Your GPS May Have a Cute Accent But She’s Lying to You

If only every morning could start with a walk on the beach. And I must admit it was a well-deserved walk on the beach because the night before we had the great cicada battle. We managed to let a couple dozen into our quaint beach house and spent an hour hunting them down one-by-one and smashing them with the New Zealand equivalent of People magazine. We prevailed and were able to go to bed sans bugs.

We did a lot of driving today starting by heading north to 90-mile beach. It was a nice sunny day and we had a good view of the long sandy stretch of beach.

Being Sunday and driving through very small towns, there was not a lot of action or selection of eateries but we did find a cute cafe. Guess what it was called? No dear readers, it was not the Waterfront Cafe. It was the Waterline Cafe. I had a BLAT (bacon. lettuce, avocado, and tomato) sandwich. As you can see from the photo, they don’t mess around with their bacon.

We crossed a river on a vehicle ferry and then purchased our first tank of gas. $124 NZD for 63 liters which equates to $82 USD for 16.5 gallons or $5/gallon. At dinner, we were informed this is cheap. You youngsters may not remember this, but there was a day when you were trusted to pump your gas before paying for it. We have gone back in time in New Zealand.

Next ,we drove to Arai-te-uru Recreation Reserve to look at some really big sand dunes and more beautiful beach and ocean. At the parking lot, members of the Lions club watch the vehicles to ensure tourists aren’t robbed. The towns up north are smaller and the locals depend on the tourist trade, so the Lions help ensure it is a positive experience. This is another fact we learned from our friendly dinner mates.

It was sunny and 82 at the beach. We then drove 15 minutes to the forest where it was raining and 68 degrees. We saw New Zealand’s largest living kauri tree Tane Mahuta. It was very impressive.

Now here’s where things got interesting today. Have you ever read those stories about the people who drive into the desert and die because their GPS told them to? We took a shortcut that put us on a 50km gravel road. I wasn’t too concerned about dying of thirst or starvation as it was raining and we surrounded by lush greenery, turkeys, goats, cattle and sheep, but we will probably stick to the paved roads for the remainder of the trip. Sadly, the gravel road did not offer any gelato shops.

We are staying at the Lupton Lodge in Glenbervie tonight. This is our first B&B. It is run by a nice young couple. Our dinner companions were the director of the Auckland Museum and his wife from the UK and a couple that had just arrived from Idaho. Good company and lots of advice for tomorrow’s adventures.

Morrocan lamb and rice for me and steak & ale pie for Shawn

Daily ratings:
Waterline Cafe – 3 Kiwis
Lupton Lodge – 5 Kiwis

Steps taken = 2,641
Kilometers traveled on a gravel road = way too many

A Risotto Kind of Day

Shawn went scuba diving today, so I’ll leave the fish tales to him. I walked about town and enjoyed a leisurely lunch on the wharf at 36 degrees. (I’m guessing that’s our latitude. If I remember my 6th grade teacher correctly, longitude is the long vertical lines on the globe and latitude is the circles. Feel free to correct me.)

Pumpkin Risotto with Cashews and Fried Kale
Pumpkin Risotto with Cashews and Fried Kale

Maori long boats getting ready for the Treaty Day celebration
Maori long boats getting ready for the Treaty Day celebration

In the afternoon we headed further north to Doubtful Bay. We have a cute little apartment right on the beach. The big, beautiful house next door is the owner’s. He pulled a Tom Sawyer on Shawn and had him help reel in the fishing line.

The owner's lovely house on the left
The owner’s lovely house on the left
Shawn reeling in the fishing line
Shawn reeling in the fishing line
New Zealanders are always ready to help you to your next destination

I swear I’m not making this up, but we had dinner at the Waterfront Cafe. I get it, New Zealand is an island and there’s lots of water frontage, but there must be some more creative names for restaurants. Hell, name the restaurant after your dog if you can’t come up with anything better.

Seafood Risotto - and it was packed with fresh seafood
Seafood Risotto – and it was packed with fresh seafood

Daily Ratings:
36 degrees – 4 Kiwis
Waterfront Cafe – 4 Kiwis
Golden Sand Beachfront Accommodations – 3.5 Kiwis mostly for the beach and laundry facilities

Gelato flavor: rum raisin
Steps taken = 7,184 (the last thousand on the beach outside my door)

More Islands Please

As predicted, we woke up to a rainy morning, but with our handy list of wet weather activities we ventured out into the rain decked out in our quick-dry clothing, hats, an umbrella for Shawn and raincoat for me. Because the north island just isn’t enough island for us, we once again found ourselves on a ferry headed to the island of Russell.

How often do you see a yacht with a helicopter on it?

We strolled in the rain along the waterfront to the Russell Museum to learn about the Maori and European history of New Zealand. The museum includes a one-fifth scale model of Cook’s ship Endeavour. The rigging is pretty amazing with numerous wooden pulleys.

Next, we headed to the Pompallier Mission (1841). While waiting for our tour to begin, we strolled the gardens in the rain. We were on the only brave souls, but it was worth the climb up the soggy hill. I think agapanthus is a weed here. They are everywhere…little ones grow along the roadside and giant agapanthus is used to create hedges and apparently to hold up hillsides.

The restored building that we toured was a printery and tannery, and we learned about the full processes of printing and leather tanning. I have a new appreciation for leather bound printed books. Our guide Maggie enjoyed telling us how many common sayings came from the early printing industry, such as “mind your Ps and Qs” and “strong silent type”. I also had no idea that it takes about 2 1/2 years to tan a piece of leather.

We lunched at the Waterfront Cafe (they seem to have a shortage of restaurant names here). Surprisingly, the seafood chowder was green and had smoked fish, but it was creamy and good. The fish in the fish & chips was fresh, light, and flaky with a nice crunchy breading.

After lunch, Shawn insisted we find Christ Church (the oldest existing church in New Zealand built in 1835) because he had read in the brochure that some of the headstones in the cemetery had musket holes in them. We tromped through the graveyard in the rain but could not find a single musket hole. We did find Cook’s headstone though.

All the seat cushions were needlepoint

After a rainy ferry ride back to Paihia, we drove to Haruru Falls. Since driving on the left is not enough of a challenge, Mother Nature decided to test Shawn with the addition of pounding rain. Once again, he safely navigated us to our destination. The falls were not quite as impressive as the tour posters portrayed them to be, but after our California drought any falls with water are a welcome sight.

An afternoon of blogging drinking a cup of tea while sitting with the patio doors wide open giving a fine view of the jungle/forest and constant rain…not a bad way to spend your day.  Now, where should we go for dinner?

Being on vacation, we have no sense of dates and times. We headed into town and stopped at a restaurant we’d seen the day before. We walked in and the first thing they asked was “do you have a booking?” It was 7:00 PM Friday night on a holiday weekend, things were not looking good. The hostess was on the phone and held up a finger telling us to wait a minute. She got off the phone and said she just had a cancellation, the owner’s mother would not need her table. She walked us to the best table at the front of the restaurant looking out on the street and ocean.

My career as a food blogger is looking dim. After we devoured the beetroot and goat cheese salad, I realized I hadn’t taken a photo. In case you’re wondering, it was pretty and delicious. So were the lobster ravioli in a lemon sauce and the salt and pepper squid with fried capers. Just imagine the lemon and lime meringue pie.

Wi-fi is sketchy at this hotel, so more photos later.

Daily ratings:
Waterfront Cafe – 3.5 Kiwis
Alfresco – 4 Kiwis
Aloha Seaview Resort Hotel – 3 Kiwis

Ice Cream Flavor: salted caramel with cashews
Steps taken: 5,263 (95% in the rain)

A Drive Through the Countryside

We left Auckland today and headed for Paihia. I wanted to stop at a quilt shop, known as patchwork shops here. The shop is All Things Patchwork and it is a cute store with an abundance of Kaffe Fassett and Tula Pink fabric (this is an important fact for my fellow quilters); however, the cost is over twice what we pay in the states so nothing new is coming home with me.

The countryside is lush and green. There are rolling hills and a strange combination of what looks like pine forests, jungle, and grazing land. The highway was two lanes with the occasional one-lane bridge. If you’re on the side with the big arrow, you have the right-of-way. Many sections of the road are very curvy, and its still freaky to see a cars coming at you around a curve on the right. The logging trucks are downright terrifying, but Shawn navigated us safely through it all.

We have a nice little studio just outside of Paihia proper. We walked through town and along the beach. The weather today is cooler and windy along the beach with a bit of rain. Tomorrow is supposed to be windy and rainy, so Shawn’s scuba trip has been moved Saturday (the dive shop owner indicated the wind is the issue, not the rain). We stopped at the iSite (tourist information office) and asked what to do in the rain. The helpful staff was prepared with a list of activities for wet weather.

Speaking of the iSite, we stopped along the road at what would be the equivalent of our rest stops. There was a nice park, clean bathrooms, showers, the iSite for tourist information, a gift shop, and a great little cafe where we got lunch. Shawn had some strange concoction of espresso, coconut oil, and butter. Our sandwiches came with a little dish of something that tasted like a sweet tomato salsa. I’m not sure what we were supposed to do with it considering I had a falafel sandwich and Shawn had the Philly cheesesteak (or New Zealand’s equivalent according to Shawn).

Being curious, we checked out the local real estate listings (no Moms, we’re not planning to move). A nice ocean view home runs about $1.5 NZD or $1M USD.

We ended our day with another fine dinner at The Waterfront.  More giant squid rings followed by fresh pan-fried snapper with sweet potato mash in a lemon sauce with a glass of Picton Sauvignon Blanc for me. Shawn had lamb and sweet potato mash with the local MOA pale ale. As you can see, it was a lovely meal.

Daily ratings:
Cafe in the Park – 3.5 Kiwis
The Waterfront – 4 Kiwis

Gelato flavor: honey fig (yum)
Step count = 9,099 ( I know…slacker)

No One Died in Auckland Today…

For a moment, we were wondering if we were going to make it out of LAX. We asked for directions and ended up outside the terminal and on a shuttle bus to the international terminal. I’m not sure if we could have gotten there without going outside, but it was a long way between terminals and ate into our 2 1/2 hour layover pretty quickly.

The Air New Zealand plane was a 777 and we had upgraded our seats to a “sky couch”. That didn’t work out as hoped, but it gave us all 3 seats in the row so that was good. The conceptual drawing showed the footrest flipping out into a bed that two can sleep on. So picture the width of a normal 3-seat airplane aisle. Now picture Shawn and me lounging in that space…yeah, that didn’t happen. But, all in all, for a 12-hour flight it wasn’t terrible.

Air New Zealand in Auckland
Air New Zealand in Auckland
First view of New Zealand
First view of New Zealand

Shawn bravely tackled driving on the left side of the road. It was even more of an adventure due to highway construction. He safely navigated us through numerous roundabouts and right-hand turns (which are very freaky as you cross over oncoming traffic). We laughed every time he turned on the windshield wipers instead of the turn indicator. I don’t think I’ll be doing any big city driving. I’m not famous for knowing my left from my right.

Yup, that’s the driver’s side
Holy crap, there are cars coming at us on the right! Did I mention the GPS has an NZ accent?

While waiting for our hotel room, we took a stroll downtown along the waterfront. There were lots of indoor/outdoor restaurants with seating along the water. We had lunch at Pescado. Tapas included squid rings so big they looked like giant onion rings, shrimp with garlic aioli and a beef salad with fresh feta and a mint dressing. So far, so good!

Fresh fish market
Fresh fish market – there were tanks of live eel and HUGE (as big as our cat) crayfish
Lunch at Pescado on the water front
Lunch at Pescado on the waterfront
A lovely NZ Sauvignon Blanc
A lovely NZ Sauvignon Blanc

The concierge at our hotel is great. He gave us lots of advice on what to see and answered our touristy questions like “do you tip?” (You can but it is not mandatory like in the U.S. There’s no tip line on the credit card receipt.) Michael suggested tipping for great service particularly for young people who may be putting themselves through school.

Our room at Rydges, Auckland
Our room at Rydges, Auckland
View of the Sky Tower from our room
View of the Sky Tower from our room
View of our room from the Sky Tower
View of our room from the Sky Tower
OK, so maybe I’m a little freaked out by the height (52 stories)
Dinner at Little Italy…fresh seafood

Restaurant reviews for the day:

Pescado, 4 out of 5 Kiwis
Little Italy, 2.5 Kiwis

Gelato flavor: Cappucino
Step count = 13,755

Travel Technology

I’ve learned about a few websites and apps that make travel planning easier. We used Expedia and to make all our hotel reservations. Strangely, they did not always have the same accommodations available, and if they did they were not always the same price. We ended up using Expedia for the majority of our reservations. This is nice because it makes an itinerary for your whole trip. Both apps show lots of pictures of the properties and you can narrow your choices by price, ratings, and amenities.

If you use Gmail and Google Calendar, Google will helpfully read your email and put all your reservations on your calendar. This was very handy because with a glance at my calendar I realized I had double booked one day and didn’t have a place to stay the next day.

Tripit is another app that will read your email and add all your hotel, flights and rental car reservations to an itinerary. You can also add other activities (like a scuba dive and dinner at Hobbiton) to your itinerary. Great for keeping everything in one place. While on your trip you can add photos to each day too. I think that will be handy for remembering when, where and what we saw.

For mapping our adventure, I found a great article on how to use the Google map engine to make your own custom map. I dropped all our lodgings on the map and then Google calculated the routes. Assuming all goes as planned, we will be driving about 1200 miles on the North Island and 900 miles on the South Island. Good thing Shawn loaded up the iPod with tunes.

Shawn also found a used GPS on eBay with New Zealand maps installed. We paid about $80 for it and can probably resell it when we get home and recoup our investment. This was much cheaper than adding a GPS to our rental car. Shawn has also pre-loaded all our destination addresses into the GPS so we’re ready to hit the road.

Google map of trip

I love technology, but I’ve heard Internet performance in New Zealand is a bit slower than what we’re used to. Oh well…its vacation and we’re not in a rush.

Packing for New Zealand

So I’m getting ready to embark on the longest vacation of my life. One month in New Zealand. My plan is to pack for about a week and do laundry a few times while on the road (many of the places we booked indicated they had laundry facilities). We did some shopping for “travel” clothes and I ended up getting some Columbia pants and shirts because they are lightweight, dry quickly, look nice and are still comfy for some of our long car trips. Variables like weather and activities make it hard to be prepared for all situations.

It all needs to fit in one smallish carry on and one larger suitcase. This is my plan:

  • Pajamas (1)
  • Robe (1)
  • Undies (7)
  • Tops (6)
  • Tank tops (2)
  • Long sleeve denim shirt
  • Pants (3)
  • Capris (2)
  • Skort (1)
  • Swimsuit (1)
  • Raincoat (1)
  • Fleece (1)
  • Hoodie (1)
  • Yoga pants (1)
  • Socks (7)
  • Sandals (2) – Keens for activities and dressier for around town
  • Walking shoes (1)
My carry-on
My carry-on

Now, what about the non-clothing items?

  • Airplane pillow (inflatable)
  • iPad (books, music, games)
  • iPod
  • Nylon backpack for day trips and souvenirs – folds up into a tiny pouch
  • Cell phone – it will mainly be used as my camera
  • Paperback book – for off the grid moments
  • Chargers and converter for electronics
  • Hair dryer and curling iron – maybe, can’t decide on these
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Toiletries
  • Water bottle
  • Towel – quick dry
  • Sunglasses
  • Reading glasses
  • Hat
  • GPS

This is beginning to remind me of the George Carlin bit about stuff.

The QR Code Quilt

I was in a meeting the other day at work, and the subject was QR codes. I was asked to write technical guidelines on how to use them in business. As the meeting began, I pulled out my quilted covered notebook to take notes and one of my coworkers said: “you could make a QR code quilt.” We all had a good laugh, and the meeting commenced.

But the thought stuck in my mind. For years, I have been saving 2-inch squares of batik fabric. For some reason, I decided that if a scrap of batik was big enough to get one or more 2-inch squares, I’d keep it. I don’t do this with any other fabric, just batiks. These squares would be perfect for the QR code quilt, but what would happen when the QR code quilt is scanned? I decided to use my website address for the QR code. Using a QR code generator, I produced a 29×29 grid of squares…that comes out to 841 shares! No way am I going to piece together 841 2″ squares, but I remembered reading about watercolor quilts that use a fusible gridded interfacing. I will give that a try…

The notebook that inspired the quilt, the 2″ batik squares, and my QR code pattern

My Future Quilt Studio

For the past 10 or so years, I’ve done my quilting in my kitchen/dining room. It was great while the kids were growing up because I could be cooking dinner, helping with homework and getting in a bit of sewing. There is a great view of the swimming pool and the kitchen island is the perfect height for cutting and pressing. Storage is a bit lacking and it would be great to have a design wall, but I still managed to get projects done.

Now the kids are all grown and in college, and it looks like I will be getting a bedroom to call my own in the spring.

Stephanie's Bedroom
Stephanie’s bedroom – my future quilt studio. At least I know it will hold tons of stuff (in a chaotic fashion).

Since I have time to plan, I’ve started the quest for the perfect space. I’ve scoured the last few issues of Studios magazine and lots of books on organizing your space. At the moment, I’m leaning towards wire baskets for fabric storage. (I just visited Ikea for the first time last week…that experience is a whole other blog post.) I’m also thinking about a Koala cabinet for the studio. I have a smaller, thin sewing cabinet now, but I’m looking for extra space behind the machine so larger pieces don’t fall over the back edge.

I have lots of other grand plans, but then I open the door and remind myself that the room is only 10’x10′.  The fun part will be personalizing the space…it’s not all about function.