Category Archives: Holidays

Our Easter in New Zealand

Easter in New Zealand tends to be a much quieter, less commercial affair than it is in North America. That being said, Andrew and I had intentions of still having our normal traditions and Easter. Life, it seems, did not cooperate this week.

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We ended up both scheduled to work for most of the weekend, making Friday our only day to celebrate and enjoy the Easter festivities. Andrew and I also set up our own Easter egg hunt in the house, with everything kept well out of reach of the cats!

Easter chocolate!
Easter chocolate!

Our landlord’s daughter invited us to their section to join them and their family in their festivities; we were quite looking forward to the lunch.

Easter Breakfast
Easter Breakfast

Unfortunately, near the top of the hill on the way to their place smoke started to issue from the engine and our van stalled. We sat in the middle of the highway with our hazard lights on in the rain (a tropical cyclone had hit Thursday) until a nice group of ladies stopped to help us push the van up a hill to a nearby pullout. Very grateful for their help!

Looking out on the rainy bay where our van stalled
Looking out on the rainy bay where our van stalled

Our landlords son-in-law came to get us once we managed to find cell phone reception and we arrived as everyone was finishing lunch. We dried off and came up with a plan.

At Shelly's Section for lunch
At Shelly’s Section for lunch

Our landlords took us back to our van, refilled the radiator, and we tried to start the van. No luck, unfortunately. We called the AA (New Zealand equivalent of the Alberta Motor Association, or AMA) and they decided to send a service vehicle out. They also asked us to wait where we had reception in case the driver got lost, which meant 45 minutes standing in the rain and wind.

Tow Truck in the dark
Tow Truck in the dark

Once he arrived, he looked at the van, tried to start it, and ordered us a tow truck…which meant another hour of standing in the rain. The tow truck arrived, loaded our van, and offered to drop it off at the mechanic.

Andrew making S'mores
Andrew making S’mores

We got home very cold and wet, built a fire, had a hot shower, and spent the rest of the night before bedtime trying to figure out how much we could afford to spend to fix the van. In an attempt to salvage the day, we also finished the day with s’mores in the fireplace 🙂

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The mechanic was closed until Tuesday, which for us meant riding our bikes in the remains of the tropical cyclone. Lots of rain, wind gusts, and some surface flooding. It also meant spending each day at work in cold, wet shoes. Not a fun way to spend Easter!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Andrew fortunately had Monday off so was able to cook us our own Easter dinner . He also had a nice cozy warm fire ready when I got home. My pants were wet enough that they started steaming as soon as they were hung by the fire! We had roast chicken and pumpkin with mashed potatoes and wine. I also made hot cross bun cheesecake for dessert, which was delicious.

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There were certainly bright moments to the weekend, but most of it was quite stressful and miserable. We were quite glad for the assistance and support that we got over the weekend and are hoping that next Easter is nowhere near as stressful!

Happy Valentine’s Day from Dunedin!

Happy Valentine’s Day from Dunedin, New Zealand!

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I am just getting over a ridiculous cold, but Andrew and I had a fantastic Valentine’s day together. Really in a good relationship every day should be Valentine’s day, but we enjoy taking a special day to thoroughly spoil each other nonetheless.

Unfortunately we both worked for Valentine’s day itself; I worked 9:30am-7pm and Andrew worked 12pm-11pm. Not much time together! We opted to celebrate ourselves the day after.

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I surprised Andrew with a hunt for chocolate kisses and a chocolate flower bouquet before breakfast. He surprised me with cough syrup, cough drops, and new slippers beside the bed.  He then kindly drove me to work and went to run errands so that we could enjoy the rest of our day together.

When I got off work at 2pm, he picked me up and we went to visit our new kittens! They are still too little to bring home, but we try to visit them as often as we can so that they are well socialized.

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After some kitten cuddles, Andrew took me to St. Clair beach, where he pulled out a fantastic picnic. We had a lovely picnic by the beach with fresh cooked chicken, spinach and strawberry salad, and watermelon. I wasn’t feeling up to going surfing, but he put the surfboards and our swimsuits in the van just in case.

We stopped by the pet store to pick up kitten name-tags (you were right, Jenn…they kept their names). Then we went home where Andrew had left me a surprise! He had scattered cadbury roses everywhere so that I had a chocolate hunt. He had also left a heart of chocolate roses on the bed for me along with some fuzzy socks.

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I had drawn him a turtle picture and gotten him an actual chef’s shirt, which should make his job more pleasant. He had also asked for a Mars bar and a Dr. Pepper. Unfortunately I couldn’t find him a Dr. Pepper, but he got 9 Mars bars!

We then spent the evening cuddling and watching Mrs. Peregrine’s home for Peculiar Children. An odd, may I say peculiar, movie, but quite enjoyable!

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It was a fantastic day. Hopefully we will get back to doing more touristy things once I rid myself of this dratted cold!

Getting Ready for Christmas

Hey, so this week’s post is going to be a bit shorter unfortunately. Real life has taken over!

We will get back to our regular posts soon hopefully. Look out for posts about our adventures with Larnach Castle, Penguins, Albatross, Chocolate, and more in the near future.

For now…a brief interlude in our lives.

Andrew has been promoted to Sous Chef at the Ratbags kitchen, partially as a result of the other chefs in the kitchen quitting. He is enjoying the new responsibility. He says that it is fun getting to help design new menu items and having minions…I mean other employees to help him out.

I have also been given a little bit more responsibility at the holiday park. Jack of all trades, master of none! I believe my job title is now assistant manager, but the job varies from day to day. Some days I am IT support, other days a laundry maid or cleaner, a receptionist, or actually the manager on duty. It’s been fun, but a little hectic and crazy. I thought I was done with 12 hour days when I left the oilfield.

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Otherwise…it’s nearly Christmas! So what have we been doing to get ready for Christmas here in Dunedin?

Surfing

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Enjoying the beautiful summer weather of course!

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Santa Parade

The Dunedin Santa Parade was a lot better than I expected it to be considering how small the city is. There were probably about 60 floats, a few marching bands, and the big man himself.

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After the parade they had a concert in the central octagon with live music, carols, and lots of treats. One advantage to living in the same city as the Cadbury chocolate factory…free chocolate at almost every major event!

Decorating Our Tree

You may recall that our ‘tree’ last year was cobbled together with twine and hedge clippings. This year Andrew and I decided that we wanted a ‘real’ Christmas tree.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While they do sell real trees (many of them in pots so that you can plant them outside afterwards!), many trees in New Zealand seem to be of the artificial variety.

20161201_130439I picked up the cheapest one that I could find (only $10 at the warehouse) and got a much nicer tree than I anticipated.  We picked up a $3 set of lights, a $13 pack of decorations and have a rather nice tree! We added our special decorations from the last 2 years and are quite happy to have a bit of Christmas spirit in our house.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We’ve also done a bit of baking, but haven’t had time to make more than a single batch of fudge and a batch of sugar cookies.

Holiday Comparison North vs. South

Having been raised in the North (Canada, specifically), the swap of seasons upon moving to the southern hemisphere is somewhat disorienting. There is no time of the year that it becomes more apparent that the “big holidays” are from the north than by seeing the disparity in the swapped seasons.

Halloween

Generally seen as North American,  this holiday is widely celebrated across Canada and the USA by decorating, pumpkins, spooky houses, costumes, and trick or treats.

Dressed up for Halloween
Dressed up for Halloween

Every city in Canada that I have lived in has had countless houses with pumpkins and we have always had kids visiting our door. Even when on a work trip to the USA during Halloween my colleagues and I picked up candy to hand our to the kids trick or treating in the apartment we had been lodged in.

Halloween evening
Halloween evening

In the southern hemisphere,  however,  this holiday falls in the middle of spring.  It is bright and sunny until 9:30pm. Trick or treating is done in some communities, but even then it doesn’t have the same feel to be running around in broad daylight. Forget pumpkins too…those were just planted and won’t be read for another 4 months! We did see someone try to get into the spirit by carving a pumpkin squash…into quarters!

Christmas

Ah…turkey, Santa Claus, cozy fires, and snow. Almost every Christmas show or movie has snow and winter. Christmas lights too.

In New Zealand, however, it is far too warm to cook a big meal and people just aren’t interested! It’s bright until 11pm so Christmas lights aren’t all that effective and lose some of their magic. Christmas itself is generally spent at the beach with a picnic dinner and relaxing in the pool, lake, or ocean.

Summer Christmas
Summer Christmas

We have shared homes with quite a few host families during the festive season and not a single one had put up any kind of decorations. Stores start carrying some Christmas candies and goodies starting mid-November, but it isn’t nearly the commercial spectacle that it is in Canada or the USA.

Where we spent Christmas 2015
Where we spent Christmas 2015

Dunedin, where we are living at the moment, has both a Santa parade and a Santa run, both of which Andrew and I are going to try to participate in if we can get the time off work. I’m looking forward to seeing what a different family and another region do for the holiday season.

Trying Mulled Wine
Trying Mulled Wine

There is a midwinter carnival, a polar plunge, and other wintery activities, but these are far removed from any religious or iconic holiday being that they take place in the middle of June!

Easter

Easter…spring, bunnies, colourful Easter eggs, little baby chicks. Family gathers over an Easter Ham and it’s a chance to get outside and enjoy being together after a long, cold winter. In North America at least!

Easter Chocolate

In New Zealand, Easter marks the start of Autumn. Fall harvest, corn, pumpkin soup, cooler days, and leaves changing colour. There is also almost no commercial celebration of Easter and, apart from days off to celebrate, no mark of the event for many New Zealand families.

Stores had no egg-dying kits and most locals that we talked to had vaguely heard of decorating Easter eggs but had never done it themselves. The kids were interested in trying, but it was difficult to get the supplies together to do so! There aren’t really convenient packages of food-dye either, so each colour needs to be purchased individually.

Tempting Easter Chocolate

A couple of places had small chocolate Easter bunnies, but nowhere near the level of commercialization as North America. It was somewhat refreshing actually, for all that I did miss the chocolatey goodness of Easter morning.

Thanksgiving

For those of us who grew up in Canada or America,

Maple Trees in the Park
Maple Trees in the Park

Thanksgiving is the start to the holiday season. Although the two countries celebrate it in different months and for different reasons, the holiday itself looks remarkably similar in both countries. It is a day to gather with family and friends, usually over a large roast turkey, and to give thanks for the many blessings in our lives.

This holiday, however, does not really exist in many other parts of the world. It was entertaining educating our hosts and sharing the tradition with them, from the big meals, turkey, and sweet potato pie, to the simpler things, like being grateful for what we have.

Dunedin Midwinter Carnival Lantern Festival

The Dunedin midwinter carnival happens every year around mid-June. Yes…midwinter is in June and the seasons still mess with my head. This year it was on the 18th of June. Andrew and I were fortunate enough to be in Dunedin for the midwinter carnival so decided to check it out.

Unfortunately we missed out on some of the events leading up to the midwinter carnival. There are lantern making workshops, where families can make beautiful paper lanterns to contribute to the festival atmosphere.

Cloud lantern performers
Cloud lantern performers

Each year, the midwinter carnival has a different theme to it. This year’s theme was ‘Future Worlds’ with a variety of science fiction outfits, lanterns, and music. The festival consists of around 130 different performers, hundreds of lanterns, and around 1000 lantern carriers, as well as food and live music.

Nicely lit buildings around the Octagon
Nicely lit buildings around the Octagon

The midwinter carnival procession started just after dark and wound its way around the Octagon of Dunedin (basically the downtown central square that is octagon shaped). Andrew and I were early enough that we got a seat right at the front. We didn’t want to worry about trying to park our campervan downtown in the crowds so we parked a couple of kilometers out and rode our bikes in. Turned out to be a good decision because it was quite crowded!

Skycity Lantern
Skycity Lantern

The lanterns at the midwinter carnival were absolutely beautiful to see. Amazing what can be done with sticks, paper, and candles! I was actually quite surprised that they weren’t using LED candles. Even more surprising is that none of the lanterns caught fire! Good design, I guess. There were a number of stilt walkers, acrobats, dancers, musicians, and other performers as well, making for an interesting show. They circled the Octagon twice, which made it really easy to see everything.

Future World Lanterns
Future World Lanterns

Following the lantern procession, Andrew and I wandered the food alley. I tried mulled wine for the first time and, considering that I am usually not a huge fan of red wine, it was surprisingly tasty! Fairly dry, but the spices and the heat were definitely nice on a cold winter evening. We also tried the potato spirals, which were quite yummy.

Trying Mulled Wine
Trying Mulled Wine

After our snack, we hung out by one of the bonfires and listened to some good jazz music while we waited for the fireworks. The fireworks were launched off of the city hall building. There was a good view from basically anywhere in the Octagon and it was a surprisingly impressive fireworks display.

Fireworks over the Octagon
Fireworks over the Octagon

After the fireworks, Andrew and I enjoyed the music and bonfires for a little while more before riding our bikes back to the campervan. It was a very enjoyable evening and I would love to see more done with it in future years. The carnival is run by a not-for-profit organization and has been slowly growing since it started a few years ago. It is part of Matariki, the celebration of the Maori New Year and a celebration of the longest night of the year.

If you go to the Midwinter Carnival

  • Arrive early. The festival is quite busy and there is a fair bit to see and do.
  • Park at least a few blocks from the Octagon and be prepared to walk in. The streets were quite busy and crowded after the fireworks
  • Dress warmly. Although New Zealand winters are not cold compared to Canadian winters, it is a damp cold that penetrates clothing and leaves you shivering even if it is still 10C. This is especially true if there is a strong Southerly blowing as this air comes right from Antarctica…brrr!
  • Check the website for dates of the festival as it changes yearly. It is always around mid-June but the exact dates will vary. The lantern making workshops are in the three weekends leading up to the festival but spots fill up early.

Hoppy Easter from NZ!

Andrew and I want to wish all of our friends and family a very happy Easter weekend from New Zealand!

Easter Chocolate
Easter Chocolate

For part of the weekend we are planning on relaxing, surfing, and enjoying what looks to be an amazing weekend in the sun. For the rest of the weekend, we are planning on doing some prep work on the van, finishing up all the little projects, and getting everything clean and organized for the next adventure starting in April.

Tempting Easter Chocolate
Tempting Easter Chocolate

We are excited to welcome our friend, Jen Roberts from Medicine Hat, to visit us starting Easter Monday and are looking forward to sharing Easter and the next few weeks with her!