Thursday, December 25, 2008

December Whirlwind, Part I

Merry Christmas, Everybody! Let's catch up.

We had the best visit ever with my parents. SUCH a perfect trip and I was really sad to see them go but so grateful for the time we spent. Here are some pictures from our travels. I wanted to post them in order of the trip, but they got kind of messed up so they're in all kinds of order.

How cute are my parents?

Dad got pulled from the crowd to participate in a street show during our last night in Queenstown. He did a good job of helping to hold up the pole so this guy didn't fall on his face while juggling fire torches. Go Dad!

Mom & our good friend Dot with their matching thumb injuries. There's a story there, but you will have to ask them about it. Dottie is visiting us now, but we'll get to that later.

View of Queenstown from the gondola.

Dad & Chris on our boat in Milford Sound. Despite the rainy weather Mom & Dad agreed this was their favorite part of our travels.


Me & Dad. Please ignore my hair. Thanks.


More pretty!

The four of us at Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel Peninsula. One of the nicest beaches I've seen.

More Cathedral Cove.

On the Coromandel.

Devil's Bath at the Wai-o-tapu geothermal wonderland. This place made me wish I'd paid more attention in geology class.

Champagne Pool at Wai-o-tapu.

In short, good times.

We dropped mom & dad off at the airport in Queenstown on Monday and met up with Dot, who had already been traveling for two weeks on the North Island. The three of us are now back in Dunedin for a very low-key and rather lazy Christmas celebration before heading out again for another week of travels with Dot. That's how we roll.

I hope that wherever you are, you are having a beautiful and peaceful holiday! Merry Christmas!

Wee One, 21 Weeks

You want belly pictures, you get belly pictures. Here's the last one, taken at 21 weeks in our hotel last week:

In other Wee One news, s/he is now kicking regularly and if you're patient you can actually feel him or her when you put your hand on my stomach. Chris has gotten a number of kicks and I was glad mom & dad got to feel the baby move while they were visiting.

We also know the baby's sex, which is exciting and makes him/her a little easier to imagine. So far we've been able to keep it secret from the Moms, who do not want to know. I thought for sure I'd slip up and spill the beans when spending two weeks with my mom, but amazingly we managed to keep her guessing for now.

We have some very cute new ultrasound pictures but in all of the travel hoopla (see "December Whirlwind, Part I") we haven't yet gotten them scanned. S/he's a cute kid. I'm rather in awe.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Where to start?

Okay, kids, we've got a lot of ground to cover. So pay attention.

1) Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving dinner went off without a hitch. Paid a small fortune for two small turkeys but found it was well worth it as dinner was TASTY and I've been enjoying leftovers all week. As per usual, the hubby fried them up in his giant deep fryer. (Yes, we moved the giant turkey fryer to New Zealand. As I recall, it was the source of much debate.) As per usual, it was a hit. I think the Kiwis were a little suspicious about the concept of fried turkey -- one guest admitted she was mortified when she showed up and the turkey was uncooked on the counter and she figured she'd be at our house all night. But I think we've made a few converts.

2) Guests! Travel! Christmas! New Years! Excitement! Right now we are gearing up for a number of fun visitors, and December is shaping up to be quite the eventful month. It starts with the arrival of my darling parents on Wednesday, followed by our darling friend Dot on the 22nd, followed by a visit from our darling soon-to-be newlywed friends Kevin and Nadine. I'll spare you the whole guest schedule and itinerary, but there will be lots of adventure and moving around all December. So I might not be checking in as much this month but I promise there will be complete reports with pictures. Be patient.

3) The Wee One! I had been fretting all last week that I was approaching 18 weeks and hadn't felt the baby move, and then whaddya know, I finally got some little flutters last Friday. (Which, with the time change, happened to also be my actual birthday and American Thanksgiving. Cool, no?) Since then there has been lots of fluttering and a few honest-to-goodness jabs. S/he's a feisty one.

Next ultrasound is Monday so hopefully I'll get some new pictures to post.

4) Chocolate Fish! I knew I had forgotten something important on my list of NZ culinary quirks, and today I realized what I was. Chocolate fish. Which are fish-shaped marshmellows covered in chocolate, and are not nearly as gross as the name implies. Usually they are served as a side to hot chocolate. So when you come to visit NZ and you order hot chocolate and the counter person says, "marshmellows, or fish?" you will not be flabbergasted, as I was. You will say, "Fish, please." And you will look like a pro.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Only because you asked for it ...

Devoted readers Elizabeth and Jen demanded a baby belly photo. So here you go. 17 weeks down, 23 (give or take) to go.

It actually doesn't look like much in this photo, but I'm feeling rather large and in charge. When I wear baggy clothes it just looks like I've been hitting the buffet line a little too hard, but I think it actually looks like there is some bona fide baby belly action in this particular shirt. So that's good.

Hope everyone is having a good weekend and our devoted American readers are looking forward to a happy holiday week. We are supposed to be hosting an American Thanksgiving this weekend and I'm not sure what we've gotten ourselves into as we still have not secured a turkey. (Turkey = rather rare and pricey in NZ.) But have no fear, we will persevere, as we always do.

Addendum: A belated Kia Ora, Y'all! welcome to the world to Noam Kaplan Thrift, who was born on Saturday, and an even more belated welcome to Isham Elliot Koons, who is already well over a month old! Athens, Georgia has suddenly become a whole lot cuter!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Here is a picture of Owen, as we know and love him. As my devoted readers know, he is terrified of cameras so pretty much every picture we have of him is 1) from far away, when he is not paying attention; 2) him looking frightened and miserable; or 3) his butt, as he runs in the other direction. As it turns out, however, he will pose happily for photos on Chris's iPhone.

This is a small victory.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Some more stuff you won't see in the U.S. The culinary version.

1) Cheese rolls. I'm told these are more of a regional South Island thing (and more specifically, an Otago/Southland thing) than a NZ thing. White bread, cheese, and french onion soup mix rolled up into little pinwheels and grilled or baked until the bread is toasty and cheese/soup mix combo gets all gooey. What's not to love?

2) Beets. Kiwis LOVE beets. Except they call it beetroot. And then they put it on all of your sandwiches. And it makes your bread turn pink. I was picking it off of a sandwich the other day and a friend commented, "Americans aren't into beetroot, huh?" I confirmed this was correct. She responded, "But you still put it on burgers, right?"

3) Lemonade. Order this in a restaurant and they will bring you Sprite, 7-up, or a similar fizzy lemon-lime beverage. If you want lemon juice with water and sugar, you'd probably better make it yourself.

4) Pavlova. I've mentioned this before, but no list of Kiwi culinary quirks would be complete without it. It's a meringue desert, usually topped with fruit. It's good.

Whenever a Kiwi talks to me about pavlova (which happens more than you would think) they always make a big point to note that it originated in New Zealand, and that Australians have merely stolen the idea and claimed it as their own and are a bunch of damned liars. It appears to be a sensitive issue.

5) Sweet chili sauce. You don't really need to worry about this. Just avoid it at all costs.

6) Marmite. You don't really need to worry about this. Just avoid it at all costs.

7) Vegemite. In fairness, I haven't actually tried this, but after my Marmite experience I am avoiding it at all costs. My more adventurous readers can probably find it in the larger North American grocery stores if anyone wants to give it a go and report back. Go ahead. I dare you.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Stuff that makes you happy.

For weeks, Chris has been telling me about this funny dog he sees riding around town in a delivery truck, and I thought it was a cute story, but whatever. And then yesterday he said he saw the dog wearing dog goggles ("doggles," I believe they are called) and I was like, hmm, that's funny.

And then today he finally got a picture, and now I get it. Hysterical.

A big Kia Ora, Y'all Happy Birthday to my favorite cutie sister-in-law, Lisa, and my favorite cutie IP lawyer, Elizabeth, who are both celebrating on Friday! Have a good one!!!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Your Kiwi civics lesson for the day.

With all of the hoopla surrounding a certain U.S. election this week, my devoted North American readers may not realize that New Zealand is having its own major election today. Prime Minister Helen Clark -- in office since 1999 -- is defending her seat against National Party candidate John Key. (By the polls, things aren't looking so hot for Helen. Appears voters everywhere are feeling antsy, these days ...)

Because NZ gives voting rights to permanent residents, Chris and I were out rocking the vote, as demonstrated the blurry photo of my little voting sticker. (The freaky little crash test dummy-looking guy on the sticker is the NZ Election mascot. He's freaky even in sharp focus.)

And so I give you my list of things I've found interesting about the NZ voting process:

1) Everyone must register to vote in NZ. You don't actually have to vote, but you are required to register.

2) In NZ, you can show up to any polling location in your district, so I got to choose between about three or four places all within walking distance. Voting took all of two minutes. No one asked to see ID.

3) There are a bazillion little parties here. Labour and National are the big two -- the Democrats and Republicans, if you will -- and because I am new to all of this they're the only ones I worried about. But should you be inclined to get behind a "Legalise Cannabis Party" or a "New World Order Party," they've got you covered.

4) When voting in NZ, there are no touch-screen machines or levers to pull. They literally handed me a paper ballot and an orange magic marker. I suppose this is possible when you have a population of only four million, but it still brought me back to the days of voting for a student government president in high school.

On another civics note, I am glad to report that it appears The Wee One qualifies for triple citizenship -- U.S. (from me), Canadian (from Chris), and Kiwi (because s/he is going to be born here). Fun, huh?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Meet The Wee One!

As promised, here is a first look at Baby F., or as s/he is currently known, "The Wee One." We thought it was kind of funny that ultrasound technician kept referring to the baby as "The Wee One" ("... and there's The Wee One's arm ... and there's The Wee One's bladder ...") but it's really grown on me. I think it fits for now. It sounds much nicer than "Baby," or "It," or, as Chris suggested, "Alien Robot Shrimp."

Here's the side view at 13 weeks

Compare it to the view at 8 weeks. Pretty amazing how much s/he has grown in just over a month.

Back to 13 weeks. You can actually see a face!!! (Though perhaps this helps you understand where the"Alien Robot Shrimp" moniker came from.)

Good looking kid, but then again that's no surprise ...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Up the duff*

We're having a BABY!!! That's right, devoted readers. There will soon be another member of the Fonze clan, scheduled to make his/her debut on May 1. Exciting and hard to believe!!!

I took a home pregnancy test on my lunch break on August 20, after I felt a little queasy and suspected something might be up. Still, I was rather shocked and astounded when it actually turned positive. So I went and bought two more. They both turned positive, and suddenly things seemed a bit more real and exciting. I called Chris at work and asked if I could come by to bring him a present. He thought I was bringing him candy, so he was pretty speechless & excited when I plopped the pregnancy tests on his desk. Definitely the most fun surprise I've ever been a part of!

Sorry to have held out on you this long, devoted readers, but we wanted to get through the first trimester before spreading the word. Baby Fonze is now at 13 weeks and looking good. We just had a great ultrasound today and all of the measurements were in a healthy range. I promise to post new sonogram pictures in the next day or two.

So far I've had a pretty easy pregnancy with only a few symptoms -- extremely tired, acne (gross! no one warns you about that one!), and little waves of nausea, but no serious sickness. No crazy cravings -- no crazier than usual, anyway -- although I do swing from eating super healthy one day to wanting burgers and chips the next. No cute baby belly yet, though my pants are getting tight from bloating (and from burgers and chips).

We are planning to learn the sex of the baby at the next ultrasound, which will probably be around the first week in December. (Not so much because we have any preference, or because we want the nursery dripping in blue or pink, but because I am painfully impatient.) We will not be sharing Baby's sex on the blog, however, because our two most devoted readers (Hi, Moms!) have both specifically requested that they don't want to know until s/he is born. But if you are not our either of our mothers, and you don't want to wait until May, pop me an email and I'll hook you up with the highly classified info once we know.

I think that's about all of the exciting news to report for now, though I suspect there will be lots more where that came from. Looking forward to meeting you, Baby!

* Kiwi slang for "preggo."

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I looked up a minute ago to see Chris konked out in the chair, still listening to whatever is on his headphones. It is super cute. He will probably be mildly annoyed when he wakes up and learns I put this on the blog, but fortunately he is generally a good sport about such things.

Monday, October 6, 2008


Every day at work, I spend about a twenty minutes engaged in a cultural dialogue with the other researcher in my department, a Kiwi who was born and bred in Dunedin. She is quite bubbly and outspoken and she has travelled rather extensively in the U.S., so we regularly have a little back-and-forth about our two countries.

Our conversations about the United States tend to go like this:

Help me understand the electoral college. It hardly seems democratic that your presidential vote has no effect if you are in the political minority for your state.

Me: Look thoughtful and try to remember what they told us in 12th grade government class. Give up. Shrug.

My questions about New Zealand tend to be much simpler. (e.g. Me: Is there any good American-style pizza in Dunedin? Her: No. And I agree that the pizza I had in America was much, much better than anything I've had in New Zealand. Sorry. Me: Will you proofread this letter I wrote to check my NZ English? Her: You forgot to put a "u" in "behaviour.")

Today I wanted to know if Kiwis celebrate Halloween. Our conversation went something like this:

Q: Do Kiwis celebrate Halloween?
A: Eh, sort of.
Q: So, I should expect to get some trick-or-treaters? I should have some candy on hand?
A: Eh, you may get a few, but don't worry if you forget. They don't necessarily expect it.
Q: What do you mean? Isn't candy the whole point of trick-or-treating?
A: Well, they know that some people won't have it, so if you don't have it, they won't care.
Q: You just answer the door and say, "Ooh, nice costume. But we're not giving you candy." ?
A: Basically.
Q: And that's okay?
A: Well, yeah.
Q: Nobody eggs your house?
A: No!
Q: Do people carve pumpkins? (in retrospect, I now realize this was kind of a stupid question, since we are going into spring here and pumpkins are going out of season)
A: Nah.
Q: Do people have costume parties, like for adults?
A: Nah. I mean, if you want to have a costume party it wouldn't be the weirdest thing ever -- especially since you're American people might expect it from you -- but generally, no.
Q: So it's just a handful of kids, wandering the neighborhoods, maybe or maybe not hoping to get some candy?
A: Pretty much. What day is Halloween again, anyway?

I don't know why this conversation depressed me as much as it did. It's not like I'm a huge Halloween person. In the States I was usually digging through a thrift store on October 30, frantically trying to find something to pass for a costume. Last year we had to shut off the lights on our house and sit in the dark because we ran out of candy at 7:30 (except for the peanut butter cups which I saved, of course). But still, it is an important day to mark the season, act a little silly, eat miniature candy bars you would normally never buy, and drink beer with your friends. I believe I am going to miss it. Eat a Reeses cup for me.

A very happy birthday to my dear Daddy-o! I love you!!!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Me & two Canadian scientists in one of the prettiest places on earth

Our friend Aaron (a Canadian and fellow UGA grad we met while living in Athens) just took a job in Queensland, Australia. He is visiting us this week, and it's been wonderful seeing an old friend here in the southern hemisphere. (This is your cue to start planning a trip, devoted reader. Hint.)

His plane got in Friday night. Our plan was to get up Saturday morning, grab some breakfast at the farmer's market, drive into Central Otago for some wine tasting, and then on to Queenstown for the night. Saturday morning it was POURING rain and cold. And we looked at the weather forecast in Queenstown and it was POURING rain and cold. And we were dubious.

But we pushed on, and much to our relief the weather cleared up and we had an awesome little weekend trip. It's ridiculous that the Queenstown lakes region is an scenic 3 1/2 hour drive and we have not been to visit since we were on vacation here in January 2007. We WILL make it back more often. The air here just feels good to breathe.

Stopping to take pictures along the way. We took an obscene amount of pictures.

Peregrine winery

Outside Peregrine. Cool building in a cool spot.

I think this was only their third tasting of the day.

Our picnic lunch at Gibbston Valley winery & cheesery. Mmm. Cheesery.

Two tourists, a Kiwi, and his sheep.

Queenstown is super cute. I think a lot of Kiwis like to complain about it being too touristy because it attracts a lot of international visitors, but it's easy to see why they come.

Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown

View of Lake Wakatipu coming out of Queenstown Gardens

It seems like I should be able to make a funny comment about this statue, but I'm fresh out.

View of Queenstown from across the lake

One more lake picture

All in all, the weekend could not have been more fun and relaxing (except for learning an important lesson that gas stations are few and far between in Central Otago, and it is somewhat stressful to drive through the middle of nowhere for over a half-hour with the gas light blinking in your face). Just a great time.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Okay, so I was wrong. 1) We have not lost the camera; and 2) We do have new pictures besides the dogs. Sunday night, some new friends invited us to a little dinner party in Karitane, a pretty little coastal village about a half hour north of Dunedin. Before gorging ourselves silly on a delicious dinner and enormous pieces of lemon meringue pie, we took a little hike ("tramp") along the coast. So it was all good. Here are the pics:

Karitane coast

Long view of the track

Blow hole. A little sign nearby indicated that two star-crossed Maori lovers committed suicide on this site a long time ago because their families wouldn't allow them to be together. Seems a bit drastic to me, but makes the place extra interesting.


Who is the cutest husband ever?

Yup, that's me.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Checking in.

Devoted reader Jen (aka "Defeasible Fees") lodged a complaint that it's been too long since the last post. I'm afraid this is because we are being quite old & boring, lately. Work. Eat. Watch TV. Vaccuum up dog hair. Complain about how I miss Mexican food. That's about it.

Actually, I drove to Queenstown this week for work and the drive was so gorgeous I was kicking myself at every turn for not bringing my camera with me to share the views with you guys. Sorry. And then I've just learned that we can't find the camera, so hopefully it is not permanently lost.

In the meantime, we took the dogs to the dog park today and Chris had his camera phone, so that will be an update. Being a camera phone, the quality is not great, but the pro is that Owen does not seem to mind the camera phone, so you get to see his pretty face.

That's my boy

Chris's good friend from Athens, Aaron (aka "A-Mac") is coming to visit next week. (I don't believe he is a devoted reader. Yet.) We're planning to get out of town for a bit and show him around, so hopefully we'll have some new wacky Kiwi adventures. Stay tuned, eager readers!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


In the interest of cultural exchange, here are some Kiwi slang terms and expressions. Impress your friends.

"Good on ya!" -- "Great!" or "Good for you!" (I heard you won the lottery. Good on ya!)

"Sweet as!" -- "Great!" or "Cool!" (I heard you won the lottery. Sweet as!) I also heard it in place of "thank you" at the grocery store the other day, although I'm not sure what that was all about. (Me to the checkout girl: Thanks! Checkout girl: Sweet as! Me: ??????????)

This one is just weird. Sweet as what, exactly? Nobody knows! It's just an incomplete thought! The other problem with this expression is that, coupled with the Kiwi accent, I sometimes think people are saying "sweet ass" and I get temporarily disoriented by the impropriety of it until I remember what's going on.

"Flash" -- Fancy or expensive. (He got a new car with really flash rims.)

"Mate" -- Buddy. Can be used to describe an actual friend (We watched a movie at my mate's place.) or just as a term of comraderie with a stranger or acquaintance (You dropped your keys, mate.). I always kind of suspected the whole "mate" thing was just an act that Australians put on to charm Americans during the "Crocodile Dundee" era, but in fact it turns out that both Kiwis and Aussies really do use it all the time. I also thought it was more of a guy word, but women use it too.

"Nutter" -- Crazy person. This just rolls off the tongue when Kiwis say it -- "nah-tah" -- but it does not work with my accent. With my accent, it sounds like "nudder." Not as nice. Also, it reminds makes me think of those little peanut-shaped Nutter Butter cookies they feed you when you donate blood at the Red Cross.

Those little cookies were all right.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Some fun, some mishaps.

Devoted reader Elizabeth (aka "Mrs. Fox" or "Foxy E") asked for an update on Chris's first Kiwi birthday, which passed Sept. 3 without any mention on this blog. I have been off my blogging game.

I don't want to speak for Chris, but we had a great evening at Scotia, a swanky restaurant here in town. Food was good, and the birthday boy took full advantage of its excellent whisky bar. On Friday, the people from his office went to happy hour to celebrate Chris's birthday and two others. Lots of Virgo statisticians, apparently.

That brings us to this weekend, which has FINALLY been sunny and beautiful and perfect walking around temperatures. So yesterday we decided to go for a little day hike to enjoy the weather and give the puppies some exercise. It started out well enough.

Chris in the bush

This crazy tree that has paper-thin bark. I don't know what they're called but they're really pretty.

View of Dunedin from about halfway up the track (Otago Harbor is barely visible in the distance)

Then we came to a little clearing where we planned to stop for a snack. And we came across about five sheep that had wandered on to the track from the adjacent farm. And all hell broke loose. Before you could blink, Livy was chasing all five sheep through the bush, off the track, straight down the hill. I literally had to grab a tree to avoid being knocked over. Owen, I'm proud to say, was on leash at the time and handled it all in relative stride.

For the next 30 minutes, Chris and I wandered back down the track, shouting for our badly-behaved dog to no avail. We later admitted that we had both written Livy's doggie obituary in our heads, guessing she had fallen off of a steep track perhaps met her fate with an angry sheep farmer. It was not a fun half hour. Then, finally, Chris saw her little orange body slowly staggering up the hillside. Much to our relief, she was not covered in blood (dog or sheep), nor was she injured in any other way. And as much as I was REALLY mad at her, it was hard not to laugh a little at her stupid, delerious dog grin. Aside from being in trouble with us, I'm pretty sure it was the happiest day of her life.