Sunday, December 28, 2014

So this is Christmas

This year, we were invited to a friend's house for a barbecue on December 25th. Although the friend in question is one of the few other Jews in Hawke's Bay, I was a little leery of going as it sounded like it might just be a Christmas celebration...but with Jews. In case you've forgotten, my goal around Christmas is to make it feel as much like an ordinary days as possible--often by working, and often by trying to find one of the few open places that isn't Denny's or Chinese food. [Actually, I didn't know I was avoiding Chinese food until very recently. It just wasn't something my family ever did.]

But I digress. To start the day on a positive note, we drove up to Waipatiki Beach. I was busy surfing, which left Nico with the camera. There were not very many blogworthy photos. Of note: we ran into one of the other few Jews in Hawke's Bay while at the beach. Jancie and Zooey love sand. I think Zooey even likes eating it. Jancie dislikes cold water, but still managed to get about waist deep.

Off to the barbecue, which went much better than I was expecting. I even learned that deer are kosher...or rather they could be kosher. They are most certainly not kosher in New Zealand.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Rainy Day

My last post seems to have inspired a little home improvement fever in the Laskos. We have a conservatory (solarium to you Americans) that has leaked for as long as we have lived here. After several not inexpensive attempts at fixing the problem, we finally had the (glass) roof replaced...also not inexpensive. We had no leaks this winter, but the years of dripping water had stained most of the wood beams. So although the room was now leak free, it certainly did not look water tight. 

Since we are talking about a glass room, I was expecting a couple of hours of painting, at most. Two days later (and 1 trip to Resene and 3 trips to Mitre 10), we are finished. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a before photo. Fortunately, you can find anything online, including remnants of a realtor's advertisement for our house. 

In other news, paint is unbelievably expensive. So are paintbrushes, rollers, and every other supply you might need. I have taken to recycling masking tape.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Four more years

The calendar has reminded me that we moved into our art deco beauty exactly four years ago today...which means that we've now been in New Zealand for the better part of five years.

Which means that Nico and I are just about eligible to become New Zealand citizens. There are not too many advantages of becoming citizens. Really, the only ones I can think of are 1) we can currently be deported for committing crimes. If we become citizens, we could only be deported for treason...or maybe not at all. I'm not that clear on the laws regarding deportation. And 2) we would be able to live and/or work in Australia without needing any visas. Americans are required to get $20 (Australian) visa waivers just to visit Australia. As Kiwis we could walk in and set up shop with only our passports.

I guess a third reason to become citizens is NZ passports. There are many benefits of carrying a Kiwi passport, like you won't be the first person killed when your plane is hijacked, and you can visit Cuba. Actually, I am not sure if I would be allowed to visit Cuba anyway. I would probably still be breaking US law...would Cuba let me in? I'm not sure if I can pass for non-American. In the last five years, I have developed absolutely no trace of a Kiwi accent. To tell the truth, I still don't even know what a Kiwi accent sounds like. Or rather, I could not describe it if I had to...I sort of know it when I hear it. I could probably do a fake Australian accent that might pass for Kiwi in Spanish speaking countries, though my vocabulary is limited to "G'day" and "A dingo took my baby".

Thursday, August 28, 2014

So Jancie likes Hawaii. 

Here she is with her beach toys. I'm guess this bench is somewhere in Waikiki that is not quite at the beach. Jancie very likely wants to go to the beach, but the fact that she's smiling and not crying about it leads me to believe that she has not been waiting very long to go to the beach.
And here we have a rare picture of Zooey playing with Jancie's beach toys. I can't remember where we took this picture. Possibly it is Kailua; maybe an interested party could figure out which island that is and then determine the location of Zooey from there. 

I met this yellow fish at Shark's cove. He was swimming along innocently, and then I stole his soul with my waterproof Sony camera. Taking photos underwater proved difficult, and few came out as well as this one. 

Shark's Cove is supposed to be the best place to snorkle with turtles, but there were not any present the two times we were there. We did run into some very lazy ones on nearby Turtle Beach, but none of them felt much like swimming. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Have you seen my garden, it is most peculiar. Have you seen my garden?

If anyone has been wondering why I haven't posted anything in a while, it is because I have been doing absolutely nothing except jungle taming for the last few months. I realize now that I neglected to take any before photos, which means that the after photos look less than impressive. This picture from March of my (then) just washed PT Cruiser is the best I can do to give you a frame of reference.

A walk around the house today looks like this:
 After pulling all the ivy (and other vines) off of the fence, we have been left with 1) an ugly chain link fence and 2) an ugly view of the neighbors'. I am confident that both will be gone by spring.
 That's a native flax in the centre, and to the right is an avocado tree I planted shortly after we moved in.
 I never realized how scary the house next door is until now.

 I discovered several rock walls during the most recent cleanup.

 In addition to the hundreds of hours of labour, I am out one rake, one pair of gloves, one hand saw (which I hope to recover while loading the below pictured pile for the dump), and one box of snail pellets. Note to French people: Do not eat the snails around our house for a while.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

To give you an idea of what a 67 room mansion looks like, 
here's Jancie thinking about trying the swing.
Central Hawke's Bay is mostly a place we drive through on the way to Wellington. I suppose that is a shame, as it does have many draws that would be popular if the same attractions weren't also available in many other parts of the country (like quaint towns, beaches, horseback riding, fishing, and sheep). On Sunday, however, we took a rare road trip to Central Hawke's Bay...Takapau to be more specific. The occasion: afternoon tea at Oruawharo Homestead.

A rare photo of Zooey actually doing something.
New Zealand is very much a coffee society. You can get a cappuccino (though you would probably order a flat white if you are Kiwi) at Burger King. We were a little disappointed when we first arrived here that there are few places serving afternoon tea. Fortunately, the owners of Oruawharo Homestead seem to enjoy serving it in their mansion.

Sorry, I have no pictures of tea. Jancie got bored of sitting very quickly and wanted to run around the vast grounds.

Monday, March 31, 2014

My eldest daughter has been very non-interested in my career thus far. Apparently, if something doesn't involve talking trains, talking cars, or singing penguins, it just doesn't rate on the Jancie scale. Naturally, I have thought of changing careers, perhaps becoming an engineer or an Antarctic ornithologist...I am getting on in years, and may have already missed my race car driving window.

Then I started thinking: Maybe I should return to my roots. We're headed back to Southern California in a few weeks. Jancie has never heard of Disneyland, but I am certain she wants to go. What could be more impressive than the guy who runs Captain EO?
Also, Disneyland has gotten unaffordable for all but richest Americans (and perhaps the world's richest foreign tourists); getting into Disneyland free is easily the best perk of working at Disneyland (followed closely by meeting your future spouse).

But then I started thinking: I quit that job because it paid so little. Will my daughter still respect me if I can't afford a set of souvenir mouse ears? And probably Nicole will want a matching set for Zooey. The math just does not work out.

Fortunately, there is a simple solution. Reopen the Upjohn Company Pharmacy. Yes, a pharmacy. Right there on Main Street, USA. Where could anyone find a better location for a pharmacy?
And so we are off on a new/old adventure. Goodbye to my Kiwi friends, coworkers, and other acquaintances. It has been a mostly pleasant 4+ years. Hello Disneyland, California.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Weekend in Hawke's Bay

Napier has so many public gardens, I often think my taxes should be higher. Here are Nicole, Jancie, and Zooey at the Bluff Hill Lookout, which might not quite qualify as a garden...

Above are Zooey learning to do something (back at home) and Jancie trying to catch a butterfly at the Centennial Gardens.

And in case you were wondering how to best spend two dollars:
Kiwi Wedding
Taking a self portrait requires a lot of skill when you do not
have a phone with a self facing camera.
Interesting thing about New Zealand dining: restaurants make no attempt to turn over tables. If you are a very slow eater, this feature is a good thing. If you like showing up places without reservations, you may be in for trouble. Even a restaurant that looks empty probably has at least one party for each table that night, so you will not be seated before anyone with a booking; and there are not very many places that keep wait lists, as it is likely the restaurant will close before anyone leaves.

My instructions were to photograph the bride before she
took her hair down. Mrs. Wakefield, you really messed
up the depth of field in this photo.

And so it goes with weddings. Hawke's Bay is blessed with many wineries offering beautiful places to get married. Apparently, when planning your special day, you get the entire day to work with. We arrived a little early (around 3PM) for what we thought was an afternoon wedding. We were pretty close to the first guests to leave (at around 10PM) because we started worrying about Zooey and Jancie, who were at home with their grandparents.

Other than the length, the only things I found unusual (as an American) about the wedding were: 1) Signing the marriage certificate in the middle of the ceremony and 2) A cheese cake; no, not a cheesecake, a cake made of cheese...tiered like a wedding cake. Blue cheese, brie...maybe cheddar for the base? Nicole was in cheese heaven.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Art Deco IV

Is this the coolest car ever? Yes, it's a Jaguar made of wood.

On to the important stuff: The official rules state that one cannot set up a gazebo for the Gatsby Picnic until Sunday morning at 6 AM. But those in the know get there sometime before 5 AM to claim the best spots. I woke up around 5, and was able to find a pretty respectable piece of real estate, and sure enough the cops came by around 5:40 and cautioned everyone about waiting to erect any structures for another 10 minutes. After going home to try sleeping for a couple of hours, I returned to find about a dozen gazebos blown away and destroyed by the wind. Fortunately, ours remained standing, but as the wind was continuing to build, I made the call to retreat to the more protected beach side of the treeline. My early morning was for naught.

It was still windy down by the beach, but we were able to picnic without too much damage. Nicole's work even got a mention in the local paper:

"One cheerful group had a sign "Drinks and Dollies" on their nifty nest..."

Now that's just all around poor reporting. We (mainly Nicole) built the Grauman's Chinese Theater, complete with hand/foot prints out front. Inside we were a silent movie (and everything was black and white, including the food). The wind prevented the screen and title cards from being displayed behind us, but otherwise the effect was pretty good. And all they notice is the sign (which is clearly a movie poster)? Did I mention there was free popcorn?

At the end of the day, we attempted to take an Art Deco Family portrait, but Jancie was not cooperating at all.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Weekend trip to Wellington for a baby naming

 Blogger keeps scrambling my hebrew text, so here are a couple of pictures (with English transliterations).

Sorry family, it did not appear to be the sort of synagogue that takes pictures of these sorts of things, so I have none. The next day there was a bat mitzvah, which we were invited to attend. It was not quite the American production I am used to, but there was a large (and somewhat exotic band), which allowed my old knees to show everyone that I can still kazatzka (again, sorry no pictures). The crowd was impressed, Jancie not so much.

And the day after that, we went to the zoo! This is  what Zooey looks like at the zoo.

Jancie appeared to have a much better time than her little sister. Her favourite animal is officially the giraffe. In case nobody else is keeping score, I called this one well over two years ago.

Jancie preferred the tiger statue to the real tiger.

And Shelly was trying to hook up with an African Spurred Tortoise (in the little pen behind Jancie), but apparently this particular species of tortoise does not like having its neck pulled. Note to Jancie: Shelly also does not like having her neck pulled.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Beach Day

Napier is a lovely seaside town, but the beaches are not the world's greatest. Forgive me if I wrote a post just like this one a few years ago. Last week, we went to Waipatiki, which is about 30 km north of us. In my opinion, Waipatiki is Hawke's Bay's most scenic beach.

Ocean Beach
30 km to the south gets us to Ocean Beach, where we spent a couple of hours on January 2nd. January 2nd is a public holiday here; nobody knows why, and it has no name except "the day after New Years." A holiday is a holiday, and I will take it. And January 2nd brought us to Ocean Beach, which though not as stunning as Waipatiki does have its own charm.

Here are Jancie and I returning from playing in the water shortly after Jancie decided playing in the water is not very much fun.

I did bring my surfboard to Ocean Beach. It was my first attempt at surfing in New Zealand; I won't bother to point out how long I've been in New Zealand, but let's just say I was not as sharp as I remember. I think I stood up for a total of 6 exhilarating seconds, hence there are no known pictures of me surfing at Ocean Beach.

Sleeping Beauty
If Ocean Beach does not feel like it is too far to drive to the beach (which it kind of does to me, in that we are on an island, and all), a further 10 km and we're at Waimarama. I had been dreaming of surfing for the last couple of days, and for some reason Nicole, Jancie, and Zooey were agreeable to yet another beach trip. Waimarama looks to me like what I think an East Coast (of the US) beach would look like if I had ever been to one. It looks extra crowded in all the photos I took because 1) it is crowded by New Zealand standards (the temperature hit 30 degrees Celsius in Napier today) and 2) there is so little sand above the high tide line that everybody is crammed together. Let's start with a photo of Zooey doing what she does best. And follow with a couple of pictures of Jancie; notice the beach full of sand, and Jancie wants to play with the boulders.

Waimarama did have the advantage (today, at least) of having a slow rolling swell, which allowed me to re-learn to surf. Sorry, there are no action shots; I am a surfing champion, and you will have to take my word for it. Here is a photo of me doing my best to look like I am on vacation.  Is anyone still wondering why I moved to New Zealand?