Swatch: Vogue Knitting 35th Anniversary

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My son is 30 years old, so it is easy for me to track how long I’ve been knitting–30 years. When I was learning to knit, I assumed Vogue Knitting magazine had been around as long as the sewing patterns (1899). As a beginning knitter I regarded Vogue Knitting as the hippest, most fashionable knitting resource. Like the sewing patterns, I found the patterns more challenging. Within a few years I stretched my skills to knit entrelac and intarsia patterns from Vogue Knitting.

A few years after that it was with a huge sigh of relief when a yarn store employee remarked that Vogue Knitting often printed patterns with errors. It gave me permission to question Vogue’s authority. All the same I give Vogue Knitting a straight needle salute for inspiring me over the last 30 years. I especially enjoy the knitting events, Vogue Knitting Live, they host in New York City and Seattle.

Check out the 35th Anniversary issue of the magazine on newsstands until 11/7 for US $7.99.

Postscript: Sometimes when I travel I find a favorite food. In New Zealand I always look for Arnott’s chocolate mint cookies. They are as close to the old Mystic Mint cookies that were available in USA until the recession of 2008 put so many cookie companies out of business. The other day I found these TimTam’s in mint! At first I was concerned I wouldn’t have the self control to keep from pigging out on them regularly. However, I can’t remember in what store I found them, so I look forward to my next visit to New Zealand to be able to eat my favorite store bought cookie.

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Stocking Up on Fav New Zealand Products

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Whenever I leave New Zealand I make a plan in my head for a return visit, Lord willing. I also stock up on my favorite NZ products. The Dove roll on deodorant is better here, not sure why. I also bought a number of Lynley Dodd children’s books for my newborn grandson. Finally I bought manuka honey. It is a lot more affordable to buy it here than in the USA.

Manuka honey doesn’t taste distinct from other honey, but it has terrific medicinal properties. The Maori have long known the medicinal qualities of the manuka plant and of honey from bees collecting manuka pollen. In 2006 German scientists isolated the property that gives it antibacterial properties (methylglyoxal). I use a little every morning on my toast or in a bit a of tea if I’m feeling under the weather. The amounts are probably not enough to be more than a placebo effect. Nonetheless, I like to have some on hand.

Bees generally collect from one type of flower rather than sample many types. Manuka grows in groves (like manzanita or gorse) and once they start collecting the bees are able to recognize and return to the same flowers by sight and smell. Once the hive is committed to the manuka flower the bees use dance to communicate to the rest of the workers locations of blooms. Beekeepers can also test their honey to establish the level of “unique manuka factor”.

I am trying a new manuka product this visit. Our penguin guide swears that manuka tea will cure sea sickness. He’s used it and it worked instantly. I am skeptical since my seasickness is both severe and related to the convoluted shape of my ear canal. Nonetheless, I am going to try to find a way to test it because then I could go to Antarctica with less trepidation.

The final product I am bring home is chocolate. I mail Crunchie bars to my friend Mara. They are a Cadbury bar made with honeycomb and chocolate. I also bring chocolate fish (also by Cadbury)–fish shaped marshmallow dipped in chocolate. I also usually bring a Picnic bar for myself when I’m feeling low from missing the clean air and southern light of New Zealand.

I bought my AllBirds in the USA (from the internet: http://www.allbirds.com). On this visit I noticed AllBirds are trending in New Zealand, although Kiwis are more likely to wear them without socks. I also learned they are washable and I have subsequently washed them and they look like new! Check it out:  http://thisnzlife.co.nz/put-new-zealand-merino-allbirds-shoes-test/

The Giant’s House Finally!

I have visited Akaroa three times and finally I was able to see The Giant’s House. It seems it is more famous with foreign visitors than with Kiwis. None of my friends from New Zealand–even those who love Akaroa–had heard of it. This sculpture garden is an eccentric treasure.

I admire people with vision who develop the skills to execute it so masterfully. I am such a gadfly in my interests, I cannot imagine sticking with a project 17 years, let alone staying with it still. Josie Martin combines her love of horticulture with her artistic expression through painting and mosaic sculptures to create a truly original garden on the hill.

Someone in the village told us that she offered to create mosaic sculptures for the town of Akaroa, but the town council said no. She turned the no into a Yes! Yes! Yes! The hours are limited because she manages it herself. On the day we visited we paid the artist $20 each to visit her garden and gallery. We could stay until closing. We made sure to return and thank Jose for the experience.

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One of several ceramic self-portraits of the artist in the gallery.

I am so glad I finally got to see the Giant’s House. Find out more at Trip Advisor. (#1 of 27 things to do in Akaroa.)

Akaroa, Jewel of the Banks Peninsula

The road to Akaroa is a bit twisty, and yet for your effort you are rewarded with views, great restaurants, penguins, art, and more.

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Created by volcanic explosion and settled by French pioneers, Akaroa is a small village constrained by steep hills and water.

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We stayed at the Akaroa Criterion Hotel–great location and management. It is an easy walk along the waterfront to restaurants and shops. It is also next door to Sweet As Cafe.

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Entertainment, war memorials, and a great store for buying merino wool sweaters and other possum items at Woolworx.

This beautiful spot is in my top three places in New Zealand. Go already!

Evening Penguin Safari on Banks Peninsula

One of my earliest penguin experiences was with the Pohatu Penguin Plunge in Akaroa. Several years ago I got up at the crack of dawn in Christchurch and drove out to Akaroa to go seakayaking and observe the penguins in Flea Bay on the Banks Peninsula. It was a wonderful experience, except for getting very, very seasick (but I’m easily prone).

I recently returned to the Banks Peninsula and was able to convince UK Sarah to go with me on the evening penguin safari at the Pohatu Marine Reserve. We reported to the Pohatu Penguin Plunge office in Akaroa and met the 3 other participants and our guide Ben. We climbed aboard the van and began the drive up the side of the old volcanic crater and down the other side to Flea Bay. We stopped along the way for some great views. Ben explained with his French accent the history of Akaroa from volcanic formation, to French settlers landing 4 days after Waitangi Treaty was signed, to the current efforts to conserve the penguin habitat at Flea Bay.

We stopped at the farmhouse to collect binoculars and to put on some camouflage raingear. We also fed bummer lambs a bottle and gave some pellets to the ewes. There is a bathroom here (and the last stop for the next several hours).

We headed the short distance toward Flea Bay—so named because early explorers noted that the penguins here were covered in fleas. Ben took his notebook along to make observations along the way. He reminded us the importance of watching the penguins from hides and not touching them or using flash photography.

It is tricky to time the penguin viewing—the start and finish of tours changes as spring turns to summer—because the penguins have adapted to the introduction of mammal predators by postponing their return to land until nightfall. When we began our walk only a few little blue penguins had returned, and as it got darker, we could see more and more penguins but less and less of them. And the ground is rough (you are walking along a hillside on a sheep and penguin trek not a proper path).

Almost right away we came to an artificial penguin nest provided by the Pohatu Penguin Plunge. If left to their own devices, the penguins would dig out nest in the dirt, but this requires a lot of energy and the colony is struggling to maintain its numbers. Providing the artificial boxes is a common practice approved by the Department of Conservation.

It is easy to tell the occupied boxes by the tell-tale poop outside the door. Each nest is numbered and the lids on these boxes are removable so Ben and others can check on them and track the number of chicks and help to educate us, the interested public. Ben showed us two different nests—one with a male and some chicks and one with a female and some chicks. The chicks were still small and difficult to see. Ben cannot touch the penguins so unless they shift it is difficult to know for certain. He replaced the lids and then added a rock to keep curious sheep out of the nests.

The little blue penguins in this colony are growing in numbers but only gradually. They experienced a 5% dip after the biggest Christchurch earthquake due probably due to stress. Their survival is threatened mainly by overfishing of their food supply and by stoats and other alien mammals harassing chicks and eggs. In the van, Ben explained the Department of Conservation approved poison program and then on our walk showed us a stoat trap. He recently started baiting the trap with mouse juice (pee from pet mice) and is finding more stoats than before. The most vulnerable period for the penguins is during the month or so when they molt and gain a new coat of feathers.

We walked to a set of hides where we could see the little blue penguins without disturbing them. I asked Ben how the chicks finally move out after weeks of being fed by their parents. He explained that the parents finally just stop going back to the nest and the young adults spend several days getting hungrier and hungrier until finally they clamber to the sea and begin fishing for themselves.

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The Yellow-eyed penguin appeared much bigger to my naked eye than this photo suggests.

We walked to the furthest hide and received our reward: a lone yellow-eyed penguin. He was very handsome preening himself before going home. We watched him for some time. And while we watched we also saw a New Zealand fur seal go into the water from the nearby rocks. The seal swam just off shore and the returning little blue penguins avoided him as they returned from feeding all day.

In this area the white flippered penguins and the little blue penguins coexist and breed with one another. They are not considered separate subspecies. Only along these shores on the Banks Peninsula and Motunau Island will you find the white flippered penguin. I was pleased that with the help of binoculars I could soon tell the difference with the penguins we watched come ashore.

We returned slowly to the farmhouse and returned our gear. It was a lovely experience and the five of us from Scotland, Malaysia, England, USA and France were united in our admiration for the penguins.

The evening penguin safari costs $75NZ per adult and lasts 3 hours. Transportation is provided from Akaroa. No food or drink is provided by the tour company. Reservations are recommended. Uneven terrain may be a challenge for some, ask about accommodation if this is a concern. The Department of Conservation provides guidance for conserving the marine reserve but no funding. The Pohatu Penguin Plunge activities help to pay for the conservation of the habitat in Flea Bay. Best time for viewing is September through February.

Salmon Connections

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A funny thing happened on my way to New Zealand, my colleagues told me about the Pacific Chinook Salmon living in New Zealand. Whaaaat??

It seems that once upon a time when a young United States was expanding in the west, an energetic Livingston Stone was US Deputy Fish Commissioner, America’s Senior Fish Culturist, and ultimately the “father of fish culture on the Pacific Coast”. He zealously went about the western U.S. introducing non-native fish like striped bass into streams and the California delta where they harass dwindling salmon populations. (Thanks Stone.) He also shipped Chinook Salmon eggs around the world in the late 1800s.

Some of those eggs found their way to New Zealand and were planted on rivers in South Island including the Rangitata, Opihi, Ashburton, Rakaia, Waimakiri, Hurunu, and Waiau Rivers. Alas, the Kiwis also built hydro-electric facilities and irrigation canals that blocked the salmon’s access to the high mountain streams and the spawning grounds they love. Some remain.

Today you can fish for Chinook salmon whose ancestors swam in the Russian River on the two wild and scenic Rangitata and Waimakiri Rivers. I spoke with Barry Clark by phone, a fishing and hunting guide based in Lake Tekapo, and he explained that the salmon adapted well. They come back after 2-3 years at sea so they are smaller than California’s salmon. The wild stock are also fewer in number due to harsher conditions at sea–what with warmer sea temperatures and increased commercial fishing. Otherwise the life cycle is the same: spawning on gravel beds, and rearing on floodplain from fry to smolt, before going out to sea.

The story comes full circle as the Winnemem Wintu tribe in Northern California believes that the surviving salmon in New Zealand are genetically closer to their historic salmon that spawned on the upper McCloud River but were all but destroyed when Shasta Dam was built. They are lobbying for these fish to be reintroduced and NOAA is studying the genetics of the fish and considering the possibility. The tribe’s quest is detailed in an award-winning documentary. This is part of an ongoing debate over fish hatcheries–including the one named after Livingston Stone.

If you do find yourself in the Canterbury region of South Island in New Zealand, then give Barry Clark a call (6806-513) and he can show you the best places to fish for trout in canals and lakes year round or to fly fish from the first Saturday in November.

busy-beePostscript:  Not every introduced species is problematic. Another case in point is the bumblebee. Four species of bumblebee was introduced from Britain at the turn of the 20th century to pollinate red clover. None of the native bees had long enough tongue to reach inside red clover flowers, but the imported bumblebees could do the job. Red clover is essential to sheep and dairy pastures.  Over time, England’s bumblebee, Bombus subterraneus went extinct. Now beekeepers in England are working to reintroduce New Zealand bumblebees. The bumblebee also inspired a classic Kiwi toy.

 

Perfect Days

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View of Auckland from the ferry to Devonport

What does the perfect day look like to you? Of course it depends on where you are. In New York City it might start with coffee and a bagel, include a visit to the zoo in Central Park and end with a Broadway play and a nightcap. I remember one day in Belfast it included taking the bus into the central business district and fossicking around the shops, enjoying a coffee, then listening to Brian Keenan read from his latest novel at the literary festival.

Today is a perfect day at home. I am free of engagements and I can do what I like. I’ve walked to the bakery and farmers’ market. Then I went through my stack of travel magazines. I am watching Poldark (season 1) and Netflix. It is a pretty day and mild weather for July. It is a good day for a bike ride or a hike. My perfect today is full of rest instead and may include a nap.  Once the kids, my brother and I were in Dublin and our perfect day included a long afternoon of drinking coffee and enjoying our own company. Then we found the perfect stew for dinner.

Auckland is someplace I have spent many of perfect day. It often includes a visit to the Auckland Museum. I just received the Spring newsletter (remember, seasons are opposite the Northern hemisphere) and there is an interesting new exhibit opening in October called “Sound.” It spotlights the history of pop music in New Zealand. I will check it out when I visit in November. Days in Auckland also include shopping in Trelise Cooper and Unity Books or taking the ferry and mooching around Devonport.