Words of wisdom

Words of wisdom

Sunday, January 29, 2017


From October 1st to January 19th, I was based in Wellington - the capital city of New Zealand, where I made my home, most of the time, in a comfy room overlooking the beautiful harbour.  But I did venture out from my cozy nest to see and do and house and pet sit during this time.  I also took in several fun events in the city.  Here is a recap with lots of photos of just some of what I saw and did!

First - WOW® - the World of Wearable Art®  is a renowned international design competition that attracts hundreds of entries from all over the world.  Finalists compete for over $165,000 in prize money plus internships with leading creative companies such as the Weta Workshop.  The annual WOW show was one of the main reasons I had to get to Wellington by October 1st!

Tickets were pricey and my seat, though ok, was on the side and I had to turn my neck in such a weird way to be able to see the stage that I ended up with a very sore neck for the next 2 weeks!  But was it worth it - you bet!



WOW Museum Bathroom

WOW originated in Nelson on the South Island but soon outgrew a site large enough to hold the growing number of attendees and the bigger productions so eventually it was moved to Wellington.  But Nelson is still home to The WOW Museum, the only place to see the costumes up close.  I arranged a trip to Nelson before I went to Blenheim for a housesit.

 I arrived before the museum opened and was the first - and for at least an entire hour - the only person in the museum!  And yes, my fingers did a little bit of illegal touching and feeling :)

Here's the LINK to their website which includes a fantastic video from past shows showcasing the amazing costumes, music, dance and history!  I noted that their first-ever traveling show has now departed Seattle and is will be based from February 18 - June 11th at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA.  If you can possible make your way there, you won't be disappointed!

But before I departed Nelson I had to take a picture of one of their mailmen. Love the transport and the uniforms.  Of course, they have mail-women as well, all with great thigh and calf muscles!  I also toured their beautiful Cathedral and interviewed the members of woman-owned, women-ran Papercut Patterns who I was asked to do an article about for a US-based sewing blog.


The wonderful Owner (R) and Marketing Director (L) of Papercut Patterns

Patterns Wall

       Samples of all the patterns

From Nelson, I bused to Blenheim, for what was to be a 5-day house and petsit for Keisha, a lovely, elderly Golden Retriever.

Yvonne and Garry welcomed me with open arms into their lovely home, gifted me the use of their nice, big SUV and took off in their really nice RV for a camping vacation with their granddaughter.  When they returned they asked if I wouldn't mind staying on for another 6 days so they could go to Christchurch to catch-up with friends who were visiting from overseas - of course, I said yes. Who would turn down the opportunity to stay in a beautiful home, have access to a fully-stocked fridge and a nice car to drive and go exploring?  I was thrilled to find a cineplex that showed all first-run movies and had a 'senior' showing at 10:00 a.m. every day for $10 ($7.25US).

Comfy living room With telly!
During the time between Yvonne & Garry's two trips, they made sure I got to have one of the South Island's most well-known seasonal treats and a New Zealand delicacy - Whitebait.


These little, immature fishes swim in schools up and down the coastline and estuaries and even into the rivers where they the caught with mesh nets.  As you can see, they are small. They are cooked by throwing them into a batter of eggs and milk and fried up in a 'fritter' - a fishy-tasting fritter that crunches.  When I asked why they crunch, I was told it was the eyes!  I thanked Garry & Yvonne for the right to say 'Yes, I have eaten a whitebait fritter' and then say 'No thank you' when asked if I would like another!

This is what most of the area in and around Blenheim looks like!

Blenheim is located in the heart of the international award-winning Marlborough wine region and I was so looking forward to tasting a few of their prize-winning sauvignon blancs, chardonnays, and pinot noirs!

After a lovely chat with a woman at the local iSite (info center) I got signed up for an all-day, guided tasting tour with Na Clachan Wine Tours.   Yvonne and Garry gave their blessing for me to be gone for a day and Keisha said sure, I've got a very comfy outdoor kennel that I am happy to use while you are away.

Because New Zealand has very strict drinking and driving laws, the van from Na Clachan picked me up at the house at 9:30 a.m.  By 10:00 a.m. I and my 3 lovely companions were sipping our first glasses of wine at Spy Valley Winery.

We sipped and spit and compared and tasted until 1:00 when we took a break for an absolutely delicious lunch at the Allan Scott Winery.

We dined outside in their wisteria-covered patio.  The food was fabulous, we ordered 4 soup spoons and shared a bowl of amazing seafood chowder loaded with green-lipped mussels and then each of us had our own main course.  I had fresh-caught salmon!  Of course, we each had a glass of Allan Scott chilled-to-perfection sauvignon blanc to accompany our lunch.

By now I was ready for my afternoon nap only to learn that we had really just got started.  The rest of the afternoon was spent touring and tasting (an average of 5 tastes per winery) at 5 more wineries!  The last stop, Lawson's Dry Hills Winery, had amazing wines and offered us 10 different tastings!  By the time I was dropped back to the house at 5:30 p.m., Keisha realized that I was totally snockered and I knew exactly why it is necessary to leave the driving to the tour company.

I returned to Wellington a few days later via the InterIslander Picton Ferry, but it wasn't long before I was off exploring again!

Next, I arranged to meet-up with a lovely woman I had co-house/pet sat with in Edinburgh, Scotland over a year ago.  She and her husband, newly retired from Auckland, had purchased a lovely home on the Kapiti coast, an hour's train ride north of Wellington in the town of Paraparaumu and invited me up for lunch on very wet and windy day.

I love the NZ trains!  Clean, on-time, reasonable prices and colorful!

 So many of the beaches are filled with driftwood!
At day at the beach and almost getting almost blown away while posing for a picture!
Whew!  Have you read enough for now?  I think I will break this posting into two parts as I have so many more places and pictures to share with you.

So until next time......and I promise it won't be too long until next time......

Monday, January 16, 2017


This metal statue balances on the edge of Wellington harbour.  He has a grimace on his face that is hard to interpret.  Is he grimacing at the force of the winds that whip this city almost constantly - giving it the name Windy Wellington. (120km just this past week).  Sometime it is  quite hard to maintain one's grip on the sidewalk.

Perhaps his grimace is from the number of large cruise ships (the Ovation of the Seas - 4180 passengers & crew) that arrive in the harbour almost daily now that summer (supposedly) has arrived, their numbers clogging the streets, restaurants, and attractions, making life in the CBD miserable for those who live and work here.
Reminds me, not in a good way,  of my time in the Peace Corps on the island of St. Kitts/Nevis and how their economy was almost totally based on the income from these massive floating cities. Have you guessed I'm not a fan?

Or perhaps his grimace is one of trying to understand and comprehend the changes and upheavals in the world that slowly, but inevitably make their way to this beautiful and peaceful country so far away from the rest of the world.  

I don't have an answer, but I do love to sit on the edge of the harbour next to this man and contemplate what sort of future I'm facing and don't doubt that I too have a grimace on my face. 

But for now, let's leave the future in the future and let me fill you in on what I have seen, done, met and been since I last sat at my computer and wrote on this blog.  I am going to divide my 3-months into two separate blog posts, 'Wellington' and My Travels Outside Wellington.' 

I have been a guest in the wonderful city of Wellington for 3 1/2 months now.  I arrived on September 30th and I will depart this Thursday, January 19th.  

My first day here, my hosts for my first 3 months, Paul and Nigel, drove me to the top of Victoria Peak so I could get a magnificent overview of the city and the harbour.

Wellington has been ranked, year-in-and-year-out, as one of the top-ranked 'World's most livable cities.'  I have to agree.  The public bus system is outstanding and it's a very walkable city (if you like climbing up and down hills!). The residents are friendly and welcoming and the 2nd day I was here, I attended an opening for the upcoming annual Lit Festival and had a lovely chat with the then mayor, Celia Wade-Brown.  How many mayors of large cities do you know that get around their city using pedal power?
Mayor Wade-Brown

Wellington is the capital city of the country of New Zealand, with it's Parliament and government offices housed in what is known as 'the Beehive.'   The adjoining office building and library are the main headquarters of the government.  Note that there are no armed guards or fences or barricades anywhere.  The only restriction was not taking photos inside.

I thoroughly enjoyed a 2-hour free guided tour of these building, learning how the New Zealand form of democracy still retains ties to its British homeland, but has made changes to embrace its Maori heritage and provisions to provide for healthcare and retirement benefits for all of its citizens.  It was the first country to give women the right to vote and to recognize gay marriage.

 My favorite bit of information I learned while on the tour was that after several years when members of their Senate body accomplished absolutely nothing worthwhile, they chose to totally eliminate this part of the government!  They now have only a House of Representatives that oversees the rules, regulations and makes the laws of the land.  I think the US should take a long, hard look and perhaps do the same!


The CBD (Central Business District) curves around the harbour with wide sidewalks bordering the streets, plentiful buses running from one end to the other and a fabulous walkway along the harbourside.  Churches, galleries, shops, artwork and coffee shops too numerous to count (Wellingtonians LOVE their coffee - and that means NO Starbucks!) fill the streets.

Metal Top
Granny-square bombed biked racks

Churches next to....
---spoke-topped buildings

Clam shells next to.....
....Katherine Mansfield statue...
......whose dress is filled with her written words

You wander the streets and find such interesting and unusual pieces of art.  The clam shells, while pretty, were also the landing place of a man who jumped off the top floor of the building next to where they are located.  It didn't end well for the man - but the clam shells, as you can see,  survived.

The War Memorial
Whale of a Tail Fountain
Old St. Paul's 1866
The beautiful interior of Old St. Paul's.

Cuba Street - My favorite street in downtown Wellington is packed with small boutiques, wonderful restaurants, and weird artwork, including this water wheel which children and adults play in on hot days.  There are alleyways filled with surprises like the Paradise used bookstore that goes on and on and on and the Lighthouse Movie theater with its huge, comfy lounge seats where you can enjoy a glass of wine or cup of coffee while watching a first-run movie.   

The waterfront is alive with shops, Maori carvings, these great sign-holders, metal palm trees, the fabulous City to Sea bridge, a lagoon and so much more.


When you're tired of the hustle and bustle of downtown, you can hop the cable car and ride to the top where the glorious Wellington Botanic Gardens are located.  From the top you can slowly stroll back down, through 4 distinctive gardens, enjoy seeing some of the most beautiful and usual plants, stop for a lovely lunch at the cafe in the center of the rose garden, or stay late and enjoy a free concert at the SoundShell.



During my time in Wellington I attended the 2016 WOW production (more about WOW later) , been invited to parties, attended organ and choir concerts, was welcomed into the homes of perfect strangers for drinks and dinner, enjoyed many new movies, celebrated the holidays with new friends (Guy Faulks, Halloween, American Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years), attended a holiday cocktail party at the home of the American Ambassador to New Zealand, was a volunteer server at the annual Thanksgiving lunch for the homeless and less fortunate of Wellington, got my own Wellington Library card, learned to say 'ta' for thanks and call my new friends my 'mates.'   Learned to crochet a granny square (thanks YouTube), bought too many pairs of shoes, had to honor of hearing Secretary of State John Kerry dedicate the American/New Zealand War Memorial, went to several gallery openings, ate Pavlova (really sweet), was invited to holiday faire at the British Consulate, and attended a great concert on the Lagoon and fireworks to ring in the New Year.


       A Creative Fibers's exhibition and Christmas Concert at the Cathedral

 My fellow servers and a few of our guests at the Thanksgiving luncheon

The British Consulate Holiday Faire with dancers from Wales and Scotland

 My favorite sign on the far side of the city - as yet no penguins sighted!

 The program from my host Paul's concert and his delicious pavlova creation for Guy Faulks

                                Guy Faulks fireworks over the harbour!


Traditional Maori greeters during Secretary John Kerry's presentation

                                            New Year's Eve on the Harbour!

But there were three other exceptional events that happened since I arrived in Wellington.

The first and one that I will cherish long after I leave New Zealand, has been meeting and enjoying the friendship of Kelly Wright and Jenny Taylor.  Kelly is the mother of the woman who's home and pets I am housesitting while she and her family are in South Africa on holiday.  Jenny is a friend of Kelly's.

They have made my stay here feel more like home.  They have picked me up and taken me here, there and everywhere, including me in their everyday lives.  You don't realize how much you need friends, especially 'girlfriends,' when you are away from home.
Kelly & 'grand-dog Punter 

Jenny & I in Martinborough
The 2nd most exceptional event that happened since I arrived is I lived through a 7.8 degree earthquake!  This was no small event.  It closed major roads, destroyed homes and wrecked havoc with many of the high rises in downtown Wellington.  Lots of broken windows and quite a few building being taken down because they are no longer deemed safe for occupancy.

I woke up to my bed swaying back and forth, The Boys screaming to get out of bed and stand in a doorway, and me thinking the house was going to fall off the cliff any second and we were going to land in the harbour!

Well, the house and I survived - and I managed to live through some pretty severe 5.5+ aftershocks during the next several weeks.  I came to the conclusion that I do not like earthquakes.

 I have lived in areas where tornados and hurricanes where prevalent.  They are signs let you know when one is coming and there are actions to take to survive one of those.  Earthquakes are totally unpredictable and there are absolutely no way to survive a really big one.  The TV commercials tell you to get under a table and  duck and cover!  I haven't heard something like that since I was in grade school and we were practicing for the next nuclear bomb attack!  I love New Zealand but the entire country was built up by volcanos along a major fault line, not to mention the tectonic plates that shift to-and fro just off the coast!   It's a country that knows what it means to 'rock 'n roll!'

And lastly, but the most exciting event that has occurred since I arrived in Wellington is the birth of my second grandchild.  This time a boy, by the name of John Tobin Scott.  He arrived just before Thanksgiving and is beautiful. Mom, dad and sister Stella are thrilled (well, leave Stella out of that equation) and he is growing big and strong and I can't wait to meet him when I return in April.

I think this is enough for one blog post!  I know for a fact that I have missed so many things I wanted to include that I have seen and done, but I'll just come back and add them later.  Next up  -  the places I've traveled while using Wellington as my home base during the past 3 months and the wonderful places and pets I house sat.

Until next time.......

PS: I had hoped to get my entire stay in Wellington written up before my departure on the 19th, but I woke up with a 'black screen' the other morning which called for a frantic visit to The Apple Guy and my little MacBook Air requiring an overnight stay which threw my writing schedule into a whirl.  So once again I will be a bit behind in my travel reporting.....oh well!