Tag Archives: New Zealand

And So I Said “Yes!”

Have a seat.  make yourself a nice cuppa.  Get comfortable. I’m going to tell you a modern love story.

Four years ago I got involved in a message board at a rather famous webcomic’s website.  I was playing games and posting about politics and generally being a typical citizen of the internet.  I made some friends and we all started hanging out together in an online chat room.  And it was there that I first started talking to my E.

 

I had just finished a long term relationship and was not looking for anything more serious than friendship.  He was still finishing up his Doctorate Thesis and wasn’t looking for anything past the end of school.  But we spent the nights and evenings talking about everything and anything.

 

Ideal vacations on a train through the outback, having dinner beneath the shadow of Uluru and counting the stars.  Singing songs from Broadway musicals and laughing when one of us (him) got the lyrics so horribly wrong.  This was all about three years ago. And then one night, something strange happened.  As we were saying out good nights so that I could sleep and he could make dinner, he slipped. And the words “I love you” came out of his mouth.

 

He panicked. I panicked. We both ignored it.  But then time passed and the words just seemed to be so very natural.  He slipped and said it again.  And then I slipped and said it back.  And then the whirlwind of absolute insanity happened.  Within months he was flying to the States from New Zealand to spend a week with me in DC. That time went far too quickly and we arranged to see one another in Seattle later that year.

 

And once that trip was over, my fate was sealed. It was only five months after having only spent three weeks total with him that I shoved my belongings into two suitcases and got onto the airplane to come to New Zealand.  I have been here for over 19 months and it’s like the time has both flown and stood still.  So much is happening in life that I could never have imagined.

 

Our happiness has only grown, our comfort is immeasurable, and our certainty unshakable.  So when we took the trip to the States this summer/winter it was not a surprise that he asked my father’s permission for my hand.  When we came back from the trip things continued as always.  But there was now an anticipatory excitement happening.

 

Then, about a month ago, I was daydreaming over rings online and E said to me, ‘let’s go out this saturday to look!’  So I found a few local jewelers that I liked their websites and found their addresses.  We went and spoke with a couple but the one gentleman in Devonport was astounding.  He was polite, professional, educational, and overall excited.  We left his store and looked around a bit more, but by the time that we got home, we knew that he was going to be the one.

 

So I started to tell E just what I wanted so hat he could call the jeweler, at which point E just told me to do it because I knew what I was talking about and he was clueless.  So I called and emailed the jeweler and we set up an appointment to come back and see him on the next saturday.

 

We got to his shop and he had spent his week searching for the stones for my ring.  I fell in love with them immediately.  E nodded and smiled and we decided on the ring and the setting. E and the jeweler settled on a two week period of time for the ring to be finished.

 

And so time passed. one week and then another. the days moved so slowly.  But then we got the emails from the jeweler.  Our ring was ready!  So this past saturday, October 20, we drove back to Devonport.  And my ring was there and it was gorgeous.  I tried it on and it fit absolutely perfectly.

 

And here is the next modern part.

 

I went to put the ring back into the box, so that E would be able to hide it and propose in his own time.  But he told me that I could keep wearing it, so I did.  We went and spent the afternoon with some friends at a campsite up north and then spent the rest of the weekend packing.  I kept offering for him to take it so that he could propose, but he kept telling me to leave it on. So I did.

 

And then, last night, after a particularly long night of playing Civilization 5 on the computer, we were getting ready to go to bed.  As we’re climbing tinto bed and settling into our customised cuddling positions, E said to me, “So I can’t think of how to make it a romantic surprise. I’ve been trying, but I just come up blank. So, do you want to get married?”

 

And so I said, “Yes!”

 

Browns Bay

photo found here:  http://widescreenstuff.vndv.com/new_zealand/default.html

A view from the grass at Browns Bay

 

Today I spent a lovely day in Browns Bay.  The reason for my trip was quite mundane.  I had to get my fingerprints done in order to send in my FBI request for my background check for my next round of Visa applications!  Hooray! It’s that time again!  We are all so joyous, can’t you feel it?

 

Anyway.

 

After getting my prints done up I had the afternoon to wander around and enjoy the town.  And while I did not get into the residential areas of town, it’s still lovely.  It’s actually what I think of now when I think of small towns on the coast in New Zealand.

 

There’s a main street that has all of the shops and cafes, the little bakeries and chemists.  There’s the housewares store and the book store.  The camera shop and the pet shop.  And there’s the jewelry store and the cafes.  About half dozen cafes in all, not including the obligatory Starbucks.   There are offshoot roads that lead to more shops, including a wool shop with very friendly staff!

 

But just behind the row of shops is exactly what I think of when my brain ponders the East Coast of New Zealand.  An expanse of green grass, not too long, and a smattering of trees that leads right to a small drop of and poof, you’re in sand. And just there, a ways from the green grass, is the water.

 

The tide was out while I was there, sitting on the grassy knoll and looking out across the bay.  The sand stretches quite a ways when the tide is out, you could probably easily walk thirty or forty, or even fifty feet, out from ‘shore’ and still not be in too deep of water that you could not get back.  Since this was the first sustained ‘nice’ day in a while, everybody was out along the water with their kids and their dogs.  And tourists and visitors as well.   You could watch the dogs race along the beach, happily chasing one another, or a ball, or a stick three times their own size.  Or squawking unhappy seagulls.  Or you could lift your eyes a bit and marvel at how the light hitting the water changed the color so dramatically.

 

For most of the bay the water seemed to be that typical dark blue that most people associate with a large body of water.  Blue, not brown.  This is so far from the Atlantic Ocean and the East Coast of the US that the two are not even comparable. the only place that I’ve seen a coastline similar is Maine, and the water there is dark blue and brown and bitterly cold.  The sand in Maine is more like fresh rocks, and not quite sand.  Although the Beaches that I’ve visited so far here have been  full of their own rocks as well, and seashells too.  not the fragments of shells that we see in Delaware, but full shells, and gorgeous.

 

But I’m digressing.

 

The water changed to a brilliant cyan, almost aqua color as the light hit and played on it.  I think some of that also had to do with depth, because there were some areas within the turquoise beauty that held onto the deep blue of the wider water.  You could almost look and see just how far you could walk out, simply by the colors in front of you.  A bit further out, was the bright orange and red and yellow of somebody’s sailboat, enjoying this weather and the water.

 

And then further east still there is more land, you could look across and see the homes of those that lived high on the cliffs, and the shiny walls of a big business.  And ever present in the slightly southerly distance is Rangitoto.  That large volcanic island’s presence ever looming over the East Coast Bays Region (Kiwis are so awesome at naming things. Seriously), with a mix of magnanimous permanency and that subtle reminder that it’s still a volcano, and capable of just about anything.

 

But those are thoughts for the back of your mind, not the forefront.  No in the foremost part of your mind you’re sitting there, enjoying your tea or coffee, and the shade of the large pine tree, watching a small pit bull drag a stick three times his weight after his owners.  You’re looking out over the sand and the rocks and the waves and not thinking much at all.   Other than just how beautiful this place is.  And just how New Zealand this place is.

 

And how so very lucky I am to live here.

Seasons Change

Wow.  Not since April.  Huh.

 

I guess this is where everybody expects a big info dump of my life in the last 5 months.  Truth to be told, there’s not much to tell.  I’m still in New Zealand, I’m still madly in love, and I’m still unemployed!

 

There, my life summed up.  Well, ok there’s more to it than that.  I’m still going to the gym, and I’m still losing the weight.  Slowly, but it’s happening. It’s steady, and I’m looking more at a lifestyle change than rapid “ohgod get it off me before summer!!!!!”.  Because even when summer hits, and even after I hit my goal weight, I’m still probably not going to wander around in a bikini.  It would just be weird.
And blinding.  My skin’s a bit… pale. Light would reflect from the surface of my skin and blind everybody.

 

Hmm.  maybe this could be the start of a new trend.  Nobody minds wearing bathing suits because nobody can see anybody else due to blinding skin whiteness.

 

Anyway, what else is happening?  Well E and I went back to the states to visit my parents and go to PAX again.  I suppose I could do a post all on those once I get my head straightened back out.  Pax was awesome, just saying.  Even if I didn’t go anywhere near the expo hall or do anything overtly geeky (although I suppose spending two entire days playing board games is a bit geeky.  But i got to be a pirate in one and the other I killed zombies! Totally not geeky!).

 

And now, I’m back home, getting back into the fitness swing of things, back into the crocheting swing of things, and back into the packing swing of things.

 

Packing?

 

Why yes, packing.  Because in about two months we’ll be living in a new place.  And so when that happens, people pack! it’s a natural thing, no need to be afraid of it.

 

So yes, I am back.  I will do what I can to keep you all updated with the absolutely mundane things that make up my life.  Even if all they are revolve around the gym, my crochet, and tea.

 

Tea can be entertaining, right?

 

 

Today’s Brew:  Twining’s Earl Grey

Total cups so far: 5

Getting Back Up

Hi!

 

Have you missed me?

 

Well life has been a series of busy lately, and while all of it has been fantastic, none of it really lends itself to being ‘blog-worthy’.  Or at least, not in a way that I can think of just yet.  So what has been happening in life down here in kiwiland?  Well, let me tell you.

 

A couple weekends ago two of our really close friends got married.  It was an absolutely fantastic day, the ceremony went off just as was planned and the Bride and Groom had a great time.  I was so very happy to be not only invited but to also be a part in helping them plan and get ready for their day.  Having only known them for a few months, it’s truly amazing just how close we’ve become.  I can’t express enough or in the proper words just how humbled and grateful I am to the pair of them for allowing me to spend time with them and share in their joy on that day.  Love you both R&K!

 

This past weekend, another pair of our friends moved into their new house! And we, of course, helped them move!  Now, I know that does not necessarily sound like a barrel of laughs, and it was some hard work, but it was also absolutely great.  We got to spend time with friends, help them move onto their next big step, and generally just enjoy everybody’s company.  And while helping them move, unpack, and settle into their new place, I had time to look back, reflect, and focus on just how far this life that I’m living now is to the ones that I’ve lived before.  Doing physical labor, but laughing and joking at the same time. Everybody coming together collectively to help out, and then sitting around a table (which is gorgeous!) for a well deserved dinner.  I am struggling to figure out if life gets better than that.   The house is gorgeous, the couple fantastic, and our time spent together equally precious.  Congrats R&E!

 

What else, what else.

 

The job hunt is not so much a hunt as it is shooting arrows wildly into the forest in every direction, only to have them shot back at you with no points and no fletching. Not helpful.  But! perseverance will prevail!  Employment will be gained! Somehow.

 

Now, the biggest new thing happening to me personally is that I’ve committed to a Personal Trainer. Tom is going to be kicking my butt left, right, and sideways twice a week for 45 minutes.  After 7 months at the gym, and a significant amount of body tightening up, It was time to get even more serious.  I’ve got weight I want to, must, lose and it’s not going to come off on it’s own.  And while I’ve stuck with going to the gym at least twice a week for 7 months, I need something more. I need to keep pushing myself even more, harder than before.  I must lose this weight.  The rest of my life depends upon hitting that healthy moment and then keeping going.  And that’s not an exaggeration.

 

Today was my second session with Tom and everything went well.  Really well, actually.  But it was the last ‘exercise’ that got me into a contemplative mood.  Essentially all I had to do was lay down on the ground on my chest and then stand back up again five times, and then lay on my back and get up again five times.  Sounds simple, right? Wrong.  It was definitely not easy.  There was so much involved, just so much energy and movement and muscles.  It was by far the hardest exercise that I did.

 

Just like life.  It’s fairly easy to get knocked down time and time again.  It’s the getting back up that’s the hardest part.  And all of this, the man who is supporting me, the friends that I’ve found and love, and the gym, this is all part of me getting back up off the ground.

 

And this time, I’m going to remain standing. And then, start running.

Round the Bays 2012

What an absolute crap day.

 

Oh the race itself was great, the company a blast, and being able to cross something off my list highly fantastic!  But I was just not quite in the mood. I woke up grumpy and it stayed with me pretty much all through the day.

 

I went to bed early the night before, but having been awake for far too long by that point I was not able to make up my sleep quota in just 7 hours, so I woke up at 7am on sunday morning, and I was grumpy. Cranky, and a few other words that end in -y and are not pleasant things to be.  But i was awake and there was no way I was going to back out of this now.  I made myself some oatmeal, had a mug of tea, and then our friends arrived for the carpool caravan!

 

We drove with them towards the end of the race track (because you see, you walk the 8.4km and then you have to get back to your car, which is likely at the start of the course.  So really, if you’re unlucky, it’s actually 16.8km walk. but only half of it counts!  But we were smart this year!  We carpooled with some friends and we each parked our cars at one end of the course!  Huzzah!  So after dropping their car off at the finish line, we drove back towards the start of the race and parked ours.

 

And here is where my day started to go bad.  I had to use the bathroom.  I know I probably could have held it a bit longer, but that seemed to be utterly foolish.  So while scouting for a place I finally gave up and went into a petrol station with a line.  I was still standing in line when the race officially started, with cannon blast and everything.  I didn’t actually get to the starting line of the race until about 20 minutes after the race started.  Which was actually not too bad since we were still with a bunch of people at that time.  There were over 70,000 participants in this event.  That’s a lot of humanity.

 

 

So you see, we started in central Aucklan, right along the waterfront.  Walked up past the Port of Auckland, where the Portworker’s Union were standing out with signs about keeping the Port public.  And then all along the walkway that’s just been finished .  Up and around all of the bays. Mission bay, where I’ve spent some time, and others that I haven’t yet.  The views were quite pretty, but I did not bring my camera.  My big cannon just would not have worked well.

 

So, now that you know the route, let’s get back to me and my bad day.  Somehow I started off putting my left foot down wrong. Or at least that’s how it felt.  I tried to adjust my gait over the course of the day, but it just was not working well for me.  My big toe was hurting and I was getting cramps down the outside of my leg, along my knee.  I stopped a few time to try and stretch the offending muscle, but to no real avail.  It was just not a good day.My pace was not consistent as a result and by the last kilometer of the race I was barely moving.  I was running on absolute dregs of the dregs of fumes.  My tiredness from the day/night before plus the exertion of the race seemed to have caught up with me and I was just plain wasted.

 

I made it to the finish line though, and the official times haven’t been posted yet online, but shortly after I crossed the line, they announced it had been 2 hours and 28 minutes since the start.  So a little over 2 hours if we want to be technical and not count my being in line for the toilet.

 

Now there were some fun things along the route.  One radio station was apparently handing out sausages, and another was giving out/selling slushies.  They had packed up by the time we reached their trucks, but we were told that they had been awesome.  Cadbury chocolates had set up a giant water sprinkler at just about the halfway point for people to run under and cool off a bit.  Luckily, or not I guess, the weather was actually overcast and cool so there was no real need for the sprinkler, but it was really cool either way. And there were some folks from the Ice bar company (a new icy pop business) giving out samples of their lemonade icy bar.  Which was really welcome at that point in the race.

 

Overall, the race was good, and had I been in a better mood, less tired, and better prepared mentally I probably would have enjoyed myself even more.  But my mind was just not in it, and my body certainly was not quite ready for it.  Next year, I will be more prepared, and I will conquer it again.

 

had a good time with walking the race with E though, he decided to not run it, but instead hang back with me and our friends and do the course at a leisurely pace.  Which was greatly appreciated.

 

There were some good bits, like the sprinkler and the icy bar, and the army guys and their perfect jogging technique. Oh, and the firetruck that got stuck on the Start banner. And it did feel good to finish the race, walk to the bbq that his work put on and have some post race food.

 

But It was just not my best day, and not my best race.  It’s left a tiny bit of a sour taste in my mouth, but i’ll get over that soon.

 

Soon up!  Crochet projects galore!

Botany 10k Walk

Yeah.  You read that right.

 

10k.

 

Just about 6 miles.

 

And I did it. I set myself the goal and I completed it. Smashed it. Demolished and obliterated it.  I looked my goal in the face and I scared it into the atmosphere.

 

After crying, and whimpering and almost quitting, of course.

 

The day started out cloudy and overcast.  When we got to the race venue (which is really just a large mall/shopping center) we could see that a huge amount of rain had already come through earlier, and the sky looked to be promising more.  It was a bit brisk for a summer morning and the air was damp and humid.  So not the best thing to be walking in, but better than clear blue skies and sweltering heat.

 

The race started at 9am on the dot, there were just over 600 people there men, women, and children.  There were folks with their babies in strollers, a gentleman in a wheelchair and a father and his special needs son in a stroller.  And me.  I started off strong, matching my pace with a pair of older ladies and just keeping up.  but they soon passed me, and then more and more people passed me.  But that was alright, I was fine.  I knew that there were still people behind me.  I made it through the first 3k without any problems.

 

It was around the 3.5k mark that things got difficult.  My feet were hurting, my back was aching my knees wanted to give up.  I started to cry. I could not believe what I was doing to myself. What in the world had seeped into my brain to make me think that I had anywhere close to a chance to doing a 10k walk?  I hadn’t even hit the halfway point and I was ready to die.  How could I go around and do it again?  And then, just as I was hitting the absolute bottom of depression, the knowledge in my mind that I just could not do this thing anymore, E was there.  He had found the 4k point of the race and was waiting for me with fresh cold drinks (powerade) and encouragement.  I stopped my crying, picked my head up, and instead of turning into the finish line, I kept on going straight to start the next lap.

 

I was alone.  Completely and utterly alone.  There were no more walkers in front of me that I could see and try to match with them.  And turning around I was completely by myself.  I could see nobody.  It was just me and this course.  And the cones.  And the cars.  And so I turned up my music and I walked. And I walked. And I walked some more.  I cursed and I yelled and I chided myself.  I hated my life and everything that I was doing but I kept on moving.  Had to keep moving.

 

Got to the water station and looked at the kid behind the table, I jokingly told him that I thought I was last.  He confirmed that I was.  He told me to take a break, take a rest, have some water.  But I had to keep going, I had to keep moving.  I couldn’t stop, not even for a brief breath and some water. If I stopped moving then, I would have stopped completely.  And so I moved on.  Full of the knowledge that I was the very last person out of 600+ to be out on the course.  The very last.  Everybody was waiting on me.

 

And even that knowledge, and the fact that I knew that I would show up last and everybody would know that I was completely incapable of doing this, did not slow me down. I kept going, kept moving. Singing and dancing and walking and cursing and crying.  I was soon joined by one of the race helpers, those blessed people who get up early to stand along the route of the race and cheer you on in their bright orange vests.  She joined me to ostensibly keep me company, but also to keep an eye on me and make sure I didn’t collapse.  Also, my own personal traffic cop.  Because there were still intersections to get through and cars to avoid.  Let me tell you a personal traffic cop is a handy thing to have when all you can do is concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.

 

One kilometer to go and there was my E again, waiting with yet another cold drink and more encouragement.  So for the last kilometer of the race I walked with E and this orange-vested race lady.  It was quite something.  And as I got closer to the finish line I was greeted by more race personnel and they all offered congratulations and adulation on my continued effort. I was last.  But I had still made it that far.

 

I turned down the roadway towards the finish line and as soon as I appeared in that area the remaining racers and their friends and family all erupted into cheers and applause.  The MC of the event, a guy from the local radio station, announced to everybody that I was coming down the home stretch.  He announced me by name.  And the applause and congratulations and approval got even louder as I crossed the finish line and the clock stopped.

 

2:00:41

 

I was hurried over to a chair where the race workers took off my bib and put it into the box for the spot prizes and they removed the timing chip from my shoe for me.  I was then allowed to move into the crowd, where even more people offered personal congratulations on completing the race, and they decided to do the spot prizes and the big prize drawings.  Oddly enough, we were joined by some friends.  They had done the 5k run and had no idea that I was even there, but they heard my name over the speakers and were surprised and happy.  The prizes were awarded and then we left to go home.

 

I hurt. My entire body was aching and I could barely form complete sentences. But I had finished my goal, beaten it to the ground.  I had told myself that if I could finish this race in under 2.5 hours, I would be happy.  I blew that expectation out of the water.  And I was still alive and still breathing.

 

The applause from the other participants was the biggest mix of emotions that I have felt in some time. Pride in my accomplishment. Shame in how long it took me. Embarrassment at the attention. Guilt that it took me so long and everybody was waiting for me before the event could move on.  But mostly just relief that it was over. And then pain.

 

It’s two days later and I can say that even though I have blisters on both feet and my ribs ache as though I’ve been dry-heaving for days, I am glad that I did it.  I set myself a goal and I achieved that goal.

 

Now, I rest a bit, get my feet healed, and then back at the training.  I’ve got another big race coming up next month!

 

This one’s only 8.5k though.  Only. Hah!

Achievement Unlocked: New Visa!

So last night, I checked my email before going to bed, and there was a nice email from Immigration New Zealand, saying that my status had changed.  So i logged into their website and sure enough, it said “Work Visa January 2013”

WOOT!

It’s only a year long visa, but it’s still a visa.  I can go get permanent work now instead of temp jobs. I can be a contributor to the household instead of a drag on finances.  I get to say in new zealand!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHOOOOOOHOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

I am overjoyed, overexcited, and quite simply thrilled to no end.  I got very little sleep last night, and I’ve got a full day today. I’m going to crash tonight, but right now, I am on top of the world and singing songs.

And doing laundry, dishes, and straightening the lounge.  While guzzling caffeinated tea because I am dragging.

New tomorrow, here I come!

I Can Almost Reach….

The sky.

 

One of the first things that I fell in love with down here in New Zealand, other than E, was the sky.  It’s one of those visceral feelings that you get when you first get off the plane and look up, especially on a mostly clear but still fluffy cloudy day.  There is just so much sky up there.  And the color of the sky is so amazingly crisp.  And the clouds are so very close.  So very close.  At times it really does feel like you can reach up and touch them.

 

Now true, there are trees everywhere, and the land itself is so very green it could probably give Ireland a run for the money.  There are mountains and valleys, and parklands as far as you can see, with old stately trees reaching to the sun, their trunks thin and twisty.  But you look at them, even with the moss growing on the branches, and the multitude of wildlife and birds that you’re not used to and once again your eyes are drawn up and up and up to the sky.

 

It goes on for seemingly ever.  particularly if you’re standing at the top of a hill.  You can see everything on a clear day.  Sure, there are trees and hills and houses all around you, and the occasional tall office building, but all around that, there is sky.  And on some days, the color of the sky is unreal, unimaginable. You sit and you look at it and somewhere in the back of your internet filled mind you think to yourself, “This has to be photoshopped”.  But it’s not!  The sky really is that brilliant azure blue that you only usually see in children’s drawings and tourism guides.  And the clouds.

 

The white fluffy cumulus clouds that we learned about in high school.  The ones that mean fair weather, but could turn to storm clouds as well.  They are huge.  Fluffy and white and they go on forever.  They feel so very low, but they are still the same clouds that you know are not the lowest point (nimbus clouds hover lower if I remember correctly.  And of course Fog).  But they are just so very close.  And so very dramatic.

 

That’s right, fluffy bunny clouds are dramatic.  The way the light hits them, the way the curvature of the moisture has formed.  There is always a new way for the light to play against the clouds, and it does.  The air is cleaner down here, and the sky brighter, and the clouds more impressive.

 

I was driving over the Harbor Bridge the other day, well ok I was riding on the bus, and I looked out my window over the harbor and towards the city.  The skyline for downtown Auckland still causes me to catch my breath at times.  Something about it is just so very breathtakingly beautiful.  I don’t know if it’s just the SkyTower, or if it’s because the city practically rises up straight from the water, or because of the magnificent vast stretches of sky behind it.  Or if it’s some combination of the above.  But there it is again, the sky.  Any direction you look, it goes on forever.  I’ve heard people make these comments about Montana or Wyoming, but having never been there, I can’t make my own judgements there.

 

I can tell you that on a sunny spring or early summer day, when the weather is just right and the clouds oh so perfectly fluffy white and the sky is that cerulean blue that is considered to be almost perfect, on those days, it really does feel like nothing else in the world could compare to this place at that time.

 

Of course then the storm clouds move in and it begins raining buckets on your head, but that is going to happen anyway because we live on an island.

 

But rain! What about the rain?  Yes, we should talk about the rainclouds, the way they sweep in across the land and how if you know what direction you are facing, you can watch the storm systems moving towards you.  You can see the clouds forming and building and racing across the atmosphere, and even on a cloudy day where everything is overcast, there is still drama in the sky. The clouds build in layers upon themselves, and there are still shapes and forms amongst them.  And every now and then you get a spot in the clouds where the sun has broken through and there is glorious light cast upon everything.  And you can see the storm above your head and to your east, but to the west, there is sunny skies, and that beautiful blue sky.  Even as the clouds are racing overhead and you can feel the rain seeping into your skin, you know, there are sunny days still to come.

 

So while I love this county, and I do love this country, and I love the trees and the wildlife and the  people.  But the one thing that never fails to amaze me is the sky.  Photos don’t do it the true justice, since they only capture that moment.  To truly appreciate the New Zealand sky, you have to live it, watch it, be drenched by it, and then be dried by it.

 

One more thing that I love about New Zealand.

Rainy Day Stew

The last few days have been absolutely dreary.  It might be summer, but the wind has been howling, the rain has been falling, and the temperature dropping more than it should during summer.  So it seemed like the perfect time to make a big pot of warm soup.  And man, was I ever right. This is technically vegetarian, although you can add meat in if you want. I top mine with either sour cream or yogurt. I adapted this recipe from the New Zealand Healthy Food Guide Magazine.

 

Curried Vege Stew

Serves: 8 or so

Time to make: 35 minutes

 

  • olive Oil or oil spray
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, scrubbed and cubed
  • 1 cup split red lentils, rinsed
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (i used 2 of the new Knorr brand gelled stock things)
  • 1 cup mashed sweet potato
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2-1 cup dried fruit (i use dried cranberries and dried apricots)
  • 1 tablespoon and 1/2 teaspoon mild curry powder, divided
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered cumin
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • sour cream or yogurt to serve

 

Spray your heavy based pan with your oil spray, or coat lightly in the olive oil and place over medium high heat.  fry your shallot and carrots until softened.  Add 1/2 teaspoon curry powder and 1/2 teaspoon chili powder. Sautee until fragrant.   Add in lentils, stock, and sweet potato mash, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

 

Add in the kidney beans, chickpeas, dried fruits, 1 tablespoon of curry powder, 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Stir well and simmer for 15 minutes until lentils are thoroughly cooked. Taste as you stir, and adjust seasoning as you desire.  I prefer mine to have a bit of a hot and sour kick, so I add in more lemon juice.  salt and pepper to taste.

 

serve immediately with sour cream, or yogurt.

 

Last night I topped mine off with a dollop of greek yogurt, some freshly chopped cucumber, and dashes of mint and dill.  For lunch today, I had mixed up a yogurt dip that was a cross between tzatziki and raita and I used that on top of the stew.  Served with rye bread, this is a meal that will leave you feeling full and very warm and toasty.

 

Great for chilly winter/autumn days, or dreary rainy days.  It does not look particularly tasty, but do not let your eyes fool you.

 

 

Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

 

peeled, seeded, and diced cucumber

greek yogurt

lemon juice

pinch of salt

2 pinches of sugar

dried dill

dried mint

 

Sadly, last night I did not measure.  But I took about 1/3 of a long hot house/english cucumber, peeled and seeded and chopped*.  I used about 3 large soup spoons of yogurt (let’s say about 1/3 cup), about 1 teaspoon lemon juice, pinch of salt, 2 pinches of sugar (maybe 1/2 tablespoon?), and then a tablespoon each of mint and dill.  Mixed it up well, tasted, adjusted the sugar and salt, and then covered and let sit in the fridge.

 

 

*While the sauce should be slightly runny, you don’t want it too watery.  A good trick is to take the chopped cucumbers, place them in a small strainer (or sifter), and coat them with a little salt. let this sit for at least 30 minutes, and then you can proceed with your recipe.  The salt draws some of the internal water from the cucumber, meaning that your end dip will be less runny.  This method is also used on other water-packed vegetables like eggplant in order to get a nice and crisp result.

 

 

Well there you go!  I hope that since most of my friends are in the northern hemisphere, that you find a use for this recipe soon!  The original in the magazine has half the size of this recipe, but since E loves soup so much, I always double soup recipes.  My additions to the recipe are the cumin, the sweet potato mash (i had some leftover from the other day), the chili powder.  The original calls for sultanas, but I didn’t have those on hand,  The recipe calls for lemon zest, but I only have lemon juice, the original calls for an onion, but I prefer to use shallots.  I also added in the step of toasting the curry powder and chili powder with the shallots, the original just has the spices being put in with the kidney beans and the chickpeas.

 

As Originally written, the authors in the magazine claim that the cost is $2.50 a serving.  That is, of course, in new Zealand Dollars, so it’s closer to approx $1.75 US.  Not bad for a tasty stick it to the ribs meal.

 

 

 

Race Recap

Wait what?  Did I read that right?

 

yes, you did.  Do not panic, you have not accidentally stumbled onto a blog that you did not expect to be at.  I did a race today!

 

The Sculpt 6k Run/Walk.

 

And not only did I start the race, but I finished it as well!  BOOM!  78 minutes and 2 seconds!   Yay! Personal best! (it comes down to just about 1k in 13 minutes).   Ok, so I’ve read my friend Andrea’s race recaps and now, I think I’m going to try and do an homage to her and her style.  In other words, copycat!

 

Looks! It was the starting line!  I have no idea how many people there were, but I did see some people with numbers in the 4000s, so we’ll go with that. Somewhere in that mass of 4000 estrogen filled bodies I am.  I was near the back.  Because, well, I’m not a runner, and that’s what walkers do! We stay near the back!

 

There I am!  It is fair to say that all of those lovely ladies around me, well I quickly got left behind by them.  Yeup!  Nothing like the feeling of being dropped to the back of the pack oh-so-quickly.  I started questioning myself at that point, very early on in the race.  If I was being left behind so quickly, by so many other women, what in the world was I doing here?  If I could be left behind just like that, even with walking at a fairly fast pace, was I going to be the very last one through the finish line?  Will everybody else have been packed up and waiting for me to show up so that they could leave?  Would I have the trailer car behind me, creeping along after me and picking up the traffic cones?

 

But nevertheless! I put on the Biggest Loser Workout Mix (Latin walking beats!) and I put my head down and walked.  I yelled at that voice in my head and told it to shut up and sit at the back of the bus and I kept going.  Because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right?  You’re supposed to yell at your inner demons and make them behave, right?

 

Ee waited for me on one of the street corners, just so that he could take some pictures of me ‘en route’.

 

This is me getting completely lapped by a runner.  Completely.  Ee said that the first runners started to show up for their 2nd lap within ten minutes of my leaving the starting line.  I know that I’m nowhere up to that particular speed, and I doubt I ever will be, but still that’s impressive!  At this point, I was still breathing and moving to the Latin Beat!  And Holy Cow.  Looking at this picture just helps me see that I really have lost some weight.  Especially around the top half of my body.  I still have a ways to go, but man, I have actually gotten a bit smaller!  Neat!

 

Ok, so maybe not that much smaller from this angle.  But look at that! There I go! Off towards the 2nd lap!  3k down and only 3k more to go! WOO!

 

So the weather this morning was a bit overcast, and somewhere around the 3.5k mark it started to drizzle.  Actually at that point it was fairly welcome.  I don’t know if my brain told me to do this or if it was something that I had picked up as a suggestion from somebody, but I found a group of ladies that seemed to be 1) used to this kind of thing and 2) keeping a fairly even pace, so I decided to stay near them.  I didn’t turn their trio into a quartet, but I did keep them in my sights and did my best to stay as close to them as I could.  They were my marker.  They moved to avoid a pothole, I moved to avoid the pothole.  I had decided that those ladies and I were getting to the finish line at the same time if I had to run to keep up with them.

 

Luckily, I didn’t have to run!

 

Those Ladies will never know just how much I appreciate them being there.  They were an anchor that helped pull me through the last half of the race.  The other anchor, of course, being Ee.  He stood on street corners to take pictures of me passing by.  And then he would run ahead to stand on another street corner.  He would walk alongside me for a minute, just to give me some encouragement and then race ahead to be waiting for me at the finish line.

What’s that you say? Finish line?

 

Oh yes, That is indeed what that says there.  Finish Line!

 

Whoo!

 

So the ladies in red sprinted a bit to cross the line in 1hour, 18 minutes exactly, and I was two seconds behind them.  that makes my new Personal Best for 6k; 1:18:02.  YES!  I told myself that I would be happy with anything so long as it didn’t go over 1:30:00.  And I didn’t!  I wasn’t even close!  Well ok, I was closer to that time than some others were, but still!  The point is, I beat the goal that I set for myself, I wasn’t the last person through the finish, and I actually did finish!

 

 

Lookit that smile!  That is the look of somebody who has achieved a goal, and doesn’t feel too tired about it!

 

All in all, the race was fairly, dare I say it, easy.  My feet hurt a bit right now, and I have a long way to go before I am overly happy with my body shape and the changes that I want to make, but I set myself a goal and I met, and surpassed, it.  And that is huge!

 

And now, that I am basking in my glory of being accomplished, I really do have to thank some people.  Andrea and Ellen and Kati for being some of the most awesome sources of support in this.  I started to have doubts, but then you ladies picked me back up and put back on the right path.  You probably didn’t even realize you were doing it, that’s how awesome you are.  So thanks for that! To the folks at the end of the race, the ones who stood at the finish line and cheered and applauded for everybody else as they finished.  I can’t even being to say what that felt like.  Or what it meant.  That was amazing, to walk through the finish line and to have people cheering for you because you had finished something that you started.  Everybody should get that feeling more often.  Not all the time, but it was definitely a feeling of intense pleasure and accomplishment and a job well done.  Huge. Just huge.

 

And for Ee.  You woke up at 7am on a sunday morning.  You rolled out of the nice warm bed on a dreary, chilly weekend to drive me into the city.  You waited on street corners for me and took pictures of me doing something that I had been meaning to do and accomplishing that which I needed to accomplish.  You waited in the drizzly, rainy morning among all the other people also waiting, and at the end of the race you were there.  You hugged me, you kissed me, and you bought me frozen lemonade.  You have been such a huge support for me in all of this, in every little bit that I’ve wanted to get done and you have helped push me so much that I am now doing things I never thought possible.  You have made all of this that much better, and that much worth it.

 

So that’s it, my friends!  My first Race Recap!  Holy cow!

 

Thanks for sticking around with me on this amazing journey, It’s only going to get better from here!

 

Now, I’m going to go soak my feet in some epsom salts, curl up with some hot tea and a book, and enjoy the rainy sunday afternoon.