One Sunday in Eight Photos.

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1. To the Hamilton Farmers Market with Sue. Half past eight is so early!

2. Matamata, aka “the Shire.” Half an hour from Hamilton.

3. Waterfall, somewhere along the road to the Bay of Plenty…

4-6. Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty. Two hours east of Hamilton. Time at the beach!

7. Made a friend along the way…

8. Polynesian Spa, Rotorua. Inland and about an hour south of Tauranga. Ending the day with a hydro spa therapy using the mineral-rich thermal mud and a soak in the natural mineral spas overlooking the lake (Rotorua is a hotspot for geothermal activity). Can’t complain!

Coromandel Peninsula

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We spent a day driving around the coast of the Coromandel Peninsula on New Zealand’s North Island and were absolutely in awe (yet again) of the beautiful landscape and gorgeous Pacific Ocean waters. One of the most popular sites is Cathedral Cove near Hahei Beach, which boasts a rock formation with a massive tunnel connecting the two sides of the cove’s beach. The area was used in filming¬†The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. We drove up to the northern end of Hahei Beach, where we found the beginning of the 2.5 km track to Cathedral Cove and this view:

After a brief deliberation and a short drive back to the center of town, we decided to forego the hike and join a kayak tour to paddle our way to the cove. We had a quick lunch–mmm…nachos (Kiwis like to serve nachos in their cafes almost as much as they like to serve a chicken panini with cranberry and brie)–and walked down to the beach at Hahei to meet our guide and hop in the kayak.

And we're off!

Kayaking must be one of the best ways to experience the stunning Coromandel coastline with its crystal-clear waters! We paddled out to a couple of islands in the marine reserve, winding through caves and around rocky shores before reaching Cathedral Cove.

Cathedral Cove!

We came ashore to explore the beach with its magnificent rock formations and to have our afternoon tea, of course. No kidding–our guide unloaded from her kayak everything she needed to make each of us in our group a mocha latte, hot chocolate, tea, coffee, you name it…and biscuits (cookies) to boot!

Jaromy, in the air. The only thing better than a rock to climb is one that allows you to then jump off with a splash!

Afternoon tea in the sand. How cool is this??

So nice to have a photographer/barrista/guide at our beck and call.

We hopped back in our kayaks to return to Hahei Beach. Truly, a lovely afternoon with Cathedral Cove Kayak Tours–highly recommended! Our journey continued on the road again and we made our next stop at Hot Water Beach. This beach, like the beach at Kawhia, is the site of an underground river of hot water which might be enjoyed by digging your own “spa pool” in the sand at low tide. Sounds amazing, right? I’m not sure what I expected to find, but in reality the hot water is only found under a small section of the beach and is, well, somewhat of a popular attraction:

Where, oh where, can the hot pools be? The crowd probably knows...

So many people!

Digging pools at Hot Water Beach

We gawked at the crowds for a few minutes, but didn’t stick around Hot Water Beach. Instead, we continued our drive around the top of the peninsula to Coromandel town for dinner and some amazing views before making our way back to Hamilton. I only wish the sun might have stayed up a little longer! I can’t imagine the views from the winding coastal road we must have missed as we drove down the western side of the peninsula after the sunset. Oh, well…I don’t think I have much room to complain after such a fabulous day!

Is that the dinner bell I hear?

Ribs and chips for Jaromy!

And fish for me!

Weekend on the Road

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Jim G., our friend and owner of the Rent-a-Dent (our local car rental), was quite impressed by the 500+ kilometers we racked up on a weekend spent exploring areas north and south of Hamilton. We started out on Saturday with another trip to Auckland and surrounding areas–Mission Bay, in particular, was on the agenda. Mission Bay is a smaller residential beach community just east of Auckland and a popular weekend spot for a picnic in the sand or a walk along the sidewalk that connects its many cafes and gift shops.

Favorite spot in the Auckland area for a scoop of ice cream in the lightest, crispiest waffle cone imaginable.

After a couple of hours in Mission Bay, we decided to head back to the city for some sights we missed on an earlier trip to Auckland. One of our favorite places is the Auckland Domain, with the museum and gardens. We went back for the gardens, begonia house and conservatory, and the fernery.

Auckland Domain, with the Sky Tower in the background (tallest man-made structure in NZ).

This would be a good tree to climb, he says.

Love to find bougainvillea that escapes the small pots and baskets of the southeastern U.S. The last time I found such a massive wall of color was on the island of Ischia, just off the coast of Naples, Italy.

Conservatory in the Auckland Domain

In the fernery, Auckland Domain

Fernery, Auckland Domain

We left the Auckland Domain to explore the city’s waterfront, the Viaduct Harbour. First stop: Harbourside Seafood Bar & Grill for some yummy paella!

On Sunday we laced up our hiking shoes and headed south from Hamilton to the Waitomo area, stopping occasionally for short walks in the rainforest.

Mangapohue Natural Bridge

The short hike to the natural bridge took us through some pastures as we made the loop back towards the road. A few of the rocks in these areas had some interesting fossilized remains; more importantly, however, were some of the larger rocks which demanded to be climbed:

Well, now that that’s accomplished we can move on to those things which I really appreciate. Like wild thistles growing in the fields.

From inside the Piripiri Caves, on another walk

Best walk yet! Marokopa Falls...

Waterfalls, like rocks, must be explored closely...

Unfortunately, the mud triumphed as the rains started, leaving him no choice but to return to the comforts of the viewing platform.

It would be difficult to top Marokopa Falls on these short hikes, so we made our way around and around the sharp turns of the rainforest-covered hills towards the western coast of the North Island.

The usual, "Wait! Wait! Pull over and check out that view!"

Our final stop was the isolated beach at Kawhia (“wh” sounds like “f” in the Maori tradition). Kawhia is a small fishing village with nearby beach access by way of a short walk through the pines and over the massive dunes. It’s a hot-water beach, which is to say that the combination of localized geothermal activity and a shovel produce hot pools in the sand and a popular way to soak in the therapeutic waters. On this day the beach was eerily empty, save a couple of surfers in the distance. The sky was overcast, with the sun barely beginning to peek through the clouds as it began to set, and the winds were high. Our footsteps seemed so small and our presence trivial, even, as we came over the crest of the dune and into the winds of the rugged coastline and the rough Tasman Sea. It’s difficult to find words to describe the magnitude of this natural setting–one seemingly untouched by time and progress. This is New Zealand at its heart.

Path from the pines to the top of the dune.

Note the lines in the sand...the result of the strong winds.

Waiheke Island Adventure. In Pictures.

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Sunshine has been a little hit or miss on our travels, and when the forecast showed a few beautiful days mid-week I decided it was time to head to the beach. So I said goodbye to Jaromy, Olive, and Una (my favorite New Zealand cats and frequent visitors from their home with Sue and Geoff) to spend three days on Waiheke Island, known for its beautiful beaches and magnificent wineries. Three buses and one 35-minute ferry ride from Auckland brought me to a little slice of paradise in the Hauraki Gulf.

Auckland in the distance, en route to Waiheke Island via ferry

Once on the island, I hopped a bus to Onetangi Beach and headed for the 187 steps leading to my accommodation. In an effort to be budget-minded, I booked a room in a hostel. It’s about as basic as you can get, with a room just barely larger than the double-bed and shared bathrooms. But, hey, I splurged for my own room instead of a bunk. I haven’t done the hostel thing since I was a teenager visiting an exchange family in Germany and taking side trips to Paris and Venice, but I felt pretty comfortable among the bohemian mix of guests at Kina (and pretty thankful that I wasn’t the oldest!). I know what you’re thinking…shared bathrooms??? I thought the same thing, but I easily saved $200 to $400 and the bathrooms at Kina are surprisingly nice–newly renovated with architectural details and clean lines…and clean (particularly if you time it just right!).

187 steps with luggage in tow

Kina Backpackers Lodge, Onetangi Beach

Being on my own for a few days, it made perfect sense to have cake for dinner. This was a delicious citrus cake with almonds, and just a short walk from Kina. I know, I know…I suffer through life daily.

On the patio at Charlie Farley's, Onetangi Beach

Did I mention that those 187 steps reward the weary traveller with a spectacular view of Onetangi Bay? This is the front yard at Kina. I claimed a spot in the hammock for a few hours one morning.

A room with a view. Well, almost.

Waking up on my first and only full day on the island, I decided to catch the bus into the village for breakfast and some shopping. Post-strawberry smoothie and a fresh, locally-made almond croissant, I found some interesting places (and a few ways to spend some of that money I saved staying at Kina!).

Bus stop, a la Waiheke Island...

Vintage bathing suits, True Blue on Belgium Street, Ostend

Up-cycling and crafts in the village.

Arts shops area near the center of the village.

After visiting the shops, I headed for Stonyridge Vineyard for lunch. I managed to beat the crowds and scored a table on the edge of the patio, overlooking an olive grove and the vines.

Crayfish bisque with cream and crusty bread.

It was ok.

Wandering the olive groves and vines after lunch.

After lunch, I caught the bus back to Kina and Onetangi Beach for some time in the sand and waves. This has been the only time on our trip that I have actually enjoyed being in the water…I waded out into the warm surf and floated peacefully under a blue sky, thinking about the job I gave up to be here (no regrets!) and sending positive thoughts to Elisabeth, the proud new owner of my office back at UWF ūüėČ

Onetangi Beach

I hopped on the bus again after a shower and set out to find the best place on the island for a sunset. Enter: Mudbrick Vinyard and Restaurant.

Mudbrick Vineyard, Waiheke Island

This place is pretty incredible. It overlooks the western coast of the island (towards the city), is built of mud bricks in a beautiful French style, and is surrounded by potager gardens (a French term for a vegetable patch). Just as I walked up, one of the chefs walked out of the restaurant to clip some herbs from the garden on the veranda. I wandered the grounds before taking a table in the restaurant for a light salad and dessert. Oh, dessert.

I would say I was triumphant in my search for a sunset, but the best prize may have been the creme brulee with petit fours and elderflower mousse.¬†If you ever have an opportunity to try elderflower, do…it’s almost like marshmallow cream, but better!

On my last day on Waiheke I begrudgingly emerged from the hammock to walk just down the street from Kina Lodge to one last vineyard for lunch.

Walking along the bluff at Onetangi Bay to Casita Miro.

Casita Miro is a lovely little tapas restaurant with rustic bohemian qualities and European flair. I thoroughly enjoyed a beautiful cheese board, lamb meatball, sweet citrus biscuits and small glass of Riesling.

I hurried back along the road to Kina Lodge to change…I had to make my way down those 187 steps for one last swim at the beach before catching three more buses and a ferry back to Hamilton!

There’s always time for one more trip to the beach…

Roses and Garden Wanderings

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Thank you so much to those who have expressed love and sympathy to myself and my family in the loss of my grandmother. Your encouragement truly makes our days brighter and, for me, is a source of great support with my being far from home in a difficult time. We were very blessed to have Mom B. for many years, and celebrate a life lived for faith and family.

In the days after receiving this news, Jaromy and I were able to spend a few quiet moments among the roses at the Wellington Botanic Garden. Roses were one of Mom B.’s favorite flowers, and I always think of her when I have a chance to visit a rose garden. She kept a beautiful rose garden at home, and also grew lovely peonies, lilac, and geraniums.

Here is a collection of photographs from the gardens in Wellington, Auckland, and Hamilton. We love to visit gardens when we travel, and spent a lot of time wandering in these beautiful places. Mom B. would have loved all the flowers!

English Flower Garden, Hamilton Gardens

Indian Char Bagh Garden, Hamilton Gardens

Italian Renaissance Garden, Hamilton Gardens

Purple hydrangea, Hamilton Gardens

Rogers Rose Garden, Hamilton Gardens

Rose, Hamilton Gardens

Auckland Domain and Wintergardens, home of the Auckland Museum

Auckland Domain

Auckland Domain

Wintergardens, Auckland Domain

Wedding Portrait in the Wintergardens, Begonia House, Auckland Domain

Begonia, Wintergardens, Auckland Domain

Lady Norwood Rose Garden, Wellington Botanic Garden

Ducks at home in the garden, Wellington Botanic Garden

Rose, Wellington Botanic Garden

Roses, Wellington Botanic Garden

Begonia, Wellington Botanic Garden

Curiosity, in the begonia house, Wellington Botanic Garden

Begonias, Wellington Botanic Garden

Lady Norwood Rose Garden, Wellington Botanic Garden

Thank you, Mom B., for helping me to learn how to see beauty in this world.

For Mom B., Me Te Whakaaro Nui Atu*

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My grandmother, Louise V. Pitts, passed away earlier this week at age 98. To experience this loss here in New Zealand, truly on the other side of the world, is a different kind of grief all together…strangely quiet, but also strangely peaceful. We’ve been traveling recently, with less access to communication and email, and I find myself coping with this news three days after my family gathered at home for funeral services.¬†Kia kaha.**

Mom B. was very sick at Christmas, and my mother reassured me in a moment of cold feet to even get on the plane that no matter what the next few months would bring, with so much time and expense separating us, Mom B. would still want us to go on this journey. I find now that it’s impossible to express in words just how much this time abroad has meant to Jaromy and myself. Beyond the good work he is accomplishing in his field, beyond the beautiful new places and people we have encountered, beyond all of this we are most thankful for the time we have shared together. Our lives are so much changed for the better. More than anyone else, I know that Mom B. would wish this for us.¬†Kia kaha.

While I continue to feel close to her in spirit, I treasure the memory I have of my last day to be with Mom B. on this earth. The day after Thanksgiving we hardly expected her to go along with the notion of picking out and putting up a Christmas tree in her living room, but suggest it we did. After two hours of discussion with Daddy over the phone, weighing out the pro’s and con’s (and being reassured that we would do all the work–picking it out, bringing it over, putting it up), she not only agreed that a tree would be nice…she wanted to ride over to the tree lot to pick it out herself! Only on rare occasions in the last couple of years have we been able to get Mom B. out of the house for a bit of fun, so this was really a treat. Daddy and I picked her up and met Mother and Jaromy at the tree lot, where she sat contentedly in the front seat while the boys working the lot carried trees to the car for her evaluation. We found “the one” and brought it back to her house, where Daddy suggested that she sit in one of the back bedrooms to avoid the anxiety of the work (and perhaps for him to avoid her “input” in the process). While Mother, Daddy, and Jaromy trimmed the tree, I kept Mom B. company in the back…a few quiet moments just laughing and talking. Best day ever.¬†Kia kaha.

I came across an entry in the guestbook for the obituary online from Lisa M., who cleaned Mom B.’s house, and I think she might just say it best. Thank you, Lisa, for these incredibly meaningful words:

It is difficult to say goodbye to such a sweet lady. Mrs Pitts, you were a treasured friend and blessing to me all the time I knew you. I enjoyed out time together while I cleaned because I knew you felt better about your home when I finished, not because it ever needed it. You shared with me so many wise things about family because family was the focus of your life. I know you will be missed by all of us you left behind, but we have the peace of knowing we’ll see you again. I love you, dear lady. My sympathies to your family.

Whether or not things happen for a reason, it’s such a blessing to see them work out for the best. No regrets…just love for my family from the other side of the world and so thankful for my Mom B., one of my life’s greatest gifts.¬†Kia kaha.

*Me Te Whakaaro Nui Atu, or “with loving thoughts,” in Maori

**Kia kaha, or “encouragement to achieve strength,” in Maori

___________________________________________________

I happened to notice that my family included in the obituary a note of thanks to Mom B.’s doctor and caregivers. A beautiful gesture that would have been particularly meaningful to my grandmother. While there are many that deserve so much gratitude for the love and care they gave to Mom B., I think that there is one other who deserves particular attention. My parents lived conveniently near Mom B., and my father (and mother, too) spent countless hours catering to her every need…from refilling her birdfeeder, to making multiple trips to multiple grocery stores in one day, to the daily phone calls and deliveries of freshly-made home-cooked meals. Thank you, Daddy. Your efforts do not go unnoticed.

Louise Vann Beasley Pitts, age 98, called “Mom B” by her family, died Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012.¬†

Visitation will be from 11 a.m. to noon today at Morrison Funeral Home, Tuscumbia. Her funeral service will follow in the funeral home chapel, with Terry Jones and Sid Fulford officiating. Burial will be in Oakwood Cemetery, Sheffield.

Mrs. Pitts was a member of Annapolis Avenue Church of Christ. She was a beloved and cherished mother and grandmother. 

She was preceded in death by her parents, John and Deborah Vann; husbands, Lester Noel Beasley and Ammon L. Pitts; brothers, Braxton Vann and John Vann; and sisters, Maxine Elkins and Wylodean Dabbs.

She is survived by her son, Lester Noel Beasley Jr. and wife, Marie, of Muscle Shoals; daughter, Betty Lou McKee and husband, Richard, of Pensacola, Fla.; stepdaughter, Dr. Mary Ellen Pitts, of Memphis, Tenn.; grandchildren, James O. Hester Jr. and wife, Mona, of Biloxi, Miss., Jennifer Hester Migues and husband, John, of Pensacola, Fla., Sarah Beasley Kuhl and husband, Dr. Jaromy Kuhl, of Pensacola, Fla., Steven Beasley and wife, Stephanie, of Hamilton; two great-grandchildren; one great-great-grandchild; and sister, Jo Nell Colagross, of Muscle Shoals.

Pallbearers are Steven Beasley, James Dabbs, John Migues, Gary Mixon, Derek Pepper and Larry Staten.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in her name to Annapolis Avenue Church of Christ.

The family would like to express thanks to Dr. Jack McLendon and staff, Home Instead Senior Care and staff, and to Hospice of North Alabama and staff with special thanks to Charessa and Courtney.

An online guest book is available at morrisonfuneralhomes.com.

Six Calming Yoga Poses

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I’ve had the pleasure of attending classes at the Iyengar Yoga Centre here in Hamilton 2 to 3 times weekly over the last couple of months. The classes are challenging, but also wonderfully restorative. I spent some time last week with Annette Springer, one of my teachers, chatting and asking questions. Now I can share with you a little of what I am learning!

Iyengar yoga is particularly focused on the health benefits of the practice and emphasizes the medical science behind the poses. Props (bolsters, blankets, straps, benches, and blocks–to name a few) are used, Annette notes, to enable beginners, those with health concerns, and those with specific physical limitations (tight hamstrings, for example…ahem, moi!) to achieve the asanas (poses) without strain. “It’s not about how far you go,” she says, “it’s¬†how¬†you go.”¬†Correct alignment is imperative for the practice, and the props–though seemingly cumbersome at first–not only provide an incredible amount of assistance in achieving this alignment, but also help to advance the pose beyond what you might do otherwise. The props provide greater stability, for example, which would allow the pose to be held longer. Movements are precise, muscles are fully engaged, and focus is maintained for the duration of the pose–often for several minutes.

Annette has been practicing Iyengar yoga for 10 years and teaching for 5. She enjoys teaching, she says, because it provides her with an opportunity to learn more about and improve her own practice. I asked Annette to share with me some poses to pass along to you all which might be particularly useful in calming nerves and reducing stress. I have learned that the process of “letting go” is as important as the work of the muscles and mental focus. Poses which are specifically designed to be restorative are often incorporated into class and, though relaxing, perform the work of restoration and rejuvenation. These same poses are equally beneficial after a long day or if I am feeling anxious. Do feel free to try these at home (at your own risk, of course!).

Viparita Karani “Inverted Lake Pose” or “Legs Up the Wall”

Legs are relaxed, but held together and straight. Increase the distance from the wall, if necessary, to straighten legs. A yoga belt can be used to strap the legs and allow for further release of the muscles. Have a firm pillow or blanket under the lower back to create a small backbend (this pose should be done flat–without lifting the lower back–for women during menstruation). Viparita Karani is particularly beneficial for fatigue, blood pressure problems, jet lag, and insomnia. I also like this pose if I have been on my feet a lot during the day, and have been told that it eliminates the toxins which build and settle in the feet by bringing them to the abdomen (to be processed through the liver and kidneys). Hold the pose for at least 5 minutes, up to 15.¬†Come out of the pose by rolling to the right (to the left if pregnant)…pause on the right side before sitting up.

Supta Baddhakonasana “Reclining Fixed Angle Pose”

Bring the soles of the feet together, letting the legs go and the knees fall. The back is raised on a bolster or blankets, creating a small backbend which opens the chest and lengthens the spine (increasing oxygen flow in lungs and bloodstream). Rotate the forearms back, briefly touching the thumbs to the floor (then relax the hands) to further open the chest. Raise the head ever-so-slightly (here with a blanket) to straighten the neck and bring the chin down to open the throat and improve the breath. Supta Baddhakonasana is generally restorative, and a slightly raised head will calm the mind. The small backbend will stimulate the central nervous system. Blocks, firm pillows, or blankets may be placed under the knees during pregnancy or menstruation, to prevent strain on the lower back or groin, and to remain in the pose for an extended period of time (10 minutes or longer). Hold the pose for 5 or 10 minutes for maximum benefit. Come out of the pose by rolling to the right (to the left if pregnant)…pause on the right side before sitting up.

Swastikasana Forward “Forward Cross-Legged Pose”

Cross legs at shins, sit on the edge of a firm pillow or blankets, roll shoulders back and release forward to a bed or chair (heightened with pillow or blankets as necessary). Rest the head on the soft surface or on the forearms, grab opposite elbows, and let go! Switch the cross of the legs after a bit. Swastikasana Forward eases strain in the lower back, calms the mind, alleviates stress and anxiety, helps to relieve digestive problems, and eases pain in the hip joints. Hold for 30 seconds to 5 minutes, each side of the cross.

Adhomukha Svanasana “Downward-Facing Dog”

As a restorative pose, dig the heels into the wall and relax the head onto a block, firm pillow, or blanket. Legs are straight, opening the backs of the knees. Press off the hands, pushing through the index finger; hands are centered with fingers equally spaced. Release the shoulders away from the ears and push the chest toward the thighs. Adhomukha Svanasana is a good pose to release tension in the back and the head support allows the mind to be calm. Hold for as long as possible (at minimum 30 seconds with three attempts).

Uttanasana “Standing Forward Bend”

Begin with hands at hips and shoulders back; bend at the hip crease, dropping the head to a chair or bed (heightened as needed) and the hands to the floor (heightened as needed). Legs are fully engaged and working throughout this pose–knees are open at the back and muscles are taught in the thighs and shins. Feet are hip-width and straight forward, with weight evenly distributed. Take the heels out (pigeon-toed) to further relieve the lower back. Uttanasana calms the mind and central nervous system, relieves the lower back, and calms the heart and lungs. Hold for 30 seconds or as long as possible. Come out of the pose by bringing the hands to hips, raising the head, and slowly lifting the chest.

Setubandha Sarvangasana “Bridge Pose”

Lying on blankets or bolsters, drop the shoulders over the edge at the bottom of the shoulder blades. Heighten the head slightly to prevent strain in the neck and further the breath. Legs are straight and together, but relaxed (bring the legs together with a yoga strap around the thighs to further let go). Add height (firm pillow or blanket) under the knees–or simply bend the knees–if the back is strained. Setubandha Sarvangasana releases the back of the neck and shoulders, rests the heart and lungs, and restores the central nervous system. Hold the pose for 5 to 8 minutes.¬†Come out of the pose by rolling to the right (to the left if pregnant)…pause on the right side before sitting up.

Remember…don’t worry about having the right equipment–a few blankets should do the trick–and¬†let go!

Afternoon in Raglan

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Nick (Jaromy’s colleague and research partner) had the brilliant idea one afternoon that they should leave work early for us to all go to the beach. Mathematicians need a break occasionally, I would think, from all those long hours spent deep in thought scribbling on scratch paper and dry-erase boards. What better way to take a break than to hop in Nick’s car for the 45 minute drive to the western coast?

We stopped along the way at one of the country’s most beautiful waterfalls. It’s incredible how one minute you can be driving along winding roads and rolling hills in the heart of New Zealand’s dairy country and farmland, and the next you are in the midst of a rainforest. The Bridal Veil Falls are 180 feet high (with about as many steps to get to the bottom).

We made our way to the base of the falls surrounded by the damp green of the forest, pausing every few minutes to marvel at the falls through the Black Mamaku, New Zealand’s native tree ferns.

Back on the road, we continued our drive past green-terraced hills dotted by countless cows and sheep to the small beachside community of Raglan. Raglan is a well-known surfing destination with a long, left-hand break at Manu Bay featured in the 1966 surfing film¬†Endless Summer. Although somewhat distracted by a few HD bikes and burgers with pineapple mayo (turns out they just forgot the comma…womp womp), we spent most of our time out at the beach.

Nick & Jaromy, loitering around the HD's

The beaches at Raglan are formed out of warm, black sand and the rugged landscape slopes down to the wild Tasman Sea of the west coast. This was our first trip to the sea, and what a stunning moment it was to step out onto the hill over-looking the beach…the sparkling waves under the late afternoon sun, the wind on our faces and blowing through the wild grasses of the hillside, the sound of the crashing waters before an endless horizon…it was a school night, but we had to stay for the sunset!

Hey Cow!

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When we have a car (weekends, mainly) we tend to drive and drive and…well, you get the picture. There’s so much here to see! And it’s always tempting to drive just a little further because New Zealand seems so small–just a couple of islands off the coast of Australia, right? In actuality, New Zealand is close to 1,300 miles long (that’s about the distance between New York City and Miami!). In any case, we just seem to keep driving…on winding roads through rolling green hills, along rocky coastlines, through thick rainforests, and on and on.

The silver bullet...sort of.

Near Waitomo, on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

I'm sure J gets tired of hearing "Wait! Pull over!" But there are so many incredible views!

In addition to views like the ones above, we see a lot of livestock. And it just so happens that for a while now my bucket list has included a little game called “hey, cow!”…thanks to a few Pensacola girls. It’s pretty simple really: first, roll down window; second, yell at whatever livestock you may be passing; and finally, watch to see if they look up at you or (even better) if they run. “Hey, cow!” has been a pretty entertaining part of our road trips in this country, undoubtedly the “hey, cow!” capital of the world according to Jaromy’s colleague, Nick. He’s right–there are cows and sheep everywhere¬†here (not to mention the horses and alpacas). And, it turns out “hey, sheep!” is even better. Sheep always run.

Don't mind us. We've got time...

Sundays at the Market

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For the last few weeks we’ve been to the Sunday morning farmer’s market here in Hamilton for fresh produce, breads, meats, and dairy, among other great locally-sourced items. One of our favorite breakfasts with market ingredients is a fresh fig & honey yogurt with strawberries, blueberries, and granola. Taking the time to visit the market is a great way to avoid the distraction of the overly-processed foods in the center of the grocery store, and I’m hoping to seek out some local markets back home in a couple months. Here’s a collection of recent photos from visits to the Hamilton Farmers Market: