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Archive for the ‘Cuisine’ Category

Five weeks from today we’ll reunite with our families at Logan airport. As we enter the twilight of our trip, it’s hard not to reflect on everything we’ve experienced: the people, the sights, the food, the weather, the lifestyle. The first six months were a case study in nomadic living, while we’ve spent the last five immersing ourselves in a unique and close-knit community. Between these two distinct experiences we’ve unearthed almost every corner of New Zealand and observed several differences between our present home and our past one.

Here are ten that range from subtle to obvious and everything in between:

1. Temperament

Preface: this is a sweeping generalization. Three words I’d use to describe New Zealanders are outgoing, easygoing and friendly. Those aren’t exactly the first descriptors that come to mind when I think about New Yorkers. Here’s an anecdote from my first day living in Manhattan:

A hot and sticky June afternoon. We hopped on a packed subway car and jostled for standing room. I grabbed the rail in front of a seated middle-aged lady. She surveyed the car, then bowed her head down and leaned over my flip-flops. And then she sneezed…all over my foot. I gaped at Meg and couldn’t help but blurt out, “Gross!!!” The lady looked at me and rolled her eyes, as if to say “welcome to the big apple kid.”

Conversely, on our first day in New Zealand–technically it was somewhere over international airspace between San Francisco and Auckland–we met Karen. She was our neighbor for the 14-hour flight. We mentioned that encounter back in September. Karen is so genuinely friendly and helpful; she put us in touch with her daughter, who needed a pet-sitter for November in Wellington, and more recently hosted us for a delicious dinner at her Nelson home when my dad and sister visited in May.

Karen, we want to thank you for your friendship this year. Hopefully our paths will cross again...on this side of the equator or the other!

Thank you for your friendship this year, Karen. Hopefully our paths will cross again…on this side of the equator or the other!

2. Pizza

Nothing beats a New York slice. Whether it’s noon or 4am, New York pizza always hits the spot. New Zealand pizza is different. It has a fraction of the cheese and sauce, is almost exclusively thin crust, and rarely sold by the slice.  But I love it. Kiwi pizzas have a deep appreciation for toppings, which is why I think they make a perfect meal (whereas NY pizza is a perfect snack). Fresh meat, local veggies and creative sauce combinations blend together exquisitely.

If you’re ever in the area and looking for a good feed, try one of these institutions that serve up delicious pizza with a handful of other kiwi specialties:

Costa’s Pizza, Raglan

Shawtys, Twizel

Fork and Tap, Arrowtown

3. Insulation

From our experience it seems that many homes in New Zealand are built without insulation. We’ve struggled to understand why–someone told us it has to do with building permits not requiring it, another person attributed it to costs (which is ironic given our heating bills)–but this has been our biggest grievance with winter here. We’ve grown accustomed to seeing our breath during all waking hours. This is how we dress for bed:

sleeping bag, winter hat, long underwear, sweatshirt/pants, smart wool socks

sleeping bag, winter hat, long underwear, sweatshirt/pants, smart wool socks

4. Immune Systems

New York is a crowded city that becomes a germaphobe’s nightmare during winter rush hour. The subway is a cesspool of runny noses and swine flu. There’s something inherently healthier and restorative about day-to-day life in New Zealand. It could be that the air is cleaner. Or the lifestyle is more active. Maybe it’s the fact that people use less chemicals on a daily basis–e.g. they clean their homes with sugar soap rather than a potent cocktail of Mr. Clean and Ajax. Whatever it is, the kiwi lifestyle is conducive to building a more resilient immune system.

the active lifestyle is definitely an immune booster

bright orange pants also boost your immune system

5. Suspension bridges

In the U.S., suspension bridges are large and provide access to cities. In New Zealand they occur everywhere to bring people into nature. You’ll encounter a suspension bridge on many walks or drives and it will feel like a scene out of Indiana Jones. They’re a lot of fun to cross, but some are quite narrow with weight limits that test your mental math skills.

at Mount Cook, New Zealand's tallest peak

at Mount Cook, New Zealand’s tallest peak

6. Driving

Yes, they drive on the left here. But after four road trips and five months of owning a car, we’ve observed some subtler differences. Rotaries, or “roundabouts” as they’re called, are frequently used in place of traffic lights. They’re pretty efficient–so long as people know how they work.

State highways are usually two-lane roads with no medians and the occasional passing lane, which makes for some aggressive driving. Fortunately we’re from Boston by way of New York, so we have plenty of experience with such maneuvers.

The cars here are generally older than the ones at home. There is no societal pressure to drive a flashy new car, so people are content with twenty-year-old Subarus. This makes a lot of sense to us. As long as she’s a runner, why spend the big bucks when you could save the money for something more meaningful? Like, for example, a once in a lifetime trip.

there's no social pressures to get a fancy car, but we got one anyways

no social pressures to have a fancy car, but we got one anyways

7.  Coffee

We’ve covered this before. But to summarize the difference: kiwi coffee is almost exclusively espresso-based. You can’t just order a plain coffee. If you do, the barista will stare at you until you realize you aren’t in Kansas anymore. Typical coffee orders here are flat-whites, cappuccinos, and the indulgent mochaccino. While we’ve enjoyed these caloric delicacies, we’d be lying if we said we aren’t excited to walk into a cafe and say: “large coffee, please.”

recently engaged friends Bart and Kate enjoying their espresso beverages

recently engaged friends Bart and Kate enjoying their frothy espresso beverages

8. Pets

In the U.S. people have cats and dogs. Lots of New Zealanders have cats and dogs too. But some residents have less traditional pets. In Glenorchy we met April, an eccentric character who let us pose with her roommate:

April's pony, Lacey

April’s pony, Lacey

Another difference is that people own pets for practical reasons, not just cuddling. For example, the rooster meat and bacon we ate back in Gisborne.

9. Seasons

The New Zealand climate is mild and comparable to San Francisco. There are four distinct seasons–amplified or muted depending on what part of the country you’re in. The North Island is generally warmer; the west coasts of both islands get more rain. We packed the right stuff and overall it was pretty easy to acclimate. The thing that takes the most getting used to is the Southern Hemisphere seasons. Meg had her first summer birthday and I celebrated mine with a fresh coat of snow. No matter how much you mentally prepare yourself for the change, it is still surreal when you get to do this in the middle of June:

opening day at The Remarkables coincided perfectly with Kate and Bart's visit

opening day at The Remarkables coincided perfectly with Kate and Bart’s visit

10. Beer (aka piss)

It’s been eleven months since we’ve had bud light or any other watery excuse for beer. New Zealanders take a lot of pride in their barley sodas. Pubs have high quality domestic beer on tap–ranging from large corporate players to popular micro-brews–and we’ve tried them all. Among our favorites are Macs, Steinlager, Emersons and Three Boys.

enjoying some frosty Three Boys IPA at Ohau Lodge

enjoying Three Boys IPA at Ohau Lodge

Beyond the pub scene, home-brewing is a celebrated hobby. Dave, our first host on Waiheke island, had a five valve tap on his back porch. So while our experience has led us to rank New Zealand beer above American beer–where strong offerings like Sam Adams and Magic Hat are offset by keystone light et. al.–there are pros and cons to consider, mainly economical. The average pint in Queenstown is $7, but it’s a lot tastier than the $3 coors light back home. I suppose it boils down to where you fall on the quantity vs. quality debate.

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How is that possible with such fresh, nutritious, reasonably priced food?

My cooking skills were a serious joke

My cooking skills were a joke

The problem, my friends, lay in Trader Joes’ freezers, where a selection of delicious, pre-made meals was always on display. It was so much more convenient to grab a few frozen burritos than to collect the ingredients necessary to concoct this dish on our own. Also when we got home late on a weeknight night it was a hell of a lot easier to cook (a.k.a microwave) these than make something from scratch. It was takeout quality food at supermarket prices. What can beat that in NYC?

In NYC ovens are used to hold sweaters. Are people really expected to cook in these crawl spaces?

In Manhattan ovens are used to hold sweaters. People do not actually cook in these crawl spaces

Living in NZ has torn Eliott and I away from our precious TJs and eating out at restaurants is quite expensive so we’ve taken to the kitchen with a new vigor. Our experiments have been mostly edible; of course there was the watery pumpkin soup and the not-so-pulled pork. But it looks like our cooking skills are on the up-and-up thanks to all the practice we’re getting this year and the obstacles we’ve encountered while cooking on the road.

They say 10,000 hours of practice makes you an expert, but we've lost track of time so we'll have to go on taste

They say 10,000 hours of practice makes you an expert, but we’ve lost track of time so we’ll have to go on taste

Learning to cook while traveling presents a number of challenges to any chef- especially a novice one. Every kitchen is truly unique. They’ve got their own selection of pans and every stove cooks at it’s own temperamental pace. However, learning to cook in an ever-changing environment reveals flaws in your technique that you might not have noticed in your own kitchen. It makes you hyper-sensitive to all the various factors involved in the cooking process. While you may over-cook the steaks one night, you end up a much more careful and conscientious chef in the end.

Lisa and I hard at work on some curry while traveling through Picton on our road trip

Lisa and I hard at work on some curry while traveling through Picton on our road trip

Another challenge is the lack of a pantry. Believe it or not we don’t have room for a bag of flour and spices in our backpacks so we have to make use of the pantry provided. When we were traveling to a new place every few nights we also had to buy ingredients that we’d be able to use before leaving. This particular challenge has forced us to hone our culinary creativity. Take for example our roast chicken and all the extra ingredients from Thanksgiving. How do you stretch out the leftovers and keep it interesting? Make chicken dumpling soup with the bones and some pot pie cupcakes or a curry with the meat and veggies!

So we didn't exactly starve on Thanksgiving...

We didn’t exactly starve on Thanksgiving…

The last impetus that has pushed our culinary education forward is the company we’ve shared. As we’ve marveled before, New Zealanders have an almost universal “do-it-yourself” attitude and a laid-back disposition. In the kitchen, this means that they cook often and they tackle seemingly difficult dishes with ease. For example on Waiheke, Zion, the 11 year-old, offered to cook breakfast one morning. We came down to the smell of caramelized apples served in elegantly wrapped crepes. I was astonished and remarked, “Crepes are so difficult! You’re a amazing cook.” To which he replied, “They’re just watery pancakes…” He had a good point, and so when we finally had access to some flour in Wellington we conjured up our own chocolately crepes for dessert one night. You don’t need a fancy crepe machine as I’d previously thought, just a pan and some watery batter.

The chocolate crepes may have been a success, but nothing beats a TimTam for dessert over here

The chocolate crepes may have been a success, but nothing beats a TimTam slam for dessert over here

Needless to say, my preconceptions about the difficulty of cooking have been smashed. I’ve come to realize that cooking is not a mystery to be solved. It’s a skill to be practiced. And if all else fails, salt can make almost anything edible. So when we get home you will still find me browsing the aisles of Trader Joes, but I’ll only be stopping at the freezers for ice cream.

And speaking of WHEN we get home, we’ve finally booked our return trip to Boston! Since there was a sale on flights to Honolulu the itinerary had to include a three-day layover in Hawaii- just another of the many sacrifices we’ve made to keep our trip sheap…

Herrro America!!!

Herrro America!!!

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Tomorrow, March 20th, marks the official halfway point of our time in New Zealand. While the six months have flown by way too quickly, my memories from home also feel eons away. Quite frankly, I miss the good old U-S-of-A and mostly, I miss all of you.

But my homesickness was abated last week when three of my crazy, foolish girlfriends from Hamilton invaded an unsuspecting New Zealand. The authorities were completely unprepared for their arrival. Lisa was actually able to slip through their fingers on an early flight, but August and Cate were not quite as lucky. With only hours notice from Interpol, the New Zealand border police tried to detain the other girls on hopped up charges of narcotraficante and bioterrorism.  Crafty as ever, August and Cate were able to get through.

"Oh my god, we're in...RUN!"

“Oh my god, we’re in…RUN!”

After a whirlwind tour of the North Island (AucklandRaglanWellington) the girls made their way down to Queenstown where Eliott and I hosted them for the rest of their time in NZ. Eliott and I have been working pretty hard at becoming true Queenstown locals since settling here in Feb so it was nice to play host for the week. We showed off our townie status- touring the girls through local hotspots- but also hopped into the car for yet another roadtrip. Here’s a little summary of the highlights from our week with the girls!

Going Hard-core Parkour on Queenstown

After filling up on lamb steaks and sauv blanc we took to the streets of Queenstown. We most certainly did justice to the “loud” and “brash” stereotype associated with Americans. It was just like how I remember (foggily) the good old days in upstate New York.

Supersize me!!

Super-size me

Wine Tasting in Gibbston Valley

The Central Otago region is filled with boutique vineyards and we made sure to get heaps of tastings on our way. This region is particularly famous for their Pinot Noirs. For a taste of your own back home, drop by Whole Foods and pick up the Mohua label.

Taking a bocci break at our favorite, Brennan Vineyard

Taking a bocci break at our favorite, Brennan Vineyard

We capped off the day of tastings with a visit to Lake Hayes, where we had a picnic lunch and rejuvenated our spirits by launching ourselves off the homemade rope swing. We got some big air. I’d say we really nailed it.

Milford Sound Roadtrip

A visit from friends would not be complete without a little roadtrip now would it? So we hopped into the car for a one-day trip down to the famous Milford Sound. We made sure to take our time on the drive down, stopping for:

Exercise

Calisthenics are KEY to staying alert on a 5 hour drive. Cate, as always, led the class

Calisthenics are KEY to staying alert on a 5 hour drive. Cate, as always, led the class

Bathrooms

I cannot stress the importance enough: hydration, hydration, hydration

I cannot stress the importance enough: hydration, hydration, hydration

And of course a bit of scenery

precious

precious

We opted for the Jucy Cruize (because we’re hip) and were not disappointed by the breathtaking views. Milford Sound is a fiord carved out by glaciers during the ice age. What remains are 1000-meter cliffs that soar high above the clouds and plunge into deep blue waters. It’s home to a variety of marine life including fur seals, penguins, dolphins, and the occasional whale. Rudyard Kipling proclaimed Milford Sound as the “eighth wonder of the world,” and I would be hard pressed to disagree with him.

The team preparing for takeoff

The team preparing for takeoff

You truly feel the sheer power of nature while cruising through the fiords as they rise steeply on either side of the slowly shrinking boat

You feel the sheer power of nature while cruising through the fiords as they rise steeply on either side of the slowly shrinking boat

A collection of cuddly NZ Fur Seals

A collection of cuddly NZ Fur Seals

Paragliding

You can’t come to Queenstown and NOT partake in any adventure sports so Cate and Lisa took one for the team and went Paragliding. These are the nuts that Eliott and I watch from our balcony all day long. They quite literally walk off the side of a mountain with nothing but a crazy New Zealander and a parachute strapped to their backs. August and I (due to a severe fear of heights) volunteered to stay back and document the adventure.

Those small colorful specs in the sky are Cate and Lisa (we think)

Those small colorful specs in the sky are Cate and Lisa (we think)

YOLO!

YOLO!

Local Tramps

DSC03667

This was August’s reaction to the announcement of our 2-hour tramping plans

For our last full day in Queenstown we took the girls on a tramp, or hike, just outside of Queenstown. It’s a two hour loop known as the Crighton Track, listed as a “moderate” incline, but we’d actually rate it “moderate-to-difficult.” Highlights included views over lake Wakatipu, an old-fashioned camping hut, and sore legs.

It was a nice remote hike, so remote that we had to resort to selfies to prove we'd made it to the top

It was a nice remote hike, so remote that we had to resort to selfies to prove we’d made it to the top

Local Dining

As any tramper worth their weight in dirt knows, it’s vital to refuel after a hearty workout. So we treated ourselves to a delicious, nutritious feast at the best restaurant in town- Fishbone. Eliott and the girls got a full tour of New Zealand seafood, sampling Green-lipped Mussels from Marlborough sound, Nelson clams, pacific Bluenose, native Blue Cod, and of course the famous Bluff oysters.

Finally getting to taste and share some of the amazing food that I serve on a nightly basis

Finally getting to taste and share some of the amazing food that I serve on a nightly basis

But as Robert Frost once wrote, “Nothing gold can stay,” and that was the case this week. The girls boarded their plane to Christchurch, Eliott went back to work, and I walked around wearing the worlds biggest sunglasses in an attempt to hide my tears. It was an absolutely amazing week and it went by way too quickly. It was really special to share a bit of our life, here in QT, with friends from home.

Seeing old friends has reminded us of where we were just 12 months ago and made us think about how much this trip will change us. It’s quite hard to tell whether or not we’ve changed at all. I can say for sure that our habits and routines are different. We don’t go to Murphy’s Pub until 4am on the weekends anymore and we frequent the supermarket more often than restaurants these days. But will these changes stick with us when we get home? Will we undergo deeper changes in our personalities and outlooks? I don’t think we’ll be able to tell while we’re over here. It’s something that you’ll have to be the judges of when we finally do get back home, in just six months time!

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As most of you already know, I turned 24 on December 18th. This year was very different for a number of reasons, namely that it’s the middle of summer and oh yea, we’re in New Zealand! Celebrating holidays can be difficult if you are traveling abroad. Holidays are all about traditions with family and friends. However, the purpose of traveling is usually to escape routines and experience people and cultures that are foreign to you.

Weighing the pros and cons of extended travel yet again

These are some of the times that we weigh the pros and cons of extended travel

So despite being apart from family and having just sent one of my best friends home it may surprise you to hear that my birthday this year was absolutely perfect. I’ve always wanted a summer birthday so the snow was one tradition I was willing to leave behind.  But the real secret to my perfect bday was that Eliott (as per usual) found the perfect present for me this year- a Barista Training course!

Beans, beans the magical fruit!

Beans, beans the magical fruit!

He knows about my love for food and also that we will be looking for jobs in the next few months so what could be better than a Barista Training class to combine the two. We arrived at the Mojo Headquarters early in the morning where our trainer, Jay, greeted us with a few Flat Whites to start off our session.

Flat Whites are a unique kiwi coffee drink- the love child of a cappuccino and a latte

Flat Whites are a unique kiwi coffee- the love child of a cappuccino and a latte

We spent the first half of the course learning the backstory to our delicious drinks. Eliott and I thought this was the best part of the training. Coffee growing is actually quite similar to wine. Each area of the growing world produces remarkably different flavors in the beans because of the climate and soil differences. Beans from South America have a heavy chocolate flavor while beans from Africa are fruity and in Southeast Asia they have spice. The flavor mixing does not end at the harvest though. Once purchased the beans are roasted and blended in unique combinations to create the final product that we drink. We were fortunate enough to tour the Mojo roasting facilities in Wellington and see their master-roasters at work.

The beans can be roasted to different levels and the longer they roast the stronger the flavors. Mojo roasted at 13, Starbucks at 16, and we’re guessing Dunkin roasts at about a 5….but we still love it

The beans can be roasted to different levels and the longer they roast the stronger the flavors. Mojo roasted to 13, Starbucks to 16, and we’re guessing Dunkin roasts at about a 5….but we still love it

Harvesting coffee beans is a surprisingly labor-intensive job. To give you perspective, an espresso shot requires about 120 beans, which means 60 berries must be hand picked just for one drink. When you do the math, a busy coffee shop will go through about 48,000 handpicked berries in one day of business. It’s easy to understand and appreciate this kind of labor and expertise when you’re buying a $50 bottle of Pinot Noir, but it’s very convenient to forget about all this when you grab your morning coffee for $2.50. Coffee is such a cheap commodity because it’s based out of developing countries where the farmers’ daily wages would barely buy a “grande” at Starbucks. This is why the idea of “Fair Trade” coffee is so important. These kinds of regulations try to ensure that farmers make profit on their crops and workers are paid local minimum wages.

The remnants of these berries are fermented to homemade liquors by many growers and some US companies have even started to harvest their antioxidant powers in juice

The remnants of these berries are fermented to produce homemade liquors by many growers and some US companies have even started to harvest their antioxidant powers in designer juices

After our agricultural/economics lesson on the coffee industry Eliott and I got behind the machine. This turned out to be more of a lesson in science and music than we had expected. Luckily, there was caffeine all around to aid the information uptake. Jay started by showing us how to prepare the perfect “extractions,” as he called them. There were stopwatches on the table and discussions of atmospheric elements. I felt like I was in Mr. Conley’s chem class all over again. Then we moved over to steaming the milk. Now this part of the process is all about sound and feel. Each type of espresso drink requires a slightly different type and amount of steamed milk. So we practiced listening, looking, and pouring our milk jugs in attempts to cultivate the perfect cappuccinos, lattes, and flat whites. For first timers I think that we ended up doing pretty well.

A barista in training. Note the stopwatch in the bottom left corner

As you can see by the length of the post (and believe me I’ve cut this down a bunch) I am pretty excited about Barista Training. It was the absolute perfect birthday present. We spent the day together in downtown Wellington, experiencing one of the local specialties. We got to spend hours learning and talking about food, not to mention tasting it. We are now officially trained baristas, which makes us much more employable in this caffeine-crazed country.  And best of all, this gift was completely weightless so it’ll be easy to tote across the countryside!

It always amazes me what a thoughtful boyfriend I have. I could have never imagined such a perfect day, yet he knew exactly how to put this together! So cheers to Eliott!

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The Sky Tower lifts Auckland into the running for world’s most phallic skyline (sorry, Paris)

Situated 2km west of Auckland’s CBD, Ponsonby is a hip suburb that enjoys proximity to the city’s action while offering enough distance to avoid urban claustrophobia. Multiple bus routes offer easy access to downtown Auckland for $1.90. Cabs are plentiful but unnecessary.

Ponsonby’s 6,000 residents are mostly young families and retired urbanites. There is a strong communal bond on display in bars and restaurants that make it easy to see why kiwis settle here. As innocent eavesdroppers, we’ve observed neighborly conversations that extend well beyond the realm of small talk.

On a sunny day it’s nice to take a stroll or pack a picnic to enjoy in one of Ponsonby’s well-kept parks. School holiday is in full swing right now and the playgrounds are alive with rugrats enjoying their freedom. The playgrounds, by the way, trump any we’ve come across in the States. We think that can be attributed to the one thing they have that we don’t: ZIPLINES!!!

In Ponsonby the dream is a reality.  In the US it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen

The main drag, Ponsoby Road, is known for its upscale shopping and dining establishments. Three Lamps is a particularly nice retail center at the north end of the suburb (where our visits have been strictly limited to window shopping).

Despite the ritzy reputation, there are plenty of deals to be found. The Belgium Beer Café offers bottomless mussels with a free beer for $20. On Monday, we had dinner at Bolliwood, a cliché but delicious restaurant on par with all the Indian eateries we tried in New York. They serve up $10 entrees Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and they don’t skimp with the portions. Although we’ve made a point of eating in, we’re happy to venture out if the price is right.

Next stop: Gisborne.

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After each of our stays we’ll break down our experience into three simple categories to help everyone at home assess the trip. This segment was inspired by the only column ever worth reading in the Hamilton newspaper: Thumbs up, Thumbs down, Who Cares. It has been properly renamed.

Rain = defined by bad, poor, or lesser qualities

  • Our Football Skills: As if being cut from JV soccer wasn’t embarrassing enough? At least back then I was younger than everyone. This time we got schooled by 11 and 8 year old boys.
  • Shoveling Rocks: Enough said.
  • The Weather: We never left home without our matching raincoats
  • The Hills: Of death. So much elevation on Waiheke.

To walk or not to walk? That is the question

Shine = the highlights and triumphs

  • Our Hosts: Dave, Sue, Zion, and Ky Mani were fantastic hosts. It’s like we became a part of the family.
  • The Wine: Bursting delicious reds, notes of sarcasm, and a hint of vintners pretention. The perfect bottle(s).
  • The Beer: Homemade brews packed with flavor and just the right price. We heard they recently added extra hops?
  • Matching raincoats!
  • The Food: 14 days of fresh burgers and home-cooked meals- would you dare to complain?
  • The Work: Not too hard, not too gross, but a good dose of humility and some life skills to boot.
  • The Scenery: Breathtaking views if you could make it to a hilltop…

Find your beach, Corona

Overcast = mehh, who cares

  • Our Social Lives: We didn’t meet anyone else our age, leading to a lot of Eliott and Meg time, and that’s just is too boring for words.
  • I lost a sock. It was smart wool. Only time can heal some wounds.

Don’t we make you want to throw up sometimes?

So as you can sense, it was a great trip. We’re taking with us some good life skills- cleaning, cooking, brewing, and Bokashi Composting. Best of all we got to experience life under a philosophy that’s different from today’s norm. Rather than “keeping up with the Kardashians” and constantly working more in order to buy more, our hosts worked comfortably with what they had. They didn’t overexert their business and they focused on saving, reusing, and recycling their existing property (think composting).

As a result they’ve ended up with a beautiful home, two grounded and fun-loving sons, and best of all the time to appreciate it. Sue put it best when we marveled at the low prices in the burger cart. She said, “I’m trying to make a living, not a fortune, love!” 

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After graduation my friends and I began a little tradition of sending out pictures on our first days of work. I truly enjoyed this tradition (maybe because I sent out so many “first day” pics?) and we’re going to continue it here. We’ll be posting about our first day of work at each venue that employ us so you can get a feel for our alternative livelihoods, in case you’re in the market as well. However, we imagine the pictures will be a little different…

Our first work/stay position is at the Crescent Valley EcoLodge on Waiheke.

A view of Crescent Valley from the gardens below

Each day Eliott and I switch responsibilities; one of us does gardening and maintenance around the lodge while the other works in the food cart that the owners keep in town. Around the lodge the jobs vary by the minute. We keep busy with trimming, sweeping, chopping, and shoveling. Our hosts are also caterers so there is some food prep as well. We’re pleased to report at this point that all limbs are intact and no food poisoning has been reported. Knock on wood and please say a few prayers—there is chain-sawing to be done next week.

Hard at work or hardly working?

Down in the truck, The Flamin’ Burger Food Cart, we are one of the island’s finest purveyors of organic, farm-raised meats complimented by locally grown vegetables and homemade buns. It’s spectacular kiwi fare, with daily lamb specials, venison, “American” hotdogs, and the colossal kiwi burger, which includes bacon, cheese, and a fried egg. Dave or Sue, our gracious hosts, handle the cooking while we prep sandwiches, manage the cash flow, and entertain the locales with our cheery accents.

Definitely ask for the special sauce

Learning about the NZ cuisine is one of my goals during this trip. So it’s great to see the cart in action. Two lessons I’ve learned so far: 1.)  A layer of mayo is standard on almost every sandwich, slightly upsetting for me- Hold that Mayo, yo.  2.) Kiwis order from the menu and they don’t expect special treatment. This second lesson is one we could definitely learn back in the states. Let’s face it people, none of us are really that special, but these burgers sure are…

Suck on that Guy Fieri

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