Downgrading the Love

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Jr, originally uploaded by dumpstar_drummer.

I adore this boy, even if he loves me less than his brother and sister do.


OPOTD, originally uploaded by dumpstar_drummer.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Day Six: Burning the calories as they were consumed!

Now it's day six! I have trouble answering the question "What was your favorite thing you did in New Zealand?" because it was like 97% AMAZING (3% reserved for one of the hostels and our last meal, neither of which were things I'd repeat), but I would have to say that the wine tasting day was up there in terms of being one of the MOST amazing things.

So if you recall, we were staying at a B&B for the first time. Our hosts were super adorable and we ended up having an incredibly lovely stay. The wife made her own meusli and all her own jams out of fruits they grew in their garden and the husband ran a bike rental business from their garage. As guests at the B&B, we had full access to jams, muesli and bikes!

The B&B itself was very comfortable and the garden was GORGEOUS. I know for a FACT that my parents would love to sit in that garden and take notes for their own garden so should I ever get Joe and Judy on a plane to New Zealand, I will insist that they stay at the Olde Millhouse.This was the view outside our room:

The other four guests at breakfast that first morning were perfectly lovely (which is worth mentioning because the next morning's guests were not lovely) and we enjoyed our muesli and coffee and solicited the advice of the other guests and the hosts while planning our wine tasting agenda. We were advised to start with the longest ride out to the chocolate factory and then work our way back into town, which is exactly what we did.

Robert outfitted us with bikes and helmets and a map and off we went! (Sorry for the eyes-closed picture Carrie, but this was cute otherwise and it's the only one he took!)

The ride to the chocolate factory was 12k away (or 12 "units," which I translated to be a 10k race + a little bit, so seven or eight miles) and it was a pretty beautiful, warm day so I was tempted to take a wine tasting break on the way to the chocolate but Carrie correctly insisted that we stick to the plan because otherwise we'd never make it out to the chocolate.

We really could not have picked a finer day:


No photos of the chocolate, but my family members were the recipients of what is apparently pretty famous macadamia nut and chocolate covered toffee. My work friends were going to get some too, but OOPSIE, we ate theirs.

Once the chocolate tasting was over, it was time to move on to more serious matters: TASTING THE WINE.

For reals, doing the long bike ride out without stopping was SO SMART because, as you can imagine, bike riding (ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD) got more and more challenging as the day went on -- particularly when weighed down with wine purchases!

Bike helmets look just as stupid in NZ as they do in CA, btw, but this was definitely a safety first (maybe third or fourth) kind of adventure:

Wine tasting in NZ is not unlike wine tasting in CA: Some small, adorable wineries with varying levels of decor, some big wineries with lots of people in them, but regardless, 100% enjoyable. They also follow the "hit it off with the tasting room people and you'll taste way more than what's on the menu" philosophy that I enjoy so much about the sport of wine tasting.

The lady working at Huia was one of our favorites and it's a shame you can only take three bottles back into the US with you because that limited our purchases. This other label they produce there wasn't our most favorite, but I loved the name -- it reminded me of my dad, who I'm pretty sure is the only one I know who uses the term "hunky dory." (Sometimes he gets fancy and says "hunkus dorus.")

 The Huia grounds were gorgeous though and we made good use of them:

We love you, Huia!

I don't know where this was, but you can tell we were feeling enthusiastic about our day:

This is a bad picture but trust me when I tell you that one of the wines available at this other winery was RODNEY STRONG:

I mean, okay, fine, BUT THIS WAS NOT CALIFORNIA. Why bother with Rodney when you have so much delicious NZ wine that needs drinking?!!? (Except to tell you the truth, that particular winery was not our most favorite, so maybe they neeeed to import??) It had been recommended to us as a good place to have lunch though so we bought a bottle of what we liked the most and then drank it with this sweet, sweet bonanza:

Wineries in CA really need to get on board the platter train. It's so much more than a cheese plate. Pate and chutney and meats and cheeses and shellfish and pickles and smoked trout and whatever is awesome that particular day. SO GOOD.

(And for those of you who know Carrie, don't worry -- she ate the meat, I ate the fish.)

We both gobbled up this bad boy though:

We don't know what that butter looking stuff was or what we were actually supposed to do with it, but we slathered it on each bite and THAT WAS THE CORRECT THING TO DO. Cholesterol and fat, be damned!

That last stretch of bike riding back to the B&B was THANKFULLY shorter than expected because maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan, my butt was sore from the day-o-biking and maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan, I was ready to relax after a hard day of relaxing. ;-)

We wrapped up our evening by going into town for dinner, but we were WIPED and were probably in bed by 10PM that night.

Two other things I'll add:

1. This was Feb 15th in our time traveler lives, but it was Valentine's Day for everyone back home, which I thought was super quaint. "Oh look how adorable the old-timey people are with their Valentine's Day posts on Facebook. We are so advanced!"

2. Sunburn! I slathered up regularly, but I missed some parts. The stripe on my right arm has only just now faded.

And for those of you who know about my star sticker system for tracking my workouts, I TOTALLY came home and gave myself a sticker for this day because we rode like 15+ miles. DEFINITELY COUNTS.

Also: Someone needs to come over and drink New Zealand sparkling wines with me because those are the two bottles I bought to bring home with me. There was a third, but I had to abandon it at the airport because of my suitcase's weight problem. Boo.

Have I convinced you guys to drop everything and go to New Zealand yet? No? Okay, I'll keep trying. Several more days of recaps to come!


OPOTD, originally uploaded by dumpstar_drummer.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Day Five! Helicopters and Valentines!

So now it's day five, which is also Valentine's Day! What did *YOU* do for Valentine's Day? Did you take a helicopter up to the top of a glacier and then drink wine within five miles of where it was produced? No? Then that's too bad...because THAT'S WHAT WE DID!!

We were initially signed up for a half day trek that involved a helicopter ride to a certain point on the glacier and then a lot of walking around in a lot of layers of clothing and super ugly shoes, but that didn't end up working out. More about that and our Plan B later, but first let me tell you that while Carrie was showering, I walked down to one of the multiple adorable cafes and picked us up some coffee and baked goods.

I was chatting with the gay guy at the counter about our plans for the day and he made a comment to me about how insanely dreamy all the glacier guides were, and then on cue, one of them walked in and yeah...dreamboat...but honestly, if you've seen one strapping young glacier guide, you've seen them all, right?


Half an hour later Carrie and I were standing in the lobby of the glacier guide office and as it turns out, one strapping young glacier guide in the cafe was lovely, but a room full of them gives a girl whiplash. I don't even know the words to describe it, but being in a room full of  young, strapping, handsome men with an air of "I can save you in a wilderness emergency" made me feel like SUCH an old lady ogling at fresh young meat.

And then one walked through the lobby carrying an ax on his shoulder and Carrie and I both lost focus. The outward display of masculinity was something that we just don't see enough of in Silicon Valley.

It seriously would have been a problem if we'd been assigned that particular Paul Bunyan, but lucky for us, we got a guide named Ben (in NZ this is pronounced Beeeen) who was adorable but more on on the sinewy side, which is less our flavor so he was, thankfully, less distracting. Throughout the course of the hour or so we spent with Beeeeen, we learned that he lived in a tree house with his German (I think?) girlfriend. He'd apparently also just had a haircut because people all over that town were stopping to compliment him on it, including small children. Either because it was a dramatic haircut or because New Zealand is filled with the nicest people ever. My guess is both.

So then Beeeeen got us all suited up and the weather was the strangest combination of cold and humid and then you put on a rubber outfit and OOOOMMGGG I was hot and cold and wearing used shoes and socks and was generally discombobulated.

Carrie rocked the look better than I did, but she fit into the regular size jackets and apparently the choices are either regular or HUGE. I was very self conscious of my too-big-and-different-from-everyone-else's jacket because I felt like it highlighted me as the Fatty McFatterson.

After getting more of a safety lesson than we got for bungee jumping, we marched out and waited for our helicopter.

Believe it or not, these were *not* the ugliest shoes we'd be issued during our time in NZ!!

Our group was split into two helicopters' worth of bodies and the first one loaded up, lifted six feet off the ground, annnnnnnnd then landed again.

Apparently the visibility was bad and the tour company decided to ground all trips until the afternoon.

I was hot and not pleased with my rubber ensemble so I wasn't hearrrrrrrrtbroken that our glacier adventure was getting scrapped (we needed to get going to our next destination and couldn't wait until the afternoon), but mostly I was bummed that we hadn't been on that first helicopter and that I wasn't going to be able to say I'd ridden in a helicopter, even if for only ten seconds and six feet. But that's life, so we went back to the dressing area, stripped off our snow gear, got our money back for the trip, and then paused at a local cafe to evaluate our options.

We somehow discovered that other travel companies were still flying to the glacier for tours (versus treks), but I think perhaps to a different location that was somehow less unsafe? So we regrouped and walked into the first helicopter tour company we came to (there were several), and HOT DIGGIDY DOG, they were still flying and we could get on the next tour in like 30 minutes.


This one didn't require any special gear and it was definitely more of a passive tour than a strenuous hike and I think it was JUST what the doctor ordered because it was awesome and it was totally the right choice for us.


Our helicopter pilot Andrew (it's just now occurring to me that our original glacier hiking guide and our helicopter pilot had the same names as my brothers! Except that we pronounce "Ben" the correct way and not "Beeeeeeeeeeeen") was a tight-panted air cowboy who flew us up to the top of the glacier:

And omg you guys, we had been in a steamy rainforest 15 minutes earlier and suddenly we were on the top of the world.

 Cowboy Helicopter Pilot Andrew let us play around in the snow for ten or fifteen minutes before packing us back up and flying us back down the glacier.

The scenery was crazy because in the matter of six or seven minutes' worth of flight time, we went from snowy wonderland to icy glacier'y drama with pools of blue that make you understand that "glacier blue" isn't just a randomly picked name for a color, to the glacier transitioning to the rainforest and then BOOM, straight up rainforest where, if you didn't turn to look behind you, you'd never even know there was a glacier behind you.

This brief, 30-minutes-from-start-to-finish, tour we went on actually turned out to be the EXACT perfect thing for us and I'm so happy it turned out the way it did.

Once we were back on the ground, we changed out of our now soaking wet shoes and socks and went full steam ahead to the Marlborough region so we could rest up and prepare for the next day's wine tasting bonanza.

It was another long driving day, but this time we put the pedal to the metal and zip, zip, zipped our way there in time to check into our B&B (it was my first time B&B'ing, which I thought was initially awkward, but ultimately turned out to be very pleasant) and go out for a very romantical Valentine's Day dinner.

One other note I'll make about that drive is that by this time we'd listened to our new BFF Dolly mullllltiple times (there's very inconsistent radio coverage on the south island) and my gas station CD purchase of classic American pop hits (the pickings were slim) was a huge dud so we left it in a bathroom somewhere (as we did with the other CDs we bought along the way...with the exception of Dolly, of course, who will stay in the CD players of our hearts forever and ever).

So we arrived at the B&B, threw our bags in the room and then headed out for dinner. The town was not exactly bustling, but we did manage to find a perfectly lovely Indian restaurant that offered delicious food, local wine, and romantic decor -- we couldn't have asked for more.

You can see that I'm still wearing my glacier'ing ensemble, which means that I really went all out for Valentine'ing with Carrie.

Tired and full, we headed back to the B&B and closed the book on day five!