Monday, April 11, 2016

Back home in Whangarei...

Hello Everyone,

We have ended our New Zealand road trip and are now back on the boat in Whangarei.  We had an amazing time in the South Island.  It truly is a spectacular place to visit.  An extra bonus from our road trip... All the amazing people that we met that welcomed us into their homes and taught us so much about their lifestyles.  I have to say that if we didn't go through Air BnB and have as many options for our stays as we did we wouldn't have had nearly the experiences we had.  There were many times as we are driving out of our way, on some winding narrow back roads, to find our little home for the next two days, that Chris and I would look at each other and say, "Thank god for Air BnB, because we would never have found this quaint little spot, or found out about the history of this town, or met these wonderful people."  I am not sure if I would do our road trip any different, except for to make it longer... often there were times when we wished we had one more day here and there to explore or just have some down time for the kids (and us).  All and all I can't say enough about New Zealand and what this country has to offer and the ease it is to travel around here.  Just keep in mind that you need to have flexibility in your schedule because of the weather.

We are now back in Whangarei.  It is a little bit of an adjustment again getting used to the boat systems, and just being on the boat again.  One thing that we all looked forward to was climbing back into our own beds for a good night sleep.  Chris and I had escaped for a little while to start making our preparation lists for leaving New Zealand.  We feel that our time is running out and it is a little sad for us to wrap our head around leaving here.  We are hauling the boat out next week so we have to make some priorities in order to maximize our time in the water and out of the water.  I think we have 5 working lists of boat maintenance at a minimum... I know Chris has many more.  There are only a few major items we need to get down before we leave and so the others just take time.

In the meantime the kids are doing well.  We are back on a school schedule and are able to catch Amaia and Alina up on Math and writing.  Their reading has blown sky high and often I am telling them to put their kindles down and get outside to play while the weather is nice.  I am very proud of Alina, she has taken an interest in writing on the computer.  She still practices her hand writing but in order to get both, Alina and Amaia, to write in a journal I have had to resort to computer typing.  I am happy they are at least being creative and learning how to write in paragraphs.  Writing seems to come natural to Alina and she likes to use descriptive words so it is fun to read what she comes up with.  Amaia I fear may judge herself to much and she compares herself to the books that she reads and doesn't feel that she is a good writer.  We are taking baby steps and encouraging as much as we can.... She is starting to enjoy it more and is only putting up a little resistance now.

Tristan is on schedule for his school year to end in the middle of June.  That would mean that he would have completed 60 months of school in 3 months... I am crossing my fingers because I would really like him to have a summer break before we start integrating back into mainstream and school. Alexia is also excelling, but often she gets lost in her writing and has started many books.  I wish she could incorporate them into one but we will see where she ends up.  I always thought that she should write a book but as all books hers should have an ending... or maybe not.

Well there isn't much to say and we wont have much for a little while.  We are just checking off our lists both for the boat and school and also trying to have some fun in between.  We are starting to communicate with our weather router and our friend Dave to help us watch for a window to Vanuatu.  We are thinking we would like to have the boat ready to untie the dock lines the first week in May.  I am very excited to get this passage done and be up there.  I can't wait to experience the rim of the volcano on Tanna Island and dive in the blue cave.

Hope all is well back home and everyone had a great spring break.  We are thinking of our family and friends and are looking forward to being home in about 4 months.  Boy time flies by.

Hugs and love,


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Just horsing around.... Kawhia, Nz

Hello Everyone,

So all of us have gotten to pick something in our traveling around New Zealand that we really wanted to do and for Amaia and Alina it was horse back riding.  Growing up with horses going out on trail rides that you pay for isn't as exciting in and of itself.. but for the girls who just love the horses and haven't been able to ride a ton this was perfect for them.  Plus the scenery and the day we had was the frosting on the cake.  I really wanted to ride on the beach and not around someone's farm or down through the bush where all you can see are the trees so this was the best option for both of our worlds.

Again this was what seemed to be a small operation down in Kawhia.  Bevan and his kids were raising money for them to travel to Thailand for a type of karate tournament.  He is their trainer and as it turns out spent a few years living in a camp in Thailand to learn his martial art.  The kids were fantastic with the little girls.  As in most trail rides you just get to go for a walk so I wanted to go for a scenic walk which is why we chose the beach.  It really is a beautiful black sand beach.

We were lead down the beach by the kids until they felt the little girls were comfortable.  His kids walked the whole way beside the girls to make sure they were having fun.  All I heard behind me was Alina's little giggles as the little girl that was with her would run along side and make the horse trot sending Alina in a bouncing, laughing frenzy.  

Tristan and Chris having a little chat...

It was also our anniversary of 17 years.  I can't believe how much time flies...  Our adventure has been so incredible in so many ways .... I hope for many more (maybe some simpler) adventures to come.  

We also met up with our friends from Bob the Cat and Javalot.  Rachel made a fantastic traditional dinner of Lamb and Kumara.... The kids had so much fun hanging out and playing games outside until we left at 10pm.  There house is super cool and the kids made themselves at home just like they had never separated.  It is so much fun to get together and reminisce about the cruising days now that they are back into their working worlds, school and real life, it makes us appreciate the few months that we have left.  Stories of the fish caught, kite surfing, snorkeling, advice on places to go see in Vanuatu and New Caledonia, talking about the wonderful places in Fiji and the impact of the cyclone and of course a little of the american entertaining politics... we are viewed these days from the outsiders like a reality t.v. show... from super power to MTV Reality... God Bless America.  

Some of the other sites along our roads of New Zealand....

Tristan trying out the moped for his next ride next year to school

 Girls and Ivan on our friends of the boat Javalot

Coffee at Celia's son's cafe in town... I love the artistry of the elephant and pac man

Love these old homes

Hugs and love,


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Sunset Valley Vineyard, Nelson, Nz... the ultimate hands on experience for Alexia

Hello Everyone,

We were very fortunate to stay at Sunset Valley Vineyard.  I loved staying here and we were able have an amazing hands on experience working on the vineyard for a short time.  Ian the owner was so patient and it was so much fun learning from him how the vineyard operates and how to make wine from the very beginning, picking the grapes, to the bottling process.  Alexia has a real interest in becoming a wine maker and owning her own vineyard at some point in her life so this was an incredible experience for her.  Ian brought her into every aspect of the wine making process and her actually do most of what he did explaining every detail over her shoulder.  He told her about all the reasons what grapes were for which wines, when you would want to pick them, what concerns could affect the quality of your wine, what to smell for, what to look for, what levels sugars, acids and Ph balance should be.  I can really see Alexia walking her own vineyard down the road.  She is so at peace out here in the country that I truly feel it would be something she could be very passionate about.

One of my favorite days here on the vineyard was the day we all helped Ian harvest his grapes for next years Pinot Noir.  Growing up on the farm I didn't really appreciate the value and work ethic it instills in you as a person and I am often telling the kids my working on the farm stories... As I am talking I get the usual rolling their eyes, hee hee.  I truly appreciate the time I had on the cherry farm and the memories and values it helped to shape me.  I know at the time I was a beast to get out there and participate in the operations and work on the farm.  There were many times I really didn't appreciate it and all I wanted to do was go play with the horses or the dirt bikes, but was not allowed until my work was done.  As one grows older and they say wiser.. Hee Hee you really do appreciate the past and your experiences with a new set of eyes.  It seems to me there have been many more articles coming out about parenting and how we do too much for our kids.  In reflection I used to feel that my mom was nuts letting us do the things we did without supervision.  Often times when my cousins and I would get together and talk about our lack of supervision and our exploration and dangers we faced on a daily basis in our adventures, nearly killing ourselves falling off of cliffs we were climbing, taunting demented horses and teasing each other as we were racing through pastures trying to race the now mad beast that was trying to run us down and narrowly reaching the other side of the pasture... locking each other in outhouses and literally walking away for hours.. Making pretend rafts out of drift logs and trying to row them across fisherman bay to the candy store in town.. not thinking about the current that could sweep us away out the channel until the crap hit the fan and panic set in...  UGH... the fun memories of childhood and how all these learning lessons taught us to be brave, confident, smart, logical, and strong people.   The value of childhood play I think is a lost art and one I am trying to get back for my kids and let go... It is just scary doing so and so hard for me.  People say it is my control freak that wont let go... I think it is more my anxiety of the bad thing happening that makes it hard for me... I am a worry wart.

Anyway I really had a great time with the kids seeing them dive into this project with such enthusiasm and fun.  They really enjoyed it and loved helping Ian get his grapes in before the rain came.  Even the little girls grabbed some shears and buckets and did a great job and snipping off only the ripe grapes on the bottom section and if they weren't sure they left them on the vine for us to check.  We worked from 9am to 5:30pm running buckets back and forth from the vineyard, to the truck, to the press and then the cycle started over again.  It didn't seem like such a long day with all of them having a great time.  Plus the grapes were good to eat so little snacks along the way.  Amaia even woke up early the next morning running throughout the house to get ready saying she has to hurry because they were already starting to pick the grapes without her.  So cute and made me smile to see her frantic pace and scurrying to run out to the field.

Listening to Tristan and Alexia giggle, tease and toss an occasional grape at each other reminded me so much of working with my brother and sister in the cherry orchards... We had so much fun while we were out there... I know there were times when we would yell at each other, stomp away or through a crate down on the tractor a little to hard to make our point.. maybe even shake a ladder or two while someone was on it.. but it all adds up to super cool memories for me now.  Darren still runs the farm and we were able to go visit them the summer before we left and still to date there isn't a month that goes by where the kids ask to go back to visit the farm.  I think I got the farm bug started in them and I hope it continues.

Here are the boxes off the back of the truck backed up to the machine that separates the stems and leaves away from the grapes.

This is about 70 boxes of grapes and now is the grape pulp.  This will then have yeast added to it and will then sit for a few days before going through the next process.
The girls had so much fun with little Frankie and Molly (the big horse).  Cate, Ian's daughter, was so patient with the little girls and took them for a little ride around the vineyard.  They really loved being with the horses.  Often times Amaia and Alina would take off and run down to the pasture grab a bucket and pick some grass for the horses to eat and then brush them while they stood still for a few minutes.  Super sweet to see them tramp back up the hill together talking about their plans and how what they were going to do with the horses later.

Here Ian is having Alexia run some tests to check the levels of sugar, acid and ph balance in the grapes and explaining what is a good level to have for a nice tasting wine and why each is important.





Dreaming and imaginary play (awesome)....

Ian's vineyard was on a smaller scale which was a great for us.  It really allowed us to see everything that was happening each day or night... Our house to stay in was right on top of the warehouse area so we could just pop in below to see what was going on.  One night we came home and Ian was having his wine pumped slowly into a truck to be carted away to be bottled the next day.  Here Alexia is checking to see the level inside and to see if it was almost done.  Thank goodness she didn't drop the torch inside.  Although he said it had been done before by one of his kids.  Hee Hee

While the last harvested wine is being pumped away to be bottled Alexia was helping Ian add yeast to the batch that we picked the day before.  Again he checked some levels and then they were ready to add the yeast.  

Most of the wine was pumped into the truck the night before but Ian had two other containers of chilled wine that needed to be bottled as well.  He converted his horse trailer in order to load the wine container with a fork lift to it.  I love how it always comes back to problem solving and thinking outside of the box.  Ian was saying that he thought Chris would like running a winery because like boating you are always problem solving, tinkering, toying and solving problems.  There is always something to fix, something that needs to be down and your are surrounded by beautiful country.  There are definitely some similarities to the boating life except of one big detail, you are stationary.  

Bringing the wine down to be bottled... 

Because Ian is a small production winery he also uses a guy that runs a small bottling operation.  Mitch was quite a character, super fun and loved showing us how his bottling plant works.  He took the time with Alexia and us, to explain each stage of the process and how it all works.  He can do about 3000 bottles an hour, and this is a small company. 

     Maybe one day our dream will come true and we will have a family compound that produces wine, lavender, honey, along with a few alpacas, sheep, a highland cow or two, maybe a goat and then a few homes on the property for the kids or to use as an Air BnB and a boat on a dock down below.

Hugs and love,