Monday, December 15, 2014

Blustery and Blowin'

Boats battened down out at anchor off of the Opua Marina in New Zealand

Well, it is the epitome of a blustery day here in New Zealand.  All of my moanings that the warm New Zealand summer in December didn't really feel like Christmastime have been put in their place.  The wind is howling, the sea is swirling, and the sky can’t decide if it wants to cry or just weep constantly.  Anchors are dragging out in the anchorage, causing havoc, while we are lolling back and forth with the swell in the protection of a marina berth.  It’s one of those days when I can’t get warm no matter how much soup I sip or how many mugs of tea I steep.  But as I sit here in my coziest wool socks and glance at the tree, I realize something is missing… hmmm.  Surely I can find it online, I can find nearly everything online these days (except instructions on how to delete annoying tags and game invites on Facebook, that's impossible).  I hop on Google, and find this link in a wink - just what this gloomy day is missing…   

Now, it looks and feels a little bit more like Christmas!

But darn, I can’t keep this song from playing over and over again in my head… 

“Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the (Youtube) fire is so delightful.  And since we’ve no place to go - Let it blow, let it blow, let it blow.  It doesn’t show signs of stoppin’, biosecurity confiscated my corn for poppin’, boat batteries are running low - Let it blow, let it blow, let it blow!”

Kiwi Coffee

Let me introduce you to my new friend, the flat white.  After my recent blog about my instant coffee routine on board, I must say that I’ve indulged in many an afternoon flat white to get that much-needed caffeine fix after a morning of boat schooling.   Who knew that New Zealand was so into its baristas and brews?

Kate, Johanna, Denise and I enjoying some girl time.
I was first introduced to this coffee creation on the island of Niue, when a few women and I met at The Crazy Uga Café  to celebrate a birthday.  I was anxious to have a professionally brewed cup of joe after many months of my Via instant coffee packets.  The word ‘latte’ could hardly wait to escape my lips.  But as I reached the counter and looked over the menu for pricing, there was not a ‘latte’ to be found.  What?  A café that doesn’t serve latte?  Is there such a place?  Should such a place even be allowed to exist?  

Thankfully, before I threw a complete adult tantrum, one of the sailing gals from New Zealand chimed in with a Kiwi translation of the unfamiliar coffee terminology on the menu.  Turns out, my precious latte was disguised as a flat white in the South Pacific.  Tantrum diverted.  Okay, this café can continue to exist.  I’ll allow it, I guess. 

Cup 'o Foam with Marshmallow Fish
Since that educating trip to my first New Zealand-inspired café, I have confidently ordered many more flat whites.  The kids even tried their first fluffies recently (see below for description).  The frothy goodness came in tiny espresso cups accompanied by the chocolate-covered, pink marshmallow-filled fish that most cafés here serve with their brews. The kids' favorite part of New Zealand coffee, however, is the fancy designs that the baristas create in the foam - ferns, hearts, swirls.  Each cup is a unique work of art.

Java Art
Below is a cheat sheet that I found online to help avoid Kiwi coffee confusion.  Next time I need a little pick me up, looks like I need to try the affogato - yum.  What’s the Kiwi name for your favorite?  Move over Starbucks, New Zealand’s coffee culture is coming full steam ahead.  They take their coffee and rugby very seriously down here.  As a matter of fact, I can’t believe they haven’t created an All Blacks brew yet!

New Zealand's All Blacks rugby team performing the traditional Maori "Haka" War Dance

NZ coffee guide 
Zest Food Tours explain New Zealand coffee terms:
espresso / short black - basis for all coffee styles, espresso is full-flavoured, fragrant, with a velvety body and lingering after-taste; single serving in a demi-tasse (small cup)
macchiato - a single or double espresso shot, just stained with frothed milk
long black - single serving of espresso, with the same amount of hot water added; served in large cup filled to just under the top, or sometimes with the water provided separately
flat white - one third espresso, two thirds steamed milk with a touch of swirled froth
cappuccino - regular espresso with equal parts steamed milk and foam, sprinkled with chocolate or cinnamon
caffe latte - regular espresso, topped with hot milk and little or no froth
mochaccino - one third each of espresso, steamed milk, cocoa
ristretto - (‘restricted’) is 15-20ml of espresso, the essence of coffee
piccolo latte - miniature latte made with ristretto and 70ml of steamed milk; delicate flavoursome drink
affogato - espresso served over ice-cream
espresso Romano - espresso served with a twist of lemon
latte macchiato - steamed milk with espresso on the side
espresso con panna - espresso topped with a dash of whipped cream
cortado - Spanish version of the piccolo served in a 60ml demitasse cup

fluffy - for kids, a demi-tasse filled with foamed milk, sprinkled with chocolate and served with marshmallow on the side and a small chocolate fish.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Grass Stains and Cupcakes - Life is Good.

View of Auckland from One Tree Hill
Well, the Field Trippers are all back together again.  The kids and I decided to skip the risky sail (that turned out to be not so risky after all - more on that later from Mark).  The three of us took a morning flight into Auckland that first week of November.  Michael marveled that we would be in New Zealand in a mere 3 hours, when it would take Dad at least 6 days to sail there!  "We should just fly everywhere!" he innocently quipped.  Queue the "money doesn't grow on trees" and "life's a journey, not a destination" parental orations...            

So, what DO cruising kids do when they suddenly find themselves on solid ground in the middle of the biggest city they've seen in almost a year?  Here's a few photos of how we made the most of our waiting time in the land of Kiwis and Hobbits…

Michael trying to figure out the skateboard contraption!
Our fabulous blessing of a 'bach' (the Kiwi name for a small home used for weekend getaways or as a vacation cabin) was located just a few miles away from Orewa, a beachfront town an hour north of Auckland.  We couldn't have asked for a more perfect spot to enjoy land's simple pleasures.  An expansive playground was set up along a beautiful beach, providing many afternoons of entertainment.  I noticed the kids trying to figure out how to play on some of the equipment that they'd never seen before!  The few playgrounds we'd seen along the Pacific Islands have been pretty basic (picture rusty swings and scorching metal slide), and probably not quite up to today's safety standards!  
You'll notice in this photo that Michael is not wearing his usual t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops.  When we arrived, the daily highs were in the 50's, a far cry from the sweltering equatorial temperatures we had for the past year.  A quick trip to the town's second hand shop provided much needed sweatshirts and hand knit socks!  But I'm afraid our chattering teeth and numerous layers must've given us away as foreigners.  just outside the frame of this photo, a local family with three children (ages 3-7) were playing nearby, obviously more hearty than we were - wearing only sundresses and no shoes as they played!  Brrr!  Gradually, the weather has warmed up and our blood has thickened, so we can be back in our jandals ('flip flops' in Kiwi talk) once more.    

And, yes, Michael finally got a real haircut, after many folks had asked me how old my girls were!  This was a bittersweet moment, as his carefree hair has always been a representation for me of our free, nomadic lifestyle on the water.  Even Mark refused to cut his own hair for the entire journey across the Pacific this year.  He had quite the 'fro happening, but he sat in the barber's chair and said goodbye to his locks, too.  In many ways we each find ourselves reintegrating into modern society.  The other day Elizabeth watched me applying mascara and asked, "Mom, why are you getting so fancy?"  Oh my, we have been away for awhile, haven't we?

Look, Mom!  It's Grass!!
New Zealand is a country that truly cherishes its natural treasures.  Nearly 30 percent of its total landmass is designated nature preserve.  Hiking trails, eco-conscious campsites, and bird sanctuaries can be found throughout the breath-taking country.  Along one of our hikes, Michael couldn't stop giggling as he bumped and rolled down a grassy hillside, nearly log-rolling over his sister!  As a mom (and former hill roller), I loved seeing the knees of his pants get those bright green grass stains that can only come with the playfulness of youth, the simple joys of childhood.   It was childhood joys like these that I searched out while we waited for Mark to arrive.  I didn't want to go, go, go.  I just wanted us to look, notice, feel, admire, revere, quietly ease into our new surroundings.  We fed the ducklings that waddled into the yard, scattered seeds for the birds that flittered about in the trees, closely examined the intricate colors and details of the flowers, and silently marveled at the light of glow worms tucked in the rocks of a tinkling waterfall after dark.

Let's go fly a kite!
I think I need a secret decoder ring...
But let's be honest, here.  What was supposed to be a week or so of waiting for Mark turned into nearly three weeks, as the weather didn't really cooperate.  And the luxury of staying put for a while and relaxing wore off by about day ten.  I decided it was time for a trip to the 'big city'.  I'd have to either rent a car and drive downtown, or ride the public bus for an hour and a half to get downtown.  And, while we're being honest, I was terrified to drive downtown... on the other side of the road... after not having driven on any road for well over a year.   The bus it would be.  Now I just had to decode these things they call bus schedules!  Google maps saved me, as it listed all buses from point A to point B with upcoming arrivals.  I could simply put in my destination and three or four bus choices would pop up.  Brilliant.  Trip Advisor helped us find a few 'must see' places to visit.  Armed with my cell phone and local SIM card, we hopped aboard and were off to enjoy the culture that only a metropolitan city could offer.  It was time to be tourists.
Scavenger hunt at the Auckland Art Gallery
View from the base of the Auckland Sky Tower
And from the top!
The Auckland Zoo, where we saw the nocturnal Kiwi bird!
We had a birthday to celebrate, too!  Michael turned seven!  As chance would have it, the place we were staying was within walking distance of the Waiwera Hot Springs Pool.  What a perfect way to stay warm and have fun!  Some of our friends that we'd met in Tahiti were docked in a town only 20 minutes away and were able to join us for Michael's birthday party, making it even more special.  Cupcakes, waterslides, steaming pools, and friends to share it all with.  Seven years old is off to a great start!  

Happy Birthday, Michael!