31 December 2011

Greetings from 2012

We're 18 hours ahead of Texas time, and I am happy to report that all is well on this side of the date line. We went to a family barbeque with our hosts Chris, Paula, and their son, Noah, where we introduced armadillo eggs to a few brave kiwis.

After reading our friend Natalie's blog this morning, I was inspired to post a recap of our year in photos. It's making me nostalgic, and I can only hope 2012 will be as wonderful.

2011 has been a pretty great year, and we said hello to it with Sam's family in Charleston, celebrating his brother Harrison's New Years Day birthday (happy early birthday, Harry!) January came to a lovely close when we flew to San Francisco to spend a few days with some of our best friends. From coast to coast, it was a great month.

Thomas ran around it like Where the Wild Things Are
Christmas tree bonfire in Charleston
Silly photos in San Francisco

30 December 2011

Halloumi Kebabs

marinating kebabs

For as long as I've been making them, my halloumi kebabs have been making people swoon. At every barbeque or pot luck, they disappear and are replaced with oohs, ahhs, and requests for the recipe. The recipe is so simple and easy that I know it by heart, making it easy to share. Although they're a hit at barbeques, I prefer to make them in the oven, rather than on an open grill, in case some halloumi fall off. Thou shalt not waste halloumi.

29 December 2011



Sam & our host Chris brought home a small bag of jalapenos a few days ago from a farm stall down the road. I was thrilled, because they were the first fresh jalapenos I've seen in the four months we've been in this country.

24 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

We woke up this Christmas morning and went to a tiny -I'm talking living room sized- white church for a morning service. Since then, we've been lazing around talking to family and listening to music. I think I'm about to go make some famous Covington cheese wafers, but with walnuts instead of pecans. Wish me luck!

Shakin' & Bakin'

House sitting
We're back at Chris & Paula's now!

Yesterday afternoon, while lazily surfing the web, I heard an approaching train. Then I realized there are no trains nearby, right around the time I noticed the house was shaking.  The ceiling swayed from side to side, glass windows distorting images of the sunny yard as their frames contorted.

Sam and I looked at each other across the room, mouths open, before I snapped my laptop shut, leapt off the sofa and said, "C'mon, get in the doorway!"

23 December 2011

Gourmet Grilled Cheese

Gourmet grilled cheese

I'd like to take a moment to share a tasty recipe with you all. My mom and I have been making these for years, and I can't remember where she found the original idea. I've made all sorts of variations lately and I've found that it's a pretty flexible recipe.

21 December 2011

House Sitting

Christmas time

For ten days, Sam and I are house sitting for two families.  The first gig is on the south side of Christchurch, on what is called a "lifestyle block" or "farmlet."  We are taking care of Bella, the elderly bird hound, 7 alpacas, 15-20 chickens, and a partridge in a pear tree.  Okay, I made up that last one.

17 December 2011


I'll kiss it better
Graffiti by local artist Tony Cribb on the Knox Presbyterian Church

Christchurch, or CHCH as it is often abbreviated by locals, was hit by a series of devastating earthquakes this year, leaving 181 dead and much of the cityscape damaged. Historical buildings, businesses and homes still sit in ruins, awaiting repairs that might take years.

Head in the Clouds

I've never been the type to let nature pass me by. I'm constantly admiring plants, rocks, and the sky, sometimes taking photos to remember them with. Thanks to the internet, I have a cloud bucket list.

Often mistaken for UFOs, lenticular clouds are normally aligned perpendicular to the wind direction. 

lenticular clouds
 Clockwise from top left: Unknown, Unknown, Chris Picking, J.D. Rufo, Unknown.*

14 December 2011

Charles Goldie's Maori Portraits

Charles Frederick Goldie is one of the most famous and controversial artists from New Zealand, although I had never heard of him before coming here. When I first saw his Maori portraits, I was drawn to them, and I think many others have the same reaction.

Te Papatahi

Inspired: Vintage Photorealism

Three Vintage Fans

If you know me, you know how I feel about vintage, classic cars and antiques. Something about the colors and shapes of old things draw me in, along with the patina and charm they have acquired over their long life. On top of that I'm a sucker for photorealism, so when I saw Christopher Stott's oil paintings, I knew I had to share them here.

12 December 2011

Southward Seals


This Saturday, Sam & I drove from Nelson to Kaiapoi, outside of Christchurch.  It was the longest leg of our road trip so far, taking over 6 hours including stops. The scenery was nice through the Marlborough region, and along the scenic coastal drive. Our favorite part, however, was outside of Kaikoura.

Looking down at the rocks along the water, I thought I saw a seal. Upon closer inspection, I decided it was probably just a piece of driftwood. A minute later, however, I spotted what was definitely a herd of seals. I made Sam hastily pull over for a closer look.  I've only ever seen them in the wild from a boat in the highlands of Scotland.  I've never been able to walk up to them before.


07 December 2011

Not-So-Sunny Nelson

Bill's house

Nelson, known for being the sunniest place in New Zealand, has been mostly cloudy and pouring rain since we arrived, but we've still managed to enjoy ourselves.  We've even had a bit of sunshine.  We're in good company with Bill, our HelpX host, his deaf old dog Bear and his feisty chicken Fuifui Moimoi. Fuifui was named for a rugby league player, in case you're wondering.

Fuifui coming in for a nibble
Fuifui stalking around Bear while he gnaws a fresh bone.

04 December 2011

A Ferry Nice Day

Goodbye Wellington

Cook Strait, which divides the North and South Islands of New Zealand, is known for being one of the most dangerous and unpredictable waters in the world.  We crossed on a beautiful, sunny day with calm waves.  A man we met on the ferry told us the water sometimes crashes over the vehicle deck of the ferry, but winds traveling in opposite direction from the water calmed it considerably.