First vege shop

Saturday is the day for the Riverside Markets in Taupo from 10am until 1pm. I dropped off Steve for work, went for a swim and then hit the markets with $100 in hand ready to buy my vege heart out.

My first obstacle on the 100km challenge was to browse through all the stalls and find out where the produce had come from. I was a bit disappointed in that there are no meat or cheese stall holders here as well. How is that possible? Surely we have great locally produced meats and cheeses available for sale direct from the producer?

I have made a list of what is in season at the moment in order to ensure our main meals are focused on seasonality. This means the following are all on the OK menu list:
Apples, broccoli, cabbage, capsicums, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber (telegraph), garlic, kiwifruit, kumara, leeks, lettuce, limes, mandarins, mushrooms, onions, parsnip (gross!), potatoes, pumpkin, radishes, silver beet, spinach, spring onion, sprouted beans, squash, swedes, turnip and watercress.

What I didn’t count on was that even though the food at the stalls is “locally” produced my 100km radius was out the window. My first purchase was avocados for guacamole this week and some salads. These were from the Hawkes Bay. After having a chat to the stall holder I have come to realise that due to the low temparatures around Taupo it is not the greatest area for vegetable growing. Hot house produced products just don’t have the flavour and so I may have to relook at my radius or being more productive with what I can get. I will go for the latter option at this point until I can investigate every avenue first.

My second stall purchase was more successful. Free range eggs from Cackle Hill Farm, Taupo. Next were my carrots, watercress and broccoli from the Ohakune stall holder. Darn it, even they are 135km from Taupo so again outside my radius. Fail again.

Finally, I ended up on Rifle Range Road at Lake Taupo Fresh fruit and vegetable store. What I did like here was that for the most part all the produce had a sign provided to say where it had come from. Knowing the providence of an item is somewhat satisfying even if it was disappointing to find that the only thing really I could get from within my radius were the free range eggs already purchased directly from the producer.

It would seem that growing my own produce might be the way to go however there are 2 issues with this, well actually 3 issues – patience (which I have little of), green thumb (which I am trying to foster but wouldn’t bet my dinner plate on it), space (I rent so have to come up with a cost efficient and portable option).

From seeing my mum and dad grow their own produce another realisation is getting the right amount of product at the right time and picking the items you really want. It makes we wonder if there are other home growers out there with a need to swap produce. How cool would it be to have a network of local growers specialising in a particular item and then meeting to swap/barter or the like? Would it be viable? What if someone (mainly me) had a bad crop and wasn’t able to contribute. How do you ensure a particular standard of growing is met (a charter maybe?). Hmmm food (excuse the pun) for thought?

So now, I have a fridge full of “as near as I could get to being local” produce with the furthest item being from Blenheim. Who knew garlic was grown there? What meals can I create from this over the week and will I have better fortune next time in sourcing goods closer to home.

First challenge

I went into a butcher today in Taupo (one of 2 local butchers besides the supermarkets). I wanted to get some items for dinner over the next couple of days seeing as stores will be shut tomorrow for Good Friday.

Me to the butcher “Can you please tell me where did this pork come from?”
Butcher “From here”
Me “Sorry, I meant where was it raised?”
Butcher – with a look that clearly said this was the stupidest question he had heard all day “I don’t know, from all over NZ?”

Hmmmm, an interesting and possibly frustrating start to this challenge.

The 100km challenge

There are some things that I tend to hold important to me but I haven’t really invested time in ensuring that what I deem important is what I practice. Hence the 100km challenge.

While sitting on a bus up to Auckland this plan started to form. I LOVE my food but feel it’s important to know the providence of what I eat and ensure that what I choose to eat is good for me and can be eaten without concern as to how it got to me. Yes, I still eat crappy food but for the most part what I spend my money on shows and should support what I hold as being important to me.

What is important to me continues to grow from my time in the UK. This started with learning about and switching to a preference for supporting free range farmed chickens instead of incredibly cheap chicken that had been intensively farmed. Not only was the taste so much better but I could feel better about what my money was supporting. This now also continues to extend to where I choose to spend my money in other areas of my life.

Since moving back to NZ another concern that has become evident to me is our isolation from the rest of the world. With this comes the importing of goods that we possibly don’t need. Surely if we eat seasonally and source locally then we could not only eat more healthily but ensure that our food miles are less as well as support our local producers/economy. Hence the 100km challenge.

The core criteria are:
1. The majority of my weekly main meals must consist of seasonal elements and
2. Seasonal elements must be sourced within a 100 kilometer radius of Taupo

What I plan to do with my blog is to outline the issues, concerns and successes that I have trying to implement this challenge. Can I successfully stick to these 2 core criteria. It should be interesting especially trying to figure out what to make with changing seasonal elements. I tend to stick to the products I know as I know how to cook these! What the heck do I do with a swede?

Bring on the challenge.

Pillars of the Earth

So I hear that there is an 8 part mini series of this book that I have read many times. In fact I am onto the 4th reading of this book.
As far as books go, it is the one that inspired me to be more interested in architecture, even if this only meant spending a little longer appreciating the magnitude of an old church. The effort and years that would have gone into its creation.
The book is incredibly graphic in many ways that are deeply disturbing and uncomfortable yet it also holds true to the period and doesn’t romanticize away the brutality and hardship that people lived with during this period. The grit, dirt, stench and barbarity of the period is captured just as well as the beauty and hardship of creating something such as the cathedral in the story. You invest a long read in these characters and care deeply about their life story. This is what draws me back again and again to them. And why World without End was a must read when it came out 3 Christmas’ ago now. I vividly remember reading it non stop from Christmas Day and through that week desperate to find out any bits of information about the characters in amongst the new time period that the follow up book now covered.
So, I look forward to seeing the mini series although at this stage I have seen nothing that relates to it coming out in NZ. This doesn’t surprise me. Possibly this means a trip online to Amazon to buy the series! No worries, I’m sure it is worth it! Has anyone seen it? Your opinion please!

Napier art deco goes off

Our days off coincided this week so we took off to Napier to have a look at the art deco week. Each year Napier goes off with all things art deco. From the cars, motorbikes, clothes, music, you name it, its art deco styling.

It wasn’t until I had seen how gorgeous the art noveau and art deco style can be via the streets of Paris that I realised what a treasure we have in Napier. A week of celebrating these treasures is truly unique and inspiring.

It takes around 2 hours from Taupo to Napier. It truly is a rather boring drive with very few places to stop however once you get into the hills that is where the scenery starts to liven up. Believe me an hour or more of the forestry lands or in this case what was left of the forestry land after milling has been done, it truly is rather a bore.

Although the art deco week really started on the Friday night kick off we did get a glimpse of the events and the time that would be had by many that have traveled there this weekend. Where ever you looked people were walking about in 30’s clothing with amazing vehicles tootling by. Next year I would love to be able to join in with a wee dress up and get myself into a big band party for a bit of the jitterbug.

We stayed the night at The Tennyson (located on Tennyson Street). Cheapish and cheerful but more importantly has free parking and a short walk from the city centre.

The art deco buildings are abundant on Tennyson Street leading into town then into Hastings and Emerson Street. Along Marine Parade you have the Napier Sound Shell, lovely gardens and nice dining at many of the restaurants in the area.

Next year this celebration is definitely on my list to visit for a great week away living the 30’s dream.

How many days left of summer?

Can you believe it? Summer apparently is almost over. I am loving the sunny days here in Taupo, even if I am working most of them during the week.

Sparkling water, sun shining, heat pounding down, loving it! I actually even noticed the other day that I no longer look sickly pale. Sure the legs still glow white but it’s a catch 22 situation. Show my legs to the sunlight and get laughed out of town or keep them under wraps? Yes, I know there are tanning products available but seriously I’m not that fussed. I think a benefit of getting older is the care factor of other peoples opinions starts to decrease. However, I am still vain enough to not want to be pointed and laughed at too much 🙂

The other day we went to Taupo DeBretts for a hot mineral spa. Yes, I realise the absurdity of this given my above comments regarding the great hot weather and then going for a hot spa. There are some days when you just gotta relax and doing the hot spa is the way to go.

I hadn’t been to Taupo DeBretts before given that the pricing is slightly more than the Taupo AC Baths. However DeBretts is literally up the road from us and their mineral pools are rather good looking. Their price also includes entry to the other pools on site as well. The mineral pools are private so you can have one all to yourself or as in the one we took it would appear that you could easily fit at least 10 people in the pool. With a little shower to cool off with it was a lovely and relaxing alternative to the AC Baths which are really just spas filled with hot mineral water. At DeBretts the mineral pools have a lovely entry into the water with pebble tiling and different level of height seating. Looking up the ceiling is open to the air which is lovely on a clear summer night or I could imagine in winter it would be nice and toasty with a great little chill coming in from above. At $16 per person for as long as you like (if you dare brave more than the recommended 45 minutes) it was well worth the extra bit of money splashed out for an evening of relaxation. The private pools are placed away from the main pools in a tranquil bush setting and hopefully if you’re lucky enough the occupants of the other spas will not be noisy children! 🙂

2010 in summary

As I did this last year I thought I might continue the tradition. Here is a mosiac giving 2010 in one page.

2010 consisted of trips to France, Ireland and Finland with friends. Visiting Germany to see friends and see Lena take out the EuroVision in Germany! Hooray. Our return to NZ, farewell parties before our return, NZ family get togethers and our time exploring NZ again on our way to our new home in Taupo. Enjoy xox we did.

A Kiwi Summer

As I type this my keyboard is incredibly hot and I am thinking whether I should continue in the evening when it is cooler? I guess that’s what laptop fans are for? Oh well, let’s test it out.

Apparently it is 28 degrees at the moment. I must say I am loving this although after 3 years in the cool of the UK I am a bit out of practice. The key to warm weather? Hydration (and air conditioning). Key items we discovered from 10 years in Australia. Hydration – check, air conditioning – hard to come by unless you can visit any large malls (none here in Taupo for which I am thankful for. Glad to say I don’t miss the “urge” to fill my day with meaningless window shopping, instead it is filled with walks, climbing, swimming, hooray!). Thankfully the lake is only 100 metres away and I have already had my swim today.

This morning before it got too hot we took off to Kinloch for a bouldering session. It was so wonderfully cool under the forest canopy. Just bliss. We probably should have stayed there until evening but the mosquitoes were starting to get annoying. So after a bite to eat on the ol’ camping stove it was a swim and then home. I’m stoked I managed to get another section under my belt. The next thing I have to do is get some climbing shoes that fit. I have Steve’s old ones which are about 2 sizes too large so I get no purchase on the rock for the smaller spots. Silly yes, but it allows me to climb until I have found some of my own that I like.

This year is the first in many that we have had a tan for Christmas. Mind you I am not trying for one! Again if Australia taught us anything vanity is NOT worth dying for. I’m quite happy with fluorescent white legs if it means I get more out of my time here on Earth.

After 4 days off work it is back to it tomorrow for another 3. Pooh. I’m liking this “no work” scenario although it could get a bit tiresome when it comes to paying the bills. Always a freaking catch.

Some of my highlights these holidays, stunning weather, awesome sunsets, watching some guys go over Huka Falls in their kayaks, receiving some pictures of my gorgeous nephews (thanks Gemma and Garrison), a visit from my parents for Christmas Day, getting the jungle of a lawn under control (sad I know), creating some excellent pizzas on my new pizza stone I got from mum and dad for Christmas. It would have been nice to spend more of my days off with Steve but alas he had to work. This retail work scenario in Taupo is rather a bore but what can you do at this point? Keep an eye on the goal – lifestyle! Your job is NOT your whole world but is does allow you to do the things you love so a healthy balance must be created.

Merry Christmas from Taupo

This is our first time in 13 years that we have had Christmas in NZ. At the moment is seems strange baking in the hot summer sun while tucking into Christmas fare of ham, chicken and salad followed by the good old Pavlova of course. When, on the top side of the world our mates back in Bristol are shivering away while the snow falls. Must say we have been watching the snow falling across the UK and wishing we were there! Love, love, love SNOW!

My mum and dad drove down Christmas Day to spend two nights with us. Getting up at 5am in the morning they were sitting down for coffee with us by 9am. The roads were incredibly quiet so they got a nice run through. It was awesome they came to spend time with us and they even brought with them even more boxes that we had left in storage with them while we have been overseas all these years. On top of that mum did a shop at Countdown so our fridge and cupboards have more food in them than they have ever seen since we moved in. Mum’s – you gotta love them! Thanks mum you’re the best! Dad got the car all fixed up and they brought that down too. Mmmmmwah! Good work dad.

They went home today so the house is very quiet. It was fabulous to spend some time with them both. We even got to talk to the nephews in Australia. Happy days.

So how was our first NZ Christmas. Relaxed, no over eating and just nice to sit, chat and chill.

Te Anau – Kepler Challenge 2010

Yet another adventure ticked off for this year, the Kepler Challenge. Not that I was running it of course, I was playing support for Steve.

We headed up to Auckland on Thursday night after work staying overnight at K & R’s place. Thanks yet again guys. We love catching up with you both.

Our Jetstar flight was actually on time and I was surprisingly impressed with the plane and seating on board. The weekend nearly started out badly with Steve having misplaced his sunglasses (needed for the run) at some point in the waiting lounge. Thankfully the person who found them did the right thing and handed them in to the air crew. Needless to say Steve was incredibly thankful. There ARE still good people around. We hand stuff in and are thankful to see that others do as well. Cheers mate!

We landed in Christchurch just after 1pm and picked up our rental car. A wee FunCargo it was called. Amazing on economy (because it has no grunt on the open roads) but all in all a very suitable, yet ugly car.

The drive from Christchurch to Te Anau is only 2 hours and the roads have no set passing lanes so you really do need to be patient especially with the tourists. Things could end very badly on these roads for impatient drivers.

When we arrived into Te Anau we headed for the Te Anau Holiday Park located on the edge of the lake to the left before you get onto the main lake drive into town. I enjoyed my stay here. We got a tourist cabin for $80 a night which had cooking facilities but shared toilet/shower facilities. The shower block was close by so not really an issue. I think during winter using the shower block might be rather painful to do so in the cold but in summer it is not an issue. The staff here were excellent, the facilities clean, warm and well taken care of. The location also was excellent with about a 15 minute walk into town. I would definitely stay here again.

We took a reccy into town to check out where we were supposed to go for Steve’s registration check for the Kepler. If you are not familiar with the Kepler Challenge it is a regular highlight on the trail running calender for New Zealand. Into it’s 23rd year now and it is a 60km mountain run over the Kepler Track which climbs up through a stunning beech forest, up to the plateau (1300 metres of elevation), across the tussock highlands then back down the other side, through more stunning lowland terrain and back to the control gates for the finish. In order to compete there are only 400 places and you have to be ready to rock and roll at the stroke of opening time on line in June for the spots. They are gone in literally minutes. You don’t just get to enter without having put in the work. They want to know your past running history and your intended training plan to get you into top condition for the run.

The registration the night before the race is to check all your gear for the race – thermal top, leggings, water proof jacket with sealed seams, water proof pants, hat, gloves and safety blanket. Everything to keep yourself out of trouble should foul weather set in. Basically you need to take care of yourself should something unforeseen happen until assistance comes, if possible. Don’t forget you also need to carry nutrition and hydration as well!

Race day was spectacular. We were up at 4am to prep with porridge, coffee and get to the start line ready for the 6am start. The type of people that do trail running differ horrendously from road runners I feel. It is more about the location and the personal goal than anything else. There are people here that come back year after year to put themselves through the torture of this trail. That has to lend itself to recommendation if that is the case. There must be something spectacular about it that they forget the previous pain and sign up again.

After they took off I followed behind for about 7 km into the forest and started the climb up to the plateau. I didn’t make it out of the tree line before my turn around time mark. I didn’t want to miss Steve at the 50km mark of Rainbows Reach and also wanted to get some photo action of the first runners coming in if I could.

As it was I just missed the first runners coming in at just over 5 hours and still looking strong. I headed out to Rainbows Reach and crossed the swing bridge to find a spot to wait for Steve. Eventually he came through but was hobbling along. He had turned his knee and it was excruciatingly painful. We had a brief discussion about whether he should pull out but with only 10km to go it would be a shame to stop so close to the end. He decided to continue on and make a decision at the 5km to go mark.

I left him at that point expecting that he would be quite some time in that case, walking back with 10km to go so I went and got some groceries, took some lake photos and generally potted about. By the time I headed back to the finish line thinking I had plenty of time, who was sitting there under a tree already with his medal in hand? Bummer, I had missed the finish line shot. I did however have an ice cold can of V ready for him though. Bliss on a hot day.

Te Anau is a spectacular town with incredible views. It is well worth more than the passing visit on the way to Milford Sounds that most tourists do through here. For example we had a lovely pizza at a Italian place, great burgers at The Moose and awesome sunsets off the mountains each night. And the race, well I obviously didn’t see the whole track but from Steve’s photos it is amazing. Not sure I would be keen to run the track as walking it is tough work on its own. Kudos to all those that did though. What an awesome adventure they undertake year after year and they still come in smiling each time as they cross the line.