New Zealnd Part 7

Both of our girls celebrated their birthdays in New Zealand in very different ways.

For her 12th birthday, all our Falafel wanted to do was to take a walk down the road to where the Black Swans live, eat a picnic lunch, then splash in the lake. Sadly, it downpoured for most of the day.

When it did stop for a moment, we hurried down with our lunches, and ate by the water. She had her birthday crown on over her hat, which made me giggle. She didn’t get to splash that day because it started to rain and thunder, again. We did, however , make sure she got to go the next day. 2 days of celebrating? YES.

Our Bee turned 18 this year! The only thing she wanted was to go to the Stargazing Tour which is back on top of that dang mountain which required another gondola ride. *sigh*

Our Falafel has been practicing with Queenstown Gymnastics for the past couple of weeks, so we went there first. Her practice ended at 7:30 pm and the Stargazing didn’t begin until 10:45 pm. in the same town (the sun sets here promptly at 10 pm every night). So we went to a few grocery stores. We have gotten quite knowledgeable about which stores carry which items. When you have as many food restrictions as we do, food becomes top priority.

At 10 pm we decided to head on up on that scary cable car (once again). Our guide took us to the top of the mountain where there were two very powerful telescopes set up. It was super cold(about 40 degrees (F) or lower) so they handed out Canadian goose down jackets and I was glad I took one, even though I had my own down jacket on, as well as a fleece sweatshirt.

The night sky was filled with stars, and it was incredible to see and hear about the different constellations that are visible on this side of the world. Orion and his belt along with his trusty dog were all visible, but they were upside down. It was enough to make my head spin (in the best possible way). What’s even better, the girls were super excited to learn. We all were riveted. At the end of the hour tour, The Bee declared it was the best birthday she had ever had. Even though we had an hour to drive to get back (in the dark on an extremely winding road), and didn’t actually get in until 1 am, not to mention Falafel was beside herself with exhaustion… I’d say it was completely and totally worth it.

 

New Zealand Part 6

Kiwi Bird Park

Today we went to the Kiwi Bird Park. It was small but informative, and the girls enjoyed it. We sat in the Kiwi house, (and since they are nocturnal it was dark) and heard a talk about them and the efforts New Zealand is making to preserve the native/ indigenous species. The mammals brought in are eating the native bird population. Since Kiwis originally lived without land predators, they are flightless. In fact, they don’t have wings or arms. The look like fuzzy bottle gourds with long pointed orange beaks and two legs (No photos allowed in their house).

Kiwi Bird Park

Kiwi Bird Park

Kiwi Bird Park

Kiwi Bird Park

Kiwi Bird Park

Kiwi Bird Park

Kiwi Bird Park

Kiwi Bird Park

Kiwi Bird Park

Kiwi Bird Park

Kiwi Bird Park

After that, we went up the side of the mountain in a  gondola (cable car) which was absolutely terrifying. I may or may not have had a mild panic attack. Both girls were thrilled to be up there though. When at the top, we saw the Maori Haka show full of music and stories (and the Haka, or course).

Haka Show

The girls were chosen to go up on the stage and learn the Poi, and Jim was chosen to go and perform the Haka (there will be no video posted:). It was so much fun. As always, I was completely content to take photos and watch my family.

Haka Show

I am taking this opportunity to immerse our homeschooled Falafel in the Maori culture. We are learning tons! I think that may be my favorite part of this trip, so far.

New Zealand Part 5

 

Sunday, December 3, we went for a drive to walk on the Sylvan Lake Trail. It was a flat pleasant trail that ultimately led to a view of the lake. On the way, we heard beautiful bird song. Jim even recorded a bit so we can take it with us.

Sylvan Lake

The girls hiked ahead of us, so they left us their own version of trail markers to guide us. This one below is my favorite.

After we were done walking (tramping) on the trail (track), we drove further down the road to Kinloch where there was an amazingly beautiful beach. Teal freezing water as far as the eye could see. Even though every place seems to be full of magic and beauty, this one took my breath away.

Kinloch

Kinloch

Kinloch

Kinloch

Falafel (J) has gotten quite good at skipping rocks, which she will happily do for an hour straight. There was only one other family on the beach. It was heartwarming to see our daughter try to make friends with their Muslim daughter. Although they didn’t share a common language, they spoke to eachother through skipping rocks. Her Dad even found one for our girl to skip, and showed his delight when it bounced lightly 11 times across.

It is filling my soul to connect with nature, as well as with other people. The more we are here, the more commonality I find. The uncanny similarities in our terrain, the similar names of places, and the identifiable objects that make up the different cultures, firm my belief that we are all part of the same family. On this trip, I have often thought of what it was like on Pangaea, when the man-made divisions were non-existent (of course so was man, but that is beside the point). In New Zealand we are so very far from all we know, and at the same time, not far at all.

New Zealand Part 4

We headed back into Queenstown, and then to Frankton to the Farmer’s Market. It was super busy and great to see everyone enjoying themselves in the sunshine. What I have noticed most about New Zealanders (Kiwi’s) is their passion and commitment to being good stewards of this earth. A great example of this is a brilliant idea I saw at the market for reusing cups. They had a peg board with ceramic coffee mugs hanging from it, with a sign that read “Reuse! Take a mug, use it, replace it”. Below the board were two dishbins for used cups. That way, if you need a drink, instead of getting a disposable from a vendor, you would ask them to fill your cup. Next to the “portaloos” was a sink to fill up your cups and bottles as well, with drinkable water. From what I have seen so far, it is a very thoughtful/mindful culture.

Later that evening, after dinner, Jim, Falafel (J) and I went for a walk down the road from where we are staying in Glenorchy. The Bee (C) was finishing up some homework. There is a trail and boardwalk that winds through marshland. In the ponds scattered throughout, were Black Swans. We had the privilege of seeing whole groups of them with their offspring feeding and swimming. What a sight to see! Falafel (J) was most taken by them. We have decided that this walk needs to be added to our daily routine.

Glenorchy

You can read Part 3 here.

New Zealand Part 3

You can read Part 2 here.

The next day, we arose early at 6:00 am to get to Queenstown by 8 for a 4×4 off-roading Lord of the Rings Adventure.

Our driver’s name was Jenny, and she was such an informative guide. Not only did she show us the different filming locations for LOTR, but also added little film facts, as well as regional history. She told us that Chinese and Saudi Arabian tourists make up the majority of people visiting in the Summer, so we were a bit of a novelty. She gets to meet some fascinating people, and just adores her job. Although Frankton is an hour away from us, the entire Glenorchy, Queenstown, Frankton area has this small town feel where everyone knows everyone else. There is a sense of accountability, which is refreshing to me. If a celebrity wants to make a good impression with the Kiwis, they need to really show the people they care about them and the land. They will be respected and revered for what they do, not who they are. I really love that.

The car went over rough winding mountain roads that were a little too much for my taste, and by that I mean half the time I spent clutching the seat with my eyes shut tight. Although she was an excellent driver and completely competent, I don’t think I would choose to endure the bumps and jumps that those vehicles are famous for, voluntarily, again. However, the girls both thought it was fantastic and enjoyed the entire thing. We splashed through rivers, and drove over rocks, all the while learning about this beautiful country and it’s past. At one of the stops on the river, we got to pan for gold (didn’t find any), as we found out New Zealand’s mountains were teaming with it, and is what attracted many settlers here, originally.

Scotch Broom is invasive here too.

There are different rock formations that people have decided look like other things. This one is “Upside Down Elephant” or “Castle”.

“King Kong”

“tower”

I am not usually the adventerous type, and my stomach may still be up on a ledge somewhere, but I think this trip was definitely worth it.

New Zealand Part 2

Kiwis (the local people) we have met have all been lovely. Seriously great folk. I am loving learning all of their expressions and listening to their lovely dialect.

Routeburn Track

Only one day after we landed, we went on an (estimated- because I cannot convert metric to save my life) 8 mile guided tramp (hike) on the Routeburn Track (trail). We were led by Adam, a wellness consultant who was delightful. He graciously answered our questions and got along great with Jim. He was a fount of knowledge. We found out that NZ doesn’t have any indigenous mammals, aside from a type of bat, and was only home to birds at one time. Settlers have brought in many small invasive species, though, and their beautiful birds have suffered for it. I was happy to hear that there aren’t any large predatory mammals (ie: bear, wolves, cougar, etc) which made hiking all the better. While walking we heard the most beautiful bird song and I could fully concentrate on listening to it instead of tuning into every little snap and crack. It was hard not to feel as protective as the locals of preserving their native birds. Each call was its own melody. We also observed, while hiking or driving or walking, that there isn’t any litter on the side of the road or trails. When I asked, he told us the Department of Conservation is good about drilling this into people, and the locals all really love where they live, so they take pride in it. They are wonderful stewards of nature. If they see someone litter, it is remedied right away.

Routeburn Track

The water here is crystal clear, extremely cold, and absolutely delicious. You can drink right from the source.

Our Falafel (J) hiked faster than us all, and since it was only one path and no one could get lost, she was consistently out of our sight for most of the walk. Before we turned to head back down, Adam took us to an incredible clearing with rushing water that was clean enough to drink. The girls loved this.

Our hot swollen tootsies needed to soak in that freezing water. Getting back to our Hobbit roots.

Routeburn Track

Routeburn Track

Her happy place

Routeburn Track

Routeburn Track

Routeburn Track

I soon realized there are no bad views. Everywhere you look is perfection.

This one made me giggle. We were trying to imitate a Chinese tourist who came up with the best ways to pose for her selfies.

The hike was uphill for a good portion, but so satisfying. We were all sore that night and the next morning.

Someone had to take the photo, so we did two

Routeburn Track

All sweaty and joyful

You can read all about Day 1 here.

New Zealand Part 1

So this happened.

lake wakitipu

We had this amazing opportunity to spend some time in the beautiful country of New Zealand come up and we jumped on it. I cannot even express how very surreal it all is, especially to vacate our lives. I am writing this while we are still here, so beware of changing tenses (sorry grammar folks. I will try to do my best). For the next month, this blog will be a place to share our journey. I appologize if you are here for sewing/ crafting/ creating as there will be little of that shared. For everyone else, welcome to our family’s Adventures.

Kia Ora!

lake wakitipu

lake wakitipu

We left our home on November 26th at 9 am and arrived in Queenstown, NZ at 11:30 am on November 28, 2017 after taking a car to the ferry, the light rail to the airport, and three planes (Seattle to Canada, Vancouver to Auckland, and Auckland to Queenstown). And just like that, we went from cold, dreary, wet winter to sunny, hot, and dry Summer.

Glenorchy

The view when we landed was spectacular. Driving on the right side of the car, and the left side of the road, however,  has taken some getting used to. Let’s not even talk about Traffic Circles. I drove, straight from the airport, an hour on an incredible winding road to the small town of Glenorchy. The best part of staying here is opening the screenless doors wide to let the breeze through the entire house, and sitting on the couch, staring at the many mountains that surround the town. Well, that and the fact the insect population really only (so far) consists of fat fuzzy bumble bees, large horse flies (that don’t bite), and sand flies (which do bite- but live mostly on beaches and go for any exposed ankle flesh). It is remarkable how very relaxed we are when there isn’t any possibility of being stung or bitten.

These photos are all from Lake Wakitipu which is within short walking distance from where we are staying. Yes, we spend LOTS of time here.

Lake Wakitipu

Lake Wakitipu

Right away we were advised about the strength of the sun. There is a giant hole in the ozone layer over New Zealand which means no buffer between your skin and the sun’s rays. It is incredibly intense, and feels like it is burning right through you. Because of this, there is a very high rate of skin cancer here. They announce the daily “burn time” which, when we first arrived was 8 minutes. And it was. Our fair skinned redhead was outside for 5 minutes and her skin started to pink. So the locals all stress the importance of wearing a hat and sunscreen when you are out, at all times. Even in the car.

The other thing that Glenorchy in particular has, is strong winds. Out of nowhere. BOOM wind.

Lake Wakitipu

A short walk away from the house is Lake Wakitipu, which is the most vibrant teal color, and ice cold (8 degrees). We cannot seem to keep our youngest out of it! She loves wading in the frigid water, and skipping stones while standing on the long sandbars. In fact, she has adopted a policy of being barefoot and feral as often as she can. And although we have seen many kids (and adults) walking around barefoot in stores, she has kept hers to the outdoors- over any terrain.

Lake Wakitipu

The time difference isn’t terrible. The way our brains need to process it: NZ is 3 hours behind WA state, and a day ahead. Ha! It works, and so far, we can calculate when to talk/email with our people back home.

I’d say that is a good place to stop on Day 1.

Custom Leotards

If you follow me on Facebook or subscribe to my newsletter (see sidebar), you probably know that I now make and sell Custom Leotards! 

You may ask “Why Custom?”. Wouldn’t it be less effort if I just made general sizes and could keep the costs down? Yes, but then I would be no different than the big box stores, or large manufacturers, right? Well, I started this business because I saw a need. I was spending up to 50.00 per off-the-rack leotard for my own gymnast and none of them fit her right. She would complain that the shoulders were too tight, or armholes too snug, or tug on the bottom because it wasn’t long enough in the torso. If we went up a size, it hung off her like baggy elephant skin. When I discovered I could customize a leotard to her particular measurements, I heard an angelic chorus it fit like a glove. Or rather, like a leotard should fit. It suddenly didn’t move around as much when she moved, and this freed her up to be concerned with more important things she was doing, instead of fussing with her clothing.

I then started to notice the fit of other gymnasts’ leotards, and realized it was not just my girl that had this problem. You know how once you identify a problem, you cannot unsee it? And here’s the kicker: EVERYONE HAS A UNIQUE BODY!

Hence, Flip and Bend was born.

Custom leotards

I have just recently opened it up to anyone in the contiguous United States. SO, if you are interested in purchasing a cutsom leo, you can request to join my group. I wanted this to be more than a store, but an interactive community. I ask you two questions as part of my screening process. Please answer them so I know a little bit about your needs and if you would be a good fit. I encourage parents to share photos, and I share photos of my gymnast in order to show fit, so I made it a closed group to respect privacy.

custom leotards

With that said, if you are interested, I would love you to join!

Hope to see you there.

More Senior Photos

Are you tired of these yet? I hope not because today I have more Senior photos to share. I don’t think I ever will tire of these. This time, I had the honor of photographing one of my daughter’s best friends, whom we have known for many years now, and completely adore.

More Senior Photos

More Senior Photos

More Senior Photos

More Senior Photos

More Senior Photos

More Senior Photos

Can you tell that I am having so much fun? I adore these photo sessions capturing this time of life and these amazing young humans.

What have YOU been working on?

Another Guy Senior Portrait

With School starting up again, Senior portrait time is in full swing, and I am loving it. I had the privilege of doing Another Guy Senior Portrait. This time it was for someone my family has known for 9 years. Sheesh. Where does time go?!

Guy Senior Portait idea

I always ask the people I photograph to choose a place that means something to them. Even their own home. I want them to be able to look back at the photos and not only connect to their younger selves, but to the place itself, where the photos were taken.

Guy Senior Portrait idea

The other thing I do is I give minimal direction. These young people all come up with some fabulous poses, and positions, that are all part of who they are. If I asked them to stand a certain way or pose them, it wouldn’t be as natural. And honestly, they come up with things that are way better than anything I would! I just follow the light.

Guy Senior Portrait idea

This is the second “guy” photo session I have done, and I am finding that no matter the gender, these young adults really all shine in their own ways. So far, everyone has been up to the “challenge” of being in front of the camera lens. And for some of us (*ahem* that is why I am behind the lens) it is certainly a challenge.

Guy Senior Portrait ideas

Not so much for this young man.

Guy Senior Portrait ideas

Goodness these are super fun.

Guy Senior Portrait ideas

Have you taken Senior photos? What do you normally do?? What is your favorite part about it?