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Archive for the 'Taste of Kiwi' Category

Old St Pauls, Wellington, New Zealand #travel

Nestled in the heart of the commercial center of Wellington, not far from New Zealand’s parliament buildings, is an old church with a lot of history.

St Paul's, Wellington

Old St Paul’s is plain from the outside, a white building and dark spire, set in a large section and surrounded by giant pohutukawa trees. I wasn’t expecting much but the interior stole my breath. During my first visit, I stood inside the entrance, breathed in the rich, fragrant scent of the old wood from which the church is constructed, and fell in love with the place. It’s both peaceful and beautiful with the glowing colors of the aged timber. The ceiling curves above, looking like a timber rib cage and the light coming through the stained glass windows throws jewel-like patterns on the interior. Everyone speaks in hushed tones and the place feels special.

Old St Pauls, Wellington

 

Old St Paul's Wellington

Frederick Thatcher designed the church. He was also the first vicar and remained from 1861 – 1864. The style is gothic, and according to experts, it’s one of the finest examples of timber Gothic architecture in the world. The timbers used in the construction include rimu, totara, matai and kauri, some of New Zealand’s finest native wood. The pews are also made from timber and perfect to take a seat and soak in the atmosphere.

Old St Paul's, Wellington

Wander around on your own or listen to one of the guides who will point out all the highlights. The stained glass windows are famous and were added as memorials to several prominent members of the Wellington community. Originally most of the windows were plain frosted glass. The current bells and organ are also new additions, but the baptismal font is an original, made in England from white stone with a carved oak canopy.

Old St Pauls, Wellington

Funerals of former Prime Ministers were held here. The Maori land wars, which took place during the 1860s are remembered in memorials, as is the First World war. The relationship between American marines and the locals during the Second World war is also recognized.

A new church, also named St. Pauls, was built in 1964 to cater to larger numbers. Thankfully, locals fought to keep the old church, because it truly is beautiful and unique now that public buildings are no longer made from timber.

Old St Paul’s may not be a parish church now, but it’s still consecrated and a venue for weddings, funerals, christenings and other cultural events such as concerts. The building is maintained by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

The Facts

Opening hours:
Daily 9.30 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.
Closed Christmas Day, Good Friday, and for short periods during private functions.

Admission fee:
Entry is free. Hourly guided tours of Old St Paul’s: $5 per person.
Private group bookings (8 or more) $3 per person.
School groups: tours $3 per student.
Experience Old St Paul’s education programme: $8 per student.

Location:
34 Mulgrave Street
Wellington 6011
tel: + 64 4 473 6722
email: oldstpauls@historic.org.nz

Dinosaur of the Insect World #travel #NewZealand

The weta – it’s a large and primitive insect, native to New Zealand. The reason I chose to write about wetas today is so more people know what they are. When I used a weta reference in my book Janaya, my editor didn’t know what I was talking about and I had to rewrite slightly to describe a weta as a prehistoric cricket-like insect.

Tree Weta, New Zealand

There are five broad groups of weta:

1. Tree weta
2. Ground weta
3. Cave weta
4. Giant weta
5. Tusked weta

Wetas are nocturnal and live in a variety of habitats including grassland, scrub land, forests and caves. They live under stones and in rotten logs or in pre-formed burrows in trees.

They are mainly herbivores in the wild but are known to eat other insects. They can bite but are not poisonous. Species of weta are still being discovered and several are endangered. In the wild, they were traditionally eaten by the tuatara (a prehistoric reptile native to NZ) but these days many are destroyed by rats, cats and dogs and of course, humans encroaching on their habitat.

The weta sheds its exoskeleton when moulting.

At 18 months the male weta selects a female and they spend time together in the male’s territory. (Romance in the insect world!)

At around two years old, the female will lay 100 – 300 eggs. The parents die before the weta eggs hatch 3 – 5 months later.

The Department of Conservation in New Zealand is currently involved in weta breeding programs and translocation to safe sites such as protected islands like Tiritiri Matangi and Little Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf. The weta respond well to a captive breeding program.

The following video is of a giant weta.

I’ve never seen a giant weta but have personal experience with both tree and cave wetas. We often find tree wetas in our garden and will return them to live in peace. They can nip and look creepy but I don’t mind them.

My experience with cave wetas is a bit more spooky. When I was a kid, my girlfriend lived on a farm with limestone caves. It was a favorite pastime to visit the caves and wander through them with a candle and maybe a torch to search for stalactites, stalagmites and glow worms. When I think about our cave visits now, I can see how dangerous it was, but for us it was an adventure – an hour or two of wandering through pristine caves. One day we discovered a new tunnel and were all set to charge into it to explore. I happened to shine the torch over the ceiling and it was covered with huge cave wetas! I let out a screech and dropped the torch, and we all decided to explore another part of the cave. I also took to checking my gumboots carefully and shaking vigorously before I put my feet in them. This lasted for a few weeks until the initial horror passed. I’ve never been bitten by a weta, but I’m always careful not to get too close either. I can appreciate them from a distance.

How are you with insects? Do you like them or hate them with a passion? Do you have any insect stories to tell? What do you think of New Zealand’s weta?

Tirau: Corrugated Captial #newzealand #travel

Tirau is a small New Zealand town. It’s pronounced Tee-rau

1. Tirau, originally referred to a hill three miles southwest of the village, is covered with cabbage trees where Maori trapped the keruru (wood pigeon). It was first settled by the Ngati Raukawa, although various tribes won the area in battle before Europeans purchased the surrounding district in 1868.

2. Tirau has always been a rest stop for travellers with the Oxford Royal Hotel operating as a staging post between Rotorua, Cambridge, Lichfield and later Taupo.

3. The benefits of its central location continue today. In fact Kate and Lane from PLAYING TO WIN stopped here for a break during their drive to Taupo. These days the town is unique for its corrugated iron sculptures.

4. A shop disguised as a sheep.

Iron Sheep

5. A dog.

Dog

6. Poppies

Poppies

7. A book shop.

Books

8. The toy shop.

Toy Shop

9. Me standing outside the tourist center.

Tourist Center

10. Gourmet Food shop.

Fine Swine Cafe

11. A garage.

Service Station and Garage
12. A dairy.

Dairy

13. A gift shop with a pukeko (bird).

Pukeko

Antique Shop

Tirau is a fun place to visit. It’s great for the keen photographer and is the perfect place to take a break from driving. If you’re interested in antique shops, this will be your happy place. I highly recommend a visit.

Middlemarch Shifters: Sutton Salt Lake #travel #newzealand

Several of the books in my Middlemarch Shifters series mention Sutton Salt Lake. In My Feline Protector, a villain terrorizes the heroine during a visit to the lake.

Our visit was a peaceful one.

Sutton Salt Lake is an inland lake. It is an unusual lake because, as the name suggests, the water is  salty rather than fresh. During the summer the water evaporates and salt forms on the surface. These photos were taken in late November and the lake was almost completely dry, despite it not being the height of our New Zealand summer. (that’s around late Jan, early Feb). It was also very smelly!

Middlemarch Sutton Salt Lake

Sutton Salt Lake 2

Sutton Salt Lake

My Feline Protector – One of the books in the Middlemarch Shifters that mentions Sutton Salt Lake.

ShelleyMunro_MyFelineProtector_200pxA glimpse across a crowded room…

Feline shapeshifter Gerard Drummond catches sight of a human woman with innocent eyes and lush curves and he’s toast. He desperately wants to meet her, and with his best friend Henry as his wingman, he’s soon chatting with the gorgeous London Allbright and her sister Jenny.

Despite swearing off men, the sexy Middlemarch local charms London, and she agrees to take part in a zombie run, even though she isn’t athletic in the least. The longer she spends with Gerard, the more she’s tempted, but no…she’s heading back to England and has no time for romance.

The obstacles aren’t only on the zombie run course. Gerard can’t let London leave, and now it seems Henry is hitting it off with London’s sister. There must be a way…

A shocking murder changes everything and throws their lives into turmoil. Gerard and London, Henry and Jenny. Nothing will ever be the same as danger stalks London, and Gerard struggles to keep his English beauty safe.

Warning: Contains a sexy feline male who knows exactly who he wants and isn’t afraid to chase her, to woo her, to protect and love her until she decides to stop running.

Read an excerpt here

The Giant’s House, Akaroa, New Zealand #travel

Some more photos from the Giant’s house, a photographers’ dream.

Giants House

Giant's House Piano

Hubby playing the piano out in the garden. It was French cafe music!

A view of the Gian'ts House Garden

Giant's House Topiary

Vegetables and flowers combine with sculpture to create a fun vista.

Isola Bella

Flowers at Giant's House

If you’re ever in this part of the world, I highly recommend a visit to the Giant’s House.

The Giant’s House, Akaroa, New Zealand #travel

The Giant’s House was build in 1880 and is made of native totara and kauri timber. The house was originally owned by a bank manager. Artist and sculptor Josie Martin purchased the house and has used the gardens as her artist canvas and created a wonderland—a fun place for both children and adults to explore. It is also a bed and breakfast.

Here are a few photos of the gardens and sculptors.

GiantsHouse

GiantsHouse2

GiantsHouseFlowers

The sculptures are whimsical and colorful and highlighted by the different plantings.  I’ll be back later in the week to post more photos of the Giant’s house. It’s a photographer’s dream!

The White Heron or Kotuku

While the white heron is common in Australia and parts of Asia, we’re lucky to see them. They are considered rare in New Zealand. The Maori called them kotuku and their white feathers were highly sought for decoration. It is known as a graceful and beautiful bird and is featured on the New Zealand two-dollar coin.

We have a resident kotuku in our area. He or she hangs out at the local pond where he wades and fishes for fish and eels. We never know when the heron will be at the pond, and it disappears for months at a time.

Here are a few photos taken during one of the kotuku’s visits.

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Kotoku

Kotoku3

Kotoku2

A beautiful bird. Have you seen one before?

Rangitoto, Auckland. The Youngest Volcano #travel #newzealand

This year we’ve had lots of overseas visitors, which means we’ve been reacquainting ourselves with the sights around Auckland.

The city of Auckland is built on on a field of volcanoes, and Rangitoto Island is the youngest one – a mere 600 years-old. The island is pest-free (a big deal for our native bird populations) and is a short ferry ride from the central city.

The fascinating thing is that the silhouette of Rangitoto looks the same, no matter which part of the city you’re viewing it from.

Auckland_RangitotoFullView

Auckland_RangitotoDevonport

Auckland_Rangitoto

These photos were taken on different days, from different parts of the city.

We didn’t have time to do the walk to the summit, but if you visit Auckland for a few days, I highly recommend it since the walks are easy and the view back to the city is beautiful.

For more information on island walks and details of travel to the island check out the Rangitoto Govt site.

Fiordland, New Zealand #travel

Fiordland is the largest National Park in New Zealand and at 1.2 million hectares (3.1 million acres) is also one of the largest in the world. It is an area of wilderness that stretches from Martin’s Bay in the north of the South Island to Te Waewae Bay in the south, and from the lakes of Te Anau, Manapouri, Monowai and Hauroko. It contains 14 fiords, some of which reach up to 40 km inland.

The area is known for rain. It rains over 200 days each year, which makes the waterfalls spectacular. The heavy rainfall creates a permanent freshwater layer above the sea water within the fiords. The freshwater is stained by tannins that cut down the sunlight and restrict marine life to the top 40 meters of water depth.

Whales and dolphins frequent the area, along with little blue penguins and fur seals.

We cruised up the coast and visited Dusky Sound, Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound. The scenery is simply stunning, and my camera got a real workout.

Dusky Sound

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Entry to Milford Sound

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One of the many waterfalls that tumble down the steep sides of the fiords into the sea.

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As you can see from this photo, Milford is spectacular with tree-clad cliffs and waterfalls. Captain Cook and many of the early explorers sailed right past Milford Sound, not realizing the existence of the fiord.

There is one road in to Milford Sound. By car it takes about 2 –3 hours via Te Anau. The bus ride is about 4 – 5 hours. Access is available by plane or as we did on a cruise ship. Some people walk in via the famous Milford Track, which is a four-day walk.

If you’re ever in this part of the world, I highly recommend a visit.

Recipe: Kiwi Crisps

Last Saturday I made some biscuits (that’s cookies to those of you in the US) and I took them out to my father’s farm on Sunday. Last night, my sister rang.

Sister: I’m sending those biscuits back to you via courier.

Me: Why?

Sister: I’ve eaten three, and I’m not meant to be eating sugar. They’re very moreish.

Me: *laughing* I’m so sorry! I didn’t think.

Sister: It’s only three. I’ll start my diet again tomorrow. Only another 20 kg to go.

My sister has lost a lot of weight already since visiting a dietician. Her new sugar-free diet and increased exercise has made all the difference. I’m so proud of her.

Anyhow, here is the recipe for the troublemaking biscuits – Kiwi Crisps.

DSCF8867

Ingredients:

4 oz butter

2 Tablespoons of castor sugar (2 oz)

2 Tablespoons condensed milk

1 1/2 cups plain white flour (6 oz)

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 oz dark chocolate chopped

Method:

1. Heat the oven to 350 F (175 C)

2. Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl.

3. Add the condensed milk and mix well.

4. Stir in the chocolate.

5. Add the baking powder and the flour and combine well.

6. Line a tray with baking paper.

7. Roll the dough into small balls. Place on tray and flatten slightly with the heel of your hand.

8. Press down with a fork. To keep it from sticking to the dough, I dipped my fork in a cup of warm water.

9. Bake for approx 12 minutes.

10. Cool on the tray for a few minutes, then remove to cool completely.

Shelley’s Notes.

1. I used dark chocolate chips and they worked perfectly.

2. The recipe said to bake for 20 minutes, but in my oven this was way too long. I cooked mine until they turned color slightly because I prefer my cookies crisp, but around 10 – 12 minutes should be okay, depending on your oven.

3. These biscuits have a caramel flavor, thanks to the condensed milk, and sprinkling the biscuits with a hint of flaky salt would give them a salted caramel taste, although I haven’t tried this yet.

As I said, these biscuits are very moreish, and it’s difficult to eat only one. Now, my question for you. Are you able to stop at one biscuit/cookie?