Saturday, January 9, 2016

Sweetie's Bucket List: New Zealand, Check

This Christmas/New Year, Sweetie and I took advantage of living in Asia and flew down to New Zealand. It was on his bucket list. I've been there before -- cycled across the South Island with my adventurous mom in 2004 (or '05, I'm not sure). But, I'd only seen a small part of the country, so was more than happy to return so that Sweetie could check it off his list.

You probably think New Zealand is pretty close to Japan. Just fly a little bit south, right? Well, it's an 11-hour flight. But, that's okay, because many members of our tour group flew from the East Coast of the US and had a LAYOVER that was 8-hours long, on top of flights totaling a horrific number of hours that I can't dream of tabulating.

We flew a red-eye in Air New Zealand's relatively swank premium economy cabin on a Dreamliner. It was sadly not their super-swank premium economy cabin that they have on some other flights, but it was pretty nice. We had a small cabin of three or four rows. "Craig" greeted us by name and provided us with a little apertif to kick off the trip in proper Kiwi fashion.

After watching about three movies and sleeping one hour, we arrived in Auckland, where we checked into the CityLife Auckland hotel in the city center. As we checked in, we were told that the tall gentleman standing in the lobby was our guide, so we introduced ourselves and tried not to show our shock when he said the group would be gathering in 45 minutes for a walking tour of the city. It was about 9:30AM and I'd slept ONE HOUR. I was expecting a little naptime and then an afternoon walk around the city. Oh well. We showered, sucked it up, and met the group. At this point, I should mention that I'll reserve all catty group comments for private conversations only, but you know I have them up my sleeve. Doesn't everyone who's done a group tour?

 There are few photos of our walking tour. I think we were all too shellshocked to muster enough hand-eye coordination after our long flights and arduous journeys. I remember little. I do remember an AMAZINGLY delicious lunch of green mussels that we had at the The Occidental, on historic Vulcan Lane (insert Star Wars jokes here). I pity the fools who didn't order the mussels. They were to-die-for, as were the french fries. In retrospect, that was one of the best meals of the trip.

I think there was about an hour for a nap after we wrapped up the walk and before we met for a free drink in the hotel bar before dinner. I had a much-deserved (if I do say so myself) glass of NZ Sauvignon Blanc and met a few of our travel companions for the 12-day trip. We all drew cards out of a card deck, and were assigned "cousins" for the trip. My "cuzzy" was a Russian-American a few years older than me (I assume, she would reveal absolutely nothing about her age or her age in relation to her husband's age, or anything else related to years. She was a hoot with a Russian-immigrant flair and we became friends). We were bonded for the trip and always had to make sure our "cuzzies" were on the bus before it took off after a stop.

Dinner was unremarkable at a place on the wharf called Neptune's Bar and Grill. It sadly did not benefit from views even though it was right on the water. I ordered a glass of Sauvignon Blanc that most definitely was NOT SB, and had to leave it undrunk. Sometimes, it's just not worth it and that glass fell into that category.

I slept very well that night.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Winter as Mainers Know It

Winter in Maine is not like winters in other parts of the country. NORTHERN New England is where I live and winter is well...special here.

A few things you should know if you live in Maine in the winter:

 -- There's at least a 30% chance that your mailbox will be wiped out during any given winter by plowed snow, or by a direct hit by a snowplow.

 -- If you live on a road big enough for lane lines, there is a 70% chance your mailbox will be wiped out by plowed snow or a direct snowplow hit.

 -- Shovels are not a rational means of snow removal.

 -- Snowblowers are for masochists.

 -- Neighbors with plows on their trucks are almost priceless (worth $260/month in my neighborhood).

 One thing to remember is: expect the unexpected.

Like tonight, for example. I motivated myself in sub-freezing temperatures (it was -11F when I left the house for work) to go to the gym. It's Friday, and my gym is not staffed on Fridays. That means you have to swipe yourself in via a machine located outside the door. Well, the card-reading machine was COMPLETELY ENCRUSTED in ICE. Completely. At first I thought I just needed to get a little MacGyver on it and tried to scrape the ice away with my card. Then a house key. Then I started pulling desperately on the locked gym door. I sent pleading glances toward the people on cross-trainers who were desperately trying to avoid making eye contact. I went back to scraping at the ice with my car keys. I made more desperate pulls at the gym door. I scraped some more. I pulled some more. Then finally, a red-faced and sweaty young lady bolted off her cross-trainer and opened the door.

 Thank you.

 Once inside, I couldn't help but glance at the weather report playing on one of the TVs. I saw that temps for tonight will run from -3F to 7F. And then below that it said "Not so cold." Yes, that's what it said. I swear.

Later, I overheard a cross-trainer boasting that he had finished all his plowing today (we had a snowstorm yesterday). Then, his client said, "Just in time for the next storm." The trainer look incredulous: "No?! Seriously?!" Guess he hadn't seen the weather report. Then, the client proceeded to talk about the tractor he has and said he's available for hire. The trainer said, "Well, I have a flatbed....Are you dickering?"

 I hate winter, but I love Maine. It's special.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Thinking back to warmer days

I finally managed to upload some pictures from my husband's digital camera (after several issues with incompatable cords, wrong software, etc.) And it's nice to recall warmer days this past summer in England. We went to Wimbledon one day (what a dream for me!), and although we had quite an experience waiting in the "The Queue," it was all worth it once we were inside and able to catch a few matches.

We managed to get seats right near the bottom of one of the "show courts" which was fantastic. One of the highlights was when a very high lob started coming down right in front of us, and we suddenly realized that it was going to hit a cameraman (who was carefully filming the court and therefore oblivious) right square on top of his head. Time slowed. And the ball bounced off his head dramatically. He pulled away from the camera in shock, pulling out various audio and visual cords with him. He had to explain to the control room what had happened, as they must have lost all their feeds. (That's his head there).

It's a whopping 8 degrees Fahrenheit where I am now, so definitely nice to remember that unseasonably warm day in July at Wimbledon.

I don't know what's behind the guarded door -- unfortunately our tickets didn't get us into there!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

There is snow and then there is snow

It snows a lot up here in Maine. Just FYI. In fact, so far, it hasn't really snowed anything less than one foot at a time. Pretty much. There was that foot the day before Halloween. That melted (thank goodness). And then the foot the day before Thanksgiving (in the photo. That melted, too, remarkably). And then there were a few minor inches here or there (child's play).

And then there was yesterday. I naively wore my "short boots" to work -- boots that were perfectly adequate for two winters in Indiana -- because there was no snow on the ground when I left for work.


By the time I got home, there were about nine inches. And the assorted exotic snow removal machines that they have up here in Maine were here, there, and everywhere. Along with copious sirens due to accidents. The snow here is always so epic. And the response to it is always so epic (layers and layers of chunky salt piled up on the sidewalks, for example), that it is quite entertaining for me. At least until Sunday when the high temperature is something like twelve degrees Fahrenheit.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Things I Love and Things I Don't

Things I love:

1) Great food (including fresh seafood, like lobster)
2) The ocean
3) Travel

Having recently sort of relocated to Maine, I am so excited to have easy access to #1 and #2. And with Maine more populated with cool things to see, I am also enjoying #3. The pic is of some lobster traps we came across in Camden, Maine.

Things I don't love:
1) Cold weather and snow
2) Old houses

Of course, Maine has both of these in quantity. By Dec. 3, it had snowed over 2 feet here (the first foot coming before Halloween). But remarkably, we are without snow on the ground at the moment. Though the constant clack, clack of studded tires reminds me that it will be coming. And staying. I've been told that at graduation in June, there is STILL some snow on the ground.

And old houses are, for me, fun to look at from outside, but not the kind of place I generally like sleeping, let alone living in. And Maine has plenty of old houses. I'm living in one now. I've never lived in a place with radiators before (though I once lived in a mid-late 19th century log cabin that had a gas heater where someone, not me, had to light the pilot anytime we wanted to "turn it on").

Friday, September 2, 2011


I lost contact with my blog after Sweetie and I bought a house last year. We have had such a great time working on the backyard (well, not really a great time, but rewarding time). But, I grew frustrated with my job situation and knew it was time to move on. I knew that to save my professional viability, I had to move on and do it this year. So, now I'm 1,000 miles away from Sweetie, our beautiful home, and kind, caring, fun neighbors.

It's a new journey now and I am going to make it work!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fall Light

The leaves are down. The mornings are frosty. Our annuals have long since been thrown into a pile in our future flower bed in the backyard. The deck furniture has been moved out of the elements. And all that remains now is a watering can. Why we've left it out there, I'm not quite sure. There's nothing left to be watered. Maybe it's a last vestige of summer to console us.