Friday, December 24, 2010

Best Birthday Ever

Well, while Ewan's birthday party was a bit unsettling, mine was awesome.  Since Adrian had a week off of work and the boys were off from school for summer break, we decided to head to the South Island and spend my birthday there.  We did ZERO planning aside from booking tickets on the ferry.  With our diplomatic status, we were entitled to half price ferry tickets (usually $800 for 4 people and a car) until the 15th of December. So, we kinda had to plan that, the rest of the trip we were gonna "wing it".  We had a general idea of where we wanted to go and what we wanted to see but no set plans or hotel rooms.
The ferry ride over was very nice though both boys got a tiny bit seasick. Adrian was in heaven. I think he took a thousand photos.
We spent our first day and night in Nelson and found a very clean and comfy hotel right near the beach. I have to say, this was one of the best beaches so far that I've seen in NZ. It reminded me of Fla. The sand was light and clean, the water was lovely and there was room to run around, or fly a kite!

We moved on closer to one of our chosen destinations: Abel Tasman Park. It is reputed to be gorgeous and did not disappoint.  Adrian wanted to go Kayaking with the boys and since I had no intention of going out for a 4 hour kayak, I volunteered to pack up the hotel and hang at the beach we had found the day before.  While Adrian was hunting for our 2nd hotel of the journey, the boys and I found this sweet little lagoon right off the beach at Abel Tasman.
No sharks :) 
The restaurant selection here was a bit dismal but we had places to go and things to see in Kaikoura so we headed east to our next destination.
Kaikoura is a really fun place to spend your birthday. I have to admit, I was spoiled. Kaikoura is home of the Crayfish, or as we call it, LOBSTER. They aren't cheap ( @ $80 each) but they are good.  You can stop at a little trailer on the side of the road and have a lobster right there, freshly plucked from the ocean.

With some time to kill before upgrading to our next hotel (our first one had no Internet "gasp") we headed to the seal hang out to check out the seals. The lady at the Lobster Shack told us about a short hike into the forest where you can see baby seals hanging out in a stream. They apparently swim up there to hang out while their moms hunt. I had read about this place earlier and was dying to go though our odds of seeing the seals were slim since they mainly go in the winter.  Our chances were also diminished by some jerks who recently had gone up there and slaughtered @ 30 of the pups. The seals will probably never come back now ruining a great local opportunity and tourist attraction. The waterfall was beautiful though and we enjoyed the hike.

Our new Hotel (Waves) was amazing. It was actually made up of independently owned apartments that the owners rent out nightly.  It was expensive and worth every penny.  It was a full 2 bedroom apartment with everything, super clean and very modern.  Right next door was the best restaurant in town where we ate this:

Early the next morning Adrian went whale watching. The boys and I had had enough sea sickness and knew we were getting back on the ferry later that day so we decided to hang out in Kaikoura while daddy went out on the boat. As a nod to Ewan, our resident vegetarian, we went to an animal farm to make up for his lost whale watching trip. It was a bit lack luster but the animals were cute and we were allowed to feed them. I was even able to get over my fear of chickens when a overly friendly chicken sided up to me and begged for food.

I loved it. My birthday was perfect and I got to celebrate it again when we got home.  As a special gift, a pod of dolphin followed our ferry out of the harbor. Thanks boys.

Christmas Lunch with the DCM

We have a very nice DCM here in Wellington and a very good CLO which makes for fun parties.  Our DCM invited the entire Embassy over to his house recently for a Christmas lunch (pot luck). We didn't get the sunshine we were hoping for which called for a bit of reshuffling with the kids' activities but "partly sunny" was good enough.  Everyone brought a dish so we got to enjoy some good home cook food!
I never know what to wear to these things so I wore a dress even though it was considered a picnic. Better to be over dressed in my book. I let the boys get away with polos and shorts.
This may have been one of the most relaxing events yet.  Most of the parties at the Marine House are laid back and casual but for some reason, this one was my favorite, perhaps because it was Christmas.  Erin (our CLO) even arranged for Santa to stop by and hand out candy to the children.
It wasn't the swingin' booze fest Iwas used to from our Newspaper days but a nice change of pace and no hangover.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Not the Best Birthday Ever

Wow, I am ashamed that I haven't written a blog post in over 3 weeks. To say that I've been busy would be an understatement. Let's see, after Thanksgiving we finally had a birthday party for Ewan who actually turned 11 three months ago. Better late than never I suppose. I have no idea why I agreed to having 8 extra little boys sleep over. It started out ok but then the inevitable happened....someone got hurt. How guilty can one mother feel? Pretty guilty. Poor Thomas, Ewan's closest friend and one of the nicest boys I've ever met, actually offered to help during dinner. He was going to fill up the fancy glass water bottles. Did I mention that we have hard tile floors? Everything that falls on them breaks, including Ipods and glass water bottles. Thomas tried to catch his as it fell and ended up in the emergency room for his troubles. I was so horrified, still am.  While I am sure Thomas' parents were not too happy about the situation, they did bring him back the next morning to finish off the party. Perhaps I should offer to reimburse them for the tennis lessons they just paid for but won't be able to use?
Here is the happy bunch before the accident.
Ewan is second from the right and Thomas is second from the left with the banana on his shirt.

Since half of Ewan's friends are vegetarians, we decided to make veggie burgers for dinner but this kid really like his veggies. Not only is he eating a veggie burger and sweet potato fries, he added broccoli to his! This is a new one.