Sunday, April 29, 2007

Visitors, Visitors and more Visitors ...

We've had quite a steady stream of visitors starting late march and continuing into early June. We then return to the US for a few weeks before coming back here and the visitor stream continues.

Its really awesome to have folks visiting us. The kids are entertained, the parents get a break and in general everyone has a good time. There was a period of 3 days when we did not have anyone around, the the house was so quiet, that it was a wee bit depressing. Currently we have both sets of grand parents visiting us. Mari's dad plays a lot with the kids and the kids enjoy his company quite a bit. This gives us a fair amount of free time to go biking etc. We hope to take a fair bit of time off from the kids over the next month.

We've been doing a fair amount of cooking at home. I made my famous mussels in white wine sauce for lunch yesterday (Phu/Joon: this was way better than Spin Inns version). Mari's mom made a tasty filipino dish, arroz caldo, a chicken and rice dish. The kids had multiple helpings of the dish (and so did the adults). Mari has been doing a fair amount of baking from the Tartine book. She recently made gougiere, scones and banana bread. Maya and I are craving the taiwanese pork chop dish from spices, so we are planning to make it this week.

Winter is moving in at a bit too fast a rate. We've started using the propane heater and will start the wood burning stove this week. Just need to get a gate to prevent the kids from running into the fireplace. Its gets pretty chilly in the morning (single degree celsius) before warming up to the late teens in the afternoon.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

back home - looking at pictures

we got home on Saturday afternoon Pacific time. Since we left Auckland Saturday evening and spent 12 hours in the air it was nice to gain a day coming home. Of course on our way to NZ we completely lost a saturday - so it all evens out. We are missing the lobos and so we are compensating by looking at pictures of them. here's a link to phu's photos on flckr. if you can stand the delay - they are fun to look out.

The kids are still going to bed late and trying to sleep late every morning. We drag them out of bed to go to school hoping they'll wake up on the car ride there and maybe eat some breakfast. Grace talks about all the things she did on the trip quite often..while Jason is still disappointed that our rental car didn't have a sliding door. He is now quite fascinated with mini-vans with sliding doors - don't know why. We are heading to Cape May in a week and he is looking forward to our rental.

This weekend I am hunting for fejoias! maybe one of the farmers markets here will have them..

Monday, April 23, 2007

swimming with dolphins

When we arrived in New Zealand and started talking to the lobos about what we wanted to do on our trip - I didn't have a clear idea of what we were going to do or where we were going for that matter. As each day went by, lobo and mari started to telling us that we should book a trip to swim with the dolphins. I told them it sounded fun but really had no idea what they were talking about. I pictured going to an aquarium or something and getting into a pool while dolphins did tricks and ate fish all around me. It didn't sound very good so everytime the lobos would bring it up I just pretended I didn't hear them.
So then they told me more about it and it turns out that you go out on a boat into the ocean and jump off the boat wearing a wetsuit and actually swim with wild dolphins in the ocean. This sounded better but as I looked at the ocean and the wind and the rain outside, it didn't seem much like boating and swimming weather - it was cold and raining. So I said, yea, we should do it. And hoped that it would keep raining. One day when we were in Russell phu actually called to book the trip and while I waited - listening to him talk to the tour operator - I was relieved to hear that no boats were leaving that day because of the weather.
Well we finally plotted out the rest of our trip from the day when we would leave the lobos in Nelson and we planned to stay one day in Kaikoura - just so we could go swimming with the dolphins. We booked a trip for Thursday morning at 8:00am that would return us 3 1/2 hours later. so it was done.
We arrived in Kaikoura on Wednesday night. We had a really good meal at a restaurant called 42 degrees on the main boulevard in town. Over dinner phu and chi mapped out the plan for the morning - we were leaving the kids with chi to watch while we went on the trip and so chi had to account for every minute between our departure and our return. She was equipped with 3 sets of legos, a dolphin video and various other paraphernalia to keep the kids occupied.
That morning we had breakfast at our bed and breakfast place (terrible spot that I can't remember the name of) and then headed out to Dolphin Encounter - the outfit running the dolphin trip.
Dolphin Encouters did a really good job. They have this dolphin stuff down to a science. When we arrived they had already done one trip that left at 5:30 in the morning. They reported good clear weather and dolphins at only 25 minutes from the shore (a good sign). We were called to go get "wetsuited" which meant getting into a wetsuit that fit snugly. I had no idea what that meant, but I wasn't about to go asking for help in the state I was in (a wetsuit that felt tight and not snug). Wetsuits are not not something I want to wear ever again unless I lose 20 pounds.
Anyway, we eventually got on a bus and into a boat and although I was anxious and nervous about the whole ordeal - like clockwork - they spotted a huge school of dolphins about 20 minutes after we left. The organizer on our boat explained that once they spotted the dolphins we were to sit on the edge of the boat and when they sounded the horn, we jump in the water and swim in the direction where they told us the dolphins were swimming. All the while we are wearing a scuba mask and snorkel - so you can only breathe through the snorkel - not your nose. I will admit this caused me some anxiety. I like to have all my breathing options open to me - especially when I don't know what I'm doing. But I figured I would give it a try - so I practiced with the mask and snorkel thingy on the boat before jumping in...breathe in ...breathe out..not from my nose. So once I had to jump in my heart was pounding a mile a minute. I didn't much care about seeing any dolphins at that point. I was just hoping to get back on the boat alive. Breathing was the main point. So I did a belly flop into the water and just to get the hang of it I swam around for a bit just kicking my fins and breathing. Then I saw some dolphins underneath me..just a flash. Then some more - swimming in circles two and three at a time around me. It was truly exhilarating. I was laughing under the water. Sometimes it seemed like they could hear me and were looking at me too. When I looked up I could see fins and sometimes you could see dolphins jump up and do flips.
After a few minutes I wasn't seeing dolphins anymore and the only thing I saw under the water was a lot of blue. So I tried to make my way back to the boat which felt like a long way away. Kicking and breathing hard I got back but at that point I felt like I was about to die. I pulled my tired body back onto the boat. When they spotted the dolphins again and told us to jump in, I went back and ending up going in for 4 more swims. After that the crew served us hot chocolate and cookies and once we got into warm clothes we just cruised around a bit so we could take pictures of the dolphins and watch them do their acrobatics from the boat. I was very tired and cold, but it was all worth it.
We got back into town and the kids were happy to see us. Jason ran into phu's arms and Grace ran towards me to give me a hug. Jason asked us, "so, how was the dolphins?"

Sunday, April 22, 2007

See you tomorrow

We've had a lot of friends pass through these last few weeks. J.D., Lisa, Sophie, Matt for one weekend. Jill, Marley and their friend Lynn for one week and then Phu, Tamar, Jason, Grace, and Chi the next week. We were lucky to get a visit with Joon-Suk, Julie and Devin in Nelson, and for a couple days in Russell. It's been super fun to have good friends to talk with, laugh, and talk to again the next day and the day after, and after. If there's anything to miss, it's all our friends and family. After weeks of traveling, cooking, eating, talking, etc. with friends, the house was quiet. Maya said, "Why is it just us in the house?" PJ asked, "Where's Grace and Jason?" We told her they took a plane to San Francisco. The next thing we hear is PJ crying in the hallway. PJ and Maya are looking forward to the sleep over at Jason and Grace's house in June. We love you and to all the friends and family that have yet to visit, see you real soon. Totally looking forward to it.

Some cool things that we did and saw with our friends.

Lisa and I took a glass paper weight making class at the Hooglund Glass Blowing Gallery in Nelson. It was a one hour intense, and heated class. It was nerve racking for me because I didn't want to accidentally burn myself. Our teachers were calm, ready to lend a hand, easy to understand, and super friendly. They made sure that you didn't get burned. They teach you by example, so after you watch them, it's your turn. The second time I went there, we brought all the kids. Tamar was the only student and Maya and PJ and Jason enjoyed watching for 15 minutes or so. I also had a bag of fejoas (10) that they gobbled while watching tamar create her masterpiece. There is a large garden on the gallery grounds. There were two kinds of pear trees fillled w/ ripe pears. It was nearing lunch time so the kids were eager to eat the fresh fruit. I ate one too : ) Juicy. There's a little bridge thing for kids to walk around and balance on, a pet peacock wandering around. There was also a whole row of fejoa trees. The fejoas were still small but maybe in a week or two I can bring someone else to the gallery : )

On Jill, Marley and Lynn's last day we had lunch at Waimea Winery. I also had lunch with Cecile there on her last day. "Cecile is training for a marathon in June!" Can you tell I like the food. It's yum, and vegetarian friendly. Earlier that day, we went to the shop of Motueka Gold. They make tasty lip smacking jam. We got a fill and taste of most of their jams. If you have a sweet tooth, it's worth a visit if you're over there wine tasting anyway.

A surprise find was the doughnuts and fried banana fritters from our favorite fish and chips shop. Thanks Lynn, Jill and Joonsuk for ordering it. It was delicious.

We flew to the Bay of Islands/ Russell. It's a small little town- 2 blocks of shops. There was a library that entertained the kids for 45 minutes on one of the windy, cold days. It sold paperbacks for 50cents. The beach was rocky but clean. The kids were happy. A 10 min. ferry ride will take passengers to Pahia, the big Town. After roaming around Pahia, it had a little china town in one of the alleys. The playground by the beach was better than Russell.

If you would like to learn more about the maori culture/ new zealand, a trip to Waitangi Treaty Grounds is a must. The scenery from the site is breathtaking. If you watched the movie, "Whale Rider" , the scenes were taken from Waitangi. There is a cultural night show at Waitangi that's worth seeing.

While Jill, Lynn and Marley were here we cooked a lot. Jill is the master cook and so we had to make our best meal. Thank you for being inspired to make some tartine goodies while you were here as well as main course meals. Lynn introduced us to home made ice cream. She made honey lavender and it was the best ice cream in new zealand. I made a chocolate chip ice cream and used my stash of valrhona bars for the chips. It's really good.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

leaving nelson

tomorrow morning we will head out from Nelson and continue our trip in New Zealand without the lobos. We have been here nearly 10 days traveling from Auckland to the Bay of Islands and then to Nelson. Our kids have had lots of fun hanging out with their new sisters Maya and PJ. Jason already looked at me with shock and disbelief when I told him that Maya wasn't coming with us to Koilhkara and Christchurch. I think he believed that the lobos adopted us and we were staying in New Zealand forever. Besides playing with Maya and PJ, I think the favorite parts of New Zealand so far for the kids are the beaches. From Auckland to Russell and now in Nelson, we have really been blow away by the beautiful beaches here. The kids love to run around and throw stones into the water and dig holes. And, argue over who gets which shovel. The kids also really enjoy the Kiwi steamed milk drink here called a "fluffy." Not only is it fun to do what all the other kids are doing, but a "fluffy" in New Zealand comes with a complimentary marshmallow. Of course the marshmallow is really the main reason why Jason and Grace are adopting this drink as their own.
Today Mari convinced me to do a glass blowing class in Nelson. So I went to a glass blowing studio with everyone and got scared to death while a very patient glass blower showed me how to make a paperweight. The paperweight turned out quite nice mostly because the teacher corrected all the work I did. Thankfully I was careful enough not to burn myself or the teacher. After I was done the teacher let the kids blow a glass bubble into a long tube. Jason blew a big bubble..PJ blew a tiny one..more like a big tear trop. and Maya didn't feel like blowing at all.
Lots of good food here in New Zealand as well. We have been having great meals with lots of snacks in-between. But if you stay at the lobos, just be careful of the coffee. Since you need to be a good guest, you can humor lobo a bit and congratulate him while he carefully whips up a batch of french press coffee.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Nelson is quite beautiful

We are in our second leg of our New Zealand trip, having flown from the Bay of Islands to Nelson. We will be staying here 3 days before driving south to Kaikoura and finally Christchurch. Nelson is a very cute town, with all the conveniences of a modern city, yet the weather and beach and views of the sea is simply breath-taking. We got here Saturday night late, and on Sunday, we set out west towards Motueka for a very nice farmer's market, and then off to a stunning golden sand beach called Kaiteriteri. The kids had a great time. The water was a bit chilly, but I jumped in and took a dip anyways. Today, the weather was a bit colder, so we stayed around Nelson. We visited the town center, went to Lobo's favorite coffee place, and just checked out the city. Later in the afternoon, we went down to the beach and playground, and the children had a blast. Chi decided to venture out on her own around town, and walked home around 5pm.

Still thinking through what we will do tomorrow.


Russell (Bay of Islands) trip report (part one)

We spent 5 days in Russell with Phu, Tamar, Jason, Grace and Chi. We were joined by Joonsuk, Julie and Devin for the final 2.5 days of this adventure. In our past visits to NZ, we had never ventured north of Auckland, so we figured we'd take advantage of the easter break and explore one of the few places we've not seen in NZ. Exploring a place with kids is very different from exploring a place with packs. With kids you get to spend quality time in playgrounds, beaches and just any open space.

We chose Russell based on wonderful reports from various books and our friends (the briggs family) who had lived here for 3 months a few years ago. We booked a four bedroom house with Russell Cottages. The house was a 5 minute walk from the beach and across from a school with a great playground. So it was indeed a great location. The house was quite modern with enough sleeping space for all of us (5 adults, 4 kids), a good swimming pool and very friendly and attentive hosts. I'd definitely recommend the place if you are looking for family accommodation in Russell. Russell is across the bay from Pahia. Its a short passenger ferry ride, and a relatively long car drive away (via okiata and opua). Staying in Russell is not a great idea if you want to see quite a few places by car primarily because it is a bit remote from the main route. However it is much less touristy and more laid back than Pahia.

We flew into KeriKeri and picked up the rental cars at the airport. We spent the afternoon at KeriKeri near the StoneHouse at a nice cafe next to the river. The kids had a blast running around and playing various games in and around the trees. They also mingled with some other kids present there. We then picked up some groceries at New World in KeriKeri before heading south into Russell. Chi made us a wonderful pork noodle soup and I cooked some fairly spicy grouper vindaloo which was only appreciated by Phu :) (it was a bit too spicy for everyone else)

The next day we lounged around Russell and visited the two beaches in Russell. We also spent some quality hours at the school playground. We had pretty good Atomic coffee at Waterfront. Tamar also purchased a local coffee blend (Tiger Mountain Coffee). We had a friendly wager as to who could make the best french press coffee. Being a participant and the judge, I declared myself the winner by a big margin. (the trick is to preheat the coffee carafe)

San Francisco food update from Lynne (Gialina pizza review)

Our friend Lynne has sent us another wonderful San Francisco food and restaurant review which is definitely worth a read :) Without further ado, here's lynne ...

hello! i was just checking in on your blog and reading all your talk about food and restaurants made me really miss you guys. i thought you would want to know about the new pizza restaurant in glen park and various other eating adventures back here in sf.

gialina opened recently, right across the street from the new canyon market in glen park (was this open before you left? the bi-rite folks have a stake in it, i think they do the produce/groceries, and the other partners do the deli/butcher shop. it's basically like a j.v. bi-rite). i went early on a friday night (5:30ish) with my friends graham and katrina and their toddler Elias (he's almost 2). gialina's nice inside, a long and narrow space made lighter with windows and light-colored walls and wood. the menu is all pizza with one special non-pizza item per day. everything sounded very delicious, but in the new-standard bay area pizza way, as in, now one expects to see wild nettles on a pizza menu and so they don't really stand out anymore. after some negotiation (graham doesn't like vegetables), we ordered the meatball pizza, a wild nettle-prosciutto pizza, and an asparagus-potato-truffled pecorino pizza. we tried to sell graham on the dandelion greens-italian sausage-fontina pizza, but he wouldn't go for it. the meatball pizza was very good, especially if you like spaghetti and meatballs. the crust is thin and crispy in the right places but with a nice chewy quality (not as good as pizzette or delfineria, but so much better than A16). sadly, the saltiness of the prosciutto totally overwhelmed the taste of the wild nettles and i considered it a waste of wild nettles, especially after we all know how good they can be a la pizzaiolo. what's the point of using wild nettles if you can't taste them? i thought the asparagus-potato-truffled pecorino was the best one, with the rich truffley flavor nicely offsetting the asparagus and pecorino, and the potatoes adding a little creamy counterpoint. service was a little over attentive in that anxious-new-restaurant way (i got the strong sense that the waiter was one of the owners, and i don't think anxiety about the success of a business needs to be so apparent to customers). they also seemed a little cheap, as in we asked for bread for elias, and they said they only made enough to go with the special of the day and they couldn't spare it. a pizza restaurant that can't spare a little bread for a baby? in a neighborhood filled with families?

if gialina was in cole valley, or if i lived in glen park, i would be very excited and would probably eat there a few times a week, but since it is in glen park and i live in cole valley, it's not really the kind of place i would go back to. on the bay area pizza scale, i give it a 6.5.

other pizzas of note: i had a great roasted cauliflower-fontina pizza at pauline's a few weeks ago. pauline's remains a very solid pizza institution. really you can't go wrong there.

in bi-rite creamery news: i'm only one punch away from a free ice cream on my bi-rite creamery punch card. i've also ventured out from the salted caramel (it's still my favorite). they have this amazing malted vanilla ice cream with vahlrona-chocolate covered crispies in it, and the mint chip is fantastic, especially when sandwiched between two dark chocolate cookies in one of their ice cream sandwiches. cookies and cream is appropriately creamy; roasted banana is good but very sweet, it's best cut with another flavor. hmmm. i had sworn off the creamery for a few days (i'm going to nyc tomorrow) but now i'm thinking i might need one last scoop before i go.

there's a new restaurant downtown on mission btwn 1st and 2nd by the town hall folks: the salt house, a kind of san francisco version of the gastropub. i ate there with thomas rogers recently. they have a great salty version of poutine, the montreal dish of french fries, cheese, and gravy. in their version, it's thick, wedge-cut fries, gruyere, and short rib gravy. very tasty indeed.

and finally, you will be happy to hear that i ventured out from yummy yummy and ate at dragonfly the other day. everything was good, but i did miss the pork bunh with imperial rolls.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Auckland: Day Two with the Hoangs

The Hoang / Fructman clan arrived pretty early in the morning from San Francisco (the flight lands at 5:30 am or so!). I was awake and ventured into the lobby to meet and greet them. The goal was to keep them on their feet for most of the day to avoid jet lag and fatigue. After a quick breakfast and coffee in the hotel bar, we headed out. We took a tour of the inner city on The Link bus and went through Parnell, Ponsoby, New Market, Newton before getting down at the quay. We walked around the quay and Viaduct harbor for some time before proceeding to a dim sum lunch. Our original choice was Ocean City dim sum which had received an excellent review in Cusine magazine. On our walk there, we saw Sunshine which had won Best Chinese Restaurant award in 2005 and 2006 and we saw quite a few folks entering this place. We decided to chance it which was an excellent decision. It was quite ironic that their first meal was yum-cha in NZ since the Bay area has got excellent dim sum also. The dim sum was quite good (our expecations in NZ are also a bit lower than SF), specifically the turnip cake, the beef ribs on squash, the shrimp dumplings, the scallop dumplings and the egg tart. This was definitely the best dim sum we've had in NZ (the other two were in Christchurch and Wellington).

We then took the ferry to Davenport to get a view of Auckland from the water. Davenport basically is the Sausalito of Auckland. We spent a few hours at the playground and beach while the adults took turns walking along the beach and upto North Head for some spectacular views of Auckland and the hauraki gulf. For dinner we decided to get fish and chips at FishMongers in Parnell. We had an excellent driver who managed to squeeze us all into his minivan cab. Unfortunately the Parnell location was closed for Easter Sunday so we went to their Remuera location. We ordered a sampling of various fish and chips, grilled salmon and tuna, and a thai fish cake. We also got some Kumara chips. Unfortunately it was late and there was not enough seating out there, so we did not enjoy the meal as much. The food was quite good and well worth a visit. The same cabbie came and picked us up an hour later.

Maya and PJ were quite excited to play with Jason. So the three of them stayed up pretty late playing with play dough. Tomorrow we leave for Keri Keri and the Bay of Islands. I reserved a super shuttle van to take us to the airport tomorrow. I did this online, but did not trust the reservation process, so I called them to double check. It was good that I called, since the online system had messed up both my name the pickup time.

Auckland: Day One ...

We decided to spend a couple of days in Auckland before going further up into Northland. We planned to spend a day with Jill and Marley in Auckland and then meet up with Phu, Tamar, Chi, Jason and Grace in Auckland. The kids were quite excited to go on a plane again. We had heard pretty good reviews of Kelly Tarlton from the Dierkings, so we decided to spend the afternoon at Kelly Tarlton's. We took the Super Shuttle from the airport to our hotel, The Quadrant near CBD. The one bedroom apartment was a wee bit too small compared to some of the other places we've stayed at. I guess, big city hotels also mean smaller rooms.

We took the shuttle from Sky City to Kelly Tarlton. The penguin encounter was quite cool and amazing, but the rest of the aquarium was quite mediocre. I would definitely not recommend it for a short visit to Auckland.

Being in the big city, we felt like ethnic food. Having dined at Wagamama in London 8 years ago, we decided to revisit this chain restaurant. In retrospect it was a big mistake, and definitely not recommended. Maya got the kids ramen with chicken noodles, PJ and Marley the chicken katsu curry, Mari the salmon miso ramen, Jill the Chilli Chicken Soba noodle and I got th spicy beef noodles. Except for Mari's dish the other dishes were disappointing to awful. In specific, Jill's noodle dish and PJ's curry were plain awful. The atmosphere however is quite excellent for kids, since its more a cafeteria style place with a high noise level. We walked back to the hotel and bid adieu to Jill and Marley since they were leaving for Brisbane early the next day

Monday, April 09, 2007

Some more sights and sounds around Nelson, NZ

We had lunch at Waterfront with Lynn, Jill and Marley before bidding farewell to Lynn and her wonderful icecream making abilities. We had the scallops, moroccan spiced turbot and the calamari. Waterfront lunch is definitely a good deal and great value for money. Jill and Lynn wanted to have the banana dessert from the fish and chip shop, but it is open for lunch just a few days of the week.

It is good to have folks in the house that like to eat food and also cook food. We spent quite a few hours talking about food and all the places we miss while we had visitors. This also made everyone hungry, so Jill decided to make scones from the Tartine recipe book. This decision was made at 9:00 pm. Unfortunately we did not have any lemons in the house, and the grocery stores were all closed. However, our neighbours across the street have a good lemon tree. We had borrowed a lemon from them in the past. Since it was too late, we decided to get a few lemons from them and inform them the next day morning. So Mari and Lynn crept up to their house with a flashlight, scaled the wall and grabbed a few of the exquisite Meyer Lemons which promptly went into the scone mixture.

We also decided to visit Nelson lakes with Jill and Marley. We stayed overnight at Nelson Lakes Motel (aka The yellow house). Nelson Lakes is a beautiful area with supposedly lots of wonderful hikes. However without a good adult / kid ratio its really hard to take advantage of the place and go on long hikes. We hope to do a few long hikes when mari's parents are in town. The kids spent hours at the lake throwing stones into the lake. There were quite a few ducks at the shore who seem to be very well trained for visitors and tourists. They would immediately swim to a new group of people as they approached the lake and try to look cute. Unfortunately a few people do feed them which reinforces this bad habit. Lake Rototiti also has these humoungous eel which are supposed to be the oldest eel's in NZ. They take 90 years to mature. Its illegal to fish them at the lake, so we saw a couple of them at the jetty. The kids were quite excited to see such big fish.

More adventures in NZ with visitors ...

On Friday evening, I picked Jill, Marley and Lynn from Nelson airport. They came in via Queenstown -> Christchurch -> Nelson. PJ and Maya were quite excited and awaited the arrival of their neighbour and friend Marley. We were waiting from the window of the house for their plane to land. Its so convenient to have the airport literally at your doorstep (a 5 min ride). We had a leftover dinner that night which includes some lamb, chicken adobo and rice.

The next day we went to the Nelson Saturday market and had our regular crepe breakfast from Kaffeys (8/10) along with Divine Coffee. Joonsuk, Julie and Devin arrived earlier in the morning from San Francisco, so I biked over to pick them up and get them to the market. It was so good to see and talk to familiar faces. We spent some time at Riverside playground, before walking down to Morrison Cafe for a late lunch. Morrison Cafe has so far met and exceeded expectations and has been a hit with all our visitors. We decided to cook a big meal at home that night. Jill made a fabulous moroccan lamb stew, Mari made a great big tray of veggie lasagna with yummy portabello mushrooms, Lynn made vanilla and honey icecream, while my contribution was yummy brown rice :) (actually Joonsuk and I took the kids to the playground for an hour to give the cooks some peace and quiet).

The next day we went to Motueka farmers market on our way to Kaiteriteri beach. Jill and Lynn took the scenic route and went half way to Murchison before turning back and coming to Motueka via Motueka Valley Road. Jill had some delicious muffins from the Muffin Madness in Motueka, while Joonsuk, Julie and Devin feasted on German sausage. The weather was nice and sunny (in contrast to our visit with JD where it was a bit cold and cloudy). Since we had a good adult / kid ratio ( 6 / 4 ), we decided to take advantage of the numbers and rented two double kayaks from Kaiteriteri Kayaks and kayaked a bit of Abel Tasman. Since Mari got her exercise doing some laps in Tasman Bay, I got to go on the kayak trip. Joonsuk and me were in one double, while Jill and Lynn were in the other double kayak. We headed towards Marahau Bay and it was good to be out paddling. Been quite a few years since I did it, and I suspect we'll want to do more of it, now that the kids are getting older. We had a good time in the water and headed back to the beach and the kids. Maya and PJ met some friends from school at the beach. The older kids found a couple of dead crabs and decided to hold a funeral and memorial service for the crabs. PJ and Marley were quite serious and grave faced at the service, while Maya was happy doing her own thing.

Since it was pretty late, we decided to have a fish and chips dinner and took the group to the Haven Fish and Chips place. We got an assortment of fish (Blue Cod, Blue Nose, Tarakihi, fish kebab, scallops, mussels, crab sticks) and chips. We also ventured into dessert this time and got fried bananas. Mari reprimanded me for not including this in our previous dinners. The weather was quite nice, so it was a good treat to be eating newspaper fish and chips overlooking tasman bay.

The next day Joonsuk and Julie drove to Havelock. They had the mussell platter at Slip Inn and also took the Green Mussell Cruise from Havelock.It was a good trip since they got to see a fair amount of Marlborough sounds and did not have to drive all the way into Picton. We offered to babysit Devin that night while they went and spent some quality time at a restaurant, but they were a bit too stuffed from the mussell trip. We had another good feast that night. We made Lamb tikka masala, rig fish in teriyaki sauce, and stir fried pumpkin and sweet onions (which were delicious). Lynn topped off the meal by making lavender icecream. We bid farewell to Joon and Julie and will meet them in 10 days in Russell (Northland)

Visitors galore ...

Apologies for the sporadic entries on the blog. We've had a lot of visitors from the San Francisco area the past couple of weeks and things have been very hectic between making them feel at home and getting some work done.

The first group of visitors were the Dierkings from Sonoma, CA. JD, Liza, Sophie (6 years) and Matt (4 years) visited us for 4 days a week and a half ago. It was awesome to have more kids in the house and the two sets of kids got along very well. Sophie played the big sister role and took care of the other kids very well. The Dierking's had a whirlwind trip, flying into Auckland on Friday morning. They spent the day visiting the Sky Tower and the Kelly Tarlton Aquarium before jetting down to Rotorua. Did a couple of cultural activities and the geysers in Rotorua on Saturday and stayed overnite there before driving to Wellington Sunday evening. Then on the Interislander Monday morning to Picton and drove into Nelson. We had a good dinner of a rocket, avocado, blue cheese and egg salad, lamb shank with roasted potatoes and carrots and mac and cheese. The food and wine (Neudorf Sauvignon Blanc and Rimu Grove Pinot Noir 2004) were quite delicious. The next day they went to Morrison Cafe in the morning and had lunch at the Smokehouse cafe in Mapua. They had stayed in Ruby Bay when they honeymooned here 9 years ago. So this was more of a flashback. We met them at the Richmond wave pool and had a blast before doing our customary Sushi dinner on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, Mari and Liza crafted a glass paper weight at Hogland glass factory and then all of us went to Kaiteriteri Beach. Its amazing that kids are just so happy to play with sand, water and rocks and can spend hours doing that. We headed back to Nelson and offered to take care of their kids for the evening.

They visited our current favorite restaurant Hopgood's and came back with rave reviews (JD mentioned the duck was quite excellent, and Liza liked her fish dish). We took the kids to Steffano's pizzeria (above the State cinema) and had pretty good pizza. We ordered the kids an individual child pizza which we assumed would be fairly small. However the child pizza was pretty close to size as the regular pizza (its a great deal at half the price and each kid can have their own taste catered for!). The pizza was quite good and definitely well worth a revisit. We met them at the Boat Shed for lunch before they continued their whirwind tour of Blenheim, Kaikoura and Christchurch. The food at Boat Shed was very good, though the service left a lot to be desired. Mari and I also came to the conclusion that we've OD'ed on mussels and need to stay away from them for the next few months. They also visited the Bead Factory in Nelson earlier that day and mentioned it was a good place for kids Sophie's age and older. You need to be aware of what beads you choose, else you can end up making a very expensive bead necklace.