Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happy April!

Happy April to everyone. Another month has flown by so I figured I would update you all as to what we've been up to.

Not much really. Just plugging away at school and work. Stephen is consistantly out of the house by 6:30 am to get to school and start planning and preping for the day ahead. He usually doesn't make it home until about 5-6pm and commonly collapses on the couch after a hard day of teaching. I on the other hand have filled by days up with reading, writing, belly dance, swimming and sewing. Now you may think I have a far easier schedule than Stephen (and you'd be right), but I still find myself exhausted at the end of the day and raedy to collapse into a heap on the couch.

Seeing as how I've had trouble lately thinking of things to put down here, I thought I'd play a little game. I've read it on a few other blogs and found it somewhat entertaining. Every first week of the month I will go to a different food shop and see what I can find for 10$. Thus the opening picture. My first finds at the Asian Food Warehouse. I discovered these lovely Indian beers, which upon closer inspection prove to be made here in New Zealand. Haven't tried them yet, but we're looking forward to it. The octopus crisps were just too awesome to pass by and frankly they don't taste much like octopus, rather a simulated sea flavour. Can't think of any other words to describe it. I bought the bag of covered peanuts solely for the gap-toothed happy man on the front. I love how they use this elderly figure in the place of the usual youth (either ultra-cute or uber-hot). In fact, upon tasting them I'm not sure there are actually any whole nuts in them, but they are sweet and coconuty.

Otherwise, all I have to show for the last month is a bit of crafting. I found some amazing bags at the Arts Centre Market a couple of weeks ago. Unfortuately I'm not in a position to afford $100 bags, so I had to make my own. Here are the results. I already have several orders from friends.

I've also had some fun making softies. After cruising some of my favorite blogs I noticed a cute cushion in the corner of a picture that I thought, "I could make that." And here it is, Oni, my little cat guardian. I didn't name it until after I had made it and Oni just seemed to fit so perfectly. It was only later that I found out what "Oni" means. Oni's are Japanese demon guardians of a dual nature, taking on the general nature of the person they are guarding, whether that is good or evil.

And finally, I'm making progress on my quilt for little Kieran. Yesterday, I spent much of the day ironing and basting all my layers together so I can quilt it on my little sewing machine. After which I will do some hand quilting in each block and sewing on the binding. It's so much fun to watch it come together, I'm really enjoying this quilting thing.

Stephen, on his part, is busy in the kitchen as I type, whipping together hot cross buns, macarons, bread and other delicious baking delights. I guess we're both working on hobbies that will keep us warm ;)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Stephen's Birthday - A trip up to Tekapo

Last weekend was Stephens birthday. He's been working really hard at school for the last month and a half, so I wanted to do something that would take his mind out of work mode for at least a couple of hours. 3 hours southwest of Christchurch, towards the interior of the island is Lake Tekapo. A huge, cool blue-green glacial fed lake nestled into the mountains at one end and emptying into a massive wide valley at the other. The township of Lake Tekapo is situated at this end. There are some rounded hills around the town, marking the boundary between steep mountain crags and flat tussocky plains. It is on one of these rounded mounds that the Mount John Observatory sits.

Mount John Observatory is a research-based observatory run as a joint venture between several Universities, of which, Canterbury is one. I was advised by one of my co-workers at Gateway, that if we approached the care taker of the observatory we might stay up in the research quarters situated on top of the mountain. So on Saturday, after waking to a cloudy sky and picking up things for lunch and dinner at the Lyttleton market, we headed off down the road. Fingers crossed that it might be clear enough to see a few stars that night.

We pulled up to the top of Mount Johns around 5pm and wandered down to the accommodation facilities just below the telescopes. We found our way in and were guided to where Alan and his wife, Pam, were fixing one of the telescopes. After a brief tour of the living quarters and our room (all blinds must be shut before sun down to ensure no light escapes at night), Alan took us around the station to show us the telescopes and talk about the research that is currently going on there. He and his wife are part of an ongoing project tracking N.E.O. (near earth objects - like asteroids) to help understand their orbits and potential threats to earth. A Japanese student was there working on the M.O.A. (microlensing observations in astrophysics) telescope looking at variations in starlight indicating the possible presence of a planet in orbit. He then left us to make some dinner and nap before the sun set at 9pm.

After a dinner of fresh corn on the cob and a good nap, Alan called us up to the 60cm telescope just up the hill. We grabbed our flashlight and headed up to meet him. The sky was fading to black with a thin rim of orange outlining the mountains and one star after another was poking its face through the blanket of night to make its presence known. We stumbled up the last little knoll and met Alan. The first thing he showed us was the Jewel Box nebula, a cluster of stars and gas tucked into the Milky Way (the picture is of the Southern Cross, see if you can find it - try using the two pointer stars). Then it was the Eta Carinea cluster, the 47 tucanae nebula, Mars, the Orion nebula, Saturn with its rings, star after star filled the tiny eye piece and filled our imaginations with such wonders. The whole time, Alan told stories about each one and wove throughout it how he had developed such a love and a wisdom about the sky above us. How he had helped survey the Mount Johns site when it was first established and how he had worked for 40 years on a project tracking asteroids. Before we knew it the moon was coming up and it was 11pm. Alan took us back down to the living quarters where Pam was working on gathering data on star emissions. We left them to their discussions and wandered up to the little cafe at the summit where each night, Earth & Sky offer tours for visitors. I got to use a tracking tripod and take some star pictures and we listened to some of the stories offered by the guides. By midnight, things were wrapping up and people were heading back down the hill. We walked back to the house and fell exhausted into bed. An absolutely glorious night of star gazing.

The next morning we said good bye to Alan (Pam was asleep as she had been up til dawn taking measurements) and drove back to Christchurch. This time, with clear skies the whole way. Back in town, Stephen went to school for a couple of hours to work on lesson planing, while I visited Fenella (and her mom and sister and brother-in-law and Briar) at her shop. With the help of Fenella and Briar, I designed and picked out the fabric for my first quilt. A fun one for Kieran. Hopefully, it will be ready for his first birthday next spring.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Another month gone by. . .

I must apologize for my obvious lack of commitment over the last month to this blog. Between having family here, various school deadlines and the Olympics, we've been pretty busy (not to mention, we used up all our bandwidth for the month watching skiing and hockey online). But now, I have no excuses for falling behind so I'll try to keep up.

A friend of mine from Stitch is opening a shop this weekend. I've been helping her with some of the set up, rolling cloth onto bolts, painting walls, sewing samples. All sorts of fun stuff. In fact, over the past year Fenella, Louise, Ursula and Briar have all coerced me into sewing. My first successful project was a bag made from the fabric we exchanged at Christmas time. Shortly followed by two more, one for me and one for mom. Now, I am onto grander and more expensive designs. I am planning on making a quilt. Albeit, a baby quilt for Kieran, my nephew in Winnipeg (my first - therefore he gets all my firsts).

School-wise, thigns are going well. I'm in the midst of interviews and sending out/receiving questionnaires. It's really interesting seeing what people have to say and I'm looking forward to sharing with my peers in Oslo this June at the International Polar Year conference and in Hobart two weeks later. I will also take the opportunity to visit family in London and Singapore. Although I'm looking forward to the trip, it's an expensive one so won't have much to spend on prezies. Or food once I get back. . .

Stephen is into his second month of teaching. He enjoys parts and not others. Between planning lessons for four different classes (Year 12 physics, year 13 physics, year 10 science and year 9 science), coaching volley ball and badminton, going on overnight geography fieldtrips, and helping organize extra-curricular activities, I don't see him much. But he enjoys it and on Monday watched the gold medal hockey game with his Year 13 physics class and is now baking them cookies for Canada winning the gold.

Life is good here. We both still contemplate the idea of home and where we see ourselves in 5,10, or 20 years. And really, it comes down to when you ask, because it seems to change from moment to moment. We'll just have to wait and see what life brings us. Until then, I'll keep enjoying what I'm given in the now.

A closing shot looking north to the Kaikoura peninsula from the Transcoastal Train as morning light seeps in between the clouds.