Flanders in NZ 3 – Flanders Flat Warming Fiesta

Its been over 2 weeks since landing, we moved into a new home, unpacked, mowed the lawn, bought a decorative porch plant (thanks Keith!), finally got our internet turned on…sounded like time for a Flanders Flat-Warming Fiesta! Saturday afternoon was beautiful autumn weather. We invited my colleagues and initiated a bake-off to which resulted in pumpkin pie, apple crisp, choc. chip & nutella cookies, and banana bread cupcakes(?…there was some debate to whether these should be named cupcakes or “muffins”). We discussed trying to use up the ripened bananas in the office so I brought a few home to make these. I still can’t believe last time around I lived in a motel with no oven for 6 months…now it is so much easier to bake! This was the first time I tried these types of cupcake-muffins with homemade cream cheese frosting, they were quite tasty if I do say so myself. Thanks to joythebaker’s recipe here.

Fiesta

Cupcakes, open fire, & some yummy chicken

In work-news I got back into the Christchurch abandoned-building-site-visit world last week. Nothing like wandering around a hotel that’s been abandoned since February 2011. Makes for a nice view from one of the few tall buildings left in the city.

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Penthouse View

This week’s Sunday hike involved a beautiful drive out to Castle Hill (about an hour west of Christchurch). Keith had yet to be outside of Christchurch so I figured this would be an easy day trip to start to encounter the southern alps range and do a quick, easy, yet beautiful hike around the limestone outcrop. Last time I was here was September ’12 and it was just as nice and we decided to climb the giant “hill” once again.

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Keith enjoying the scenery. “Anything is Possible!!”

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Jen enjoying the scenery

One fun thing about knowing friends around the world is getting involved in fun travel projects. Keith & my WPI peer (actually our orientation leader!) is currently a doctor in Norway. She contacted me asking if she could send me a package from her friend’s kid’s elementary school in the mid-west. The project was to send a drawing of themselves around to friends and family to get their pictures in different locations. So after our Norway friend took the drawing to the Arctic Circle she shipped it off to me. Hopefully the elementary school class will enjoy our photos with their “classmate” around the world!

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Jen hanging out with a stranger elementary school student’s school project 🙂

We’re both pretty pumped to already have a line up of future trips. Keith is going to Auckland for business next month, the All Blacks national rugby team is playing in Dunedin mid-June which a group of us are traveling to, a Wellington trip is happening in August, and we’re currently debating where to vacation to escape the Christchurch cold in a couple of months. Anyone have any ideas!? I’m still attempting to convince Keith that Thailand is a great & unique option, but an easy flight to Australia, Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, or others(!?) is also in the running.

Cheers mates.

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New Zealand 23 – Case of the Mondays

Last week was the first time I skipped a regular post. I typically really enjoy chronicling my travels on a weekly basis, but last week I just wasn’t feeling it. I’ll make up for it with the next 5 weekends of chaos before I leave New Zealand — Auckland, a relay race in Rotorua, a possible Hooker Valley day trek than wine tour, Milford Sound trek, and I’ll be saving my last weekend for whatever last bucket list item I feel the need to get in. All the while fitting in 10+ hour work days to finish up several different projects that are on the verge of settlement.

The previous weekend was a break, Friday night was movie night with wine + cheese + Spaceballs–what an interesting combination.

“I always have my coffee when I watch radar, you know that!” — How I feel when completing document reviews…

On Sunday I escaped work & Christchurch and drove myself out to Hamner Springs–the South Island’s spa capital. I found a great lunch at Chantellinis (highly recommend) and got a massage at Hamner Springs Spa. It was really just an excuse to take a drive away from Christchurch and enjoy the scenery.

Road to Hamner

Road to Hamner

My office cabin fever was cured on Friday with an all-day site visit to a local department store that has been closed since the big quakes. My colleague and I spent most of the day examining how the structure was built so we could do some further analysis on it. This ended up with us on the roof for a while and finding where “the bodies” were hidden. Before we left, I made sure to catch up with some new friends…

Raising the roof

Bodies found in the attic…

Shining my high vis glow with my new friends…

This past Friday was, you guessed it, another movie night with great chicken + great wine + Office Space–a great combination.

“I deal with the customers so the engineers don’t have to”

One of our senior principals is in town for two weeks which ultimately means doing some great tourist activities over the weekend. On Sunday we went over to Castle Hill–an outcrop of giant limestone rocks and background to movies such as the Chronicles of Narnia.

Path to Castle Hill rock outcrop

Get a sense of the large scale of these rocks

This would never be allowed in the States. Or if so, there would be several additional fences and warning signs.

What’s great about Castle Hill is that there are no “trails.” You make your own path, or just climb around the rocks. Further away from the main outcrop there was a large grassy hill. As much as us engineers kept mentioning we can eat our lunch at a low elevation the bosses kept pressing us on. Everyone ate their words a bit when we ended up taking a break every few steps in an attempt to scale this steep, grassy, and slippery hill. However, it was worth it, there was a pretty incredible view at the top–

We climbed to the rock. You’ll see my colleagues in the foreground taking a break.

Luckily the view & perfect lunch seat was worth it

Failing at not looking exhausted and disheveled. At least the mountains look pretty.

Sunday was a first for me. Several coworkers woke up early to go fishing in Akaroa all day and this marked the first time I declined on a group outing. Not that I didn’t want to go fishing or enjoy the sun with everyone else, rather I realized I’d be waking up to my alarm clock everyday for the next month and figured it may be healthy to take a day of rest. I spent the day waking up when I felt like it, getting brunch, doing some work (real restful right?), going to the gym, and cleaning–I’ve noticed by the end of the week my hotel room looks like it has had a clothing bomb set off; therefore, it’s a constant cycle of cleaning up on the weekends because there’s no time during the week. Luckily, later that night, the fishermen came back with 18 fillets of fish and were willing to share for an amazing dinner.

This Friday evening I’m flying up to Auckland with two other female colleagues for, what we’re calling, a girl’s weekend in the city. More to come…