kaikoura up to Richmond (near Nelson) where we had several night booked to get off the road and rest a little bit.  We had made it all the way to the top of the south island!  They have nice beaches in Nelson, but a bit too crowded for our taste, it was the middle of summer and Nelson is a very popular destination in December.  So instead of hanging out there, we decided to go up to Abel Tasman National Park and do some hiking up around there.  

We drove over to Kaiteriteri Bay, Just south of Abel Tasman.  While the US was buried in snow, this was our view from the beach.  The water had many shades of blue, and you could see the mountains across the bay.  Someone had their kayak on the beach.  That looked like fun, but we were ready for some hiking.

We opted to take a boat to further up north in the park to make the most of our day.  There aren't a lot of roads in Able Tasman to get you everywhere, so hiking or boating are the big options.  Our boat came up and cast a ramp right onto the shore.

We headed out into the bay.  The water was different shades of blue in different areas and when the sun and clouds changed.  There were lots of other boaters out enjoying the perfect weather.

Lots of interesting little boats out.  This one looked nice.  It would be nice to learn to sail.  The beautiful beaches and warm weather were sure a big change from down south!

One of the sites to see on the way to our hike was the "split-apple" rock.  It was a boulder a little way from shore that happened to cleave right down the middle.

There were lots of little islands just off shore.  This is Adele island.  I had to take a picture for Cole since he has a big crush on the singer Adele.  :)

These islands were home to plenty of wildlife.  We saw a few seals again on the way out.  Here are a few shags enjoying the warm sun.  They were making a mess of the rocks though.

After about a 20 minute boat ride we arrived at our destination beach.  The water was so blue we thought about a swim, but you will see in a little bit why we didn't...

Where we landed was the base for an old quarry.  It was a little ways from civilization though.  There were still some carved up stones here from the early 1900's.  I guess it was to far to drag large stone from though, I don't think it survived very long.

The trail went up into the jungle.  It climbed pretty quick, and even though the elevation didn't max out too high the up and down sure was a great workout.

The bush was pretty thick, but we got glimpses out on the bay below.

A little higher and we could see the little off shore islands.

Large overhead ferns stretched out for water.  The constant rain down here keeps the plants green and happy.

There were several small waterfalls on the trails, this was one of the nicer ones spilling out into the bay.

The trails were very well maintained.  Nice bridges went over the more challenging sections.  These ones were nice and sturdy.  Much sturdier than some of the bridges on our Southland hikes.

There was a small inlet towards the end of the trail after a 2-3 km hike.  It only took a few hours but it was a perfect day.  We chose to take the "long" route along the perimeter.  If you look close you can see a sand bar which cuts across the shallow area that serves as a shortcut at low tide.

Ferns were everywhere.  Here's a developing branch unfurling hundreds of new, tiny fronds.

All the flax in Southland is brown and dried out now since its winter, but when we took these pictures at the height of summer they were a beautiful fiery red.

We had a little extra time before the boat was due to pick us up, so we enjoyed some time just chilling on the beach.  I believe this was taken Dec 23rd.  

Down that same beach we had a very lucky find.  A fully blooming Pohutukawa tree, aka the New Zealand Christmas tree.  And you can see why!  Very red and festive, it likes to bloom at Christmas time!

A closer look at the Pohutukawa flowers...

A beach discovery, and this is why the water wasn't so nice for swimming.  Can you tell what it is?  Another picture still coming...

We made our way to our boarding site, passing some more amazing views on the way.

While waiting for the boat we played in a small stream that was emptying into the ocean.  The water would go in and out, constantly changing directions as the stream's current and the tide struggle against one another making nice little pools.

We embarked back towards Kaiteriteri Bay.  On the way we saw this little rocky island.  We liked its little tree canopy.  It seems like the bush will grow anywhere down here.

We stopped to taxi a few more beach stragglers, and while docked I caught this picture of our large water friends.  Recognize it now?  Yep, large jellyfish!  The ocean was absolutely teeming with them.  Between both directions on the boat and our time on the beaches I'm sure we saw hundreds of these big guys.

It was such a clear day that even the clouds seemed notable when they passed overhead....

Pulling back into Kaiteriteri Bay, we couldn't help but feel jealous for these lucky folks in their hillside houses.  They live in some beautiful territory...

Next stop pancake rocks!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Idle Hands II, Back in the Habit

I'm sure you've been losing sleep at night, waiting to hear how I've progressed in my crochet projects this winter. 

At last mention, I had just finished these beauties

And had just started on this creation:

Well, I'm happy to report that after a few more trips to the yarn store (it takes a lot of yarn to make a scarf!), I have finished my scarf! You may have noticed that I was making it progressively narrower with each row at first. I got that figured out eventually, with a couple of little tabs on one end of the scarf to remind me of my humble crochet beginnings.

And Check it out!!!

Look at that Craftsmanship:

And to fill my evenings after I finished that 5.5 foot labor of love, I set to the task of making another hat:

New hat, new tricks. This one used the full Double crochet stitch with two different stitches to make the rim around the bottom! 

It's amazing what you can do with a youtube tutorial.

And this is the beginnings of my Winter 2014 knitwear line:

There's talk about expanding into arm-knitting. The possibilities are really just endless.

To preserve my masculinity, I did enroll in a Boxerfit exercise class. I get to punch things, which is always fun.

The final wave of visitors is about to hit, so get ready for some more exciting updates in a couple of weeks!

Monday, July 21, 2014

How much for the Tomatoes?

One of the most difficult adjustments to living in New Zealand was getting past the initial phase of sticker shock at the grocery store. Across the board, grocery prices are much higher than in the US. Even after accounting for the fact that their prices already include tax, then converting the prices to US Dollars in your head, many of their items still leave you stunned. The biggest shock may have been for tomatoes last winter, right when we got here:

Did they just put the decimal point in the wrong place???
Those stickers say $17.89/Kg.  A Kg is 2.2 pounds, so these bad boys are almost $9/pound.
(Don't any of you get any bright ideas that I'll pay you $9/pound for tomatoes back in Missouri...I didn't do it here either! This was one I just couldn't accept.)

Out-of-season tomatoes actually just cost that much! That was just unreal to me. They have since come down to a more comprehensible price range, but have been creeping up steadily as winter has set in.

The first trip to the grocery store took two laps. The first lap consisted of looking at normal items I'd usually buy, and immediately putting them back on the shelf thinking 'looks like I"m not eating that for a year' because the price was basically the airport price equivalent we'd pay in the US. Ya know how everything is at least twice the real price at the airport? It was just like that. But after finishing my first lap with a basically empty cart, it was time to go back through the store with gritted teeth to buy my real groceries.
This has now become very normal, because that's just how much things cost.

I always like to go to grocery stores in foreign countries to see what they have, how much things cost, what flavors of chips they have, etc. There are usually some fun surprises. New Zealand has a lot of similar products, some of them with a fun twist. 

***Disclaimer: You are only allowed to continue reading this post if you promise not to judge me on any of my eating habits and also promise to not mistake my pantry for official medical dietary recommendations.***

For example, you can find enormous chocolate bars here. This thing is probably $6-8.

And these are cheese rolls! I"ve mentioned them before on the blog. They are kind of like a rolled up grilled cheese ( you toast these) only with cheese, onion soup mix, sometimes cream cheese?

And they have crumpets!  I actually haven't even eaten these yet. I just bought them today for the first time. I hear they are kind of a cross between a pancake and an English muffin. You can put jelly, or nutella, or butter, really anything you want on them. We'll see how this goes.

Ya know how some people post a picture of their huge pile of groceries to tell you how they were so clever with their coupons and actually made $0.30 by taking all that food out of the grocery store??? Well, this is the exact opposite. 

this was my grocery store bounty from today.  and this is the receipt: 

Many Grocery stores have an 'international section'. There is often a section that I guess is the USA section, because it will have an assortment of treats that usually tempt me into buying them. Today's treasures were clearly the marshmallow creme and the nutter butters!  My heart actually fluttered when I saw these. The rest of the grocery run was a blur after I had those in my basket.

Other 'American' treasures often featured include single cans of Dr. Pepper or A&W rootbeer for $2 each, a 2-pack of Reese's peanut butter cups for $2, and M&Ms for various prices.

The chicken breasts above cost $10 for three of them.  $11/Kg = $6.50/Lb Have a closer look:

Whole chickens can also be quite expensive, $12-18 depending on the size.
Meat in general is higher here than at home. Pork Chops are $15/lb. Burger (mince) is usually $10/kg, I think.
Luckily I've been able to supplement my meat intake with fishing and red stag! ...even if I haven't gotten a stag yet.... sore subject.... moving on.

Soda is another one that can be very expensive unless you get large bottles.
2-2.25 liter bottle = $2.29 on sale. $5 regular
1.5 liter bottle - 3/$5 on sale, $3 regular
20-ounce equivalent = $4.20-4.90 in the gas station! (often with the 1.5 being cheaper)
Can in the gas station = $2-2.5
18-pack cans = $20 easily. 
Pepsi is usually cheaper than Coke here, so you can often get a 20-oz bottle for $3 instead of $4-something.
Last week, I had my first official 'I really really just want a SunDrop' moment in the soda aisle, and just left without anything out of disappointment.

Here's another haul from a few days ago, when I was in a pizza-making mood over the weekend: 
Grand total: $28.12 
Not bad, really. Pizza crusts are usually $3-5 for 2 or 3 of them. Pizza sauce in those little cups only $3. I already had some pepperoni at home ($8/log). Shredded Cheese = $8.

Speaking of cheese, it is common to just get big blocks of cheese to use for everything. 1Kg of cheese, in various flavors is usually about $10. They don't make one for mozarella though, so that's where the bag of shredded cheese comes in....
And there's no Velveeta, which has been hard for me. I'm sure you can sympathize. These people don't know what they're missing. But I do. I know, and I miss.

You may have also noticed the BBQ Doritos in that picture. They also have plain salted doritos here too. And Teriyaki flavor. They're all pretty good, but there's no Cool Ranch, unfortunately. That little bag costs $2.50, which is a sale price. That's pretty standard. Other brands/varieties can sometimes be found 3/$5.

Hmm. Produce!
Avocados as above: range from $1.50 to $3 each
Bananas $3/Kg
Brussels sprouts (thank you to Emily Doucette for getting me hooked on these before I got here!) = $7/Kg
Grapes were $6/Kg

Apples $3/Kg

Green Peppers are another tricky one. Sometimes they're about $1 each.
Other times they can be $4 each. Yikes.

And here are a few more staples to round out the list:
$3. I'm so glad this exists here.
Typical cans of soup are about $3-5 depending on what it is. They make a lot more pumpkin soup-type recipes here. 

As Mexican as it usually gets: $4?
Can of Refried Beans : $4.
that popcorn hiding in the background: $1.50/bag?

Cereal. They have WAY fewer sugary, fruity cereals, and a lot more 'healthy' cereals here...booooo.  Typical prices range from $5-8 per box, with the unhealthy ones being more expensive... who's running this place??? That is too responsible! I splurge for some FruitLoops every once in a while.

Milk to go with your cereal will run you about $4 for 2 liters (half-gallon). about double the price at home.

And Juice will be about $6 for one of these big guys 2.8 liters.

 And that's what it takes to fill your belly here in New Zealand. I am probably going to go nuts in the grocery store when I get back to the States. The combination of low prices and things I haven't eaten for a year will be more than I will be able to handle. I might need some help keeping this under control. Remember: Friends don't let friends binge eat more than once a day. If I gain 20 pounds right off the bat, I blame you.