Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Seattle Christmas

This year, for the second time in a row, I was able to go home for Christmas - after missing the two years before. The best part was that Toshi was able to go with me this year! We left in the evening on the 21st which was the day that everyone traveled so it was crazy. We got in to Seattle late that night and crashed. We had a very busy 10 days or so while we were there and everything was more interesting with the added pressure of my new eating habits and having to check my blood sugar all the time.

We spent time with friends and family while there, with basically everyday full of someone to see and things to do.

Saturday we began by getting the tree in the house and getting everything decorated. One of my favorite things about Christmas is getting to decorate the house and putting the tree up and mom was nice enough to save all that stuff for when we got there. That afternoon we saw Stacey for a bit at the house and that evening we were home for dinner.

Sunday morning we saw Stephanie for breakfast. She was headed out that night for Australia to be there to celebrate her grandfather's 100th birthday! It was good to get to see her before she left. That afternoon we drove down to Lakewood to an open house of the family of one of Toshi's friends - Matt. Matt and Mary are friends of ours who live in Brooklyn and have a little girl. It was fun to get to see them since we don't that often, even though they live close. It was nice to meet some of their friends as well. Our drive back to Seattle was in the pouring down rain!

Monday was a busy day! I had an Alexander lesson in the morning - so happy to have one while I was home and I need to be better about it now that I'm back in NY! Then we met my dad for lunch. After that we met Francine at a fabric store to find batting and trim for the comforter that we were trying to get started on (Toshi stayed in the car for that). Then we went and met Tatsu for coffee in West Seattle. That was a brief visit as well but glad to see him too! He and Toshi can talk photography and movie type stuff so that's always good. I had a short hot cocoa with just one pump of chocolate - not quite the same but still pretty good. After that we went home and relaxed which was good since we had been running around all day! Monday night Jeffrey got in to town after a nearly 10 hour drive from Boise. So glad he was able to come in that day! He had Wolfgang with him which was fun too. Interesting to see how the cats do with Wolfie!

Tuesday was Christmas day meaning that it was full of spending time with family. We got up in the morning and had opened presents and stockings. I told Toshi that next year we need to do a stocking for my mom. She always has such a good time putting together ours but she doesn't get one now that my dad isn't in the house anymore. I don't think it really bothers her since she has fun with ours but I think it would be fun. Presents were minimal and mostly for baby since our big present from mom is for the two of us to go to the Herb Farm once we are back in Seattle. I've always wanted to go and so has Toshi so that's going to be incredible! I might have to be a bit more adventurous about my food when we go though. It will probably be good for me!
After that we all got ready (minus mom) and went over to Betsy's for Barker brunch. A couple of years ago we started the tradition of doing white elephant gifts instead of the traditional drawing and gift exchange. I really enjoy the white elephant gifts. This year Toshi and I had gone to Bartell's and gotten gifts (including for Jeffrey to give). I had picked play-dough, Toshi had picked legos and for Jeffrey we had gotten a Rubix Cube. Toshi ended up with a mini zen garden, I got a mini orchestra and Jeffrey got Toshi's legos! Brunch was a bit tough for me since I love pull-aparts but it was ok. I had fruit, Nancy had made me eggs with ham and cheese (since the soufflee has bread in it) and I allowed myself one pull-apart. SO TASTY! Blood sugar was still good even after that.
We went home and got to relax for just a bit and then helped mom get the house ready for D'Amour dinner which she was hosting. We were concerned about the grandparents since you never know how Grandmaman is going to be doing. Jeffrey and I headed over about 4:30 to go and get them - after Grandpapa called to find out where we were which I'm sure Grandmaman overheard and that probably didn't help. When we went over there Grandpapa was in the living room and told us that Grandmaman had decided she wasn't coming. Not only was she not coming she said she didn't want to see us and wouldn't come out of the bedroom. As you might imagine this was pretty rough on both of us. Grandpapa was also upset. He said "it's Christmas, I should be spending it with my family, but I need to stay here and take care of her". We hugged him, wished him Merry Christmas and as soon as we left the apartment I lost it. When we got home and told everyone about it, I lost it again. I know that we can't take it personally but it's hard not to! Who wants to hear that their grandparent doesn't want to see them? I know she didn't really know who I was and at that time I wasn't her granddaughter but still.... Anyway... despite all that we ended up having a nice dinner with everyone. Francine even pointed out that while it was really hard to not have them there, it was actually less stressful since you never know what might set Grandmaman off.

Christmas is always a long day for us but it's great because we get to see everyone!

The day after Christmas we all went to go see the Hobbit. It was good, although a bit long. It's nearly 3 hours even though it's one of three movies, and the book is shorter than the other Lord of the Rings books! That was fun and we were glad that we had gone to the first showing of the day because it got so much more busy after that. Hard going to a movie and not getting to eat junk food! I missed my sour patch kids, although since the last time I had them I was so sick (in Denver, along with frozen yogurt it was ok). I did take a whole lunch with me - sandwich, veggies and everything, so I ate that.

On the 27th mom drove me downtown to get my haircut. I love going to Gene Juarez, they always make you feel special, and I really like the woman that cuts my hair. Chi is great. She's friendly but not overly chatty so you don't feel like you have to keep talking. She's getting married in April so we talked about that and she asked how I was doing and how baby preparations were coming along. Then mom and I stopped by Destination Maternity and got me a couple of things, including some black pants to wear to the symphony later in the week. Everything was on sale! It was awesome. I also now have two pairs of velour pants which I think I will likely be living in for the next 2 months! That night we had our dinner at Buddha Ruksa. We ended up with fewer people, which was ok because the table would have been really crowded had everyone shown up. Stacey and Elizabeth came over beforehand to say hello. I had an interesting encounter with Stacey that day and then at dinner an even more interesting one that resulted in the four GHS people - Stacey, Elizabeth, Beth and Patricia - sitting at one end of the table and not talking to anyone else including me since Emily was sitting in between them and me. Anyway... The dinner was fun and we got a chance to see a bunch of people at once. I was glad that Emily was able to come since I hadn't seen her in a while.

The 28th I had coffee with Ellyn. On the 27th Jeffrey had told us about this place he had discovered close by called Cafe Fiore - a cute little coffee shop just a couple of blocks away. So we had gone and gotten drinks - I had tangerine ginger tea which was TASTY. When I met Ellyn I had it again - second time in two days! It was fun to get to see her and hear about the goings on at Cascade. I have emailed Michael and Bobby to let them know that I will be back in June and would love to sub and play Eb. I really do miss Cascade, the people and the music. I hope that I will get the chance to play there again! That evening we went to dinner and the symphony with Lisa and Chase. I have never seen Lisa so happy which was awesome. They are still newlyweds and are very cute. We had dinner at Purple which is pricey but always tasty. The orchestra played Beethoven 9 which was good but there were some issues. I'm not sure if it was because of the strange stage set - with the choir in the back on the risers - or what, but the orchestra was not together. Could be the new conductor. I liked him overall but they play SO far behind the beat it's crazy. Not sure if that had something to do with it.

Saturday the 29th Toshi got up and went to Sequim with Lisa and Chase to drive Chase's dad's NSX. They were gone all day long. I had coffee that morning with Beth and Cafe Fiore and this time I had cocoa. TASTY! I was really glad to have seen her since I didn't get a chance to talk to her at all Buddha Ruksa. Sounds like things are going well for her although Jake is currently job hunting which is hard. They want to move back to Seattle but the need to have practiced in Illinois for 4 years before coming back otherwise their licenses won't transfer. So, for them, it'll be a bit before they move back. She says they also want to have kids but they want to do that back here and obviously with Jake not having a job the time is not now for that to happen. That afternoon Francine came over and we did some quality work on the comforter. Although I wasn't too much help, I was glad that I was there to do what I could. Because it is a twin sized it is a lot of material to work with so it's nice for her to have me and an extra pair of hands.
Mom and I tried to go see the grandparents in the afternoon and it was ok but Grandmaman was sleeping so we just went in and said hello and kissed her on the cheek. Better than being told she didn't want to see me but still not the easiest.
That night we went to dinner with Toshi's aunt, uncle and cousin. We went down to Southcenter since they live down in Kent so it was kind of halfway. Food was pretty good and the waitress was really helpful with me in terms of telling me about the cheese being pasturized and the egg for the Caesar being coddled - she answered all my questions before I even asked them! Dinner was pretty good. The funny thing was that Toshi's uncle didn't offer to pay for dinner and his cousin seemed surprised that he paid for his dinner!

Sunday the 30th we had breakfast with Tushar at Coastal Kitchen on 15th. Toshi had never been and I think he liked it. It was nice to see Tushar again. That afternoon was the baby shower and as expected we got a lot of clothes and blankets. Very little was actually from the registry which is ok, it just means that we have more to get. We did get some gift cards though, so that will definitely help with some of the things we have left. It was fun to see people even though there were a lot of people who were not able to come. We just did food and presents - no games which I was actually ok with.

Thankfully after the shower we had no plans until leaving on Tuesday morning. It had been a vacation full of stuff and having some downtime was awesome.

Monday was a low-key day of taking down decorations, the boys helping mom with the tree, Francine coming over to work on the comforter, and all of us (including Lindsey who had come on the 27th) going out to eat at Circa. Jeffrey and Lindsey went out to celebrate the New Year with Evan and Michael but Toshi and I were in bed by 10:30, no surprise since we had to be up for a 7:10 flight. Also Monday we went to see the grandparents (and stop at Cafe Fiore!). We went in the morning because mom had said Grandmaman is often better in the morning. We got there just before 10:00 or so (without Toshi but everyone else). She had just laid down to take a nap but was still awake. Mom went in to say hello and she sort of half woke up, I followed her in and said hello Grandmaman, her eyes opened and her face lit up. She said, here's the one I've been wanting to see and she got out of bed and came out in to the living room. She was her old self which was incredible. I'm so glad that we went that morning because now I have this wonderful memory of my grandmother as she used to be, not the one who has been taken over by this horrible disease. She sat and talked with us for quite a while. She pulled out my wedding photo and compared it to how I look today. She said she was excited about the baby. She asked if we had picked a name and when I told her we had she said I should keep it secret. I told her that we picked a Japanese name and she said, well that makes sense since her daddy is Japanese and I'm guessing her grandmother is very happy about that. She was lucid and able to talk to us. She did have a moment where she slipped away when Grandpapa asked about the car and if it had made it to Jason or not - she said that she had learned how to drive on that car and what was she going to do now that it was gone? We managed to change the subject and she did come back after that. I am so glad that we went - I wish that Toshi had come too, I should have convinced him to come - but I'm so glad to have that memory of her as she used to be. I have no idea what she'll be like in June when we come back. Will she remember who I am? That's my worry each time I go home is that she won't remember who I am. I know that it will happen and likely happen soon. There are times when she doesn't know mom and Francine. I noticed that they have taken down most of the photos in their apartment and I wonder if it was hard on Grandmaman to have them up since she doesn't remember people. What a horrible horrible disease this is. Even with this happy memory that I have of her I am in tears thinking about it all, not knowing what will happen with her or how she will be the next time I get to see her. She's not really my grandmother anymore. She's been taken over by the Alzheimer's.

Yesterday morning we got up early - my alarm went off at 4:10 - and we got ready and headed to the airport. We left NY with one suitcase and came back with two due to all the baby stuff (and the fuzzy blanket I had taken with me in August). It was an early morning but a smooth travel day overall. I think a lot of people had to work on the 31st and flew out on the 30th, Sunday, so it was not like it was when we had left for Seattle! The flight was also shorter which was really helpful too, and we got in early! We tried to grocery shop last night but our store closed at 7 which we didn't know - and we got there at 7. I didn't think things closed early on New Year's Day....

We are unpacked and settled back to NY. Toshi is at work and I've got my first load of laundry going. Our next adventure will be this weekend when we rearrange furniture and things in the house to start getting the baby's room ready!

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I don't think it's really hit me yet, but yesterday morning I took a pregnancy test and it was positive!! The FAM book had said to wait until the 18th high temperature but I knew already what was going on. Wednesday was the 16th high temp day and I was 3 days late. I just wanted to know already and I'm glad I did it even though Toshi wanted to wait!

Pregnant! So I am currently I am in week 5 and waiting until week 12 to tell people (my trip to Seattle August 23rd) feels like forever but I know it's for the best. Too many possible things to go wrong between now and then. This is just better.

I have my first doctor's appointment on July 2nd and then we'll go from there.

As I said, I don't think it's fully hit me yet, but it's really really exciting!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


And it continues. We are just about done with this current round and then we play the waiting game again. I have been temperature charting as well as trying to pay attention to my cervical fluid - fun huh? And still using the ovulation strips. I thought my temperature was going to peak this morning (because I thought I ovulated yesterday) but that does not appear to be the case so that means it continues. I really hope this works because that would just make everything better. If you count starting in February (which if this continues to be an issue we are!) then this is month 5 so it really hasn't been that long and since February and March were kind of just guessing it really hasn't been that long at all.

I've read two books - one recommended by Eiko about Fertility Awareness. The other is What to Expect Before You're Expecting. Now I think all this reading is driving me even crazier. I don't plan on reading anything more that I have read and I will just continue to do what I can - charting and playing the waiting game.

One of the things that one of the books talked about was finding out about fertility and pregnancies of relatives. I guess maybe I should ask mom how long it took to get the three of us! I know that Francine is unable to have kids but I don't know if that's her or her and Carl. I know that Grandmaman had a miscarriage at one point (between mom and Francine) but maybe I should get some more info so I have it when I go to the gynecologist next week. In a couple of weeks Toshi will go and get his physical and then he's got some things to ask about as well.

And it continues.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

January 22, 2012

Back to Queenstown
Overnight in Queenstown

Fly to Auckland
Drive around
Dinner at a really good Indian place

Up really early 5:30
Drive around

Ok, so I never got this last post done. I think that was because by this point, I was really really tired. It was an incredible 3 weeks but wow were we busy! I would LOVE to go back again and see all the things I know we missed. Shannon is there for a year (until October) and I know she'll have tips if we ever get the chance to go back.

January 19, 2012

All we had planned for the 17th was a hike and so because of that we were able to sleep in (especially since we were going to be at the same hotel again, we didn’t have to worry about getting up and out!) It was really nice to get to sleep in, especially since I was still feeling crummy. After breakfast I decided that I’d like to see a doctor so we went downstairs, checked email (free wifi in the lobby!) and asked at the desk. The guy at the desk was very helpful and called for me so I could ask about an appointment. They had an appointment at 12:15 (it was currently 11:00) so we went back upstairs to watch some Lord of the Rings before heading out. The doctor was really nice and told me that nothing is wrong. She said my ears looked fine and there was just a little something on my throat that looked no good along with a canker sore, which is the reason that the right side of my throat hurts more. She said they could do a culture but it was likely to come back negative and even if it was positive it would be a couple of days before they knew for sure. She said pain killers and gargling would be good along with writing me a prescription for penicilian just in case things got worse. She said that I might have a little trouble flying but since it wasn’t an ear infection I should be just fine. (My ear still hurts a little bit. It seems to be getting better but very slowly).

After going to the doctor we headed out for a hike that Toshi had read about. Hikes here are funny because they tell you how long not how far. This was a three-hour return (meaning round trip) and it was pretty long so we figured pretty flat which it was. It was a bit on the long side but pretty flat so not too bad. It was warmer than I expected and we ended up drinking all 80oz of water that Toshi had in his Camelback.

After getting back to the hotel and changing in to clean clothes we vegged for a little while and then headed out for dinner. The place that we had looked into going was closed for dinner so we walked across the street to another place called the Ranch. The food was pretty good – I had chicken shnitzel, which was basically chicken katsu, it was tasty. I had chocolate mudpie for dessert and Toshi had weird cheesecake; mine was much better. We stopped at the bigger grocery store to get non-perishable things to take with us to Knobs Flat where there is no grocery store. They had to be all non-perishable because we were driving straight to Milford for our cruise and we weren’t going to check in until afterwards and things were going to be sitting in the car.

After dinner we finished watching Lord of the Rings. I like all the movies but I think Return of the King is my favorite partially because of my favorite line in the movie. At the very end when Aragorn has been crowned and he is walking through all the people, he gets to the hobbits and they bow to him. He says “my friends, you bow to no one.” He bows to the hobbits and everyone else follows him. Best part ever.

January 18th – We left Te Anau about 9:00 and drove straight to Milford Sound, which is just over a two-hour drive on some windy roads. Everywhere here is windy and goes up and down with all the mountains. Toshi wasn’t feeling so well so I did the first part of the driving and I did all but the last half hour or so. Toshi blamed me for his being sick although his is different than mine and seems to be lasting not nearly as long. We stopped at one viewpoint place along the way and that’s when Toshi took over the driving after we did a little 15 minute walk.

We arrived to Milford about 11:15 or so and got all checked in for the cruise. Since neither one of us was feeling great I was really glad that we had canceled our kayak trip and booked a cruise instead. We were able to relax on a big boat and the weather turned out to be gorgeous. Unlike Doubtful, Milford is much more easily accessible. You drive until the road ends and that’s where the boats load and then you are on the sound (fjord). We had paid for a cruise that involved lunch and that was served right when we got on the boat. Lunch was nothing fancy but was pretty tasty. The cruise got us out into the sound and then to the edge of where the Tasman Sea is. (We had done the same thing on the Doubtful cruise although on the Doubtful cruise the Tasman was pretty rocky and on Milford it wasn’t so much. It’s amazing what just a couple of days can do to the weather and the water!)

On the way back we stopped at the underwater discovery, which we had hoped was going to be really cool. It was ok but not nearly as neat as I had hoped for with viewing things underwater and such. We did learn about the fjords and the fresh water layer that sits on top of the salt-water and due to that there are some things that live in the salt-water at depths they would not normally live at. The fresh water on top creates a bit of a cloudy feeling on top and makes it darker than it would normally be down below.

One of my favorite parts of the cruise was on the way back when we stopped at one of the major waterfalls. Although there are hundreds of little waterfalls in the fjords, very few of them are permanent. We stopped by the biggest waterfall on the way back and they put the nose of the boat in the waterfall. I was on the top deck where I had spent about half the cruise, the other half I had spent on the middle deck inside, and I was happily sprayed by the waterfall, it was really cool.

After getting off the boat about 3:00 or so we headed back south along the Te Anau-Milford highway and back to Knobs Flat. It appears that basically the only things here are the hotel we are in, which are more like cabins as they aren’t serviced everyday, and some nearby campsites. There are no restaurants and there is no internet just the hotel and the road.

We did a lot of reading last night before we went to bed. Our evening ritual has been either reading or Lord of the Rings before going to sleep. Finally about 11:00 I convinced Toshi that we needed to sleep. We are both still sick and we had an early morning planned.

This morning, the 19th the alarm went off at 6:00. We had planned to get up, put hiking clothes on, stop by Mirror Lakes for some early morning pictures and then go on our hike. When we checked in our host had shown us the weather and it was supposed to get worse throughout the day so we wanted to do the hike early. Toshi got up and looked outside. It was dreary and gloomy and not picture worthy so we went back to sleep. He wanted to sleep and have no alarm but I know better, we would have slept all morning! I set the alarm for 8:00 and we snoozed until 9:00! We finally got out the door about 9:30 or shortly after and make the quick drive to the Divide, just about 20 minutes away.

The hike we were going to do was a Summit hike but was part of a track. There are lots of tracks here in New Zealand, luckily you don’t have to do the whole track to take advantage of the hikes themselves. Like our last one, this was a three-hour hike, but unlike our last one this one was short and steep.  We knew we were going to get rained on and it was chilly outside so we planned the best we could. Layers and as much waterproof as we had which was unfortunately not much.

Although the hike was steep, overall it wasn’t too bad on the way up. It was steep but we took breaks and because it was so much up I was really warm and took off my fleece. We saw the turnoff for the hut where we had seen some people coming down from but we kept going up the hill. Then as we rounded a corner the trees went away and we were exposed to the elements. It was really windy and raining, and really windy. The wind was not fun. Also, my knee had been hurting on and off which was not making things any easier. I had my headphones on with my running music and that was helping a little bit but I was not a happy camper. I was doing my best but finally I just started crying. I tried to push through for as long as I could but I was not happy and Toshi saw that I was crying. We were so close I didn’t want to go back down before reaching the top so we pushed on. I was very grateful for my hiking boots keeping my feet dry and my hat, which was keeping a lot o the rain off my face. I realized it would have been good to have my fleece on but we were unprotected and I didn’t want to stop to put it on. We made it to the stop and turned right around and came back down. Because of the weather and the immense fog unfortunately we couldn’t see anything.

On the way back down we got to a little spot that had sheltered us from the wind on the way up and I stopped and put my fleece back on. Warm! We made it back down just fine and although my knee doesn’t like the down I was much happier once we were back under the cover of the trees. As we went down it got warmer which helped although by the time we realized that our pants were soaked. Again I was grateful for dry feet. Magic hiking boots they are!

We got back and hung up everything to dry by the heater and in the bathroom. I took a hot shower and managed to get the bathroom all wet since the showerhead sprays everywhere but the shower was great. We had some lunch and have been vegging ever since – about 4 hours or so now.

Dinner will be pasta tonight and then tomorrow we head back to Queenstown for one night, plane to Auckland, staying there one night and then back to the states. It felt really long at the beginning but as we got going it’s felt so short. Soon back to reality – although my temporary reality won’t be so bad I don’t think.

All for now, last little bit in a couple of days but for now here’s an overall view of the trip.

The highlights:
Favorite activity: Blackwater rafting in Waitomo, swimming with the dolphins in Kaikoura
Favorite city: Wellington
Favorite town: Wanaka
Favorite place stayed: the B&B in Wanaka
Most difficult part of the trip: Hiking Fox Glacier
Favorite place: the Fjordland
Best weather day: Wineries in Blenheim, kayaking Abel Tasman

And then today I was thinking about this. When we went to see Jeffrey graduate from Interlochen they did what they called Blue Streak – a breakdown of the whole year one or two words at a time. I might have to add to it since I’m sure I’ll forget things along the way

SEA-SF, SF-LAX, delayed in LAX, meeting up with Toshi, LAX-AKL, rental car, driving on the opposite side of the road, windshield wipers vs turn signals, Happy New Year early, us asleep at 9:30pm, dreary days in Auckland, everything closed, everyone on vacation, drive to Waitomo, Waitomo Caves, abseling, blackwater rafting, cold water! zip line in the dark, glow worms, not really glow worms, climbing up through waterfalls, drive to Rotorua, mud bath and sulfur springs, drive to Taupo, walking on the beach in the rain, drive to Wellington, Wellington, feels like home, sunshine and windy, cable car, met Toshi’s online friends, ferry to the south island, drive to Blenheim, sunshine, wine tasting in the sunshine, a wine Toshi likes, buying a bottle, drive to Takaka, so far away from everything, first two night stay since Auckland, long windy dive to Kaiteriteri, kayaking Abel Tasman from Kaiteriteri, gorgeous day, hands hurt from kayaking, meeting up with Shannon and Brian for dinner in Montueka, drive back to Takaka, drive to Kaiteriteri, water taxi insanity day, storm, new hike, waiting for the tide, walking through a river, not a happy camper, hard to find the boat, shortcut, found the boat, WAVES, finally on land and dry, out for a run, drive to Kaikoura, yummy organic dinner, swimming with the dolphins, drive to Methven, hot air balloon, panic attack in the balloon, powered through, champagne breakfast in the field, drive to Punakaiki, stayed in a tree house, pancake rocks and blowholes, drive to Fox Glacier, rain, lots of rain, cottage for two nights, day on Fox Glacier, rain, more rain, 5.5 hours on the glacier, rock falls, walking back through rivers, soaking wet, incredible, sleeping in, sore throat, earache, everything still wet, drive to Wanaka, yummy food, fantastic B&B, jet boat, jet boat stops running, walking through fields, back to town, refund for unsuccessful boat trip, drive to Queenstown, cable car, luge above Queenstown, souvenirs, the Cow on Cow Lane for dinner, drive to Manapouri, early morning to cruise, Doubtful Sound all day, boat, met people from Seattle, bus, boat, bus, met people from California/Seattle, underground in the power plant, boat, massive, impressive, huge, incredible, fantastic day, stay in Te Anau, 3 hour hike around the lake, warm weather and sunshine, drive to Milford Sound, cruise, fantastic weather, drive to Knobs Flat, 3 hour hike in the rain,

January 15th

The great thing about being in a B and B is getting a home-cooked meal and that we did! After getting up and realizing it was cold because I hadn’t latched the door and it had blown open in the middle of the night, we headed out into the living room and had some yummy breakfast. Eggs, bacon, tomatoes, toast, mushrooms, yogurt, cereal, juice. YUM! We headed out about 9:20, got all packed up and headed back towards town. We had last minute planned a jet boat trip for the morning. We figured it would be nice to get out and since we only had an hour drive to Queenstown we had plenty of time.

We met downtown and we were taken a bit out of town to the river and the speed boat. We were having a great time when about 30 minutes in to our speed boat ride the boat decided to do something horrible and we had to pull over. Then the adventure was how to get us to a point where we could be picked up by the van. The thing about New Zealand is that everywhere off the roads is farmland. So we were on the river and in the middle of someone’s farm. It was a matter of getting us over fences and across streams; quite the adventure. We finally made it out, got back on the bus and were taken back to town. We had to wait for the person in charge to come back with info so she could refund us so we got hot chocolate and cake while we were waiting.

Then we were off to Queenstown. We got ourselves all checked in, had a bit of downtime an then walked into town. Queenstown has about 11,000 people in it and town is still small enough to walk around quite easily. The first order of business was the gondola (at least for Toshi) and then Luge at the top. We did the combo package and did 5 rounds of the luge! I wasn’t sure I was going to really like it but as Toshi commented, it’s controlled fun and I get to decide how fast I go. I didn’t really like the gondola but I faced uphill or outwards and as long as I didn’t look down I was ok. The luging was really fun and by the end I was almost as fast as Toshi but still not quite.

We then walked back into town and found this great place called Cow for dinner. We had read about it in a guide book and it sounded liked awesome Italian food. It’s on Cow Lane, which is a tiny alley like street. It was easy to find since we knew where it was but if you didn’t you would never find it. In the evenings because it gets busy, they share tables, so we started out having a couple across from us but as they had gotten there before us and their food came not too long after we sat down, they weren’t there for most of our meal. I had broccoli blue cheese soup, which was tasty and then a veggie pizza with tomatoes, zucchini, onion and all kinds of good things on it. Tasty!

We headed back to the hotel, watched a little more Lord of the Rings and then went to bed.

January 16th we left Queenstown early, as we had to be in Manapouri at 9:10 for our Doubtful Sound cruise.  The drive was about 2 hours long and we left about 7. The hard part was when we got stuck behind a slow truck on the hills and windy sections but otherwise it was ok. The cruise itself was all day. Due to the location of Doubtful sound you actually have to take a boat and bus to get there. The boat goes across the lake, the there is about 45 minutes on the bus to the second boat where you spend most of the day.

On our first boat we had some people from Seattle sitting across from us. We talked to them a bit and that was nice. The crew told us about the lake and what our day would look like. We had picked up lunch before leaving the dock – nice boxed lunches. We talked with people about cameras and one of the guys we had talked to had told us about kayaking the day before on Milford and how it was kayaking the day before. He said that he had been with his family (they were sitting behind us) the day before and it had been snowing. While it was beautiful he said it was really cold.  I did not think that sounded like fun and after that Toshi and I started talking about canceling our kayaking day and doing another cruise instead.

After the bus we got on to the second boat. We were at a table by ourselves (6+ person tables) and near the front of the boat so we could see a good number of things.  We went out on the front deck to take some pictures and overall just really enjoyed being in the Fjordland. We learned the difference between a fjord and a sound – a fjord is something that used to be a glacier. As the glacier melted the space was filled up with water. A sound is something that used to be a river but was carved out and has now become a sound. Doubtful and Milford are actually fjords but they were named as sounds and so they have just left them that way.

The second boat was really the amazing part because it’s when we were actually on the Fjord itself. We were around on the boat for about 3 hours and it was incredible to see the scale of everything. The mountains are huge and it just makes you feel so small and insignificant. It was cold and windy but we were able to go out on the deck and take some photos. Toshi was out there for much longer than I was – I was worried about getting blown over! I was wearing many layers of clothing and was still cold. I have a feeling it was partially from the cold and wind and partially because I was sick and my temperature gets all messed up when I’m sick.

After a good three hours on the fjord we go back on the bus to make the journey back. One the way back instead of just going straight to the last boat the bus driver took us on a detour through the power plant that is there. There is a big long tunnel that is 2km long and we can’t remember how deep. The bus driver took us in there and we got to go inside the power plant, although now it’s all controlled remotely and people don’t really work there anymore except to check on things.

On the bus we made friends with Rebecca and Alex – they were sitting in front of us and we were playing the kill the sand flies game. We were squashing as many as we could and they were everywhere! We got to talking with them which was nice. They are just a couple of years older than we are and they are living in California but Alex is from Seattle and went to Roosevelt! It was fun meeting someone from Seattle. He actually knew a couple of people at GHS because he went to Hebrew school with them through middle school. We spent most of the bus ride talking to them, Toshi to Alex and me with Rebecca. He is in school at Berkley and she is a naturopath focusing mostly on health and nutrition. They actually know some people out on Long Island who are doctors and one who does a lot of prenatal type things. I have Rebecca’s email address and the name of some people I should contact – they are in Roslyn.

We got off the bus and on to the last boat – Rebecca and Alex came to find us and we chatted with them some more which was nice and it made the last boat ride go really fast. Before we knew it, it was time to get off the last boat. It was about 4:30 or so by this point. It had been a long and fantastic day on the fjord.

After getting off the last boat in Manapouri we drove to Te Anau to check in to our hotel. I was excited by the idea of being in the same place for two days as it is really tiring moving hotels every night.

We got all checked in and went to the grocery store to get some food. (Later we found out there was a larger grocery store but the small one was across the street so we went there) We decided since I wasn’t feeling well and it was easy that we would get quick things to make at the hotel. Toshi got a pineapple and cheese sandwich (he said it was gross I told him, what did you expect?) and we had some noodles and some other things. Always an adventure when you don’t have real silverware and the only things you can make are things that use hot water since we had a hot water pot. But since we had a fridge we had been able to get breakfast type things – yogurt for me and cereal for Toshi. I also got some bananas and Toshi, of course, got OJ.

We had a quiet night in and continued our Lord of the Rings trend. Due to the length of the movies it was taking us two nights to watch each one (and ended up taking three to watch the last one)

Saturday January 14th, 2012

Thursday January 12 – after a very long day the day before we got up the next morning to find that it was raining again. I decided that because of that, I was ok with not going horseback riding, although I’m still a little frustrated about the reason that we couldn’t go (and in looking at other places, they all have the same weight restriction so Toshi is not able to go at all until he loses some weight – however, he really liked the ropes course and I may be able to convince him to try rock climbing which would be awesome.) We had a nice relaxing morning and left the Treehouse as late as we could which was nice. We went on a little hike nearby (just part of an hour long section – we just did a half hour out and a half hour back) and had an adventure trying to get to it. The start of the trail was in a working farm so when we entered we had to open and then close the gate. That was fine. The interesting part was the 6 horses that were on our path. Toshi tried to go around them but they started walking over to the car! At one point there were 4 or 5 horses around us, which was crazy. They were licking the car! Finally Toshi was able to backup a bit and go around them. On the way back they didn’t give us any trouble but what an adventure it was trying to get there!!
The hike we went on was good and short. It was a good amount of uphill, which is part of the reason we didn’t go any longer. It was raining on and off but overall it was a really nice little hike
After coming back from the hike we went to see the Pancake rocks and blowholes. They are literally the reason that people go to Punakaiki. The rocks were ok, they are goofy looking and cool, but the best thing is the blowholes. We were there about an hour and a half before high tide and it was really cool. Toshi took some crazy photos – I now realize I should have taken video but it’s so hard to know when it’s going to start! That was really fun.

After that we headed to the glaciers. It rained most of the drive down which was about 4 hours long. The town of Fox Glacier is small and Toshi said not nearly as nice as the Franz Josef glacier town but it was ok. We were staying in the cottage associated with a hostel. We had our own bathroom and then a shared kitchen with the other two couples that were staying there (they were sharing a bathroom). It was nice to be able to put some things in the fridge but then to have our own space. We aren’t much for common rooms and pretty much just kept to ourselves but the room was big and the bed was comfy which is really as much as you can ask for.

The next morning (the 13
th) we got up to go on our all day glacier hike. I wore my hiking boots, wool socks, running shirts (sleeveless, purple with sleeves), blue fleece and my rain jacket along with my green pants. They gave us thick socks, overpants and I took an extra jacket just to be sure. Everyone else had wet feet but my boots are awesome and therefore I didn’t have wet feet until near the end of the day – but I’ll get there in a second….

There were 16 of us in the group and we were divided in half once we got to the car park of the glacier. Toshi and I along with 6 others went with Margaret and Rich. Margaret was our main leader and Rich was there just to help out. You start out the hiking by a 600 meter long section where you are not allowed to stop because of rock fall. What a great way to introduce you to the glacier right? So we did that and that include walking through two small rivers that were not even really ankle deep. Most people got wet feet there but not me! Thank you boots! Then you get to a good stopping point and you put on your crampons. You can’t walk on ice without them so we learned all about them. It’s a very weird feeling because you have ot pick up your feet extra far otherwise they touch the ground. We also got walking sticks with pokey things on the end to put in the ice to help us with our balance.

Shortly after getting on the ice we stopped so everyone could learn tricks for going up and down the ice. Down is really scary. Then the trek began. It was raining like crazy and I was glad for all the gear and that I had decided to get an extra jacket. It had started out warm but as soon as we got on the ice it was cold and windy. Nice to have all those extra layers! As we hiked up Margaret would stop and carve out sections to help us get up. Seemed good but as we went on farther it seemed to take her longer and longer and it was cold (I was ok but most were colder and wetter than I was). Everyone had wet feet and overall it was not the best. After much hiking up we stopped for lunch. Margaret had brought a tarp and we all got underneath it and sat on the edges. Some people changed their socks at lunch, I just changed my gloves since my socks were still dry! Overall not the greatest lunch experience but the real fun came after lunch.

(January 17th) After coming out of the tarp from lunch we found that we were fogged in. The fog was incredible and due to all the rain the rock falls were happening much more often. Richard who had gone up with us told Margaret that she needed to keep us moving because we were going to need to get down soon. Margaret wanted to get us to our highest point so we kept moving. We moved faster after lunch and soon we made it to the ice falls where we weren’t able to go any farther. We took some pictures up there with the glacier in the background and then it was time to hurry down. By this time there were only two groups left on the ice – us and the ice climbers. Although we had gone up that morning with 15 all day people, the other 7 had already turned around and gone down because they were cold and went. We were troopers! After making it to the top we were told that we were going to need to run down – not literally since that would be unsafe but as fast as we could. I was still pretty warm because I wasn’t as wet as most people and at this point I was only one still with dry feet. The way down was fast, we never stopped moving and Toshi was especially grateful since he was so cold and went. I at was grateful for the extra jacket as well as my awesome shoes that were keeping me dry.

We made it down off the ice and soon were to the point of taking off our crampons. We were told we needed to take them off as soon as possible so we could get down quickly. We carried them in our hands until there was a safe spot to put them in our backpacks. We then got to the place where we could safely put them away and we did. Margaret told us that the rock falls were bad and because of the rain it was really loud. She asked us to stay close and take off our hoods so we could hear her in case she told us to run. The biggest challenge was getting back over the rivers that we had come through earlier in the day. They were much worse due to all the rain. We had to take a detour for one so that we could go through a place that was not so wide. Margaret, Richard and one of the other guides got across the rivers and helped us across them – it reminded me of walking in the caves, the current was so strong! I was glad for their help. Because of the two rivers I finally had wet feet. I had made it the whole day until then but the first river was nearly to my knees and the second was past my knees so there was no hope.

We finally made it back to the parking lot and there was a bus waiting for us! What a day!! Our guides were pretty proud of us for making it all that way and for being the only group to make it all day long. It was exhausting but amazing too. It made Toshi realize that maybe it’s time to retire his orange jacket.

When we got back to the cottage we hung up our stuff and turned the space heater on to try and dry everything as quickly as possible. Unfortunately Toshi only brought his orange jacket, fleece and long sleeve jersey as his only long sleeve layers and they were all soaked. His jacket was sort of dry enough a couple of hours later for us to venture out for dinner.

We had dinner at a nice place in town although our waiter was not the best and forgot my soup byt one of the other waitresses fixed it. The soup was pumpkin and was tasty. I also had pasta, which was big and I had the leftovers for breakfast the next morning.

January 14th – We slept in which was much needed. We both woke up with sore throats and tired after the previous very long day. We turned the space heater back on to let things dry. We decided we didn’t need to do anything but lounge around for a while.

After checking out we drove the 3.5 hours to Wanaka. I did some of the driving, which Toshi really appreciated. I think I did a good 2 hours of the driving :-) The first order of business was lunch. We had lunch at a place recommended in one of the guide books and although the service was a bit slow (expected from the book) the food was tasty and we sat outside. The funny thing was that people were walking around in shorts and t-shirts but although it was sunny it was windy and not very warm! After lunch we stopped at the iSite because the GPS couldn’t find the address I put in for our B and B. Turns out I had written down Baker road instead of Barker road – oops, not a mistake I would expect to make! After getting that all squared away we headed out of town and up into the hills where our B and B was.

We drove up the driveway and got there be greeted by the husband of the house – Phil? – who was sitting in the garage. We went and knocked on the door and… ? …. Showed us inside. There were two bedrooms but since we were the only boarders for the night we got to pick rooms and chose downstairs because that meant no lugging luggage upstairs. Toshi was tired so we laid down for a bit and I read while he napped. We then headed in for dinner. Nothing really sounded good to me, we had a large and late lunch, but we ended up getting kabab sandwiches and sitting on the beach. Not a bad dinner if I do say so myself! After hanging out with the ducks a bit on the beach we headed back out of town and back to our home for the night. We watched some Lord of the Rings and went to bed.